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Howard County History

Village on the Wildcat Part One: Place of the Miami

(from Footprints, May 2019)
By Gil Porter

Kokomo Early History Learning Center

To the Miami Indians, time is like a pond, and “events are like stones dropped in water.”

For hundreds of years, they have measured the history of their lives by gauging the effects of the ripples. Life is always oriented to waterways. Since at least the 17th century, the Miami have built their homes in the area they call Myaamionki, or “Place of the Miami.” Waapaahšiki Siipionki, the valley of the Wabash River in northcentral Indiana, is the heart of Myaamionki.

Over time, the stones became boulders in the water. Beginning with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, federal policy supported “extinguishing” Indian title to land, i.e. eliminating the right of self-determination for the Indians. The U.S. government and the Miami signed a series of treaties beginning in 1795 that culminated in 1840 when Miami tribal government was forced to “move west” to Kansas. Moreover, the term “removal” for the Miami tribe in Indiana is somewhat misleading because, by treaty and legislation, many were permitted to stay, and some that left later returned. 
This effort to erase tribal government was met with resolute resistance. In 1832, the Miami expressed their opposition to the “endless calls” to give up their reservation in no uncertain terms: “Here the Great Spirit has fixed our homes. Here are our cornfields and our cabins. From this soil and these forests we derive our subsistence and here we will live and die. I repeat, we will not sell an inch of our land.”

The source of the quote was in the prime of his life, the principal akima, or civil chief, for the Miami, fluent in commerce and politics, an affluent landowner through inheritance and treaty allotments. When Indiana was created in 1816, he was probably the richest individual in the state, and possibly the richest Indian in America. 

He had grown up in a mixed society of tribal tradition and Christian catechism, part Miami, part French. His father, Antoine Joseph Drouet de Richardville, was a fur trader at Kiihkayonki (Fort Wayne). His mother, Tahkamwah, sister of the Miami village chief, was an “active business woman” who, after a messy divorce from de Richardville, assumed control of the pivotal – and very profitable -- Maumee-Wabash long-portage site. Her son inherited the portage and her other substantial holdings when she died around 1790. His Myaamia kin knew him as Pinšiwa. In French and later English, he was Jean Baptiste Richardville.