DULUTH, Minn. — The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is working with several natural resource agencies from Minnesota and Wisconsin to restore culturally significant wild rice to about 250 acres of the St. Louis River estuary.

Minnesota Public Radio (http://bit.ly/2daJe1s ) reports that decades of human activity, including industrial development and logging, almost eliminated wild rice from the region.

The rice is often used in the tribe’s cultural ceremonies.

“From the time a baby is born, to when we send people off to make their journey into the afterlife, there are ceremonies, and manoomin (wild rice) is a central component of those,” Thomas Howes said, the band’s natural resources director. “A lot of people say, that if we don’t have that, then we cease to exist somewhat culturally as a people.”

A wastewater treatment plant built in 1978 greatly improved the water quality in the river. Environmental officials now say the water quality is high enough for the restoration effort to begin.

“We’ve had such great improvements in water quality over the last couple of decades, that the time is right now to begin wild rice restoration because the water quality is high enough that we can bring the wild rice back,” said Daryl Peterson with the Minnesota Land Trust.

The Minnesota Land Trust, the 1854 Treaty Authority, the natural resource departments in both states and others are partnering for the multi-year project.

Officials plan to seed about 12,000 pounds of wild rice into the river this fall. The Fond du Lac Band planted 8,000 pounds of seeds last year. The goal is a self-sustaining population of rice.

“There’s a whole generation that doesn’t know how to do this,” Nahgahnub said. “It gives me hope, they want to revive it, restore it, to what it was.”

Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org