Wild Rice: The curious case of aboriginal grain use in the West

Ethnobotany 1
Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 09:45
, T. Abe - Salal, the Cascadian Food Institute

First Peoples on the Northwest Coast of North America have an extraordinarily rich traditional diet including nearly 300 species, many of which have been “tended.” Some European foods, such as root vegetables, were readily adopted subsequent to contact with early explorers, while others, such as grains, were avoided despite pressure from colonial governments. This talk explores the provenance of Wild Rice (Zizania palustris) in the west, a grain that is neither traditionally eaten, nor native to this region, yet was adopted by some Coast Salish families in the 20th century. While it is commonly thought to have been planted in the west by duck hunters, I use historical, linguistic, and genetic modes of inquiry to test my hypothesis that Wild Rice, and associated TEK, was traded westward where it germinated in novel soil among otherwise grain-averse people, because rice culture was an indigenous technology that was compatible with existing foodscapes.