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August 11, 2020 5 min read

August 9th, 2020 is World Indigenous People’s Day.

We’re celebrating by learning more about the history of the Indigenous People residing in Wisconsin.  

We love our home state of Wisconsin, and we feel blessed to be surrounded by such a rich Indigenous culture. Learning the history of our state has only informed how we look to the future. The inspiring wall-sized mural above is by artist Matika Wilbur, completed here in Appleton, WI.

Both our mission and ingredients are inspired by Native American culture - specifically, amazing Native work to protect the environment and traditional healing practices that harness the power of plants.  

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People was created in 1994 in order to celebrate the richness of indigenous cultures and raise awareness of the threat that Indigenous communities face.  According to the UN, there are about 370 million indigenous people in the world.  The more we understand Native cultures, we find that their traditions and values are rooted in respect for natural resources.  Unfortunately, Native history has too often been over-written or ignored.

There are 11 federally recognized tribal nations in Wisconsin, today. They are:

  • Bad River Band of Lake Superior of Chippew
  • Forest County Potawatomi
  • Ho-Chunk Nation
  • Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
  • Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin
  • Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Mole Lake (Sokaogon Chippewa Community) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Saint Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
  • Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians
  • Brothertown Indian Nation

ANTIDOTE offices sit on the ancestral lands of the Menominee Nation. They’re the oldest Wisconsin residents, dating back 10,000 years.

Why We’re Inspired By the Menominee

1) The Menominee have a long history of environmental and cultural activism. 

In the 1950s, they organized a grassroots movement in response to the Menominee Termination Act, which sought to take their land and erase their identity. This violation was a part of a larger attempt by the US government to assimilate Indian people into an agrarian society. 

The Menominee lost land and faced severe hardship. But in 1973 the tribe won back their sovereignty with the Menominee Restoration Act. This was a historic moment that paved the way for other indigenous peoples rights, undermining the US government’s attempts to assimilate other indigenous tribes. 

2)The Menominee know their land and they take good care of it.

The Menominee Indian Reservation is just 60 miles east of the origin of the tribe: the mouth of the Menominee River. The land is brimming with lakes, rivers, streams, and tons of forest housing animal life. 

They practice sustained yield forest management. This means that they protect the forest by ensuring that the amount of trees removed equals the growth. 

It is striking to see the impact that their sustainable development has on the planet.  In satellite photos, the Reservation looks like a giant green space surrounded by developments.

3) The Menominee have preserved their language against all odds.

65 Native American languages have been lost and 75 are endangered today.

When the US was attempting to assimilate Native American people, English-speaking education systems were violently imposed, while Native-systems were eradicated.

Today there is some funding allocated for revitalizing Native languages, but it’s so sparse that tribes are forced to compete with each other for that funding.

The Menominee language is among the endangered Native languages, and the tribe has assembled a committee to preserve the Menominee language and culture.

The committee holds language classes for people of all ages and has worked with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to document the history of the language.

4) Native American healing practices inspire our ingredients.

We use ingredients that are safe for the environment, safe for our bodies, and inspired by Native American medicinal practices. Here are some of our favorite ingredients and why they’re so amazing.

Wisconsin Ginseng: Used medicinally as a health tonic, we love Wisconsin Ginseng for its ability to both soothe and stimulate the scalp. Native Americans introduced Wisconsin Ginseng to settlers in the early 1700s. Today, Wisconsin grows 80% of America’s crop. 

Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil has been used for skin ailments by Native people, but it’s also used as a symbol of courage. We love this take on the sunflower and use it to add shine and moisture to our hairspray. 

Cranberries: Native American medicine uses the acidity in cranberries to fight infection. Cranberries soothe scalp and unclog pores, while the proteins and vitamins add shine. 

Rosemary: Rosemary has been revered for its medicinal uses and Native Americans have used it for its ability to aid stomach and liver problems, as well as heal sore joints. Rosemary also has a purifying effect on hair, and is great for removing product build-up.

Burdock Root: Used medicinally as a blood cleanser and skin soother, the vitamins in burdock root strengthen your hair while preventing a dry, itchy scalp. 

Sweet Grass is a cool-season grass that spreads easily by rhizome to form a patch. Known for its aromatic vanilla-scented leaves, it was used in indigenous North American ceremonies to attract good spirits.

Examples of What Can We Learn From Indigenous Culture?

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” -Iroquois Maxim, (circa 1700-1800)   

It’s important to remember that we are all interconnected. This is the principle that informs our approach to hair care, but it’s also the principle that informs our approach to the Earth. 

Indigenous communities all over the world are masters of living in balance with their environment. Studies have shown that the Amazon has flourished from Indigenous presence. 

Can we say the same for ourselves?

What kinds of changes would we need to make in our lives to have this type of relationship to our environment?

Indigenous communities can teach us about morals and conservation. In the US, Native people are often on the front lines of environmental activism. We are inspired by the work of the Amah Mutsen Land Trust.  

We can look to Native culture to understand how to protect nature when we feel it’s being threatened. 

How Can We Support Indigenous People?

There are many ways to support Indigenous people and help to protect their communities. Here are some ways you can act now.

  1. Learn the history of Indigenous people in your city and state.

Knowledge is power, and history will repeat itself if it’s not fully understood. Becoming aware of the history of where you live will change your relationship to it, and you’ll be able to pass on that information to others.  If you are interested in American history, check out one of our favorite books, Forgotten Founders.

  1. Visit The National Congress of American Indians’ website.

The NCAI is a non-profit that organizes around national issues that impact the welfare and sovereignty of Indigenous people. You can become a member, find educational resources on their website, or find instruction on how to contact your local representatives about issues that affect Native communities. 

  1. Buy Native products.

Support communities directly by buying artwork, jewelry, or clothing. Click here for a directory of Native-owned retailers.

  1. Donate to the Native American Rights Fund.

NARF is a nonprofit that advocates for Native American human rights, protects tribal natural resources, and develops Indian law to educate the public. You can donate online here. 

Wisconsin is an amazing part of the world, and we feel blessed to be surrounded by rich Indigenous culture. Learning the history of Native culture has informed how we look to the future. 

How will you celebrate World Indigenous People’s Day?

Have you learned anything about your hometown that changed the way you see it?

We’d love to hear from you!

Comment below or send us a note!

Abigail + David

 


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