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A five-year effort by the Anishinaabek Caucus to have manoomin (wild rice) designated as the state of Michigan’s native grain has paid off. On Wednesday, November 1, 2023, the Michigan Senate passed HB 4852 that was previously passed in the Michigan House of Representatives. 

The bill will be sent to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her signature. She is expected to sign the bill without opposition.

Manoomin is a culturally significant plant to the Anishinaabek (Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi) and is directly linked to their migration from the northeastern coast to the Great Lakes region several hundred years ago. In the Great Lakes region, manoomin plays a major role in the Indigenous food sovereignty movement. 

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Manoomin is an important part of Michigan’s ecological landscape, providing valuable food and cover for waterfowl, mammals, fish, amphibians, and bird species.

Historically, Manoomin was widespread, with most of the largest beds found in the vast coastal marshes along the Great Lakes and at the outlets of Michigan’s major rivers. Several of the historic beds were thousands of acres in size. Tragically, most of these have been lost due to channelization, sedimentation, and industrial pollution.

Overall, Manoomin has significantly declined in the last 175 years.Today, there are less than two hundred (mostly small) Manoomin beds across the state, with only one of the historic large beds remaining. Logging, the dredging and draining of wetlands, dams, and pollution all played a role in the historic decline of the inland beds. Manoomin is now threatened by climate change, herbicides, habitat fragmentation, and physical destruction by those who do not understand the plant’s significance.

Sponsored by Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor), HB 4852 reads

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT: Sec. 1. Manoomin (Zizania palustris and Zizania aquatica), also known as Michigan wild rice, is designated as the official native grain of this state.

Let it be known that manoomin is a sacred and important component to many wetlands and has a cultural significance to indigenous people of this state.

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