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DEBWE to host wild rice camp on reservation

Anybody of any race who wants to learn the history, culture and technique behind the traditional Ojibwe wild rice harvest is welcome to attend a wild rice camp this week on the White Earth Reservation.

The rice is collected using canoes and lightweight wooden knocking sticks, then processed in the traditional way.

The camp is sponsored by DEBWE, a Detroit Lakes–based group dedicated to sharing the history and traditional culture of the Ojibwe people.

People can come out for a day or stay and camp for all five days, said Roxanne Fairbanks, executive director of DEBWE.

“Camp is open to anybody, bring a tent and bug spray,” she said with a laugh. Though DEBWE does provide some meals, supplies are limited and people should plan on bringing their own food to contribute to the communal meals, she added. Ten canoes will be available.

White Earth has the best wild rice beds in the country, with 47 lakes and hundreds of other bodies of water where wild rice grows.

The camp will be directed by Bill Paulson, an old hand at the traditional native ways.

Wild rice has always been very important to the Ojibwe culture, and Paulson will “talk about the process of harvesting in the traditional way,” Fairbanks said.

The “Oshkaabewisag Traditional Wild Rice Camp” will start Wednesday evening and wrap up Sunday.

Camp activities include sustainable traditional wild rice harvesting, parching, winnowing and cooking instruction.

There will also be cultural activities involving beadwork, birchbark basketry, rice knocker construction, food preservation and care, woodland survival skills and wood fire basics.

Also planned are tree and plant identification, social interaction skills, canoeing-water skills, Annishinaabe culture and oral history.

To get there, take Highway 113, 11 Miles east of Waubun to mile marker 27, near the intersection of County Road 4, and look for the big sign marking the entrance to the camp.

Paulson said the event is free and open to individuals, families or groups “interested in the hands-on experience of gathering and processing of our natural resources in respectful ways, and all are invited to join us during this time of harvest and sharing.”

Activities will include hand-harvesting of wild rice using a canoe, push-pole and knocking sticks.

Then finishing the rice by parching in an iron kettle, jigging the rice with moccasins and fanning the rice with a birch bark basket.

Also, making birch bark baskets and porcupine quillwork.

Other activities may include processing deer, plant identification, canoeing, fishing (bring your own fishing gear) singing and drumming, traditional games, elders sharing ancestral teachings, talking circles, leather and beadwork.

The rice camp is located on a peninsula surrounded by water on the White Earth Indian Reservation. The camp is primitive, with cooking over propane and a campfire.

Meals are a social event, with volunteers for cooking, sharing in the gathering for meals, and cleanup. Bring food items to share with the meals, vegetables, fruit, and knowledge…

A large non-electric ice cooler is on hand for camp food and meal contributions.

Camping gear (tents, sleeping bags, bug spray, lotion for sunburn, and camp dishes) should be brought by the participant.

There is no charge for participating in this gathering; however, contributions are the only source of funds to cover the cost of food and activities. Children and adolescents must be accompanied by adult supervision. Please, no radios, DVD, Mp3, or CD players. This is supposed to be a natural experience.

Come for the day or for the whole week. For registration, daily agenda and directions, contact Bill Paulson, 218-850-9690.