Manataka American Indian Council









Basic Boiling Techniques Bird Stuffing
Breakfast Cereal Deer Meat Patties
Fish Stuffing Habitat Pea Soup with Wild Rice
Left Over Pie Little Porcupines - Gaoonz
Popped Wild Rice Snacks Spinach and Rice Casserole
Soups and Stews Wild Rice and Grape Salad
Nutritional Value of Wild Rice The Story of Wild Rice


Basic Boiling (onzaan)

Boil (covered) one part (cup, etc.) of wild rice (after rinsing it) in 4 parts (cups etc.) of water slowly, about 45 minutes. It should absorb all the water, as it is done. Don't salt it. Actually, cooking time varies according to the variety and how it was processed; if it's black it takes longer. Taste a few grains. If you're going to use it in a stuffing, stew, soup, casserole, or salad, don't boil it all mushy. Taste it before you stir in any salt afterwards, some kinds really don't need any. You can use wild rice in any recipes you usually use regular rice for, especially if the recipe calls for the rice cooked separately first. You can serve it plain with butter, and stir or fluff it up when done, because once it's cooked or cooking it doesn't matter if the long grains get broken. (It's still a big thing with elder ladies that some rice with perfect grains be prepared for First Rice offering.)

Spinach and Rice Casserole


4 cups cooked wild rice                

2 lbs washed fresh spinach

4 eggs                                        

2 big bunches green onions

1 tsp salt                                     

1 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 tsp pepper

3 tbs chopped parseley

1/2 lb cheese grated fine

2 tbs sesame seeds

4 tbs butter              

Beat 4 eggs with salt, pepper, stir into rice. Stir in cheese and parsley. Tear stems .from spinach and chop these tough stems very fine. Fry them lightly with 2 big bunches of green onions chopped fine (including most of the green part). Tear up or chop coarsely the spinach leaves and stir them into the frying pan to wilt a little. Then stir it all into the rice mix. Stir in some sunflower seeds. Taste for seasoning. Pack into 1 or 2 greased heavy casseroles. Top with toasted sesame seeds and 2 Tbsp melted butter sprinkled around on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, uncovered. Goes well with sweet-baked squash, pumpkin or candied sweet potatoes. Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.

Wild Rice and Grape Salad

 3 cups cooked rice
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1 small can water chestnuts, sliced
1/2 cup celery chopped medium-fine
1 big bunch green onions choppeed medium fine
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 cup Hellmans mayo, do not use substitutes

Stir vegetables and mayo into rice, stir grapes in gently. If too thick, thin with a little milk. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerated, this will keep several days. Improves it to make it the day before, so the mayo sinks in and blends a little. If you do make it in advance, don't add any more seasoning until you taste it the next day. You can also put leftover chopped up chicken or turkey in this salad, If you're going to take this somewhere, be sure to keep it chilled in a cooler until time to eat.  Makes about one and one half quarts.


2 lbs wild rice

1 lb butter  

1/2 lb brown sugar

maple syrup

Form cooked wild rice into pancakes. Fry in butter. Serve with maple syrup. Rice pancakes are also good with berry syrups or honey, or at a main meal with butter or gravy.

Breakfast Cereal

Serve cold or warm cooked rice with sugar or honey and cream. Stir ins: sunflower seeds, chopped apple, peach, pear; chopped dried fruits.

Bird Stuffing

Wild Rice

Green Onions


chopped nuts

Chopped unpeeled apples

Chopped dried fruit or berries

Sunflower seeds

Cook wild rice until nearly done.  Fry green onions, celery, add chopped nuts, chopped unpeeled apples, chopped dried fruit or berries, sunflower seeds.  Fold ingredients into the wild rice.  Rice stuffing won't absorb fat the way bread stuffing does, but wild birds usually aren't very fat anyway, and neither are small chickens and most turkeys. Taste stuffing, add whatever seasonings you like with it. Use no conventional poultry seasonings, and remember too it doesn't need so much salt as regular rice, maybe none. Remember that one cup of raw rice cooks up to 4, and make an amount somewhat larger than needed to stuff your birds, because people like it a lot, so put some in a (covered) casserole too. Before you stuff wild birds wash inside and out very well with water that has baking soda and salt in it, then rinse. Then rub the cavity with butter.

