We are coming up on the end of the school year here at Miami University. This is the last week of classes, and then students will have a week of finals before the end of the semester. This year has been a challenge for our students and staff who have worked to stay connected, even as COVID-19 meant that we often could not all gather together in the ways that we are used to. For most of the school year, Miami University has limited in-person gatherings to 10 people. That means that we did not hold our pre-semester program or retreat in the way that we have previously. Instead, we tried to offer virtual or small in-person activities so that we could gather safely.
The one exception to this is the Myaamia Heritage Course, which is held in a room that is big enough for all of our in-person students to attend with social distancing. While the class does not feel quite the same as it did in previous years, we are still able to gather to discuss contemporary issues and sovereignty, the theme of this year’s course.
We tried to take advantage of outdoor activities as much as possible. One activity that was able to occur largely as normal was eehsenaamišipoohkiinki ‘maple sugaring.’ In the late winter and early spring, the students collected sap and boiled it down to maple syrup. They discussed their return to the sugaring camp with George Ironstrack. Students also got together a few weeks ago to harvest wiinhsihsiaki ‘wild onions,’ a great spring-time treat.
We were also able to play some peekitahaminki ‘lacrosse’ this semester on the quad. We try to have a lacrosse game each semester in the Heritage Course. In past years, we would play a game, but we had to adapt this activity as well. Instead of playing an actual game, we played catch, which helped students to practice their throwing, catching, and scooping skills. At the end, we were also able to practice shooting at a target. While we look forward to playing a game again soon, we were glad to be able to get outside and do an activity together.
As we get close to the end of the year, we are thinking more about our seniors who will be graduating from Miami and the Myaamia Heritage Program. Last week, we held our annual Senior Night, where students present on the projects that they have been working on throughout the year. Spanning a variety of topics, our 5 senior students explained how they combined what they have learned in their major or minor classes with what they learned in the Myaamia Heritage Program. The final projects can include physical pieces or be more written think pieces, but the goal is for them to give back to their Myaamia community, in whatever way they define it. This is one of my favorite events of the year because we get to hear about their experience over their entire time at Miami and see how far they have grown during that time.
In less than two weeks, we will close out the semester with a graduation celebration. As our seniors move on to a new phase of their life, it is exciting to get to celebrate with them and acknowledge everything that they have learned and accomplished in their time at Miami. To mark this special occasion, we gift the graduates with a Myaamia neehpikimoteenhsa ‘red stole’ that they can wear at graduation. The stole, which includes Myaamia language and hand-sewn ribbonwork reminds us that we often clothe our relatives in ribbonwork for important events. As with many other aspects of the Myaamia Heritage Program, we find ways to remind ourselves of Myaamia culture and our connection to our ancestors while living our lives out as contemporary Myaamia people. You can learn more about Myaamia ribbonwork by visiting our Ribbonwork page.
This year has been difficult for many, and I want to say mihši-neewe to all of our students and staff who helped us to be successful even through these challenges. We don’t know yet what next year will look like, but we are already looking forward to welcoming a new class of Myaamia students into the program and continue building our Myaamia community here at Miami University.