History Files


Native Americas

North American Natives Compendium

by Mick Baker, 21 October 2018. Updated 9 June 2019

North American Natives Compendium Introduction



Mahican  Meherrin  Metoac  Miami 




Main Page - Metoac / Tribes of Long Island

'Metoac' is a geographic rather than a political grouping of the tribes of Long Island. For no other reason than the fact that Manhattan was also an island, the tribe of that name is often included under the 'Metoac' label.

Linguistically, the tribes on Staten Island are considered to be of the Unami sub-division of the Lenni-Lenape (Delaware). Since all of the Long Island tribes were culturally similar, not only to each other but to other south-coastal tribes in New England, and there is no general consensus on their classification, the word 'Metoac' is an acceptable term of convenience.

The 'Metoac' were an agricultural people who complemented their diet with fishing and hunting. Although they lived in villages, there was regular seasonal movement in a fixed pattern to take advantage of the resources. Villages were generally small and rarely fortified until they were living under constant threat after 1630. Although they sometimes joined in loose alliances, their lack of a durable central authority before contact was a clear indication there was little intertribal conflict.


By far the most distinctive characteristic of the 'Metoac' was their important role in native trade. It was the severe misfortune of the 'Metoac' to occupy the northern shore of Long Island which was the source of the best wampum in the north-east region of North America. Each summer, the 'Metoac' collected clam shells from the waters of Long Island Sound which, during the winter, were meticulously shaped into small beads. Strung together in long strands, they were called wampompeag - condensed somewhat by the English colonists into the more accustomed form of 'wampum'. The Dutch called it 'siwan' (or 'sewan').

The 'Metoac' traded this painstakingly-crafted product to other tribes (most notably the Mahican) and thrived as a result. Passed from tribe to tribe, Long Island wampum made its way as far west as the Black Hills of South Dakota! The strings of shell beads were sometimes employed as an elementary currency in native trade, but they were also valued for personal adornment. Arranged into belts whose designs could express ideas, wampum was also used in native diplomacy to seal important agreements, such as war and peace.

Wampum beads
Modern examples of wampum beads, which served as a form of currency before the arrival of the colonists, and also being adopted by them in the early days

It came in two varieties: white and dark (which varied from purple to black). In general, the dark beads had a value roughly twice that of white. The shells from which wampum was made were located on both sides of Long Island Sound, so the 'Metoac' never had a monopoly. Other tribes (Delaware, Mattabesic, Niantic, Pequot, and Narragansett) were also involved in its manufacture, but the wampum created by the 'Metoac' (from northern Long Island) was considered the best.

After 1600, the European fur trade distorted the original purposes and value of wampum. Strung together and measured in fathoms, it became a medium of exchange in trade between colonists and natives which greatly increased its value.

A passive people cursed with a prized resource, the 'Metoac' proved easy prey for more dominant and bellicose tribes.


Main Sources

First Nations: Issues of Consequence website




Main Page - Miami (to come later)

The Anglicised Miami name derives from 'Myaamia' (plural 'Myaamiaki'). It has been claimed that the Miami referred to themselves the Twightwee or Twatwa. They also called themselves Mihtohseeniaki, but there is a group named the Tawatawas who are much more of a mystery. Are they Miami or not?

Sorry, the table is not available for this display width. Please try viewing the page in landscape.

Name Source Meaning
Maiama Autonym 'Downstream people'
Maumee Later French
Memilounique French
Naked Indians 2 Said to derive from the cry of the crane (see below)
Nation de la Grue French See below 2
Omaumeg Chippewa 'People on the peninsula'
Oumami / Oumiami
Oumamik Early French
Pkiwi-leni Shawnee 'Dust, ashes people'
Sä nshkiá-a-rúnû Wyandot 'People dressing finely'
Tawatawas 1 Naked 2
Titwa Naked 2
Twightwees 3 / Twatwa Delaware Said to derive from the cry of the crane
Wea Band

1 It would seem that the occasionally-used name 'Tawittawayes', as used in the documents concerning a prospective peace treaty with the Nottoway, is a variant of this name. Interestingly, this name, as designated here, is not found in Swanton's work.

2 Name used by the colonists from a confusion between 'twanh, twanh', the cry of the crane, and 'tawa', meaning 'naked'.

3 Recent studies have shown that Twightwee derives from the Delaware language exonym for the Miami, 'Tuwéhtuwe', a name of unknown etymology.

Map of the Powhatan confederacy AD 1600
The Powhatan confederacy (the pale orange area) was formed towards the end of the sixteenth century, and under its second paramount chief it rapidly expanded to cover territory which is now divided between the states of Delaware and Maryland (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Tawittawayes concerns

While the Tawittawayes name would seem to be synonymous with the Miami, one thing still raises a note of concern. The Nottoway are claimed to have travelled north (on behalf of several other tribes) to attempt to establish a peace treaty with foreign tribes. According to the available maps (see above) they would have to have passed through vast swathes of territory which was inhabited by the likes of the Monacan, Manahoac, and Shawnee.

There doesn't seem to be any mention of that within the sources. If those three nations spoke Iroquoian then in theory such a journey would be acceptable because the Nottoway were Iroquoian speakers themselves. Instead, though, they were either Siouan or Algonquian - often hostile to Iroquoian speakers. It all seems very odd.

Of course, if the Tawittawayes were nothing to do with the Miami then the problem resolves itself, except that their identity returns to being a complete mystery. Even Swanton fails to mention them, although in fairness his coverage of the Nottoway is sparse to say the least.

A possible solution is that the Nottoway used canoes to reach the Susquehanna River and Iroquoian lands. From there they may have been able to make their way westwards to the Miami, or perhaps more realistically to a pre-agreed halfway meeting point. There is no proof for that of course, so for now the Tawittawayes must remain Miami in disguise. The alternative is more head-scratching.

Miami divisions

The best-known Miami names are shown in red:

  • Atchakangouen, Atchatchakangouen, Atchakangouen, Greater Miami, or Crane Band (named after their leading clan, the largest Miami band)
  • Kineepikomeekwaki (autonym), Kilatika, Kilatak, Kiratika, as referred to by the French, but later known by the English as the Eel River Band of Miami
  • Mengakonkia or Mengkonkia, Michikinikwa ('Little Turtle') people
  • Kiteepihkwana (autonym), Pepikokia, Pepicokea, later known as the Tepicon Band or Tippecanoe Band.
  • Peeyankihšiaki ('those who separate' or 'those who split off') (autonym), Piankeshaw, Piankashaw, Pianguichia
  • Waayaahtanooki or Waayaahtanwa (autonym), ('people of the place of the whirlpool') Wea, Wiatonon, Ouiatanon or Ouaouiatanoukak.


Main Sources


First Nations: Issues of Consequence website

Miami Tribe - Access Genealogy

Purvis, Thomas L - Colonial America to 1763, Almanacs of American Life, 1999

Santoro, Nicholas J - Atlas of the Indian Tribes of North America and the Clash of Cultures, 2009

Swanton, J R - The Indian Tribes of North America, US Government Printing Office, 1952



Text and map copyright © Mick Baker & P L Kessler. An original feature for the History Files.