Mvskoke Country

Archive for the ‘period: 1971-2011’ Category

field notes ➤ Phillip Deere, 1982

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❝ I am constantly thinking of my travels, such as Switzerland. It is a beautiful country, the mother country of many people here like Germany and those countries over there. But best of all, I like Switzerland, because I never saw Pampers laying on the roadside, I never saw a beer can laying there, and the country is so clean, and those people have been there for hundreds of years. They have them a farmland that they farmed for years and years, year after year. They’re still farming those lands and they’re still producing good vegetables, big cabbages, big broad leaves of mustard or whatever. They still produce good food because they keep their land up.

Coming back to our country, I look around and think about people here. Is it because the mother country is over there, and their life didn’t originate here for them, that they lay this land in waste, they keep it trashy? I always wonder about that and I’ve heard this about going to “greener pastures,” and I’ve wondered what that really means.

Then I begin to think after traveling and going to these other countries and seeing how clean these countries are and coming back here—we don’t rebuild our land here. We wear the land out and leave it in waste, and then we go over here.

The first people that came here, they drifted from another country, and they remained here, and their descendants that live here in this country, maybe they’re drifters too. So they’re willing to leave Chicago, they’re willing to leave Los Angeles, or they’re willing to leave Ohio and come to Oklahoma, Connecticut, anywhere they want to go, they do that. But they leave the land in waste, and they go to the greener pastures, and sometimes I just almost figure out what this guy is thinking if he wants this land. ❞

The World and Way of the Creek People
edited by David Michael Lambeth
(privately published, 1982)


Written by James Treat

October 26, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ Louis Oliver, 1982

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❝ Creek Indian Thought No. 9
(October 8, 1982)

Flying in arrowhead shape, wild geese
flew low silently in October.
Coyote sat and watched on
the lone prairie,
hoping they would land to rest
on a moonlit pond.

I stood in the presence of tall trees
whose leaves were falling gently,
—and a squirrel was dropping cuttings
from a hickory nut.
Another flight of “honkers” flew wildly
Cackling to each other
—then Coyote howled.

Like boiling, bubbling gnats in sunlight
are thoughts in my mind.
On the lacy spokewheeled webs
of yellow and black striped spiders
that sometimes weave
prophetic words
I keep searching.


So I stand in wonderment
of these mysticisms.
We—the only flesh and blood
inhabitants of a planet
of all the Universe—There’s no other
and we threaten with laser beams
and space gadgets
when there is no other:

So—the oak leaves keep falling
brown and curled
the geese keep coming, honking louder.
Coyote sits straight up
In a time like this, I have
a song I sing:
Yowale Yowalehe
ho ho ho—Yowal
le hee . . . 

Caught in a Willow Net
by Louis Oliver
(Greenfield Review Press, 1983)

Written by James Treat

October 5, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ David Lewis Jr., 2002

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❝ The Unseen Powers of Traditional Medicine

All medicines came from organic sources. Modern medicine now uses synthetic drugs to imitate some of these organic medicines.

The so-called primitive human societies had medicines for their people. Associated with the herbal medicines was what is called conjuring. This is what the modern culture calls it, and it has been dispelled as superstition. What the modern educated man fails to recognize is that there are a great many things that he does not know that are in the unseen worlds of creation.

Modern medicine seems to be limited to powers of the physical and the material. I believe in the so-called primitive way that recognizes powers beyond the visible and beyond man’s so-called smart thinking. The modern material world studies and analyzes mainly what can be seen. The ancient traditional recognized the unseen source of what is seen and this is what most people today have been trained not to see.

The ancient traditional recognizes and is trained to know about this from the very beginning of the learning. These are powers, energies, intelligence; what is known by the medicine people is not a complex knowledge of time-consuming chemical analysis. It is a simple but sacred impartation to a recipient who is prepared to receive.

The power lies in a total respect toward the tasks of fasting, cleansing, prayer words and creation. Words that come from the energy worlds are simple and known by the medicine people. The original instruction to us stated: “I will come half the way, then you must come half the way.”

In other words, creation is here for us to use, not to misuse, not to conquer. It is half the way, for it already has its powers, energies, and intelligence. We humans must align ourselves through fasting, prayer, and taking the cleansing medicines to come half the way with all respect, for it is sacred. For the Indians, the words have already been told and are to be passed along but with the same preparation. By this we do our part and come half the way. This is like an agreement with creation and when we do this, we are in harmony and can have good success.

Materialism has disrupted many things that were for the good of all human beings. Materialism is the aggressive, egotistical brainchild of human beings who have forgotten the intelligent, passive gifts of the unseen creation. If we are to do the complete good, we must harmonize ourselves, make ourselves sensitive to the powers, energies, and influences of creation. The so-called primitive conjuring of powers, in use with herbal medicines among the native people of this land, still lives. ❞

Creek Indian Medicine Ways:
The Enduring Power of Mvskoke Religion

by David Lewis Jr. and Ann T. Jordan
(University of New Mexico Press, 2002)

Written by James Treat

September 21, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ Stephanie Berryhill, 1991

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❝ The evolution of Thlopthlocco

In 1936, the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act provided for the establishment of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town’s constitution. . . .

