Miami U., Tribe Work to Save Culture

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jan 28 14:07:55 UTC 2005

  Miami U., Tribe Work to Save Culture

  by Randy McNutt The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD, OH - Three centuries of American Indian culture is flowing through
this northern Butler County city now that Miami University is the central
repository for the Miami Indian tribe.  Its historical, cultural and
linguistic resources - the essence of a people - are back on land once
inhabited by Indian tribes, including the Miamis. The tribe, now based in
Miami, Okla., and the university, which takes its name from the tribe,
reached a historic agreement this month to establish the Myaamia
Collection at Miami University. (Myaamia is the Miami word for Miami.)

The agreement is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, one
that could serve as a model for other tribes and universities, said Daryl
Baldwin, a linguist and the director of the Myaamia Project for Language
Revitalization. "It was a big step for the Miami Nation to move a portion
of its language reclamation efforts to an academic setting," Mr. Baldwin
said. "This opportunity has provided college-level students an opportunity
to work directly with language and cultural efforts, and has provided the
Miami with resources that directly benefit their reclamation efforts."

The official collection will serve as the nation's primary resource on the
Miami Indians, accessible to the Miami tribal community, academic
researchers and the general public, said university spokeswoman Susan
Meikle. Collection materials - such items as paper records, photographs
and maps - will be kept in the university's libraries. Cultural and
patrimonial objects, such as religious items, will be kept at Miami's art
museum. The school will also keep duplicates of tribal records.

"We are happy to be a party to such an agreement between an institution of
higher learning and a native sovereign nation," said Floyd Leonard, chief
of the Miami Tribe. The Miamis lived in Ohio before U.S. forces defeated a
warrior coalition at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near Toledo in 1794.
After the Treaty of Greenville was signed, most of the tribe went to
Indiana. By 1846, many had been moved to Kansas, and by 1867 to Oklahoma.
As the Miamis interacted with the general population, the use of their own
language declined.

Chief Leonard, who is in his mid-70s, said the tribe must try to save its
language now or risk losing it forever. In 1995, the tribe started a
language revitalization program with the help of David Costa of the
University of California at Berkeley. Since then, the Miamis have
developed interactive software, language lessons and tapes, and language
and cultural camps to help save their native tongue and culture.

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