The name Miami derives from Myaamia (plural Myaamiaki), the tribe's autonym (name for themselves) in their Algonquian language of Miami-Illinois. This appears to have been derived from an older term meaning "downstream people." Some scholars contended the Miami called themselves the Twightwee (also spelled Twatwa), supposedly an onomatopoeic reference to their sacred bird, the sandhill crane. Recent studies have shown that Twightwee derives from the Delaware languageexonym for the Miamis, tuwéhtuwe, a name of unknown etymology. Some Miami have stated that this was only a name used by other tribes for the Miami, and not their autonym. They also called themselves Mihtohseeniaki (the people). The Miami continue to use this autonym today.
Early Miami people are considered to belong to the Fischer Tradition of Mississippian culture. Mississippian societies were characterized by maize-based agriculture, chiefdom-level social organization, extensive regional trade networks, hierarchical settlement patterns, and other factors. The historical Miami engaged in hunting, as did other Mississippian peoples.
Written history of the Miami traces back to missionaries and explorers who encountered them in what is now Wisconsin, from which they migrated south and eastwards from the mid-17th century to the mid-18th century, settling on the upper Wabash River and the Maumee River in what is now northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio. By oral history, this migration was a return to the region where they had long lived before being invaded during the Beaver Wars by the Iroquois. Early European colonists and traders on the East Coast had fueled demand for furs, and the Iroquois -- based in central and western New York -- had acquired early access to European firearms through trade and had used them to conquer the Ohio Valley area for use as hunting grounds, which temporarily depopulated as Algonquin woodlands tribes fled west as refugees. The warfare and ensuing social disruption -- along with the spread of infectious European diseases like measles and smallpox, epidemics for which they had no immunity -- contributed to the decimation of Native American populations in the interior.
When Frenchmissionaries first encountered the Miami in the mid-17th century, generating the first written historical record of the tribe, the indigenous people were living around the western shores of Lake Michigan. According to Miami oral tradition, they had moved there a few generations earlier from the region that is now northern Indiana, southern Michigan and northwestern Ohio to escape pressure from Iroquois war parties seeking to monopolize control over furs in the Ohio Valley. Early French explorers noticed many linguistic and cultural similarities between the Miami bands and the Illiniwek, a loose confederacy of Algonquian-speaking peoples. The term "Miami" has imprecise meaning to historians. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the term "Miami" generally referred to all of these bands as one grand tribe. Over the course of the 19th century, "Miami" came to specifically refer to the Atchakangoen (Crane) band.
Around the beginning of the 18th Century, with support from French traders coming down from what is now Canada, and who supplied them with firearms and wanted to trade with them for furs, the Miami pushed back into their historical territory and resettled it. At this time, the major bands of the Miami were:
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 (Waapaah?iki 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: Peeyankih?iaki (?those who separate? or ?those who split of?) lived in several villages along the White River[a] in western Indiana, the Vermilion River (Peeyankih?iaki Siipiiwi) (?River of the Peeyankih?iaki/Piankashaw?) and Wabash Rivers (Waapaah?iki Siipiiwi) in Illinois and later along the Great Miami River (Ahsenisiipi) (?Rocky River?) in western Ohio, their first main village Peeyankih?ionki (?Place of the Peeyankih?iaki/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)[b]
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[c]
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, the de facto Miami capital which controlled an important land portage linking the Maumee River (which flowed into Lake Erie and offered a water path to Quebec) to the Wabash River (which flowed into the Ohio River and offered a water path to the Mississippi Valley).
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, including the Piankeshaw, and Wea, effectively merging into what was sometimes called the Miami Confederacy. 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, and the broader Miami itself became a subset of the so-called Western Confederacy during the Northwest Indian War.
The US government later included the Miami 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 Miami nation's traditional capital was Kekionga.
1780 October -- Agustin Mottin de La Balme (French, from St. Louis) headed a raid of Detroit. Stopped and raided Kekionga. La Balme withdrew to the west, where Little Turtle destroyed the raiders, killing one third of them, on the 5th of November.