Fish Stuffing

Use quite a bit of coarsely chopped celery, green onions, tarragon, parsley, chervil and fry it lightly before mixing into the rice. Almonds is the best kind of nuts to put in a stuffing for fish. Put some little lumps of butter all through it. Rub the inside of the fish with lemon juice mixed with a little butter, sprinkle with dried tarragon. Stuff the cavity with rice and skewer or sew it shut. Put the fish whole in a buttered covered baking dish, pour in a mixture of lemon juice. bouquet garni, chopped shallot, olive oil, fish stock, and a mixture of lemon juice and water if you don't keep wine around your house, otherwise use white wine. The mixture should have the fishes resting in at least 1/2 inch deep liquid but not covered by it. For several 4-lb pike (gaawag), bake in a 400 oven for 15 minutes, remove the cover and bake 15 minutes longer. Make add a cup of cream sauce from the juices, pressing them through a sieve. If it's a really big pike or muskie, cut a board with slanted ends to fit diagonally into your oven, cover it with tinfoil while it bakes, estimate the time based on lies about its weight, don't cook any fish too done.

Deer Meat Patties

Ground deer meat partly-fried can be mixed into cooked rice with chopped fried onions and simmered as a kind of stove-top casserole. You can also make the ground deer meat into little meat balls and serve with a gravy over the rice. Of course you can do this with hamburger too, but fry off some of its fat, first.

Little Porcupines - Gagoonz

1 lb ground venison or ftaless round steak
1/3 cup uncooked light brown wild rice
1 small onion minced very fine
1 seeded green pepper minced very fine
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can tomatoes
1 can tomato soup

Combine meat, uncooked rice, onion, green pepper, salt, pepper, mix thoroughly. Shape into 1& firm meat balls. Bring soup and tomatoes in their liquid to a boil in fry pan with tight cover, put in meat balls, reduce to very slow simmer. Simmer tightly until done with rice popping out of balls like porky quills -- about 40-45 minutes. 

Leftover Pie

A pie for leftover meat or cooked veggies: About 2 cups of cooked rice. Pat a rice shell into a pie pan -- you can add nuts, sunflower seeds (chopped), and even an egg to hold it together better, if you have eggs. Toast lightly for 10 minutes in preheated 350-degree oven. Fill this pie shell with leftover chopped meat (just about any kind) in a sauce or gravy, or cooked vegetables in a light white sauce. (Broccoli in cheese sauce, very light on the cheese, cauliflower, lima beans, corn). Heat in oven until sauce is bubbling and meat or veggies are heated through. One "pie" serves 4 not-too-hungry people; if they're hungry better make 2 or have a lot of other food such as soup, salad, big dessert, depending on what you have. For a fancy dinner, especially one where you are basically serving disguised leftovers because you are broke, put cut-out vegetable shapes brushed with melted butter on top of the sauce; tell non-Indian guests (especially French) it's an authentic traditional Native American Indian quiche. 

Soups and Stews

Cook wild rice separately first, not completely done, then stir it in for the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Habitant Pea Soup with Wild Rice -- Naboob 

Make this the usual way (3 quarts of water to one lb dried peas soaked overnight if whole, 1/2 lb salt pork, chopped carrots, onions, turnips, rutabagas). Add vegetables after bringing peas and pork to a boil and skimming. Simmer covered 4 hours, stir in cooked wild rice the last 15 minutes. The combo of peas and rice actually contains more biologically-usable protein than either the same amount of peas plus the same amount of rice, eaten separately, because of amino acid (components of protein) complementarities.

Popped Wild Rice Snack

Use only fresh Indian wild rice.  Put some fat in a frying pan, sprinkle in a little rice and stir it carefully so it doesn't burn. Wild rice will not fly around like popcorn as it slowly puffs itself into a long fat pillow.  If it's too dried out (from being broken, then heated) it can't pop. Test your rice before doing a lot.   Popped wild rice is also good as a breakfast cereal.

Traditionally, popped wild rice was fried in deer tallow or bear fat and served with maple syrup or in the winter hardened sap-candy was poured over it and made into balls.  For winter travel, pop-rice was crushed and shaped into cakes with some deer fat and quite a lot of melted sugar and dried berries. It was lightweight, filling, nutritious, and could be eaten without a fire if enemies were around.

Nutritional Value of Wild Rice 


50 calories (approximately)

14.1 grams protein (about twice that of brown or white rice)

75 grams carbohydrates

340 milligrams phosphorus

45 milligrams Thiamin (vitamin B-1)

0.75 milligrams fat

4.2 milligrams iron

63 milligrams riboflavin

7 milligrams sodium

6.2 milligrams niacin (B-vitamin)

18 milligrams calcium

220 milligrams potassium

Established by the University of Minnesota per a 100-gram (3.5 oz) serving of wild rice.

