Wiihkoowia Kiilhswa is the fourth lunar month of the Myaamia lunar calendar. Like the other months named for birds, Wiihkoowia Kiilhswa is associated with the process of transition from peepoonki ‘winter’ into neepinwiki ‘summer.’ The month is named for wiihkoowia (Eastern Whip-poor-will – Antrostomus vociferus).


Around this time of year, Whip-poor-wills return from their winter nesting grounds around the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, Whip-poor-wills nested throughout our traditional homelands along the Wabash River Valley. Because these night birds nest on the ground, drastic changes in forest habitat have decreased populations of wiihkoowia in central Indiana. The call of wiihkooowia is distinctive and was used to mark the beginning of planting time for Myaamia miincipi ‘Miami corn.’ Click to hear the sound of wiihkoowia‘s call. Corn that is planted during Wiihkoowia Kiilhswa is usually in the green corn stage by Kiišiinkwia Kiilhswa ‘Green Corn Moon.’

*image from wikimedia commons here

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noonki kaahkiihkwe tikawi ceeliteeki (59) tikawi aalhkwahki ahsenisiipionki. šikaakonki (eepiaani niiya) tikawi ceeliteeki (68) aahsanteeki, ileehši waapanke-kati meemeekwa-hka manetwa piihsaaci.

noonki peehkonteeki napale neepiki cecaahkwa kiilhswa (peemineeta).

taaniši kiišikatwi niiyaaha apiyani?

neemani-nko kati cecaahkwa kiilhswa? tookinanto oowaaha -> cecaahkwa kiilhswa

neemani-nko kati aakalaahšimaataweenki? toohkinanto mihtahkiši.

(For English, click below)

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By George Ironstrack & Cameron Shriver

aacimwitaawi: ciikaahkwe iihkipisinonki waapaahšiki siipionki neehi nimacihsinwi siipionki, niiyaaha myaamiaki eeminooteeciki. aalinta naapiši eeminooteeciki waapanahkiaki. wiihsa mihtohseeniaki weešitookiki weehki-wiikiaama, wiiyoonkonci mihši-maalhsaki šaakosankiki amenooteenawa.

‘Let us recount: Near Peru, Indiana on the Wabash and Mississinewa Rivers, there the Miami Indians build a town. Some Delawares built a town there as well. Many people had built new houses because the Americans had burned their villages.’[1]

Early in the morning on Dec. 17, 1812, three days before the winter solstice, men on horseback rode into the towns located at the confluence of the Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi ‘Wabash River’ and Nimacihsinwi Siipiiwi ‘Mississinewa River.’ Their arrival alerted the communities to an attack on the Waapanahkia ‘Delaware’ and Myaamia villages on the Nimacihsinwi Siipiiwi, about a two-hour horseback ride to the south.

Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, refugees from these villages surged into the Nimacihsinwi Siipiiwi towns on foot. Their arrival likely spread a sense of fear and panic. Myaamia people rightly worried that the Mihši-Maalhsa–the American “long knives”– would continue down the Mississinewa River to attack and destroy the remaining Nimacihsinwi Siipiiwi towns.

The evacuees reported the details of that morning’s attack to the people of the Nimacihsinwi Siipiiwi towns. Shortly after dawn, the Mihši-Maalhsa surprised the southernmost Mississinewa valley village, a Waapanahkia community on the river’s east bank. Most of the villagers fled, but a few men engaged in a brief firefight with the American soldiers in order to protect their escaping families.[2]

In the skirmish, the Mihši-Maalhsa killed seven of the men and captured 42 residents of the village, mostly women, children, and older men. Later, the villagers heard that the Mihši-Maalhsa killed a wounded man who, after capture, “fell upon his knees pleading for mercy, declaring he was a Delaware,” before being executed and scalped. Years later, a veteran of the attack recalled an American officer’s commentary on the violent and disorderly conduct of the troops, “We shall suffer for this, we have not seen the end.”[3]

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We just finished cleaning up our siihsipaahkwikaani ‘maple sugar camp’ at Miami University. Maple sugaring season tends to be during Mahkoonsa Kiilhswa ‘Young Bear Moon’ and Aanteekwa Kiilhswa ‘Crow Moon’ which roughly corresponds with February through early April on the Gregorian calendar. This is the time of the year where temperatures are starting to rise during the day and drop at night. The temperature change causes ahsenaamišipowi ‘sap’ to flow from the roots of the trees up to the branches and back down.

Three Miami University students at the MU siihsipaahkwikaani 'maple sugar camp'

From left to right: Gloria, Gabriel, and Josh at Miami University
Photo: Jonathan Fox, 2019

Since 2010, Myaamia Heritage students and Myaamia Center staff have regularly tapped trees in a small ahsenaamišahki ‘sugar maple grove’ on campus. This year, George and his daughter, Mirin, identified several ahsenaamiša ‘sugar maples’ to tap in rotation each year. Having the trees close together is beneficial so that it is easier to collect and transport the ahsenaamišipowi to be processed.

