Revitalizing Menominee

Posoh Mawanew Weyak (Hello)

-Menominee greeting

Menominee is an Algonquian language endemic to Wisconsin and Michigan (for over 15,000 years) which has about 130 speakers or so. Specifically, there are 12 native/fully fluent speakers (75+ and older), plus around 100 “near speakers”: 39 first language speakers, 26 bilingual speakers, and 65 other individuals with some knowledge of it out of around 800 members, this according to a 1997 report by the Menominee Historic Preservation Office. John Teller (Menominee) – professor at the College of the Menominee Nation, Wisconsin, who falls under the “near speaker” category, is doing his best to save the language and aims to ramp immersion in schools from 10% to 100%. Elderly speakers often make visits to the classrooms, and he wants to make sure members of his nation can express more than simply “Hello” and “What is your name?”.

Teller was invited to be the annual Colin Horsfield Memorial Lecturer and present a lecture on Amnesty International. The event took place on April, 20th, 2011 from 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM at Hallet Hall in Bermuda College. Topics covered were:

• 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was rejected by the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the USA but was recently signed. It internationally recognizes indigenous peoples want self-determination in their economy, government, and religion.

• The Menominee Termination Act of 1954 which terminated their federal recognition until it was won back under the Menominee Restoration Act of 1973.

• The endurance of the Menominee people; they’ve remained in their tribal lands throughout the Ice Age, The Indian Removal Act of 1830 (a.k.a. Trail of Tears), and a reduction of tribal lands from 10 million to 230,000 acres.

For more information on Menominee language preservation refer to the Menominee Language & Culture Commission

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