Partners in Learning

Neepwaantiinki, the Myaamia word meaning “learning from each other," is a rich interpretation of “partners in learning," a phrase that Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma have used for years to describe their reciprocal relationship.

Sharing a common name and place, the connection between the University and the Tribe spans more than four decades and has evolved into a multi-layered collaboration built on trust, respect, and a shared commitment to education.

Like tending a fire, the University and the Tribe have a joint responsibility to continuously maintain this relationship, respond to challenges that might arise, and nurture it for future growth. Together, we celebrate this very unique partnership.

A Logo, A Relationship

ribbonwork

The Myaamia Heritage Logo references the traditional Miami Tribe art form of ribbonwork and symbolizes the unique relationship between the University and Tribe.

The Myaamia Heritage Logo does not replace any current symbols used by Miami University or the Miami Tribe.

niila myaamia (I am Miami)

Myaamia Center

President Crawford and his wife Dr. Crawford participate in moccasin game with MTO members and students

Created in 2001, the Myaamia Center (formerly called the Myaamia Project) is a Miami Tribe of Oklahoma initiative that serves as the research arm of the Tribe’s language and cultural revitalization efforts. The Center is located in the Bonham House on the Miami University Oxford campus.

The Center focuses on conducting in-depth research to assist the Miami Tribe’s educational initiatives aimed at the preservation of language and culture. The Center also emphasizes exposing undergraduate and graduate students at Miami University to tribal efforts in language and cultural revitalization.

The Myaamia Center is directly supported by both the Tribe and the University. Anyone committed to helping perpetuate Miami language and culture for future generations is welcome to participate.

Myaamia Center

Myaamia Students

Student Spotlight: Addison Patrick

Addison Patrick

Major: Sport Leadership and Management
Minor: Finance
Anticipated graduation: 2020

Learning the Myaamia Language

Three Myaamia students participating in Myaamia language learning activity

Myaamia students meet regularly to learn about and practice Myaamia language and culture and to practice speaking Myaamia.

Ribbonwork in the Residence Halls

Three students at residence hall event learning about Myaamia ribbonwork

Students in the Celebrate the Arts Living-Learning Community learned about peepankišaapiikahkia eehkwaatamenki (Myaamia ribbonwork).

Programming, Support, and Activities

Bobbe Burke and Kara Strass

Bobbe Burke and Kara Strass work together to advance the University’s educational partnership with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. A specific focus of their efforts is educating the University and Oxford communities about the Miami Tribe.

Together, Bobbe and Kara serve as advisors to Myaamia students as they participate in the Myaamia Heritage Award Program, providing ongoing support and helping them access campus resources and University services. Miami Tribe Relations also serves as the first point of contact for potential Myaamia applicants to Miami.

Relationship building is at the core of this office, and the work often extends beyond individual students to entire families. Maintaining a consistent visibility in the Tribal community offers opportunities to nurture new and established relationships.

Winter Gathering 2018

Winter Gathering 2018

Donna Boen

Editor, Miamian alumni magazine

Donna Boen creating ribbonwork

Aya. (Hi.) It’s awe-inspiring what the Miami Tribe and the Myaamia Center have accomplished in as little as 15 years. Through tremendous effort and passion, the Myaamia people are revitalizing their language, and rediscovering and reclaiming their culture. During my visit, I heard and saw over and over again how they are bonding and growing stronger as a tribe because of this.

They were so generous during the 2018 Winter Gathering, opening their arms and their hearts to us. They are proud to show us their heritage. They want so much for us to understand who they are. I am humbled that they are open to sharing this, knowing that they were persecuted and almost destroyed for doing so in the past. I hope that we are now wiser and kinder, thanks to them. Neewe. (Thank you.)

Brandon Butcher

Myaamia Junior, Premedical Studies and Biochemistry

Myaamia students sitting together at Miami Tribe headquarters

I was very happy yet surprised to see how everyone got involved in the language lesson, moccasin game, and stomp dance!