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).
In the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War, Britain transferred its claim of sovereignty over the Northwest Territory -- modern-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin -- to the new United States. White pioneers pushed into the Ohio Valley, leading to disputes over whether they had a legal right to carve out homesteads and settlements on land the tribes considered unceded territory. The Miami invited tribes displaced by white settlers, the Delaware (Lenape) and Shawnee to resettle at Kekionga, forming the nucleus of the pan-tribal Western Confederacy. War parties attacked white settlers, seeking to drive them out, and whites -- including Kentucky militia members -- carried out sometimes indiscriminate reprisal attacks on Native American villages. The resulting conflict became known as the Northwest Indian War.
Seeking to bring an end to the rising violence by forcing the tribes to sign treaties ceding land for white settlement, the George Washington administration ordered an attack on Kekionga in 1790; American forces destroyed it but were then repulsed by Little Turtle's warriors. In 1791, the Washington administration a second expedition to attack Kekionga with further orders to build a fort there to permanently occupy the region, but the Western Confederacy attacked its camp en route and destroyed it; the battle, known as St. Clair's Defeat, is recognized as the worst defeat of an American army by Native Americans in U.S. history. In 1794, a third invading force under General "Mad" Anthony Wayne defeated the confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, burned tribal settlements along dozens of miles of the Maumee River, and erected Fort Wayne at Kekionga; Wayne then imposed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which ended the Northwest Indian War. In it, confederacy leaders like Little Turtle agreed to cede most of what is now Ohio, along with other tracts to the west including what is now central Detroit, Chicago, and Fort Wayne, in exchange for annual payments.
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, and in the War of 1812 -- which included a tribal siege of Fort Wayne -- attacked Miami villages throughout the Indiana Territory.
Although Wayne had promised in the Treaty of Greenville negotiations that the remaining unceded territory would remain tribal land -- the origin of the name "Indiana" -- forever, that is not what happened. White traders came to Fort Wayne, which the government used to hand out the annual treaty payments to the Miami and other tribes, to sell them alcohol and manufactured goods. Between annuity days, the traders sold them such things on credit, and the tribes repeatedly ran up more debts than the existing payments could cover. Harrison and his successors pursued a policy of leveraging these debts to induce tribal leaders to sign new treaties ceding large swaths of collectively-held reservation land and then to agree to the tribe's removal. As incentives to induce tribal leaders to sign such treaties, the government gave them individual deeds and other personal perks, like building one chief a mansion. In 1846, the government forced the tribe's rank-and-file to leave, but several major families who had acquired private property to live on through this practice were exempted and permitted to stay in Indiana, creating a bitter schism.
Those who affiliated with the tribe were moved to first to Kansas, then to Oklahoma, where they were given individual allotments of land rather than a reservation as part of efforts to make them assimilate into American culture of private property and yeoman farming. The US government has recognized the what is now the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma as the official tribal government since 1846.
In the 20th Century, the Indiana-based Miami unsuccessfully sought separate federal recognition. Although they had been recognized by the US in an 1854 treaty, that recognition was stripped in 1897. In 1980, the Indiana legislature recognized the Eastern Miami as a matter of state law and voted to support federal recognition, but in 1993, a federal judge ruled that the statute of limitations on appealing their status had expired. But in 1996, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma changed its constitution to permit any descendant of people on certain historical roles to join, and since then hundreds of Indiana-based Miami have become members. Today the Oklahoma-based Miami tribe has about 5,600 enrolled members. However many other Indiana-based Miami still consider themselves a separate group that has been unfairly denied separate federal recognition.
The grave of Miami Chief Francis Godfroy, located at Chief Francis Godfroy Cemetery, Miami County, Indiana
1785 - Delaware villages located near Kekionga (refugees from American settlements)
1790 - Pickawillany Miami join Kekionga (refugees from American settlements)
1790 Gen. Josiah Harmar is ordered to attack and destroy Kekionga. On October 17, Harmar's forces burn the evacuated villages but are then defeated by Little Turtle's warriors.
