Alexandria Sulainis on manoomin and Native communities

Adaawe Design Collective owner Alexandria Sulainis describes the importance of cultivating manoomin — wild rice — by Native communities in Wisconsin and its role as an essential source of sustenance.

By Nathan Denzin | Here & Now

October 5, 2023 • Northern Region

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Alexandria Sulainis:
What a lot of people don't think about when they come up and they have all of their fun in the summer is that there are people that live here all year round and rely on this place for sustenance and for survival. If you look at the community, the demographics are so different. So the Native population has significantly less money than what the people who come to visit have. And so for a lot of the tribal community, they rely on supplementing what they would get from stores and everything like that with the wild rice and with the berries and with the meat. And really, it's cost of living is too high to even survive without that. And people come in and they're having a blast and they're on their boats and their jet skis and having a ton of fun, and they're not thinking about the fact that it's disturbing the plants from growing. And it's displacing the wildlife that's relied on. They're not thinking about the bigger impact that it has if they're spilling fuel into the water or if they're literally physically destroying the pathways where rice would grow. And I wish that people would keep that more in mind when they're up here, just that their temporary fun leaves a permanent footprint. And I wish that people were more mindful of that. Because, you know what, so manoomin, wild rice for us is not just a food, it's a medicine. As with most of the things that we gather and we use, we have a connection to it. It's a good thing. It's alive, it feeds us, it fuels us. But even when I was pregnant with my first son, I was incredibly sick, so sick. I lost a lot of weight instead of gaining any. And I was told by the midwives if I could just get a handful of manoomin in with some maple syrup, that I would be okay. I would actually be getting enough nutrients and I was gonna make it through with the pregnancy. And really, that was it.

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