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Climate Change Threatens Midwest's Wild Rice, A Staple For Native Americans

Each year, Dylan Jennings harvests wild rice from the lakes and rivers near his home in northern Wisconsin. He and a partner use a canoe, nosing carefully through rice beds and knocking rice kernels into the boat's hull using special sticks.

"It's a really long process," he says. "It starts with identifying the area where you are going to go ricing and knowing those areas in a very intimate way."

Northern wild rice, also known as manoomin, is a staple food in Ojibwe communities across the Upper Midwest, where it's also used in traditional ceremonies. And, like any wild crop, some years yield more than others, depending on the weather.

"When wild rice is bad, that means ... families go without wild rice that year, which can be really tough," explains Jennings, a spokesperson for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, or GLIFWC.

Joe Proudman/Courtesy of University of California Davis

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