At the Wylie House our mission is to preserve the material and social culture and to interpret the history of the Wylie family and the early history of Indiana. Our goal in doing so is to create an educational space that is accessible for all ages and groups, and to ensure that all stories are given voice, respect, and consideration. In our ongoing effort to ensure that all groups are represented in our commitment to ethical and accurate historic interpretation, we have begun efforts to more greatly highlight the First Nations cultures of Indiana.
While there is little information regarding direct interactions or comments between members of the Wylie family and indigenous peoples, we believe strongly that the historical story we tell should not begin in the 1800s, and that in order to fully appreciate the depth and breadth of Indiana history, we should begin with the earliest cultures that resided throughout what would become Indiana. In this blog post, and those following it, we will be examining some of these cultures in-depth and discussing their historic and geographical roots, elements of their culture and social structure, and their interactions with settlers in the Indiana territory.
While numerous tribes had varying degrees of presence within the territory that would become Indiana, there were several major tribes that resided across the land in greater numbers. The original tribes to inhabit this area were the Illini, Miami, and Shawnee tribes, while the Delaware, Iroquois, Potawatomi, and others, migrated after the arrival of Europeans along the Eastern Seaboard. As one of the largest of these tribes, we will begin by looking at the Miami tribe in this post.
Originally migrating south from Wisconsin as a result of pressure from the Iroquois tribe seeking territory rich in fur during the initial contact with European fur traders, the Miami tribe moved further down along the great lakes region until eventually arriving in Indiana. From this point, they spread across the whole of the future state; the Miami tribe itself largely residing along the upper Wabash, but the smaller bands which comprised the Miami and would eventually become independent tribes (such as the Wea) established their presence throughout.
Miami communities were based in settlements ranging from several hundred to several thousand individuals and were highly-dependent on a maize-centered agricultural backbone. This was supplemented through hunting and gathering and was dependent on a sex-based division of labor, with women working the fields and preparing the meat brought back from hunting done by men.
The Miami largely supported the British throughout the American War of Independence, and continued to fight against American settlers afterwards, including the battle of St. Clair’s Defeat approximately at present-day Fort Recovery, Ohio; considered to be “the worst defeat of an American army by Native Americans.” The end of the “Indian Wars” saw numerous treaties such as the Treaty of Greenville and the Ten O’clock Line Treaty which ceded large tracts of Native Territory to white settlers who began to gradually push westwards. We will be exploring these treaties and their repercussions in more detail in the future.