Menomonie, Wisconsin History/Bertythebatgirl

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This is my project for my English class, it's a work in progress.

Lake Menomin
Lake Menomin

The city of Menomonie, Wisconsin, is named after the native tribe of the region, the Menominee tribe. Contrary to popular belief the tribe never actually lived where Menomonie is located today. They originally spanned across 9.5 million acres of land, stretching from somewhere around Menomonie, Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of present day Michigan and all the way down to Mississippi. Mamaceqtaw, is the Menominee tribe's word for "the people that live with the seasons", or their word for themselves.[1] The Ojibwe, a tribe also native to Wisconsin, named the Menominee tribe Manoomini, which translate to "wild rice people", as wild rice was a main staple for their diet. Where the man made lake, Lake Menomin sits today used to be wild rice fields.

Culture[edit | edit source]

The Menominee tribe have a rich culture, descending from the Old Copper Culture people who had been in this area for more than 10,000 years. The Old Copper Culture is a simpler term for ancient native North American tribes that heavily used copper to make tools and weapons. The Menominee are also the only tribe whose creation story is part of this land and who still live in the area.[2] Their creation story mentions their people raising from where the Menominee River flows into Green Bay of Lake Michigan.[3] They follow a structured system with five principal clans: Bear, Eagle, Wolf, Crane, and Moose, each with their own special tasks. Although this clan system is structured for a warrior society, the Menominee have always been a peaceful, friendly, and welcoming tribe that sided with the British during the Revolutionary war and with the north during the Civil war.[1] Along with the clan system, they also believe that children follow their father's social status and are born into their father's clan.[4]

Menominee Chief
Menominee Chief

The tribe's mythology is full of ethical meaning and shares many ties with other Native American cultures. The traditional Menominee believe that the Earth is a middle ground between the upper world and lower world. The Sun is the highest upper world, and the lowest lower world is guarded by a great white bear. They use dreaming as a way of contacting guardians and gaining power; during rite of passage, or puberty, boys and girls meet with the tribe elders for insight on their dreams. The elders inform the adolescents what responsibilities they will take on during their rite of passage.[5]

The Logging Conflict[edit | edit source]

In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Menominee realized that logging could sustain their future. Then in 1909 the U.S. Forestry Service opened up a sawmill on Menominee land. At first the Forestry Service's was a great help to the Menominee. The money the sawmill brought in could eventually support a hospital, a clinic, schools, and other social programs for the Menominee. The U.S Forestry Service became involved in managing downed trees after a tornado, removing the trees that the Menominee sawmill couldn't clear before they would rot and decayed. However, the Forestry Service also began clear-cutting trees without planting new ones on reservation lands. This continued until 1926 when 70 percent pf the usable timber was cut down. The Department of the Interior and the tribe charged federal authorities with forest mismanagement, and the excess clear-cutting was stopped.

Over the next 12 years tree cutting was reduced to only 30 percent, which allowed the forest to regenerate. In 1934, after the events of the previous two decades, the Menominee filed a lawsuit, saying the Forestry Service's actions had heavily damaged their resources.[6] After twelve years in court, the United States government awarded\d the Menominee $8.5 million for compensation.

Termination Era[edit | edit source]

It wouldn't be too long before the Menominee would face another challenge from the U.S. government. During the 1940s, the Menominee were labeled for termination. This means that they would no longer be identified as a sovereign nation, which would take away their federal recognition and funding. This also meant that Wisconsin would assume control over them and their lands. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, however, thought that the Menominee were self-reliant economically, and that their timber industry could go on without federal assistance. Before their termination as a tribe, they were one of the wealthiest American Indian tribes.[6]

Congress passed the bill to terminate the Menominee of its tribal status on April 30, 1961, and the state made the reservation into Wisconsin's 72nd and poorest county.[1] Tribal property was handed over to Menominee Enterprises, Inc. (MEI), which had a complicated structure and two trust holders, one of which was First Wisconsin Trust Company. The change caused tribal officials to close the hospital and some of the schools to cover costs incurred by the turnover. The Menominee found that they couldn't fund themselves, and they watched their funds dwindle. MEI funds started at 410 million in 1954, and diminished to a measly $300,000 in ten years.

This spurred Indian activism, as the tribe attempted to regain political sovereignty. In 1970, the activists formed a group called Determination of Rights and Unity of Menominee Stockholders, also known as DRUMS, to stop the sale of tribal lands by MEI. Their efforts worked, as the Menominee Restoration Act was signed by President Nixon on December 22, 1972, and the Menominee were re-established as a tribe and a sovereign nation in 1975.

Present Day Activities[edit | edit source]

To this day the Menominee own and operate a lumber company that services 235,000 acres that are home to 1.7 million board feet of wood. [7] Tribal president Lawrence Waukau says that the lumber yard is more productive now than it was back in 1909.

Since 1987 the Menominee people have also owned and operated a Las Vegas style casino, complete with a bingo hall and hotel. Seventy nine percent of the casino's 500 employees are Native Americans. The money generated from the casino has been enough to support office renovations, youth centers, a library, a day-care center, an elementary school addition, tribal-college buildings, a residential facility for the elderly, a senior citizen center, and a traditional ceremonial building. The money has also allowed them to expand the Head Start program and build a new village, complete with new sewer and water facilities for 150 homes.[1] In addition, they created the College of Menominee Nation in 1998, one of only two tribal colleges in the state of Wisconsin, but one of many tribal colleges and universities throughout the nation that began to be founded in the 1970s. The teaching goal for the colleges is to teach ethics and living in balance with the land.[8]

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Menominee. (1996). In F. Hoxie (Ed.), Encyclopedia of North American Indians, Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from
  2. Menominee Termination and Restoration. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  3. Boatman, J. (1998). Wisconsin American Indian history and culture. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., p. 37.
  4. Menominee Clans depicted at UWSP, Pointer Alumnus, University of Wisconsin -- Stevens Point, Spring 2003. pp1 and 5, accessed October 29, 2015.
  5. Menominee Culture. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Loew, P. (2001). Indian nations of Wisconsin: histories of endurance and renewal. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, pp. 31-34.
  7. Braungart, M., McDonough, W., Cradle to Cradle; Remaking the way we make things, New York: North Point Press, 2002, p. 88.
  8. "Sustainable Development Institute » Research Education Outreach", College of Menominee Nation ]