PERU – The Miami Nation of Indians have received a grant to repair the roof of their headquarters, marking the final step before the group opens the first tribe owned museum in the state.
The $50,000 federal grant was awarded by the Indiana Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology.
The money is helping pay to replace the roof of the former Peru High School’s gymnasium, Tig Arena, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and now serves as the Miami Nation’s headquarters.
Other than one acre of land that remained in a Miami family’s ownership, the complex is the first property owned by the tribe since its removal from Indiana in the 1840s.
But the leaking roof there is currently threatening the structure and allowing water into the lower level of the classroom wing where the tribe maintains its archives.
By replacing the roof and halting the leaks, the tribe can begin to pursue other interior repairs that are needed to allow the group to continue to operate its food bank, emergency shelter and tribal operations.
Miami Nation Secretary Sarah Siders said in total, the roofing project will cost around $200,000.
She said the leaking roof has also postponed the opening of their new museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Miami tribe, which was set to open in late 2017.
Now, one room of the museum, along with the gift shop, is set to open by Nov. 1. Siders said they hope to have the roof project complete by then.
“We’re almost there,” she said. “We’re confident enough that we can start the project and have enough money to finish it.”
Once the museum opens, it will be the first and only museum in the state that is owned and operated by Native Americans.
Siders said although there are other museums in Indiana dedicated to Native American culture, the tribe has aimed for years to create one dedicated solely to its unique history and traditions.
“We’d like to have something of our own,” she said. “We’re all super exited. This is something that’s needed to be done for 15 or 20 years.”
One room of the museum will be dedicated to the history of the tribe before its removal from the state, and another room will be focused on the post-removal period of their history, she said.
Displays include archival documents, historical artifacts, a partial wigwam and exhibitions on how the tribe grew maze and harvested maple syrup.
Keith Layman, a volunteer and special project coordinator for the Miami Nation, said in a previous interview the museum will go a long way in publicizing the tribe’s history in Indiana, and could also be a boon for the city.
“I think this could be huge for Peru and Miami County,” he said. “It’s a rare resource that will be available that could draw people. I’m really excited about not just preserving the history, but helping the tribe get their culture and history out there.”
The creation of the museum has been paid for in part by a $20,000 grant awarded by the Miami County Community Foundation, which will distribute $5,000 a year over the next four years.
Another grant awarded by the Indiana Historical Society will pay for a new computer system which will allow the tribe to scan, store and catalogue documents and photos.
The tribe has also previously received $50,000 grants from the DNR and the Daughters of the American Revolution to help pay for other roof repairs.
The Miami Nation currently has around 6,000 members and has fought for more than a century to get state and federal governments to formally recognize them as an official Indian nation.