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Miami Indians

It is believed that the Miami Indians as Europeans called them, originated from the upper Mississippi area and expanded their influence throughout the Great Lakes area and areas south of there. By the time the first Europeans arrive in America, they had expanded into areas now known as Indiana, Illinois, and southern Michigan. By the early 1700s they had moved into the Maumee River Valley which ran from mid Indiana up to Lake Erie.

There wide influence across much of the mid west gave them much influence over other indigenous groups that were living in these areas. Through trading and sharing of captured enemies, these groups developed independent relationships with each other, including languages that could be understood.

The Miamis spoke an Algonquian dialect which was shared by the Delaware, Ottawa and the Shawnee. The Algonquian people were a loosely formed group of people that lived in areas across most of Canada from the Rockies east and down along the east coast of North America. Because of their expansive nature, many smaller enclaves of Algonquians formed making up the majority of smaller groups we know in Ohio.

The Algonquian were almost in a constant state of war against other indigenous groups known as the Iroquois federation. The Iroquois lived in the area south and east of Lake Ontario. The Iroquois had strong national beliefs that did not include the Algonquian or their derivatives.

Allies with the French

Like many of the Indian nations in Ohio, the Miamis were French allies because the French were the first traders that arrived in the Northwest Territory. The exchanged weapons, utensils, and supplies for animal skins the Miamis harvested from the land. As demand for these animal skins mushroomed in Europe, British traders began making inroads and also began trading with the Miami as early as1740. As French began to realize that they might lose this valuable resource, the French forced the small British trading posts out of Ohio.

In Europe the French and British were involved in armed conflict that became known as the Seven Years War. Across North America it was known as the French and Indian Wars in which some of the indigenous groups sided with either the British or French. The Miamis allied themselves with the French. The Iroquois sided with the British.

Allies with the British

Distrusting the Iroquois, when the British won the war and began taking over the French trading posts. In the decades after the end of the French and Indian Wars, the Miami began pulling back out of the Ohio Territory to avoid the British and Iroquois. This distrust of the British was short lived when it became clear that the real threat to the Miamis may just be the new American colonists that were being seen in increasing numbers in the traditional Miami hunting grounds. When the Americans rose up in revolution against the British Crown, the Miami decided to side in their view the group that was the lesser of two evils, the British.

When the British and Americans ended their fighting, the Miami continued fighting the American settlers and the American military outposts. In the years after the Revolutionary War, the British had an uneasy truce the Americans along Canada's border with the United States. In the treaty with Britain, the United States claimed all the land west to the Mississippi River, land that had been occupied by the Miami. Although the land was ceded to the Americans, the British had kept the area around where Detroit is located today. They also kept close ties with the Miami.

This British presence encouraged the Indians not only with their manned fortifications, but also their supply of arms and munitions that helped them carry on the war.

Little Turtle

Little Turtle

One of the great leaders of the Miami was called Little Turtle. He lead a force of Miamis and other Indians to a victory over two American armies. They defeated the army of General Josiah Harmar in 1790 and the army of General Arthur St. Clair in 1791. It was these 2 defeats of the American army that ultimately lead to the total defeat of all the Indian nations then in Ohio. Revenge for these defeats came from President George Washington, who sent General Anthony Wayne with a superior force into the Ohio valley.

General Anthony Wayne finally defeated the Miamis and other Ohio Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. They surrendered most of their lands in Ohio with the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville. In 1818, the United States forced the Miami Indians to give up their last reservation in Ohio. Most of these people settled in Indiana, but the United States removed them to Kansas during the late 1820s.


Note: There is no relationship between the Miami Indians and the city of Miami, Florida. It is just a coincidence that there are 2 words that sound alike. Both terms were used by Native Americans, but meant entirely different things. The term referring to the Native Americans meant "allies" or "mother" and the term referring to Miami Florida came from the Tequesta (a Native American tribe living in southern Florida and the Keys) word Maymi, which may have meant "wide lake."