Menominee - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Prior to contact with Europeans the Menominee were organized into semisedentary villages of extended family groups. Involvement in the fur trade undermined this system and led to the development of a band System of social organization that persisted until the reservation period. After their arrival on the reservation many Menominee grouped according to their band affiliations, but with a more sedentary way of life, band identities gradually disappeared.

Political Organization. The formal political structure of the aboriginal Menominee consisted of a tribal chief, who was the head of the Bear moiety and whose position was inherited, and several lesser hereditary chiefs, who were heads of the various totemic descent groups. Descent group chiefs constituted a village council and regulated civil affairs to a limited extent. In addition, there were chiefs who won Prestige through dreams or special prowess and who served as keepers of the war medicines and as public spokesmen for the hereditary leaders. Under the influence of the fur trade, Leadership qualifications were modified to include success in obtaining furs, directing hunting and trading expeditions, obtaining credit, public speaking, and getting along well with Whites and other Indian tribes.

Social Control. A strong belief in witchcraft functioned as a form of social control among the aboriginal and historic Menominee and persists today among traditional Menominee. The witch could be any powerful elder, and his victims, deviant members of the group who failed to observe the group's prescriptions for behavior.

Conflict. The Menominee were unprepared for self-government when their reservation status was terminated in 1961, and significant health, housing, education, and general welfare problems developed as a result. In the 1970s, after tribal status was restored, severe intratribal differences emerged, as the Menominee sought to find solutions to these problems.

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