Menominee - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The precontact Menominee had small gardens in which they grew squash, beans, and maize, but they were basically hunters and gatherers. They also harvested wild rice and made extensive use of the resources of streams, particularly sturgeon. Hunting was done by individuals and small groups, with occasional larger hunts for deer and bison. After contact with the French the Menominee became heavily involved in trapping and trading activities and remained so until the early part of the nineteenth century. Since game and fish were not available in sufficient quantities on their reservation, after 1854 some Menominee turned to farming, although this never proved to be a successful activity. Beginning in the late nineteenth century and up to the present day lumbering has been the primary source of subsistence for many Menominee. In the 1950s, incomes from lumbering were supplemented by seasonal agricultural work and a wide range of relatively minor economic activities, including farming, hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering wild fruits.

Industrial Arts. The precontact Menominee made birch-bark and dugout canoes. They wove bags and baskets of vegetable fiber, bark, and bison hair, and manufactured pottery and bark and reed mats.

Trade. In precontact times the Menominee obtained catlinite originating from the Sioux quarries in present-day Minnesota and copper from the Lake Superior region and traded stone and wood manufactures to the Winnebago.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, men's responsibilities included hunting and fishing, warfare, ceremonial activities, preparing sacred artifacts, and manufacturing canoes and hunting and fishing equipment. Women's responsibilities included cooking, caring for children, collecting wild foods, gathering firewood, carrying water, dressing skins, making clothing, weaving mats and bags, and manufacturing pottery and household utensils. In the 1950s there was extensive sharing of economic roles between men and women among traditional Menominee. In addition, there was considerable occupational diversity among Menominee, most of it related to the lumber industry.

Land Tenure. During the fur trade period families claimed customary rights over particular river paths and hunting Territories, as game was depleted and hunting parties were forced to range over progressively wider territories.


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