Contrary to what you might be thinking, I am not going to introduce you to wild rice recipes, although I love wild rice.
Instead, I’m going to inform all of you that for a while Menomonie was known as Wild Rice.
“Menomonie” is the Algonquin word for “wild rice people.” Our local Ojibwa tribes are part of the Algonquin Nation.
The Ojibwa harvested wild rice in the various inlets dotting the shoreline of Lake Menomin or, as the Ojibwa originally called it, Manomin.
Over the years, Menomonie, as well as Lake Menomin, have been known by a variety of different names. Let’s take a look at some of these names.
We’ll start with names for the city. From 1837 to 1839, the community was known as Mills on the Monomonee River. From then, it changed to the Menomonie Mills until 1853.
In the middle of this time span, the city was briefly known as Black and Knapp Mill.
Then in 1855 the name of the community changed to Menomonee Mills.
In 1859 the name was changed again to just plain Menomonee.
Then in 1891 the community name was changed to the name we call it today, Menomonie.
The River has had many names as well. For instance, in the 1600s, the Lake was known as Follenvoine.
By the 1700s the area was known as Miskwagokag.
1780 brought about another name change, to Cedre Rouge.
In 1828 the name was changed to Menomonee. Notice the two E’s at the end.
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1831 brought a slight spelling change to Monomonee.
But this name only lasted for a year, when in 1832 the name was changed to Cedar Follenvoine.
Very quickly, in 1837, the name Mononomone was used.
1851 brought yet yet another change to Red Cedar Menomonee.
In 1875 the name was shortened to Red Cedar.
In 1891 the name was lengthened to Red Cedar Menomonie.
In 1925 the spelling was changed to Red Cedar Menomonee, and in 1925 the name was finally changed to Red Cedar.
The name of the Lake has a similar background. It all starts with the word “Manomin.”
This appears to be where the word “Menomin” is derived. This word is simply the Algonquian word meaning “wild rice.”
And as I stated earlier, the word Menomonie means “wild rice people.” It would appear that the long term association of the river with wild rice and the probable presence of wild rice in the marshes of the lake led to the name of the lake being “Menomin.”
Another persistent local tradition holds that the river was named “Red Cedar” because there was one red cedar located at the headwaters of the Red Cedar Lake.
The mysterious name Miskwagokeg, by which the river was known by the Ojibwa, may give us a clue, since “miskwa” means red.
Unfortunately, early explorer Father Barga’s standard dictionary does not have a meaning for “gokeg.”