The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma held its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, June 25, in noošonke siipionki , ‘Miami, OK’. The meeting is held each year to hold Tribal elections and educate community members on what is currently going on within the Tribe.
In recent years, National Gathering events have been somewhat hampered by travel and safety restrictions due to the COVID pandemic. However, this year’s gathering was largely back to normal and included a week of events leading up to the meeting for Tribal citizens and friends to spend time with one another learning and celebrating our culture.
Tuesday, June 21
On this day community members and friends came to the Ethel Miller Moore Cultural Education Center, where the Keešhtooyankwi, Myaamia Makerspace Project, was putting on a workshop centered on ‘Making Myaamia Games’.
Materials for the crafting projects were provided by the Makerspace Project and included potholders for the moccasin game, Kentucky coffee beans for game pieces and a wooden bowl for the bowl game. For those looking for a digital flair, the Makerspace was also utilizing its new 3D printer to create sets of game pieces replicating the size of Kentucky coffee beans.
Wednesday, June 22
Sadly, due to a loss in the community, the day’s planned workshop for cooking Myaamia miincipi, ‘Miami corn’, had to be canceled. Instead, participants were welcome to return to the Cultural Education Center to continue their crafting projects from the previous day or spend time beginning a new one.
Thursday, June 23
The Myaamia Games Day was hosted at the Drake House where competitions for archery and lacrosse took place, and noncompetitive tomahawk throwing was available for those interested.
The morning began with practice sessions of all the activities for everyone to try out their skills or learn a new one.
In the pavilion area, the Makerspace Project had also set up a table for crafting where people could decorate bandanas or fans distributed earlier in the day to help participants beat the heat.
The Lacrosse shootout competition was the first to start in the morning after contestants had had their opportunities to practice. The players were shooting on a lacrosse goal with a net with shooting targets on the front, almost like a mix between lacrosse and skeeball. The players could only score by shooting their ball through one of the targets. In the first round, contestants had to make at least two shots of the five they were given to move on to the next round. Many got out at this stage and the competition heated up from there. After several rounds, the competition was finally won by Myaamia spouse, Kristoph Kleiner.
Afterward, the archery competition began. There were two levels of competition; one for novices and another for more experienced archers in the open competition. Archers in both levels of competition could choose to use a practice round right before their official round got started. Three archers would have three arrows to shoot at their target at a time. Their score was calculated based on the ring they hit within on the target. The bullseye counted for ten points and the ring just outside of it was nine, and so on to zero on the outside of the target.
Each competition had several heats to accommodate the amount of participants but the winners were eventually announced as the novice competition was won by Jeremiah Fanning and the open competition was taken by Kolby Lankford. The last Myaamia game competition of the day was a mahksina tournament. Blankets were set out on the grass with the mahkisina pads laid out over them. Four teams participated with two at each blanket. Songs were played to help distract the teams that were seeking and hiding teams did their best to throw them off the mark as well. Joking, bluffing, and a bit of mind games helped the hiding teams get to victory. Teams could play their best two of three rounds to determine a winner. Once the victors of the day were decided they then would meet again the following day for the championship round!
Friday, June 24
Events began with the Tribe’s Annual Community Lacrosse Game held on the lacrosse field next to the stomping grounds behind our Council House building. The anticipation was palpable as it was the first time in several years the game could be held, and notably, it was the second time we played with all traditional lacrosse sticks.
Players of all ages took the field and were assigned two teams, one wearing red pennies and one without. On opposite ends of the grass field stand two approximately 10-foot tall goalposts that are only a few inches in diameter. The only true boundary in the game is the crease around the goalpost (a circle that extends five feet away from the post). Players can’t enter the crease except for when the ball has stopped inside it. Besides that, the players can run up and around the field on all sides of the goalpost and as far to the sides as they like, but it is also advised to not play through the spectators.
The game began with the usual call and response of šaaye-nko kiilwa?, ‘Are you all ready?’ and šaaye niiloona!, ‘We are ready!’. When both teams are ready, the ball is thrown into the air and the players scramble to get possession for their team. There was plenty of back and forth between the teams but eventually the game was won 1 to 0 in favor of the red team on a goal scored by Hagen Lankford.
