In Anishinabown, the word “Michigan” means “Land of Great Water,” and this month the Natural Resources Conservation Service has intertwined water in its celebration of Native American History Month.
The agency—the U.S. Department of Agriculture arm that assists in natural resource preservation on private and tribal lands—commissioned a poster based on a painting by Shirley M. Brauker of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Manistee, Michigan, by way of recognizing “that clean water is crucial for sustaining life.”
The month’s theme is “Land of Great Water—Sustainer of Life,” and the acrylic-on-canvas painting The Rice Gatherers “depicts three Native American women harvesting wild rice with beaters in a birch bark canoe, while the rice spirit (whose hair is wild rice) looks on from the surface of the water,” the conservation service’s Alabama arm said on its website. “It shows the importance of Manoomin, or wild rice, in the culture and diet of the Anishinaabe (or Ojibwe.)”
“It is widely acknowledged that colonists would not have survived in the New World without the support and knowledge gained from American Indian agricultural techniques,” the conservation service said. “American Indians practiced crop rotation, minimum tillage, hybridizations, seed development, irrigation methods and many other agricultural techniques that are still used today.”
Alabama is home to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, among other federal and state-recognized tribes.