[aka Myaamia, Miami, Illinois]

Classification: Algic




“I heart this camp”: Participant Perspectives within the Story of Miami Youth Camps

Myaamionki is the place of the myaamia. The miami people are my family. . . . I think the most important thing in myaamionki is that we are all family.The quotation given above is an observation made by a fourteen-year-old Miami girl at the conclusion of an annual Miami language and culture youth summer camp in 2008. Within her statement are three important themes that have emerged from the camp setting. First, there is the question of defining and understanding myaamionki (literally ‘Miami place’),1 a key issue in that the Miami community has long been scattered and many children grow up without regular contact with other Miamis. Second, there is the related question of what it means to be Miami and what sort of value that identity holds. Finally, emerging not from her statement directly, but rather from our reading of it, is a recognition of how experiences at these annual youth camps are adding to a larger narrative of reawakening the Miami language and culture.This paper examines these themes through an investigation of Miami language and culture camps and focuses on how the observations and words of their participants both reflect and shape this larger community narrative. Since these camps began in the early 1990s, their role has grown and evolved in the two main Miami communities to the point where “camp” has become not only a major annual program for youth, but also an underlying philosophy that reconnects multiple aspects of community as part of ongoing decolonization efforts. While there are certain tangible effects of these camps such as the learning of phrases and exposure to specific traditional activities, camp organizers and facilitators have increasingly realized that less tangible results are the most important ones since they reflect larger cultural themes of relationship, responsibility, and action. We argue that annual camps in Oklahoma and Indiana have become a means of creating Miami space within a Miami place, empowering participants to enrich their own Miami identities and community roles. This paper relates these ideas in terms of how they create a Miami aacimooni ‘story’—here, a narrative rooted in the past but developed in the present for future generations of Miami people. Our examples come from participant observation, informal interviews, and pre- and post-camp student questionnaires collected in 2007 and 2008 for camp assessment purposes.

Vasiliki Vita

Proceedings of the 40th annual Algonquian Conference

Jan. 1, 2008