How did Myaamia (Miami Indian) people govern themselves? (FAQ)

Individual independence was highly valued in Myaamia village communities and examples abound of leaders informing Europeans that they could “order” nothing and that in fact the more they gave orders the more they diminished their status.  In 1721, Father Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix stated: “These chiefs generally have no great marks of outward respect paid them, and if they are never disobeyed, it is because they know how to set bounds to their authority.  It is true that they request or propose, rather than command; and never exceed the boundaries of that small share of authority with which they are invested.”

The daily stuff of life, the boring humdrum that fed, clothed, housed, and educated the community didn’t require governance.  Individuals and family groups worked this stuff out for themselves. In short, leaders had no control over the lives of their people. Instead, leaders were perceived as servants, and it might be more aptly stated that their people controlled them. Additionally, no village could dictate to other villages.  A particular village might be more influential than others, but there was no control exerted. Below, is a list of Myaamia leadership positions that would have existed in a typical village in the 1700s.

akima (male civil leader) – Within each politically autonomous village there was typically one akima, although at times some villages were known to have civil leaders working in pairs or triads.  The akima served his community as an ambassador and as a mediator in disputes or discussions that the community desired to create consensus around.

akimaahkwia (female civil leader) – Each village also had one akimaahkwia, though just like their male counterparts there could be more than one.  There was usually a family relationship between the akima and akimaahkwia. The akimaahkwia served her community as a mediator in disputes or discussions that the community desired to create consensus around.  She worked with female heads of families in this endeavor.

kaapia (the chief’s assistant) – The kaapia was responsible for advising the akima and for equitably dividing things that the village had gained collectively.

neenawihtoowa (war party leader) – they served their villages primarily as the leaders of war parties, which were small groups of 30 men who sought to attack an enemy villages to take captives for adoption or for killing in reprisal for a death within their home village.  War leaders also served as village police, who enforced restrictions regarding disruptions of group hunts and abuse of resources important to the group.

maawikima (council chief) – the maawikima was selected when multiple villages came together for negotiations and needed to send a representative to speak for the whole group.  This role became increasingly important during the decades that followed the Treaty of Greenville (1795).

maamiikaahkia akima (large scale war leader) – this war leader worked to coordinate the efforts of many war party leaders from many villages.  Sometimes this leader coordinated war efforts between Myaamia villages and near neighbors like the Wyandot, Shawnee, Delaware, etc. The maamiikaahkia akima is a newer position that evolved during the heightened conflicts of the 1780s and 1790s.

Updated: January 7, 2021

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