field notes ➤ James Scott, circa 1940s

❝ Know your clan ways—know who your little father, or uncle, is. Know your grandmother and others. If you lose your father or mother, your relatives and your clan people will play the same roles. I remember before removal—a hunter stopped in our village—the children ran toward him. An adult asked for the hunter’s clan. He rattled out bear on one side, bird on the other, one grandfather was a deer. So his whole identity was clarified. . . . Two of his clans were in the village, so they welcomed him. The children were told, “this is your uncle, or little father.” The hunter would give the meat that he brought with him. Then, when the time came, he left with jerky that the talwa [town] had made. If the hunter’s clan did not have a representative in the talwa, people would still be friendly, take care of him—send him on his way where there would be a relative. If an uncle came in, a kid would be sent to hunt with him and his own mother’s brother. With this joint effort, he would learn a lot from his biological uncle. He would learn about the terrain, the pathways, and the local plants and animals. From his surrogate uncle he would learn about other communities and new wisdom. My own mother and father died during removal, so I was left with my clan uncle. . . .

You’ve got to know your relatives. I am a bear and your mother [Mary Hill] is a bear, so I am here. Be watchful of the whites. The snake you welcome will be the one that destroys you. They will sell their own mother—they will leave their burial grounds—they have no roots—they don’t know where their umbilical cord is buried. That is why they are restless. If you allow one in—you can’t get rid of him. Acquisition, private property, and trickery, that is their way. There is nothing you can do. They multiply like flies and they keep coming when they want something—they use talking papers. They came to me with talking papers after they gave me 160 acres of allotment land. Then with papers they said that if I gave the land I would have food for my relatives and myself. I signed over three-fourths of my land in exchange for a guarantee for food. I got tricked again. I had become Christian and I had forgotten how deceptive they can be. I thought they were friends. But I lost—we don’t have any beans or flour. Whatever little land you have, hold on to it. If it takes the rest of your life, learn about talking papers. It’s full of trickery. For your own survival, transplant pecans and water them. I am old—I can’t do it. See those berries? Those are the poisonous kind. If you know what is what out there, you won’t be hungry. Look at your mother Mary; she sold food in the Depression. Always identify the plants. Know the woods and don’t be wasteful. ❞

A Sacred Path: The Way of the Muscogee Creeks
by Jean [Hill] Chaudhuri and Joyotpaul Chaudhuri
(UCLA American Indian Studies Center, 2001)

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