Coming and Going in Indian Country, by Joy Harjo
Thursday night of the Creek Nation Festival, after we filled ourselves up with plates from Charlie’s Chicken, my sister and I dragged our chairs up to the stomp dance circle to enjoy the music and the company. Usually I’m right in there with my shells. That night I just took the spirit of it all in as the music carried us: the ongoing stories of friends, and the prodigious growth in the nation. I was in mourning for a beloved friend, a Mvskoke citizen who was buried just hours before, far away from the nation. He had left Wagoner with his family when he was eleven. Later he joined the military, married a Hawaiian woman and stayed in Honolulu. Bill Tiger made a community in the islands for many of us. He embodied the spirit of vnoketckv. And because of him when people far from Oklahoma think of the Mvskoke they’ll think Tiger: tall, outgoing and generous.
When we leave the tight circle of the nation in Oklahoma we become emissaries of a sort, whether we are officially appointed as such, or not. Anywhere we Mvskokes go we’re often the only Mvskoke anyone ever meets, or even the only Indian. And you can be sure that wherever you are, at the grounds, in church, or on a street half way across the world from Oklahoma, someone is always watching to see how you act.
I left Oklahoma late summer of 1967 for high school at the Institute of American Indian Arts, a BIA Indian school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Everything I owned was packed into my brand new army green footlocker. Richard Ray Whitman, Euchee Creek was a student there, as were the Fife sisters: Phyllis and Sandy. I left again with a Cherokee husband, son and step-daughter in 1970 in a car whose trunk slid off every few miles. We frequently ran out into the road and retrieve it. Since then I’ve lived mostly in New Mexico and Hawaii. I’ve gotten to do a bit of traveling to perform, from Argentina to a music festival north of the Arctic Circle in Saami country in Norway. What always strikes me is that no matter where or how far away from Oklahoma I travel, though we may be few and far between out there, I always meet up with Creeks.
I’ll never forget Alex Posey’s granddaughter being wheeled up to meet me at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. And some years back when I was feeling a little bewildered in the middle of Pennsylvania, Rosemary McCombs Maxey came up and introduced herself and made me feel at home. I was in New York City a few years ago and was proud to catch Tim Sampson appearing in his father, Sonny Sampson’s classic role in the Broadway show, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
In this column I’ll be regularly reporting on and commenting about what’s going out here on that might be pertinent for our people. We have lots of talent all over, and there’s always something going on in Indian country.
I just received news from Muscogee citizen, Eddie Chuculate that his story: “Galveston Bay 1826” will be included in the O. Henry Prize Stories of 2007, which will be published by Anchor Books. Now this is quite an accomplishment, and one of the most prestigious awards for short fiction. It’s sort of like slamming a win in a national ballgame playoff. He’s the first Mvskoke citizen to win such an honor. He says: “Raymond and Frances Narcomey. were my full-blooded Creek great-grandparents. He was a preacher at West Eufaula Indian Baptist Church for decades. They had a house in Hanna, right across the street from Hillabee Indian Baptist Church. Maxine (Narcomey) Flanary, was my Creek grandmother, also full-blood even though it said 15/16 on her CDIB, which is ridiculous, because both her parents (Raymond and Frances) were both 4/4. My mother is Lorencita (Narcomey) Holmes. Dad was Donald Everett Chuculate (Cherokee)”. Other great American writers to achieve this honor include F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin and Louise Erdrich. Congratulations.
Will see you next month. Until then you can reach me via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Published Muscogee Nation News