cecaahkwa neehi myaamiaki ‘the Sandhill Crane and the Myaamia People’

With the sprouting of the Myaamia new moon, we enter the third month of the Myaamia lunar calendar: cecaahkwa kiilhswa ‘Sandhill Crane Moon.’ This month gets its name because of the prominent migration and nesting behaviors common among these birds during this period of transition from peepoonki to neepinwiki. But outside of these important ecological connections, the Myaamia people have a long history of identifying with cecaahkwa as an important symbol of our community.

Our Waapanahkia ‘Lenape’ (Delaware) grandfathers referred to us as Tuwéhtuwe ‘Twigh Twee.’ This name seems to have been used by Indigenous peoples whose homelands are in what is today Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York.[1] At some point in the past, the Cherokee also used Twigh Twee as a name for our people. In 1820, Meehcikilita ‘Le Gros’ shared a story with C.C. Trowbridge that recounts the origin of the name. In the story, Meehcikilita said Myaamia people “discovered the Cherokees, and were in the habit of making war upon them.” Cherokee homelands include parts of what are today the states of Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama. In this early period of warfare, Myaamia people likely targeted the Overhill Cherokee towns in what is today southeastern Tennessee. In his story, Meehcikilita recounted that the Myaamia had made three successful attacks on those communities before the Cherokee planned a retaliatory attack.

In order to make that attack, Cherokee warriors crossed a large river, probably the Ohio River, and followed a trail heading north. After some length of time, the Cherokee encountered a tree with the head and neck of cecaahkwa ‘Sandhill Crane’ blazed into its trunk. They then came to a grassy wetland and encountered two cecaahkwa, which were startled and flew off in front of their group. Meehcikilita then went on to describe the battle that followed.

The Miamies were ambuscaded on the opposite side and when the Cherokees approached the Cranes began to make a noise, crying out as they do when frightened. At length the Miamies rushed upon the Cherokees and the Cranes being in the middle became much terrified and increasing their noise cried out more rapidly Twaū Twaū, Twaū, Twāū and flew off. Every Cherokee but one was killed and when he escaped to his village he told his friends that they need not wonder at their frequent defeats, for they were conquered, not by men, but by the Twau twau’s who could fly off at will.[1]

This is an example of painted or blazed trees produced by Mohawk men under the leadership of Thayendanegea 'Joseph Brant' circa 1779.
This is an example of painted or blazed trees produced by Mohawk men under the leadership of Thayendanegea ‘Joseph Brant’ circa 1779.[2] These trees recorded their war record, but were made using similar techniques to the tree with the cecaahkwa head that Meehcikilita described in his Twau Twau story. In 1778, a British officer reported a similar stand of painted trees on the Wabash River downstream from its confluence with Pipe Creek.[3]

Somehow after this incident, the Twigh Twee name became widely used by peoples living to the east of our homelands. Throughout the 1740s and 1750s, Seneca, Shawnee, Delaware, and English-speaking peoples referred to us as Twigh Twee. By the 1790’s, this name fell out of regular use as most of our eastern Indigenous neighbors referred to us with various terms that are related to Myaamia.[4]

As the story of our battle with the Cherokee makes clear, Myaamia people have long used cecaahkwa as a symbol for our community. In 1672, French Jesuit priests use the term “Atchatchakangouen” for one if the most prominent Myaamia village communities.[5] The meaning of “Atchatchakangouen” remains unknown, but it does appear to include a part of the word cecaahkwa, and the largest village of Myaamia people was affiliated with the Sandhill crane as a symbol. One of the leaders of this village signed the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701 with a symbol that represented cecaahkwa.

This is the signature of Myaamia leader Chichikatalo who represented his community at the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701
This is the signature of Myaamia leader Chichikatalo who represented his community at the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701

Today, this connection between the Myaamia and cecaahkwa continues. The seal of our nation has a Sandhill crane, representing our people, flying over a turtle, which represents our homelands.

Miami Tribe of Oklahoma Seal
Seal of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. In addition to the Sandhill crane and turtle, the flag includes the directional colors of the Myaamia and one eagle feather for each large village community of our community at the time of contact with Europeans.

Footnotes

[1] Charles C. Trowbridge and W. Vernon Kinietz, Meearmeear Traditions (Ann Arbor [Mich.]: University of Michigan Press, 1938), 6-7.

[2] John W. Jordan, ed. “Adam Hubley, Jr., Lt Col. Comdt 11th Penna. Regt,
His Journal, Commencing at Wyoming, July 30th, 1779.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (1909) 33: 23.

[3] Hamilton Journal entry for November 18, 1779 in John D. Barnhart, ed., Henry Hamilton and George Rogers Clark in the American Revolution with The Unpublished Journal of Lieut. Gov. Henry Hamilton (Crawfordsville, Indiana: R. E. Banta, 1951). Accessed online at https://www.in.gov/history/2812.htm

[4] At the Treaty of Lancaster in 1748 all the Myaamiaki are referred to as “Twightwees.” See A Treaty Held by Commissioners, Members of the Council of the Province of Pennsylvania, at the Town of Lancaster: with Some Chiefs of the Six Nations at Ohio, and Others, for the Admission of the Twightwee Nation into the Alliance of his Majesty, &c. in the Month of July, 1748 (Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin, 1748). Accessed online at https://digital.library.pitt.edu/islandora/object/pitt:31735054857515. Also at the Treaty of Carlisle in 1753 the Myaamiaki were referred to as “Twightwees,” see A Treaty held with the Ohio Indians, at Carlisle, In October, 1753 (Philadelphia: B. Franklin and D. Hall New-Printing-Office, 1753). Accessed online at https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-05-02-0026

[5] See Atchatchakangouen references in Reuben Gold Thwaites and Edna Kenton, eds. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents; Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in North America 1610-1791, (New York: A. & C. Boni, 1925), 58:40-41. Accessed online at http://moses.creighton.edu/kripke/jesuitrelations/ “In The forests where we live among The savages, God grants us the consolation’ of seeing The standard of The holy Cross planted and honored in The four villages where we are, in all of Which that holy tree has brought forth fruits for Heaven; and of beholding The mission of saint françois at The bay des Puants, where are The pouteouatami, The Saki, The ouenibigouc, The Oumalouminik, The outaoussinagouc, and others. Each tribe has its special Dialect. Deeper in The woods, toward The west, is The mission of st. mart to the outagami, where are The ouagoussak, Makoua, makoucoue, Mikissioua. Still farther to The westward, in The woods, are The atchaterakangouen, The Machkoutench, Marameg, Kikaboua, and Kitchigamich; The village of the miami, where The atchatchakangouen are, and whither come The Ilinoue, The Kakachkiouek, Peoualen, ouaouiatanouk, memilounioue, pepikoukia, Kilitika, mengakonkia, — Some for a  short time, Others for a longer time. These tribes dwell on The Banks of the Missisipi, and all speak the same Language.” Accessed online at

 

 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Teresa Bradskey says:

    Superb and well presented George. This is relevant history . Thank you for correctly educating all of us.

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