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Miami Indians

Not to be confused with Mayaimi.
This article is about the Native America ethnic group. For other uses, see Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
George Catlin, 1830
Total population
3,908 (2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( Oklahoma, historically  Indiana)
English, French, Miami-Illinois
Christianity, Traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Illinois, and other Algonquian peoples

The Miami (Miami-Illinois: Myaaniaki) are a Native American nation originally found in what is now Indiana, southwest Michigan, and western Ohio. 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.


The name Miami derives from the tribe's autonym (name for themselves) in their Algonquian language, Miami-Illinois, Myaamia (plural Myaamiaki); this appears to have come 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 language exonym for the Miamis, tuwéhtuwe, a name of unknown etymology.[2] Some Miamis have stated that this was only a name used by other tribes for the Miamis, and not the autonym which the Miamis used for themselves. Another common term was Mihtohseeniaki (the people). The Miami continue to use this autonym today.

Name Source[3] Name Source[3]
Maiama Maumee later French
Meames Memilounique French
Metouseceprinioueks Myamicks
Naked Indians Nation de la Grue French
Omameeg Omaumeg Chippewa
Oumami Oumamik 1st French
Piankashaw Quikties
Tawatawas Titwa
Tuihtuihronoons Twechtweys
Twightwees Delaware Wea band



Known locations of the Miami during the Iroquois War years
1654 Fox River, southwest of Lake Winnebago
1670-95 Wisconsin River, below the Portage to the Fox River
1673 Niles, Michigan
1679-81 Fort Miamis, at St. Joseph, Michigan
1680 Fort Chicago
1682-91 Fort St. Louis, at Starved Rock, Illinois
1687 Calumet River, at Blue Island, Illinois
c. 1691 Wabash River, at the mouth of the Tippecanoe River

Early Miami people are considered to belong to the Fischer Tradition of Mississippian culture.[6] 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.

During historic times, the Miami were known to have migrated south and eastwards from Wisconsin from the mid-17th century to the mid-18th century, by which time they had settled on the upper Wabash River in what is now Northwestern Ohio. The migration was likely a result of their being invaded during the protracted Beaver Wars by the more powerful Iroquois, who traveled far in strong organized groups (war parties) from their territory in central New York for better hunting during the peak of the near east beaver fur trader days. The Dutch and French traders and after 1652 the British fueled the Iroquois greed which reduced along with disease native American populations by ninety percent.

Historic locations[3]

Year Location
1658 Northeast of Lake Winnebago, WI (Fr)
1667 Mississippi Valley of Wisconsin
1670 Head of the Fox River, WI; Chicago village
1673 St. Joseph River Village, MI (River of the Miamis) (Fr),
Kalamazo River village, MI
1703 Detroit village, MI
1720-63 Miami River locations, OH;
Scioto River village (nr Columbus), OH
1764 Wabash River villages

European contact

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 (also Atchatchakangouen or Greater Miami)
  • Kilatika
  • Mengkonkia (Mengakonia)
  • Pepikokia (Kithtippecanuck)
  • Piankeshaw (Newcalenous)[8]
  • Wea (Ouiatenon)[9]

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.[10]

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.


French years[4][5]

British years[4][5]

  • 1763 Captured British at Fort Miami (1760–63) as a part of the Pontiac’s Rebellion
  • 1774 Warriors participated in Lord Dunmore's War in Ohio
  • 1778 Kenapacomaqua, Wabash at the mouth of the Eel River, Logansport, Indiana
  • 1780 October — Agustin Mottin de La Balme (Spanish, from St. Louis) headed a raid of Detroit. Stopped and destroyed Kekionga. La Balme withdrew to the west, where Little Turtle destroyed the raiders, killing one third of them, on the 5th of November.

United States

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. This was the worst defeat of an American army by Native Americans in U.S. history.[11] 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, having used the War of 1812 as pretext for attacks on Miami villages throughout the Indiana Territory.

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]


United States years[4][5]

  • 1785 Delaware villages located near Kekionga (refugees from American settlements)
  • 1790 Pickawillany Miami join Kekionga (refugees from American settlements)
  • 1790 Gen. Harmar marches on Kekionga to punish the Miami, Delaware, and Shawnee villages. On the 17th of October, Harmar found the seven villages deserted. The rear guard, left to destroy the returning villagers, was defeated by Little Turtle’s warriors.
  • 1790 Mississinewa (Mississinewa River below the Wabash, southeast of Peru, Indiana)
  • 1791 Gen. Arthur St. Clair moves on Kekionga. Little Turtle destroys the US Army (1400) near the future Fort Recovery.
  • Kentucky Militia destroy Eel River villages.
  • 1793 December — General Anthony Wayne moves to Fort Recovery to prepare to destroy Kekionga.
  • 1794 August — Fort Defiance (Defiance, Ohio) built on the Maumee River, site of deserted Shawnee village of Blue Jacket. 20 August Battle of Fallen Timbers, Blue Jacket loses to Wayne.
  • 1794 Kekionga site abandoned
  • Mississinewa towns become the center of the nation.
  • 1809 Gov. William Henry Harrison orders destruction of all villages within two-day's march of Fort Wayne. Villages near Columbia City and Huntington destroyed.
  • 17 December, Lt. Col. John B. Campbell ordered to destroy the Mississinewa villages. Campbell destroys villages and kills women and children.
  • 18 December, at 2nd village, Americans repulsed and return to Greenville.
  • 1810 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 & Wabash given to Josetta Beaubien, Anotoine Bondie, Peter Labadie, Francois Lafontaine, Peter Langlois, Joseph Richardville, and Antoine Rivarre. Miami National Reserve (875,000) created.
  • 1818 Eel River Miami settle at Thorntown, northeast of Lebanon).
  • 1825 1073 Miami, including the Eel River Miami
  • 1826 Mississinewa Treaty — loose between the Eel and the Wabash to create a right of way for the canal. 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. 800 Miami
  • 1846 1 October, removal was supposed to begin. 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.
  • 1847 Godfroy Reserve, between the Wabash and Mississinewa
  • Wife of Benjamin Reserve, east edge of Godfroy
  • Osandian Reserve, on the Mississinewa, southeast boundary of Godfroy
  • Wapapincha Reserve, south of Mississinewa at Godfroy/Osandian juncture
  • Tahkonong Reserve, southeast of Wapapincha south of Mississinewa
  • Ozahshinquah Reserve, on the Mississinewa River, southeast of Peoria
  • Meshingomesa Reserve, north side of Mississinewa from Somerset to Jalapa (northwest Grant County)
  • 1872 Most reserves were partially sold to non-Indians.
  • 1922 All reserves were sold for debt or taxes for the Miamis.

Places named for the Miami

A number of places have been named for the Miami nation:

Notable Miami people

Indigenous peoples of North America portal



External links

  • Miami Indian Collection (MSS 004)
  • Guide to Native American Resources
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