šimaakanehsia aniimaakanemi ‘Soldier’s Flag’

In 1887, Myaamia elder Kiilhsoohkwa sat in a courtroom in Tahkinkamionki ‘Wabash, Indiana’ holding a blue, white, and red striped flag in her lap. In the flag’s upper left corner sat a small white field inscribed with the words “A. Wayne Commander in Chief.” As Kiilhsoohkwa held the flag, she reportedly exclaimed in the Myaamia language “this is the flag; they lied to me when they said it was burned.” Kiilhsoohkwa had loaned the flag to her cousins years previously and had been told that the flag had burned in a house fire. After examining the flag closely, she again stated “this is the flag” and carefully folded it. Kiilhsoohkwa then “held it to her face and with tears trickling down her aged cheeks, she kissed the flag twice” and handed it to Waapanaakikaapwa ‘Gabriel Godfroy,’ who was serving as her translator on that day. He then returned it to Dr. Perry G. Moore, who had brought it into the courtroom in order to have Kiilhsoohkwa share her stories of the flag. Kiilhsoohkwa asked Waapanaakikaapwa to tell Moore that “ I am glad he has got it, for he will take good care of it.”


Kiilhsoohkwa and her son Waapimaankwa photographed in 1910 by L.M. Huffman. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P00532)

Further discussion of the flag was cut short that day as court was called into session and Kiilhsoohkwa turned her attention to the critical legal case that was her reason for coming to Wabash. The venerable Myaamia elder and respected midwife was in court that day to defend her land and home from seizure by the Huntington businessman John Roche. By the late 1800s, Myaamiaki living in Indiana, Kansas, and Indian Territory (Oklahoma) had an unfortunate wealth of experience in courtrooms defending their lands and property from illegal taxation, questionable land sales, and greedy legal guardians who sought to defraud Myaamiaki of their inheritance. Before he left the courtroom that day, Moore arranged with Kiilhsoohkwa’s son to meet with them at her home in Roanoke.

The following Sunday, Moore and his son traveled to Roanoke to visit Kiilhsoohkwa at her home. Her son, Waapimaankwa ‘Anthony Rivarre,’ served as translator as Moore inquired for more details about the flag. He had purchased it from Kiilhsoohkwa’s cousin Mary Dixon, who remembered little about the flag except that her great-grandfather Šimaakanehsia ‘the Soldier’ had “captured it from Anthony Wayne.” It was Dixon who recommended that Moore seek out Kiilhsoohkwa to learn more.

Šimaakanehsia Aniimaakanemi ‘Soldier’s Flag’ It is composed of fifteen red, white, and blue stripes with a white field in the upper left that contains the words “A. Wayne Commander in Chief.” In 1923 it measured 3 ft. 8 in. x 5 ft. 10 in. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Bureau. Neewe to Chandler Lighty for his help in securing a copy of this image.

During their visit, Kiilhsoohkwa recounted to Moore how the flag originally belonged to her grandfather Šimaakanehsia ‘Soldier’ and that after he died, it passed down her line to her.  Kiilhsoohkwa’s story of the origin of the flag turned out to be quite different from her cousin’s. Kiilhsoohkwa told Moore that her grandfather received the flag as a gift from Anthony Wayne at the first Treaty of Greenville in 1795. She recalled that the flag was made at the request of President Washington “to present it to the Chief of the Miami Nation [Šimaakanehsia].” When presented with the flag, her grandfather was told to “keep this flag in sight and as often as you see it, remember we are friends.” 

Kiilhsoohkwa explained to Moore that she had been misled by her cousins to believe that the flag had burned years earlier in a house fire. She loaned the flag to her cousins because it was believed that the flag would bring good luck. Moore did not record precisely how long it had been since Kiilhsoohkwa had loaned the flag. However, Moore first saw the flag at the Dixon home in 1868, so the loan had been made at least by that date. Kiilhsoohkwa did not offer an explanation for why her cousins were in need of the luck provided by the flag, but given the difficulties Myaamiaki faced in the late 1800s we can imagine that it was likely some combination of poor health, poverty, indebtedness, and land loss.

