MIAMI — From the beginning of the tribe, to removal, to now, there is a new place to share and discover the rich history and heritage of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
Located at 28 North Main in Miami, the tribe has created the Myaamia Heritage Museum & Archive.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 the public is invited to the museum's opening and a ribbon cutting.
“The museum has actually been open since the tribe's annual meeting in June. This opening is to let the general public know we are here and ready for visitors,” museum manager Meghan Dorey said. “The Miami Tribe has had a museum and archives program for about nine years, but before now, it was contained within tribal headquarters.”
The Miami Tribe’s headquarters have moved to new buildings north of Miami and at that time the tribe began also developing a downtown building.
The downtown building has been renovated to include the Clay Station at ArtWorx, a gift shop and the Myaamia Heritage Museum & Archive.
The building was developed by the tribe and with the use of some project grant funding.
“We decided to look for a place where we can be more accessible to the community,” Dorey said. “When we put the Clay Station in, we were really thinking about ways to promote art downtown and of course tribal museums certainly have a place in that, whether it’s encouraging art production among tribal citizens or just appreciating historical influences of art. We finished construction at the end of May and we opened the last weekend of June for our national gathering.”
The new museum features artifact displays, archival photos, documents, maps, traditional clothing and even a replica of an early traditional tribal home, called a wiikiaami.
“We tried to create an exhibit that was accessible to everybody, whether educating tribal members themselves, or anybody that walks in off the street that doesn’t know anything about how Miami got here.”
The current display is titled, “Aahpici aahsoohkiiyankwi,” which translates from the Myaamia language to “continuation,” and covers the historical timeline of the tribe.
A beautiful painting on display by artist Julie Olds depicts the overarching themes and history of the Miami Tribe and inspired the exhibit theme.
“It starts at the very beginning of the Myaamia, the coming out story, is what we call it, and it talks about how the Miami came to be, and goes form there into the Treaty period, and then the story of removal, of how the Miami moved from the Great Lakes to Indian Territory. It also includes a lot of contemporary work and how that influenced where we are today. So we look at tribal sovereignty and how the tribe is governed, but it also looks at music, language and education.”
The museum is designed to include interactive displays and activities for a fun way to learn and experience tribal life.
“One of the fun things that we have, that the kids really like, are some games set out where you can sit down and actually play a game. We have a dice bowl game and a moccasin game, which is kind of a hide-and-seek game,” she said. ‘One of our new additions we just put up last week is our wiikiaami, it’s very hands on, kids can get in it and see how it’s built and can feel the cattail mats that are covering the outside and really learn.”
“This I something that’s really important, we think education of everybody is just really, really key in perpetuating tribal heritage,” Dorey said. “These are the things I want to focus on doing now that we have this space to work with our teachers
The new facility affords the opportunity in the future to offer art classes and the exhibits will be changed from time to time. Tribal artifacts are acquired, loaned or donated and professionally archived by Dorey.
“We are always looking and always searching,” she said. “We have a tribal archive which contains a lot of historical records that aren’t necessarily on display but are accessible for research. We take loans and are always happy to see tribal families bring in photographs. We do plan to rotate some things.”
The displays are beautiful, interesting and unique to the Miami Tribal heritage.
“I really love the cattail mats used on the wiikiaami because they are unique. They are woven by tribal artists from Indiana, but what I love about them is they are perfectly created for both summer and winter because when it’s summer they cattails kind of retract upon themselves allowing breeze to come through and in the winter when it gets a little wet or humid they expand and create an airtight cover.”
Newly donated replica piece, traditionally hand-painted elk hides adorned with ancient the same design as a tribal archive in Paris from the mid 17th century will soon be on display by artist Michelle Dale.
‘These are on elk and all painted with natural dyes and traditional techniques” Dorey said.
The museum currently has a display case filled with lacrosse items because the sport was the focus of the Tribe’s summer youth program.
“The youth learned to make their own lacrosse sticks,” Dorey said. “So we might change a case here or there depending on what our educational focus is for our programs, or if we see a donation of something new, we might change them out.”
The new museum had many visitors during Festi-Fall and many Route 66 travelers and international visitors have wandered in to take a look and learn more.
Dorey was hired by the Miami Tribe in 2007 to manage tribal archives and the museum. She is from Minnesota and studied undergraduate at University of Minnesota Morris, which was a former Indian boarding school.
“They had a tuition waiver for Native students and so they had a high percentage of Native students and Indian studies programs,” she said. “My major was history so I started with some Minnesota history and Native American history and really just kept learning about the interaction with Native American Tribes, and it was just something I was always interested in.”
Dorey then went on to graduate school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated with a Master of Library Information Science in 2007 before taking the job as archivist with the tribe and coming to Miami.
‘We were able to create a strong foundation and a program that I think is really admired,” she said.
Chris Bowyer assists Dorey as tribal researcher and manages a tribal project.
The Miami Tribe’s downtown development, part of the City of Miami’s vision for a cultural arts district, offers a unique experience with the opportunity to create a piece of ceramic art, tour the museum and shop in the gift shop on site.
The gift shop is a place to find tribal related items and gifts.
“I really promote the gift shop to our tribal artists so they have a place to sell their handcrafts and art work, photography, jewelry,” Dorey said. “It’s a great way to spend some time on Route 66 and it’s all in one building.”
The museum does not charge admission, but does appreciate donations.
The Myaamia Heritage Museum & Archive is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday trough Friday and the gift shop is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
— Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1