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Miami is thought to be derived from the Chippewa word Omaumeg, signifying “people on the peninsula,” but according to their own traditions, it came from the word for pigeon. The name used by themselves, as recorded and often used by early writers, is Twigbtwees, derived from the cry of a crane. Also called:
- Naked Indians, a common appellation used by the colonists, from a confusion of twanh, twanh, the cry of a crane, with tawa, “naked.”
- Pkíwi-léni, by the Shawnee, meaning “dust or ashes people.”
- Sänshkiá-a-rúnû, by the Wyandot, meaning “people dressing finely, or fantastically.”
- Tawatawas, meaning “naked.” (See Naked Indians above.)
- Wa-yä-tä-no’-ke, cited by Morgan (1851).
Location of the Miami Indians
Miami Villages and Subdivisions
French writers divided the Miami into the following five bands:
The last two later became recognized as independent tribes, the Pepicokia may have been absorbed by the Piankashaw but this and the other three divisions are no longer recognized.
The following villages are:
- Chicago, on the site of the present city, probably occupied by Wea.
- Chippekawkay (Piankashaw), perhaps containing originally the Pepicokia band, on the site of Vincennes, Knox County, Indiana.
- Choppatee’s Village, on the west bank of St. Joseph River, a few miles from Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana.
- Flat Belly’s Village (see Papakeecha).
- Kekionga, on the east bank of St. Joseph River, in Allen County, Indiana., opposite Fort Wayne.
- Kenapacomaqua, a Wea village on the west bank of Eel River, near its mouth, 6 miles above Logansport, Cass County, Indiana.
- Kokomo, on the site of the present Kokomo, Indiana.
- Kowasikka or Thorntown, on Sugar Creek near the present Thornton, Boone County, Indiana.
- Little Turtle’s Village, on Eel River, Ind., about 20 miles northwest of Fort Wayne.
- Meshingomesia, on a reservation on the northeastern side of Mississinewa River, in Liberty Township, Wabash County, Indiana.
- Missinquimeschan, probably Piankashaw, near the site of Washington, Daviess County, Indiana.
- Mississinewa, on the east side of Mississinewa River at its junction with the Wabash in Miami County, Indiana.
- Osaga, location uncertain.
- Papakeecha, named from its chief, east of Turkey Lake at the present Indian village, Noble County, Indiana.
- Piankashaw, occupied by Piankashaw, on Wabash River at the junction of the Vermilion.
- Pickawillanee, on Miami River at the site of the present Piqua, Miami County, Ohio.
- Saint Francis Xavier, mission for Miami and Mascouten on Fox River, Wisconsin, near De Pere, Brown County.
- Seek’s Village, on Eel River about 3 miles from Columbia City, in Whitley County, Indiana.
- Thornton (see Kowasikka).
- White Raccoon’s Village, near the present Aboite, Allen County, Indiana.
History of the Miami Indians
Miami Indians were living in the neighborhood of Green Bay, Wisconsin, when knowledge of the tribe first came to Europeans shortly after the middle of the seventeenth century. In 1670 they were at the headwaters of Fox River, but soon afterward they formed new settlements at the southern end of Lake Michigan and on Kalamazoo River, Michigan. It is quite possible that bands of this tribe had moved from Wisconsin at a still earlier period and were in northern Indiana. Their first settlements at the lower end of Lake Michigan were at Chicago and on St. Joseph River. In 1703 there was a Miami village at Detroit, but the greater part of the tribe continued to live on St. Joseph River for a considerable period. By 1711 they had reached the Wabash, and presently they were forced from St. Joseph River by the Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and other northern tribes. In consequence they moved farther south and also, eastward to Miami River, and perhaps as far as the Scioto.
After the peace of 1763, they abandoned these eastern territories to the Shawnee and retired to Indiana. They took a prominent part in all subsequent wars in this section, but soon after the War of 1812 began to dispose of their lands and by 1838 had parted with most of them, the United States Government agreeing to provide them with new lands west of the Mississippi. In 1840 all of their remaining territories were ceded except one tract reserved for a part of the tribe called Meshingomesia’s band, which had chosen to remain in their old country. In 1867 the rest accompanied the Illinois to Oklahoma, where they were given a reservation in the northeastern corner of the State. Their lands now have been allotted in severalty, and they are citizens of the State of Oklahoma. The lands of Meshingomesia’s band in Indiana were divided among the survivors in 1872 and their descendants are citizens of Indiana.
Population of the Miami Indians
Mooney (1928) estimated 4,500 Miami, including the Wea and Piankashaw, in the year 1650. An estimate of 1764 gives them 1,750, but a year later another substracts 500 from this figure. In 1825 the Miami, Wea, and Piankashaw, entered as tribes, were supposed to total about 1,400, of whom 327 were Wea. In 1885 only 57 Miami proper were officially recognized in Indian Territory, while the Wea and Piankashaw were enumerated with the Illinois, the whole numbering 149. These last had increased to 191 in 1903. In 1905 the total number of Miami in Indian Territory was 124. In 1900 the Miami in Indiana, including many White-Indian mixed-bloods, numbered 243. The census of 1910 returned 226 Miami, of whom 123 were in Oklahoma and 90 in Indiana. The United States Indian Office Report of 1923 gave 125 Indians in Indiana, most of whom certainly belonged to this tribe. The census of 1930 returned 284 Miami and Illinois; the 47 reported from Indiana were, of course, all Miami. In 1937, 287 were reported from Oklahoma.
Connection in which the Miami Indians have become noted
Historically the Miami were noted as one of those tribes which offered steady resistance to the westward movement of White population in the eighteenth century. Their name has been given to three Ohio rivers of some importance, the Great Miami, Little Miami, and Maumee; counties in Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas; and to places in California, Indiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, and Manitoba, Canada; also to a creek in Missouri. There are places of the name in Gila County, Ariz.; Miami County, Ind.; Saline County, Mo.; Colfax County, N. Mex.; Ottawa County, Okla.; Roberts County, Tex.; Kanawha County, W. Va. Miamisburg is in Montgomery County, Miamitown in Hamilton County, and Miamiville in Clermont County, all in Ohio; and Miami Station is in Carroll County, Mo. The name of Miami, Fla., and the derived Miami Beach and Miami Springs, Fla., have a different origin. The Miami tribe had a famous chief, Little Turtle, whose name often appears in historical narratives.