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

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

CHAPTER ONE
The Early Reservation Years

The treaty of 1854 reestablished a legal territorial base for a Menominee homeland in Wisconsin. Tribal members began to settle permanently in communities there based on their historic band affiliation. The numerous bands remained territorially separate even after 1854, when each band selected its own site on the reservation, some as many as twenty miles distant from others. In the early reservation years both the Menominee and the federal government would struggle to determine the ways in which the Menominee could survive on this much diminished fraction of their original homeland. Tribal values and ideas would sometimes seem to mesh with American goals and other times to conflict with them as the tribe worked to establish a new way of living in its newly defined home base. As time went on, however, Menominee and federal efforts drifted further apart.

Tribal members attempted to adapt to their new life in a variety of ways. They followed the advice of federal officials until they realized how ineffective it was. They expressed interest in farming and in the American education system. Many also focused their adaptations on the spiritual realm, and Catholicism became an increasingly important part of life for many Menominees. However, self-serving officials in both the government and the church often subverted their efforts to adapt. The reality of life in a land with too few resources struck the Menominee hard. Many of those non-Indians serving among them, both federal agents and missionaries, often failed to take note of this.


THE NEW RESERVATION

In settling the reservation, Catholic bands led by Carron, LaMotte, Kinepoway, and Oshkenaniew moved primarily east of the Wolf River. Tribal members and federal officials often simply called these bands “Christian.” The bands that continued to follow the Mitāēwin religion remained separate, based on the Bear (Oshkosh, Souligny, and Mahchakeniew or Chickeney) and Thun-

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