Miami Nation member to speak at Fort Laurens

Miami Nation member  to speak at Fort Laurens

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On Saturday, March 19, John Bickers will present the history of the Miami Nation in Ohio in the Fort Laurens amphitheater at 11 a.m.

A member of the Miami Nation, Bickers will present an exploration into Miami land loss through early treaties with the United States, starting with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. He also will discuss the challenges the Miami people faced following the American Revolution, how their leaders resisted American expansion and why they ultimately agreed to their forced removal to lands west of the Mississippi River.

“We are fortunate to have John Bickers as our first speaker for the 2022 Fort Laurens Speaker Series,” said Tammi Shrum, site director for Fort Laurens and Historic Zoar Village. “American Indians from many different nations were involved on both sides of the conflict at Fort Laurens, so it’s important to tell that history.”

Bickers was named a 2021-22 Ford Fellow and is one of only 36 people chosen from thousands of applicants across the country. The fellowship will help Bickers finish his doctoral dissertation, “Miami Nation, A Middle Path for Indigenous Nationhood,” and graduate with a Ph.D. in history.

“The number of Native Americans who have Ph.D.s in history is very small, and the number of those who do work on Native history or their own tribes is even smaller,” Bickers said. “But if we don’t tell our own stories, somebody else is going to, and they may not always have the knowledge we do or take as much care in crafting the narratives.”

Bickers credited several mentors and his grandfather for sparking a curiosity about his ancestors that led him to his studies.

“One of my fondest childhood memories was whenever I’d visit my grandfather,” Bickers said. “He had all these family heirlooms, and he would take them out and show me pictures of my Miami ancestors and tell me here’s who they were and what they did. That was something that immediately caught my attention, and I was always fascinated by it.”

Bickers said reading what has been written by others about the Miami people put him on the specific path he has taken with his studies.

“As I got older, I started reading what has been written about Miami people in history books and other accounts, and they didn’t always match what my family and other Miami folks I knew had said about us. So I started doing my own research, and I started to see real inconsistencies and misunderstandings among the people doing the writing because they didn’t have a Miami perspective,” Bickers said.

Bickers said while the United States has a valid perspective on Native American issues, Native people also have a valid perspective that simply hasn’t been completely heard.

“I felt this was a way I could give back to the next generation of Miami children,” he said. “Through my work they will have a resource with a Miami perspective about our history.”

During the American Revolution, the Miami fought with the British against the United States and continued fighting the United States following the war. After being defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, the Miamis were forced to surrender most of the Ohio lands with the signing of the Treaty of Greenville.

By the terms of the treaty, the confederation ceded all lands east and south of a boundary that began at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in what is now Cleveland, extending south to Fort Laurens and west to Fort Recovery in Mercer County.

“I think it’s really important for indigenous scholars like (myself) to rise through the ranks of academia and make sure we’re in the rooms where the decisions are being made,” Bickers said. “Because if we’re not there, no one is going to speak for us.”

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