Mahkisina Waapankiaakamionki ‘Moccasins in Kansas’ by Doug Peconge

On November 2, 1846, the first grouping of Myaamia people arrived on their new reservation in the Unorganized Indian Territory. They were unloaded at Kanza landing, in what is today Kansas City, Missouri, and then traveled the final 50-60 miles south via horse and wagon. By November 5, after nearly a month of travel, the remainder of the removed Myaamiaki reached the new village site along Little Sugar Creek in what is today eastern Kansas.[1]

In a short letter written after arrival in the west, Toohpia ‘Francis Lafontaine,’ the elected leader of the nation, reported that two-thirds of his people had been sick on the journey and that “there has been six deaths amongst my people, all children” except for one adult. In addition, two babies were born during the removal. Toohpia added that he was not pleased by what he saw of their new “country” and that in his opinion “it would have been much better if my people had moved by land” as “moving by water does not suit the habits of my people.” The next day, another child died, bringing the total loss of life during the journey to seven.[2]

The mood among Myaamia people was unsurprisingly grim. One fur trader reported that after arrival at Sugar Creek, many Myaamia men “burst into tears and begged like children to be taken back to their old home.” The fur trader accompanied the removal in order to collect on debts he believed the tribe owed him. Despite his financial motivations for making the journey, the emotion exhibited by the Myaamia men forced the fur trader to admit that “I could not help crying also.”[3]

As November drew to a close, the leaders of the Miami Nation gathered together in council to write a letter to President James K. Polk. In the opening of the letter they began in a heartbreaking fashion with an apology for resisting removal and causing the president to “send troops to force us to compliance.” They closed the opening stanzas by suggesting that Polk would understand why they resisted removal if he only took a moment to consider his feelings for the land of his birth.

The Warriors and Headmen of the Tribe of Miami Indians to His Excellency James K. Polk 26 November, 1846 [4]

The leaders went on to argue that they were told by “corrupt and designing white men” that the U.S. government would “consent, without the shadow of difficulty to our remaining in our dear native land.” They were led to believe that the entire population of the nation would be allowed to disperse across the individual and family reserve lands that were created through decades of treaty negotiations. The headmen of the nation explained that “as soon as we were convinced we had been shamefully deceived, and that the government expected from us the fulfillment of the treaty, to the letter, then we resolved at once to repair to our new home quietly and peaceably.”

Following their apology and explanation of why they resisted removal, the council’s epistle turned to one of the top priorities of the nation as it reconstituted itself on its new reservation: neepaantiinki ‘education.’

The headmen of the nation explained that they recognized that the “change of country” required a “change of our habits.” From their perspective, the key to making these changes was “by a prompt and well conducted education of youth.” 

European-style schooling was not new to Myaamia families. In fact, a few of the younger generation of Myaamia previously attended the Choctaw Academy boarding school in Kentucky. The cost of this education was paid for by funds created through numerous treaties. However, these leaders recognized that “in every instance our young men came back from that institution much worse.” In addition they noted, “another motive, that prevented us from sending our children to Kentucky was that eight of them could only enjoy the privilege whilst everyone might have received the benefit of education, out of the same resources.”

Thus, rather than funding tuition for distant boarding schools, the Myaamia authors concluded by requesting that President Polk approve the creation of educational opportunities near the Miami Reservation and “under our eyes.” Specifically, they requested “that the one thousand dollars reserved for school purposes in one of the treaties concluded between the United States and our tribe will henceforth, be spent in our midst and for the welfare not of few but all of the children of our nation.” At the time, they felt that the best local option was a Catholic school run in conjunction with the Potawatomi living nearby on Sugar Creek.

Signature page of November 26, 1846 letter to President Polk showing the names and marks of all the leaders involved in writing the letter. [5]

The first winter at Sugar Creek was a struggle for Myaamia people. At the time of their arrival they had no permanent structures and were completely reliant on U.S. Government assistance in order to feed and clothe themselves. The poor sanitation in the village combined with the ongoing illnesses incurred during the removal led to as many as 150 deaths between 1846 and 1848. Throughout this period, Myaamiaki must have been expending considerable energy simply working to survive. It is telling that given the constraints of their life or death situation, they took the time to focus their minds and their hearts on the education of the next generation. [6]

As we reflect on our ancestors’ journey during the 1846 removal, we should remember that their strength sustained us through that difficult time. Removal resulted in the relocation of the tribal nation to the national reservation land in what became Kansas and it fragmented the nation’s population as around 150 Myaamiaki remained behind on family and individual reserves in Indiana. Despite the separation of nearly 580 miles, Myaamia people traveled regularly between Kansas and Indiana and maintained their kinship connections. We stand here today as Myaamia people because of their efforts to sustain our sense of who we are as a nation. The U.S. government strengthened the boarding school education system in the latter half of the 1800s, but our tribal leaders actively sought to create a system that was local and allowed the greatest number of Myaamia youth to receive education “under our eyes.” 

As we continue to build a new educational system to further our language and cultural revitalization work, it is good to remember that in the aftermath of one of the most tragic moments in our history, Myaamia leaders wanted to create the broadest possible learning opportunities that we as a community could directly oversee.

Notes

[1] George Strack, et al., myaamiaki aancihsaaciki: A Cultural Exploration of the Myaamia Removal Route (Miami, OK: Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, 2011), 7, 24-25. You can find a link to this document below in note #6.

[2] Francis Lafontaine to Unknown [likely Allen Hamilton], Nov. 1, 1846, Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society online collection http://mdon.library.ipfw.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/cc_acfwhs/id/874/rec/7, accessed Nov. 4 2019.

[3] Kate A. Berry and Melissa A. Rinehart, “A Legacy of Forced Migration: the Removal of the Miami Tribe in 1846,” International Journal of Population Geography, vol. 9 (2003), 106.