The constitution states the Thlopthlocco Methodist Episcopal Church would serve as headquarters of the town. The members met at the church until a community building was built during the years of 1939-41 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. The building was built of native hand-hewed sandstone on the North Canadian River, three miles northeast of the church, said Curtis Canard, former town king, treasurer and business manager.

The building housed the tribal offices, had a big lodge room, bedrooms for overnight visitors as well as a fully equipped kitchen.

Canard, whose father Roley Canard was the first chartered tribal town king as well as Principal Chief of Creek Nation, said the town had its own natural gas to fire up the center’s standing pressure cookers.

It also had a drilled water well and water tower for the community building and two nearby homes. The tribal town owned a granary and a storage garage that housed a tractor and farm tools. A gas-fired hot bed also was utilized to raise young onion and sweet potato sprouts, he said.

Lucille Cook Dunson, 75, great-niece of Thlopthlocco’s last ceremonial ground medicine man, Reuben Cook, recalls some of the center’s activities. She and her husband, Earl, remember the many sewing machines tribal town members used to make garments for their family as well as the kitchen in which they could cook.

Mrs. Dunson also recalls the time her family, as well as other town families, gathered at the center to make mattresses.

Around the same time the community building was being built the tribal town received Congressionally appropriated funds to purchase land, small homes, farm equipment, horses, cattle, chickens and hogs.

The tribal town leased “mini-farms” to 12 tribal town members who no longer possessed allotments, Canard said.

Each farm, which consisted of 40 acres and was located on the banks of the North Canadian River, had one home, a dug well and orchard. In turn, the town’s families were required to make certain improvements on their farms as well as pay rent from money made on their harvests, said Charlie McGertt, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town King. The situation was comparable to a housing authority, Canard said.

Tribal-town living at that time was ideal and almost comparable to the tribal town way of life prior to removal from the old Georgia and Alabama homelands, Canard said.

“Those (who) had their own farms raised their own gardens, but everyone pitched in on the communal (garden) plot,” which was harvested and put in storage, he said.

A portion of the harvest also was canned in the community kitchen and distributed among the members.

“We had a community fair at the end of the harvest. The women would bring quilts, canned goods, watermelons and squash to be judged, just like a county fair today,” he said.

But in 1942 the river flooded, washing out three of the mini-farms as well as a bridge in front of the community building, making transportation along the river impossible.

The flood also changed the channel of the river. That year most of the tribal town farmers abandoned the land and the remaining few eventually left, around 1946-47, after realizing they would have to leave to work and make money. ❞

Muscogee Nation News
February 1991

Written by James Treat

September 14, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ Phillip Deere, 1982

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❝ In the beginning we had no teachers, no instructors. We could only copy off nature, and the whole civilization of the Indian people was copied off of a study of nature. So when we hear the birds sing, we never question no one what they’re saying. . . . 

“Why did you bring your leaves in April?” You never ask the trees this. When you hear the lion roar, no one asks the lion what the lion is saying. So we always felt that we are a part of nature. . . .

So what traditions and customs that our people had, they had meanings that’s somewhat lost throughout the years. Education, perhaps, is responsible for a lot of this. Sometimes Christianizing people is responsible for this also, because all this was worldly and had no meaning to the new people that arrived in this country; they were from another culture. So in the short four or five hundred years much of this has been lost, but if we study our history that we call Indian way of life, it’s not that much different in any other race of people. Because I take it that whether he be a Frenchman or Dutchman or whatever he may be, life couldn’t have begun much different, because at one time, they too had no teachers, they too had no schools, had no universities to go to when their ancestors came about. So they were also close to nature. They also studied nature.

I reminded them of that when I was in London last year; I lectured one week there in downtown London, and I reminded those English people that their ancestors, too, had their mind set on nature at one time. Their old buildings say so; the modern buildings don’t tell us that, but the old buildings down the street have imprints of nature on that building. The old furniture has a print of nature on that furniture, but the modern furniture, there is nothing there to remind us of nature. So the old people way back they had their minds set on nature; they had their love for nature at one time. But under the name of progress, perhaps, our people’s thoughts of nature were drained out of them.

Destruction of nature came about the way we see it to this day; that if these trees are in our way, all we have to do is bulldoze them down. There is no love for nature, but in a small way maybe there are certain groups of people that are struggling and fighting to preserve nature; and always the native people had love for nature, they have always had love for what they call Mother Earth. ❞

The World and Way of the Creek People
edited by David Michael Lambeth
(privately published, 1982)

Written by James Treat

August 10, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ Blue Clark, 2009

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❝ Muscogee (Creek)

