Mvskoke Country

Archive for the ‘period: 1907-1970’ Category

field notes ➤ James Hill, circa 1940

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Ways of Preparing Corn

Black Corn

There are five names for breads made of black corn. You shell black corn, put water in a pot to boil, set it over the fire, put in a small amount of strong ashes without any charcoal, and when it boils, put in the shelled corn, and after it boils, take out the corn, and wash it off, until all the corn skin is removed, and when it’s dry, put it in a mortar, and when you pound it with the pestle, add fine ashes from bean hulls or burnt corn cobs, pound it fine, sift it with a fanner, remove the fine portion, stir in some boiled beans that have been cooked, mix with water, and when it’s stiff, break off about one handful, squeeze it, make it into a ball or make it flat and round, they’re placed in boiling water, and when they’re cooked, they call it cvtvhakv (blue dumpling). It’s good to drink the soupy juice.

Then using the same ground corn worked as if to make cvtvhakv, when just about to put them in the boiling water, you wrap them in corn shucks and boil them in that, and cook them, and they’re called vssvtulkē (blue dumplings wrapped in shucks), or they’re called puyfekcv-hake (like a ghost) and eaten.

Then in the summertime, they gathered wide leaves of trees and they used those as wrap and boil them in those, and those are called vssvtulkē, too.

Then if beans are not added and just water is used to mix, you set it at the edge of the fire, and cover it with hot ashes and cook it, and it’s called taklike takhopelke (buried bread) and they ate it.

They had little flat clay plates, and they pressed grits in those and cooked it, and called it vpvtvkv (pressed against).

These five names were breads.

Now they removed the grits from corn that had been ground fine, boiled them in the juice of the beans boiled to be added to cvtvhakv, added grease, and called it afke-lvste (black mush), and ate it.

When the same corn was boiled and cooked without grinding, grease was added, and it was called sokv (hominy) and eaten.

If there is no black corn, all seven of the foods named are also made with white corn.

When bread is to be made of white corn, you shell the white corn, put it in water, boil it, pour the water from it, put it in a mortar, pound it with a pestle, and when it’s fine, sift it with a fanner, take out the fine part, and after you have enough, you mix it with water, put it in a bread pan and cook it, and its called okfvlke taklike (baked cornbread), or when you flatten it out very thin, put it in grease and cook it, it’s called vpvtvkv ‘sakmorke (fried batter-cakes). ❞

Creek Texts by Mary R. Haas and James H. Hill
edited and translated by Jack B. Martin,
Margaret McKane Mauldin, and Juanita McGirt
(College of William and Mary, 2011)


Written by James Treat

October 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

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)

Written by James Treat

September 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ Jake Simmons, 1937

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❝ I have from the time I was a little boy been interested in the cattle business, and I have studied it from every angle and from its beginning to the present day. I never did much farming in my life, that is, extensively, as I have always worked on the range and ranches and am still today engaged in the raising of the cattle on my miniature ranch of 1,100 acres, compared with the ranches in my early manhood. . . .

With the subduing of the wild Indians, buffalo herds disappearing, and the railroad operating, cattle were shipped from Texas to the Indian Territory, and by 1880 ranches of all sizes and description were in progress. These Texas cattle were of all sizes and colors, long horns, Mexican types, et cetera. Some were wild and half-wild, and many of them were branded before arrival in the Territory, which necessitated each ranch maintaining a brand record. Each ranch had its particular range, and some of these ranges overlapped . . . .

Employees on the ranch consisted of superintendent or foreman, cow punchers, horse wranglers, cooks, and salt boys who kept up the salt licks. The number of employees varied in accordance with the size of the ranch. . . .

The ranch hands, all of them, were jolly good fellows. They dressed picturesquely with large brim hat with high crowns, a large handkerchief around their necks, high-heel boots, shirts usually of some bright color, and chaps over their trousers. This was the comfortable dress for the cow punchers, and each had its particular part in a cowboy’s life. The hats were used to protect them from the rays of the sun, and they were beneficial in heading off a cow or starting a bucking bronco. The handkerchief which they wore about their necks were often used in caring for their wounds and those of the doggies, the high-heel boots kept their feet from slipping through the stirrup on their saddle, the chaps protected their trousers and legs from the whipping of the high grass, which at times was half high to the sides of a horse, and the heavy shirts not only protected them from the sun but from insect bites of all kinds. There was little education and refinement among them. They loved to play pranks on each other and, not because I was a cow puncher myself, I am compelled to say that they were brave men, hated a thief and a coward, and despised lawlessness in any form. . . .

I remember when only a mere boy of my first job on the ranch, and for this job I was paid six dollars a month. Later on, I received ten dollars a month and so on until I began to know my cattle and became a buyer and bought thousands of head for the ranch where I was employed. By this means and my allotment, I myself engaged in the cattle business. ❞

Nations Remembered: An Oral History of
the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws,
Creeks, and Seminoles in Oklahoma, 1865-1907

by Theda Perdue
(University of Oklahoma Press, 1993)

Written by James Treat

June 15, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ Tsianina Blackstone, 1968

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❝ Our ranch was composed of 160 acres allotted to us by the government in the final distribution of Creek tribal land. Part of our acreage was used for cattle grazing and 40 acres was apportioned for farming. Our farm house was a low, rambling structure, roomy enough for our family of 12 which included four adopted children. My mother could never resist taking in the various nameless children of the community who had nowhere else to go. The kitchen was of ample size and the focal point of our family life. It was not a strange sight during the rainy season to see a water moccasin snake drop from the ceiling of the kitchen into a pan of water which was set on the stove to catch the raindrops from a crack overhead. . . .

