Exchanging Knowledge to Protect Manoomin

Group of people in the forest
Project partners gathered for the knowledge exchange workshop. Photo credit: Dan Larkin

Manoomin (wild rice) is an essential, sacred species for Native people throughout the Upper Great Lakes region, who have relied on the plant for food and ceremony for hundreds of years. Manoomin is also important to non-Native people, who also harvest it and benefit from the wildlife sustained by it. Unfortunately, manoomin has declined across much of its range due to human-caused stressors, and climate change will further impact its watersheds. 

A project funded by the Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center is investigating these impacts by developing computer models that will explore changes in vegetation and water flows under a range of potential future climate conditions — then use the resulting findings to inform management of manoomin. 

These models will be informed by science and based on the traditional knowledge and experience of Native people. Findings will be co-developed with, and provide decision-making support for, partner tribes, intertribal treaty organizations, the many other tribes in the Great Lakes region that depend on manoomin, and federal and state agencies responsible for managing manoomin and other aquatic habitats. 

In one example of co-production, in August 2022 project researchers held a knowledge exchange workshop on the Lac du Flambeau reservation. Participants included community members, staff, and researchers from Lac du Flambeau, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, and other organizations. The workshop’s hands-on demonstrations included sediment coring, aquatic plant identification, hydrological monitoring, carving knocking sticks, and preparing deer hides. 

This project is led by Daniel Larkin of University of Minnesota, with co-investigators Crystal Ng and Michael Dockry, also of the University of Minnesota, and William "Joe" Graveen of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.