Hensci—Early August I was honored to tag along with the historic: “Traveling California Muscogee Creek Show,” (my title) a production of the California Muscogee Creek Association, headed up by Eli Grayson. Officials of the nation in Oklahoma and heads and staff from various tribal agencies visited their western relatives in the LA and Bay areas. The first meeting took place on a Saturday in El Segundo in a park near LAX. Several hundred citizens who had left (or their parents or grandparents had left) Oklahoma for relocation, adventure, and/or for opportunity showed up for the event of speakers, tables with information, food and sharing. I was impressed by the diversity of citizens and considered the gifts of enrichment from each. Citizens included artists, singers, filmmakers, actors, entrepreneurs, professors, storytellers, chefs and so many others. I saw relatives I hadn’t seen in awhile, like Victoria Bomberry who is now an assistant professor at the University of CA, Riverside. She raised three sons as a widow, made it through Stanford and now travels often to Bolivia for her studies. And I met many citizens for the first time, some who had come for miles to be at the gathering. The crowd enjoyed the presentations and stories of citizens from Oklahoma, like Joyce Bear, Pete Coser and Norma Marshall. I enjoyed getting to know everyone better as we worked and visited alongside each other. Despite any differences, everyone was there because of connection to the Muscogee Nation.
Very, very early the next morning we made a caravan from Los Angeles to Stockton, for the second day of presentations. As we drove the several hours north I thought of the journeys people had made from home to get here, and how no matter far away from home we travel, home always lives within us. It’s the root of your being and when it’s stirred up by such happenings as this you feel a little sad and happy, all at once. These meetings were a bit of a turn on the notion. Instead of going home, home came to California.
Those who have stayed and taken care of the home fires tend to be suspicious of those who left. Those who left can be a little insecure about where and how to fit. Despite this, connections were made. I won’t forget Joseph Jacobs from the Holdenville area who lives in Stockton. We figured out how we are probably related on the grid of genealogy. Nor do I think any of us will forget how our spirits opened with each laugh, with each handshake or hug. We had a chance to get caught up on all the stories, the highs and lows. The Denny’s off the interstate south of Stockton and before nightfall will never be the same after our stop. We solved everything with a little nourishment and good company. And many of us feel even more resolute to help contribute to the quality of Muscogee Creek life, both here and there.
I have to mention Eli Grayson. Whether or not you agree with his unforgiving vision, his fierce uncovering of truth, eventually you just have to admire someone who is exactly who they say they are, and will tell you exactly what they mean. He works tirelessly on behalf of Creek citizens, especially those west of Oklahoma, without pay and without staff. He searched out every citizen in California. He called them and asked each one of them what he could do for them, and then he did something. I know because that’s how I met him when I was out there for a job. He knows genealogy like the old people. He studies the issues, history and looks into the future to see how we can all fit together. He makes sofkey and ribs for the meetings. He’s one of the people who will insure that we get from here to there with some kind of grace.
By the way, there was some kind of murmuring out there in the nation about Grayson calling himself “mekko” and some other nonsense. Track down the source and you’ll find someone telling stories to appear high and mighty. Or you’ll discover somebody trying to distract from their own mess. We’ve become easily distractible these days.
Finally, one of our citizens, Stacy Pratt, Phyllis Fife’s daughter is now living in northern Italy. She reports that yes, there are Creeks no matter where you go. She says: “We visited the Vatican in April, and after we left, I was reading about parts that we had not visited. It turns out that in the missionary section, there are some Creek items!...I haven’t been able to go see them, but plan to visit again this fall…Well, my husband just finished making hominy, so I will end this letter and go eat it. We might be in the land of famously good Italian food, but sometimes, a Creek girl just has to have hominy.” Stacy returns to the U.S. in January to attend the University of Southern Mississippi where she is working on her doctorate in creative writing. We’re all proud of her.
This morning as we head into fall I feel like going fishing with Louis Littlecoon Oliver, beloved Mvskoke poet who we miss. He’d know what to say about all this.
August 27, 2006 Albuquerque