“There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on”. Woke up to earth quaking the other morning. We have felt so many of them over here in Tulsa. And a few weeks ago we just swore in our new chief James R. Floyd, another kind of shift in the Nation. The inauguration was well-attended on a cold, bright winter day. I wondered at the absence of the previous chiefs. I didn’t see them there nor were any recognized from the podium. I assumed there would be some kind of handover or official ceremonial passing on of this important office of responsibility.
Chief Floyd gave a perfectly weighted and size of speech. It was inspirational, and to the point. I felt a spirit of vnoketckv moving through the people. We all have to work together--there is no other choice. And we need leaders who understand this. We are all in service no matter our background or standing. No one is above another.
The audience appreciated all the singing in the program that day. Wotko Long was one of our citizens who was called to the stage to sing. I met his father Harry Long many years ago when I lived a small while in the Phoenix area. His spirit shined with a great love for his people and he helped all of us Creeks who were trying to make a living far from home feel a little less homesick. His son Wotko’s singing has a soulful resonance that comes down through many generations of Mvskoke people.
Before Wotko sang he mentioned the passing of so many of our citizens this season. It's true. Every few days we've had memorials. He mentioned that Stephanie Berryhill had passed, and that her services were at two that afternoon in Henryetta. She had fought cancer for quite some time and we all knew she would be leaving here sooner than later. But it was too soon, and we didn't want her to go, not yet. She is one of those citizens who gave so much to her family, her community, to all of us. I first met her when she worked at the tribal communications office. She always welcomed me when I'd come wandering in from being far away. People at home can be suspicious of those of us who leave home and live away for whatever length of time. We always had very intense talks about our families, our people, and what we wanted to do to help. And lots of laughter. We grew a friendship. She took care of the culture and was supportive of efforts to make sure that the plants who came with us on the trail continued to thrive. We all need to take some time to look in on her family. They are bearing the brunt of her loss.
We have to put the grief somewhere. There is the fresh grief we carry when our beloved relatives are put to rest, and the collective grief of the nation from our forced walk from our homelands to this place where we have made a home together.
That night after the inauguration and service I went outside to take out the trash. I stopped under the immense dark sky and breathed the light of stars. I felt the shimmering walk of how we all move together as one person on a path of becoming. We will all make it.