Wild rice [menomen] is an important food staple of the Potawatomi and many other Woodland tribes. Menomen literally means the good seed/berry. It is a cereal grain, rather than rice, that grows 8 to 12 feet high in the rivers, lakes and marshes of the eastern United States. Aside from a food source, wild rice can be used medicinally to remedy burns, heart and stomach ailments. For over a thousand years this small grain has been harvested and prepared by Native people.
Harvesting wild rice is considered a cultural event for Potawatomi people. The process is a team event, with one person paddling and the other gently threshing the seeds into the canoe with two small poles called "knockers". Harvesting period may extend for several weeks throughout spring, summer and fall.
Wild rice is at the core of Potawatomi culture and serves as a central theme in the 7 Fires Prophecy, an oral story/history that has been told over millennia. It describes a turbulent time when the Neshnabek [Potawatomi, Ojibwe and Odawa] were visited by 7 prophets that each spoke of a fire or era that the Neshnabek would have to face and ultimately endure, forever changing their way of life.
In the time of the 1st Fire, the Neshnabek were told of an approaching force that would ultimately destroy them and their culture. To evade this danger, they were instructed to leave their homelands along the East Coast and move west, following the sacred Megis shell of their religious Midewiwin Lodge to a new homeland where food grows on water. This food was menomen.