Young Ojibway man enjoys ricing as he remembers family

Story and Video By Nick Vander Puy
Reserve, Wisconsin (NFIC/LCOTV)

The night before Chad LaPointe went ricing he was was out drinking and said he got shkwebi (Ojibwe for spinning head). While heading out to the lake rice beds in the truck, the next morning, he was looking pretty ragged.

Chad says he drinks sometimes because he's lonely, and as a young person he has a lot of peer pressure. He says there isn't much to do on the rez.

But Chad LaPointe wants to get healthy. If you run across him often, you can tell when he has been drinking and using drugs, or when he has been able to put the bottle down, because in Chad's life, when it comes to drinking, its all or nothing. His auntie voices her concern, "Is he doing all right, we have not seen him for a while?"

Chad recently enrolled in the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College. He is thinking about taking Ojibwe language classes as an elective, and he takes interest in the history of his people. He is related to many people who belonged to the Drum Dance Society and Medicine Lodge, and more recently many who have been active in the local church.

But most of all, he is proud of the traditions of the Ojibwe people he knows about. The chiefs and warriors he has heard about around Wolf Point, a place he seeks refuge. You may find him there picking up the cigarette butts of others off the ground, or putting a pinch of tobacco out as a "thanks" for gifts of nature, or somewhere in the back of his mind, the strength to overcome the personal fight he is keenly aware of.

Most recently you could find him there near the sound of the thrasher, fanning rice and showing off the bowls and bags of finished rice with a smile - "manoomiin", or in English, "the good seed." Perhaps the rice will become his medicine. Perhaps it already is.

Chad is a hard worker. After knocking rice with rounded cedar sticks for a few hours he begins to perk up. Seeing several inches of rice gather in the boat he feels more productive. He is refreshed by a gulp of clean water and the bracing air. The sound of the rice falling, the birds flying overhead, turtles and muskrats swimming nearby all began to work their magic. It's the Chad LaPointe we know, without the bottle.

Chad thinks other young people on the rez could be helped, and maybe healed, if they took up hunting, fishing, and gathering again for their families, "that is what it's all about" he says, "family".

"Its for your family"

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