field notes ➤ Linda Alexander, 2004

The Impact of Education on the Mvskoke

When Europeans first began to colonize the Americas, including the original Mvskoke homeland, they knew they wanted the native people’s land. From the very beginning, the Europeans knew the Mvskoke didn’t understand them, and they didn’t understand the Mvskoke. Europeans began trading by making signs to the friendly Mvskoke, and a means of communication was established.

Soon, Euro-Americans began teaching English to the Mvskoke. Eventually they introduced the Mvskoke to the Bible and began to translate it into Mvskoke. One reason they started this was so that the Mvskoke would forget their traditional ways, their culture, and their language. The Euro-Americans did not know that the Mvskoke would not forget their ways and language, nor would they forget what they had already learned about their environment.

For instance, the Mvskoke knew how to survive in many environments. Mvskoke people raised their own food, including vegetables such as corn and beans. They knew how to obtain enough meat to feed their families—rabbits, squirrels, buffalo, birds, and fish. They also knew how to pick berries and wild plants for fruit and vegetables. The Mvskoke used the bow and arrow to kill game, using medicine on the end when they needed to kill large animals.

The Mvskoke also knew about using herbs and the roots and leaves of wild plants to cure illnesses. They had songs for each individual medicine. They also had songs that helped them kill game or obtain plant foods.

At one point, Euro-Americans tried to starve the Mvskoke into submission. The Mvskoke had such varieties of foods to choose from, and knew how to obtain and store enough food, that the Euro-Americans were unsuccessful in breaking their will. Instead, Euro-Americans began to learn about the availability and uses of wild foods from the Mvskoke!

The Mvskoke also understood the importance of exercise. They walked, climbed, swam, and danced for their exercise.

Before the arrival of Europeans, the Mvskoke had developed a calendar system for keeping track of the months in a year. They used a large piece of tree bark with holes punched in it representing days. A stick was placed in each of the holes in turn, until the month was over. The Mvskoke had named each month according to its weather. This is the same calendar cycle that is used today. 

Beginning Creek / Mvskoke Emponvkv
by Pamela Innes, Linda Alexander, and Bertha Tilkens
(University of Oklahoma Press, 2004)

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