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

By Felix M. Keesing | Go to book overview

VII. THE FIRST RESERVATION EXPERIMENTS

The migration of the main body of the Menomini in 1852 to the area on the upper Wolf, confirmed to them two years later as a permanent "reservation", is still vivid in the minds of the people today: the birchbark canoes laden with households and household goods, the grim old chiefs, the bustle of the camps, and the final disembarkation at the bend of the river where the present Indian settlement of Keshena stands.

Some eight miles to the south, at the site of the present city of Shawano, the Menomini canoes had passed the last outpost of white penetration into the wilderness, a sawmill built in 1843 and worked by a handful of whites. The spot chosen for the first settlement was just below a waterfall, the first break in the Wolf river passage necessitating a portage. Already it was well known to the tribe, for bands of Menomini had been hunting and perhaps living for years in the region. The river at this point was celebrated as a breeding place for the sturgeon, and to the east numerous small lakes offered good fishing. The area was for the most part densely forested, with fairly plentiful game; yet there were clearings here and there on either side of the river which gave promise of easy agriculture. At Shawano lake not far to the southeast was an abundance of wild rice.

In physical terms, therefore, this setting was like what the Menomini had known in the past; the tribe, just beginning to have the opportunity, for better or worse, of more intensive contact with whites, were thrust back into the setting of their earlier existence. There was an important difference, however, in that the area was now small and defined, and pressure was being brought to bear to wean them from their old economy. True, the tribesfolk were not at first closely restricted to their own lands. Some decades were to pass before white settlement advanced up to and around the reservation line. Nevertheless their isolation from white centers meant that for long

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

Table of contents

  • Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society i
  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Abstract ix
  • Note on Terminology xi
  • Introductory 1
  • I. the Menomini and Their Neighbors 6
  • Ii. the Old Time Menomini 18
  • Iii. the Period of French Ascendancy 53
  • V. After Two Centuries of Change 102
  • Vi. White Pressure and Passing Lands 127
  • Vii. the First Reservation Experiments 148
  • Viii. Progress in Wardship 170
  • Ix. Ethnological and Museum Data 194
  • X. Recent Times 222
  • Xi a Review 244
  • Bibliography 249
  • Index 255
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