Written by Stella Beerman
Back in October, the Myaamia Center and Myaamia Heritage Museum and Archive worked together to curate “weeyaakiteeheeyankwi neepwaantiiyankwi: Celebrating 50 Years of Learning from Each Other” at the Oxford Community Arts Center. This exhibit celebrated our 50-year relationship with Miami University through photography from Myaamia community members and Myaamia Center staff, contemporary art from Myaamia students and alumni, and an exploration of the outcomes of the evolving relationship.
We were happy to partner with the Oxford Community Arts Center (OCAC), a staple in the Miami University and Oxford communities since 1849. The building, originally the Oxford Female Institute, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It has housed the Community Arts Center, a gathering space for the Oxford community, since 2001.
The photography section, curated by Meghan Dorey from the Myaamia Heritage Museum and Archive, featured a number of Myaamia photographers and Myaamia Center, Miami Tribe Cultural Resources Extension Office, and Miami University photographers. Many of our significant landscapes and cultural practices were represented in the photographs; including stomp dances, lacrosse, the wearing of regalia, and Myaamia games.
The first photo, “Still Playing” by Jameson Williams, features a Myaamia lacrosse stick with the community symbol behind it. The second, titled “Before the Hunt” by Donya Williams, shows the sun rising over Bluejacket, Oklahoma, just a few miles from our Tribal headquarters in Miami, Oklahoma. The furthest photo, by Jonathan Fox, shows Secretary-Treasurer Donya Williams in her regalia.
This photo, by Karen Baldwin, shows Sandhill Cranes at Brookville Lake in Liberty Indiana, just a few miles from Oxford, Ohio. In the background, you can see another photo of Myaamia people on the lacrosse field in Miami, Oklahoma.
The contemporary art section, curated by Megan Sekulich, a senior Myaamia Heritage student, featured a number of different art styles by current students and alumni of the Myaamia Heritage Program as well as summer program staff. Some of the art styles included beadwork, ribbonwork, woven textiles, wood burning, and printmaking.
This bag was woven by Jared Nally, the recipient of the 2022 Aanchtaakia Graduate Fellowship. Jared is working as a research assistant in the Myaamia Center focusing on the revitalization of Myaamia textiles and cultural ecology.
These mahkisina pads, created by Kara Strass, director of Miami Tribe Relations at the Miami Center, feature ribbonwork on the top of the pad. They are used for playing mahkisina meehkintiinki, ‘moccasin game.’ The pads won first place in the 2019 Eugene Brown Memorial Art Show at the Myaamia Heritage Museum and Archive.
“myaamia saapiinkwioni,” by Lela Troyer, Myaamia Heritage Program alumna, is a new spin on a t-shirt she designed for the Myaamia Heritage course in 2019. Saapiinkwioni translates to ‘vision’ or ‘foresight.’
“The Hand and the Coming Out Place” is woodburned by senior Myaamia Heritage student, Gretchen Spenn. The piece portrays Gretchen’s interpretation of “The Coming Out Story,” the oldest Myaamia story.
These canvases show t-shirt designs created by Myaamia Heritage students throughout the years. Each student has the opportunity to create their own t-shirt design during a class unit about Myaamia art and culture. The class then votes on their favorite design at the end of the term.
Exploration of Outcomes
The final portion of the exhibit was an exploration of the outcomes of the relationship with Miami University. This section featured a number of photographs and objects representing this unique relationship. One display explained the meaning behind the Myaamia Heritage Logo, while another featured items from the Day of Remembrance held at Miami University in 2021. Other displays featured the outcomes of the Myaamia Heritage program, like reaching over 100 Myaamia graduates from Miami University in 2021.
This section of the exhibit displayed photographs throughout the earlier days of the relationship. The display includes two photos of early meetings between Chief Forrest Olds and then-Miami University President Phillip Shriver. It also shows Daryl Baldwin and Myrtis Powell, then-VP of Student affairs. Myrtis was instrumental in the establishment of the Myaamia Heritage Program tuition waiver in the early 90s before Daryl arrived on campus in 2001. The final photo shows the first recipients of the Myaamia Heritage tuition waiver. At the time, students did not receive any academic support or Heritage programming. The program has evolved significantly in the past 30 years.
This photo shows a section of the exhibit which breaks down the meaning of the Myaamia Heritage Logo. This logo was developed by both the Tribe and Miami University and the two share its ownership. The black represents the depth of time, earned respect, and cultural wisdom. It recognizes the tribe’s deep ties to our historical homelands. The red stands for responsibility, sacrifice, and a commitment to gain and share knowledge. The white diamond is the area of collaboration and connection. The red dot at the center represents fire. It symbolizes the warmth of the partnership and the shared responsibility to tend to this “fire.”
Also shown in this photo is the 50th Anniversary Blanket, developed by both the Tribe and Miami University. The wool blanket features the Miami Tribe community symbol next to a symbol representing the relationship between the Tribe and University.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, the OCAC hosted its monthly “Second Friday Celebration.” This reception gave local Oxford residents, as well as Miami University students and faculty, the opportunity to explore the exhibit.
Guests were invited to chat with Myaamia Center staff about pieces in the exhibit while learning more about the Miami Tribe and its relationship with Miami University. Lisa Biales and Doug Hamilton, local musicians, performed their original music during the event. It was great to share a piece of Myaamia culture with the Oxford community while also celebrating our 50th anniversary with Miami University.