Four is the big number in Mvskoke lore, and usually most things come in sets of four. It just happens that I want to talk about one of the most important subjects for this 4th blog on Nenne Mvskoke.
Green Corn is the annual celebration / ceremony / dance / community get-together that the southeastern people celebrate. It is a remnant of ancient history that we know were celebrated by the people who built the great mound places. Native tribes all over the continent have some type of annual ceremony, which may involve corn, fish, or whatever. Watching the movie, "Crooked Arrow" about the Native American community in New York state bringing back the game of lacrosse, there is one part where the kids are singing a stomp dance song on the bus. Any traditional Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, or Cherokee will recognize that song and are able to join in. So the beliefs & practices are spread far and wide.
Green Corn means many things to different people. Yes, it is a time of spiritual recharge and renewal, but in the Native community, things are done more for the whole people and town, and the individual needs come after that. I do not know how much of the ancient ways and beliefs are retained among different tribal Grounds and towns; some other anthropologists have been studying those things for decades. But the explanation that I have liked for Green Corn, is that it will make the world get back on balance. It is viewed as an important thing that is vital to our survival, and that of the whole world. They world will collapse and be destroyed without it.
I was surprised to read that people in California view their ceremony in the same way. I am reading, "To the American Indian, Reminiscences of a Yurok Woman" by Lucy Thompson, Che-Na-Wah Weitch-Ah-Wah. Originally written in 1916 and forgotten for 75 years, the book by Lucy was more for her Yurok people than anyone else. She wanted to set the record straight, when she was seeing her people's culture vanish at an alarming rate due to the changes happening around her, during her lifetime.
The books says in the forward, that the Yurok tribe's language is from the Algonquian language group of the northeast woodlands, far from where they ended up in northern California. That was a very interesting observation, but not without precedence, because we know that the language spoken by the Dineh or Navaho is also spoken in northwest Canada. Native people sure moved around.
But what really got my attention was that in the book forward, written by a modern tribal member, said that they do their annual dance and ceremony to save the world. That, "Fixing the world has become once again the cultural imperative." That is the same reason why I was told that the Green Corn is cerebrated at the ceremonial Ground. (At least my favorite reason, from what I have heard.) Native people all over this continent cerebrate and perform some type of Green Corn ceremony to fix the world. They are saving all of us, and without the least bit of thanks from anyone.
So I look forward coming into our time of the year for the Green Corn fast, ceremony, dance, and get-together. It is vital, because it is "fixing the world."
I find it interesting that an image survives of the Seminole War of a little-known event from the beginning of the Second Seminole War. (See below.)
General Scott ordered Major Read of the Florida Militia to send a command up the Withlacoochee River, to the first set of rapids, and establish a blockhouse of supplies. This was done under the command of Major McLemore. Once the post was establish, McLemore returned to inform Scott of the new post, but died of fever at Suwannee Old Town, and word did not reach Scott, so the General assumed that it was never done.
So the Florida soldiers were left forgotten at the blockhouse, and were besieged and attacked by the Seminoles for the next few weeks. The Seminoles nearly managed to burn down the blockhouse by shooting flaming arrows on the roof, but failed to totally torch the post. Weeks later, word of the besieged soldiers reached Governor Call, and he sent a command to relieve them of their duty.
This incident became a point of the board of inquiry between General Scott and Gaines, of the commanders failure in their campaigns in the war. Both Scott and the Florida commanders accused each other of neglect of duty during the war that resulted in the forgotten command at the blockhouse.
I was asked if I knew the location of the blockhouse, and this is my answer. (Probably one of the quickest responses I have given on Seminole War research, because I knew where to look.)
The blockhouse is shown on Taylor's 1839 map of Florida, just west of Fort Clinch but on the opposite or south side of the river. (The first Fort Clinch near what is today Dunnellon, not the later brick fort in Fernandina.) That would put it near where highway 19 crosses near Inglis. Unfortunately, the route of the river on a modern map is quite different due to the construction of the barge canal that was halted in 1969.