The Story of Wild Rice -- Mahnoomin

Mahnoomin (Mah-no-min) means Wild rice in Anishinaabemowin. "Mah" is a contraction for Manido, the Spirit Giver.  "Min" means seed.  Mahnoomin gave its name to the Manoominike, or moon (month) of harvest.  Wild rice was and is the most important food in the Great Lakes region for traditional people. Manoomin grows as reeds about 8-12 feet tall in water about 3-8 feet deep in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and marshes north of the Great Lakes. There are thousands of different varieties, each growing in its own particular niche of depth, temperature, mud, water quality. Wild rice is sensitive to  environmental conditions. 

Women of the tribe went into the rice field lakes a few weeks before harvesting to tie the rice reed heads into tight sheaves of narrow bundles with basswood twine.  The twine was in a big ball in a tray behind the woman. It ran over her shoulder in a little leather loop. She pulled the still-unripe heads together and wound and tied them (mamaawashkaawipidoon). The grains from tied rice wouldn't fall in the water. It could be cut off later in the winter, and shaken out. Those grains took a longer time to cook, but they were very special, they say. It took several days for women to tie up lots of sheaves. No one does this any more.

BAWA'AM -- Knocking the rice

Ricing (mahnoomin ikayng) now is still done in canoes, wiigwaasejimahnug. Well the wiigwaas- (birchbark) part isn't true anymore, they're aluminum now. Poling through the thick, tall reeds of a rice field on a zahgaigun (lake) is hard work; men usually do it. You can't paddle through these thick reeds, a long pole called gahndakeeigunahk is used. The woman sits in the stern as he pushes ahead. She uses bahwaigunahkoog -- 2 long sticks called knockers -- to knock ripe grains into the canoe while leaving some to shatter later and re-seed.

You sweep the right knocker over some rice reeds and bend it into the canoe. You hit the heads sharply with the left knocker, and the ripest grains fall out, then you let the reeds spring back up. Then you do it the other way on the other side, and you keep on doing this one arm, the other arm, till the whole canoe is pretty full. How fast it's gathered depends on how thickly the rice grows, and how ripe it is. It can take anywhere from 2 hours to most of the day to fill a canoe. Nobody goes out twice in one day, but the whole bed will be riced-over maybe half-a-dozen times, as grains in the heads continue to ripen. (Of course you don't take it all, you leave some to re-seed and some for the birds.)

The aim is to keep the long, pointed seeds as unbroken as possible, while threshing it with the knockers, something never true of commercial wild rice. In the old days, if anyone was careless and broke up the grains, pulled off the whole heads or squashed down the reeds, they were asked to leave the lake by the elders. This is not respectful to the rice and the Manido.  

BAASAN -- Drying, Parching, Winnowing

Traditional people follow the old ways as nearly as possible the first day at least. Some people go sneaky and get some birds. Others build a drying rack from green branches and cover its shelves with dried grass, with a slow fire under it. A lot of the first rice is dried quickly that way, the rest is spread on big canvases in part-sun part-shade to dry more slowly. Then a washtub of dried rice is parched (giidasigun) to loosen the husks. You put in about about 2 bucketfulls from the drying rack, and tilt the tub to a fire. It's stirred constantly with a flat paddle (uhbwi) for about an hour. This parching loosens the husks and gives it a nice flavor when boiled. Young girls usually stir (mamaajii) it and are careful not to get lazy and burn it.

BOOTAAGAADAN -- Milling and Treading

The rice is then pounded. This is done in a kind of barrel with slanting sides called a bootaagan and long-handled poles whose thick ends are kind of pointed. They are sanded very smooth after carving. The pole is lifted up high, then just dropped down along the slanting sides of the bootaagan, so it jostles off the husks without breaking up the grain -- it isn't really pounding. Then the bootaagan is emptied onto big birch-bark trays and winnowed by tossing in a light breeze, which blows away chaff, while the heavier grains fall back onto the trays (nooshkaatoon mahnoomin). Experienced older women usually do this, it's harder than it looks -- judging the wind, the twist of the toss. Different people take turns, 3 or 4 of them at a time lifting and dropping the heavy poles as the bootaagan is refilled again and again with rice that's been parched.

Winnowed rice still has a few pieces of inner husk sticking to it. These are good to eat, too, so to be really traditional, men "jig" this rice to separate the fine edible chaff (mazaanens) for a different kind of food (mixed into little patties and fried, or served as a mush). A barrel (makakosag) lined with deer hide is sunk 2/3 into the ground and 2 thick branches are arranged nearby as holds for the man who gets in the barrel with new deerskin boots on and dances up and down to break away those little inner husks without breaking up the rice (mimigoshkam). That's hard work, because the whole weight should never come on the rice. He has to dance fast and light.

