The WELRP was founded in 1989 by White Earth tribal member Winona La Duke. In 2004, WELRP received the prestigious International Slow Food Award at the Fourth International Slow Food Congress in Naples, Italy. The project was recognized for its work to preserve wild rice and biodiversity and to restore local food systems on the White Earth reservation in eastern Wisconsin. The project works to facilitate recovery of the original land base of the White Earth Indian reservation while preserving and restoring traditional practices of sound land stewardship, language fluency, and community development and strengthening their spiritual and cultural heritage.
The White Earth reservation, home to the Anishinaabeg people, is also home to one of the oldest wild rice pollens known today—pre-dating the Anishinaabeg people by a thousand years. According to the oral history of the Anishinaabeg, manoomin, or wild rice, was a gift given by the Creator and is a centerpiece of the nutrition and sustenance of the community. The project works to oppose the genetic modification and patenting of wild rice in White Earth but also around the world, working in collaboration with indigenous communities and other peoples' movements to ensure that native rights, natural harvesting, and food security are guaranteed for generations to come.
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