Manomin Research

[Music plays as the bow of a canoe moves through grass-filled river water. Aerial footage shows canoeists in a large watery field of manomin. Dr. Brittany Luby sits in a chair in front of the river and begins describing her manomin research project]

Luby: My current research is focused on crop restoration in the Winnipeg River drainage basin and we’re actually seated here at Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation and you can see part of our manomin fields behind us. This particular project is studying the factors affecting manomin growth in this region.

[Slow motion footage of a woman canoeing an Luby speaking to another person. More slow-motion footage of canoeists in tall grassy water]

Manomin grows on the water. The elders testify that manomin yields declined exponentially in the mid-20th century. Some others estimate that about half a million pounds were taken off the river by the ancestors and last year, we harvested about 3,000. So major losses happening here. And one of the goals of the manomin research team is to figure out a way to revitalize these fields and by so doing, create a sustainable food source for all of our relations and to revitalize manomin as a major economic driver here in the community.

The manomin research team is diverse, we’re interdisciplinary and we’re community-driven. We are working with a group of phenomenal elders and they’ve selected our study sites. They’re guiding our research questions, they’re reviewing our findings and our goals for research dissemination and really helping us to ensure that the research unrolls in a good way.

The engineering team is housed out of the University of Guelph, they’re conducting water samples and soil samples and helping us to identify some of those factors that may be affecting manomin growth that are invisible to the human eye.

[Footage shows men loading cut grass into bags on the side of the river.]

I’m a member of the qualitative research team and my job is to work in partnership with the elders and the engineers to turn some of the data that we’re gathering into educational materials that can be used by the community and by people just wanting to learn more about manomin.

So, the manomin research project and my new interest in clean and safe drinking water are really inspired by my work in my ancestral community of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation. My doctoral research, my dissertation, was inspired by a question that I had. I wanted to know how my family became dislocated from reserve and moved to town, I wanted to understand why I was born third generation off the land. And answering those questions opened a door for me in this space and introduced me to new elders and helped me to find a pathway home.

Many of my students might enter my classroom knowing manomin as wild rice and there’s nothing wild about manomin, this crop was cared for and is cared for by the Anishinaabe and by introducing our harvesting practices and our reseeding techniques. By challenging the use of the word ‘wild’ rice, I can help my students to see an alternate worldview and to engage with Indigenous ecological knowledge and environmental knowledge that allows us to eat well today and to live well.

[Video fades and U of G cornerstone appears with the words Improve Life]