The next step after identifying which ahsenaamiša will be used is tapping the selected trees. At Miami University, we used a drill to make a hole 2-3 inches into the tree at a slight angle.

Joshua S. drilling a hole in a ahsenaamiši 'maple tree' for tapping at the Eichel Property outside of Oxford

Joshua S. drilling a hole for tapping at the Eichel Property outside of Oxford
Photo: Karen Baldwin, 2007

A tap was then put into the hole. The angle of the hole allows the ahsenaamišipowi to run down the tap and into the ahkihkwi ‘bucket.’Before metal and plastic were available, bark was formed into a bucket to catch the sap. Gerard Hopkins noted in the spring of 1804, “Their troughs for catching the sugar water as it is called, are made of the bark of the red elm, they are made thin, and the ends tied together.”[1]

ahsenaamišipowi 'sap' flowing from a tap

ahsenaamišipowi ‘sap’ flowing from a tap
Photo: Karen Baldwin, 2007

Throughout maple sugaring season, it is important to pay attention to the weather. Large changes in temperature will cause the ahkihkwa to fill faster than if the temperature stays relatively the same. Once the ahkihkwa are full, the ahsenaamišipowi is poured into five gallon buckets to bring back for processing.

Gabriel transferring ahsenaamišipowi between buckets

Gabriel transferring ahsenaamišipowi ‘sap’
Photo: Left – Karen Baldwin, 2007; Right – Jonathan Fox, 2019

The process of transforming ahsenaamišipowi into iihkisaminki ‘syrup’ takes a lot of patience. The ahsenaamišipowi is put into a large cooking pot and brought to a boil. Ahsenaamišipowi is made of paankosaakani ‘sugar’ and nipi ‘water’. If you taste the ahsenaamišipowi as it runs out of the tap, you may not notice it has a sweet taste.

Gloria tasting ahsenaamišipowi from the tap

Gloria tasting ahsenaamišipowi ‘sap’ from the tap
Photo: Left – Karen Baldwin, 2007; Right – Jonathan Fox, 2019

When you start boiling the ahsenaamišipowi, the nipi evaporates causing the sugar to become more concentrated causing the liquid left behind to taste sweeter. With time, practice, and a good hydrometer, you’ll eventually get maple syrup. To get one gallon of iihkisaminki, you will need about forty gallons of ahsenaamišipowi.

ahsenaamišipowi 'sap' on the left and iihkisaminki 'syrup' on the right

ahsenaamišipowi ‘sap’ on the left and iihkisaminki ‘syrup’ on the right
Photo: Karen Baldwin, 2007

If you continue to boil the iihkisaminki, you can create siihsipaahkwi ‘maple sugar’. This process takes more practice in order to identify the perfect time to remove the iihkisaminki from heat and transfer into a nipoopilaakani ‘mixing bowl’. Once the liquid is transferred, it needs to be stirred constantly as it cools in order to break apart the clumps of siihsipaahkwi into finer crystals.

siihsipaahkwi 'maple sugar'

siihsipaahkwi ‘maple sugar’
Photo: Karen Baldwin, 2007

Historically, siihsipaahkwi was stored in wiiphšinaakana ‘basket for storing maple sugar’ and used to season food throughout the year. Two hundred years ago, Siihsipaahkwi was also traded for other goods. For example, in the spring of 1804, Gerard Hopkins noted “The women bring sugar, which is generally neatly packed in a square box made of bark, containing about fifty pounds….We have seen very white and clear looking sugar of their manufacture.”

Today, the Myaamia Heritage students and Myaamia Center staff enjoy a waffle and pancake day with the fresh iihkisaminki collected on campus!

iihkisaminki 'maple syrup' in a window

iihkisaminki ‘maple syrup’
Photo: Karen Baldwin, 2007

Miami University Siihsipaahkwikaani

YearAhsenaamišipowiCollectedIihkisaminki Made
2019200 gallons5 gallons

[1]Gerard T. Hopkins, A Mission to the Indians, from the Indian Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, to Fort Wayne, in 1804.  Compiled by Martha E. Tyson in 1862 (Philadelphia, T.E. Zell, 1862), 62. You can find this document online here – https://archive.org/details/missiontoindians00hopk_0/page/62

noonki kaahkiihkwe tikawi ceeliteeki (66) aahsanteeki ahsenisiipionki. peehki-kiišikahki, neehi pakitahamaanki kati!

noonki peehkonteeki kiinte saakiwa cecaahkwa kiilhswa (keešaakosita).

taaniši kiišikatwi niiyaaha apiyani?

neemani-nko kati cecaahkwa kiilhswa? tookinanto oowaaha -> cecaahkwa kiilhswa

neemani-nko kati aakalaahšimaataweenki? toohkinanto mihtahkiši.

(For English, click below)

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