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About this collection

Novitiate Takeover Collection

In the very early hours of New Year's Day 1975, a group calling itself the Menominee Warrior Society broke into the caretaker's cottage at the site of the Alexian Brothers former Novitiate near Gresham, Wisconsin in Shawano County. Thus began a 34 day siege which drew national attention. During the next month, harsh words and even gunfire were exchanged between the local white population and the occupiers. Negotiations between the Menominee Warrior Society and the Alexian Brothers were trying for both sides.

 

The Menominee Warrior Society claimed they had treaty rights to the property and wanted the Alexian Brothers to turn over the 64-room monastery to the Menominee for use as a hospital or school facility. Mrs. Jeanie Peters, a wealthy widow, purchased the land that the Novitiate is on in 1940. She built the original mansion on the property for her daughter, who died shortly before she was to move into the house. In 1950, Mrs. Peters donated the home and grounds to the Alexian Order. The Alexian Brothers added an addition in 1954 and ceased using the building in 1968.

 

On February 2, 1975, an agreement was reached whereby the Alexian Brothers would turn the abbey over to the Menominee Nation for "$1 and other considerations." Costs incurred from the siege were estimated above one-half million dollars.

 

This digital collection from the Shawano City-County Library consists of news clippings about the event and its aftermath originally published in the Shawano Leader.

 

To read more about the Novitiate Takeover in the context of the Menominee Termination and Restoration period (1954-1973), see "Menominee Termination and Restoration" from the Milwaukee Public Museum's Indian Country Wisconsin digital resource. To read the Menominee Restoration Committee's response to the Novitiate Takeover, see Al Fowler, "Novitiate Agreement Reached—No Victory for Tribe," Aq-ua-chamine (Menominee Talking) vol. 2, no. 2 (February 20, 1975), from the College of Menominee Nation Library Special Collections.

Menominee Indidan girl wrapped in an American Flag protests with National Guard troops behind her.

Both sides protested.

Protest on all sides was a central part of the Alexian Novitiate takeover. Here a young Indian girl wraps herself in an American flag as strained Guardsmen look on.

 
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