Messaging Platform: Miami Tribe Relations

Advancing a partnership through impactful, human-centered communication

close up of hands holding a stoll that reads niila myaamia

NOVEMBER 2, 2023

The charge

Leading up to the 50th anniversary of the relationship between the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami University, the Miami Tribe Relations (MTR) office sought to develop a narrative around their work to better communicate their impact and reach more members of the community who might not know about the relationship.


There were no existing examples of university/tribal relationships with the depth, intention, or longevity of the Miami Tribe’s relationship with Miami University. It was on us to not only set the standard for what university/tribal relationships can look like, but tell that story in a way that is true to and respectful of multiple identities.

The work


I started by assessing the existing landscape of communications about MTR. Despite the relationship being driven by people, the language used to talk about their work was institutional and impersonal. And for someone new to the relationship, there was little explanation of what it was and why it exists before diving into specific MTR projects and initiatives.


Next, the director of brand and I conducted discovery sessions with several members of the MTR office to learn more about what they do, their priorities, key outcomes of their work, what the relationship means to them personally, and more.

Messaging Objectives

These conversations revealed a need for our messaging strategy to do three things:

  • Cut through stereotypical or uniformed ways the community views Myaamia people.
  • Explain the significance of the relationship and the Tribe’s work, including key outcomes like the creation of the Myaamia Center, the Myaamia Heritage Program, and the graduating of 100 Myaamia students.
  • Relate this story to people who think the story has little to do with them by fostering empathy and showing that many communities can apply lessons in addressing shared history to continue building stronger, more resilient communities.

Messages and Guides

In close partnership with members of the Tribe, we settled on three key messages:

  • A people across time: The Myaamia people are a people with a past who are strengthening kinship ties in the present and ensuring their vitality for the future.
  • Holding space to foster greater resiliency: The relationship between the Tribe and the university has created a space within the Tribe’s historic homelands for community healing and reclamation. For the Myaamia people, language and cultural revitalization fosters a strengthened identity and vitality for the Tribal nation. For the university, confronting our complicity in injustice and recognizing our accountability compels us to repair this relationship so that together we can better respond to the challenges of our time in ethical and effective ways. Together, the university and the Tribe build community and learn from each other through this reciprocal relationship.
  • Navigating what it means to be human: Myaamia people continue to address the histories of what happened to their communities and navigate complex layers of identity. These lessons in addressing shared history to build stronger community connections can be applied to many communities.

In the following months, I also built out editorial standards for MTR and a guide with key considerations for communicating about MTR and Myaamia people.

The result

The messaging platform I developed in partnership with the Tribe ultimately served as the foundation for a redesign of the Miami Tribe Relations website, an environmental storytelling installation in the Armstrong Student Center, a CASE Grand Gold winning commemoration event, and full MTR brand standards guide.

Environmental installation in Armstrong Student Center of the story of Myaamia people

My messaging platform and communication resources bridged a gap between other campus units and the MTR office by reducing barriers to telling the story of this partnership over fears of ‘getting it wrong’ or inadvertently causing offense. Campus communicators now have a great starting point to communicate about the relationship more confidently and effectively before sharing their drafts with the MTR office for review.

Most importantly, the collaborative, iterative process of developing this messaging platform and allowing it to evolve through each project reinforced the values of the relationship itself – mutual respect, reciprocity, and an unwavering commitment to each other.