Mahkwa Kiilhswa ‘Black Bear Moon’ is one of two lunar months named for the American black bear (Ursus americanus).  It typically occurs between late December and early February in the Gregorian calendar. To the best of our knowledge, this month is associated with mature female bears giving birth to their cubs.  Female American black bears have a litter of cubs every 2 years, and litters range from 1-5 cubs.  Following birth, cubs stay with their mother for 1-2 years. Mahkooki ‘American black bears’ were an important source of food for Myaamia people, with bear tenderloin being a particular delicacy.  Mahkwa also plays a prominent role in Myaamia aalhsoohkaana ‘Winter Stories.’


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Ayaapia Kiilhswa ‘Buck Moon’ is one of two lunar months named for the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus).  To the best of our knowledge, this month is associated with the end of the rut (breeding cycle) and the older males losing their antlers.


ayaapia (White-tailed Deer buck)*

Today, there is a lot of variation within White-tailed Deer populations regarding when bucks drop their antlers.  It appears that historically, the older White-tailed Deer bucks dropped their antlers after younger males.  The loss of antlers marks the end of the rut (the breeding cycle) for these more mature male deer.

*photo from

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The arrival of teekwahkahki ‘frost’ signals the end of niipinwiki ‘summer’ and the beginning of peepoonki ‘winter.’ The hard frost occurs during the period of seasonal transition called teekwaakiki ‘autumn’ in Myaamiaataweenki. This frost typically kills off the last of the green growth on plants and animals start to become less active. From a Myaamia cultural perspective, the dormancy of amphibians, especially tree frogs, is a key indicator of peepoonki.

Photo by Vincent van Zeijst via Creative Commons

aašoošiwia neehi teekwahkahki ‘nettle and frost’

The decreased temperatures that arrive with peepoonki ‘winter’ also make thunderstorms far less common. From a Myaamia point of view, there is an important cultural connection between the arrival of teekwahkahki ‘frost,’ the quieting of the frogs, and the absence of regular thunderstorms; together these things indicate that it is time to tell aalhsoohkaana ‘winter stories.’

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.


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.”