Sprague, pg. 150: Tells of Major Read with orders to go up the mouth of the river. General Scott believed the expedition was a failure, but then received word later on that there was a blockhouse. A letter from Call to Scott says,
"...A few days since I received a communication from Major McLemore, stationed on the Suwanne frontier, informing me that, under orders from General Scott he had ascended the Withlacoochee river, and erected a block-house on the south bank, some ten or twelve miles above its mouth, and that he had left a garrison of forty men in the block-house, and a large quantity of corn and pickled beef."
You can read the rest of the story of the forgotten men at the blockhouse in Sprague’s Florida War book, page 150-154. The commander (Maj McLemore?) who was suppose to announce the establishment of the post soon died of fever, and the command was left forgotten for a few weeks. I assume it was McLemore who died because we don't see any more of him in the war. The commander of the blockhouse company, Captain John Holleman, also died during the seige.
Looking on a modern map, 10 or 12 miles would put the blockhouse in Lake Rousseau, created as part of the barge canal. Any rapids would have been dynamited away for construction of the shipping path.
Woodburne Potter's book, "The War in Florida" mentions the blockhouse on the very last page, pg. 184:
"A small command of Floridians, which had been left by Major M'Lemore on the 5th of April in a blockhouse on the Ouithlacoochee, about fifteen miles above its mouth, were, by a strange oversight, entirely neglected, and they were assailed on the 12th of April, by a very large body of Indians, who attempted to burn the house by shooting fire-arrows into the roof."
If it was 15 miles from the mouth of the river, the location would still be in Lake Rousseau.
M.M. Cohen "Notices of Florida and the Campaigns" on pg. 230 says that the blockhouse is at the rapids, "within eight miles of the battle ground." I assume he is talking of Gaines' battleground which is mentioned on the previous page, and 8 miles to the west would put the blockhouse also in Lake Rousseau, west of where highway 41 crosses the river.
So from the various descriptions, they all seem to point to places that are now covered by Lake Rousseau, although the lake covers a wide area.
On April 26, 1928, the Tamiami Trail Highway (now U.S. Highway 41) opened between Tampa and Miami. A grand celebration was held in Everglades City, and will be commemorated again tomorrow, as it is every year.
This was significant for the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, because it opened them up to contact to the outside world. They were not recognized by the United States since the wars ended 70 years earlier, and received no land or money. With the opening of the highway, the Indians moved their villages along the trail to take advantage of the economic opportunity. The opened their villages to tourists and sold crafts, wrestled alligators, and later on led airboat tours. Some people consider it exploitation for tourism, by the Indians did not see it that way. They felt is was a way that they could retain as much of their traditional life and culture as they could during changing times, and take advantage of the tourism dollars. In some respect, Seminoles and Miccosukees have been involved in the tourist economy of Florida for the past century.
Below is an interesting souvenir from the Collier County Museum. A reproduction of the badges worn by the Southwest Florida Mounted Police in honor of the 85th anniversary of the opening of the the Tamiami Trail on April 26, 1928.
There were 6 Southwest Florida Mounted Police Stations, built by Barron Collier along the Tamiami Trail (US 41). The Stations were built at ten-mile intervals, Dade County line to Belle Meade. (Paola, Monroe Station, Carnestown, Weavers Station, Royal Palm Hammock, and Belle Meade.) Each station was manned by a husband and wife team who lived at the station. The husband was deputized by the County Sheriff's Department. Their duties were primarily to aid motorists although they could double as police. The only original buildings that exist are the closed remains at Monroe Station, that are looking very dilapidated, and Royal Palm hammock, that is still in use with some additions on the original building. You can still buy gas and a sandwich at Royal Palm Hammock, in the original building. (I can see the back of the building right now out my window.)
The Southwest Florida Mounted Police program began in 1928 and was dropped as funds dried up during the Great Depression. From what I am told, the badges were made of pewter like this one.
