The Menominee language (also spelled Menomini) is an Algonquian language spoken by the historic Menominee people of what is now northern Wisconsin in the United States.
The name of the tribe, and the language, Oma͞eqnomenew, comes from the word for wild rice.
Menominee (or Menomini) is today spoken by only a few tribal elders in Wisconsin, though some younger Menominees hope to revive the language.
The Menominee people
The Menominee Indians called themselves Mamaceqtaw, but their Algonquian relatives called them Menomini, meaning “wild-rice people.”
Originally inhabitants of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, the Menominee people were traditional enemies of the Fox (Mesquakie).
The Menominee tribe was the victim of immigration pressure before Europeans ever reached the Americas.
Of all the surviving Native American peoples in Wisconsin, the Menominee and the Winnebago are the only ones who claim to be original to that area.
The Fox and Sauk, Dakota, Illinois, and Cheyenne migrated from elsewhere into their territory, and the Menominee Indians, never a large tribe, couldn’t do much to stop them.
After European contact, things became worse–population pressures increased as the Ojibwe and Huron tribes were forced into Wisconsin by European and Iroquoian expansion. Then the white settlers themselves arrived.
Most small Algonquian tribes of Wisconsin were wiped out by the fighting and epidemics of that era, but not the Menominee tribe. Due to a combination of good fortune and political adroitness, the Menominee managed to maintain friendly relations with the powerful Dakota and Ojibwe even as those two nations fought each other.
The near-annihilation of the Winnebagos, tragic though it was, provided relief for the overcrowded region, and the Menominee tribe was able to claim some of that land.
Later attempts by the Americans to relocate the Menominee to Minnesota were successfully fended off by Menominee Chief Oshkosh, and the tribe’s pioneering work in sustainable forest management under his guidance was so effective that the US government actually terminated their status as an Indian Nation in 1961, declaring Menominee lands no longer in need of protection.
The results of this termination were disastrous, and the US reversed the termination policy 12 years later.
Around 7,000 Menominee Indians live in Wisconsin today.
Northeastern Wisconsin, on what was formerly the Menomini Reservation.