What is the Menominee Reservation?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
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The Menominee Reservation is a Native American reservation located in northeastern Wisconsin in the United States. It is the home of the Menominee Indian Tribe. The Menominee Reservation occupies the majority of the land in Menominee County, Wisconsin. It has a land area of approximately 235,000 acres. The reservation is located just 60 miles west of the tribe's site of origin at the mouth of the Menominee River.

The Menominee originally occupied a much larger land area in what is now Wisconsin and northern Michigan. They have lived in the area for more than 5,000 years and are indigenous to the state of Wisconsin. The tribe is made up of five clans: Eagle, Bear, Wolf, Crane and Moose. Many of the Menominee continue to speak their ancestral language and maintain cultural and spiritual traditions of their tribe. They consider themselves to be a sovereign nation, and they show pride in the fact that they have successfully remained on their ancestral land, unlike many other Native American tribes.

From the 1600s through the 1800s, the Menominee were involved in the fur trade with the white settlers in the area. During this time, they developed a dependence on the goods provided in trade by the white settlers, such as iron and brass tools, cloth blankets, clothing, metal pots and cooking implements. When the fur trade ended, they sought other ways to obtain money for these goods.


Between 1821 and 1848, the Menominee Indian Tribe sold large portions of its land to the United States government through a series of treaties. In 1852, the members of the Menominee tribe started moving to the land that would become the Menominee Reservation. The official creation of the Menominee Reservation occurred on 12 May 1854, when a treaty was signed that relinquished all rights to any other land that previously had been claimed by the tribe.

For a while in the 1950s and 1960s, the Menominee Reservation was phased out, and tribal status was terminated. This happened when the U.S. government judged the tribe to be self-sufficient during a program designed to encourage members of Indian nations to assimilate into the white culture. The attempt was a failure and resulted in a decline in the quality of life for tribe members, including the closing of schools and hospitals. After much campaigning, the Menominee Reservation was reestablished in 1975.

The Menominee Indian Tribe is noted for its forestry resources and conservation efforts. The main tribal industry of timber is very carefully managed. Menominee Reservation land is easily distinguished from surrounding areas because mature forests have been maintained, in contrast to the areas that have not been conserved as carefully. The reservation also is home to several casinos that bring in a lot of business to the area, and the reservation has it's own community college.



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