The Menominee Tribe’s history is unique because the origin or creation begins at the mouth of the Menominee River, a mere 60 miles east of the present Menominee Indian Reservation. This is where the five clans — ancestral Bear, Eagle, Wolf, Moose, and Crane — were created.
The Menominee occupied a vast territory, over 10 million acres of land, of what is now Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. The Menominee have survived for over 10,000 years of existence in this area, and are indigenous to the State of Wisconsin. They have managed to keep a fraction of their ancestral territory for a home, which is now their reservation.
The Menominee People were integral in Wisconsin becoming a state. They have had hundreds of Sesquicentennials and gave up lands through treaties. In the 1848 treaty, the Menominee refused to leave what would become Wisconsin, their ancestral home. For many years, the language was reduced to an ember as keckīwak (elders) did their best to keep the embers glowing. After decades of protecting those embers, the language has caught wind and the flame is beginning to grow to unexpected heights. We are seeing the language enter peoples’ lives and create warmth inside their bodies. Children are hearing the first words out of the womb in Omāēqnomenēweqnaesen, creating a connection to all animate beings and adding more dry logs to the fire. It is safe to say, the language no longer fears extinguishment.
watūhsiw (wah-too-see): hot coal, ember