Thursday, January 28, 2016

Frank Bibeau - Why Treaties Matter and Wild Rice

Frank Bibeau is a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Pillager Band, enrolled at White Earth, and he has lived in Ball Club, Minnesota on the Leech Lake Reservation with his wife Vicki for more than 30 years. He is an attorney who works extensively with Chippewa treaty rights, civil rights, and sovereignty on and off reservation. Frank currently works with Honor the Earth, a native-led, non-profit environmental protection group, and he recently became the Executive Director for the 1855 Treaty Authority.

Wild rice, or Manoomin as it is called by the Anishinabe (Chippewa), is our most sacred or spiritual food and the most central, pivotal part of our culture.

All my life I knew I was an Indian because that was the explanation my (non-Indian) mother gave to a lot of (non-Indian) people as to why I had such a good tan. My father is the Indian — as was his father, my Grandfather. Growing up outside Washington, DC in the late 60s and 70s, I remember that my Grandfather in Ball Club, Minnesota always made sure we had wild rice. It was usually Dad who cooked the wild rice. We always had it in the house but ate it sparingly as we just had a few pounds. So I understood wild rice was as precious to have . . . as to eat.

Full Circle
What I have learned is wild rice is part of our migration and creation stories. We were guided by the Creator to where the food grows on the water. Wild rice is integral to our survival and way of life. Wild rice is the one gift we usually have to share and everyone loves to receive. We need to protect wild rice, and it will always protect us.

More simply translated, wild rice grows in the air, the water, and earth; and therefore wild rice is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for environmental issues. In honor of that, while at the Public Utilities Commission meeting to discuss a pipeline company’s attempt to avoid an Environmental Impact Statement — a petition denied by the Minnesota Supreme Court — I made sure to thank the three attorneys who appealed for this environmental review that will help protect Minnesota’s wild rice. As I gave them wild rice gathered this year up near Bowstring and processed in Ball Club, it impressed me to see how so many non-Indian people are coming to understand the significance — both cultural and environmental — of wild rice, as well as the importance of treaty rights.Although working to protect Minnesota’s Manoomin and our treaty rights will continue, one thing I know is certain:  I’m getting to be an old Indian in Ball Club who makes sure my Dad and other family and friends have wild rice, because it is important to me too.

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate this insight regarding the sacredness of wild rice. I totally understand. It has been an honor for me (via Minnesota Humanities)to have gifted members of the Winnebago and the Omaha Nations in Nebraska with Minnesota wild rice. Both have received with tremendous respect and honor the sacredness. Thanks for sharing the environmental and legislative status.I learned.