The Menominee Indian Reservation is an Indian reservation located in northeastern Wisconsin held in trust by the United States for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.
For the most part it is conterminous with Menominee County, Wisconsin and the town of Menominee. Many small pockets of territory within the county (and its geographically equivalent town) are not considered to be part of the reservation.
These pockets amount to a fairly small 1.14 percent of the county’s area; the reservation takes up about 98.86 percent of the county’s area. The largest of these pockets is in the western part of the community of Keshena. A section of the reservation is located in the town of Red Springs, in Shawano County, Wisconsin.
The reservation has a plot of off-reservation trust land of 10.22 acres in Winnebago County to the south, west of the city of Oshkosh. The reservation’s total land area is 353.894 sq mi (916.581 km²), while Menominee County’s land area is 357.960 sq mi (927.111 km²).
The non-reservation parts of the county are more densely populated than the reservation, with 1,337 (29.3%) of the county’s 4,562 total population, as opposed to the reservation’s 3,225 (70.7%) population in the 2000 census. (The plot of land in Winnebago County is unpopulated.) The most populous communities are Legend Lake and Keshena. The Menominee operate a number of gambling facilities.
The Menominee speak English as well as the Menominee language, part of the Algonquian language family.
Communities that are all or partly on the Menominee Reservation include:
- Keshena (most, population 1,168)
- Legend Lake (most, population 853)
- Middle Village (part, population 35)
- Neopit (most, population 637)
- Zoar (most, population 106)
The Menominee became one of the first tribes in the United States to undergo a new federal program called Termination, signed by President Dwight Eisenhower in June of 1954. This policy terminated the United States jurisdiction over the Menominee Tribe and ended their tribal sovereignty.
The Menominee underwent Termination early because the federal government felt the tribe possessed the economic resources necessary to succeed without governmental supervision. On April 30, 1961 the reservation ceased to exist and became Menominee County. All tribal property and assets were held by Menominee Enterprises, Incorporated.
All federal services ended with the assumption that the tribe could service itself. The reservation hospital at Keshena closed due to the lack of federal funds. Only one other tribe, the Klamath in Oregon, had been terminated by Congress, and the problems that they and the Menominee faced convinced other tribes to resist the government’s policy.
Termination of the Menominee Tribe led to a drastic decline in tribal employment, increased poverty, and brought about devastating reductions in basic services and health care.
The Menominee’s greatest fear was that without federal protection, their tribal lands would pass into the hands of non-Indians. In 1970, a few Menominees banded together and created the Determination of Rights and Unity for Menominee Shareholders (DRUMS) group, which sought to end termination and restore the Menominee status as a federally recognized tribe.
Under the direction of Ada Deer, a Menominee woman, DRUMS pushed for the restoration of the Menominee federal status. On December 22, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Menominee Restoration Bill into law.
In April 1975, the lands of Menominee County reverted back to reservation status, and in 1976, the Menominee approved their new tribal constitution. The new tribal legislature took over governance of the tribe in 1979.
The Menominee founded the College of the Menominee Nation, a tribal college, in 1993. It was accredited in 1998. The main campus is in Keshena.
The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approved plans of the Menominee Nation to build a casino at the former Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin.