Where Food Grows On Water
Move west to "the land where food grows on water,” a prophecy told the Ojibwe. A reference to wild rice, the Ojibwe began migrating from the East Coast across the Great Lakes to where they settled in Red Lake, Minnesota, and the environs in the 1700s.
Today on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, wild rice is a vital part of a movement to feed the roughly 5,000 tribal members living there with organic fruits and vegetables, game, and foraged foods cultivated entirely on the northern Minnesota reservation.
The movement to reclaim food sovereignty is spearheaded by the Red Lake Local Foods Initiative and emphasizes traditional and organic foods. The aim is to decrease diet-related health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
And, food binds people and informs cultural identity. The people of Red Lake are coming together through food in a way that revives cultural traditions and reconnects them to their land after history disconnected them from it during colonization.
People involved in the Food Initiative are working together to develop programs that will involve and benefit the entire community. They’re also connecting Ojibwe youth with elders, which is crucial to the preservation and sustainability of the tribe’s culture and health.
As one of only two closed reservations in the US, the state courts or government have no jurisdiction in Red Lake, and the land is collectively owned by the tribe, rather than allotted to individuals. The spirit of communal land is reflected in the drive to provide and share local foods with all members of the community and beyond.
In the US, Native communities are too often overlooked or thought of as relics, or even not existing. They’re still here, in all of their complexity and copiousness.