The Miami Indians were an Algonquian tribe of 4,500 who lived in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area in the middle of the 17th century. They lived in this area when the French explorers contacted them in the 1650’s, in order to avoid attacks by the Iroquois. Also known as the Prairie Algonquians, the Miami Indian tribe got their name from the Ojibwa word, oumamik, which means "people of the peninsula." They liked to hunt buffalo on the open prairies, which is another way they got their name. After the Beaver Wars ended in 1701, the Miami Indians migrated to the region occupying the southern end of Lake Michigan, which consisted of present day northern Indiana and Illinois. They mainly settled in Kekionga, which is now Fort Wayne, Indiana.

     At that time there were six Miami-speaking groups that consisted of the Atchatchakangouen, Kilatika, Mengakonkia, Pepicokia, Wea, and Piankashaw. The Atchatchakangouen, Kilatika, and Mengakonkia came together and formed the Miami proper, or Crane Band. The Pepicokia tribe was brought into the Wea and Piankashaw tribes, which when combined with the Miami proper formed the Miami Indians. It is also important to note that they based their well organized political structure on the clan system. In this system, each person would inherit the clan of his father and was only allowed to marry someone from a different clan. All of the villages had a council that consisted of all the chiefs from the different clans. One chief was elected village chief, and the system successfully lasted a long time.

     It is also important to understand that the Miami Indians were mobile farmers and buffalo hunters who usually trapped animals in a ring of fire, capturing them with arrows. While the men would often go on buffalo hunts, the women and children would help prepare meat and hides for travel back to the river valley. Living along the timbered river valleys, the Miami’s shared a lot of cultural traits with the Northeast Woodland Indians. They used elm bark or mats of woven plant materials to cover their houses of various shapes, due to the fact that birch trees did not grow that far south.
     Besides hunting and trapping buffalo, the Miami’s also farmed a great amount of white corn, in which they would trade with other tribes during the 18th century. They would also trade with the French and English between the borders of Ohio and Illinois. From the French and English, they derived the name Twightwees, which was a word meaning "cry of the sandhill crane." As they continued to trade with other tribes and Europeans, the Miami’s became wealthier. As a result, they started to build European style log houses to live in, and also dressed in European looking garments and clothing. Although the Europeans had an influence on new ways of life, the Miami’s continued to follow their own traditions and maintain their active life as a tribe.

     One of the biggest event that changed the lives of the Miami Indian Tribe was the Miami War, which is also known as Little Turtle’s War. Lasting from 1790-1794, this war announced one of the greatest Indian victories in American history. Prior to this war, the Miami’s bonded with the French and supported them against the English and the Iroquois in the French and Indian War from 1689 to 1783. Although they continued fighting against the English in Pontiac’s Rebellion of 1763, they sided with the French from 1775 to 1783 during the American Revolution. However, in 1790 an Indian named Little Turtle, also known as Michikinikwa, believe that the fight was not over.

As a result of the American’s victory in the American Revolution, settlers were coming in and invading the Indian territory each and everyday. Upset with the foreign settlers, the Miami Indians killed 1,500 settlers between the years of 1783 to 1790. In 1790, President George Washington ordered an army made up of military men from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky to go to the Indian villages. Still cocky from winning the war against the English, the army underestimated their enemy tribe. Leading the tribe to war, Little Turtle instructed his army tribe to attack the American army whenever possible. They shot off small strikes and would retread into the wilderness in order to confuse their enemy. They even went as far as burning their own villages to make it look convincing. When the American army was close enough, Little Turtle launched two huge attacks. Although they were victorious, in August of 1795 Little Turtle and many other allied tribes signed the Treaty of Greenville, ceding most of their territory in Ohio and Indiana to the Americans. Little Turtle became a well known celebrity among many Indians, as well as whites. After the war he never fought again, however he died from the gout disease, which was one he caught from the whites.

Much of the text on this page is from a paper by Jamie de Steiger, a former GEO 333 student.

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