October 7, 1846 Fort Wayne, Indiana
Content Warning: This post discusses specific names of Myaamia people impacted by Removal. It is possible that you may have a personal connection with some of those individuals.
For twenty miles or so east of the Pwaawikamisiipi ‘Little Wabash River’ near present-day Huntington, Myaamiaki in the canal boats had been following the path of the Portage. Until the canal was built in the 1830s and 1840s, traders and travelers could go from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico entirely by waterways, except for the Portage, the only overland portion of the route. Myaamiaki had controlled the Portage, carrying boats and goods from the Nameewa Siipiiwi ‘St. Mary’s River’ to the Pwaawikamisiipi ‘Little Wabash River’ for a fee since time immemorial. In the late 1700s, Tahkamwa, mother of Pinšiwa ‘JB Richardville,’ owned and managed the Portage at a considerable profit. A number of descendants of Tahkamwa were on this boat. The Portage was ceded in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, the first Myaamia treaty with the Mihši-maalhsa ‘Americans.’ In that treaty, we began a process of ceding some of our land, a process which ended in 1840 with ceding the last of our communal land and put us on these boats.
At the eastern end of the Portage, the canal entered Fort Wayne. Myaamiaki, however, did not think of it as only Fort Wayne. They remembered it as Kiihkayonki, as we Myaamiaki do today. Kiihkayonki was the village of Pakaana, brother of Tahkamwa, located in what is today known as the Spy Run neighborhood on the west side of the Kociihsasiipi ‘St. Joseph River,’ but it came to refer to a large metropolitan area of Myaamia, Delaware, and Shawnee villages. Just northeast of the confluence of the three rivers, the Kociihsasiipi ‘St. Joseph River,’ the Nameewa Siipiiwi ‘St. Mary’s River,’ and the Taawaawa Siipiiwi ‘Maumee River’ was Le Gris’s village, also known as Miamitown. At the time the canal boats passed these former village sites, few Myaamiaki lived in what was by 1846 a thoroughly American town.
Perhaps Myaamiaki also remembered the stories of Harmar’s Defeat and the Battle of the Pumpkin Fields in 1780 at the Taawaawa Siipiiwi near Pakaana’s village. Perhaps the elder men told the children how they fought and won that battle to protect our land and our people from the encroaching Americans who were now forcing us to leave that land and the ancestors who fought that battle. (For a history of Harmar’s Defeat, see George Ironstrack’s The Mihši-maalhsa Wars – Part II post.)
On this day, Joseph Comparet and eleven other men, all hired by the Removal contractors, left Peru, leading Myaamiaki’s horses to the land west of the Mississippi.
By the end of this second day on the canal boats, Myaamiaki had left Indiana, most for the last time, and entered Ohio.
In the next installment, to be posted on October 8, we will continue to follow this story of the Myaamia Forced Removal and learn a little about what traveling on canal boats might have been like for Myaamiaki.
Post written by Diane Hunter, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. Diane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.