Menominee Tribe


Menominee Locations

The name Menominee is derived from the Ojibwa, mano· mini·, and etymologically means wild rice people (Spindler 723, 1978). The Menominee are the oldest known continuous inhabitants of Wisconsin. They remain exclusively a Wisconsin tribe, and still occupy a far northern portion of their homeland (Lurie 11, 2002). Their occupation of this area quite possibly could extend beyond recorded history. Their earliest known location was on the Menominee River, which forms the current border between northeast Wisconsin and upper Michigan. The original territory of the Menominee extended north to Escanaba in Michigan and south to Oconto in Wisconsin.

Contact with French fur traders, after 1667, caused the Menominee to extend their range west while hunting for fur. Further expansion occurred after the French and Great Lakes Algonkian victory over the Iroquois in 1701. At their greatest extent, the Menominee controlled most of east central Wisconsin as far south as Milwaukee, which translates into almost 10 million acres. White settlement and commercial logging rapidly encroached on their land base after 1832. In 1854, a treaty allowed them 276,400 acres, however, another treaty in 1856 reduced it to 232,400 (Lurie 10, 2002).

Menominee County, in Wisconsin, was formed in 1961 when the U.S. Government terminated its trust relationship with the tribe. In 1973 tribal trust status was restored as a result of unified Menominee opposition to termination, which directly contributed to the Menominee reservation becoming re-established. Before 1961, the entire reservation of 232,400 acres consisted of tribal trust land. Tribal trust land is untaxed and held in common under federal protection. The Menominee had avoided allotment. However, in clear violation of treaties, The Dawes or Indian Allotment Act of 1887 divided land into individual parcels. Land left after Indians were allotted was open to public sale. Smaller Indian allotments were divided among heirs with each generation and later taxed. Indian owners lost much of this land. During termination of tribal status, the land was reduced to about 230,000 acres, and now includes white owned property as well as property owned by Menominee which is taxed. At present, the tribe is trying to buy back white owned property, and offers Menominee landowners the option to return their land to tribal trust status while continuing to own and use any buildings on the land. (Lurie 11, 2002).

Huron Smith chose the Menominee for his first ethnobotanical study because a good guide and interpreter was still available, Captain John V. Satterlee, of the Indian Police. Four field trips, each of three weeks duration were made to the Menominee Reservation in Shawano County, Wisconsin during the months of June, October, May, and September in 1921 and 1922. In a 1923 article published in The Bulletin of The Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Smith described the reservation area as originally containing 12 townships, two of which were ceded to the Stockbridge and Munsee Indians in 1856, leaving ten townships comprising 360 square miles, or about 230,000 acres. He goes on to describe; “It is well wooded with a variety of conifers and hardwoods, and is well supplied with streams, rivers, and lakes which abound in fish” (Smith 10, 1923).

Lurie, Nancy Oestreich. 2002. Wisconsin Indians. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Madison, WI.

Smith, Huron. 1923. Ethnobotany of The Menominee Indians. In: Bulletin of The Public Museum of The City of Milwaukee. Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 1-171. Milwaukee, WI.

Spindler, Louise S. 1978. Menominee. In: Bruce G. Trigger, ed. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, pp. 708-724. Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Menominee Items