The Tools We Use

Thomas Howes
Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa natural resources manager Thomas Howes (Front).

For thousands of years Native Americans have made tools from things found in nature. These tools help them harvest a crop called wild rice. Just like you use crayons made from soybeans, or your baseball glove made from leather, ricers use tools made from nature to do their work too!

Thomas Howes is a Natural Resource Manager and Ricer on the Fond Du Lac reservation. He helps take care of wild rice, which is called Manoonim in the Ojibwe language.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Howes

Thomas says the wild rice is a “gift of the natural world…I have a life bond with it.”

As a ricer, Thomas collects rice in the same way his ancestors did using tools like a ricing stick. A ricing stick is made of light cedar wood. Ricing sticks are sometimes called knockers because they knock grains off of wild rice plants. Ricers also use birch bark baskets to hold the rice grains. Birch bark is flexible, lightweight and very tough. It even is water proof when used to hold water!


A person who harvests the grains from the wild rice stalks.

Two Birch Bark Baskets
Birch bark baskets used to hold wild rice.
2-Person Canoe
A ricer using a ricing stick to collect wild rice.

Photos courtesy of Native Harvest

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