How has Myaamia (Miami Indian) clothing changed over time?
Myaamia clothing – like the clothing of all cultural groups – has changed a lot over time. These changes have been affected by the availability of resources, shifts in technology, and radical shifts in our historical and cultural circumstances.
In the post contact period, Myaamia people began to wear items made from various trade cloths: wool, linen, silk, and cotton. Some of the clothes made from trade cloth were reserved for special events like treaty negotiations, funerals, and community dances. Other items, like cloth shirts, were worn more frequently. These newer materials were used in combination with hides, which they continued to wear for leggings and moccasins. Myaamia people also perfected a unique form of ribbonwork that created complicated geometric patterns through the layering and cutting of silk ribbons. These ribbonworked strips were appliquéd onto moccasins, leggings, woolen wrap blankets, wrap skirts, and bags. You can see a few examples of the Myaamia style of ribbonwork at the Miami University Art Museum’s peepankišaapiikahkia eehkwaatamenki ‘Myaamia ribbonwork’ online exhibition.
If you are interested in seeing more images of clothing from the early 1800s, see the book: “Indians and a Changing Frontier the Art of George Winter” (see endnotes). You can also find many of Winter’s paintings online at Purdue University’s E-Archives. You can see other examples of the clothing in paintings by another artist – James Otto Lewis – by searching “Miami chief” on the Indiana Historical Society’s images database.
By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Myaamia people’s daily clothing did not differ much from the settlers who surrounded them. For an example of this, see the images of our leaders who visited Washington D.C. in the late 1800s by searching “Miami Indian” on the Smithsonian’s Collections Search Center. However, for special occasions like weddings, funerals, feasts, and public performances, Myaamia people continued to wear the combination of wool, cotton, and hide decorated with ribbonwork that was developed in the trade era.
Today, the daily clothing of most Myaamia people does not differ all that much from our neighbors. But on special occasions like social dances, political gatherings, weddings, funerals, parades, and other community gatherings many Myaamia people still wear a combination of wool, cotton, and hide decorated with beadwork and or ribbonwork.
 For examples of dress associated with special occasions see Christian F. Feest et al., Indians and a Changing Frontier: The Art of George Winter (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Society, 1993), Plates 7, 47, & 43; and James Otto Lewis, The Aboriginal Port Folio, or, A Collection of Portraits of the Most Celebrated Chiefs of the North American Indians (Philadelphia, PA: Lehman & Duval, 1836), Plates of Little Wolf, Brewett, Francis Godfroy, Richardville, Mi-a-qu-a, Speckled Loon, Na-she-mung-gwah, and the Son are all examples of finery worn for a treaty negotiation. For examples of daily wear in the 1800s see Feest, The Art of George Winter, Plates 1, 6, and 45.
Updated: January 7, 2021