I assumed interest would be mostly coming from the Myaamia people. I was proven very wrong as those from Miami University seemed just as engaged the entire trip!

Michael Mattingly

Art Director, University Communications and Marketing

Michael Mattingly and others creating ribbonwork

The trip to Oklahoma was completely fascinating. I went into the trip with no expectations and no preconceived ideas. I can say I learned more in the two days I was there then I did in the previous six months. Through a conversation with one of the Myaamia students I learned how one-sided our history books are when it comes to the American Indians. For example the removal of Native American children to boarding schools who in turn punished the children for practicing their language and culture.

At the winter gathering I learned how far the tribe came in revitalizing their culture and language. I was surprised how fluently the Myaamia language was spoken during the winter stories. Especially since the language was considered a dead language in the 1990s. Everyone I met on the trip was extremely knowledgeable about the tribes history, language and culture.

Stephanie Danker

Faculty, Art Education

Crowd at Winter Gathering watches a performer

Participating in the Miami Tribe Winter Gathering made me reflect on the significance of building relationships through listening, observing and immersing oneself into diverse cultural events.

This is an experience I will always cherish. I learned more deeply about Myaamia culture while celebrating the relationship between the tribe and university. I gained valuable new perspectives that will impact my personal and professional development for years to come.

Claire Wagner

Director, University News and Communications

Claire Wagner creating ribbonwork

Generosity pours from Miami Tribe members. In preparing wonderful classes and tours for us visitors. In feeding us bounteous meals. In inviting us into their story and dance circles. In trusting that we would be worthy of their efforts. It is no wonder they stress unity in our relationship with the word “neepwaantiinki,” which means “learning from each other."

I was simultaneously thrilled and humbled to be with them.

Andrew Offenburger 

Faculty, History

Andrew Offenburger creating ribbonwork

As I snipped, glued, and recreated a paper version of Myaamia ribbonwork, I was overwhelmed by the thought of the Center’s exacting mission to revive the Myaamia language and culture. I struggled mightily, with these clumsy fingers, to make a simplified version of the past.

Imagine, I thought, what this says of the Center’s immense burden and its achievements to date!

Alyse Capaccio

Designer, University Communications and Marketing

Alyse Capaccio standing in front of a Welcome to Oklahoma sign

I was most surprised to enjoy the stomp dance. It was such a beautiful physical demonstration of community.

This dance is about the group as a whole, not particular individuals. We were all literally in step with each other. What you do affects everyone else. If you need to leave the dance, someone else steps in to take your place. The community adjusts for each other. As the songs changed we all listened together for the new tempo and adjusted together to the new song, just like communities adapt together throughout history.

Miami Tribe
of Oklahoma

The Miami Tribe (who refer to themselves as myaamia in their heritage language, meaning downstream people) is headquartered in Miami, Oklahoma where they were located after two forced removals. The Tribe originates from the Great Lakes region where their homelands lie within the boundaries of the states of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, lower Michigan and lower Wisconsin.

US Route 66 road sign with Miami Oklahoma on it

Learn more about the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.

Miami Tribe

An important part of the ongoing partnership between Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has been the multiple connections between University and Tribal leaders.

While both the University and the Tribe have long histories with many leaders, the first interactions between the University and the Tribe began in 1972 with Chief Forest Olds.

Get to know the Tribe leaders who have had associations with the University.

Chief Forest Olds and President Philip Shriver

Forest D. Olds (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 1963–1974) is responsible for laying the groundwork that established a relationship between the Tribe and the University.

During a business trip to Cincinnati in 1972, he made a visit to the University. Although his visit to Oxford was unexpected, the University administration welcomed him and gave him a campus tour.

Chief Olds was invited back for a second visit to attend Miami's Alumni Weekend in June 1974. There, he met President Phillip R. Shriver for the first time and assisted in a special event: the unveiling of a John Ruthven painting of a kneeling Miami Indian. Chief Olds was made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Miami University Alumni Association during this visit. He passed away shortly after that visit and was followed as Chief by Floyd Leonard.

