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    Indiana 46901

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Howard County History

Village on the Wildcat: Afterword

(from Footprints, May 2019)

By Gil Porter
Kokomo Early History Learning Center

As a result of removals and private land distribution, the Miami Indians eventually evolved into two units. Today, the Miami Indians of Indiana maintain non-profit status as a local history resource that manages Myaamia lands in and around Peru, Indiana. The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, headquartered in Miami, Oklahoma, is the U.S. federally recognized nation where tribal members can apply for citizenship. Geographically separate and organizationally distinct, these relatives nonetheless share a common history and a passionate commitment to cultural and linguistic re-vitalization, education and community outreach. For history researchers, their joint contribution is invaluable.
Today, with the Wildcat as its nucleus, a new non-profit organization – the Kokomo Early History Learning Center – has started to share knowledge and promote education about Kokomo up to 1865. Conceived and founded by a descendant of David Foster, the center works closely with local history groups, Native tribes, and educational institutions as part of its mission. There are plans for a new greenspace near Pinšiwaamootayi siipiiwi in Kokomo, where modern inhabitants can tend today’s gardens in the ancient soil. It will reflect Miami culture. There will be persimmon and paw paw, blackberries and raspberries, sassafras and squash, melons and milkweed, the latter having had dual purpose in Miami culture: as a waypoint for Monarch butterfly migration and as a food source for the people in springtime. 

So much as changed in 175 years. Downtown Kokomo’s progression is self-evident. Though still proud of its agricultural and industrial heritage, today you’ll find comfortable restaurants with locally sourced menus, interesting storefronts, and a municipal summer-league baseball stadium that doubles as a skating rink in winter. Something continues to draw humans to this place.

Maybe the blueprint can be found in the archives. In September 1844, the first newspaper advertisements appeared in Indianapolis, extolling a brand-new town near the “Wild Cat, a stream not excelled for water power.” The first 32 lots of land were to be sold on Oct. 18, essentially an invitation for new residents to come and join the community at “Kokomotown, the County Seat of Richardville County.” The new arrivals, and the Indians whose community they joined, left us a record of transition, a fascinating, chaotic attempt to connect cultures. Only now are we beginning to understand more about the efforts of those people along the Wildcat in 1844, the triumphs they celebrated, the progress they initiated, and the suffering so many experienced.

And what about the 1846 petition from Šaapontohsia requesting that the Miami and their families be allowed to stay in the community? It was referred to the House Committee on Indian Affairs, which, on March 27, 1846, made an “adverse report” on the petition, “which reports were laid upon the table.” The petition was denied, but the name Šaapontohsia is found on the lists published later of those exempted from removal, so the community effort may ultimately have been successful for some.

To the Miami, “the river is the narrative.” The stream of history is unceasing. Like the Wildcat, it ebbs and flows, and where cultures are combined, like in Kokomotown, overlaps. The research helps us see clues in the currents, and each discovery – like the Šaapontohsia-Foster petition -- only creates new questions. It’s like the beauty of the flowing river, how it stays the same yet is forever changed.