Early Ojibwe Fall- Dagwaagin

By: Preity Persaud

Wild Rice

After leaving left their summer villages and once again set out for a new destination. Fall or Dagwaagin, they went to the to the ponds, marshes, and lakes where wild rice grew. The seeds or grain from this plant are among one of the Ojibwe's favourite foods and the focus of their lives during the days of early autumn.

Since, the rice grew in water the Ojibwe harvested it from canoes. Each canoe had two people in it. One at the back to pushing the canoe through the water and one at the front using sticks to knock the rice into the canoe.After hours of work, the grain heaped up in the bottom. Often the children helped in the harvest, learning from their elders how to gather rice properly. Once the rice was harvested, it was time to head back to shore and prepare the rice for storage.

Wild Rice Harvesting

Making Wild Rice

First, the rice was spread out on big sheets of bark so it could dry in the sun. Then, it was roasted over a fire and poured into a pit lined with the hide of the animal(s) they hunted. There, men and children wearing clean moccasins would grind the husks off the grains by stepping lightly on them. Finally, the rice was poured into trays and tossed lightly in the air so that the wind could blow away the chaff, or outer skin that covered the grain. This last step is called winnowing.

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Autumn Tasks

Those who did not take part in the rice harvest kept busy with other autumn tasks. Children collected late-season berries and dried them for use during winter. Men hunted the ducks and geese that flocked to the rice marshes during the fall. Men and women caught fish and preserved them for the coming winter.

Saying Goodbye

As the days grew shorter, people at the rice camps packed up their belongings. They said goodbye to the relatives and neighbors they had lived and traveled with over the past two seasons. Winter villages were different. Instead of living in large communities, the Ojibwe lived in smaller groups— usually just an extended family or two—spread out in the pine forest camps.