The Menomini Indians of Wisconsin: A Study of Three Centuries of Cultural Contact and Change

The Menomini Indians of Wisconsin: A Study of Three Centuries of Cultural Contact and Change

The Menomini Indians of Wisconsin: A Study of Three Centuries of Cultural Contact and Change

The Menomini Indians of Wisconsin: A Study of Three Centuries of Cultural Contact and Change

Excerpt

The Menomini Indians live today on a tribal reservation close to the area occupied by them when the first whites arrived in the early part of the seventeenth century. They number about two thousand--approximately their strength throughout their known history. Though their ways of living are vastly changed from pre-white times they still retain their identity as a group. Documentary records are available to reconstruct in fair detail their history and ways of living throughout some three centuries of contact.

As such, this people offer an excellent opportunity for study of the processes of cultural contact and change. Their fortunes can be followed from aboriginal times through the eras of early bartering, missionizing and warfare, of the furtrade, of lumbering, and finally of agricultural and industrial development. Once more or less sedentary village dwellers whose staple foods were the wild rice and fish of the Upper Lakes country, they became scattered in mobile bands to hunt the furbearing animals sought by the trader; later, with hunting grounds sold, and the bands settled on a reservation, still other economic and social readjustments were made. Today, with a minority of the tribe still "pagan", but the majority Christian, with an older generation counting much of the Indian past vital, but the youth turning from it, with the tribal members ranged from ultra-conservative to ultra-progressive, the historical process of change itself appears to be in large degree spread out in living personalities. Such a dynamic approach likewise throws new light on the problem of reconstructing the aboriginal culture of such a people; it will be seen that numbers of cultural elements which ethnologists, visiting the tribe in later days, have considered pre-Columbian in the life of the Menomini and near-by tribes have been partly or even wholly a product of post-Columbian times.

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