The Green of Life, Original Creation

Rice processed this way -- the same day it was brought in -- is called green rice (ohshki bagoong mahnoomin--the word for green rice color is special, means "first original color" ozaawashko is more ordinary blue-green). Oshki Anishinabe means First, original, people. There are connotations of sacred, growth, and creative in the word "oshki". Green rice has a lighter color (light brown speckled, actually) and a different flavor than rice that dries in the sun. If it dries for several days in the sun, it turns very black (makadewiminagad, black seed-grain only, black anything else is makadewizi). It will keep forever. If not too broken up, it can also be used as seed grain to re-seed damaged or over-harvested lakes. Some of this black rice is always cached near where you got it, because rice won't usually grow in a different lake. Black rice takes much longer to cook. If husked mechanically, its grains are usually broken.

After there's enough First Day rice prepared for everyone and the offerings, dinner is cooked, usually with some wild birds and fish, and if no berries grow nearby some will be brought -- dried Juneberries (miinan) and strawberries (odeiminun) from earlier in the summer, dried blueberries (miinun) and raspberries (misko minun) from the previous fall, maple sugar if you have any. Fresh elderberries (forgot the word) taste awful, but sun-dried they're good. Some rice is boiled with and without meat. Some is parched in fat, where it pops like popcorn (if the grains aren't broken and it's fresh). And lots of other food too, of course. There is now singing and praying, and sometimes if a Pipe carrier is there, a Pipe is smoked around. Dishes are prepared for the Manidowug and left in several places -- out in the ricebed, in the woods, by a stream. Then we eat! Miish, miijing Mahnoomin!

First Rice feast, by the side of the ricebed lake in the rice camps is like Thanksgiving for American white people, or at least like how I assume that holiday feast once was for them -- a celebration and thanks for the fruits of the harvest. Migwetch (thank-you) Mahnoomin is the name of Anishinaabe First Rice feast. It is the rice, not the wild birds, which was the staple most important food, and is the focus of the prayers and thanks. If you live in the city and somebody gives you some First Rice, you should also leave plates of food outside, pray and sing your thanks for it. Some people say "Oh, a dog will just eat it if you leave a plate outside for the spirits," but that really doesn't matter. Probably animals eat the food we leave by the woods and waters, too. That is giving it to the spirits, although maybe there are different ones in the City. Zagaswe'iwe! give a feast with it, for friends and relatives.

BOOTAAGANIKEWIN -- Making a Rice-Mill

Elder Maude Kegg (Naawakamigookwe), of Mille Lacs Ojibwe Tribe, was born around 1904, and raised at Portage Lake, midway between Mille Lacs and Bemidji in Minnesota. She recalled helping her uncle make a bootaagan, the mortar for pounding parched rice:

I used to help my uncle when he made a bootaagan. I held it for him. He cut a log, then sawed it straight. Then he pointed one end and carged some wooden pieces, pointing them so they'd fit well and make the bootaagan round. When he was through carbing them, he dug a pit and put grass in it. It was long grass that he put in it. Then he put a willow strip bent into a circle. He pressed the grass down. Then he fitted the boards together in it again. I held them as I watched him.

After he got done fitting in those things, the pieces of carved cedar, he tapped in the round piece of log. It looked just like a pail. He formed the boards into a circle. Then he put in the willow strips. It held them. It was round. No sand could get in then. We took care of it properly so it didn't get wet, covering it perhaps with a birch bark roll when it rained or at night when we weren't using it.

That was where they pounded or trampled the rice. When it was through being used and they were done picking rice, they took it apart and stored away the parts. Whenever there was ricing, he used the bootaagan. He was always putting it together. That's all.


Maude's step-mother told her an interesting story about meeting Memegwesiwug (Little People) once when ricing:

We always went to Boy River, we were always doing something there at Boy River. We were ricing there, and were sitting down towards evening. She (Maude's step-mother) was saying that they had seen Memegwesiwug.

They too knock rice there on Boy River. The river turns there," she said. "We were knocking rice along there," she said.

"Maybe there is someone over there," her old man was saying, so they stopped there and put down the knocking sticks. Sure enough, the sound of knocking was coming along toward them where they were sitting in the water, and then a canoe suddenly appeared. They just sat there watching those two knocking rice.

They wanted to see who it was, but when they blinked their eyes, they disappeared from view. "He said 'Memegewesiwug', " she said, "that's what he said; those Memegwesiwug have hair on their faces."




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