Living on a ranch, where part of it is farm enough for all your needs, is abundant living. We had a fruit orchard with the best grade of apples, peaches, cherries, plums, pears, and apricots. Another part was for vegetables—potatoes, peas, green beans, cabbage, turnips, mustard greens, onions, spinach, carrots, okra, and navy beans. We never had to go to the market; everything we needed was in our cellar or smokehouse. Our smokehouse was filled with hams, slabs of bacon, pork shoulders, pigs feet (which I did not like), chitlins, and hog’s head. All we had to go to town for was sugar, salt, pepper, and flour. In the woods along the creek were wild grapes, persimmons, blackberries, and dewberries. Strawberries we grew in our garden. In the woods were plenty of nuts—black walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts. We children had lots of fun playing “Old Horse” with the pecans. We would put as many nuts in our hand as we could hold covered and say “Old Horse.” Your opponent replied, “I’ll ride him.” You answered, “How many miles?” If your opponent guessed how many nuts were in your hand, the whole amount was his. If he missed, he would have to make up the difference. This was a lot of fun and we called it gambling. . . .

Cyclones frequently come in the middle of the night. To me, it was thrilling rather than frightening to be dragged out of bed in my nightgown, half asleep, when the sky was black as pitch and the trees almost bent to the ground. Here again my mother’s calmness took the fear from my heart. We stayed in the cellar until the storms were over. Built about 50 feet from the house, the cellar had a cement floor and the roof was made of wooden rafters. A mixture of adobe mud and straw was shaped into a mound over the rafters. The only opening was a side door. It was the coolest place to keep our milk, and we set the crocks on the cement floor after it was saturated with water—it served as our icebox. ❞

Where Trails Have Led Me
by Tsianina Blackstone
(privately published, 1968)

Written by James Treat

April 20, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ Beulah Simms, 1970

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❝ ERO SA KVRPE (Stewed Squirrel)


1 young squirrel
Lard–Abt. 1 tblsp.
Water–Abt. 1 cup
Salt & Pepper–To taste


Begin the cleaning of the Squirrel by burning off all the hair over a direct flame. Scrape all the singed hair off. Remove skin, dress, clean, and cut into smaller pieces as you would a fryer.


If the squirrel is old, boil in salt water until it is tender.

Place a small amount of lard in a frying pan and pan fry the squirrel over a low flame with the pan covered with a lid until slightly cooked. Pour in about a cup of water and simmer down until thoroughly cooked. Salt and pepper to taste.


Some Creek Tribal Towns traditionally have stewed squirrel dinners before the first “Stomp Dance” of the season and after the last “Stomp Dance” of the season. The squirrel is considered good medicine for “stick ball” games, therefore, squirrel skin is used to make the ball for the “stick ball” games. Care must be taken that the squirrel is caught before it falls to the ground (after it has been injured or killed in the tree with what ever weapon is used).

A squirrel that falls to the ground is considered “bad medicine” for the ball players and should not be used to make the ball. Medicine prepared by the Tribal Town “medicine man” is usually placed in the ball before the squirrel skin covering is sewed up. It is said that a ball containing good medicine may even have powers to disappear from the sight of the opposing team so that they are not able to score in the game. A good medicine ball may also have the power to hide in the grass in the disguise of a snake or insect. All this is dependent on the powers of the medicine man employed by the Tribal Town and how strictly the players and officials of the stick ball game have followed their ceremonial rules. ❞

Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods
by Beulah Simms
(privately published, 1970)

Written by James Treat

March 9, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ James Scott, circa 1940s

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❝ 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)

Written by James Treat

February 16, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ William Harjo, 1941

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Look like springtime come already, don’t it?
Look like gonna be another pretty day;
Everything jus’ warm up all over;
Sun he’s come up early shine all day.
I’m glad too, ’cause hungry whole lot now;
Winter he was make me be that way;
If I’m like a bear it don’t hurt me nothin’
‘Cause bear go to sleep all winter every day.
But man has to eat jus’ like in summer time;
He can’t sleep all winter in a log somewhere,
An’ me, I’m jus’ like all other Indian;
I sure aint be all time like a bear.

Pretty soon I gittin’ fat again now, me;
Things to eat grow again when sun git hotter;
Nothin’ he don’t grow like that in winter time,
An’ me — I can’t livin’ on water!
Pretty soon wild onion time is come again;
He grow whole lot all over every way,
An’ I pick him any time I want it;
Eat wild onion three four times a day.
If weather he be like this all the time —
Red beans raise, tomatoe an’ apple pie;
Then fat hog be like if I don’t careful,
An’ eat so much ’till almost I jus’ die!

Sprintime make a new man out of me,
Like a boy I fishin’ in the creek all day;
Springtime make me feel good the children too,
He want to git outside all day an’ play.
But lots of work was come in springtime too,
An’ I don’t like it too much that part, me;
‘Cause work he’s pretty hard to do sometime —
Plowin’ field aint like he use’ to be.
Yeh, springtime he is pretty good all right,
But I don’t want him all the time to be;
‘Cause all that work — catchin’ mule an’ plowin’
Jus’ make it every day too hard on me. ❞

Sour Sofkee
by William Harjo [Thomas E. Moore]
(privately published, 1983)

Written by James Treat

February 9, 2011 at 12:00 am

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