The Miami are a Native American nation originally speaking one of the Algonquian languages. Among the peoples known as the Great Lakes tribes, it occupied territory that is now identified as Indiana, southwest Michigan, and western Ohio. By 1846, most of the Miami had been removed to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma is the only federally recognized tribe of Miami Indians in the United States. The Miami Nation of Indiana is an unrecognized tribe.
Miami Tribe Facts: History
When French missionaries first encountered the Miami in the mid-17th century, the indigenous people were living around the western shores of Lake Michigan. The Miami had reportedly moved there because of pressure from the Iroquois further east. Early French explorers noticed many linguistic and cultural similarities between the Miami bands and the Illiniwek, a loose confederacy of Algonquian-speaking peoples.
At this time, the major bands of the Miami were:
- Atchakangouen, Atchatchakangouen, Atchakangouen, Greater Miami or Crane Band (named after their leading clan, largest Miami band – their main village was Kekionga / Kiihkayonki (“blackberry bush”) at the confluence of the Saint Joseph (Kociihsa Siipiiwi) (″Bean River″), Saint Marys (Nameewa Siipiiwi/Mameewa Siipiiwi) (″River of the Atlantic sturgeon″) and Maumee River (Taawaawa Siipiiwi) (″River of the Odawa″) on the western edge of the Great Black Swamp in present-day Indiana – this place was although called saakiiweeki taawaawa siipiiwi (lit. ″the confluence of the Maumee River″); Kekionga / Kiihkayonki was although the capital of the Miami confederacy)
- Kilatika, Kilatak, Kiratika called by the French, later known by the English as Eel River Band of Miamis; autonym: Kineepikomeekwaki (″People along the Snake-Fish-River, i.e. Eel River″, their main village Kineepikwameekwa/Kenapekwamakwah/Kenapocomoco (“Snake-Fish-Town” or “Eel River Village”) moved its location from the headwaters of the Eel River (Kineepikwameekwa Siipiiwi) (“Snake-Fish-River”) (near Logansport, Indiana) down to its mouth into the Wabash River (Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi) (″Shining White River/Bright Shiny River″) (near Columbia City, Indiana) in northern Indiana; the Kilatika Bandof the French years had their main village at the confluence of the Kankakee River and Des Plaines Rivers to form the Illinois River about 16 km southwest of today’s Joliet, Illinois)
- Mengakonkia or Mengkonkia, Michikinikwa (“Little Turtle”)’ people
- Pepikokia, Pepicokea, later known as Tepicon Band or Tippecanoe Band; autonym: Kiteepihkwana (″People of the Place of the buffalo fish″), their main village Kithtippecanuck / Kiteepihkwana (″Place of the buffalo fish″) moved its location various times from the headwaters of the Tippecanoe River (Kiteepihkwana siipiiwi) (″River of the buffalo fish″) (east of Old Tip Town, Indiana) to its mouth into the Wabash River (Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi) (near Lafayette, Indiana) – sometimes although known as Nation de la Gruë or Miamis of Meramec River, possibly the name of a Miami-Illinois band named Myaarameekwa (″Ugly Fish, i.e. Catfish Band″) that lived along the Meramec River (″River of the ugly fish″)
- Piankeshaw, Piankashaw, Pianguichia; autonym: Peeyankihšiaki (″those who separate″ or ″those who split of″, lived in several villages along the White River in western Indiana, the Vermilion River (Peeyankihšiaki Siipiiwi) (″River of the Peeyankihšiaki/Piankashaw″) and Wabash Rivers (Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi) in Illinois and later along the Great Miami River (Ahsenisiipi) (″Rocky River″) in western Ohio, their first main village Peeyankihšionki(″Place of the Peeyankihšiaki/Piankashaw″) was at the confluence of Vermilion River and the Wabash River (near Cayuga, Indiana) – one minor settlement was at the confluence of the main tributaries of the Vermilion River (near Danville, Illinois), the second important settlement was named Aciipihkahkionki / Chippekawkay / Chippecoke (″Place of the edible Root″) and was situated at the mouth of the Embarras River in the Wabash River (near Vincennes, Indiana), in the 18th century a third settlement outside the historic Wabash River Valley named Pinkwaawilenionki / Pickawillany (″Ash Place″) was erected along the Great Miami River (which developed into Piqua, Ohio)
- Wea, Wiatonon, Ouiatanon or Ouaouiatanoukak; autonym: Waayaahtanooki or Waayaahtanwa (″People of the place of the whirlpool″), because their main village Waayaahtanonki (″Place of the whirlpool″) was at the riverside where a Whirlpool was in the river, under the term „Ouiatanon“ was both referred to a group of extinct five Wea settlements or to their historic tribal lands along the Middle Wabash Valley between the Eel River to the north and the Vermilion River to the south, the ″real″ Quiatanon at the mouth of the Wea Creek into the Wabash River was their main village)
In 1696, the Comte de Frontenac appointed Jean Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes as commander of the French outposts in northeast Indiana and southwest Michigan. He befriended the Miami people, settling first at the St. Joseph River, and, in 1704, establishing a trading post and fort at Kekionga, present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana.