Moore recorded the details of his visit with Kiilhsoohkwa in a 1923 affidavit he submitted to prove the age and origin of Šimaakanehsia’s flag. Upon his death in 1931, Moore bequeathed the flag to the Indiana Historical Bureau, the organization entrusted to preserve and promote history of the Hoosier State. In his discussions with Kiilhsoohkwa, Moore was most interested in demonstrating the authenticity of the object that is referred to as the “Anthony Wayne Flag” in his affidavit. Thankfully, the record of his conversations with Kiilhsoohkwa provide us with much more than that. Through Kiilhsoohkwa’s stories we are given a brief snapshot of the family and communal context of Šimaakanehsia Aniimaakanemi.[1]

Kiilhsoohkwa was the granddaughter of two well-known Myaamia leaders: Mihšihkinaahkwa ‘Little Turtle’ on her father’s side and Šimaakanehsia on her mother’s side. Both men were war leaders who fought on behalf of their villages and their tribal nation. Both men also became peace makers and were signers of the Treaty of Greenville (1795) and both were presented with gifts by Anthony Wayne on behalf of the United States. Mihšihkinaahkwa is a fairly well-known Myaamia leader outside of our community, but Šimaakanehsia has not received a lot of attention in popular or academic history.

Šimaakanehsia was a contemporary of Mihšihkinaahkwa, but we know far less about his life. If they were around the same age, then Šimaakanehsia would have been born during the middle 1700s, but it is possible that Šimaakanehsia was much older. During the period of warfare that preceded the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, Šimaakanehsia was one of the noted civil leaders of a village located at the confluence of the Kineepikwameekwa Siipiiwi ‘Eel River’ and Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi ‘Wabash River.’ This suggests that Šimaakanehsia may have been a generation older than Mihšihkinaahkwa who reached his peak as a war leader, the role of a younger man, during the Mihši-Maalhsa Wars (1778-1794).   


Following the disastrous invasion conducted by Anthony Wayne in 1794-95, Šimaakanehsia was one of the first Myaamia leaders to officially visit Wayne and ask for peace. This action was so significant that when Wayne opened the treaty ground at Greenville in the summer of 1795 he invited Šimaakanehsia to be the first Indigenous leader to smoke the pipe of peace. At this treaty, Šimaakanehsia worked together with Mihšihkinaahkwa to secure a $500 a year annuity for the Kineepikwameekwa Siipiiwi Community. He signed the treaty with a cross mark which you can see in the image below. His mark was grouped together with those of three other Myaamia leaders, but above his name the treaty scribe wrote “Eel River Tribe” in parentheses.

Signature mark of Šimaakanehsia from the Treaty of Greenville 1795 (third from the top).

Šimaakanehsia did not sign any of the treaties that followed the first Treaty of Greenville. Most significantly, he is absent from an 1803 treaty with the Kineepikwameekwa Siipiiwi ‘Eel River’ village. This absence suggests that he had passed away by 1803.  

There is no specific record that states when Anthony Wayne gifted this flag to Šimaakanehsia. It could have happened when he came in to make peace following the Battle of the Maumee (Fallen Timbers) or at the conclusion of the Treaty of Greenville in the summer of 1795. Kiilhsoohkwa’s recollection of the purpose of the gift of the flag accurately reflects the way many other treaty gifts are explained. In this time period, travel back and forth between villages and treaty sites came with considerable risk. Šimaakanehsia’s flag may have been displayed while traveling to ensure safe passage from United States troops and their affiliated militias.

There is a hint of this possibility in the historical record. James Elliot, a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army, kept a diary that records the arrivals of those attending the Treaty of Greenville. Some of those groups carried flags as an “emblem of peace” during their travels to the treaty site. On June 16, Elliot recorded that “A party of Indians arrived. They announced their approach by discharging their rifles at some distance from camp. They bore a striped flag, nearly resembling that of the United States.” While we can’t know for sure, the flag that Elliot describes sounds a lot like Šimaakanehsia Aniimaakanemi ‘Soldier’s Flag.’[2] When Šimaakanehsia arrived at the Treaty of Greenville, his group was observed carrying a flag, but the source does not give us any details as to the appearance of that flag.[3]

These are the kinds of facts that Moore was pursuing when he sought out Kiilhsoohkwa in that Wabash courtroom. Moore, like many of his contemporaries, was attempting to preserve what he saw as the history of a rapidly vanishing people. In this endeavor, many personal and family heirlooms were purchased from Myaamiaki and put on display in local, regional, and eventually national museums. Myaamia people were often in desperate poverty when men like Moore came knocking with their purchase offers. This poverty was not an accident. It was one of the many end results of years of warfare, sickness, land loss, forced removal, and population fragmentation. Cultural loss through the silencing of our language and the taking of our objects of cultural importance was one of the planned final acts in a long chain of events designed to destroy the Miami Nation. The men doing this collecting were focused on objects and the historical information needed to authenticate and correctly label those objects so that they could tell our story once our vanishing finished and the “last of the Miamis” had passed away. 

