Miami Indian Cemetery

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The Miami Indian Cemetery in 1961
In its approximate 140-year history, the Miami Indian Cemetery near Jalapa, Indiana has undergone many changes. This cemetery is located at county roadway 600 North, Section 3, of Pleasant Township, Grant County, Indiana. The Miami Cemetery is supposedly the largest in Indiana.

This cemetery is not in the truest sense an Indian cemetery. The cemetery is an indication of the influence of the white race on the Indian race. The burial of the Indians is the result of the Christian influence of the white man and is not the way that the Miami Indians would have gone about it (Watson). "Burial underground seemed to be foreign to their thinking. When they finally adopted this custom they dug shallow graves," says Cora Straughn (Watson). Many of the Indians buried in this cemetery are family of the chief Metocinya. The first burial of an Indian in this cemetery was probably in or near the year 1873 (Neher). The cemetery and its records, which are not always accurately kept, have been confused. Criminals have vandalized the cemetery over its long lifetime. However, the restoration process of the Miami Indian Cemetery has helped it tremendously These three large effects have made the Miami Indian Cemetery a captivating site.

The cemetery and its records have been confused over the years.

The cemetery and its records have been confused over the years. First, the records of people who are buried in the cemetery have been jumbled because of typography errors and misinterpretation. There are three main sources which exhibit this type of mistake: a list of burials from 1921, complied by the History Department of Marion High School; a map made and list made in 1977; and a list from 1994. All of these show inconsistencies in spellings of Indian names. For example, in the list compiled by the History Department at Marion High School (MHS) lists the names Ellen Tawa-Tawa, Rossie A. Tawa-Tawa, Melvina Taaw-Taw, and Frances Tawa-Taw (Neher).

But, the list made in 1994 by Sheila Watson, an Indiana genealogist, has many discrepancies when compared with the previous list. First, there are two different families with a similar name: Tawa-Taw and Tawataw. Both of these have a person named Ellen listed under them, but each of them have a different date of death (Watson). This makes it hard to discern which of these corresponds with the one made in the list by the MHS History Department. The name Rossie Tawa-tawa has a different spelling in the Watson listing also. It is listed as Rosie Tawa-Taw, and has the same death date as the one in the MHS list (Watson). The name Melvina Taaw-Taw is almost certainly a typing error. But, the name appears with different spellings in all three of the lists. In the list from Sheila Watson, the last name is spelled as Tawataw (Watson), and in the list from 1977, it appears as Tawa-taw. The name Frances Tawa-Taw is the only one that has a consistent spelling in all three lists. But, this name has a variance in the date of death. In the list from the MHS History Department, the date of death is listed as May 25, 1891, and in the Watson list as May 25, 1894. This could be a typing error or an error when reading the stone.

Another example of confusion with names is the case of Samantha Richards. Her name is listed in the list compiled by Sheila Watson in 1994 as Richards, Samantha 1866- ____ "Mother", but does not appear in the other two lists. A picture of the gravestone shows a photograph that can easily be identified as the grave of Samantha Richards. The map made in 1977 also has a blank where the grave should be (Breen). This mistake devalues the credibility of the source, as the grave is plainly readable but was not recorded. Sheila Watson has an explanation for some of these errors. First of all, the list from 1921 may be slightly incorrect, as the class that it was done by was instructed to only examine the gravestones of people born in the first part of the nineteenth century (Watson, "Re: [Re]"). The chaos of different sources having different listings or not having listings makes documenting the cemetery very difficult.

Vandals have desecrated the Miami Indian Cemetery, causing much damage.

Vandals have desecrated the Miami Indian Cemetery, causing much structural and historical damage. "In the past many times this cemetery was a victim of vandalism. Many of the stones are gone or broken" (Watson). Three main events have plagued the cemetery: stones have been broken, remains have been stolen, and markers have been moved. The broken stones are plainly visible in photographs. In Figure 3, the gravestone of Coon Bundy can be seen lying on the ground, broken off its base. The base can be seen, and the fracture fits that of the bottom of the stone. The stone is also cracked in many places, probably when it was knocked off of its base. Figures 1 and 2 show extremely tall gravestones, those of Me-Shin-Go-Me-Sia and C. Peconga. These stones are tall and skinny, and several fracture lines can be seen where they were probably knocked off. The last example of a broken gravestone is Figure 5, which shows an unmarked stone with the upper left-hand corner broken off.

The second form of vandalism is the stealing of remains. An article from the Marion Chronicle Tribune is proof of this. The article states that "[G]houls, thought possibly to be morbid antique seekers, Saturday night entered the old Indian graveyard near Jalapa and robbed the last resting place of an unidentified Indian" ("Historic"). The article goes on to report that the grave was between 50 and 75 years old, and that most of the bones had been removed. It was believed that the ghouls were searching for valuables, as Miami Indians often buried their dead with jewels or gold ("Historic").

