Honoring the Third Fire: Investigating Claims to Ownership of Seeds as Reproducible Property
The Department of Rural Sociology at UW-Madison partnered with the White Earth reservation in Minnesota in a research program designed to investigate and facilitate the dialogue about wild rice. This program encouraged the exchange, development, and documentation of ideas about the importance of wild rice as a natural and cultural resource through interviews and participation in two day-long public meetings. These meetings explored the importance of wild rice to the Anishinaabe, to non-native communities and ecosystems in Wisconsin, and to the larger agricultural and political landscape of the United States.
The day-long public meetings will target community members from the White Earth reservation but will also be open to members of other Minnesota and Wisconsin reservations. The meetings will help the Anishinaabe form networks and communication channels to share their knowledge about the current status of wild rice. The tribal papers will be used to disseminate the content and results of these meetings. The second audience will be the general public of Minnesota and Wisconsin and, more broadly, those concerned with issues of sustainable agriculture.
We have been in dialogue with both the White Earth Land Recovery Project and our consultant Joe LaGarde throughout the project. I have completed six out of the six planned trips to Minnesota. During the first three trips, I made important contacts in the community and scouted possible sites for my day-long workshops. We held two of the two day-long workshops. The workshops went well, although the format had to be altered as we discuss in the final report. We’ve conducted four formal, and many more informal (not tape recorded) interviews with Anishinaabe elders and community members about the importance of wild rice.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We talked with many members of the Anishinaabe community about wild rice. The project contributed to the political momentum of the wild rice issue and several important pieces of legislation were passed during the project’s duration. The project’s contribution to the wild rice camps increased the understanding of the issue for the Anishinaabe who attended the wild rice camps. It also contributed to our understanding about how spirituality and cultural sensitivity can be added to the dialog about genetic engineering and intellectual property.