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ERIC Number: EJ880932
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 37
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
Collecting among the Menomini: Cultural Assault in Twentieth-Century Wisconsin
Beck, David R. M.
American Indian Quarterly, v34 n2 p157-193 Spr 2010
From the late nineteenth century through the early 1930s a succession of collectors, ethnologists, and other scholars scoured the Menominee Reservation for data and items of material culture, which they presented to the American public through both publication and display. They did this with the cautious aid of Menominees they hired to provide interpretation skills and access to many of the tribe's elderly members. Articles and books about various aspects of Menominee culture, from music to language to religion, resulted, as did a proliferation of museum collections. These form the bulk of the early-twentieth-century literature on Menominee history and culture as well as the basis for the Menominee holdings in such repositories as the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and the two great New York ethnological museums, the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian-Heye Foundation, the latter of which has become part of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution. These works, which ultimately defined Menominees to the outside world, often were clouded by the collectors' or scholars' own culturally derived myopia, and though they contained much valuable material, the pictures they presented were inaccurate and were based on a false definition of "aboriginal" life that was so boldly assumed that it was not even questioned. The effects not only extended to the outside world's perception of Menominees but affected Menominee community life as well. Before Walter J. Hoffman visited the tribe in the 1890s little scholarly attention had been paid to the Menominee. That changed within a forty-year period as museum collectors such as Alanson Skinner and Samuel Barrett and scholars such as Felix Keesing, the linguist Leonard Bloomfield, Frances Densmore, and ethnobotanist Huron Smith visited the tribe. All of these people collected information for studies or material objects for museums. For the most part they used the same Menominee collaborators or consultants and also for the most part they relied on the same "scientific" assumptions grounded heavily in social Darwinism or American or Western exceptionalism as their framework for understanding Menominee life. In the 1950s the work was done by James S. Slotkin and Louise and George Spindler. This article explores the actions and roles of these people in shaping outside perceptions of the Menominee as well as some of the consequences of their work. (Contains 95 notes.)
University of Nebraska Press. 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0630. Tel: 800-755-1105; Fax: 800-526-2617; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Wisconsin