David Manuel is an enrolled member and resident of the Red Lake Nation; he’s also a Food Charter Champion. Year-round, David can be found in the woods, on the lake, and in the garden. This time of year, he is just winding up ‘sugarbush’ – tapping maple trees, boiling sap, and making maple syrup and maple sugar. As always, he involves elders and youth in his work, ensuring that young people learn the stories and traditional ways from their elders.
As summer arrives at Red Lake, David can be found tending large gardens, growing a variety of produce that he donates to elders, gives to families, and feeds his household. Elders spend time at the garden, sharing their knowledge about growing food, as well as teaching younger people how to be food self-sufficient and live their lives in a healthy way. And, when he’s not tending to his beehives, he is also out in the woods, gathering traditional medicines that support physical well-being.
Come fall, David is busy ricing. Out on nearby lakes with a canoe, pole, and rice knockers, he and other tribal members harvest the rice, parch it, and winnow it, readying a supply for eating all year. Elders join him at the rice camp, along with young people, continuing the traditions that embody the prophecy of what brought the Anishinaabe to this region a millennia ago.
David’s work and leadership at Red Lake ensure that traditional foodways and teachings associated with each season continue, including time for all community members to come together to uphold and share traditions which have kept the Anishinaabe healthy for thousands of years. As David says, “I am the sum of the teachings I have come to love. This is why I choose to do what I do, at the proper time. It is a time of hunting, fishing and doing sugarbush. At the proper time, I will feast my drum, and only then; Sah-gii-bah-gah- giizis, when the trees begin to bud. Mi’iw.”
Food Charter strategies are designed to support tribal members like David, including:
- Support and training needed for tribal communities to host culture camps focusing on traditional foods and related teachings.
- Knowledge and resources needed by food harvesters to harvest wild rice; catch, gather, and preserve fish, plant foods, and berries; and tap, process, and store maple syrup and sugar.
In coming years, Food Charter Champions like David and their partners should have the support and resources they need to continue these important traditions.