For those of us in the Chippewa Valley, this spelling is the “right” one – or at least the one we’re most familiar with. As with all the other spellings, the name of this Dunn County city comes from the name given by the Ojibwe people to their neighbors, who lived in a large territory in what is now Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, early European settles spelled “our” Menomonie with an “ie” to avoid confusion with other Wisconsin locales.
If there’s an “official” spelling of the word, this is probably it. It’s the name of a Native American tribe; the name of that tribe’s reservation; the name of the Wisconsin county that is contiguous with the reservation; as well as the name of a city in Michigan and a river that divides the two states. Fun fact: The Menominee were among the people French explorer Jean Nicolet encountered when he came ashore at Green Bay in 1634. (Of course, he thought they were Chinese.)
If you’re from the Milwaukee area, chances are this is how you spell the word. This is the spelling that applies to the river that flows into the state’s largest city (and ultimately Lake Michigan via the Milwaukee River); to the Menomonee Valley, an industrial neighborhood in Milwaukee; and to the nearby suburb of Menomonee Falls.
This is the original Ojibwe word for the tribe, which in the Ojibwe’s language means “wild rice people,” a reference to the other tribe’s staple food. However, as is often the case when it comes to tribal names, this is not what the Menominee call themselves: In their own language, they are “Mamaceqtaw,” or simply “The People.”
The difficult-to-spell (and to pronounce) name lends itself pretty easily to a pun, and a few years back the folks at Me-No-Monie Street Pawn & Loan grabbed it. (Get it: “Me No Money?” Of course you do!) The pawn shop is located, naturally, on Menomonie Street in Eau Claire.