Miami University and Oxford feel different this week as the majority of students have moved out and things have quieted down. For the staff of the Myaamia Center, this marks the transition to summer programs, but before we move on, we would like to reflect back on this year.
This past weekend, we celebrated our final event of the school year at Miami University–graduation. We gathered outside the Myaamia Center to recognize the six Myaamia seniors who graduated from the Myaamia Heritage Program this year. To celebrate their achievements both at Miami University and in the Myaamia Heritage Program, each graduate was presented with several gifts. The first was a t-shirt designed by Julie Olds, Cultural Resource Officer for the Miami Tribe, which is only available to Myaamia graduates of Miami University. The second was a wooden pakitahaakani ‘lacrosse stick’, made by Doug Peconge, Community Programming Manager for the Cultural Resources Extension Office. Last, the students we presented with a Myaamia stole, which they can add to their commencement garb to wear during graduation ceremonies. The stole was made by Karen Baldwin, Special Projects Manager for the Cultural Resources Office, and included hand-sewn ribbonwork and metal buttons. Embroidered on each stole was the Myaamia Heritage Logo and several Myaamia phrases, including toopeeliaani ‘I accomplished it’.
During their senior year, our Myaamia students work on senior projects, which combine what they have learned in the Myaamia Heritage Course with what they learned in their major or minor. The goal of the project is that they give back to the Myaamia community, in whatever way the students want to define it. A couple of weeks ago, we held a senior night event where students presented their projects to the rest of the students and the Myaamia Center Staff. This year’s projects covered a range of topics, including computer science, art, communication, kinesiology, social work, and education. If you see one of our recent graduates, I hope that you will ask them about their project and what they learned from this experience.
Each year, we host a variety of events for the Myaamia students at Miami University. This year, the students requested to visit locations in the Wabash River Valley that are important to Myaamia people. We were lucky to have a beautiful, sunny day for our trip where we visited important geological sites, cemeteries, and family homes and were able to talk about Myaamia history as well as how our community continues to connect to these sites today.
All of these events were the culmination of an eventful year in the Myaamia Heritage Program. The students spent the year exploring Ecological Perspectives and History in the Myaamia Heritage Course. This year-long course series uses geography to connect history and ecology from a Myaamia perspective. We spent the majority of our classes outside exploring Miami’s campus as we took part in a variety of activities including eating Myaamia food, taking hikes, playing games and most importantly spending time together as a community.
The end of the school year is always a hectic time both for students and staff as they work to finish their classes and projects. While it is sad that we will not see many of our students for a few months, many of them will be joining us for our summer programs as counselors. Our seniors will be going out into the world to start a new phase in their lives, but we look forward to seeing them at future community events. While we wanted to spend this time reflecting on the past school year, we are also already thinking about next school year when we will invite a new class of students to join our community in Oxford and we will start the process all over again.