Skip to main content

Revitalizing Myaamia Language and Culture with George Ironstrack

In the eighteenth century, the Myaamia people inhabited what are now parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. More commonly known in English as the Miami, the Myaamia figure prominently in the early history of the United States, especially in the 1790s, when war chief Mihšihkinaahkwa (or Little Turtle) co-led an alliance of Miami and Shawnee warriors that defeated successive American armies in the Ohio valley before meeting defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.

In the battle’s wake, through treaty and subterfuge, Americans dispossessed the Myaamia of their lands, removing them first to Kansas in the mid-nineteenth century before final resettlement in Oklahoma not long after. Not only did the Myaamia lose their homelands, their language and culture suffered as well, lapsing into silence as the community fractured and native speakers passed away. 

But as George Ironstrack tells us on today’s episode, not all is lost, and through the power of education and a lot of hard work, what was once silenced is now heard again in Myaamia communities from the banks of the Wabash River in Indiana to northeastern Oklahoma. 

Ironstrack is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio. The Center is a major educational and research institution dedicated to revitalizing Myaamia language and culture, and a leader in using digital technology to explore the indigenous past. Ironstrack spoke to Jim Ambuske about the history of the Myaamia people, and the work that he and his colleagues are doing at the Myaamia Center to awaken a sleeping language. 

Be sure to check out the Myaamia Center's many digital resources, including the Miami-Illinois Digital Archive.

About Our Guest: 

George Ironstrack is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University. He has participated in Myaamia language renewal projects as both a student and a teacher since the mid-1990s. Examples of his work can be found on the Myaamia Community Blog:

About Our Host: 

Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.