Oklahoma City – The Muskogee people (also known as Muscogee, Mvskoke, or Creek Indians) live in eastern Oklahoma. They used to occupy the flatlands of Georgia and Alabama. It is good to begin learning about the indigenous group by knowing that the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma has only been federally recognized a few decades earlier than that of the United States. Also, the Muscogee is not a single group but is a union of several ones. It is best to study the different aspects of their culture and history to better understand their current lives.
Ancestors from History
The descendants of the earlier tribes know that their ancestors lived in the region along the rivers. Archaeological evidence shows that the Muskogee share a Mississippian culture with the Western Lamar of Alabama and Georgia. The people then built different earthen pyramids, which they purposefully created across the river valleys of what we now know as Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. However, the people’s Mississippian culture died down in the years after 1400 AD.
During those times, the Muskogee people were divided into two: (1) the Muskogee of the northern Creek territory, and (2) the Alabama and Hitchiti of the Lower Creeks. Despite these divisions, the people all share the same general concepts and practices in their traditions. Many people used the Muskogee language, though they may have also spoken Hitchjiti and Euchee. A distinction would be in their dialects. Even with the same language, the Muskogee had a unique way of speaking. Nonetheless, the community shares essential traits and beliefs as that of the other Southeastern Indians.
In the past, Muskogee communities faced challenges that impact the present Muskogee people. Even with their ancestors’ rich and distinct cultural identity, people’s practices, beliefs, and traditions gradually declined. Aside from this cultural effect, demographic changes also occurred. These happened when the Europeans arrived; the most notable arrival was Hernando de Soto’s expedition.
Muskogee refugees sought safety in Alabama, while others went through integration into what the Europeans identified as the Creek Confederacy. The various local communities faced a lot of changes in their lifestyles and their interactions with neighboring groups. However, the confederacy did not become successful in the long run. There had been rebuilding attempts which helped in keeping the Creek Nation alive and prosperous. Still, it had made its impact on the communities as the traditional tribal governments dissolved in 1906.
Despite all of the numerous tragedies that the ethnic people of Muskogee experienced, they have survived. The communities have made efforts to recover and rebuild their culture, language, and even other traditions. Local ethnic history, life, and future progressions continue to be celebrated among the members. It is good to note that at present, attempts in keeping the Muskogee practices alive are evident through sharing their colorful oral traditions, celebrating their cultural heroes, and keeping their culinary knowledge accessible to the younger ones. There is a hopeful future to the Muskogee communities, their people, and their culture should they be encouraged to continue learning and understanding their own history.
Image from Nichole Osinski, https://www.instagram.com/nicholeosinski/