The Struggle for Self-Determination: History of the Menominee Indians since 1854

By David R. M. Beck | Go to book overview

PREFACE
Shaping a Tribally Defined
Existence

This work is the culmination of a project that developed from a suggestion Sol Tax made in the spring of 1988.1 After he wrote the preface to my annotated bibliography of the Chicago American Indian community, he casually asked what project I would work on next. When I hesitated, Dr. Tax told me that what was really needed was a study of all the indigenous people across the world who survived the European expansion and colonization. He envisioned a large-scale and broad-scale analysis of these groups, including who they are and how and why they survived.

Dr. Tax proposed a multi-life work, but his vision encouraged me to study the issue as it relates to a single tribal nation. Menominee leaders Ada Deer, Carol Dodge, and Michael Chapman encouraged me to use the Menominee as a case study of survival.2 I worked closely with the Menominee Historic Preservation Department in framing the questions of the study and in researching the portion of the study conducted on the Menominee reservation.

The resulting work is a modest contribution to Dr. Tax’s world vision. Reducing his proposal to a single North American indigenous nation, my guiding question came to be this: How did the Menominee survive the flood of European- and Euro-American-induced incursions into their land, lives, and culture? This question called for both documentation and analysis of the near overwhelming forces that this nation confronted in its battle to survive. It also raised a series of new questions. In what ways have the Menominee constructed the circumstances that define their world? To what extent have tribal actions been simply responsive to outside forces? To what extent have their actions been within the context of their longstanding cultural traditions? Or should their actions be understood as a combination of both? In what ways have the Menominee been able to shape their future on their own terms? In a historical sense, the future is often already part of the past. That means historians can analyze how those futures that have become the past have been shaped and reshaped over time. For the Menominee that shaping has required

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