Wild Rice Symposium Proposal Reservation communities of the upper Midwest in partnership with the University of Minnesota host this symposium as an important initial step toward the emergence of mutual understanding of the significance of wild rice. The three-day symposium, at the Shooting Star Convention Center on the White Earth Reservation, will examine the role that wild rice (manoomin, Zizania palustris) plays within the communities of the Anishinabe people of the upper Midwest and Cree of Canada, and the threats to wild rice in the future. A key focus will be on the potential for genetic engineering of wild rice and the risks posed by such a possibility.
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The Context: Manoomin, Tradition and Science
For the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) wild rice (manoomin) is a sacred gift from the creator. It was foretold in their prophecies that they would reach their homeland where food grows upon the water. In this sense, the Anishinaabe exist today as living prophecy fulfilled, and the survival of their people is intimately tied to that of the manoomin itself as found in its natural habitats. Traditional Anishinaabe lifestyles and cultural identity are intimately bound to the manoomin spiritually, physically and economically. It is a sacred gift essential to their cultural survival and appears increasingly threatened by the work of agricultural scientists. Agricultural scientists have been conducting research for the past 40 years to improve wild rice for cultivation. University researchers have contributed to the development of farming of wild rice and are fulfilling their public mission of advancing knowledge and creating economic opportunity for the public at large. In continued pursuit of agricultural research and development, researchers have begun to map the wild rice genome with the goal of developing genetic markers that will allow selection and development of genotypes preferred for cultivation.
Beginning a process of consensus to bridge opposing worldviews. A consensus statement will indicate progress in finding accommodation among contesting interests on the future of wild rice, and explore possibilities for future wild rice research that includes these interests.
Building trust among University scientists, Anishinaabe people and rice growers.