The year 2021 brings several milestones in the Miami University-Miami Tribe relationship
Miami Univeristy Alumni ASsociation
The year 2021 marks several milestones for Miami University and its relationship with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
This year celebrates 20 years since Miami University and the Miami Tribe created the Myaamia Project (now the Myaamia Center) and 30 years since the first three Miami Tribe students enrolled at Miami as part of the Miami Heritage Award. We also recently surpassed 100 Miami Tribe graduates at Miami University.
Additionally, 2022 will be the 50th anniversary of Miami Tribe Chief Forest Olds visiting Miami University and forging the first connection between the Tribe and the University.
In honor of these significant achievements, the Miami University Alumni Association invites you to join us during our virtual Alumni Weekend as Kara Strass, director of the Miami Tribe Relations, hosts A Spotlight on the Myaamia Center, discussing this long relationship and its current state.
In preparation for this event, we invite you to explore the history through the pictures below.
Miami Tribe of Oklahoma Chief Forest Olds (left) visits Miami University unexpectedly and speaks with then-president Phillip Shriver, forging the first connection between the Tribe and University. At that visit, Chief Olds was given a University tour and attended a football practice. Following that visit, Miami University sent a resolution asking the Tribe to support their use of Redskins as an athletic mascot, which they passed.
Chief Forest Olds returns to Miami University and meets with President Phillip Shriver. During this visit the John R. Ruthven ‘Miami Indian I’ print was unveiled. Additionally, Chief Olds (left) received an award from Bob Cantoni of the Miami University Alumni Association.
1970s and 1980s
Chief Forest Olds passes away not long after his 1974 visit to Miami University and he is succeeded by Chief Floyd Leonard (at the mic). Chief Leonard and other Miami Tribe leaders continue to build individual relationships with people at Miami University, including university presidents and the Alumni Office. Seated is then-president Paul Pearson, and standing is alumni director Mike Macechko.
Starting in the 1990s, Miami developed recommendations for strengthening the University’s relationship with the Miami Tribe. This included education for the Miami University community through presentations and campus displays, as well as educational opportunities for Miami Tribe citizens. Chief Leonard was invited to campus on a regular basis for important events, including three presidential inaugurations and the 2009 bicentennial.
The first three Miami Tribe students enrolled at Miami University as part of the Miami Heritage Award in 1991. Myaamia students receive a tuition waiver to attend Miami University.
After much debate within the community, the Miami Tribe sends a resolution to Miami University that states: “the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma can no longer support the use of the nickname Redskins and suggest that the Board of Trustees discontinue the use of Redskins and other Indian related name.”
Out of respect for the sovereignty of the Miami Tribe and the relationship between the Tribe and University, Miami University changed its mascot name from Redskins to RedHawks.
Because of the relationship that had been created between the Tribe and University to this point, the Tribe approached Miami University about supporting their work in language and cultural revitalization. The Myaamia Project was created, and Daryl Baldwin arrived in 2001 as the founding director. Since its founding the Myaamia Project (now Myaamia Center) has worked to serve the needs of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
Up until 2003, students who attended Miami as part of the Myaamia Heritage Award did not have any formal requirements. The Myaamia Heritage Course series was started in 2003 to help students learn about Myaamia history, language and culture while they attend Miami University.
Chief Floyd Leonard (second from left) received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Miami University at May commencement. From left to right: Dick Nault, Chief Leonard, commencement speaker William Safire and then-Miami President James Garland.
Miami University and the Miami Tribe sign a Memorandum of Understanding outlining their support to engage in future educational initiatives together. President James Garland (left) and Chief Leonard.
Miami University and the Miami Tribe sign a Memorandum of Agreement, officially recognizing the Myaamia Project including details regarding funding, operations and intellectual property. Left: Chief Thomas Gamble with then President David Hodge.
The Miami University Art Museum hosts a semester-long exhibit about the Miami Tribe and dedicates the sculpture “A Tribe Named Miami, A Surveyor’s Stake, A Town Named Oxford” in the Miami University Art Museum Sculpture Garden.
The Myaamia Project transitioned into the Myaamia Center, which provided additional support and permanence to the language and cultural revitalization work. In this picture are then-president David Hodge (left) and Chief Douglas Lankford.
The Richard and Emily Smucker Wiikiaami Room was opened as part of the new Armstrong Student Center in 2014. The design for the room originated with a 2009 Miami University architecture studio. It incorporates several elements of a wiikiaami, the Myaamia word for “home or lodge,” including the room’s round shape and an entrance from the East.
Myaamia Center Executive Director Daryl Baldwin is awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for his work in the revitalization of Myaamia language and culture.
May 13: Daryl Baldwin (center) gives the keynote commencement address and receives an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Miami University at commencement from Chief Lankford (left) and Provost Phyllis Callahan.
October: Miami University and the Miami Tribe launch the Miami Heritage Logo (MHL) and the Myaamia Heritage Collection. The MHL was created by designers from both Miamis. Each element of the MHL is meaningful and helps to teach about the relationship between the Tribe and University. Today, the MHL can be seen across the university, including in Miami Athletics. Royalties from the MHL Collection are used to support Myaamia students at Miami University.
The Myaamia Center partners with the Miami University Art Museum for their third joint exhibit, peepankišaapiikahkia eehkwaatamenki ‘Myaamia ribbonwork’ in spring 2020. Unfortunately, the exhibit was closed in March when the University closed due to COVID-19, but the exhibit can now be explored on the Art Museum Blog.
2021 is the 30th anniversary of the Myaamia Heritage Program (MHP). The MHP has grown significantly over the past 30 years, and today includes the Heritage Course, a senior research project and extensive advising and support. Additionally, Myaamia students can choose to engage with the Myaamia Center through workshops, trips, events or research. In May 2021, we graduated 100 graduates of the program.
2021 is also the 20th anniversary of the Myaamia Center. The center started with a single employee in 1991 and has grown significantly over time. Today, the center has seven full-time and six part-time employees. While the amount and scope of the work of the Myaamia Center has changed over time, the overall goal of serving the language and cultural revitalization of the Myaamia community has not changed.
The Myaamia Center works with the Provost’s Office to create three new initiatives to incorporate more about the Miami Tribe and its relationship with Miami University into the Miami curriculum. The Education Outreach Specialist position, the Chief Floyd Leonard Faculty Fellowship and the Aanchtaakia Graduate Fellowship will all work together to ensure that Miami University students, faculty and staff have the ability to learn about the Tribe.
Looking forward …
2022 is going to be the 50th anniversary of the relationship between the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami University. Plans are already underway for a yearlong celebration that will span the entire calendar year. This relationship that started with the connection between individual people has grown to become a reciprocal, multilayered relationship. For the Myaamia people, language and cultural revitalization fosters a strengthened identity and vitality for the Tribal nation. For the university, confronting our complicity in injustice and recognizing our accountability compels us to repair this relationship so that together we can better respond to the challenges of our time in ethical and effective ways. Together, the university and the Tribe build community and learn from each other through this reciprocal relationship. While the partnership is rooted in relationships, it is now formalized by agreements that outline the responsibilities of each group. This growing relationship continues to be strengthened by the people who come together to support our ongoing work. It is in these friendships, partnerships, and projects that you can find the truest meaning of neepwaantiinki “learning from each other.”