Kiiyolia Kiilhswa ‘Smokey Burning Moon’ is one of two moons focused on the cultural fires that Myaamia people used to shape their environment.  Historically, grass and underbrush were dry enough during this month for the burning of larger and hotter fires. Myaamia people regularly burned the woods and prairies in the regions around their villages. These fires benefited the larger trees of the hardwood forests of our homelands and the mammals and birds who lived there.

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The Beech-Maple and Oak-Hickory forests of our traditional homelands often appeared “park-like” to Euro-American settlers, but these healthy hardwood forests were the result of regular burning from both human lit fires and lightning strikes. Over 1000’s of years, the trees and understory – shrubs, bushes, flowers, fungi, and ferns – of these forests evolved to prefer environments that experienced regular burns.

Today, many forest management experts agree that the absence of fire has negatively affected the health of hardwood trees and greatly changed the understory species present in these forests.

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We Remember the Myaamia Forced Removal

aya eeweemilakakoki ‘Hello my relatives,’ 172 years ago today, the United States government began the forced removal of Myaamia people from our historic homelands in the Wabash River Valley. On October 6, 1846, Myaamia people boarded canal boats near Iihkipihsinonki ‘the Straight Place’ (Peru, Indiana) and on the next day loading concluded near Kiihkayonki ‘Fort Wayne, Indiana.’ All told, in just over a month of forced travel, over 320 Myaamia people were moved via canals and rivers to Kanza Landing (Kansas City, Missouri) in the Unorganized Indian Territory. At least seven Myaamia people died on the journey and many more died over the following winter. Two babies were also born on the nearly month-long journey. This forced removal fragmented the Miami Nation, as five family leaders retained the right to receive their treaty annuities in Indiana and thereby remained behind on individual or family reserves in the state.

As we sit together under the waning moon of šaašaakayolia kiilhswa and celebrate the fall harvest, we should all take a moment and reflect on this very difficult journey and remember the Myaamia people who suffered being separated from their homes and their families in the fall of 1846. It is through their struggles that the Miami Nation endured on a new national land base west of the Mihsi-siipiiwi (Mississippi River). If you would like to read more about Myaamia Aancihseeciki (the Myaamia Forced Removal), follow this link to download “A Cultural Exploration of the Myaamia Removal Route.”

 

Histories of Indigenous Slavery:
A Roundtable Hosted by the Myaamia Center at Miami University
by Cameron Shriver

Myaamia people and their younger siblings, the Peewaalia ‘Peoria,’ have featured in historians’ research about Indian slavery in the colonial period, ca. 1500-1800. However, our tribal community and researchers have not been deeply involved, until recently, in discussions or research related to Indian slavery.

On April 13, 2018, the Myaamia Center hosted a roundtable discussion with the goal of increasing Myaamia engagement with this important topic. Invited participants were Dr. Margaret Newell, professor of history at Ohio State; Dr. Andrew Offenburger, professor of history at Miami University; Dr. Cameron Shriver, postdoctoral fellow at the Myaamia Center at Miami University; and George Ironstrack, Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University.

Dr. Newell discussed her recent book about Indian slaves living in New England. Algonquians there–such as Pequots–became important laborers in Puritan New England households, and colonist leaders quickly codified laws allowing enslavement of Indians during wars.

Dr. Offenburger explored the question of why historians seem eager to categorize servitude, unfreedom, or captive-taking practices as “slavery.” In his own research on Yaquis and the Mexican state of Sonora, Offenburger talked about a theme Myaamiaki will know well: the dispossession of Native (in this case, Yaqui) land. But U.S. corporations and entrepreneurs also appropriated Yaqui labor in their agricultural plantations, growing crops through irrigation agriculture in Sonora, and through henequen plantation systems with Yaqui labor in Yucatan. Offenburger notes that Yaquis experienced forced labor, although other features we commonly associate with slavery, including the sale of bodies, did not occur in this time and place.

To be clear, none of the participants equated this kind of slavery with the common image in our popular imaginations. Most Americans believe that slavery was a race-based and hereditary system particular to Southern plantations and synonymous with African-American chattel slaves. This was only one kind of slavery; historians view “slavery” as part of a broad spectrum of freedom and unfreedom. In our popular history, we often think of past Native American societies as egalitarian and lacking the kind of coercive power and class distinctions common in other regions of the world, but a closer examination of the Myaamia past pulls this stereotype apart. Looking more closely at the evidence of the lives of unfree people within Myaamia society helps us better understand the complexity of our ancestors’ experiences and the lives of those forced to live within Myaamia communities.  

Indian slavery forces us to consider the disadvantaged and deprived in Native America, while recognizing new shades of difference in the broader story of slavery, which too often is painted in black and white.

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Riley in 2016 Corn Field*photo by Miami University, Jeff Sabo

Kiišiinkwia Kiilhswa ‘Green Corn Moon’ is the sixth month of the Myaamia lunar calendar. The name for this lunar month refers to corn that is in the milk stage and can be eaten raw off the cob much like today’s common “sweet corn.”  Myaamia miincipi that is planted in Wiihkoowia Kiilhswa ‘Whippoorwill Moon’ will typically reach this stage during Kiišiinkwia Kiilhswa.  After miincipi leaves the milk stage, the kernels become dense and hard and require processing before they can be eaten. Kiišiinkwia Kiilhswa was often a time of celebration and feasting as many other vegetables and fruits also ripen during this month.  Typically, Kiišiinkwia Kiilhswa falls in the Gregorian months of July and August.

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Aanteekwa Kiilhswa is the second month of the Myaamia lunar calendar. It is named for the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), which usually nests and breeds during this month. During the winter months, aanteekwaki ‘crows’ often gather in large groups but as the nesting period begins this behavior comes to an end. In the midwest, aanteekwaki are some of the earliest birds to build nests and lay eggs. Like the other lunar months named for birds, Aanteekwa Kiilhswa typically occurs during the transition from pipoonwi ‘winter’ into niipinwi ‘summer.’  During Aanteekwa Kiilhswa maple sugaring often reaches its height. But by the end of this lunar month, the Sugar maple trees have usually budded and the sugaring season comes to a close.

aanteekwa*

aanteekwa*

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*American Crow image from wikimedia commons