Published on July 20, 2014 by Amy
Language: The Algonquian language Menominee (or Menomini) is today spoken by only a few tribal elders in Wisconsin, though some younger Menominees hope to revive the language. Menominee is a polysynthetic language with complex verbs and fairly free word order.
People: The Menominee Indians called themselves Mamaceqtaw, but their Algonquian relatives called them Menomini, “wild-rice people,” and the name stuck. Original inhabitants of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, the Menominee people were traditional enemies of the Fox (Mesquakie). Around 7000 Menominee Indians live in Wisconsin today.
History: The Menominee tribe was the victim of immigration pressure before Europeans ever reached the Americas. Of all the surviving Native American peoples in Wisconsin, the Menominee and the Winnebago are the only ones who claim to be original to that area: the Fox and Sauk, Dakota, Illinois, and Cheyenne migrated from elsewhere, and the Menominee Indians, never a large tribe, couldn’t do much to stop it. After European contact, things became worse–population pressures increased as the Ojibwe and Huron tribes were forced into Wisconsin by European and Iroquoian expansion. Then the white settlers themselves arrived. Most small Algonquian tribes of Wisconsin were wiped out by the fighting and epidemics of that era, but not the Menominee tribe. Due to a combination of good fortune and political adroitness, the Menominee managed to maintain friendly relations with the powerful Dakota and Ojibwe even as those two nations fought each other. The near-annihilation of the Winnebagos, tragic though it was, provided relief for the overcrowded region, and the Menominee tribe was able to claim some of that land. Later attempts by the Americans to relocate the Menominee to Minnesota were successfully fended off by Menominee Chief Oshkosh, and the tribe’s pioneering work in sustainable forest management under his guidance was so effective that the US government actually terminated their status as an Indian Nation in 1961, declaring Menominee lands no longer in need of protection. The results of this termination were disastrous, and the US reversed policy 12 years later.