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

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

CHAPTER TEN
The Road to Restoration

Termination immediately brought financial crisis to both the tribe and individual Menominees.1 It also destroyed the political base of the tribe. It placed the Menominee cultural and social fabric under siege. In economic, political, and sociocultural terms, termination visited an unmitigated disaster on the tribe, comparable only to the land losses associated with the nineteenthcentury treaty era.

Even before termination went into effect the Menominee assets diminished rapidly. They used nearly half of the $10 million tribal nest egg for the per capita payment of $1,500 to each of the 3,270 tribal members. The tribe was forced to spend another $2 million in dividends to make up for a shortfall caused by BIA underpayment on the stumpage fund. With the costs of renovations to the hospital in Keshena and the church in Neopit, the tribal accounts fell below $2 million. In testimony before Congress a decade later, Ada Deer and others said, “[B]y 1960 our tribe was operating at a $250,000 annual deficit.”2

Under termination the Menominee “freedom” from governmental oversight actually diminished. George Kenote observed that termination “did not end government supervision. The immediate experience was that we immediately became subject to about twenty-seven other federal or state regulatory or investigative agencies.”3 Termination failed in its most basic aim, since the removal of the BIA actually led to an increase in federal oversight.

At the same time, the cost to the federal government increased markedly. For example, in the year preceding termination the tribal budget for services stood at over $500,000. The tribe paid most of this from its own funds. According to the tribe’s official history, “The Federal Government, which was obligated to provide all these services, actually spent only … $144,000.” Over the next five years the federal government spent some $5 million in aid to the Menominee, an annual increase of some sevenfold, in an attempt to help the tribal members survive termination.4

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