SYRACUSE — Attendance was standing room only Saturday where two members of the Miami tribe of Oklahoma shared stories about the culture and food at the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation Ruddell Pavilion.
“We knew there is significant interest in local history and Native Americans,” cited Mark Knecht, one of the Chautauqua organizers of the event. “But the attendance exceeded our expectations by far with people coming from Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Indianapolis, Goshen and North Manchester.”
Diane Hunter, the Myaamia heritage preservation specialist for the Miami tribe of Oklahoma and a citizen of the tribe, spoke about the history of Miami people, telling the stories of their emergence as a unique and different people, their first encounters with Europeans and later with Americans, land loss and forced removals and about the revitalization of the Miami tribe today.
Beth Beams, an organizer of the event, said, “For those of us who were privileged to witness this event, hearing from skilled, dedicated and vibrant Miami speakers about an ancient culture that has thrived for millennia in a spirit of relative peace and sustainability, has deepened our understanding and respect for the lives that came before us on this land.
“Today’s audience was made aware that the Miami people are not mere vestiges of bye-gone days but continue to thrive. The Myaamia have acquired new acres of land nearby and are remembering the almost-lost native language, songs, winter stories and arts. Their youth are being educated at university as well as in the company of Myaamia elders, embraced by the land, the animals and the plants that have supported their people for so long.”
Dani Tippmann, also a citizen of the Miami tribe of Oklahoma, serves as the community food program director for the tribe. She discussed the use of plants as food, medicine, technology and cultural historical conduits and shared how plants teach us, feed us, heal us and bring us a better understanding of Myaamia culture. Tippmann brought plants to show and share.
Another event organizer, John Beams, reflected on Tippmann’s presentation. “Seeing in action today Dani’s love and connection to the living things that bring community, sustenance, food and shelter to the people,” he said, “gives us hope for a future of renewal, not just for the Myaamia people, but for the rest of us who in so many ways have become lost from the world; separated from the spirit of the land that supports us.”
The program, sponsored by Chautauqua-Wawasee, was held at the Ruddell Pavilion on the campus of WACF. The program was free of charge. Partial program funding was provided a Heritage Support Grant from the Indiana Historical Society made possible by Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Tippman will return to Syracuse at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Syracuse Community Center. She will collaborate with John Edgerton and Cliff Kindy, area permaculture farmers, leading the audience to explore this question: “You say you love nature. How do you know if nature loves you back?”