In our language we are myaamia - the downstream people. Today you will hear our name pronounced Miami, a derivation of our traditional name. The United States government recognizes us as a Sovereign Nation, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. We originate from the Great Lakes region where our homelands lie within the boundaries of the states of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, lower Michigan and lower Wisconsin.
We were among those Nations exposed to early European contact, first through the Jesuit mission in the late 1600’s, followed soon after by the French and British invasion and struggle for control of the Great Lakes region. In those days we numbered into tens of thousands. The following years of struggle toward the establishment of the United States of America is a history that includes, by necessity, accounts of the efforts of our people to retain their homeland and connection to that landscape. Stories of our Chiefs and War Chiefs, their wisdom, victories and defeats, are all recorded in history. We are known.
The treaty period was devastating, marked by the massive cession of lands required at the Greenville Treaty of 1795. It was the vicious tenacity of the early leaders of this country that lead to President Andrew Jackson signing the Indian Removal Act of 1830, an action that set in motion a chain of events that would alter our place and people forever. The Treaty of 1840 called for the removal of the Miami Tribe to regions beyond the Mississippi. After many attempts to avoid this devastating move, in October of 1846 our ancestors, numbering approximately 500 souls, were herded at gunpoint and forced onto canal boats to begin the long journey down the Erie Canal system from eastern Indiana to the Ohio River. The remaining journey called for the use of steam boats to take our people west, down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, up to the Missouri and across to Westport Landing near Kansas City. From that landing our ancestors made their way south by horseback and wagon to a reserve held for them in the land of the Kaw people, near modern day La Cygne, Kansas. Our people remained in Kansas until the Treaty of 1867 called for their removal again, this time to the Indian Territory, known today as Oklahoma. Upon arrival in the Indian Territory our Nation numbered fewer than 100 adults.
Following the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 our first Tribal Constitution was adopted in 1939 and officially recognized us as the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. Since that constitution our Nation has been governed by an elected leadership consisting of a Chief, Second Chief, Secretary-Treasurer, and two Councilpersons; known collectively as the Tribal Business Committee. These leaders follow in the footsteps of those before them in the constant struggle to retain our sovereignty and demand our right to self-determination through our status as a self-governing Nation.
The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has shown by action our absolute determination to perpetuate our cultural identity and to re-establish a land base for myaamia citizens. With the establishment of the Cultural Resources Office, and its immediate ally, the Natural Resources Office, the Miami Tribe took responsibility for the status of our resources. The Cultural Resources Office, in full knowledge of the devastating effects of the many assimilation tactics forced on our people over the past 150 years, recognizes that our heritage language, and with it our cultural knowledge, must be restored to the people so that our identity as myaamia will live on. The Natural Resources Office is responsible to work with the Nation’s growing land-base ensuring that Tribal lands are used in culturally appropriate ways. Among these are assisting in the return of myaamia people to the landscape for cultural education and traditional activities, as well as using specially targeted areas for growing organic crops to support the health of our people.
The Cultural Resources Office works under the following areas of need: reclamation, restoration, revitalization, preservation and perpetuation. These areas of concern have been identified as reactions to the effects of history and assimilation. We actively reclaim what has been taken from us, our language, traditions, ancestral remains from museum shelves, and missing objects of our culture. We restore our connection to each other and to the landscape by holding many annual gatherings on tribal lands. We see the revitalization of our community in the return of language and traditions. We preserve what has been reclaimed and restored by looking to our elders to continue knowledge through oral tradition and ask them to call on us and our children to be students of our heritage so that who we are, and all that we know, is perpetuated. We fully realize the importance of our work because our citizens are scattered across this country. To ensure tomorrow finds us healthy and secure, we must today find ways to bind what is a scattered community. We do this through providing places for myaamia people to gather to connect as family, and to live our ways. We also accomplish this through modern forms of connectivity including our quarterly newspaper, websites, and email.
Our Nations leaders recognize that the work of reclamation includes reclaiming our own people. Our Chief and Cultural Leaders recognize that the education of our citizens must be a tribal responsibility to ensure that our history, culture, and traditions are accurately conveyed to them. Our work in cultural revitalization is thwarted when our people, especially our children, receive all of their education training in the public school system without the input of educators among their people. This perception lead the Miami Business Committee in 1996 to establish annual educational gatherings for language and cultural learning hosted by elders and cultural leaders.
Building a National land base that includes land holdings in five states, providing scholarships, employment for Tribal citizens, language and cultural education efforts, as well as maintaining the massive buildings and infrastructure to maintain it all, was made possible through the economic development efforts of the Nation directed by Tribal leadership. Myaamia leaders determined early on that gaming revenue must be used to establish other, more secure, forms of economic development. Since the advent of Indian Gaming in Oklahoma the Miami Tribe has established two political economic sub-divisions, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma Business Development Authority (MTOBDA) and Miami Nation Enterprises (MNE) under which a number of Tribal businesses are managed. Both of these entitites have SBA 8a status.
Today our Nation numbers over 4,400 citizens. Our continued existence is due to, and in honor of, those who walked before us, who fought and worked and struggled to remain. Their efforts brought us here. Therefore we, in respectful and steely determination, work to build for our community, provide for and teach our children, and care for our elders. Our economic development efforts are vital to the solid foundation needed to allow us to rise to these responsibilties today, and to continue to support them tomorrow. We work to assure that while the sun continues to rise it will shine on the people known as myaamiaki.