The Menominee Indian Tribe’s current reservation was created in 1854 through treaty with the United States of America. On June 17, 1954 Congress implemented Public Law 108. This is known at the “Termination Bill” which was signed into law by President Eisenhower. This provided for termination of federal control of the Menominee Indian Reservation. On July 3, 1959 Governor Gaylord Nelson signed a law making Menominee County the state’s 72nd County. This was an experiment to force tribes to join the mainstream of American society as an assimilation attempt. During the period from 1961 to 1973 federal supervision over the Tribe was terminated. On April 30, 1961 the Menominee Termination Plan was submitted to the Secretary of Interior. In 1962 the Menominee Council of Chiefs was organized as a non-profit organization ideally for the purpose of preserving the name “Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin” which was technically abolished during termination.
A petition was signed by 780 Menominee’s requesting the repeal of the Menominee Termination in 1964. In May 1968 the Tribe had filed suit regarding the hunting and fishing rights of tribal members. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Tribe’s favor establishing that when termination was effective it did not relinquish their right to hunt and fish, Menominee Tribe vs. United States, 391 U.S. 404 (1968). When the Termination Plan was implemented the enrolled members became shareholders in Menominee Enterprises, Inc. which became known as M.E.I. The M.E.I. Board of Trustees consisted of seven (7) members; three (3) of whom were non-members. In 1968, the M.E.I. entered into the “Lakes of Menominee,” project referred to now as Legend Lake. In spite of many barriers, the Menominee persisted with their goal in restoring the land to trust status.
On April 20, 1972, Wisconsin Senators Proxmire and Nelson introduced Senate Bill No. 3514 in response to the Menominee’s ambition to seek reversal of termination. With the dedication and persistence of Tribal members and a coalition of supporters, the Menominee Restoration Act was signed into law on December 22, 1973 by President Nixon after two and one-half years of congressional testimony the Restoration Act was passed. It provided for the federal recognition of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin thereby returning the nation to trust status and sovereign immunity through the development of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin Constitution and Bylaws. The sovereign immunity of the Tribe is retained through Article XVIII of the Constitution and Bylaws, which allows suit to be brought against the Tribe in Menominee Tribal Court by those subject to the Tribe’s jurisdiction. Suit may be brought against the Tribe to enforce an ordinance of the Tribe, a provision of the Menominee Constitution, or a provision of the Indian Civil Rights Act.