January 13, 2001

When Green Bay, Wisconsin's timber began running low in the late 1860s it found a new role as a distribution center for western cattle, as did Chicago, its neighbor to the south. Today these older industries have seen a revival here. Of course now some of the city's beef - the more expensive cuts - is to be found playing weekends in Packer Stadium. The area still maintains three large paper mills (as well as firms that build paper-making machinery and that recycle old paper), and is home to the largest meat packing center east of the Mississippi. Three hospitals employ nearly 4,800 people. Social life centers around two symphony orchestras, an opera company, local theaters, and two colleges. The city had a population of over 96,000 in 1990.

Before the French arrived in the mid-1660s the Native American population of the area, mostly Menominee, reduced by warfare and epidemics, had bottomed out at around 400. Rising slowly over the next two centuries, by the time of the city's incorporation in 1854, 1900 Menominee lived in seven nearby reservations. Today 3400, around half the tribe's population, live on one reservation west of the city. When Europeans, French at first, arrived, the inevitable happened - native bloodlines became diluted by white, as the explorers, voyageurs and coureurs de bois began taking Menominee wives. (Jesuits like fathers Baraga, Allouez, Marquette and Menard had little effect of course). But the ratio began changing, and with officials back east unable to control their charges, the numbers of mixed breeds - half native, half European - increased with the years. The European component changed as the offshoots of Europe's Wars swept back and forth through the area. One reflection of these changes can be seen in the names of the successive forts established at the settlement at the head of Green Bay - France's Fort St. Francis, England's Fort Edward Augustus, and Fort Howard, after the U. S. took over the territory.

Racial mixes in North America have been known by a number of names - mestizos in Mexico, half-breeds in the U. S., or the more intentionally obnoxious term (and worse according to a majority of tribes today), squaw man. Faced with the naming problem the French took the verb to mix and called them Metis. Canadian listeners will associate the term with Luis Riel and the Red River Rebellion, but here in the U. S. one of the largest concentrations is found in the Green Bay area. Among the better known members of the group are traders Charles Langlade (who we met about a year ago), and Jean Baptiste Cadotte.

In 1824 Indian law and U. S. law clashed. Into the Michigan Territory marched a new type of "black robe". Not the Jesuit of past times; but U. S. circuit court judge The Honorable James Duane Doty. He was horrified at the sinful behavior he found at Green Bay - mixed couples wed without benefit of clergy - and called the area's first grand jury into special session. 36 of the town's males were hauled before the tribunal and indicted for fornication. Most pleaded guilty and married their "wives". A small number contested the charge, saying they were married according to Indian custom. One, ironically named John Lawe, defied the court. His embarrassed grandchildren always referred to his wife as Lawe's "consort".

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor


© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte



Interested in Native American history, both in the U. S. and Canada? You'll find a wealth of detailed information on the Metis, or half-breed, tribes, especially around Wisconsin's Green Bay area, and those involved in the Red River Rebellion in Canada's Manitoba province, at the site METIS NATION OF THE NORTH WEST. Some of the information will be of interest only to those tracing genealogy, but much of the site is devoted to a year-by-year retelling of the story of these men and women who lived, and live, part of two peoples. Along the way you'll gain an insight to the French and Indian War, civilization's progress into the western Great Lakes area, and the Canadian fur trade.



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