By the 18th 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 (Seven Years’ War) led to an increased British presence in traditional Miami areas.
Shifting alliances and the gradual encroachment of European-American settlement led to some Miami bands merging. Native Americans created larger tribal confederacies led by Chief Little Turtle; their alliances were for waging war against Europeans and to fight advancing white settlement. By the end of the century, the tribal divisions were three: the Miami, Piankeshaw, and Wea.
The latter two groups were closely aligned with some of the Illini tribes. The US government later included them with the Illini for administrative purposes. The Eel River band maintained a somewhat separate status, which proved beneficial in the removals of the 19th century. The nation’s traditional capital was Kekionga.
During the American Revolution the Miami tribes were split in their support for the British and Americans.
Miami Tribe Facts: American Revolution and War of 1812
The Miami had mixed relations with the United States. Some villages of the Piankeshaw openly supported the American rebel colonists during the American Revolution, while the villages around Ouiatenon were openly hostile. The Miami of Kekionga remained allies of the British, but were not openly hostile to the United States (US) (except when attacked by Augustin de La Balme in 1780).
The U.S. government did not trust their neutrality, however. US forces attacked Kekionga several times during the Northwest Indian War shortly after the American Revolution. Each attack was repulsed, including the battle known as St. Clair’s Defeat, recognized as the worst defeat of an American army by Native Americans in U.S. history. The Northwest Indian War ended with the Battle of Fallen Timbers and Treaty of Greenville. Those Miami who still resented the United States gathered around Ouiatenon and Prophetstown, where Shawnee Chief Tecumseh led a coalition of Native American nations. Territorial governor William Henry Harrison and his forces destroyed Prophetstown in 1811, then used the War of 1812 as pretext for attacks on Miami villages throughout the Indiana Territory.
Miami Tribe Facts: Modern Age
The Treaty of Mississinwas, signed in 1826, forced the Miami to cede most of their land to the US government. It also allowed Miami lands to be held as private property by individuals, where the tribe had formerly held the land in common. At the time of Indian Removal in 1846, those Miami who held separate allotments of land were allowed to stay as citizens in Indiana. Those who affiliated with the tribe were moved to reservations west of the Mississippi River, first to Kansas, then to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
The divide in the tribe exists to this day. The U.S. government has recognized the Western Miami as the official tribal government since the forced divide in 1846. Migration between the tribes has made it difficult to track affiliations and power for bureaucrats and historians alike. Today the western tribe is federally recognized as the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, with 3553 enrolled members.
The Eastern Miami (or Indiana Miami) has its own tribal government, but lacks federal recognition. Although they were recognized by the US in an 1854 treaty, that recognition was stripped in 1897. In 1980, the Indiana legislature recognized the Eastern Miami and voted to support federal recognition. In the late 20th century, US Senator Richard Lugar introduced a bill to recognize the Eastern Miami. He withdrew support due to constituent concerns over gambling rights. In recent decades, numerous federally recognized tribes in other states have established gambling casinos and related facilities on their sovereign lands. Such establishments have helped some tribes raise revenues to devote to economic development, health and education. On 26 July 1993, a federal judge ruled that the Eastern Miami were recognized by the US in the 1854 treaty, and that the federal government had no right to strip them of their status in 1897. However, he also ruled that the statute of limitations on appealing their status had expired. The Miami no longer had any right to sue.
Miami Tribe Facts: Online Resources
- Wikipedia – Miami People
- Ohio History Central – Miami People of Ohio
- Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
- Native Languages: Miami and Illinois
- Miami Indians of Indiana
- Michigan State University – Miami Indians
- The Miami Indians of Indiana: A Persistent People, 1654-1994
- The Miami Indians (The Civilization of the American Indian series)
- The History Junkie’s Guide to Native American Tribes
- The History Junkie’s List of Native American Tribes
- The History Junkie’s Guide to Colonial America
- The History Junkie’s Guide to European Colonization