nakaani-kaloosioni: meetaathsoopionki ‘Old Word: Washington D.C.’

Myaamia people have been visiting, and eventually living in, Meetaathsoopionki ‘Washington D.C.’ for as long as the city has existed. Built on the the homelands of eastern Algonquian speaking peoples, the city we know today as Meetaathsoopionki was officially named the capital of the United States in 1790. Construction began three years later and the U.S. federal government relocated there officially in 1800.1

Myaamia leaders visited U.S. leaders in the previous capital, Philadelphia, and began to visit the U.S. government in Meetaathsoopionki following its opening.2 The purposes of these early visits were largely diplomatic. In the post 1846 removal era, the Miami Nation negotiated three treaties with the U.S. in Meetaathsoopionki.3

The U.S. Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol Building. Photo by Jonathan M. Fox

The Myaamia word for Washington D.C., Meetaathsoopionki, literally means the ‘Place of the Ten Sitters.’ It appears to originally refer to the President and the members of his cabinet and advisors.4 The noun at the heart of this place name, Meetaathsoopia, refers to the U.S. President. Meetaathsoopiaki, the plural noun, refers to Congress. Meetaathsoopionki is a place name that refers to the presence of either the President or the legislature of the United States. A more figurative translation of Meetaathsoopionki would be ‘Place of the U.S. government.’

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Myaamia people continued to visit Meetaathsoopionki for official tribal business. In the twentieth century some Myaamiaki moved to this place for work, and Myaamia people continue to live in Meetaathsoopionki and the surrounding suburbs to this day.

Today many Myaamiaki enjoy visiting Meetaathsoopionki to see the National Museum of the American Indian along with all the other great museums on the National Mall. Trips to see important Myaamia historical objects have also taken us to NMAI’s Cultural Resource Center in the D.C. suburbs. In addition, numerous invaluable Myaamia language documents are cared for in the National Anthropological Archives, which is also located in the suburbs. In the recent past, the Myaamia Center has worked together with its partners to host the National Breath of Life Workshop in Meetaathsoopionki. In the workshop, Native communities are reconnected with the written record of their languages and work together to learn how to make these materials useful for their language revitalization work today.

Meetaathsoopionki is certainly a fraught space for Myaamiaki, built during a time of war between our nation and the United States. For many years it was the site of negotiations and treaties that often produced negative outcomes for our people. Yet today we recognize those past harms and at the same time make use of the resources there to reconnect with our ancestors’ knowledge and strengthen ourselves as a people. For some Myaamiaki, Meetaathsoopionki is also their home.

1 For a great quick history of Washington D.C. see this Story Map by the Library of Congress.

2 For example, Mihšihkinaahkwa and his son-in-law Eepiihkaanita “William Wells” visited Meetaathsoopionki in the winter of 1801-02 to visit President Jefferson and other officials. If you would like to learn more about that visit see Harvey Lewis Carter, The Life and Times of Little Turtle: First Sagamore of the Wabash (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 161-63.

3 The Treaty of 1869 was never ratified, but the treaties negotiated in 1854 and 1867 were.

4 William Jones, Fox Texts (Belgium: E.J. Brill, 1907), 31 n.4. Neewe ‘thank you’ to Ives Goddard who supplied this source to David Costa.

One Comment Add yours

  1. stevehinds says:

    Love these articles

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