field notes ➤ Louis Oliver, 1982

❝ 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.

II

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
—Others
when there is no other:

So—the oak leaves keep falling
brown and curled
the geese keep coming, honking louder.
Coyote sits straight up
howling.
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)

field notes ➤ Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck, 1736

❝ On the 28th [of July] I went back to Yuchi Town to attend the busk, or annual Indian festivity. . . .

They celebrate a feast every year when the corn is ripe, at the end of July or the beginning of August, which is called Busk.

Even if the nation has not assembled throughout the year, yet they assemble at this time. In this festival, which lasts four days, war, peace and other matters which concern the general welfare are discussed, and, if war is decided on, then it commences just after the Busk. On the first festival day they undertake a cleansing. They purge the body using the four different kinds of plants: Pasaw, or rattlesnake root; Micoweanochaw or, red root; Sowatchko, which grows like wild fennel; and Eschalapootchke, or small tobacco. After that they fast, some for twenty-four hours, some longer. On the second day a few warriors sit together and celebrate in song the deeds of their heroes. During this singing, there comes here a captain, there a captain, there a third, &c., with his people running up in a fury, all singing and shrieking together. The fire in all the huts of the Indian town is put out, and a new fire is made. They take two pieces of wood and twirl them long enough on each other until one of them smokes and fire starts. Each of them lights his tobacco pipe from this fire and takes some of it home with him. Also in this festival a ripe corn ear is brought from the field and hung up, which is kept throughout the year until the next such time. Before and during the Busk no one may bake anything from or eat the new corn; this may be done for the first time only after the Busk.

The remainder of the time during this festival is spent in eating, drinking and dancing. At the same time the women appear in their best finery and join in rows. The music consists of rattles and a kettledrum, which are accompanied by the shrieks of the dancers. . . .

Their towns and dwellings are usually situated on a river. The Creek Nation consists of several towns, which however are more like our villages than towns. The houses are scattered here and there without order, and the plantations are nearby. The houses are beaten together out of mud, without chimneys, without doors, without compartments, without storeys. The fire is in the center of the house around which they lie on the ground in the ashes with their wives, children and dogs round about. When they camp during travelling or on the hunt, they peel a pine tree and make a hut of bark or else of skins and a few poles. ❞

Von Reck’s Voyage:
Drawings and Journal of
Philip Georg Freidrich von Reck

edited by Kristian Hvidt
(Beehive Press, 1980)

field notes ➤ David Lewis Jr., 2002

❝ 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)

field notes ➤ Stephanie Berryhill, 1991

❝ 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