Mvskoke Country

field notes ➤ Lucinda Davis, 1937

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❝ I belong[ed] to a full-blood Creek Indian and I didn’t know nothing but Creek talk long after de Civil War. My mistress was part white and knowed English talk, but she never did talk it because none of de people talked it. I heard it sometime, but it sound like whole lot of wild shoat in de cedar brake scared at something when I do hear it. . . .

Long in de night you wake up and hear a gun go off, way off yonder somewhar. Den it go again, and den again, just fast as dey can ram de load in. Dat mean somebody die. When somebody die de men go out in de yard and let de people know dat way. Den dey just go back in de house and let de fire go out, and don’t even tech de dead person till somebody git dar what has de right to tech de dead.

When somebody had sick dey build a fire in de house, even in de summer, and don’t let it die down until dat person git well or die. When dey die dey let de fire go out.

In de morning everybody dress up fine and go to de house whar de dead is and stand around in de yard outside de house and don’t go in. Pretty soon along come somebody what got a right to tech and handle de dead and dey go in. I don’t know what give dem de right, but I think dey has to go through some kind of medicine to get de right, and I know dey has to drink de red root and purge good before dey tech de body. When dey git de body ready dey come out and all go to de graveyard, mostly de family graveyard, right on de place or at some of the kinfolks’s.

When dey git to de grave somebody shoots a gun at de north, den de west, den de south, and den de east. Iffen dey had four guns dey used ’em.

Den dey put de body down in de grave and put some extra clothes in with it and some food and a cup of coffee, maybe. Den dey takes strips of elm bark and lays over de body till it all covered up, and den throw in de dirt.

When de last dirt throwed in, everybody must clap dey hands and smile, but you sho hadn’t better step on any of de new dirt around de grave, because it bring sickness right along wid you back to your own house. Dat what dey said, anyways.

Jest soon as de grave filled up dey built a little shelter over it wid poles like a pig pen and kiver it over wid elm bark to keep de rain from soaking down in de new dirt.

Den everybody go back to de house and de family go in and scatter some kind of medicine ’round de place and build a new fire. Sometimes dey feed everybody befo’ dey all leave for home. ❞

The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives
edited by T. Lindsay Baker and Julie P. Baker
(University of Oklahoma Press, 1996)

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Written by James Treat

September 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

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