GREEN BAY - "This is going to be a plain like a living lodge. We call it a weiquium, usually termed as a wigwam," Napos, a Menominee language and culture instructor described Monday.
Napos helped Franklin Middle School summer course students bend and weave branches into the form of a wigwam.
"He's doing it a certain way with that square right there you kind of have to weave it so I had to bend the stick back and put it through the square. He has a certain way of tying it where you have to put it through the loop and then put strings through the loop and then you tie it like a bunny tie," described Tanya Pena, one of the students.
The course in Menominee culture was open to all students, though most students enrolled, like Pena, have native backgrounds.
"We also teach language but to the Menominee people and other tribes the language and culture are connected, they're never separated," said Napos.
As the foundation of this wigwam is being built, so too are the connections to a culture that is slowly disappearing.
"My great-grandmother Celia, she was a fluent speaker. After that the language and culture and all of that just kind of died out of my family," said Pena.
"Our language, we are down to probably seven speakers," said Napos. "When I was young, out of 4,000 people, probably 75 to 80 percent spoke the language.
As they secure these branches, students say they're developing ties that bind across generations.
"We're having fun and some of them call me grandpa," said Napos, smiling.
"We're bringing the culture and the language back. To do that, to bring a language back, it's kind of like a big responsibility to put on somebody," said Pena.
These teens say they're up for the challenge of rebuilding their heritage, one piece at a time.
The Franklin Middle School summer school program in Green Bay offered Oneida language courses last year.
This is the first year for Menominee language classes to be added.
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