The Journal Gazette
Sunday, October 17, 2021 1:00 am

Context creates richer river experience

Ron Menze

On behalf of Friends of the Rivers, I want to assure the community and local citizens of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma that we heard and acknowledged concerns about the naming of Sweet Breeze, the historic canal boat.

The 2020 tour season was canceled as a result of the pandemic; that allowed us to concentrate on an improved online presence and educational materials.

River Views, a series of short videos, chronicles 49 current and past river sights and features that can be used by classroom teachers or the general public. You can find them at

Friends of the Rivers actively sought the input of local citizens of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to contribute to this educational resource. To ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity to those references, Friends of the Rivers sought the Myaamias' input on all references to Indigenous people who lived in northeast Indiana.

We welcomed the Myaamia contributing to the accuracy of those educational resources by sharing information on the life and death of Mihsihkinaahkwa (Chief Little Turtle) and details of the forced removal in 1846 – by canal boat – of the Miami people from their Indiana homeland to Kansas.

Friends of the Rivers has sincerely apologized to the Myaamia for our past cultural insensitivity. At the Myaamias' suggestion, and with the full agreement of our board, Friends of the Rivers has disconnected the boat's name from the historical person (Sweet Breeze was the daughter of Little Turtle and the wife of Capt. William Wells).

Through increased dialogue, Friends of the Rivers has come to appreciate that much of our region's history and the perspective present in history is written from a European perspective.

We would like to thank Diane Hunter, tribal historic preservation officer of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, and Doug Peconge, the assistant tribal historic preservation officer and community programming manager.

We also are grateful to George Ironstrack, assistant director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He allowed us to share his research article on Gen. Josiah Harmar's defeat in Fort Wayne.

Final thanks are extended to Daryl Baldwin, founding director of the Myaamia Center of Miami University. In December 2020, he replied with this thought:

“Telling a history has always had its challenges. We know life events always have different interpretations and it's less about right or wrong as it is about the inclusion of interpretations that bring us closer to a form of historical truth. I think for a long time Native Americans have not been allowed to participate in the telling of America's history and projects like yours can allow for that inclusion.” He signed it “kikwehsitoole”: respectfully.

It is appropriate for Friends of the Rivers to express thanks with the Myaamia phrase we have learned, “Mihsi neewe.”

Ron Menze is immediate past president of Friends of the Rivers Board of Directors.

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