Ricing Is Always Worthwhile for Alicia


Makadegwanebiikwe (Mikayla Schaaf) Mille Lacs Band Descendant and District I Community Member

Despite the sparse year for ricing, Alicia Skinaway and her grandson Michael Christensen managed to get out and harvest wild rice for their family this season.

“When I riced on Lake Onamia this year, the rice was scarce, scattered, and the wind pushed us back,“ said Alicia. “We ha- ven't riced much this year due to some of the events that have happened in the community lately."

Next year Alicia plans to go ricing for a bit longer. She hopes the rice is good and she will be able to harvest for two weeks. “This year it seemed like the season opened a little later. By then the rice was all gone and picked. I was always taught to be gentle on the rice stalks when I was knocking the rice into the canoe — don’t hit the rice stalks too hard, just tap them enough so only the ripe rice falls in."

Alicia plans on harvesting rice again next year, but may try to find a lake other than Lake Onamia. “You have to find the right day and the right ricing lake." Alicia chuckled as she said, “It was so windy, we 'webaashk' in the lake. My mom used to tell us to stay close to the shore or out of the open water or we will get pushed back by the wind, which is the meaning of the word 'webaashk' (way-bosh-shk)."

Due to the poor season, many harvesters might have to buy rice this year. With a smile, Alicia said, “I will have to go get rice from the East Lakers. They always have good rice. It is always important to have wild rice on hand for special occa- sions, but most of all for ceremonial feasts and our ceremonial dances. It’s our traditional food and way of life."

In the past, Alicia and her family didn’t rice for a year because of a death in the family, “You can’t rice after a death in the family unless you get fed that rice. We didn’t get fed, so we didn’t rice that whole year."

“On Highway 47 past Isle about three years ago, me and my niece riced on a lake for about a week. We put our tobacco out on the lake. We always put our tobacco out before we go out to rice, and we came in with over 1,000 pounds. We were really happy then. We had fun, taking coffee breaks, lunch breaks, when we riced." Vanessa Weyaus used to be her other ricing partner. Alicia was the knocker and Vanessa was the poler.

Alicia reminisced about the “old days," speaking of her family and her ricing experience when she was young. “A bunch of us used to go ricing. We were only about 10 or 12 when our mother brought us out, around the '50s and '60s. The boys were just teenagers, and my sister was a bit older. Everybody riced except the little tiny ones. It was economics! It is how we got our school clothes. We riced Mallard Lake — there was so much rice and such a big lake. We camped there along the second landing on the field. I think there is a lot of weed and bush now, though. Old days were a lot of fun! All the kids went ricing. Everyone had cars. Cars were like a hundred dollars apiece, and gas was only 25 cents. There were boats on top of cars, and everybody followed each other to the lake. That was the fun days; it’s different now. You just try to find people to rice and usually go out alone with them. People just aren't ricing much anymore."

She laughed while she reminisced about a ricing story of her two brothers, who had her old four-door Buick and hit the ditch, and the car never ran after that. “My brothers and I had so much fun ricing back then,“ she said. Her brothers were Reginald and Myron Garbow, old ceremonial Drumkeepers. Later on in life Myron became the Mille Lacs Band District I Representative. With a beautiful smile and laugh, Alicia softly said, “Those were the good old days.“