[4] Office of Indian Affairs, Letters Received, Roll 416, 277.

[5] OIA Roll 416, 280. To read a transcript of the entire letter please download the PDF of myaamiaki aancihsaaciki: A Cultural Exploration of the Myaamia Removal Route (2011). The November letter can be found on pp. 29-31 (see link below in #6).

[6] A printed transcript of the letter “The warriors and headmen of the Tribe of Miami Indians to His excellency James K. Polk President of the United States” can be found in Strack, et al., myaamiaki aancihsaaciki, 29-31. Follow this link to download a PDF of this booklet.

Do you enjoy playing mahkinsina meehkintiinki ‘moccasin game?’ If so, you should try playing peeweeyocia ahkanimini meehkintiinki ‘peach pit game!’

You can play with just two people or teams and all you need is a small object that can be hidden in a fist, such as a peeweeyocia ahkanimini ‘peach pit.’ Below, you will find two versions of the rules; one for two players and one for teams.

Rules for Two Players

  1. Decide who will hide the object first (Player 1) and how many points or counting sticks are needed to win the game.
  2. Player 1 holds out their hands, palm up with the object in one hand.
Open hands, palms up with a die sitting in one hand.
Figure 1: Player 1 holding out the hiding object
  1. Player 2 says kyaatoolo ‘hide it.’
  2. Player 1 closes their hands and moves them behind their back, shuffling the object between them in a manner that disguises where the object ends up.
  3. Player 1 holds out their fists to Player 2 and says mihkanto ‘find it.’
  4. Player 2 picks a hand and says ooniini ‘this.’
One person presenting closed fists with a second person pointing at one.
Figure 2: Player 2 choosing a hand
  1. If Player 2 finds the object, they receive a point or counting stick.
    If Player 2 does not find the object, Player 1 receives a point or counting stick.
One person with a closed fist and open hand with a die sitting in it. A second person pointing at the open hand.
Figure 3: Player 1 revealing contents of chosen hand
  1. The round winner says eenihiwiaani! ‘I win!’ and the opponent responds iihia, eenihiweeyani. ‘Yes, you win.’
  2. The object goes to the winner of the round until the winning score is reached.

Rules for Teams

This version is a series of one-on-one competitions, so only one hiding object is needed.

  1. Players are divided into two teams. Each team forms a line facing the opposing team.
Illustration of players in two lines facing one another.
Figure 4: Illustration of team lines
  1. A judge stands at one end of the line with the hiding object. The judge offers one team a choice of hands. If the team finds the object, they hide first; if not, their opponents hide first.
  2. The first in line for the hiding team (Player 1), holds the object out to their opponent (Player 2) in open hands. (Figure 1 above)
  3. Player 2 says kyaatoolo ‘hide it.’
  4. Player 1 puts their hands behind their back and shuffles the object to disguise where it ends up.
  5. Player 1 holds out closed fists and says mihkanto ‘find it.’
  6. Player 2 chooses a hand and says ooniini ‘this.’ (Figure 2 above)
  7. If Player 2 finds the object, their team receives a point or counting stick.
    If Player 2 does not find the object, their opponent’s team receives a point or counting stick.
  8. The round winner says eenihiwiaani! ‘I win!’ and all other players respond iihia, eenihiweeyani. ‘Yes, you win.’
  9. The hiding object is then passed to the next in line on Player 2’s team. After each round, the object is passed to the next person on the opposite team.
Illustration of how the object is passed down the line of players.
Figure 5: Illustration of how the hiding object is passed each round
  1. When the last pair has finished, the team with the highest score wins the game.
  2. The winning team says eenihiwiaanki ‘We win!’ and the losing team says iihia, eenihiweeyiikwi. ‘Yes, you win.’

paahpitaawi! ‘Let’s play!’

We Remember the Myaamia Forced Removal

aya eeweemilakakoki ‘Hello my relatives,’ 173 years ago this week, 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 half full moon of kiiyolia 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.”

By Isaac Stephani and Cam Shriver

Note: This blog post stems from original research conducted by undergraduate student Isaac Stephani in Dr. Cam Shriver’s Intro to the Miami Tribe class at Miami University in spring 2019.

In late September of 1817, the Treaty of Fort Meigs, also known as the Treaty of Maumee Rapids, was signed. In it, six Native nations collectively ceded over 4.5 million acres of territory to the United States. Representing the United States was Governor of the Michigan territory Lewis Cass, and Ohio legislator Duncan McArthur, while numerous leaders represented the six Native tribes present: ​Wyandot​s, ​Senecas, Delawares, Shawnees, Potawatomis, Ottawas, and Ojibwes. Marking one of the largest cessions of land by Native peoples since the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, the Treaty of Fort Meigs was part of a larger effort to move Native people Westward of the Mississippi River, as was Lewis Cass’ objective over the course of his nearly three decades as Governor of the Michigan territory.[1] Secretary of War George Graham, who oversaw the U.S. Indian Department, congratulated Cass on his negotiation at Fort Meigs, writing that the “extent of cession far exceed[s] my most sanguine expectations.”[2] But despite the treaty’s cession of land that the Miami leader Mihšihkinaahkwa ‘Little Turtle’ had claimed as belonging to the Miami nation, no Myaamia leaders signed it. Where were the Myaamia at the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs? Until now, we have had little evidence to explain Myaamia feelings at the time; there are still questions to answer. But the lack of Myaamia participation at Fort Meigs contextualizes the Treaty of St. Mary’s, signed by Myaamia leaders just over a year later on October 6, 1818, which ceded a huge area of Miami country. It also puts into clearer focus the pressures on Native American nations to yield swaths of their heritage homelands. Read the rest of this entry »

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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