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  • The Struggle for Self-Determination: History of the Menominee Indians since 1854
  • Rosemary Ackley Christensen
David R. M. Beck . The Struggle for Self-Determination: History of the Menominee Indians since 1854. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 290 pp. $24.95.

It is difficult to find materials pertaining to chronicles of Indian tribes that provide a decent balance between the usual way of presenting history and taking into account, for want of a better way of saying it, the tribal view of history. David Beck's history of the Menominees from 1854 to current times is a remarkable and important addition to the genre. I found it constructive to locate his earlier book, Siege & Survival: A History of the Menominee from 1634 to 1856, which picks up in a little overlap from 1854, as it is helpful for serious readers to read both books if they want a full understanding of the Menominees, Indigenous dwellers of the land now known as Wisconsin.

"The Menominee have lived in Wisconsin longer than anyone else" is the beginning statement of the Siege book. The statement is a nonconforming and refreshing way to begin a history instead of the usual hand-wringing about who might have been where or when, or possibly not, depending on how data are perceived and used. Beck takes up the continuing story (from the Siege book) of [End Page 233] the Menominee Tribal Nation of Wisconsin in The Struggle and uses information gleaned from Menominee sources as well as the usual "books by scholars."

An interesting note is made regarding what could be considered how important "lost" materials occurs, an aside really, as he is talking about a meeting that took place in August 1930 when "statements made in Menominee were translated into English and recorded in the minutes. Often . . . [the] secretary failed to translate the Menominee-language statements, merely pointing out that someone spoke in Menominee rather than recording what the person said" (119). I suspect that happened often among early Indian-white relations even when translators were provided and present. Often, then, historical accounts become very one-sided, displaying and recounting English-speaking accounts only.

The author uses oral interviews with Indians, paper collections, and tribal archives in addition to the "normal" resources available to historians. Among Menominee sources used by the author are materials from the Menominee historic preservation department, including interviews with Menominee tribal members such as George W. Kenote, Gordon Dickie, Sr., James Washinawatok, and other tribally based materials such as newsletters from tribal archives and listed government and legal documents such as annual reports from the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. I did a brief search in Ada Deer's home library for materials from and about the Menominee Tribe to get a feel for how Beck used Menominee materials. Impressive (and heartening) use of tribal resources!

It is beneficial in teaching and learning toward understanding Turtle Island's (North America) Native people to know about natural resources used by them to maintain an economy in order to work and live. A realistic perception can be achieved from this work regarding Menominee logging enterprises and, of course, the exceedingly difficult times endured by the Menominees in dealing with those who wanted what they had and what they did to get it. Beck provides good summaries of the earlier interactions, and he is especially adroit at providing information on Menominee leadership. I enjoyed learning about Menominee leader Mitchell Oshkenaniew as well as others during Menominee history to the present. Beck also reminds the reader from time to time in a way that is not distracting that Menominee people held to traditional cultural values while admitting to and living with the ever-growing reality of whites and what that meant to their way of life. He notes that Oshkenaniew made decisions based on what was good for the tribe, and he notes that Pamonicutt in the early 1900s "both rejects American cultural values, in which individual enterprise and ownership play the primary role, and affirms Menominee cultural values, in which tribal control of the resources is a right of future generations and a responsibility of the present generation" (98). Beck makes a habit...


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pp. 233-235
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