by John Bickers and George Ironstrack

This post is the first in a new series of articles touching on Myaamia kinship and genealogy. It is the hope of the authors that Myaamia community members will be interested to learn more about how our Myaamia families are interrelated. Additionally, we hope that community members will request future posts covering the genealogy of different branches of our big Myaamia family.

In the winter of 1790-91, a British man by the name of Henry Hay came to stay at Kiihkayonki (Ft. Wayne). He spent the winter visiting with British and French traders and with nearly all the key Myaamia leaders of the era: Mihšihkinaahkwa (Little Turtle), Le Gris, Moohswa, Pinšiwa (J.B. Richardville), and Tahkamwa (Marie Louisa Richardville). Hay kept a very detailed journal, and this record provides rare tidbits of information about Tahkamwa, a very influential akimaahkwia (female civil chief).[1]

In their writings, Euro-American men rarely focused their attention on Myaamia women. Every village had female civil leaders, female war leaders, and women’s councils, but they rarely interacted with Euro-American men, except for those who married into the community. In Myaamia villages, face-to-face diplomacy was the responsibility of male leaders. However, Tahkamwa provides us with a rare example of an akimaahkwia who actively participated in her village’s public council sessions and who interacted with Euro-American men in a political environment. Her unique role was partly a result of her personal stature, knowledge, experience, and influence within her community. Her role was also partly the result of the absence of her brother Pakaana, the acknowledged akima (male civil leader) of Kiihkayonki. At the time of Hay’s visit, Pakaana was in the south on the Mihšisiipi (Mississippi River) negotiating with the Iihpaawala (Spanish) and hunting.[2]

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Over time, Myaamia people have lived in a wide variety dwelling types. The traditional home of the Myaamia is called wiikiaami (click to hear pronuncation).  A wiikiaami is a domed structure that could be covered in cattail reed mats or bark depending on the season. Often these were also lined with bulrush mats, which were decorated. The layers of mats created an insulated space, which kept these dwellings warm and dry. Wiikiaami is often called a wigwam in English. Today, wiikiaami is a word that Myaamia people can use for any house or dwelling.

kiikapwa wiikiaami

This Kickapoo wiikiaami is like those still built by Myaamia people. The image shows the layers of cattail mats used to keep homes warm and dry.

wiikiaami 2011

This wiikiaami was built by Myaamia people as a part of the Eewansaapita youth program in 2011. The cattail mats were provided by Dani Tippman. The group did not have enough to cover the roof, so a canvas tarp was used instead.

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A Story of a Chicago Fort

In September of 2012, I was approached by the organizers of the Algonquian Conference to participate in a discussion on differing perspectives of the Battle of Fort Dearborn, which took place in the first year of the War of 1812.[1]  Oddly, as I began to think about that event from over 200 years ago, my thoughts turned to the more recent past.  In August of 2006, I experienced a strange moment while standing with my nephew Jarrid near the site where Fort Dearborn once stood, on the sidewalk at the corner of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  Embedded in the sidewalk at that corner are a series of brass strips embossed with the words “SITE OF FORT DEARBORN.”  What happened to us while standing next to those strips of brass was seemingly inconsequential, and yet the memory of that one weird moment continues to bubble up to front of my mind from time to time.

1_Fort Dearborn  168

Strip of brass in Chicago sidewalk laying out the position of Fort Dearborn. Neewe to Karen Baldwin for all of the excellent pictures of the bridge and its associated sculptures and text.

Jarrid and his sister Jessie were in Chicago to help Tamise, my wife, and I move back to the city from Oxford, Ohio.  After the hard day of carrying boxes up three flights of narrow Chicago apartment stairs, I took him out for a trip around downtown.  Jarrid descends from Eepiihkaanita, a man also known by the name William Wells.  Eepiihkaanita died during the battle that followed the evacuation of Fort Dearborn on August 15, 1812.[2]  Because his ancestor died in course of events tied to that place we made it a priority to intentionally go there.  It is of course a dramatically changed landscape, the direction and shape of the river have both been altered and all that remains of the fort are the brass strips embedded into concrete skin of the city like a well worn metallic dotted line.  A significant part of the ground where the 1812 fort once sat was lost to erosion and city planning. Today, the scene is commanded by the Michigan Avenue Bridge, which runs across the Šikaakwa Siipiiwi (the Chicago River).[3]  The pillars of this bridge “attempt” to tell the story of the city of Chicago and include at least one scene dedicated to the Battle of Fort Dearborn in which Eepiihkaanita gave his life.  The “attempt” at telling the story of Chicago starts with explorers and priests and progresses to settlers, defenders, and rebuilders.  Along the way it references “savage” Indians as the backdrop to a story focused on the “progress of civilization.”

