Menominee Nation repatriates six more ancestors

Keshena, Wisconsin (ICC/MTHPO)

The Menominee Tribe repatriated six of their ancestor’s human remains, their grave goods and funerary objects during November.

In 2005, the remains were disturbed by construction work that was being conducted at the Neenah Waterworks plant located in Neenah, Wisconsin. The “inadvertent discovery” of the remains took place on privately held land and the disposition of the remains and funerary objects were determined by the State of Wisconsin Statute 150.70 which is the State Burial Sites Preservation Law.

Under Wisconsin Statute 150.70, the State of Wisconsin Burial Sites Preservation Law, the director of the State Historical Society determined that the uncataloged burial was to be excavated by a qualified archaeologist.

The Great Lakes Archaeological Research Center of Milwaukee was contracted to excavate the remains and their investigation determined that the remains came from an 1834-1836 Native American (Menominee) cemetery and a prehistoric campsite/habitation site of unknown prehistoric affiliation.

The investigating archaeologist conducted a literature search and found historic maps and other information that positively affiliated the remains to the Menominee Tribe.

The area where the remains were disturbed was a historic Menominee settlement that resulted from the 1831 Treaty between the Menominee Nation and the federal government. Stipulations of the 1831 Treaty said the government would build twenty-nine block houses and a grist and blacksmith shop at the site for the tribe.

Historical maps indicated where the settlement was and it is in the same location where the Neenah Water Plant is now situated not far from the shores of Lake Winnebago. Further research of historical records indicated that small pox epidemic swept the Menominee village resulting in several deaths of tribal members, hence the need for the Menominee cemetery where the remains were disturbed. The settlement was known as the “Menominee Mission Settlement” located at the Winnebago Rapids.

The grave goods or associated funerary objects that were found with the remains consisted of silver brooches; thousands of seed beads, shell/bone ornamentation, an eagle whistle, metal tins/boxes, a metal strike, a light, glass mirrors, and gun flints, all from the 1825 to 1846 date range. All of the grave goods were buried with the remains.

On November 17th traditional Menominee repatriation reburial ceremonies took place at the Menominee Logging Museum and final rites at the repatriation burial ground located at Crow Settlement.

A delegation of Menominee led by Menominee Chairman Lisa Waukau and fellow Tribal Legislature members Laurie Boivin, Rebecca Alegria, Eugene Caldwell, members of the Menominee Veterans Association and tribal members Doug Cox and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer David Grignon made the trip to Milwaukee to retrieve the remains.

The delegation was met by the Menominee Tribal Police Department at the reservation line and escorted the delegation and Menominee ancestors to the Menominee Logging Museum.

According to Grignon, “This is always a solemn and sacred occasion for the Menominee people. Our ancestors can now rest in peace in their ancestral Menominee homeland on the Menominee Reservation.”

The Menominee Tribe has conducted five previous repatriations from museums that include the Neville Museum, Milwaukee and Oshkosh Public Museums, Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of the American Indian.

According to Grignon the tribe has “brought home” the remains of seventy-five of our ancestors and will continue the repatriation process until all of our ancestors are brought home.”