There is a great movement to base back to our cultures and we have been blessed with individuals who are making this happen within our local tribes and tribes around the country. One of these leaders Daryl Baldwin has been recognized this week as one of 23 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant award winners for 2016. Daryl worked for a time with the Miami Tribe's environmental program, but his great interest was the Miami language, which was not frequently spoken by anyone at that time.
How do you revive a language? Get a genius and it can happen quickly.
Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma developed a strong relationship with the guidance of Daryl Baldwin, the early vision of former Miami Chief Floyd Leonard which has continued since with their tribal leadership and Miami University's Bobbe Burke. With these relationships knowledge of the Miami language and culture have flourished.
The John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation every year gives innovative visionaries its prized $625,000 genius grant. Although the award has been coined the “genius grant” to be considered for the MacArthur Grant each must exhibit “Exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work " that will advance society in an insightful and inspiring way.
That is exactly what Daryl Baldwin has done as a Miami University linguist to revive the heritage of his people, the Miami "Myaamia" Nation of Oklahoma. Baldwin had a desire to learn more about his heritage thought language would deepen his experience.
He said language and cultural revitalization is necessary for the preservation of the identity of the Myaamia people. That's why he committed to further developing the educational center at Miami University's Oxford, Ohio campus.
A year ago last June, the Miami Tribe held an exhibit in the ballroom at the Coleman Theater of Miami Tribal member Katrina Mitten's outstanding beadwork. The magic moment was Daryl Baldwin peering intently at the fully restored baby buggy covered with her beadwork. The universal symbols of rebirth adorned the top. Little did I know the significance of that moment. His plans for the future of the Miami Nation is for the children, to learn their language and with it their culture and it begins with the youth. He saw it all and I saw him seeing it and was able to capture that moment in a photo.
Later I stood in that same position admiring the work on the buggy the artist had brought back to life only to learn it had been in the family for generations of children. Now I think about our children and the changes that have occurred and can come to pass and that the future and our hope is in their hands. We are all blessed to have this amazing Miami Tribal member using his talents for the great future of his tribe.
Of course one of my hopes is for Tar Creek to have a genius who would take her on.