Lankford and tribal leaders plan to return in early May for a ribbon-cutting and grand opening that will be open to the public, Julie Olds, tribe cultural resources officer, said in a phone interview from tribal headquarters in Miami, Okla.
"We have every intention of being a community partner," Olds said.
The National Historic Preservation Act allows Native-American tribes to consult with state and federal governments on construction projects — including discovery of Native-American human remains — and work that affects properties of historic tribal significance, Olds said. The Miami Tribe has been doing this for years in this region, but from its Oklahoma office.
Opening the Fort Wayne office will place a tribal historic preservation consultant in this area to work on projects in Indiana and the Great Lakes region, she said.
The Miami once lived in this area and had a large settlement, Kekionga, in what is now Fort Wayne. In 1846, the U.S. government forced most Miamis to move to Kansas. Tribe members were forced to move again in 1867 to their current location in Oklahoma.
Federal "removal" of eastern Native American tribes created great hardship on tribal members, and many died enroute to the land set aside for them out west.
Olds estimates about 500 Miami Tribe of Oklahoma members live in Indiana. The tribe has a total membership of about 4,800 in the United States and overseas.
To help serve tribe members in this area, the Fort Wayne office also will have one staff member tasked with coordinating cultural programming, such as language classes, cultural education programs and youth activities, Olds said. Since 2005, the Miami Tribe has offered a one-week summer youth education program for ages 10-16 in Fort Wayne.
The office also will have regular contact with the Myaamia Center (Myaamia is the tribal word for Miami), which is based at Miami University in Oxford in southwest Ohio. The center leads efforts to preserve and revitalize the Miami Tribe's language and culture.
The Fort Wayne Cultural Resources office's mission will be to help Miami Tribe members first, Olds said.
"But when we do good for them, the good flows into the community and benefits everyone," she added.
Olds believes the Miami Tribe will have some money it can put toward local projects, which it raises through grants and other sources. The cultural resources office has no connection to any attempt to bring a tribal casino or gaming operation to this area, she said.
Olds said the Miami Tribe's decision to open a cultural resources office here also is independent of any efforts by the group Miami Nation of Indians of the State of Indiana, which is based in Peru.
Many in the area Miami organization descend from the few Miami clans who the U.S. government allowed to remain on small reservations here when the rest of the tribe was removed to the West. Leaders of the area group worked in the 1990s to obtain federal recognition as a separate tribe, but the request was denied.
Officials from the area Miami group could not be reached for comment.
Learn moreFor more on the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, go to www.miamination.com.
The tribe hopes to open its Fort Wayne Cultural Resources Extension Office about Feb. 1 at 10901 Trentman Road to provide historic preservation consulting and cultural programming. Hours typically will be 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays.
For now, cultural resources questions should be directed to tribal headquarters in Miami, Okla., at 1-918-542-1445 (ask for Cultural Resources) or via www.miamination.com.