Welcome to the Reclaiming Stories Project.

Reclaiming Stories is an interdisciplinary team of tribal cultural experts, artists, and academics who are dedicated to researching early Miami and Peoria culture. Our collaborative initiative is a tribal community-focused research venture that is centered on producing knowledge for both academic and community audiences on seventeenth century Illinois hide robes and (hi)stories. The collaborative aims to build on and extend an extraordinary process of cultural restoration among these Indigenous communities over the past generation with a specific focus on art history and practice. Since its origin in 2020, the Reclaiming Stories project has created an interdisciplinary conversation around the traditional practices of hide paintings (or minohsaya) in the history of the Peoria and Miami communities. The collaborative now aims to make a space and an occasion for an extensive reclaiming and revitalization of the meanings and techniques of hide painting and related art practices for communities today. This work will build on ongoing community achievements in language revitalization, ecological reawakening, and historical scholarship, as well as enduring artistic practices such as ribbonwork. Building knowledge across communities, across disciplines, and through methods of reciprocity and redistribution, the project aims to return old knowledge to the Miami and Peoria communities and allow us to create new practices. 

The Reclaiming Stories project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Humanities Without Walls Consortium. In 2021, the collaborative team won a grant for an ambitious long-term (2022-2025) project. This project, “(Re)connecting Indigenous Painted Hides to Communities through Collaborative Conversations,” focuses on several collections of hide art (minohsaya) and related art works, most importantly a collection held by the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Guided by Indigenous Myaamia and Peewaalia methodologies, ethics of collaborative research, and a spirit of reciprocity and redistribution, the first phase of this project creates a significant opportunity for members of the Peewaalia and Myaamia communities—artists, community leaders, scholars and students—to reconnect with these objects and reclaim their meanings through a research trip. Seizing the opportunity created by a new interpretive initiative within the Musée du quai Branly, the project will result in a major exhibition for tribal and larger audiences on Miami and Peoria homelands, first at the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum (RCCAM) at Miami University and subsequently in Miami, OK.  


The Reclaiming Stories Project team continues to grow. Current key members include:

  • Madison Jean Bastress, PhD. Student, New York University.
  • David Costa, Director of the Language Research Office at the Myaamia Center.
  • Charla EchoHawk, Director of Cultural Preservation at Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, and a citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.
  • Elizabeth Ellis, Associate Professor of History at Princeton University and a citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.
  • Wesley Farless, Peoria Language Specialist with the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma and citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.
  • Jack Green, Jeffrey Horrell ‘75 and Rodney Rose Director and Chief Curator of the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum (RCCAM) at Miami University.
  • George Ironstrack, Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center and a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
  • Bob Morrissey, Professor of History at the University of Illinois.
  • Julie Olds, Cultural Resources Officer, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
  • Laura Peers, Former Curator of the Americas Collections at Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK, Professor Emerita of Museum Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK. (Project Consulting).
  • Jason E. Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions, RCCAM, Miami University.
  • Scott Shoemaker, Program Officer, Arts and Cultures, Cargill Foundation and a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
  • Cam Shriver, Myaamia Research Associate in the Myaamia Center and Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Miami University.
  • Coll Thrush, Professor of History, University of British Columbia.
  • Eric Toups, Ph.D. Candidate, History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


Michael Galban: Requickening and Awakening the Dormant

In conjunction with the special exhibition, Minohsayaki ‘Painted Robes’: a Peewaalia and Myaamia Story of Reclamation, artist Michael Galban (Washoe and Mono Lake Paiute) presented a lecture entitled: “Requickening and Awakening the Dormant.“ The lecture presented on March 16th at the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum at Miami University (RCCAM), Oxford, Ohio, explored the …

George Ironstrack and Liz Ellis in conversation about Minohsayaki

Please register for the interrelated upcoming Alumni Association webinar on February 22, 12PM Eastern:  “Oklahoma to Paris and Back Again: Peewaalia and Myaamia Stories of Minohsayaki ‘Painted Hide Robes’ Join in conversation with George Ironstrack, Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University and citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma (Myaamia), and Elizabeth Ellis, Associate Professor of …

Learning Lab ’23

Hide Tanning

As we study minohsayaki (painted hides) together, our group thinks a lot about very material questions: how did Myaamia and Peewaalia artists make painted hides long ago? In summer 2022, our first Learning Lab focused on techniques of painting and tattooing. Led by Michael Galban and Jamie Jacobs, our group spent several days learning how to derive the pigments, how to make the paint, how to apply it. We studied design elements and motifs common to different eastern American Indigenous painting and tattoo traditions. We learned how to sew up the painted hides we made into useful bags. For the first time in generations, Myaamia and Peewaalia people in summer 2022 were making minohsayaki again.

In summer 2023, we took a further step in this discovery, turning our attention to the skills and labor involved in creating hides themselves. Of course, from the very beginning of our research, members of our group have wanted to know more about hide tanning as an art in its own right. Summer 2023 was our chance to explore the process in depth over a three day workshop. It was an extraordinary experience, a chance to connect evolving community knowledge about the minohsayaki to the embodied work of traditional hide tanning.

Our guide was Jeremy Turner, Shawnee historian, maker, and expert whose gifts as a teacher are hard to overstate. Throughout our three days together in Miami, Jeremy led our group through practically the entire process of brain tanning a deer hide. From dehairing to stretching to beaming, we worked together in the heat (with occasional needed trips into the air conditioning at the Myaamia Maker Space!) to produce a finished hide.

The lessons were amazing. What many of us had only ever read about came to life in this communal experience, with all of its messy and complex physicality. One constant refrain throughout the process was an appreciation for just how much work this was, and how much know-how Jeremy shared, much of which he could only summarize.

In addition to these hands-on sessions, we also continued our group study. Historian Coll Thrush facilitated a discussion about Indigenous travelers in London, helping us think about Paris as an Indigenous place today and notably in 1725 when a group of travelers from the Illinois Country spent a couple of weeks in that city. We discussed museum work and reunions with heather ahtone, curator of the “Winiko” exhibit at First Americans Museum. And with Brooke Bauer we discussed gender and hide tanning in 18th century Indigenous cultures of eastern North America.

It was an extraordinary new chapter in our larger project, and an unforgettable experience.