The Menominee Clans Have Gathered at the Museum
“As the journey continued the Bear also adopted the Wolf, the Crane, and the Moose as Brothers, and each changed into a man . . . Through their travels, each Brother met other animals and birds and each Brother adopted some on them as Younger Brothers. The Younger Brothers changed into men and altogether became the first Menominee people.”
Taken from part of the Menominee Origin Story as told by James Frechette Jr.
The Museum is proud to present the Menominee Clans Story.
The Menominee Nation has five Principle Clans, each symbolized by an animal. Each Clan has a primary obligation to the people and culture. For example, Oshkosh (translation; literally ‘His Claw’) was of the Bear Clan, known as Speakers and Peacekeepers. Each Clan has Younger Brothers, also represented by an animal, and each is charged with sustaining an element of the culture and the individual. Together the Clans collectively counseled the people and ensured their well being. To the Menominee, the Clan figures are alive and able to see and feel.
The new Menominee Clans Story exhibition displays superbly carved Clan figures by Menominee traditional artist James Frechette Jr. (1930-2006). Known to the Menominee as “The Little Menominee,” these intricately carved and painted figures stand between twelve and twenty inches high. Through an indigenous art form of the tribe, Mr. Frechette faithfully captured the cultural dimensions of the ancient clan system depicting dress, symbols, tools, colors, traditions, and many details of the Menominee way of life.
The Museum is not only charged with the important duty of preserving history for future generations, but also with passing on stories and cultural appreciation. The Menominee Clans exhibition spans and connects across generations, and connects Native and Non-Native cultures.
To learn more, visit the website.
MIKE HOFFMAN – MENOMINEE AND OTTAWA DESCENDANT
Cīhkwānahkwat (Meteor Cloud That Makes It Clear)
Gold Eagle Clan of the Menominee Nation
February 6, 1950 – April 4, 2019
Mike Hoffman was many things; an artist, a woodsman, and a passionate student and advocate of the Menominee language. He learned Menominee from first language speakers like Atae:hemen, Waqsae:jiwan, and his cousin David Macepatow (a Menominee code talker in World War II). Mike studied the audio tapes of long gone speakers like Nessie Wishkinow and the works of linguists like Leonard Bloomfield and Walter James Hoffman. Cīhkwānahkwat understood not just Menominee words, but the culture that gave rise and meaning to these words.
Cīhkwānahkwat was given his name by his adopted Grandmother, Waqsae:jiwan (Bright Shining Water), Lillian Nelson. Their study of the Menominee language bonded them together. Waqsae:jiwan admired the way Mike fearlessly stood up for the language. She said he was like the Meteors that come after a storm and clear the skies. He was not afraid to make a noise when necessary.
James F. Frechette Jr. also had an important impact on Mike’s life. Cousins, they came together in Mike’s adult life around Jim’s carvings: Menominee Clans Story. Working together for thirty years, Jim’s confidence in Mike’s understanding of the cultural knowledge embedded in these carvings was so strong that Jim personally chose Mike to be Cultural Consultant and Advisor to Jim’s carving of the Clans Story. Jim did not ask Mike to do this, rather, on his death bed, Jim poked Mike in the chest and said, “You will do this. I choose you, Protect my Clans Story.” It was an honor, a responsibility and a fight that Mike carried out until his death. Knowing that his own death was nearing and seeing the beloved Clans Story in peril, Mike worked tirelessly with the Menominee Clans Committee to find this new home for James Frechette’s Menominee Clans Story.
Now housed here at the Oshkosh Public Museum, the Clans Carvings have found safe haven in a place that will honor and care for them in the way they deserve. I think both Jim and Mike are resting easy now.
Karen Ann Hoffman