In February of 2013, Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma launched a joint effort called the Myaamia Center at Miami University. The new Myaamia Center will carry forward the work of language and cultural revitalization that began through the Myaamia Project 11 years ago.
A relationship born from the intersecting paths of their history, the Miami Tribe and Miami University are intrinsically linked through more than just the shared name — Miami. They are also linked through treaty and removal events that significantly altered the tribe’s future and continue to challenge the American story. Although past events cannot be altered, the realities of today are being shaped and molded by a willingness by both entities to reach out to a new generation of youth. This unique collaboration is captured in the Myaamia term used to express this relationship: neepwaantiinki “learning from each other.” According to Miami University President David Hodge: “Bound by our common roots, we seek to learn from and contribute to each other. We are very proud of our deep connections to each other.”
Over the years this partnership has grown through several initiatives. Scholarship funds are available for qualified tribal students to attend Miami University and this support has been influential in recruiting more than 80 Myaamia students to Miami since 1991. With music student and tribal student input, two new verses to the university’s alma mater have been written in the Myaamia language. The soon to be opened Armstrong Student Center will have a meeting room named the Wiikiaami Room, the Myaamia word for home or lodge, and the room’s display cases will allow for rotating educational material about the Tribe and the relationship with Miami University. The collective impact of actions like these help embed this relationship more firmly into the fabric of the university.
As indigenous communities across the country and beyond continue the struggle to preserve the unique identities that are expressed through their languages and cultures, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami University have found ways to begin reversing this trend with the support of the new Myaamia Center. Through unique collaboration and resource sharing, the effort is changing the course in how tribal members are experiencing their heritage language in the modern world.
The Myaamia Center is a tribally directed research entity with two main purposes. The first is to conduct in-depth research to assist tribal educational initiatives aimed at the preservation of language and culture. This research is used to create a wide range of educational models and materials for community language and cultural programs.
The second purpose is to expose undergraduate and graduate students at Miami University to tribal efforts in language and cultural revitalization. Student experiences are gained through a wide range of activities including visits to tribal headquarters in northeast Oklahoma, direct involvement in research initiatives, class visitations by center staff, and access to Miami Tribe language and cultural resources.
The Myaamia Center has established four offices that will be conducting an array of research projects and developing educational materials. The offices include Technology and Publications, Education and Outreach, Language Research, and Cultural Ecology. Myaamia Center staff hope the establishment of a university center will allow them greater ability to reach beyond the boundaries of the university to collaborate with other centers and institutes who work with native communities in the fields of education and language and cultural revitalization. “Participating in a larger network will allow a greater opportunity for resource sharing and further development of center initiatives,” says Daryl Baldwin who serves as the Director of the new center.
The Miami Tribe is pleased about the development of the Myaamia Center. According to Chief Thomas Gamble: “The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Miami University have a unique relationship initiated some forty years ago as a result of common geographic, historical, cultural, and educational interests. Over time, this relationship formed into a strong bond of mutual trust, support, and commitment exemplified in the recent transition of expansion of the Myaamia Project into the Myaamia Center. The Tribe is very proud of the hard work of the Director and staff of the Myaamia Project, and is honored by the long term commitment of the University which this Center represents.”