Menominee Place Names In Wisconsin

by Mike Hoffman

Many publications by various authors over an extensive period have tried to give the proper Indian names for towns, settlements, and so forth with some limited success. Only someone trained in linguistics or a speaker of the proper native language can be an accurate source. Menominee language is one of the most published Indian languages known.

One of the most noted linguists of his time Dr. Leonard Bloomfield prepared a Menominee to English dictionary on the basis of the texts he collected in the early 1920s among other Menominee works. Bloomfield was the leading linguist of his day, not only writing the Menominee language in a standard form but also speaking the Menominee language fluently. Dr. Bloomfield worked with many Menominee some of whom only spoke the Menominee language.

Noted anthropologist Alanson Skinner another well known author of Native American publications in the 1920s was also a reliable source as a base for Menominee Place Names In Wisconsin. Skinner had worked with many elderly Menominee informants while producing papers for the New York Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation over an eleven year period.

Mr. William Powell was a former interpreter to the Menominee Nation in the 1800s. In Powell's Recollections published in Proceedings of the State Historical Society Of Wisconsin at its sixtieth annual meeting held October 24, 1912, Powell presents the origin and meaning of Indian place names.

Dr. Bloomfield, Interpreter Powell, as well as Anthropologist Skinner were just three of many sources I looked to for Menominee Place Names In Wisconsin. Dr. Bloomfield had researched publications of others who had early contact with the Menominee Nation, Jesuits, anthropologists, as well as early explorers. The afore mentioned sources had personal contact with several Menominee who had knowledge of the many sites formerly occupied in the Wisconsin territories. They were reliable sources for the Menominee Place Names In Wisconsin.

The collection of Menominee Clan figures as well as other carvings skillfully created by the late James Frechette are on permanent display at the Museum of Natural History, in the Albertson Learning Resource Center, also known as the library building on campus. In addition for viewing at the UWSP library are eleven George Catlin reproductions of Menominee people from the 1830s. On the Menominee Clans Web site you will be able to view the Menominee Place Names In Wisconsin along with the afore mentioned collections.

The Menominee and the Ho Chunk Nations are the only two American Indian tribes originating in Wisconsin. Only the Menominee place names will be dealt with in this writing, for Ho Chunk words for place names I will suggest you contact the Ho Chunk Nation.

The origin story of the Menominee makes no references to migration to Wisconsin. Many Menominee legends and stories mention place names in the Wisconsin territories. The first place names heard by the early explorers would have been Menominee or Ho Chunk in origin. The Menominee language is of the Algonquin language family. The Ho Chunk language is of the Sioux language family. The two languages are as different as night and day, Menominee speakers do not understand Ho Chunk speakers and Ho Chunk speakers do not understand Menominee speakers.

The early explorers relied on interpreters from whatever Indian Nation they allied with at that specific period of time in history. The first explorers traveled through lands occupied by Indian Nations outside of the Wisconsin boundaries, engaging in trade and relations to their benefit. The tribal members encountered in Wisconsin who were telling the place names often had to talk through interpreters who often summarized what was being said. Thus many recorded place names of Wisconsin were influenced by other Indian Nations than the Menominee Nation who occupied the vast areas of Wisconsin at that time of first contact.

Remember the old telegraph game played by children. Example—by the time a Potawatomi interpreter told a place name to a Frenchman who then told it to an Englishman the original Menominee word most likely would be wrongly recorded.

Several searches of place names of Wisconsin have revealed to me the most erroneous spellings and meanings of the Menominee language conceivable.

Many times well meaning people step outside of their expertise and make mistakes in their efforts to record history.

The Menominee language is descriptive in nature, describing events, landmarks, personal names of individuals in the area, and so forth when it comes to place names. Menominee language contains unique sounds not heard or understood by non speakers. Many of the place names recorded over time took on an ethnic spin of the person doing the recording. Several of the place names seen today are of other than Menominee origin. This does not make those Indian Nations other than Menominee right or wrong, it is simply their own way of describing that individual place name in the language they speak. The Menominee Place Names Of Wisconsin will only give the Menominee language names of the Wisconsin territories.

Go to Menominee Place Names in Wisconsin chart

Go to Pronunciation Guide

Go to interactive Menominee Place Names Map