Content Warning: This post discusses specific names of Myaamia families impacted by Removal. It is possible that you may have a personal connection with some of those families.
In the November 5 blog post, we saw that Myaamiaki had arrived at the Miami Reservation in what is today eastern Kansas “about one mile west of the military road and the little Sugar Creek about 13 miles north of the American fur company part at the ford of Osage river”. As difficult as the winter of 1846-1847 was for them, they soon began to make this new land their home by building houses, planning for a school, and eventually starting businesses, such as a blacksmith and a mill.
As son-in-law to the late Principal Chief Pinšiwa ‘JB Richardville,’ Toohpia ‘Francis Lafontaine,’ was exempt from Removal, but as the current Principal Chief, he made the journey with his people to the land west of the Mihsi-siipiiwi ‘Mississippi River.’ By December 1846, the Miami National Council re-affirmed Toohpia as Principal Chief and sent a declaration to President James K. Polk, stating,
“We the chiefs, head men, and warriors of the Miami tribe of Indians recently emigrated from the state of Indiana--in council assembled-- respectfully petition, and ask of our Great Father the President of the United States to retain and recognize as our principal Chief La Fontaine. We have always had, and still have every confidence in his councils and without his assistance and experience we apprehend much difficulty and disatisfaction.”
Though retained as Principal Chief of the Tribe, Toohpia planned to return to Indiana, writing on December 24 to Allen Hamilton in Indiana from the Miami Reservation that his oldest son Louis was leaving that day “for home.” Still, he himself remained longer to take care of the political business of the Tribe. His letter to Hamilton continued, “I am sorry to advise you that it is impossible for me to return before spring….wait for my return and my principal men in the spring…. early without fail.”
Although Toohpia’s wife and children came on Removal with him, the situation was different for the other members of the National Council. In the July 2 blog post, we saw that National Council members Misihkwa, Pinšiwa ‘Wild Cat,’ Mahkateehsipana ‘Cotesipin,’ Amehkoonsa ‘Seek,’ Waapimaankwa ‘White Loon,’ Mihtekwahkia ‘Coesse,’ Meehkwaakonanka ‘Benjamin,’ and Šowaapinamwa ‘Antoine Revarre’ had unsuccessfully sought exemption from Removal. At the time of Removal, however, most of them obtained the permission of Removal Agent Joseph Sinclair for members of their families to remain in Indiana temporarily to harvest their crops. Recognizing that they would now remain at the Miami Reservation until Principal Chief Toohpia returned in the spring, they must have had concerns about their families and their property, as Mihtekwahkia expressed in a December 24 letter,
“From all circumstances now which Mr. Lafontaine has informed you that our return will not be before spring. You are aware that I left the county to advance the emigration according to treaty with our great father. But my unexpected late [return], will you please take interest for my property and premises I left in haste. I have not forgotten the former confidence I always had and still will remain [that] any necessary expenses or comfort in need to my family shall be honored. Write me about the situation of my property, premises and family. An answer to my letter will be expected. My respects to you and family. I will stick out to my old friend Lafontaine to the last.”
The government agents were not pleased with Toohpia. Both Sub-agent Alfred Vaughn expressed his concern to Superintendent Thomas Harvey about Toohpia’s influence with Myaamiaki, and on March 18, 1847, Harvey wrote to Indian Commissioner William Medill, echoing the sentiment, saying, “Lafountaine’s influence with these people is unlimited. I presume he will leave in a few days for Indiana after which I hope they will begin to think & act for themselves.”
In mid-March 1847, Toohpia and members of the National Council left the Miami Reservation. Newspapers reported that in early April they arrived in St. Louis on their way back to Indiana and that they had traveled aboard the steamboat Declaration from St. Louis to Evansville.
Apparently, by that time, Myaamiaki were also displeased with Toohpia, likely over his handling of annuity moneys, and on April 10, 1847, Myaamiaki on the Miami Reservation elected Oonseentia as chief, replacing Toohpia. Five days later, on April 15, Toohpia died in Lafayette, Indiana, not having made it all the way to his home at the Forks of the Wabash (present-day Huntington, Indiana).
Also during the month of April, Removal contractor Alexis Coquillard began capturing Myaamiaki who had fled at the time of Removal, as discussed in the September 3 blog post. These were people from the bands of Waawiyaasita and Peepakicia ‘Flat Belly’ and from the Pigeon Family of Turtletown. Coquillard “opened my camp for the collection of the Miamies for emigration, in the county of Kosciusko [Indiana] and succeeded in getting together the few, in that region, amounting to 30. I then removed my camp to Miami county, near Peru.”
In addition to those who had fled, Coquillard also planned to take the National Council members who had returned from the Miami Reservation and their families. The “Report of the Acting Contractors for the Emigration of the Miami Indians” noted that those families “were permitted to remain behind & gather their crops under the assurance from them that as soon as that was accomplished they would emigrate themselves without any expense to the contractors or Government; this they failed to do, and in the spring of 1847 we received orders to emigrate them.” Coquillard “went to see the remainder of the Indians, and told them I was ready to receive them, and to emigrate. But they are disposed to act just as they did last year if possible, and put off and put off to suit their own time.” Coquillard “immediately commenced collecting all the Indians he could find in the country and succeeded in getting at the camp 78 which included everything in the shape of an Indian in the country with the exception of those who are permitted to remain in Indiana.”
