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Miami Indians
The tribe originally consisted of six bands

The population of the Miami Indians could have been as high as 15,000 in the year 1600, although an estimate by the French in 1717 set it at about 8,000. A malaria epidemic in in the 1720s and 1730s depleted their count to no more than 3,000. They were of Algonquian stock, and lived in a number of areas surrounding the Great Lakes. Originally the tribe consisted of six bands, however, two bands, the Wea and Piankashaws, become independent in the early 1800s.

The original home territory of the Miami was the Green Bay area of Wisconsin, but as time passed they migrated south and established villages on the Maumee and Wabash Rivers, and the Great Miami River that flows through Shelby County, Ohio. The word Miami, in the tribe’s tongue, meant Mother.

They lived in dome shaped wigwams surrounded by fields of corn, their primary agricultural crop. The Miami were respected by their contemporaries as skilled warriors, however, their successes were primarily due to shrewd leadership and planning; choosing their allies carefully. In the French and Indian War (1754-1763) the Miami once again became French allies, although they were not particularly involved in any of the fighting. In 1757, they attempted to conclude a separate peace treaty with the British, but this was rejected by the Virginia legislature. A smallpox outbreak that began in Fort William Henry, New York, reached the Great Lakes Indians, further decimating the Miami tribe. Their most famous war chief was Little Turtle, who in battle was feared by the whites, but in peace, charismatic, and adored by whites. 

They left the Miami Valley area in the 1760s, returning to their lands in Indiana. In the 1820s, the Miami Indians in Indiana watched as their land holdings began to deplete due to taxes and debts. Treaties signed in 1826, 1828 and 1838 also caused attrition in their land holdings. The end came with The Forks of the Wabash Treaty in 1840 that ceded their last remaining 177,000 acres for a sum of $550,000, of which $325,000 went to settle debts.

Their former ancestral land was now comprised of a very small reservation in Wabash County. By 1827, a large part of the tribe had moved to Kansas and then to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. By 1873, because of disease and famine, their number was down to 150 persons. In 1846, a contingent of 500 left Indiana by canal boat to be settled in eastern Kansas. The Indians who had remained in Indiana eventually dissolved their tribal relations and in 1872, divided the reservation land among the surviving 300 members and merged into the local population. In 1897, the Miami in Indiana saw their tribal status revoked. Today, approximately, 1,500 members of the tribe live in Oklahoma, after having been removed from Kansas in 1867. The Oklahoma branch of the Miami Indians have never lost their federal recognition, however, the 6,000 members of the Miami tribe in current day Indiana have never been able to regain that status.

'Indian' segment written in December, 1997 by David Lodge


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