Reflections on the Manoomin-Psin Knowledge Symposium

by John Roterman, Freshwater Tribal State Liaison 

The Manoomin-Psin Knowledge Symposium at Black Bear Casino was held on November 13 and 14 and attended by nearly 300 attendees, including several Freshwater staff. There were excellent stories shared from tribal elders and youth as well as powerfully delivered presentations describing some of the threats that Manoomin faces, and good strategies for maintaining the plant’s health. Toxicity due to the sulfide/sulfate processes and climate change seem to be the main threats but thankfully, there are many efforts under way to assure best case outcomes with proper monitoring and caretaking. Assessing each Manoomin lake independently is crucial as each will have varying criteria to address.

During the stories from the tribal elders, there were harvesting techniques shared as well as explanation of why behind the how. It was a pleasure to see so many of my respected Fon du Lac Elders present sharing for us! Whether to pole from the front or back was one practice addressed where an elder shared he feels the lakebed is less disturbed when poling from the front as he was not pushing as deeply with the pole. This type of knowledge is an excellent example of the strengths of TIK and the sound reasoning behind the practice. Also addressed were stories of tipped canoes and spilled seeds. At least the seed will help propagate future season’s food. The Manoomin can exist as seed in the lakebed for many years.

There were breakout sessions offered where the science of how sulfides turn to sulfates and back in a cycle occurs and the detrimental effects these sulfates have on Manoomin. Many of the threats to Manoomin are from manmade causation. Even the climate changes are being traced to anthropogenic causation. Human threats include improper harvest techniques that can break the stalks if beaten or otherwise disrespected. Some years are not suitable for harvest and the plant needs the season to heal. This decision last year on two Minnesota lakes led to better harvest this last season.

This Manoomin symposium was very well populated with a diversity of experts and lovers of Manoomin. There were booths set around the perimeter of the room with excellent information and presentations regarding all sorts of Manoomin expertise. There were detailed information sheets available as well as stickers and promotional materials to keep the subject fresh in people’s everyday lives. Many agencies were participating in this event and everyone enjoyed the open sharing of all of the knowledge presented. Outside the meeting hall were vendors selling beautifully crafted art and craft. They get me every time… or actually, I end up getting their best stuff!

John Roterman, Carrie Jennings and Eileen J. Kirby at the Manoomin-Psin Knowledge Symposium.

I want to thank Freshwater, The Joyce Foundation, Fond du Lac Reservation and the University of Minnesota for allowing me the opportunity to attend and learn so much about something I am passionate about. Also special thanks to the Black Bear staff and many youth who took care of us so well. The food service was very nice. Those present represented well and I was proud to be in that crowd. It was a pleasure to attend, and I hope to be there next year as well!

Chi miigwech!

John Roterman