The last evidence of vandalism of the cemetery is in the movement of the markers of graves. By comparing a picture of the cemetery from 1961 and 1990, it appears that some of the graves had signs of attempts to be pushed over. The picture from 1961 shows a group of four squarish graves sticking out at odd angles from the ground. They seem to have been pushed, as these stones are fairly heavy and don't move on their own. The picture from 1990 shows these same gravestones straightened, probably as they originally were. The vandalism of the cemetery has also made it difficult to document it from reliable sources.

The restoration of the Miami Indian Cemetery has helped it immensely.

The restoration of the Miami Indian Cemetery has helped it immensely. Ed Breen says in his article for the Chronicle Tribune, "Last year an effort was made to restore the cemetery" (Breen 9). First of all, many of the stones have been straightened. "At some time in the past much repair work as been done. The pieces have been put back together and lined up in rows. They are probably not where they were originally set. They have done a nice job in fixing and keeping this cemetery in good shape" (Watson). Much of the studying of the cemetery was done before World War II. At this time, there were few laws governing cemeteries. They were overgrown with underbrush and generally unkempt (Watson, "Re: [Re]").

Two pictures taken at different times also show how the stones in the cemetery were straightened. A picture taken in 1961 shows many of the stones maligned, sticking out of the ground at odd angles. A later picture from 1990 shows the gravestones standing straight. A record from 1971 also tells of the improvements to the cemetery. "The stones have been restored, the grass mowed, a fence installed to keep cars out of the cemetery itself" (Breen). The two pictures aforementioned also show how the cemetery has been cleaned up. The picture from 1961 shows that the cemetery is very rundown and dirty. There are bare spots where grass is supposed to be and tall grass growing around the graves. The picture from 1990 shows the cemetery in much better shape. The bare spots are gone, now replaced by fresh grass. The grass also appears to be mowed frequently. All of the tall grass and underbrush have been cleared away.

A very important event in the restoration of the Miami Indian Cemetery was the work done by RCA. In 1976, RCA put in many hours of work cleaning and documenting this cemetery. They reset the bases, cleaned the graves, and made rubbings of the graves. Photographs were made before and after the graves were fixed. A map of the cemetery was also made, indicating the position of all of the graves (Marion 7). Another important addition to the restoration of the Miami Indian Cemetery is the addition of a historical marker. It was erected by the state society ("Group"). The sign reads: "Miami Indian Cemetery: The largest Indian Cemetery in Indiana. Few graves are marked. The Indians buried here are largely descendants of Chief Metocinya and include Meshingomesia and his family. The first burial was probably in 1873. Burial was contrary to Indian tradition and reflects Christian influence" ("Group"). The restoration has been a large help to the historical aspects of the cemetery.


The Miami Indian Cemetery has had a long and eventful history. In its 100 years in existence, the cemetery has seen vandals desecrating it, historians reading it, and workers restoring it. Since its first burial in 1873, the depredation of the cemetery left a scar in it. The broken stones, the maligned graves, and the robbed tombs have all hurt the cemetery. But, with the combined effort of historians and state workers, the cemetery has been restored, leaving it with its scars healing and importance remaining. The Miami Indian Cemetery remains a standing marker of the importance of Native Americans in Indiana.

Annotated Works Cited

  • Breen, Ed. "Preserving the grandeur." Chronicle Tribune 6 June 1977, sec. 2: 9.

This is an excerpt from an article that has a picture and a caption, of which I mainly used the picture.

  • "Group visits cemetery." Chronicle Tribune 18 Oct. 1972: n. pag.

This is another picture with a caption from the Marion Chronicle.

  • "Historic Indian Burial Ground Looted by Ghouls." Chronicle Tribune 18 Oct. 1934: n. pag.

This article is about a looting of the cemetery in 1934. This is used to explain part of the vandalism of the cemetery.

  • "Marion's Project Restoration." Communicate Jul.-Aug. 1976: 6-7.

This is a magazine put out by RCA, used to help explain the restoration of the cemetery.

  • "Memory of an Indian trail." Chronicle Tribune Magazine 21 Oct. 1972: n. pag.

This is a series of pictures showing some of the destruction of the cemetery.

  • Neher, Leslie I. Cemeteries Grant County Indiana. 1994: n. pag.

This is a list of people buried in the cemetery. It contains two different lists.

  • Watson, Sheila. "Re: [Re: ]". (11 Jan 1999).

This is an email message that details some of the work that Mrs. Sheila Watson did with the cemetery.

  • ---. Untitled. 1 Jan 99 .

This is a list of people buried in the cemetery done by Sheila Watson.