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Miami Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Miamis for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to look through our main Miami language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Miami pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages. Photographs are the property of the sources we have credited.

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    Miami Tribe

Where did the name "Miami" come from?
Miami comes from the Miami-Illinois word Myaamia, which means "allies."

Where do the Miamis live?
The Miami Indians had their original homeland in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. However, many of them were forced to move to Oklahoma during the Indian Removals. Here is a map showing Miami, Wea, and Piankashaw Indian migrations. Today, there are two Miami Indian communities: one in Indiana, and one in Oklahoma.

Does the Miami tribe have any relationship to the city in Florida?
No, the similarity is a coincidence. Miami, Florida got its name from a Tequesta placename, Maymi, which may have meant "wide lake." The Tequesta and Miami Indian languages are not related at all. Maumee, Ohio is named after the Miami Indian people, and so is Miami University.

How is the Miami Indian nation organized?
The Miami tribe in Oklahoma has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Miamis are also US citizens and must obey American law. The Miami tribe in Indiana is not federally recognized. That means the Miami Indians of Indiana don't have a reservation or their own government. However, they still have traditional Miami leadership and tribal meetings.

In the past, the Miami tribe was ruled by two chiefs. One was a village chief, chosen by the leaders of the Miami clans, and the other was a war chief, chosen by the other warriors. Today, Miami chiefs are elected by the people, just like mayors and governors.

What is the Miami tribe's population?
There are about 5000 members of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma today. There are about 2500 Miami Indian people in Indiana.

What language do the Miamis speak?
In the past, they spoke their native Miami-Illinois language. It has this long name because two tribes, the Illini and the Miamis, spoke the same language with different accents--just like Americans and Canadians both speak English. Unfortunately, no Miami Indian people are fluent in this language anymore. However, the Miami tribe is working hard to teach young people their ancestral language again.

Miami is a musical language with complicated verbs. If you'd like to know a few easy Miami words, "aya" (pronounced ah-yah) means "hello" and "niihka" (pronounced nee-ka) means "friend." You can also read a Miami picture glossary here.

What was Miami culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is the homepage of the Eastern Miami tribe, where you can learn about the Miami people past and present.

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How do Miami Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have toys and games, miniature bows and arrows, and dolls made from corn husks. The Miami Indians didn't believe in physical punishment, so Miami kids who misbehaved were scolded instead of getting a spanking. Miami mothers, like many Native Americans, traditionally carried their infants in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with pictures of Indian cradleboards.

What were men and women's roles in the Miami tribe?
Miami Indian men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Miami women were farmers and did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. Only men could be Miami Indian chiefs in the past, but women had important roles overseeing religious festivals and negotiating peace treaties. Today, a Miami woman could be chief too... and a Miami man can be a farmer.

What were Miami homes like in the past?
The Miamis didn't live in tepees. They lived in villages of small oval houses with walls made of woven reeds. Each Miami village also had a larger wooden council house. Today, Native Americans only build a reed house for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Miamis live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Miami clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Miami women wore skirts with leggings. Miami men wore breechcloths. The Miamis did wear shirts in cool weather, but even in wintertime, Miami men didn't wear long pants Miami Indians also wore leather moccasins on their feet. Here are some photos and links about Indian clothing in general.

The Miamis didn't wear feathered headdresses like the Sioux. Sometimes they wore headbands with a few red feathers in the back. Miami women wore their hair long, sometimes braided or tied in a bun. Miami men usually shaved their heads in the Mohawk style and wore a porcupine roach. (These roaches are made of porcupine hair, not their sharp quills!) Here is a website with Indian hairstyle pictures. Miami men and women both painted their faces for different occasions, and also used tattooing for more permanent designs.

Today, some Miami people still have a traditional headband or moccasins, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Miami transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, Miami Indians made dugout canoes by hollowing out large trees. Here's a website with Indian dugout canoe pictures. Over land, the Miamis used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) The dogs carried backpacks or pulled wooden drag sleds called travois. Today, of course, Miami people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Miami Indian food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Miamis were farming people. Miami food crops included corn, beans, and squash. Miami Indian men also hunted buffalo. They set controlled fires to drive the large animals towards the hunters. Miami recipes included soup, cornbread, and stews. Here is a website with more information about Native American food and drink.

What were Miami Indian weapons, tools and artifacts like?
Miami hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, tomahawks, and spears. Miami men also used shields of buffalo hide to deflect enemy arrows. Here is a website with pictures and information about Indian tomahawks and other traditional weapons.

What are Miami art and crafts like?
The Miami tribe is known for their quillwork, beadwork, and embroidery.

What other Native Americans did the Miami tribe interact with?
The Miamis traded with all the other tribes of the Great Lakes region, and sometimes with tribes who lived further away. Miami people especially liked to trade buffalo hides to the Iroquois Indians in exchange for shell beads. The Miamis sometimes fought with the Chickasaw and Sioux people, but in general, they got along very well with other Indian tribes. In fact, in the late 1700's the Miami tribe led a coalition of Great Lakes tribes including the Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Shawnee.

What kinds of stories do the Miami Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Miami legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Miami culture. Here is one traditional story about a fight between Possum and Rabbit. Here's a website where you can read more about Miami mythology.

What about Miami religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Miami life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Miami people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Miami mythology or this site about American Indian spiritual beliefs in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy reading a biography of Little Turtle, who was a famous Miami leader, or of Frances Slocum, who was a Quaker girl who became the wife of a Miami chief. If you want to know more about Miami culture and history, one interesting source is The Miami Indians of Indiana. You can also browse through our recommendations of books by Native American writers. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Miami Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Miami Indians

Miami Indian Tribe
An overview of the Native American Miami tribe, their language and history.

Miami Language Resources
Miami language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Miami Culture and History Directory
Cultural links about the Miami people and their characteristics past and present.

Miami Words
Miami Indian vocabulary lists.

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