Chief Floyd Leonard and President Philip Shriver

Floyd Leonard (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 1974–1982 and 1989–2008) spent his professional career in K-12 education. He had an intense commitment to educating young people, especially Myaamia youth. This commitment to education fueled his interest in the University and helped deepen the connection that started there with Chief Olds.

Starting in 1975, Chief Leonard visited campus on many occasions to participate in programs or interact with Miami students, faculty, and staff. He shared the history and contemporary operations of the Tribe. He also worked diligently to encourage Myaamia young adults to apply to the University. He was very pleased and proud when the first students arrived in 1991. More than 60 Myaamia students enrolled at Miami during his long tenure as Chief.

Highlights of his years as Chief include the following:

  • Being an invited speaker at three presidential inaugurations
  • Creation of the Myaamia Project
  • Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Tribe and the University.

Over a span of more than three decades, Floyd Leonard's presence was a powerful, positive force in forming the trusting and respectful relationship that exists between the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the University today. In recognition of his contributions, Chief Leonard received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Miami at the May 2005 commencement.

Chief Thomas Gamble and Dr. Susan Mosley-Howard

Thomas Gamble (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 2008–2013) became Chief when Chief Leonard passed away. Chief Gamble had served as Second Chief for several years before that and knew the University well.

Chief Gamble's attachment to the University grew steadily over his years of service with the Tribe. Continuing the legacy of Chiefs Olds and Leonard, he devoted significant time and effort to make the long trip to Oxford for invited occasions and campus programs. He was a platform speaker for the University’s bicentennial celebration in February 2009 and came to Oxford as a special campus guest during the visit of the Dalai Lama in 2010.

In 2008, under his leadership, the Tribe and the University signed an official Memorandum of Agreement to recognize their joint commitment to support the work of the Myaamia Project. This signing occurred on the opening day of the Miami University Art Museum’s semester long exhibit about the Miami Tribe.

President Greg Crawford and Chief Douglas Lankford

Douglas Lankford (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 2013–present) visits the University often and continues the long-standing commitment that the Tribe has to the relationship with the University and the work of the Myaamia Center.

While serving as the Tribe’s Second Chief, he was also a special campus guest during the visit of the Dalai Lama in 2010. He has spoken to several different classes and especially enjoys attending Miami football and hockey games while on campus. While testifying before a Congressional committee in Washington DC one year, he had an unexpected meeting with Miami University students who were on a Spring Break trip there.

Chief Lankford was an invited speaker for the inauguration of Greg Crawford as Miami University’s 22nd president in October 2017. Chief Lankford’s opening remarks welcomed the Crawford family to “our Myaamia homelands." He went on to say, “The Miami Tribe is proud and honored that these lands, the rivers, and this great institution continue to bear our name.” His presentation was the fourth time a Miami Tribe Chief spoke at a Miami University presidential inauguration.

Chief Lankford is very gracious with his time and routinely welcomes University visitors to Oklahoma personally, often giving them a special tour of Tribal lands and facilities.

Tribe Leaders

An important part of the ongoing partnership between Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has been the multiple connections between University and Tribal leaders.

While both the University and the Tribe have long histories with many leaders, the first interactions between the University and the Tribe began in 1972 with Chief Forest Olds.

Get to know the Tribe leaders who have had associations with the University.

Forest Olds

Chief Forest Olds and President Philip Shriver

Forest D. Olds (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 1963–1974) is responsible for laying the groundwork that established a relationship between the Tribe and the University.

During a business trip to Cincinnati in 1972, he made a visit to the University. Although his visit to Oxford was unexpected, the University administration welcomed him and gave him a campus tour.

Chief Olds was invited back for a second visit to attend Miami's Alumni Weekend in June 1974. There, he met President Phillip R. Shriver for the first time and assisted in a special event: the unveiling of a John Ruthven painting of a kneeling Miami Indian. Chief Olds was made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Miami University Alumni Association during this visit. He passed away shortly after that visit and was followed as Chief by Floyd Leonard.

