Menominee - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. The Menominee belief system was dualistic, with a continuing cosmic conflict between good spirits above the earth and evil spirits below. The highest tier of the universe above the earth was the home of the supreme deity, Mecawetok, and below him were the Thunderbirds or Thunderers, the gods of war, and the Morning Star. Beneath the earth and in the lowest tier was Great White Bear, the main power of evil. Others who resided in the evil underworld were Underground Panther, White Deer, and Horned Hairy Serpent, who inhabited the lakes and streams and tried to cap-size boats in order to drag people to the underworld. The earth itself was believed to be peopled with evil spirits and hobgoblins. The central experience of Menominee religion was the dream revelation, in which individuals obtained special power in the form of a guardian spirit. With some changes, the pattern of securing a guardian spirit through fasting and dreaming persisted among traditional Menominee in 1960.

Religious Practitioners. Medicine men and diviners possessing powers obtained from their guardian spirits were organized into ceremonial societies, but worked more or less as individuals.

Ceremonies. A variety of ceremonial organizations developed among the Menominee after European contact, and some of these persisted in varying forms among traditional Menominee in the mid-1900s. These included the Medicine Lodge Society, whose ceremonies are intended to prolong the life and ensure the good health of the members; the Dream Dance or Drum Dance, which involved petitioning the spirits for help in the activities of everyday life; and the Warrior's Dance, borrowed from the Chippewa in 1925 and intended to protect men being drafted and participating in Contemporary wars.

Arts. Precontact art forms show a well-developed geometric art and indicate the use of highly conventionalized figures. Postcontact art forms included work with porcupine quills and animal hair with a religious motif. About 1830 a new phase in Menominee art was initiated in which the older geometric motifs were replaced with elaborate floral and realistic designs and the skin and quill work was replaced by cloth and beadwork with new color pigments. This art form persists in special events and dancing for tourists.

Medicine. Illness was believed to be the result of the loss of one's soul through witchcraft. Diviners with special powers consulted with the spirits to find the source of the illness and then would attempt to coax the soul of the patient to return and enter a small wooden cylinder where it was imprisoned and delivered to the patient's relatives. The cylinder was then attached to the patient's breast for four days so that the soul could return to the body.

Death and Afterlife. Traditionally, after death the deceased was placed on a scaffolding or buried beneath logs on the ground. Grave goods included the deceased's weapons, tools, and ornaments. Early observers of the Menominee Reported that a corpse was painted red to signify happiness at the privilege of the soul in departing to the spirit land. The ghosts of the dead were believed to linger around the grave indefinitely and to have a strong influence on the living. In spite of the fear of ghosts, mourners visited the burial place to offer food and games, and ritual activities were performed to keep the ghosts contented. Until the mid-twentieth century it was a common practice for the deceased to have his totem painted, usually upside down, on a grave stick at his place of burial. In modern times the dead are buried in a coffin in the ground beneath a small houselike structure with an opening through which food and other offerings can be placed.

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User Contributions:

1
leilani
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Sep 16, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
thank you for making this site I am writing a report on this tribe and this is very helpful!!! this is a very useful site :)
2
Medasquae
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May 26, 2015 @ 6:06 am
Not badly done, but please, please stop using the past tense when you talk about the tribe. WE'RE NOT DEAD!!!
3
Saree
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Jul 2, 2015 @ 11:11 am
In our family (we come from the Bear Clan) we still practice tobacco and sage offerings at the funeral as well.
4
David
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Jul 7, 2015 @ 6:18 pm
Posoh!! Love live the Menominee People! I spent 5 years on that Rez and have a life long love for the people.
5
Gibson
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Apr 25, 2016 @ 10:10 am
Very informational, long live the tribe! Love from the Wolf clan
6
Poindexter McBean
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Aug 1, 2016 @ 3:03 am
Though I am Menominee, and thank you, Mesasquae - we are definitely not dead! - I adopted the Souix nation's hair cutting ritual in mourning. My braid goes from 10-12 inches to none today. I hope to lose no one for a long times again. I am female, but still, with no belief in gods, for me, this helps.

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