After the game was a well-earned lunch, followed by presentations including a history of the relationship between the Miami Tribe and Miami University given by Kara Strass, a discussion on Myaamia naming conventions led by George Ironstrack, and finally a talk about powwow etiquette given by Charla Echohawk and George Alexander.
The finale of the mahkisina tournament was played after the presentations had concluded. Chief Lankford and George Ironstrack provided the songs for the games which helped distract the ‘seeking’ team during play. The game was eventually won by the team composed of yours truly, Haley Shea, Kara Strass, Kristoph Kleiner, and Jill Fanning.
After dinner, the people started gathering at the arena behind the Council House for a stomp dance.
A fire was lit in the center of the arena where Callers began to sing and Shakers kept rhythm with the cans strapped to their legs as people fell in behind them in male, female order. The line of people looped around the fire in ever-increasing spirals as the lead Caller directed the group. Everyone followed along to the song until the Caller ended it and the people dispersed back to the outside of the arena awaiting a new song to call them back in.
After several songs, we stopped to enjoy a fireworks display that illuminated the night sky over the arena. The Callers and Shakers eventually grew exhausted from their efforts and we left to get some sleep before the events of the next day.
Saturday, June 25
The main event on Saturday was the Annual General Meeting. Those participating could arrive early to have breakfast that was provided at the Title VI Building and then walk along the sidewalk to the Council House where the meeting would be held. The side entrance was used for voting member registration (Myaamia citizens over 18) and the main entrance was used for non-voting members (guests and friends of the community or Myaamia citizens under 18). Be sure to hold on to your ticket stubs if you are ever in attendance, as it might win you some door prizes later on.
To open the meeting, the Lord’s prayer was given in sign language and Myaamiaataweenki, ‘the Miami Language’. Two songs were also performed fully in Myaamiataweenki.
Akima, ‘Chief’ Lankford then began the business of the day by giving his customary State of the Nation Address followed by Secretary-Treasurer Donya Williams’ financial report. As the elections were set to begin, the final count showed there were 170 voting members present, 63 more than the previous year.
Two seats on the Business Committee were up for election this year, for Akima and Acimwa, ‘second council person’. Both Akima Lankford and Acimwa Scott Willard were re-elected to their positions in three-year terms.
On the Grievance Committee, Shelva Sooter and Michael Watson won two of the seats, and the committee Chairman David Efird was re-elected, all for three-year terms.
The last elections of the day were for the Akimaanshkwaki, ‘Tribal Ambassador and Jr. Tribal Ambassador’. These are two positions for young female leaders to represent the Tribe at public events. Shannera McCoy was elected to the Tribal Ambassador position for a term of three years and Sophie Olds was elected to the Jr. Tribal Ambassador position for a term of one year.
All votes are counted in real-time by a team just off the stage. As they count, your ticket stub might come in handy as Akima raffles off various prizes like lawn chairs, lacrosse sticks, Tribal flags, and blankets.
As the business of the meeting came to a close, the newly elected came to the stage to stand for pictures as everyone else in attendance started organizing for lunch, working together to pull chairs aside to make room for the tables.
After lunch, there was a short break before the last festivities of the week began with dances that were held in the stomp grounds behind the Council Building. These events were open to the public and came complete with a food truck, concessions, and vendors.
They began with powwow dancing where dancers of different specialties come to show off their skills in their regalia. Singers were huddled in the center of the arena with a drum where the fire would be during our stomp dance. The singers and dancers were able to show off their abilities and at certain times the spectators could join in, though women would have to don a shawl before entering the arena.
These dances went on late into the evening, but we eventually transitioned the arena to prepare for stomp dancing by creating a small fire in the center of the arena again. The stomp dancing went on until well past midnight until we eventually had to call it quits and finally put down the threads of the week.
Over the course of the week, Tribal members and guests had the opportunity to learn and create within the context of Myaamia culture. Every time we are able to spend time together playing and laughing we strengthen our bonds as a community. Now we look forward to the next opportunity to utilize our new skills and knowledge when we come together again.
Updated: August 5, 2022