Partners in Education: Keeping Menominee Traditions Alive
Photo: Video by nbc26.com
GREEN BAY - This summer, a new course offered in the Green Bay School District is keeping the Menominee language alive and passing on its practices to future generations.
The seat of the Menominee tribe is located about 45 miles northwest of Green Bay. Today, there are about 9,000 Menominee left, but of that group, only seven of them speak the native language. Now, Franklin Middle School and Menominees are working together to change that.
For Menominee Elder Napos, knowing how to build a shelter is second nature. But to young students, some who are of Menominee descent, building a "wikiyom" or "wigwam", a traditional Menominee home, is filled with challenges.
"There are a lot of just basic things I take to naturally that I realize I don't know," said Napos.
Napos is one of the seven native Menominee speakers left, and he isn't surprise parts of their culture has been lost. He says government efforts to assimilate Native Americans were part of the problem. He remembers being shunned in school because of his roots.
"Being punished and physically abused, because I'm just an Indian," he recalled.
By teaching Green Bay students, Napos hopes to keep their heritage alive
For student Tanya Pena, it's an eye-opening experience, and a look back into her family's history.
"They knew it, they spoke it, they knew the culture, and after they died no one passed it on," she said.
Now, Pena is learning to speak her language, and Napos hopes to encourage the students to use it when they can.
"They're not used to doing it, and in the past their language was put down so much that they're shy about speaking it, especially in public," he said.
This is the first year a Menominee course has been offered in Green Bay. Another Native American course relevant to Northeast Wisconsin on Oneida culture has been in place for the past few years.