Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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The Miami (the name possibly derived from the Chippewa word Omaumeg or "people of the peninsula") Indians live in two groups, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana. The U.S. government recognizes only the former, which is headquartered in Miami, Oklahoma. "Twightwees," the English name for the tribe, was derived from a Miami term meaning "cry of the crane." The Algonquian-speaking Miami consisted of six groups, two of which, the Piankashaw and Wea, became independent tribes.

Originally from south of Lake Michigan, the Miami resided near present Green Bay, Wisconsin, circa 1650. During the early 1700s they dwelled near present Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Kekionga, their principal village, was located. They ceded their Indiana land by treaties between 1818 and 1840. Forced removal in 1846 resulted in half of the tribe remaining in Indiana, while approximately five hundred relocated to Kansas. "The Western Miami" agreed to move to northeastern Indian Territory (present Ottawa County, Oklahoma) in 1867. There they joined with the Confederated Peoria to form the United Peoria and Miami tribe in 1873. The present Miami Tribe of Oklahoma was incorporated in 1940.

The early Miami were known for growing a unique variety of white corn. They celebrated harvests and green corn time with feasts. Games played included the moccasin game, the double ball game, and darts. Their endogamous clans built summer villages of framed long houses, with a separate larger structure used for councils and ceremonies. Hereditary chiefs had religious as well as political functions. Little Turtle (Meshekinoquah, circa 1747-1812) was perhaps their most famous chief.

Revitalization of the Miami language and culture are being accomplished with the Myaamia Project at Miami University of Ohio. Housed in the university's libraries and museum is the official collection that will serve as the nation's primary resource on the Miami Indians. The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma annually hold a summer powwow and a winter stomp dance. Administered by a five-member business committee, the tribe had 2,825 members in 2003. Tribal enterprises include a gift store and a screen-printing and embroidery shop.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bert Anson, The Miami Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970). Charles Callender, "Miami," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978). Grant Foreman, The Last Trek of the Indians: An Account of the Removal of the Indians from North of the Ohio River (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946). Stewart Rafert, "Miami," in Encyclopedia of North American Indians, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).

Pamela Koenig

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