“The Miami Nation in Today’s Perspective was presented to the Fort Wayne Quest Club on October 29, 1993 by William R. Clark: During the late 1600s the Miami tribe occupied the land west of Lake Michigan, but by the 1700s the tribe migrated to the southeast, partly because of British and French fur trading centers and also because of hostile neighbors. A member of the Macro Algonquin linguistic family, the tribe included the Painkeshaw who came to reside in the lower Wabash Valley region around Vincennes, the Weas along the middle Wabash at current-day Lafayette and the Miamis of the upper Wabash here in the Three Rivers region and other sites in eastern Ohio.
The Miami tribe was relatively small numbering 5,000 at its peak prior to contact with Europeans and then falling to perhaps 2,000 in the 1700s because their immune systems could not protect them from European diseases such as smallpox.
Representative tribe sizes for comparison to the Miami includes the larger Sioux and Cherokee who perhaps numbered 25,000 each or the smaller Kiowa and Arapahoe with approximately 3,000 each. Neighboring tribes after 1700 included the Kickapoo to the west, Potawatomi in southern Michigan, Ottawa in central and northern Michigan and Huron or Wynadotte to the east. Southern Indiana was considered part of the Miami hunting grounds, not regularly populated by any single tribe; but from the southeast came the displaced Delaware and Shawnees whose villages the Miamis accepted in their midst. It was the Delaware’s who brought captured Quaker girl Frances Slocum to the Miamis. The Shawnees brought to the Three Rivers area Tecumseh and his brother the prophet, who with British support in 1811 attempted to reactivate the Miami Confederacy of the early 1790s to make what proved to be one last attempt to limit the American acquisition of land in the Northwest Territory.
The origin of the name “Miami” is uncertain. Some suggested that it came from the Ojibwa word “Oumamik” which means “people of the peninsula,” from which the French derived the name Miami. The British referred to them as the Twightees which was derived from an Indian word meaning “Naked ones.” Still others suggested the latter label (Twightees), was derived from “twah-twah” mimicking the call of the Miami symbol, the Sandhill crane.
The Miami’s were a semi-sedentary tribe whose permanent summer villages were usually located along rivers with adjacent areas cleared for corn planting. During the winter months they made camps elsewhere from which they hunted. Although the area was densely forested, there were open plains to the northwest in Indiana and Illinois. Buffalo meat was frequently on the Miami’s menu during the earlier years. Their need for mobility served as a disinclination to construct permanent houses or accumulate personal possessions. Miami dwellings were most often oval huts made of poles with rush mats or bark walls. One larger such structure served for the village council meetings. Log cabin dwellings did not appear until after their contact with Europeans. Kinship was the thread of all Native societies. Families of shared common ancestry constituted clans, of which at least 12 existed for the Miami nation. An Indian band was normally constituted by (trumpets, trombones, saxophones and clarinets–just kidding), members of the tribe that were clustered in a geographic area and might be distributed among several villages, likely including representatives of many of the clans and varying in size from 20 to 30 individuals to many hundreds.
To be continued…