Menominee Clans website returning to CMN

By: 
Ryan Winn
Columnist

The Menominee Clans website is coming home. Since the early 2000s, the original iteration of the site has resided on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s servers. On March 22, the public is invited to College of Menominee Nation to witness the relaunching celebration of the updated site under the care of CMN.

The Menominee Clans website is created based upon the research of the late Menominee culture keepers James F. Frechette Jr. and Mike Hoffman. Frechette is perhaps best known for his 11-foot-tall carving of the Ancestral Bear housed in the Menominee Cultural Museum. The carver, who passed in 2006, contributed all of the artwork for the site, including the images of his hand-carved wooden figures of many of the 34 Menominee clans, known as the Mamāceqtāhsak.

Together with their UW-Stevens Point allies, Frechette and Hoffman created the site to share the teachings of both the Menominee clans and the Menominee names for places in Wisconsin. Both academic and accessible, the site was popular with scholars, community members and hobbyists.

Yet, in the words of Hoffman’s widow, Karen Ann Hoffman, “The site’s engine needed to be replaced” as technology has advanced considerably, making the once interactive features non-responsive.

In April 2022, Hoffman and UW-Stevens Point emeritus professor Ray Reser approached CMN to inquire about moving the site to the college’s servers. While the files would not be difficult to transfer, the interactive maps and audio files needed to be updated along with both the resolution and presentation of the files the site housed.

CMN began transferring in earnest in the fall of 2022, with plans to add a second site to house K-12 curriculum for educators to use to share the site with the students in their classrooms. Frechette’s son, Richard, and his niece, Dawn Wilber, joined Hoffman and CMN Chief of Staff Melinda Cook, website content manager Dylan Sabin and myself in drafting the curriculum and updating the work as part of the new Site Caretakers.

Richard Frechette explained, “I have been a site caretaker since the beginning, and I am honored to help maintain my dad’s legacy at CMN.”

Wilber added, “Reading through the teachings on the site with fresh eyes has reminded me of the wisdom of my uncle’s teachings. I have used his site in my own classrooms, and you can hear his voice whenever you visit it.”

Hoffman has been the steady voice for the transfer, connecting CMN to UW-Stevens Point and reminding the committee of the disciplined work James Frechette, Hoffman and their allies put into the site.

“Jim used to say, ‘Everything you want to know (about the Menominee) is right there in the carvings. You just got to look,’” Hoffman said.

The new site caretakers at CMN will debut their work alongside the launch. Titled “Teaching the Clans Story,” the new section will include interactive lesson plans for educators that house links, vocabulary and questions that can be used in K-12 classrooms. Intended to either build upon one another or stand alone, the lessons are intended to help students learn from the wisdom of the site.

The new section will also feature a short documentary about Frechette titled “Nātamowekow,” which was Frechette’s Menominee name, meaning, “He Helps Someone, People.” Billed as “a collaborative project” between James Frechette Jr. and Robert Kanyusik, the film “reflects James Frechette’s deep commitment to his Menominee heritage … (and) his determination to carry on Menominee practices in working with wood both in technique and in tribal tradition.”

The film was selected for the 2023 Native Spirit Film Festival in the United Kingdom.

On March 22, CMN will officially welcome the Menominee Clans website home and debut it to the public. The web address will be https://www.menominee.edu/tmcs.

The community is invited to the ceremony in the Campus Commons building to hear speeches, witness a tour of the site, enjoy an honor song played by Junior Dowd and partake in refreshments. The ceremony will be held from 9:30-11 a.m., with the reception to follow.

It will be a homecoming fitting of the Menominee Clans website, and we hope the public will join us in honoring this momentous occasion.

Ryan Winn teaches communications, English and theater at the College of Menominee Nation. Visit www.menominee.edu for information about the school.

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