Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sultzman's "Compact History" of the Menominee Indians

I introduced Lee Sultzman's "compact histories," in my December 31, 2008 post. Today's post is about Sultzman's compact history of the Menominees.

Which tribes lived on the land that is now Wisconsin back in 1600?

That's right, the Menominees were one.... and some of you will remember the Ho-Chunk (Winnebagoes) and the Ojibwe (Chippewa). Who were the others?

According to Sultzman, the Dakota Sioux were in the northwest, the Illinois were in the south and - surprise - the (Algonkian-speaking) Cheyenne were in the west-central part of what is now Wisconsin!

Sultzman says that the Menominees were never a huge nation - estimates of their pre-contact population range from 2,000 to 4,000 members. They were far from the only small nation in the midwest but the Menominees were different in that they

survived while the others disappeared or were absorbed by the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and the Menominee themselves. The Menominee, however, came very close to sharing this fate. When the French reached Green Bay in 1667, wars and epidemics which had swept Wisconsin after refugee tribes arrived in the 1650s had reduced the Menominee to about 400.

Here's what I didn't know about the Menominees:

Although the federal government helped them establish their successful sawmill, the government didn't always oversee the sawmill business in the Menominee's best interests. As a result, the tribe took the federal government to court and won a $9.5 million judgement. Sultzman says it is no coincidence that the tribe's federal recognition was terminated soon after they won that judgement.

Read Lee Sultzman's compact history of the Menominees.

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