The Connection between Ecology and History

At first glance it might seem like an unusual choice to join the study of Myaamia ecological perspectives – how Myaamia people see and interact with the environment – to the study of Myaamia history – the stories Myaamia people tell about the past.  But from our perspective this is a natural fit.  The primary reason for this connection is that both our ecological practices and our history are place-based.  Because of Myaamia people’s historical experiences with forced removal, we are tragically aware of the disruptions caused by drastic changes in our environment.  As our ancestors grabbed handfuls of earth before the soldiers loaded them onto canal boats, they painfully demonstrated for us that place matters.  Oklahoma, Kansas, and Indiana are not identical interchangeable places.  Today, they are all home in one way or another, but they are not the same.

A good example of the importance of place ecologically and historically is our historic village of Wiipicahkionki (Flint Place).  This village had excellent river bottomland for farming our corn and was a key portage – a place ideal to put in or take out canoes –  of the Wabash River Valley.  In addition, the Flint Place got its name because it is an ideal place to gather the flint our people used to make arrow points and other tools used in hunting and fishing.  Following contact with Europeans, the Flint Place became even more valuable as an important stopping point for people involved in the fur trade.  Later, Wiipicahkionki became a central location for meeting together as a people and negotiating treaties with the Americans and today it’s known as the Forks of the Wabash.  In this this one location, we can see just how complicated the links are between ecological behaviors and historical events.  We find it hard to talk about the historical events that happened at Wiipicahkionki without talking about the ecological roots of that village and we likewise find it difficult to talk about ecological practices, like farming corn, without referencing the historical events that took our people away from the rich bottomland of the Wabash River Valley.

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