Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bury My Heart at the Monastery: The Menominee Takeover of the Novitiate

In 1975, a dissident faction of Menominees attracted national media attention for their armed takeover of an abandoned monastery near their reservation. The Monastery building is known as "the Novitiate," because it housed a community of novice monks.

In 1995 I became part of a group of whitewater paddlers who came to Shawano County's Red River on Tuesday nights. The biggest appeal of the Red for many paddlers is this "surf hole" at the bottom of "Monastery Falls." The long-abandoned monastery you see in the top of the picture was once the object of an armed conflict that, fortunately, did not result in any deaths.

Here's another view. Both the photo and accompanying caption are from Google Images:
Gresham, Shawano County. October 20, 1975. Altitude c. 2,000 ft. The camera looks SSW to the former Alexian Brothers Novitiate, situated on the north bank of the Red River about two miles east of Gresham and one-half mile south of the Menominee (County) Indian Reservation. On New Year's eve, 1974, a group called the Menominee Warrior Society took control of the vacant Roman Catholic facility, claiming it for Menominee tribal use as a hospital. In a well-publicized confrontation with the Wisconsin National Guard, the demonstrators were forced to withdraw, leaving the building in a state of disrepair.

You may remember my post about a book called "Airlift to Wounded Knee." Although it was about the Lakota Sioux, I considered it relevant to this blog because it represented a nation-wide turning point. As I commented in that post, "In less than three months, the scale that had been tipping towards shame, dramatically tipped to pride." And now, less than two years after that group of dissident Lakotas took over their own reservation, a group of dissident Menominees was taking over a large abandoned monastery building. (Apparently, as they understood it, an old treaty promised them the land back if the Roman Catholics ever left.)

Instead of trying to tell you the whole story, I'd like to recommend that you view an excellent 14-minute documentary video that is easily found on Patrick Rick's "Novitiate" website. It features live historical footage, interviews, and just a lot of material that I cannot possibly duplicate here.

This and other photos are the intellectual property of the Shawano Leader. Their use has been permitted by Wolf River Media, LLC, owner and publisher of that newspaper. Read a little more about the appearance of the National Guard's armored personnel carriers here.

The bus is parked less than a mile from the monastery. The photo is from the Alexian Brothers historical webpage.

Another photo used with permission of Wolf River Media, LLC, owner and publisher of the Shawano Leader. Read more about this photo here.

As they had done in South Dakota, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) participated in the Shawano County, Wisconsin takeover. The caption above the drawing reads: "Bury My Heart at the Monastery."

The Wisconsin State Historical Society digitized more photos and other images from the Shawano Leader. You can see them here.


8string said...

You may want to take a look at some of my photos. I was a photojournalist inside the abbey.

dave slagle said...

my boys just ran the falls. we need more tears to bring the water level back up to innocence.