“Our language and our customs come from where our strength comes from,” said Dana Tiger, an artist and registered Muscogee tribal citizen.
The Muscogee (Creek) have kept their languages alive since AD 900-1000. Greg Anderson, secretary of education, employment and training and acting tribal administrator, said tribal educators teach Mvskoke and Euchi through their own language programs and in partnership with public schools.
The Muscogee Department of Education, Employment and Training provides cultural sensitivity training to teachers and administrators at all 67 public schools located within the tribal nation’s borders.
“In many rural areas, the culture is very rich — the language is spoken more prominently, and we want to make sure those classroom instructors understand our students — where they’re from, their history,” Anderson said. . “We want to make sure they recognize it and respect it.”
Tribal language teachers must be certified in speaking, reading and writing the language. The goal of teaching languages in schools is to pass it on to generations, Anderson said.
Tiger, who was born and raised in Muskogee, grew up with grandparents who spoke the creek as their first language.
“The language of our people is what matters most to me,” Tiger said. “I have a grandson who is 3 years old. It is imperative that we know that.”
Language instruction is also offered in nine Head Start programs with an enrollment of approximately 289 children and their families. Head Start is a social and educational program for children ages 3-5 who may come from low-income households.
The nation participates in the State Tribal Education Partnership with Oklahoma State for Native American education in public schools and has partnered with Weleetka, Wetumka, and Dover Schools.
Anderson said the partnership creates the Native Youth Community Project, which is focused on college and vocational education.
Another initiative, Native Edge, is inspired by the state Department of Education’s Oklahoma Edge, a blueprint for promoting quality public education.
“We approach it from a different perspective — we work with schools to provide technical assistance for federal programs, we offer teacher scholarships and leadership academies for school administrators,” Anderson said. .
Anderson said the tribe works to educate teachers and administrators about the services it offers, in accordance with the Every Student Succeeds Act implemented in 2015.
“He forces public schools [that] receive $40,000 or more in Title VI or have an indigenous population of 50% or more are mandated to consult with tribal nations that are within their borders,” Anderson said.
For example, schools in Tulsa are required to inform the tribe of programs that support native education.
The tribe’s education department provides $70,000 a year in grants to schools seeking assistance in areas such as STEM education, which could include robotics programs. The nation also awards college scholarships to its registered citizens.
Kyle Dean, an associate professor of economics and director of the Center for Native American and Urban Studies at Oklahoma City University, conducted a study of 15 tribal nations and found that tribes generated $13 billion in economic impact. dollars on Oklahoma in 2017.
“Our (casino) started with a bingo hall in Tulsa,” Anderson said. “As the game was introduced to Oklahoma, the tribes found it as a way to generate revenue for tribal programs.”
As more casinos began to spring up in Oklahoma, the tribe found a way to diversify economically with businesses such as gas stations, convenience stores, and manufacturing facilities.
The tribe maintained their culture despite being forced to move from Georgia to Oklahoma in the 1830s by the US government on what became known as the Trail of Tears.
Agriculture helped the Muscogees prosper after they arrived in Oklahoma, Anderson said. Eufaula was a resource-rich region where they were able to thrive because it was where the South Canadian, North Canadian, and Deep Fork rivers met.
Eufaula also served as a “gathering place for many people who came together to form governments and, in a sense, to reorganize,” Anderson said.
Today, tribal citizens stay near the Ocmulgee Mounds, a national historic park in Macon, Georgia that Oklahoma leaders are building a relationship with, Anderson said.
“They went back and revisited a lot of those original lands and reconnected with the bands that are there,” Anderson said.
There are approximately 87,000 registered Muscogee tribal citizens nationwide. Anderson said many are California residents. Enrollment in Oklahoma is approximately 60,000.
Muscogee is one of the Five Civilized Tribes, which together make up 750,000 of the 1 million people who are citizens of the 39 Oklahoma-based tribes.
The Intertribal Council of Five Civilized Tribes meets five times a year to work on projects that benefit all tribes.
Muscogee’s boundaries span 11 counties from Tulsa to the southeast corner of the state. The Council House at Okmulgee was chosen as the government capitol building as it is the center of the nation. Anderson said the structure of tribal government is similar to that of the US government.
Today, Anderson said tribal leaders disagree with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt on Muscogee’s gambling pact with the state.
Gambling pacts are an agreement between tribes and the state on the amount of money that goes to Oklahoma from revenue generated by casinos.
“The governor wants to renegotiate (and) the tribes don’t,” Anderson said. “The governor wants more money and the tribes don’t want to give – they like the pact as it is now.”
The more money the tribes earn, the more they are expected to give to the state, according to Anderson.
“We are a people who are ready to sit down and talk about it…one needs the other,” Anderson said. “Our health services, our education services benefit many non-native people, so we believe we are doing our part for the state of Oklahoma.”
Another dispute involves the Supreme Court case Carpenter v. Murphy over Muscogee jurisdiction, which was first heard in 2018.
The case arose out of a call from tribal citizen Patrick Murphy. Murphy was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in an Oklahoma state court. The murder occurred within the boundaries of the tribe’s historic reservation.
Murphy argued that he should have been tried in tribal court since the tribe has jurisdiction over the reservation, but the state of Oklahoma maintains that Congress was supposed to nullify the reservation that was in place before the creation of the reservation. state in 1907.
Anderson said he couldn’t discuss the ongoing case, which the tribe is watching closely.
Despite the challenges and conflicts, Anderson said the Muscogee hope to “bring prosperity to (their) tribal nation.”
Anderson said it is in the interest of the tribe to create quality education and employment opportunities for its citizens. He said they aim to diversify economically in a sustainable way to prepare for the future.
“We’ve come a long way during the relocation – you showed up in Oklahoma (and) you really had to rebuild, you had your culture, you had your people and you had your vision as a tribe of what you want to be, and you get to Oklahoma and you pretty much have to start over,” Anderson said. “It’s very hard to do, but I think the Tribal Nations have done very well and will continue to do well.”
Editor’s note: Haley Humphrey is the managing editor of Vista, the student newspaper at the University of Central Oklahoma.