Join the Effort
Contact Michael Kumler, director of development for student affairs, at 513-529-1957 or kumlerme@MiamiOH.edu.
Written by Vince Frieden, Associate Director, University Advancement Communications
More than two centuries after Miami University was bestowed with the much admired name of the Miami Tribe, the past and future of the institution and the Myaamia people remain inextricably entwined.
It was through the 1795 Treaty of Greenville that the Miamis and other area tribes surrendered the lands upon which Miami’s campus would be built. Fifty-one years later, the same Miami people traveled down the Miami-Erie Canal system—just miles from the fledgling University—while being forcibly removed from their Indiana lands.
These events mark sobering chapters of American history, but they are not the end of this story.
In 1972, a relationship was born that has inspired hope and elevated both the institution and the people. Then-Miami President Phillip R. Shriver, an authority on American and Ohio history, and then-Miami Chief Forest Olds laid the foundation for what has been an enduring and mutually rewarding partnership. Since that time, more than 80 tribal students have studied at Miami through Heritage Award Scholarships, and countless Miami students have benefitted from unique experiences made possible through collaborations with the Tribe.
With the recent creation of a $250,000 endowment supporting the Myaamia Project at Miami University, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma is ensuring that future generations will continue to benefit from the relationship.
“Our relationship with Miami University is unique,” current Miami Chief Thomas Gamble said. “The reciprocal educational sharing that occurs through classes, field schools and the work of the Myaamia Project has created deep-rooted, sustainable alliances benefiting both of our communities.”
Launched in 2001, the Myaamia Project has forged its own model in the emerging fields of cultural and language revitalization while aspiring toward two main purposes:
• To carry out research that directly assists tribal educational initiatives aimed at the preservation of Myaamia language and culture among the citizens of the tribal nation;
• To expose undergraduate and graduate students at Miami to tribal efforts in language and cultural revitalization and to be inclusive of anyone who wants to assist with these efforts.
The Myaamia Project has yielded groundbreaking cultural research and publications, a significant increase in language use and cultural awareness among tribal members and youth as well as an increased interest in admission to Miami University from the Tribe. The Myaamia Project’s presence has also contributed significantly to the awareness and overall success of tribal students. Jena Long ’12, a citizen of the Miami Tribe and the third member of her family to attend the University, understands the vital role she must play in sharing her tribal heritage with future generations.
“My time at Miami and connection with the Myaamia Project influenced me in many ways,” Long said. “I learned so much about what it means to be Miami—being confident in my past, aware of my heritage, informed for the present and using my new perspective to serve people in the future.”
While the effort is essential to sustaining and reinvigorating the language and culture of today’s Myaamia people, the University, in turn, benefits from hosting a nationally recognized initiative. The opportunities on campus promote cultural understanding and extend into disciplines such as the natural sciences, computer and software engineering, architecture, American history, anthropology and linguistics. Multiple classroom projects, involving Miami students working with Myaamia Project staff, have significantly benefitted the tribal community.
“The opportunity for us as tribal scholars and educators to be here on campus serving our tribal community by collaborating with Miami’s faculty, staff and students is truly an experience that is unique in higher education,” Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Project, said. “We are grateful for the Miami Tribe’s investment and excited about where it will carry our partnership in the future.”
While the history of the American Indian has many tragic chapters, the Miami Nation and the University graced with its name are honored to share a new chapter—a chapter rooted in trust and respect and serving as a symbol of hope and inspiration for future generations.
This story was featured in Giving Tribute Fall 2012.