Length: 60 min.
Kindegarten, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Adult Learning
Mino-Bima-Diziwin: The Good Life
On the White Earth reservation in Minnesota, harvesting wild rice is an annual tradition. In this hour-long documentary, many wonderful and intimate moments show the hardships and rewards experienced by those who continue to live off the land. The program interweaves philosophy about “manoomin” or wild rice, with the stories of local people whose lives revolve around the harvest. Background interviews illuminate both the economic and the spiritual aspects of this ancient tradition.
At the center of the story are Dorothy and Darwin Stevens, a couple who have been ricing together for over forty years. This couple still hand-harvests wild rice in a canoe using the traditional flails — a pair of wooden rice knockers —and a pole to propel the boat. Rice Lake, the community they live in, is the historic site of some of Minnesota’s most ancient and flourishing rice camps. Darwin Stevens is the last of the old rice caretakers, whose job it was to watch over the lake, raising and lowering the water levels, and enforcing decisions about the harvest.
The Stevens’ represent the ingenuity and self-sufficiency of an older generation of Native People who supplemented their income by hunting and gathering. Despite cultural losses and financial hardship, these elders made a living out of what they had: knowledge of the land, and an infinite faith in the Creator. The Stevens exemplify the tremendous inner resources and spirit of ordinary people on the reservation who are quietly building a life for themselves and their children’s children.
The film is narrated by Winona LaDuke, a nationally known Native environmentalist from White Earth, who discusses continuity and change in gathering and processing of rice. The program uses these issues as a springboard into the underlying economic, social and philosophical issues of sustainable land use. This is a documentary about values and choices, and how one influences the other.
This program was directed by Deb Wallwork an award-winning independent producer of Native American documentaries from Fargo, ND. Mary John (Dakota), a Native writer and activist, was the co-producer. Gladys Ray, an Ojibwe elder, was the project advisor.
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