Loading the Boats

Content Warning: This post discusses the military presence used to bring Myaamia people to Peru, IN.

In the previous blog post, we saw that during the first days of October 1846, Removal contractor Alexis Coquillard and his hired men were capturing Myaamiaki ‘Miami people’ from their homes and taking them to a holding camp in Iihkipihsinonki ‘Peru, Indiana.’

Bird's Eye View of Peru, Indiana circa 1868
This early map of Iihkipihsinonki ‘Peru, Indiana’ shows the Wabash & Erie Canal just to the north of the Waapaahšiiki Siipiiwi ‘Wabash River.’ The red dot identifies the location of the Removal camp where Myaamaki were held until they were loaded onto canal boats. Map image courtesy of Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. https://www.loc.gov/item/73693386/

On October 5, Joseph Sinclair, Removal Agent, wrote to Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Medill that Removal was progressing better than he had expected. He reported that military force had not been used but that the presence of the U.S. army had proven to be an incentive to coerce Myaamiaki to come quietly. His thinking was likely reflected in an article in the Washington, D.C. Columbian Fountain, “A military force was sent among the red men; and… they were removed ‘peaceably and quietly.’ The presence of the soldiers accomplished more than the white man’s promises – thus showing that the apprehended report of a musket is more potent than the soft notes of the human voice!”

Clipping from The Columbian Fountain newspaper in Washington, DC on October 21, 1846
This October 21, 1846 item published in the Washington, DC newspaper, The Columbian Fountain, is startling in its advocacy of violence to effect Removal.

By October 5, about 200 Myaamiaki and their baggage were already on board three of the canal boats. The remaining hundred would be loaded that night and the following morning. We do not have weather reports for that day, but we can hope it was not usually hot for early October. We know from other accounts that the heat in the sleeping areas of canal boats could get stifling.

Sinclair also praised Captain Jouett and his military force, saying, “I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of Capt Jouett and the force under his command.” We might imagine that Myaamiaki did not speak so highly of the military leader who was forcing them to leave their homes. In his report, Sinclair didn’t mention that we came quietly because we were terrified of the soldiers. He didn’t mention our tears at leaving our homes. He didn’t mention what it was like for us to be forced onto canal boats while we waited overnight for the boats to begin moving the next day.

In the next installment, to be posted on October 6, we will begin the Removal journey with our Myaamia relatives.

Post written by Diane Hunter, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. Diane can be contacted at dhunter@miamination.com.

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