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A Mended Picture

The Richardville Valley Sample Room circa 1898

The Richardville Valley Sample Room circa 1898

On the first page of this year’s lunar calendar (link here), you may have noticed the picture titled “aancihtoonki kiihkihsenki” (pictured above).  In the lower right corner is the original version of this photo showing numerous serious cracks and other damage.  The larger photo is the result of the hard work of Elizabeth Brice, the Head of Special Collections and Archives at Miami University and John Millard, Head of the Center for Digital Scholarship also at Miami University.  We greatly appreciate Elizabeth and John’s help.

The photo is of the Strack family, Richardville and Godfroy descendants, in front of their family saloon, which opened around 1880 on family reserve lands south of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Initially it appears that the saloon was called the Blufton Road Tavern as well as Strack and McClaren’s Saloon, but in 1894 the establishment redecorated and reopened under the name The Richardville Valley Sample Room.  There are many entertaining news stories about the tavern in the Fort Wayne newspapers and perhaps we can share a more substantial post about this in the future.

Until recently, the original photo was in the possession of Lew Fox.  Mr. Fox is the grandson of Lila McClaren, who is the little girl forth from the left in the white dress.  Lila and her brother, Charles McClaren, the little boy sitting on the step second from the right, were the children of Elizabeth Strack McClaren and Jesse McClaren.  Elizabeth has not been positively identified in this photo, but she may be the woman seated third from the left.  Jesse has also not been positively identified, but he may be the man wearing a hat standing fifth from the left.  We still have a lot to learn about this photo and we look forward to talking more with our families about this period of Myaamia history.  Neewe to Mr. Fox for sharing these photos.  Now that they are scanned, the entire collection can be shared among his entire extended family and digital copies can be archived within the Myaamia Heritage Museum and Archive for all Myaamia people to enjoy and learn from.  If you’d like to learn more about how to help preserve, scan, and share your family’s heirloom photos, please call or email Meghan Dorey at MDorey@miamination.com or (918) 542-1445.

The Good Path: Part II

August 27, 2012

aapooši peehkihkanaweeyankwi
Again we Travel a Good Path – Part II (1752-1780)

In our last post we examined the history of the Myaamia village of Pinkwaawilenionki, also known as Pickawillany, and the brief period of instability that centered on the creation and destruction of this Myaamia village on the Great Miami River (1747-1752).[1]  Following the collapse of this village, Myaamia communities returned to the relative stability that developed after the conclusion of the Beaver Wars.  Once again, villages could govern themselves by utilizing Myaamia knowledge, values, and beliefs to inform the multiple compromises that maintained good relations inside a village as well as with their neighbors both near and far.  Once again, no group – European or indigenous – had the power to force their beliefs or ways onto Myaamia people.[2]  No group had the power to force Myaamia people to leave their villages, and for the most part, Myaamia people could travel unimpeded throughout Myaamionki (the place of the Myaamia, our homelands).  However, just as before the Beaver Wars, travelers still had to respect their neighbors’ homes and resources, and Myaamia people still had to fear attacks from enemy groups as well as the outbreaks of disease epidemics, like measles and small pox.

In this period, Myaamia people were again able to live and change according to their own habits, practices, and beliefs.  In “Again We Travel a Good Path – Part I” we looked at how Myaamia people established relations with the French through intermarriage and exchange or trade.  In Part II we will look with more depth at the role of Myaamia mitemhsaki (women) in maintaining a healthy village and in guiding the changes villages had to continually make in order to thrive.

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