September 2023 Newsletter

Daryl Baldwin educating students about a tree.
Photo by Scott Kissell, Miami University.

From the Executive Director

Meentitohkaalilakakoki weehki-neepwaaminciki eeweemilakakoki
‘Welcome new students and relatives.

As we dust off from summer activities and resettle into our semester groove, I would like to welcome back all of our Myaamia students, especially this year’s incoming freshmen class. We are excited to have 47 students in this year’s Myaamia Heritage Program. I know our Miami Tribe relations office and educational team will be busy with yet another record-breaking class. I also want to take a moment and thank all of our staff who worked the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma’s youth programs this summer and provided a quality learning experience for tribal youth and young adults. It was nice to see our program numbers return to pre-pandemic levels. While several of us were away tending to youth programs in Oklahoma and Indiana, several staff remained here in Oxford to keep the center doors open, and operational responsibilities going. I enjoy working with this team and appreciate the passion and commitment they bring to this effort. We are all honored to serve our tribal community and continue nurturing the relationship we have with Miami University.

Every now and then we feel the onset of yet another growth spurt for the Myaamia Center (MC) and as we begin the new school year we are well aware of what lies ahead. We will be experiencing significant challenges in the coming years as we prepare for our next level of growth and expansion. The demand for more Myaamia programs and learning opportunities continues to expand exponentially. We are trying to respond strategically to these challenges. An important aspect of this expansion is our technological developments which have become central to how we organize and share information. Someone asked me the other day if AI has a future in our work and the simple answer is probably, but I just can’t know what that will look like at this stage. Our work is unique in many aspects and we always have to weigh privacy concerns and proprietary control of cultural information when we examine new technologies. We can never compromise the integrity of these important aspects of our work.

Community programs continue to grow and as we further develop šaapohkaayoni (the Myaamia online educational portal) we extend and streamline our ability to provide more learning opportunities for our community and further support our growing relationships on campus. Tribal leaders asked the Myaamia Center to develop an online software tool that would allow any tribal citizen, no matter where they lived, to be able to access learning resources and opportunities produced by the MC and Cultural Resources Office (CRO). That tool is what we call myaamia šaapohkaayoni ‘Myaamia (educational) portal’. The Myaamia term šaapohkaayoni is used to represent the idea of a portal. It literally means to ‘pass through something in a bodily form’ and is intended to metaphorically capture the notion of passing through into a space of learning. Our language has unlimited ability to express concepts relevant to our lives today and this is a great example of how we are able to create new terms to meet our growing needs.

We have several priority items that will dominate our activities this year. Hard to believe it’s time for yet another Myaamiaki Conference. We have already begun planning for the 10th biennial conference to be held Saturday, May 4th, 2024. Keep an eye out for more information in our social media and other communication streams. The conference celebrates its 20th anniversary and we are excited with the lineup of presentations that are in the works.

I look forward to seeing many of you in the coming months.