Our Work

Manoomin/Psiη (wild rice) is a sacred plant, food, and medicine for Native peoples throughout the Great Lakes region; unfortunately, it has been declining due to multiple environmental stressors.  Manoomin health is linked to people and ecosystems through multiple multiple social and biophysical dimensions. Native people who have lived with and stewarded Manoomin/Psiη for generations understand this intimately, but tribal views, concerns, and treaty rights have not been adequately incorporated into traditional University-driven research nor into key natural resources policies. 

Launched in 2018, our collaborative–First We Must Consider Manoomin/Psin–is envisioned as a true collaboration among Native and non-Native researchers, resource managers, community members, and Indigenous knowledge keepers.  We strive to center Tribal perspectives, knowledge, and research priorities, and to ground our work in deep trust and respectful relations. To that end, we worked together to create a set of Guiding Principles to guide our collaborative work. 




Research Activities

Understanding and protecting fragile Manoomin/Psin and its ecosystem requires an interdisciplinary approach and the embrace of diverse knowledges. We strive to learn from one another while “walking the land” together. This is a critical step to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into research.

In addition, we jointly collect biophysical data in the field including analyses of vegetation, hydrology, geochemistry, sediments, and regional assessments to contextualize findings. For example, we are exploring key questions raised by tribal resource managers and other tribal community members about the impacts of unnatural water levels, invasive and competing species, perturbed water, and sediment quality, for Manoomin stands. 

We also collect social science data including oral histories, in-depth interviews, wild rice harvester surveys, and focus groups with tribal and non-tribal natural resource managers to understand the influence of values, policies, and practices on Manoomin ecosystems over time. In all project components, partners work side-by-side to compose research questions, design research plans, co-analyze data and understand how changes in Manoomin health influences relational systems among Native and non-Native knowledge holders, harvesters, and natural resource policy makers.

Finally we aim to integrate social and environmental components of our work to better integrate and interpret our data and support Manoomin, as well as to evaluate and continuously improve the process of collaborative research.



Collaboration Conferences

To reinforce our collaborative approach, all partners come together for twice-yearly conferences  (held virtually if necessary) to build relationships, determine the direction of the project, organize field work, discuss research results, and disseminate findings. We also hold monthly conference calls to ensure all partners have a voice in the project.


We gratefully acknowledge the University of MN for core funding, in particular the UMN-Twin Cities’ Grand Challenges Research Initiative and the Institute on the Environment for funding the first two years of our collaboration from 2018-2020.  

Additional funding for our collaborative research comes from:

A National Science Foundation (NSF) four-year grant, 2021-2024, entitled ”CNH2-L Wild Rice: A Flagship for Co-Creating Socio-Ecological Knowledge of Indigenous Resource Management,” Award# 2009256.

A United States Geologic Survey (USGS) grant entitled 


National Oceanic and Aeronautics Administration (NOAA) funding for our proposed project entitled “Harvesting Manoomin as a climate adaptation strategy.” 



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