Essay written by TNSM parent and Diversity and Community Enrichment chair, Claudia Lòpez
Aya! tipeewe neeyolaani
During my time at Miami University, twenty years ago, I had the privilege to work closely and develop a friendship with Daryl Baldwin, a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the founding director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University.
I would go to Daryl’s home in Indiana, about twenty minutes from Oxford, to pick up chicken — I might have gotten some goat at some point. He also introduced me to topinambur, also known as Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes.
Daryl and his wife, Karen, were raising and homeschooling four children. They were also teaching them the Myaamia language, whose last speakers lived until the 1960s. Blanketed with labels bearing the names of objects in the Myaamia language, their home was a place of reconnecting with their heritage in daily life. The Baldwin’s commitment to their culture and language has gone far!
I came into this friendship with fossilized notions of Indigenous peoples that I carried from textbooks. My experience with the Baldwin family and other members of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma allowed me to truly see them and be seen by them —the vibrant community they are in the twenty-first century.
The Myaamia Center works to promote and revitalize the Myaamia language, culture, knowledge, and values. Their work and collaboration with Miami University have received recognition nationally and internationally.
This month, we’re celebrating Native American heritage; reading a Myaamia story or singing a song with our children can be a way of honoring some of the ancestors of this land we call home now.
- Here’s a video of the song Aya Aya (Hello, Hello). You can find further resources on the Myaamia Center YouTube’s channel.
- Additionally, here’s an article about Nichole Prescott, also a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas System. She says, “We just don’t talk about what happened to Native Americans. We push it under the rug.”
Aya! tipeewe neeyolaani, Hello! It’s good to see you. To see and be seen — such a powerful act of humanity!
Some memories. A Miami Children’s Language Curriculum and a couple of pictures from a visit to Miami, Oklahoma in 2005.