The Miami Indians were an Algonquian tribe of 4,500 who lived in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area in the middle of the 17th century. They lived in this area when the French explorers contacted them in the 1650s, in order to avoid attacks by the Iroquois. Also known as the Prairie Algonquians, the Miami Indian tribe got their name from the Ojibwa word, oumamik, which means "people of the peninsula." They liked to hunt buffalo on the open prairies, which is another way they got their name. After the Beaver Wars ended in 1701, the Miami Indians migrated to the region occupying the southern end of Lake Michigan, which consisted of present day northern Indiana and Illinois. They mainly settled in Kekionga, which is now Fort Wayne, Indiana.
At that time there were six Miami-speaking groups that consisted of the Atchatchakangouen, Kilatika, Mengakonkia, Pepicokia, Wea, and Piankashaw. The Atchatchakangouen, Kilatika, and Mengakonkia came together and formed the Miami proper, or Crane Band. The Pepicokia tribe was brought into the Wea and Piankashaw tribes, which when combined with the Miami proper formed the Miami Indians. It is also important to note that they based their well organized political structure on the clan system. In this system, each person would inherit the clan of his father and was only allowed to marry someone from a different clan. All of the villages had a council that consisted of all the chiefs from the different clans. One chief was elected village chief, and the system successfully lasted a long time.
It is also important to understand that the Miami Indians were mobile farmers and buffalo hunters who usually trapped animals in a ring of fire, capturing them with arrows. While the men would often go on buffalo hunts, the women and children would help prepare meat and hides for travel back to the river valley. Living along the timbered river valleys, the Miamis shared a lot of cultural traits with the Northeast Woodland Indians. They used elm bark or mats of woven plant materials to cover their houses of various shapes, due to the fact that birch trees did not grow that far south.
Besides hunting and trapping buffalo, the Miamis also farmed a great amount of white corn, in which they would trade with other tribes during the 18th century. They would also trade with the French and English between the borders of Ohio and Illinois. From the French and English, they derived the name Twightwees, which was a word meaning "cry of the sandhill crane." As they continued to trade with other tribes and Europeans, the Miamis became wealthier. As a result, they started to build European style log houses to live in, and also dressed in European looking garments and clothing. Although the Europeans had an influence on new ways of life, the Miamis continued to follow their own traditions and maintain their active life as a tribe.
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