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Return of Miami Tribe of Okla. generates excitement

Chief Douglas Lankford of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma stands beside a sign made for the tribe's new Cultural Resources Extension Office in Fort Wayne. (By Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel)
Chief Douglas Lankford of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma stands beside a sign made for the tribe's new Cultural Resources Extension Office in Fort Wayne. (By Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel)

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Recovering culture

One key function of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma's new Cultural Resources Extension Office will be to help Miami Tribe members in the Great Lakes area learn more about their language and culture.

The tribe has been working since the mid-1990s to revitalize both, said Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Myaamia means "Miami" in the tribe's language.

The last true speaker of the Miami language died in the 1960s, Baldwin said. He and others have worked to reconstruct the language, which wasn't written down. To do so, they rely on linguistics and analysis of the languages of other Native-American tribes in the Algonquin family of languages, which includes Miami, he said.

Officials since have developed a spelling system using mostly English language letters, so Miami people now can write, text and Tweet in their own language, Baldwin said.

Miami adults are interested in learning their people's language, he said, and tribal officials have seen a lot of interest from Miami youth. To help meet that interest, the Myaamia Center has held monthly language-education programs in Fort Wayne for the past year.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Saturday, January 17, 2015 12:01 am
Catherine Mowry's mother would be very happy.Years ago, Catherine Nagy of Fort Wayne, who died in early 2013, started building a bridge between Miami Indian people living in the Fort Wayne area and the federally recognized Miami Tribe of Oklahoma in Miami, Okla.

Nagy, whose Miami family roots stretch back to famous chiefs Little Turtle and Jean-Baptiste de Richardville, enrolled her family as members of the Miami Tribe. She also worked to bring Oklahoma tribe leaders to northeast Indiana.

"I'm thrilled about it," Mowry, of Fort Wayne, said as she enjoyed the enthusiasm of people at a house south of Fort Wayne that will become the Miami Tribe's new Cultural Resources Extension Office.

Chief Douglas Lankford and other tribal leaders held an open house Friday to welcome community leaders and media to the office, which is located on about 10 acres in the 10900 block of Trentman Road just south of Interstate 469 east of U.S. 27.

The tribe intends to complete some remodeling, including converting portions of the home into office space and transforming an attached stable into a large community room. Leaders then plan to hold a ribbon cutting and grand opening in early May that will be open to the public.

The Cultural Resources office's mission will be to serve Miami Tribe of Oklahoma members living in the Great Lakes region. It will provide language and cultural programming, as well as function as the base for a historic preservation consultant who will assist on construction projects and other work.

The center likely also will host a number of social events for tribe members, Lankford said.

"It is very exciting," he said of the tribe owning property again in its traditional homeland.

The Miami people once lived throughout Indiana, Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southern Michigan, western Ohio and northern Kentucky. Mowry and tribe leaders believe — they want to do more checking — the Cultural Resources office may stand on land once part of one of the small reservations granted to Miami families allowed to stay behind when the U.S. government forced most of the tribe to move to Kansas and then Oklahoma in the mid-1800s.

The Miami Tribe's return to this area also thrilled a few open house visitors who work locally on history and historic preservation.

"We count them among our dearest partners," said Todd Maxwell Pelfrey, executive director of The History Center in Fort Wayne.

The History Center has worked with the Miami Tribe for many years, Pelfrey said. The tribe also was "instrumental" in helping the History Center apply for and receive federal approval for designating the Chief Richardville House as a National Historic Landmark.

Built in 1827, the two-story brick home off Bluffton Road north of Waynedale is one of the oldest Native-American structures in the nation. Historic preservation officials also believe it is the oldest Greek Revival-style house in the Indiana and probably the oldest house in northeast Indiana.

More Information

Recovering culture

One key function of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma's new Cultural Resources Extension Office will be to help Miami Tribe members in the Great Lakes area learn more about their language and culture.

The tribe has been working since the mid-1990s to revitalize both, said Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Myaamia means "Miami" in the tribe's language.

The last true speaker of the Miami language died in the 1960s, Baldwin said. He and others have worked to reconstruct the language, which wasn't written down. To do so, they rely on linguistics and analysis of the languages of other Native-American tribes in the Algonquin family of languages, which includes Miami, he said.

Officials since have developed a spelling system using mostly English language letters, so Miami people now can write, text and Tweet in their own language, Baldwin said.

Miami adults are interested in learning their people's language, he said, and tribal officials have seen a lot of interest from Miami youth. To help meet that interest, the Myaamia Center has held monthly language-education programs in Fort Wayne for the past year.

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