Menominee Portrait Dedication & Frechette Memorial

The Connection

By Mike Hoffman
Meteor cloud that makes it clear
April 21, 2007

Good afternoon my fellow Menominees and everyone in attendance at this portrait dedication and memorial for Jim Frechette.  His Menominee Indian name was Natamowekow – He Helps Him.  And that’s what he has done for all of us here today, helped us to understand a little of the Menominee culture.

First I would like to thank all of you for coming here today and thank the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and the College of Letters and Science for hosting this event here on behalf of the Menominee Clans Committee and the Menominee People.

Jim Frechette had a grand vision of sharing the knowledge of the Menominee culture with the world.  Jim chose this institution as an instrument to carry out that vision.  Why here?  UWSP is well known for its environmental studies.  This ground the University stands on is some of the Menominee original territory.  Sacred legends contain references to this area of Central Wisconsin significant to Menominee culture.

Names of places, especially towns and cities, still bear names that prove this point to be true Menominee names.  For instance:  Waupaca.  Meaning the Place of Tomorrow where it is Seen Clearly..  The town square in Stevens Point was a village for the Upper Wisconsin River Band of Menominee (headed by Oshkosh – His Claw, Bear Clan).  The 1842 enrollment papers testify to these facts.  Jim Frechette was a member of the Bear Clan as was his father.  Mill Creek (a tributary to the Wisconsin River) immediately west of Stevens Point, was called Wepet Sepew in the records of Saint Bartholemew’s Catholic Church.  It translates in the Menominee Language as: Tooth River.  Maps depict a 53 foot long Menominee Medicine Lodge and Menominee Sugar Bush on the Wisconsin River right here in the Stevens Point area.  All of these facts can be confirmed through accurate historical documentation on the 6th floor of this very building at UWSP. 

UWSP was blessed with intelligent individuals in several departments that recognized these connections.  Jim Frechette and these individuals successfully worked out an arrangement that is present here today.  The clan figures carved by Jim Frechette housed here in the museum lobby represent the transformation of birds and animals to the first Menominee.  This is the basis of the Origin Story told in Menominee by myself, Mike Hoffman, on the Menominee Clans Story website. 

The question has come forth.  Is this transformation from animal to human being possible?  We are told the Creator can do marvelous things – miracles if you need a further explanation.  This connection of animal, bird, and fishes to Man was the first form of conservation.  Respect for living beings of the Creator’s design.  Quoting Jim Frechette, “We the Menominee, do not separate ourselves from this belief system.”  All of the clan leaders were of the same belief.  Here, as an example, you will see but a small glimpse of some of these clan leaders preserved on canvas for all time;  painted before the clans system was further eroded by the dominant culture.

The Menominee culture goes back thousands of years.  A fraction of this knowledge is at your disposal here at UWSP thanks to the efforts of the Menominee Clans Committee and Jim Frechette’s love of his people, the Menominee.  In due time here today, these clan leaders will be unveiled and this portrait collection will belong to all of us.

Thank you.