Co-authored by Diane Hunter and Kristina Fox
Each October we take a moment to reflect on our community’s forced removal from our homelands. The effects of Removal, which began on October 6, 1846, are still felt throughout our community today. While discussing this event is painful, it is important for us as a community to reflect and remember the experiences of our ancestors who made the journey.
Our oldest story about ourselves describes how we emerged as a distinct people along the Saakiiweesiipiwi ‘St. Joseph River in Michigan.’ From there, we spread throughout the area known today as Indiana, western Ohio, and Illinois. Since time immemorial, we’ve called this place Myaamionki ‘the place of the Myaamia.’
The arrival of Europeans brought disruption in the forms of disease, war, and the dislocation of Myaamia people. Eventually, the United States was formed and with it came conflict with Mihši-maalhsaki ‘citizens of the United States.’ After the Revolutionary war, Mihši-maalhsaki began migrating into Myaamionki. This migration led to the Mihši-maalhsa Wars, also known as the Northwest Indian Wars. In 1795, we signed the Treaty of Greenville hoping to establish peace with the Mihši-maalhsa. This is the first treaty where we relinquished part of our homelands to the United States.
Unfortunately, “peace” was not the outcome. The Mihši-maalhsaki continued to migrate into Myaamionki leading to more treaties that ceded more of our homeland. With the passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, the United States began putting pressure on us to remove to land west of the Mihsi-siipiiwi ‘Mississippi River.’ Over the course of many years, government agents continually insisted that we remove and we repeatedly refused. However, in 1840 Myaamia leaders signed a Treaty at the Forks of the Wabash, in which we agreed to exchange the Great Miami Reserve, the last Myaamia Tribal land in Indiana, for land west of the Mihsi-siipiiwi. In this treaty we also agreed to remove to that land.
We were given five years to remove; however, we found ways to delay Removal. In September 1846, the U.S. Army arrived and we could no longer delay leaving our homelands. Many of our ancestors were forced to leave their homes and were taken to a prison camp at Iihkipihsinonki ‘Peru, Indiana.’ Witnesses described seeing Myaamia people taking handfuls of dirt from their ancestors’ graves to take with them. Only a few Myaamia families were allowed to remain in their homes in Indiana.
At Iihkipihsinonki, we were loaded onto five canal boats and taken by the Wabash and Erie Canal through Kiihkayonki ‘Fort Wayne’ into Ohio to the Miami and Erie Canal. From there, we were taken south to the end of the canal in Cincinnati, Ohio where we were transferred to the steamboat Colorado. The Colorado tooks us down the Kaanseenseepiiwi ‘Ohio River’ and up the Mihsi-siipiiwi to St. Louis where we were kept on a sandbar known as Bloody Island on the east bank of the river.
After three days on Bloody Island, we were loaded onto the steamboat Clermont No. 2 which transported us along the Peekamiiki Siipiiwi ‘Missouri River.’ We arrived at Kanza Landing also known as Westport Landing in today’s Kansas City, Missouri on November 1, 1846. The next day we began the 50-mile overland journey by wagon and on horseback south to the Miami reservation on Sugar Creek in what became the state of Kansas. An unusually early and very cold winter greeted our ancestors. There were no familiar foods and only tents to live in until houses could be built.
Six children and an elder man died on the Removal journey and at least twenty three more died within the first two months on the Miami Reservation. However, we made this new land our home until the Treaty of 1867 removed us once again to Indian Territory in what is today northeastern Oklahoma. Today, it is in the city of Miami, Oklahoma where our tribal government is headquartered.
As we reflect on this painful part of our history, we also remember how far we have come. Today, our community lives across the United States, but comes together throughout the year in Myaamionki Noošonke Siipiionki ‘homelands in Oklahoma’ and Myaamionki Kiihkayonki ‘homelands in Indiana.’ We speak our language, share our stories, enjoy one another’s company, and so much more.
In recognition of the 175th anniversary of the Myaamia Forced Removal, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Diane Hunter wrote a year-long series of blog posts. Visit our Removal Commemoration page to read the full series. Additionally, we have an annotated version of myaamiaki aancihsaaciki: A Cultural Exploration of the Myaamia Removal Route available.