Indian historian Dunnagan
to speak at Historical Society dinner
than 6,000 tribe members live in state
(November 2010) When John Dunnagan told fellow
students at his high school that he was a Miami Indian, the reaction
was usually laughter.
Thats because people believe the myth that all Native Americans
are dark and have high cheek bones. His looks suggest he has European
ancestors and he does.
Although he may not resemble the stereotypical Indian, the 48-year-old
Dunnagan is vice-chief and tribal historian of the Miami Indians of
Indiana. His great-great-grandfather incorporated the tribe in 1937
and his mother was the first woman chief.
Dunnagan will speak on Miami tribal history at the annual awards dinner
of the Jefferson County Historical Society on Friday, Nov. 5. This years
event takes place at the restored Madison Masonic Lodge, 217 E. Main
St. The social begins at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m. catered by Paradise
Cove Catering. The cost is $25 and reservations can be made by calling
the JCHS office at (812) 265-2335.
The Miami Indians of Indiana have more than 6,000 enrolled
members. There are members in all 92 Indiana counties except Switzerland
County. A large number of current tribe members live in Miami County.
Tribal headquarters is located in Peru.
Dunnagan said 12 treaties dispersed the tribe, including the 1846 treaty,
which resulted in half the tribe being removed to Kansas and then Oklahoma.
The tribe was federally recognized until 1897. The state of Indiana
revoked their tribal status so it could levy property tax on tribal
property. At the same time, from 1897 to 1924, the state of Indiana
denied individual Indians the right to own property. That right was
restored in the 1920s by the Indiana Citizenship Act, but many Miami
had hidden their tribal identity for years so they could be property
In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act provided a means to have tribal
recognition restored, but Dunnagan said the Miami were turned down because
nearly all their members had either hidden their status or transferred
their membership to the Western Miami tribe, which offered more benefits.
After tribal recognition was refused, the Indiana Miami incorporated
as a not-for-profit organization.
To be a member of the tribe, an individual must prove he or she is descended
from a Miami tribe member listed on the 1854, 1889 or 1895 government
payrolls. The tribal organization continues its quest for both state
and federal recognition. Hopefully well regain our place
in history where we are a recognized tribe.
Dunnagan grew up in Wabash County and now lives in neighboring Miami
County, about 12 miles away from his childhood home. When I was
young, it (being an Indian) didnt really mean much to me,
he said. However, his mother took him on monthly trips to Fort Wayne
to research the familys genealogy at the Allen County Public Librarys
famous genealogy center. Thats what hooked him on history. He
took a seat on the Tribal Council in 1997 and soon moved into a leadership
position with the tribe.
Dunnagan has a wealth of knowledge about the history of the Miami tribe
in Indiana, which he will share with local residents during the Nov.
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