The Effects of Wild Rice Water Quality Rule Changes on Tribal Health

At a Glance:

Location: Minnesota

Date: 2018

Vital Condition: Basic Needs for Health and Safety, Belonging and Civic Muscle, Meaningful Work and Wealth, Thriving Natural World

Determinants of Health: belonging and civic muscle, food access, clean air, nutrition, extreme weather, belonging and civic muscle, meaningful work and wealth, parks, clean water, physical activity, clean water

Affected Population: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, Children and Youth, Older Adults, People Living in Poverty, People with Chronic and Multiple Chronic Health Conditions

Research Methods: GIS mapping, Survey, Qualitative research, Quantitative research, Literature review

Community Types: rural, suburban, tribal, urban

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The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa conducted an HIA to analyze and explain the importance of wild rice, or manoomin, to the health of the Ojibwe people in advance of a proposed revision to loosen water quality standards for wild rice cultivation in Minnesota.

Hand-harvested manoomin is a staple for the Ojibwe that provides cultural and nutritional benefits. Connections to land, traditional food sources, and subsistence living contribute to the physical health and cultural well-being of many indigenous peoples. Manoomin is a critical source of food for Minnesota tribes and generates nearly $7 million in annual income for tribal harvesters, supporting nearly 300 jobs. The study found that reducing water quality protections would result in a loss of manoomin, prevent the Ojibwe from exercising their treaty rights, and diminish tribes’ food sovereignty.

The authors recommended expanding access to wild rice in nutritional assistance programs, implementing an inventory of wild rice stands and a monitoring program for wild rice waters in Minnesota, developing a protective regulatory framework for wild rice waters, and continuing research on the effects of climate change on wild rice ecology.


Outcome: An administrative law judge objected to the proposed revised standard, so the rulemaking process was suspended.

This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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