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    When the American Revolution ended, the United States and Britain reached an impressively comprehensive peace in the Treaty of Paris. Among the important terms of the treaty, Britain recognized the colonies as free and relinquished territorial claims to them. The two sides then negotiated the boundaries that separated the United States from the British colonies in present-day Canada. Additionally, the British and Americans strove to share certain waters, including the Mississippi River and the fishing waters off Newfoundland. Finally, the two sides made mutual promises regarding paying debts and returning property that had been confiscated during the war, including slaves. 

    The new United States was faced with a fundamental problem: to expand, it had to settle lands to the west of the Appalachian Mountains, ceded to it by the British. However, the mountains were occupied by Native American groups who had no desire to make way for white settlers. The treaty had created a vast frontier for the fledgling nation, and any American settlers pushing west along it were bound to encounter hostile natives. 

    For the most part, the conflicts that followed consisted mostly of the Native Americans suffering defeat in the face of a better-equipped adversary, interspersed with binding treaties, which, on the side of the federal government, proved not very binding at all. Occasionally, however, there arose a Native American leader of such ability that such defeats were temporarily reversed, and Little Turtle, the war chief of the Miami tribe, was one such man. Under his leadership, a confederation of Miami and other tribes inflicted the worst defeat ever suffered by an American army in the newly independent nation. 

    Almost a quarter of the Army’s total strength was lost in a single battle, but while later Native American leaders such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse have become legends, Little Turtle is not as well-remembered. This is particularly odd, given that he actually defeated the American military and helped shape the development of the nascent United States and its military. 

    As for Little Turtle’s people, the Miami originally called themselves Twightwee, after the cry of the crane, their symbol. Like the majestic crane, they are a quiet, but powerful people. “Miami” is actually derived from the name that the tribe was called by the Ojibwe Indians, Myaamia, which means “the downstream people,” reflecting their home among the lakes and rivers of the American Midwest. This moniker was altered by French settlers into “Miami,” that we know today. Rich tribal history is passed down from generation to generation. After millennia living and thriving in the wilderness with other native groups, life would change drastically for the Miami in a mere three centuries after the New World was colonized by Europeans. They were almost eliminated completely by war and disease. 

    European explorers reported the tribe to have at least fifteen thousand members in the early 1600s, but only about three thousand remained by 1736. British estimates after 1763 found about two thousand remaining. An 1825 estimate by Americans counted the Miami population at around 1,600. By the late 1800s, less than eight hundred remained. Through intertribal warfare, conflict with three different national governments, and complete loss of their homeland and way of life, the Miami people have maintained their culture while adapting to the changing world around them. 

    The Miami: The History and Legacy of the Native American Tribe across the Great Lakes and Oklahoma examines the movement of the Miami from their origins to their displacement in the 19th century.

    ©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

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