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Wisconsin at the end of the 20th century


Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin Dells

Most native groups were forced to leave Wisconsin in the 1830s and 1840s, and most of those who remained, mainly Menominee and Ojibwa, lived on reservations established in the northern part of the state. In the 1820s a group of Oneida from New York resettled in the state, and some Winnebago returned in the 1880s after their people were relocated.

In the 20th century, the Menominee used timber resources on their reservation to become fairly prosperous and self-sufficient. But under a 1954 law federal recognition of the Menominee tribe was terminated, part of a federal policy that sought to assimilate Native Americans into white society and end their special status. Economic decline followed; by 1972 Menominee County, which included the former reservation, was the poorest in the state. The federal action was reversed in 1973, restoring the reservation.

The Wisconsin Ojibwa, living on six reservations, also struggled with poverty and unemployment. In the 1980s and 1990s they asserted rights under 19th-century treaties to hunt and spear fish on traditional lands off their reservations. These rights were upheld by federal court decisions, prompting some violent reaction from whites in reservation areas.

The most important change in Native Americans’ status came from the expansion of gambling in Wisconsin. Since statehood, Wisconsin had rejected legalized gambling, but in 1987 voters approved a state lottery to raise money for property-tax relief. The lottery expanded into multiple games and multi-state games with huge prizes, then opened up other gambling avenues.

Gaming compacts allowed Native Americans to operate casinos, and some have been highly profitable, especially in Milwaukee and Wisconsin Dells and near Green Bay. Restricted to high-stakes bingo, slot machines, and video poker, these casinos have brought unprecedented prosperity to some native groups, providing jobs and money for education, health, and cultural programs. This economic boom, however, has not been shared by all of the state’s Native American residents. "Wisconsin" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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