By the 11th century, the seafaring Vikings encountered people they called Skraeling, believed to be ancestors of the modern Inuit, or Eskimo, the northernmost inhabitants of the New World. Skraeling meant "barbarian". This is ironic since that's what the English and the Franks thought of their Norse invaders. How's that? 12 centuries of European history in 300 words or less?
Great, but what does this have to to with Ohio history?
|Fort not built by the Miami, also not in Florida|
We see similar names such as Cree and Creek, Dakota and Lakota, Mahican and Mohegan, for example. Are they the same tribes? Is there any relation? It can get complicated. To add to the confusion, different bands or septs within the same tribes sometimes used different or multiple names as well. I'm not going to research or attempt to explain them all in a mere blog post, but two tribes I've always found interesting are the Algonquian language speaking Delaware and Miami people.
|Lord Delaware, definitely not Indian|
Other times the modern tribal name is a European corruption of the tribe's autonym and/or a version of what one tribe, called another tribe. The Miami (or Maumee) people of the Ohio Valley, who incidentally are thought to be descendants of their Lenape or Delaware "grandfathers", fall into this category. So at least an attempt was made to use the correct name, even if it wasn't. More on that in a bit.
In the state of Ohio, we have the Maumee River, the Great and Little Miami Rivers. Places called Maumee, Miamitown, Miamiville. Miamisburg, New Miami, Miami County, Miami Township. A park named Miami Whitewater Forest. Miami University in Oxford OH. The British built Fort Miamis near Toledo. In Indiana and Kansas, there are similar cities, counties, and townships.
The French were the first Europeans to encounter this Algonquin speaking Maumee in the mid 17th century. Miami comes from Maumee, a French corruption of Myaamia, which meant downstream people. Another source says it meant allies. Either way, it appears to be a name given by another tribe. These are just examples of the names. It's actually a bit more complicated.
When those French explorers encountered the Myaamia, they recorded a confederation of six bands. The French did their best to distinguish each of them by calling them "Maumee of the Ohio (river)", "Maumee of the Lake (Erie)", Maumee of the Woods", etc. This group was also known by other names by other tribes. For example, the Lenni Lenape people probably called them Twightwee which has unclear origins. One theory regarding Twightwee is that it's a reflex of Twatwa which could be the original name of the Miami people. Twatwa itself might come from the sound their sacred bird the sandhill crane makes. Whichever it is, the Miami name stuck and the Miami use the name to this day.
|One of the many "Miami's" in Ohio|
|flag of the Miami Nation|
note the Twatwa
I was attempting to draw parallels between ancient European history and comparatively recent American history but that's where the similarities mostly end. American Indians seem to have a unique place in this world. Today there are over 500 federally recognized self-governing nations within US borders, however, they are not completely sovereign like the nation states of Europe. Federal tribes are technically citizens of the United States, the US state in which the tribe resides, and the tribe itself. The Old World eventually would have found and explored the New World. Had history taken different courses, perhaps if European discovery occurred earlier, or had the people in the Americas been better armed, or maybe just more resistant to devastating European diseases, it's possible there would be a large multicultural Indian nation-state or even several bordering the modern United States or a different modern nation altogether. Don't laugh, the idea of a US-run Indian state was considered (sort of) at least once...with the Lenape...in Ohio!
What's the largest ethnic group in Ohio comprising 25% of the population? Hint: It's also the largest in the US overall...Germans!
Oh, and who loves Miami Beach?...Germans!