1790-1791 - Rather than rebuilding Kekionga, tribes resettle further down the Maumee River, including at what is now Defiance, Ohio
1791 Gen. Arthur St. Clair attempts to attack Kekionga again and build a fort there, but before he can get there the Western Confederacy attacks his camp and destroys his army near the future Fort Recovery.
Kentucky Militia destroy Eel River villages.
1793 December -- General Anthony Wayne launches third invasion and builds Fort Recovery on the site of St. Clair's Defeat.
1794 June -- Fort Recovery repulses attack by Western Confederacy
1794 September -- Wayne's forces march up the Maumee River, burning tribal villages and fields (where tribes resettled after Harmar destroyed Kekionga) for dozens of miles, before reaching the abandoned ruins of Kekionga at its headwaters and building Fort Wayne
1795 -- Tribal leaders sign the Treaty of Greenville, ceding most of what is now Ohio as well as the area around Fort Wayne that includes its historic capital of Kekionga and the Maumee-Wabash land portage
1812 17 December - Lt. Col. John B. Campbell ordered to destroy the Mississinewa villages. Campbell destroys villages and kills 8 Indians and 76 were taken prisoner, including 34 women and children.
1812 18 December, at Silver Heel's village, a sizeable Native American force counterattacked. The American Indians were outnumbered, but fought fiercely to rescue the captured villagers being held by Campbell,A joint cavalry charge led by Major James McDowell and Captains Trotter and Johnston finally broke the attack. an estimated 30 Indians were killed; Americans repulsed and return to Greenville.
1813 July - US Army returns and burns deserted town and crops.
1817 Maumee Treaty -- loose Ft. Wayne area (1400 Miami counted)
1818 Treaty of St. Mary's (New Purchase Treaty) - lose south of the Wabash -- Big Miami Reservation created. Grants on the Mississinewa and Wabash given to Josetta Beaubien, Anotoine Bondie, Peter Labadie, Francois Lafontaine, Peter Langlois, Joseph Richardville, and Antoine Rivarre. Miami National Reserve (875,000) created.
1826 Mississinewa Treaty -- Tribe cedes most of its remaining reservation land in northeastern Indiana, which the government wanted to create a right of way for a canal linking Lake Erie to the Wabash River. Miami chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville receives deed to a large personal property and funds to build a mansion on it for signing. Eel River Miami leave Thorntown, northeast of Lebanon, for Logansport area.
1834 Western part of the Big Reservation sold (208,000 acres (840 km2))
1838 Potawatomi removed from Indiana. No other Indian tribes in the state. Treaty of 1838 made 43 grants and sold the western portion of the Big Reserve. Richardville exempted from any future removal treaties. Richardsville, Godfroy, Metocina received grants, plus family reserves for Ozahshiquah, Maconzeqyuah (Wife of Benjamin), Osandian, Tahconong, and Wapapincha.
1840 Remainder of the Big Reservation (500,000 acres (2,000 km2)) sold for lands in Kansas. Godfroy descendants and Meshingomesia (s/o Metocina), sister, brothers and their families exempted from the removal.
1846 - October 1, removal was supposed to begin. It began October 6 by canal boat. By ship to Kansas Landing Kansas City and 50 miles (80 km) overland to the reservation. Reached by 9 November.
Daryl Baldwin (Kinwalaniihsia), recognized in 2016 with an award from the MacArthur Foundation; founding director of the Myaamia Center nationally and internationally recognized for its research, planning, and implementation of community language and cultural revitalization efforts at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio
^West Fork of the White River was known to the native Miami-Illinois peoples as Wapahani, meaning ?white sands? or Waapi-nipi Siipiiwi, meaning ?white lake river?.
^Both the Piankashaw and the Wea are known in historic sources as Newcalenous because of their close relationship.
^The common tribal name Wea was shortened from Wiatanon by the British. The spelling Ouiatanon was used by the French with the letters "Ou" representing the sound of "W".