Floyd Leonard

Chief Floyd Leonard and President Philip Shriver

Floyd Leonard (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 1974–1982 and 1989–2008) spent his professional career in K-12 education. He had an intense commitment to educating young people, especially Myaamia youth. This commitment to education fueled his interest in the University and helped deepen the connection that started there with Chief Olds.

Starting in 1975, Chief Leonard visited campus on many occasions to participate in programs or interact with Miami students, faculty, and staff. He shared the history and contemporary operations of the Tribe. He also worked diligently to encourage Myaamia young adults to apply to the University. He was very pleased and proud when the first students arrived in 1991. More than 60 Myaamia students enrolled at Miami during his long tenure as Chief.

Highlights of his years as Chief include the following:

  • Being an invited speaker at three presidential inaugurations
  • Creation of the Myaamia Project
  • Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Tribe and the University.

Over a span of more than three decades, Floyd Leonard's presence was a powerful, positive force in forming the trusting and respectful relationship that exists between the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the University today. In recognition of his contributions, Chief Leonard received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Miami at the May 2005 commencement.

Thomas Gamble

Chief Thomas Gamble and Dr. Susan Mosley-Howard

Thomas Gamble (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 2008–2013) became Chief when Chief Leonard passed away. Chief Gamble had served as Second Chief for several years before that and knew the University well.

Chief Gamble's attachment to the University grew steadily over his years of service with the Tribe. Continuing the legacy of Chiefs Olds and Leonard, he devoted significant time and effort to make the long trip to Oxford for invited occasions and campus programs. He was a platform speaker for the University’s bicentennial celebration in February 2009 and came to Oxford as a special campus guest during the visit of the Dalai Lama in 2010.

In 2008, under his leadership, the Tribe and the University signed an official Memorandum of Agreement to recognize their joint commitment to support the work of the Myaamia Project. This signing occurred on the opening day of the Miami University Art Museum’s semester long exhibit about the Miami Tribe.

Douglas Lankford

President Greg Crawford and Chief Douglas Lankford

Douglas Lankford (Chief of the Miami Tribe, 2013–present) visits the University often and continues the long-standing commitment that the Tribe has to the relationship with the University and the work of the Myaamia Center.

While serving as the Tribe’s Second Chief, he was also a special campus guest during the visit of the Dalai Lama in 2010. He has spoken to several different classes and especially enjoys attending Miami football and hockey games while on campus. While testifying before a Congressional committee in Washington DC one year, he had an unexpected meeting with Miami University students who were on a Spring Break trip there.

Chief Lankford was an invited speaker for the inauguration of Greg Crawford as Miami University’s 22nd president in October 2017. Chief Lankford’s opening remarks welcomed the Crawford family to “our Myaamia homelands." He went on to say, “The Miami Tribe is proud and honored that these lands, the rivers, and this great institution continue to bear our name.” His presentation was the fourth time a Miami Tribe Chief spoke at a Miami University presidential inauguration.

Chief Lankford is very gracious with his time and routinely welcomes University visitors to Oklahoma personally, often giving them a special tour of Tribal lands and facilities.

Our Heritage: Connecting the Past and Future

Myaamia students past and present view an educational exhibit

Historical Timeline

Today's relationship between the Miami Tribe and Miami University originated with a visit to Oxford in 1972 by Forest Olds, the Chief of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma at that time.

Explore a timeline of the rich history of this relationship, which is unique within higher education.

History

Myaamia Heritage Collection

Myaamia Heritage Collection

About the Collection

In proud partnership with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Miami University is pleased to present the Myaamia Heritage Collection. Through the use of traditional tribal ribbonwork, Myaamia words, and University symbols, the Collection embraces the essence of our relationship.

Myaamia Heritage Collection merchandise sales help fund the Myaamia Heritage Award Program, a scholarship for Myaamia students attending Miami University.