Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
May 6, 2000 - Issue 09

Language of Miamis Fades Into History
Preservation is Goal of Children's Book
by Randy McNutt of The Cincinnati Enquirer

Their ancient tongue is silent now.

Only fading echoes remain.

But a Miami University senior hopes to help revive the Miami tribe's language with a children's book.

“Children are the future of the tribe. If they don't reclaim the language, it could die,” said Callandra “Callie” Cook, 21. “The Miami language has pretty much disappeared. A few people know a few words. Only one person is very conversational in it.”

She recently won $19,500 from the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Prize, awarded annually to a Miami student who wants to pursue a dream. Past winners have composed film scores, worked with chimpanzee sanctuaries and raised awareness of AIDS.

Her dream is to write and illustrate the book.

Ms. Cook, from Abingdon, Md., became interested in the tribe during two university-sponsored visits to its headquarters in Oklahoma. She will use her prize money for expenses, including more trips to tribal headquarters.

Her book, which will include a pronunciation key to Miami words, will help young people become familiar with what must seem a foreign language.

“If we don't save our language now, it might be gone forever,” said Floyd Leonard, tribal chief and a retired educator from Joplin, Mo.

Ms. Cook said the book will take a year to complete, working with tribal leaders.

“Contrary to popular belief, children's books are not easy and quick to write,” she said. “I'll do all the illustrations. It will be difficult. Lately I've been thinking, what have I gotten my self into? But I'm looking forward to combining my passions, writing and art.”

A group of Miami students has developed an Internet site for the tribe, and another is putting together a CD-ROM.

To prepare for her book project, she will attend a children's summer language camp at tribal offices.

Members will determine how Ms. Cook's book will fit into their language revival efforts and what format the project will take: CD-ROM, book or both.

Ms. Cook said she was inspired to apply for the prize after Hugh Morgan, a Miami journalism professor, helped the tribe publish a newspaper last year.

Though the tribe vanished from this area about 150 years ago, the name Miami is invoked daily.

Once, the tribe laid claim to all western Ohio but Miamis started moving west in the 1790s after the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

In 1846, remaining Miamis were moved by the federal government to Central Plains states.

Today, the tribe is split into the Miami Nation of Indiana, which operates in Peru, Ind., and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma in Miami, Okla. Their leaders are working together to revive the old language.

Miami Tribes Joint Pages

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