The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Neepwaantiinki. In the Miami language, myaamiaataweenki, this means, “We learn from each other.” The word has also been adopted as a symbol for the relationship between the two Miamis — Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma ― a relationship sparked by an unexpected visit to the university in 1972.
Though few were aware of it at the time, Miami University is located in the historic homelands from which the Miami Tribe was first forcibly removed in 1846.
After a business trip to Cincinnati, then-Miami Chief Forest Olds made a visit to Oxford where university officials gave him a campus tour. Shortly after, he was invited back for a second visit, this time to meet then-Miami University president, Phillip R. Shriver.
Since that first meeting, the relationship has grown to become one unlike any of its kind. Through the work of the Myaamia Center, which is housed in the historic Bonham House on Spring Street, Miami Tribe citizens and other researchers have set a cultural revitalization for the tribe in motion.
As Miami students, we have an incredible opportunity to learn about this culture as it is experiencing this growth and transition. We can speak with people who are reviving a language that lay dormant for a century. We can talk with 31 undergraduate Myaamia students who are learning to speak the language and live out Myaamia traditions.
The revitalization of Myaamia language and culture has been championed by the university for years, but never before has the relationship between the tribe and the school been so intricately woven.
In 2017, the Myaamia Tribe Relations department and the Miami Nation Headquarters established the Myaamia Heritage Logo. The logo is jointly owned by both the tribe and the university. All proceeds from merchandise that utilizes this trademark will fund scholarships for students of Myaamia heritage.
For a language and culture that was virtually unknown to Miami students and faculty 50 years ago, the tribe has made a tremendous impact at Miami University. Just last May, Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Center and recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Grant for his work in reviving the tribe’s language, addressed Miami’s Class of 2017 at spring commencement.
Miami is making strides to increase the tribe’s visibility on campus and in the Miami community, and, as students, we should take advantage of the learning opportunities this relationship offers.
Every other year, Miami University and the Myaamia Center hosts the Myaamiaki Conference. This year marks the eighth biennial conference which will be held March 30 at the Marcum Conference Center that students can attend.
Students can also take IDS 259, an “Introduction to the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma,” visit the Wiikiaami room on the second floor of Armstrong, stop in at the Myaamia Center or check out a copy of the tribe’s stories that have been rediscovered and transcribed in “Myaamia and Peoria Narratives and Winter Stories.” And to learn more about the language, students can visit myaamiadictionary.org.
Not only do we have a chance to experience this cultural revitalization, but we have a responsibility to strengthen it.