Wild Rice Harvesting

Traditional Harvesting

Canoes are paddled, more often poled into a bay of wild rice through the shallow water. They bend the rice over the canoe with their left hand and knocks off the grains with three beats of their right. The sticks keep a steady rhythm as they alternates from one side to the other. The light, tapered sticks are made from birch.

The hollow-stemmed wild rice, called menomin by the Ojibwa, grows from three to five feet or more high in water depths of eighteen to twenty-four inches where the bottom is soft, silty mud.

As they beats the rice, grains drop in the water, seeding next year’s crop and providing food for migrating ducks. In this manner the Ojibwas have been practicing natural conservation for centuries.


Today's Harvesting


Today, wild rice are harvested by airboats, it has proven to be the most successful in lake grown wild rice stands. They were introduced to Saskatchewan in the late 1970s. The most widely used airboat harvester design consists of a blunt-bowed, flat bottomed aluminum hull fitted with a collecting tray popularly known as a speedhead. A uniform speed is necessary to achieve high harvesting efficiency, so the engine must have sufficient power to maintain speed as the speedhead fills the grain.

Airboats make up to three passes over each wild rice bay to collect ripe grains. The freshly harvested wild rice is bagged by hand. It’s hot, prickly work, as the grains have a barbed end that can get stuck in clothes and irritate skin. The harvested crop is then freighted to shore.

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