Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  MARQUETTE – Ojibwe traditions of “wild ricing” in the Upper Peninsula are featured in a new ethnographic documentary by Northern Michigan University professor and filmmaker Michael Loukinen. Most of the video was recorded in the vicinity of the Lac Vieux Desert community in Watersmeet.

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  “Ojibwe youth are losing the wild ricing traditions of their ancestors due to the deaths of knowledgeable elders and the harmful environmental pressures impacting their sacred lake, Lac Vieux Desert,” Loukinen said. “There has long been an identity between the lake and the tribe. This video will preserve the ricing traditions for future generations and tell us a great deal about the history of the lake.”

The documentary covers the practices of planting, rice-boat building, harvesting, parching, dancing, winnowing, cooking, and finally eating wild rice at a feast. The opening sequence features the late Spiritual Elder Archie McGeshick, Sr.

“While dying of cancer, Archie continued to plant and harvest,” Loukinen said. “He took me out to record these practices. The opening scene shows him ceremoniously offering Ojibwe-language prayers and tobacco to the Water, Shore and Great Spirits as he surveys the rice bed that he restored.”

The documentary incorporates live-action scenes with historical photographs, animation, music and narration. Much of the latter was provide by Thomas Vennum, ethnologist emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution and author of the award-winning Wild Rice and the Ojibwe People.

The film not only shows the wild ricing traditions, but the teaching of these traditions to Ojibwe children.

“This was made for a general audience, but it will be especially interesting to parents and children, teachers, folk arts educators, cultural anthropologists and Native American studies educators,” Loukinen added. “Project materials will be archived for future research opportunities.”

A brief science segment explores how human and environmental forces affect the health and survival of wild rice. Peter David, a biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, explains in the film that rice beds are declining throughout the Lake Superior region. He attributes the trend to the adverse impacts of the thinning ozone layer, variations in rainfall and snow melting, motorboat traffic and especially dams.

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  Loukinen plans to premiere the film on the NMU campus at the start of the wild rice harvesting season in early September. Details will be announced at a later date.   

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Lac first contacted Loukinen in 1996, after members became increasingly aware of the loss of their traditional Elders. They approved a two-pronged project: building a digital archive of video, sound and transcribed text to preserve their tribal heritage; and completing a series of documentaries designed to increase the understanding of and sense of appreciation for their heritage.

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  Loukinen began recording in 1998. Ojibwe Teachings was the first film in the series, followed by the recently completed Wild Rice: A Lac Vieux Desert Ojibwe Tradition. Remaining productions will explore the history of the tribeÂ’s migration and settlement, evolving into a look at how the gaming industry has impacted contemporary work and leisure activities.

Throughout the process – from preparation to post-production – Loukinen has relied heavily on the assistance of current and former NMU students: Heath Patrie for music, Grant Guston for graphics and editing, and Robert Ruuska for translation. He has also utilized the expertise of NMU staff and faculty Martin Reinhardt, Elda Tate, Lillian and Leonard Heldreth and April Lindala in such roles as narrator, cultural adviser, story consultant and musician.

Funding for the video projects has been provided by the following: Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs; the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; the Michigan State Department of Consumer and Industry Services; NMU faculty grants; the NMU department of sociology and social work; and the NMU College of Professional Studies. Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚   Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ 

"For more information, contact Michael Loukinen at (906)227-2041"

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director