“Muscogee” is of unknown origin in spite of being the name for the widely used Muskhogean linguistic family spoken throughout the historic Southeast. Nineteenth-century ethnographer Albert Gatschet proposed that it derived from a Shawnee word for “wet ground” or “swamp” or “marsh” as a description of their surroundings for their Tuckabatchee town hosts. Perhaps because the Muscogee Confederacy was made up of a complex mix of tribal towns, the label was adopted. Gatschet’s reasoning is now doubtful, leaving the derivation unknown even though it is their self-designation. There are numerous variations of the spelling (Muscogee, Muskogee, Maskogee, Mvskoke). “Mvskoke” is now preferred for the language, “Muscogee” for the nation. Some prefer Mvskoke Etvlwv, “Muscogee town” or “community.” Muscogee people usually also refer to themselves according to their tribal town or tribal community, church, or ceremonial ground (such as Okfuskee, Hanna, or Abeka), then their clan, and finally their family connection or genealogy. “Creek” derived from British traders who referred to local Indians living along the Ocmulgee and Ochesee rivers in Georgia as “Ochesee Creek Indians.” It was shortened to “Creek” in everyday usage. (“Ochesee” or “Ochisi” or “Otchisi” is itself a Hitchiti Indian word to designate those who do not speak Hitchiti.) “Creek” is still sometimes used to designate the Mvskokulke, “all the Muscogee people.” The word “Creek” was heavily used in the nineteenth century . . . .

The “Muscogee (Creek) Nation” headquarters is situated just north of Okmulgee in Creek County. The population is heavily centered in the counties of McIntosh, Tulsa, Creek, and Hughes. The legislative chamber meets in a domed building recalling their ancestral culture, called the Mound. The name of the capital town invokes the Ocmulgee Mississippian mound site in Macon, Georgia, the former ancient capital of the Creeks there. Muscogee Nation tribal towns and communities are scattered throughout eleven counties in the east-central portion of Oklahoma. . . .

Linguistic affinity connects the Muscogee Nation’s citizens with many ancient and contemporary residents of the southeastern United States. Muscogees are distantly related by language to Choctaws and Chickasaws as well as others. Muscogee ancestors resided in a series of Mississippian-period temple mound centers and satellite communities throughout present-day Georgia and Alabama. Oral tradition recounted a long migration from the Far West, perhaps the Rocky Mountains, crossing a giant river and finally settling in the southeastern portion of what is now the United States. Oral stories also tell of four major foundational towns: Cusseta, Coweta, Abeka, and Tuckabatchee (which is credited with origination of the annual Green Corn Ceremony). Tuckabatchee and Coweta are considered paramount towns. Linguists like Jack Martin contend that the tribal language stock Mvskoke spread eastward out of the Louisiana region in prehistoric times. Archeologists point to local development and link several late Woodland sites like Kolomoki in Georgia to the Proto-Creeks. Tribespeople also assert an ancestral claim to the Mississippian sites of Etowah and Ocmulgee National Monument in the same vicinity (“Ocmulgee” means “bubbling water” in Hitchiti). ❞

Indian Tribes of Oklahoma: A Guide
by Blue Clark
(University of Oklahoma Press, 2009)

Written by James Treat

August 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

field notes ➤ James Etter, 1982

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❝ Big Dinner Tables

Families like the Candlers—both big and generous—were common around Oktaha. Most families, regardless of the number of mouths they had to feed, and the frequent uncertainty of their economic existence, managed to feed a few more; it was considered an honor, in fact, to do so—even if there might not be a scrap left for the chickens.

There were sizable families in the community from the start. The Newberrys had seven children. Columbus and Mary Jane Hill had twelve. Hardy Colbert and his wife Dicey had eight. . . .

The custom of children eating at friends’ homes was so accepted that a busy mother often simply counted the bodies as she set the table, taking no notice of who she was feeding.

At Charles C. Hill’s house, it was said, sometimes youngsters would keep coming through the back screen door as a meal was being served, and, counting those who lived there, some of Mack Hill’s kids, some of John Brown’s youngsters and maybe a few others, there might be twenty eaters at one time.

It also was said that some of the boys in town were like wandering, ownerless dogs, having eaten at so many different houses some people didn’t know where the youngsters originally belonged. Ruth Woods often would start cooking breakfast without having any idea how many overnight guests would be emerging from the boys’ bedrooms.

And it seemed some of the boys had better noses than the best hunting dogs in the country. . . .

At hog-butchering time, young people somehow knew instantly which house was the first to have a barrel of cracklings in the kitchen; they were at the back door like cats where someone was cleaning fish.

The big families helped themselves survive by working together to bring in food and money. Most of them had at least one milk cow, often a calf or two and a butcher hog, laying hens and frying chickens and big gardens, and even some pecan and fruit trees. They also avoided waste, often skinning a cow that died or was killed for beef, and using all the fertilizer when the boys of the family cleaned stalls and chicken houses.

The men and boys also took to the wilds for food—fish, rabbit, squirrel and frog legs—and animal pelts for selling. The sight of ‘possom hides stretched on a board and hanging on barn walls was a common one around the countryside during the cold months; they were mailed off and sold, the price at one time being a quarter apiece. And the whole family during the spring gathered wild onions, poke and dewberries and blackberries.

Many families cooked and ate crawdad tails, and it was said that Bill Long, who farmed northeast of town and had a family of six children, prepared the crawpappies in such quantities that he boiled them, pincers, shells and all, in a five-gallon can. ❞

Oktaha, a Track in the Sand
by James M. Etter
(Oktaha Historical Society, 1982)

Written by James Treat

July 20, 2011 at 12:00 am