Miami tribe

From Academic Kids

The Miami are a Native American tribe originally found in Indiana and Ohio.


Miami language

The Miami language, now extinct, is a member of the Algonquian phylum. It forms a dialect continuum with Illinois and is part of a larger Central and Plains sprachbund. Language reclamation efforts have officially been underway since 1995.

History of the Miami


The Miami are thought by anthropologists to be one of the cultural descendants of the Mississippian culture, characterized by maize-based agriculture (the historical Miami seemed also to have enjoyed hunting), chiefdom-level social organization, extensive regional trade networks, heirarchical settlement patterns, and other factors.

Early European contact

When French missionaries first encountered the Miami in the early 17th century, they were living around the shores of Lake Michigan. The Miami had reportedly moved there due to pressure from the Iroquois further east. Early French explorers noticed many linguistic and cultural similarities between the Miami bands and the Illiniwek. At this time, the major divisions of the Miami were:

  • Atchakangouen (also Atchatchakangouen or Greater Miami)
  • Kilatika
  • Mengkonkia (Mengakonia)
  • Pepikokia
  • Piankeshaw (Newcalenous)
  • Wea (Ouiatenon)

Some sources say that the Miami called themselves the Twightwee (also spelled Twatwa), an onomatopeic reference to their sacred bird, the crane. Others aver that this was only a name applied by outsiders. In any case, the more common usage was Mihtohseeniaki, "the people,"and the Miami continue to employ this ethnonym today.

British & American period

By the eighteenth century, the Miami had for the most part returned to their homeland in present-day Indiana and Ohio. The eventual victory of the British in the French and Indian War led to an increased British presence in traditional Miami areas. Shifting alliances and the gradual encroachment of white settlement led to some Miami bands merging, and also saw the creation of larger tribal confederacies as Native Americans allied both to participate in European wars and to fight white advancing white settlement. By the end of the century, the tribal divisions were:

  • Eel River
  • Miami
  • Piankeshaw
  • Wea

The latter two groups were closely aligned with some of the Illini tribes, and were later lumped with them for administrative purposes. The Eel River band maintained a somewhat separate status, which was to prove beneficial in the removals of the nineteenth century. The nation's traditional capital was Kekionga, which is located within the borders of the present city of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Indian Removal & modern issues

The 1826 Treaty of Mississinwas signed by Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville under his English name, "Joseph Richardville" removed all remaining Miami land in Indiana from tribal control, while allowing some prominent tribe members property rights over small "reservations." The treaty effectively allowed Richardville, other high-ranking members and their descendants to stay in Fort Wayne, while many of his people were forced out of the state after the Indian Removal Act was passed a few years later. These were expelled by armed troops, and were sent to Kansas. They were settled on decent land, but forced to adopt European methods of agriculture with little guidance. Their numbers dwindled greatly. A lucky few were able to make their way back to Indiana, where they settled on the estates of the chiefs who had been permitted to stay. The rest were eventually removed yet again, this time to marginal lands in Oklahoma.

Members of the Eel River band, which was not party to some of the treaties or had made different stipulations, waged successful court battles which prevented their removal. Many intermarried with whites, and it is estimated that there are presently about 6,000 descendants living in Indiana today. However, their tribal status was revoked in the late nineteenth century and restoration bids have so far proved unsuccessful, although the state of Indiana recognizes their existence.

The Piankeshaw and Wea were merged into the Peoria tribe. The Peoria were also removed, first to Kansas, then to Oklahoma.

At present, the only federally recognized Miami tribesmen are those in Oklahoma.

A corruption of the tribal name is thought to be the origin of the current name for the Maumee River which stretches from Fort Wayne to Toledo, Ohio. Miami University in Oxford, Ohio is also named after the tribe.

See also: other uses of Miami, Miami River

External links


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