Kiilhsoohkwa photographed with various Myaamia objects that were of interest to collectors. This photo, was titled “The Last of the Miamis” directly referring to the myth of the vanishing of Myaamia people. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P00532)

I wonder though, thinking about Kiilhsoohkwa’s tears that day in Tahkinkamionki ‘Wabash, Indiana.’ Was she moved to tears because she held a diplomatic artifact or because of her emotional connection to the Treaty of Greenville? Or did the flag remind her of times in her youth when members of her family would take Šimaakanehsia Aniimaakanemi out from wherever they lovingly stored it and recount the story of how her grandfather earned the flag. I can imagine a large extended family sitting in their home, on Myaamia land, speaking our language, and telling precious stories of their family’s past. Like all of our families, they would have been sharing these stories to honor their ancestors. They would have also shared these stories to educate their youth; to prepare them for the future. On that day in 1887, as she sat with her ancestor’s flag in her lap, Kiilhsoohkwa faced eviction from her home and the loss of the last of her family’s land within her people’s historic homelands. In that moment, what future did she see for herself, her grandchildren, and her people? Kiilhsoohkwa was too smart and too strong of a Myaamiihkwia ‘Myaamia woman’ to fall victim to the myth of our vanishing. She would have known, however, that the path forward was not going to be easy. 

For years, Šimaakanehsia Aniimaakanemi ‘Soldier’s Flag’ was on display at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. Recently it has been taken off display while the Mihtohseenionki ‘People’s Place’ exhibit is redone. The next time that the flag is put on display, I hope that Myaamiaki visit it and think about Kiilhsoohkwa’s tears that soaked into the strips of bunting cloth that make up the flag, but I also hope that we think about the dreams that Kiilhsoohkwa and her relatives had for our futures. Ultimately, they shared their stories of Šimaakanehsia Aniimaakanemi ‘Soldier’s Flag’ because it represented both a connection to the past and a path forward, a possible future defined by friendship and mutual respect. If that future has not fully arrived, then it is because there is work still to do.


Footnotes

[1] Affidavit – Dr. Perry G. Moore August 30 1923, Indiana Historical Bureau, accessed December 9, 2015: https://www.in.gov/history/about-indiana-history-and-trivia/explore-indiana-history-by-topic/anthony-wayne-flag-greenville-treaty-flag/affidavit-dr-perry-g-moore-august-30-1923/

[2] James Elliot, The Poetical and Miscellaneous Works of James Elliot, Citizen of Guilford, Vermont, and Late a Noncommissioned Officer in the Legion of the United States. In four books (Greenfield, Massachusetts: Thomas Dickman, 1798), 140.

[3] Neewe to Cameron Shriver for providing this reference from John F. Carmichael. HM 827. The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Diary of Surgeon John F. Carmichael, (June-Dec. 1795).

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tammy Godfroy says:

    Thank you so much for keeping our history alive!! Gabriel Godfroy was my Great Grandfather.

    I am ashamed to admit that others (even the white people) may know more of my Indian heritage and history than I do.

    I will continue to reach out and seek more knowledge of my Miami Indian Tribe (both Miami Indiana and Miami Oklahoma Native American Indians).

    Thank you so much!!

    Tamzen L. Godfroy

    On Tue, May 25, 2021 at 1:09 PM Aacimotaatiiyankwi wrote:

    > George Ironstrack posted: ” In 1887, Myaamia elder Kiilhsoohkwa sat in a > courtroom in Tahkinkamionki ‘Wabash, Indiana’ holding a blue, white, and > red striped flag in her lap. In the flag’s upper left corner sat a small > white field inscribed with the words “A. Wayne Commander in Chi” >

    1. aya eeweemilaani ‘Greetings my relative’ – I’m happy to do what I can to help with our collective need to understand our past better.. I hope that all of our relatives understand that we shouldn’t hold and blame or feel any shame for not knowing our history. All we can do, like you say above, is work to seek a better understanding. Today we have a saying, that is in part derived from something that Waapanaakikaapwa ‘Gabriel Godfroy’ said: ayaakawamisilo ‘strive to achieve it!’

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