The Menominee Indian Tribe is the only present-day tribe in Wisconsin whose origin story indicates they have always lived in Wisconsin.1 The Menominee tribe originated in the eastern side of Wisconsin in 1634. The tribe also originally occupied property in Illinois and Upper Peninsula Michigan. “The word “Menominee” is derived from their name for themselves, Mamaceqtaw, meaning “the people.”2
One aspect, when researching the Menominee Indian Tribe, that I admired was the fact that the Menominee were tough people. The ongoing trend of relocating Indian tribes and the minimization of native lands in the United States fully because of the westward expansion of the United States Government affected every native tribe. However, some tribes, including the Menominee, did everything in their power to push back on these treaties. “As European American settlements surrounded them, the Menominee sold much of their lands through treaties with the United States government.”2
When the government yet again pressured the Indians to migrate farther west, the Menominee people refused. The US government terminated the recognition of the tribe as retaliation in 1961, but Menominee weren’t done there: they took matters to court, and in 1977 won a landmark decision that restored their lands and tribal status.23
Another aspect that is quite fascinating about the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin is the unique sound they make in their music. One instrument in particular that stands out is the water drum.The water drum is tall, with a removable top in order for the water to be filled one quarter full before playing. Drums in all tribes signify as a spiritual guardian that protects the tribe during ceremonial services. The water drum serves as a similar purpose, but creates a completely different sound, and “is often used in healing and festive ceremonies.”2
“Water Drum Music”5
“Menominee Vietnam Veterans Song, composed in 1973 by Myron Pyawasit6
The relentless spirit of the Menominee tribe can also be recognized in their music. “Menominee Vietnam Veterans Song” was composed in 1973, by Myron Pyawasit and his drum group, the Smokeytown Singers. The song, as the title suggests, pays homage to the veterans of the Vietnam War. I find this contribution very interesting, as the Menominee people were fighting to protect their land from the military and the United States government not that long ago, but then Pyawasit decides to write a song with the lyrics “brave warriors from Vietnam are dancing, we are proud of you, thank you.” I believe that this song is specifically highlighting the Native American veterans of the Vietnam War more exclusively than the entirety of Vietnam War veterans. Regardless, the music is not only touching, but also still holds the characteristics of the Menominee tribe.
1“Menominee History.” Milwaukee Public Museum. Accessed October 23, 2023. https://www.mpm.edu/content/wirp/ICW-153.
3 Ayer, Edward Everett (1841-1927). “U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners Files [Manuscript]: 1912-1922 [ Box 6, Folders 40 to 42].” American Indian Histories and Cultures – Adam Matthew Digital. Accessed October 23, 2023. https://www.aihc.amdigital.co.uk/Documents/Images/Ayer_MS_911_BX06_2/175?searchId=3193cae1-b557-46c2-900d-ab19cd7c6bee.
4 “Page 39 US, Ratified Indian Treaties, 1722-1869.” Fold3. Accessed October 23, 2023. https://www.fold3.com/image/6593870/6593907.