Once again we see that Coquillard, as the others involved in our Removal, did not view us human beings, but as objects, “shapes” to be collected.
The 78 people Coquillard “collected” included Eel River descendants of Captain Flour’s band. Citing that this band had signed a separate treaty with the United States in 1828, they successfully claimed a separate Eel River tribal status from the Miami Tribe, then arguing that the 1840 Removal treaty did not apply to them. A decision by Miami County Judge Alphonso Cole, who was also the attorney for the Eel River, required Coquillard to release 17 people.
The 61 people who were removed in this second round included many of those who had fled in October 1846 and the families of those who had returned to Indiana in the spring of 1847. For a list of those people, see the October 27 blog post “The Second Removal.” They began this journey in August 1847. According to the “Report of the Acting Contractors,” the U.S. Government believed that the families who had remained in Indiana during the October 1846 Removal promised that after harvesting their crops they would “emigrate themselves without any expense to the contractors or Government.” They, therefore, were expected to pay their own way back to Kansas, according to their own means. Some of these families had an easier journey than others. The August 31, 1847 Daily Delta newspaper reported that Pinšiwa ‘Wildcat’ and his wife had stayed at the Missouri Hotel in St. Louis. At the time, the Missouri Hotel was one of the finest hotels in Missouri.
The 61 removed Myaamiaki arrived at the Miami Reservation on September 10, 1847, and Coquillard handed them over to Sub-Agent Albert Vaughn. Between that time and March 22, 1848, the families of Misihkwa, Pinšiwa ‘Wildcat,’ Oonseentia ‘John Osandiah’, Mahkateehsipana ‘Cotesipin,’ Amehkoonsa ‘Seek,’ Waapimaankwa ‘White Loon,’ Mihtekwahkia ‘Coesse,’ Meehkwaahkonanka ‘Benjamin,’ Mahkateemaankwa, & Šowaapinamwa ‘Antoine Revarre’ return once again to Indiana.
Before the1846 Removal, these families had petitioned Congress for an exemption. Due to the opposition of Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Medill, the bill died in committee. After their return to Indiana the second time, the families successfully petitioned Congress again. On May 1, 1850, Congress passed a resolution that “the provisions of the [Joint Resolution for the Benefit of Frances Slocum and her Children and Grandchildren, of the Miami Tribe of Indians] be and the same are hereby extended to the following persons and their families and their descendants, to wit, [Misihkwa], [Pinšiwa], [Oonseentia], [Mahkateehsipana], [Amehkoonsa] Seek, [Waapimaankwa], [Mihtekwahkia ‘Coesse’], [Amehkoonsihkwa], [Mahkateemaankwa], Young Revoir alias [Šowaapinamwa], [Kinooseensa ‘Peter Langlois’] and Elizabeth [Langlois], who are all residents of the State of Indiana.”
During these first post-Removal years, there were clearly numerous trips between Indiana and the Miami Reservation west of the Mihsi-siipiiwi ‘Mississippi River.’ But the return of these families to Indiana was not the end of movement between Indiana and the Miami Reservation. Prior to Removal, some Myaamiaki had assimilated to American culture and lived separately from the Myaamia community. However, the Miami Nation agreed to pay a partial share of the annuity money to those who maintain at least a tenuous connection to the community. Since they were not living in the Myaamia community and were not recognized by the tribe as full citizens, they were not required to be removed in 1846 and 1847, and they also did not need an exemption from Removal to stay in their homes. An exemption was the right to receive annuity payments in Fort Wayne, Indiana, instead of at the Miami Reservation. Since these Myaamiaki were not removed and not exempted, they were no longer able to receive annuities in Fort Wayne. If they wanted to receive any funds from the Tribe, their only option was to move to the Miami Reservation and join the community there.
Starting as early as 1848, Myaamia families that had not been removed or exempted, such as the Gouins, the Geboes, and the Hackleys, began moving west to the Miami Reservation, so they could receive a share of the payments. Lenipinšia ‘Jack Hackley’ is an example of one of those Myaamiaki who moved to the Miami Reservation in 1853 and began receiving annuity money. In January 1854, he was hired as the miller for the Miami Tribe and became clerk of the Miami National Council. In May of that year, as clerk, he was one of the delegates chosen to represent the Tribe at the treaty negotiations in Washington, D.C. Although he moved to the Miami Reservation to be able to receive annuities, he made himself “a useful man among them” and became a trusted member of the Tribe.
One result of the 1854 Treaty was the allotment of the Miami Reservation into 200 acres for each tribal citizen. Some Myaamiaki in Indiana who had no land holdings were enticed by the prospect of being allotted 200 acres per family member. Once again, more Myaamiaki moved to the Miami Reservation.
In 1846, Myaamiaki could not imagine leaving the land of their ancestors for land that had been described to them as “a miserable despicable country.” After the first devastating winter at the Miami Reservation, Myaamiaki who had been removed began to make a better life for themselves and their children. Some Myaamiaki lived on individual reserves that were geographically distant from the majority of the Indiana Myaamia community along the Nimacihsinwi Siipiiwi ‘Mississinewa River’. Following the Treaty of 1854, many of them chose to sell their lands and move to the Miami Reservation where they would receive land allotments and annuities.
In the next blog post on January 7, 2022, we will see that Myaamiaki only stayed on the Miami Reservation for two decades, and we will follow them on their next Removal.
Post written by Diane Hunter, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. Diane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.