Miami Dictionary

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Wed Jun 29 18:35:20 UTC 2005

The Associated Press 

MIAMI, Okla. - Without a fluent speaker left, the Miami Tribe of
Oklahoma hopes to revive its language through the publication of a

Daryl Baldwin, a co-editor of the dictionary, said the book is drawn
from records spanning three centuries, beginning with dictionaries
created by French missionaries of the late 17th and early 18th
centuries and including word lists and texts collected in the 19th and
early 20th centuries. The project, a collaborative effort with Miami
University of Ohio, began in 1991.

"Our language is rich and complex," said Baldwin, 42. "The dictionary
proves it is a lie that the 'savage' Indian only needed 2,000 or 3,000
words to communicate."

The language died out as part of an English-only campaign the U.S.
government conducted in an assimilation policy that lasted into the

"I never learned the language," said Floyd Leonard, the tribe's
78-year-old chief. "It wasn't something that was done when I was a

Baldwin, an Ohio native and Miami Tribe of Oklahoma member, said a
language is part of what defines a people.

"Most of us have been removed from our cultural heritage," Baldwin said.
"We started asking, What is Miami? Without speakers of the language,
it's hard to get a glimpse of what that means. Language is culture."

The dictionary came out about two weeks ago. Other projects planned
include a field guide to plant species found in the tribe's historical
lands in Ohio and Indiana expected to be finished later this year, and
a mapping project that will reclaim tribal place names, which is under

An audio CD of Miami speakers that contains vocabulary, phrases,
conversation, the Miami origin story and the Lord's Prayer was
completed in 2002.

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