Following the arrival of Europeans, the Myaamia were disrupted by waves of disease, war, and relocation. Beginning in 1795, the Myaamia were forced to sign treaties giving up ever-increasing amounts of their precious homeland to the government of the United States. By the 1830s, the Myaamia had only had about 500,000 acres, which was surrounded by land controlled by the State of Indiana. Land speculators and settlers wanted this land too.
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. The goal of this act was to force all tribes to move west of the Mississippi. Throughout the 1830s, many tribes suffered their own version of the “Trail of Tears” most commonly associated with the Cherokee Nation’s forced removal in 1838. Throughout this period, the Myaamia resisted giving up their reservation in Indiana.
In 1840, the Myaamia signed the Treaty of the Forks of the Wabash. In this treaty the Myaamia gave up their reservation in Indiana in exchange for a reservation of the same size – 500,000 acres – west of the Mississippi in what would become the Kansas Territory. The terms of the treaty said that the Tribe would move to these lands within five years of the agreement.
The Myaamia resisted removal for six years after the Treaty of the Forks of the Wabash. With each passing year more families were officially exempted from removal. There is evidence that the group was prepared to relinquish the reservation in Indiana, but they believed that everyone would be able to stay on individual family allotments that had been created for decades prior to 1840. All hope of resistance to removal ended when the private contractors and the U.S. Army were ordered to forcibly remove those that had not been exempted.
On October 6th, 1846, hundreds of Myaamia were loaded onto three canal boats in Peru, Indiana – a place they called Iihkipihsinonki. Iihkipihsinonki translates to “straight place”. It was named because of the straight course of the Wabash River in that spot. From Iihkipihsinonki the canal boats were pulled along the Wabash-Erie Canal and followed the Wabash north to Ft. Wayne.
The forced exodus began in earnest the next day, when more Myaamia were forcibly loaded onto canal boats in Ft. Wayne, known to the Myaamia as Kiihkayonki. Kiihkayonki was the original site of their largest village and was called “that Glorious Gate” by the Myaamia leader Mihšihkinaahkwa. That day the forced exodus began.
On October 7th, Kiihkayonki became the gateway of the removal from Myaamionki. From Kiihkayonki, the five canal boats were pulled to the Miami-Erie canal and began a four-day journey south to Cincinnati, OH. On their way south the Myaamia passed numerous sites of great historical and cultural importance. They passed the site of Fort Defiance, the military bastion from which Anthony Wayne launched his final invasion into Myaamionki in 1794. They also passed Pinkwaawilenionki (Pickawillany) a prominent Myaamia village site in the mid-eighteenth century. Much of the Miami-Erie canal followed the course of the Ahsenisiipi (the Great Miami River); a river that originally was a major route of travel to their hunting grounds along the Ohio River and to their relatives who also called that beautiful place home.
On October 11th, they reached the growing metropolis of Cincinnati, Ohio. In Cincinnati, the Myaamia were moved to the steamship Colorado, and on October 12th the ship began its journey west on the Kaanseenseepiiwi (Ohio River). While on route to the Mississippi River an infant passed away. After eight days of travel on the Colorado, they arrived in St. Louis, Missouri. The Myaamia were unloaded at Bloody Island, which lay in the middle of the Mississippi River. This location placed the group near the traditional village sites of their Inoka (Illinois) relatives and as such it was a place they knew well. However it was also at the western edge of Myaamionki. To the west lay the traditional homelands of groups that had formerly been their enemies; to their parents’ generation those western lands had been a dangerous place. Yet, the Americans told them these lands in the west were to be their new homes. Upon arriving at Bloody Island an elderly member of the group passed away. The elder and the infant that had passed earlier in the journey were buried on or near the Island according to Myaamia tribal traditions.
On October 23rd, the Myaamia were loaded onto the steamship Clermont No. 2 and were taken north on the Mississippi River to its confluence with the Missouri River. From this point, they followed the Missouri River west to Kanza Landing, which today lies on the Missouri side of Kansas City. For the first time in their journey, these forced migrants were outside their traditional homelands. After a month of journeying, these Myaamia had moved from the forested bottomlands of the Wabash River Valley to the edge of the great American prairielands of the west. It was a very different landscape, and winter had set in.
On November 1st, three hundred and twenty five Myaamia were unloaded at Kanza Landing. The next day they traveled the final fifty miles of their journey to Osage River sub-agency in the Unorganized Territory (Kansas). They arrived at Sugar Creek on Nov. 5th, of 1846. It was winter on the plains and the people were forced to sleep in government issued tents and eat government rations until they could build more permanent structures.
After only just arriving in Kansas the Myaamia were told they had to move again. Kansas was becoming a state and hoped to move American Indians south to Oklahoma to open up land for settlers. In 1873, a small group of Myaamia traveled 150 miles south to what is today Miami, Oklahoma completing the final leg of a journey that began back in Indiana twenty-seven years earlier.