Several years ago (1997) I had an incident happen that changed my whole view of how I view the Seminole/ Muskogee way of things. I learned that to follow Nenne Mvskoke, you cannot just take what you like and reject what you do not like. You have to accept the entire system, and the best way of describing it would be to say that you need all the pieces of the puzzle to make the total picture. But you are not totally locked into an inflexible system like many religions, because Nenne Mvskoke adapts and constantly changes, while staying the same. It is a philosophy, and not so much a religion. It is a way of doing things. You may have heard of Eastern philosophy; well, there is also a Muskogee philosophy, or Nenne Mvskoke.
So in 1997, I went out on my first trip to Oklahoma, where some amazing things happened. I will not tell everything that happened, but just to say they were pretty enlightening. I will tell you the short version. I ended the trip at Fort Washita, one of the most haunted places in America. Most all night, my lone friend who shared the 2nd floor barracks room with myself, stayed awake as I did, as the sound of boots walked up and down the outside walkway. There was nobody there; it was one of the ghosts.
After I left the next day to catch my plane, I became ill. I have rarely been that sick. I will not describe the symptoms, but it was serious. I arrived back in Orlando and went straight to the hospital. They never found what was wrong with me. Several of the elders including a Seminole lady on Brighton reservation, all said that it was the ghost sickness from the symptoms described. This taught me an important lesson, that if I follow the ways of the Seminoles as I do with the reenactment and living history, and dress and act the part, I become a part of their world. I need to accept their reality and world as it is. I cannot take what I like and ignore what I do not like.
So, there is a reason why I do some of the things that I do. This past weekend at Fort Cooper, I told a young man during the battle reenactment not to whistle, because in Seminole and Creek belief, that will bring in ghosts. The young man unfortunately said that he was not Seminole or Creek, which seemed pretty insensitive to those of us who take it seriously for a reason. If he wants to play the part of a Seminole Warrior and attempt to dress the part, he may be in for a rude awakening if he is ever confronted with the traditional Seminole reality.
If you get a chance to visit Paynes Creek this weekend, stay dry and stay safe. They have finished the new movie for the visitor center, and it might be ready now.
My arthritis flared up really bad Friday evening, so I have to stay home and rest, and keep off my feet. That saddens me, because Paynes Creek is an event that I really enjoy.
I was able to make it to the Fort Cooper reenactment this past weekend. I love the park since I first participated in the reenactment there in 1986. I have a few observations and comments about Fort Cooper and other recent events.
1. Blackpowder rules and regulations. Yes, there are some glitches, and they are being worked on.
2. Food prices have gone up, as we all know. This has become a great expense for the event. It also becomes difficult when more reenactors show up than anticipated. Please notify the park of your participation to ensure enough food. Since this event is a park fundraiser, it significantly eats up the money the park could have raised when the cost for the food increases. Most events now charge reenactors a few dollars for food, and I would not be opposed to paying a few bucks. I am attending two large 1812 events this year, and we have to provide our own food or buy meals at a small cost. These are large, high quality 1812 events and no small affair, either. The cost for meals was a subject a few years ago with Dade Battlefield when they felt the budget crunch for an event, and now they charge a few dollars. Keep in mind that if the event does not at least break even in costs, there is no incentive for the park to continue the event.
3. Proper interpretations. This is my biggest point and takes the most explaining.
If this is an 1836 Seminole War event, then the reenactors need to be portraying the proper characters who were involved here in 1836. I have seen several improper portrayals at recent events. I do not know what to think about these odd characters.
At the Okeechobee battle reenactment in February, there is a video on youtube showing an artillery demonstration with Seminole reenactors conducting the drill and firing. Besides doing a sloppy job, it is a totally incorrect interpretation. The reenactors should have changed into soldier uniform to conduct the demonstration. I felt that the way it was done was totally inappropriate and that there is no excuse for conducting the demonstration in such a manner.
Next, I am seeing this group portraying Seneca. As far as I can tell, there were no Seneca involved in the Second Seminole War. The Seneca had been at peace with the United States since 1794. Showing up at Seminole War events is an improper interpretation and impression for the event, so they are just playing Indian. What many of us have said for the past 25 years is that if you participate as Seminoles at the events, then you do it properly. Know your proper outfit, and develop a proper interpretation. You have modern Seminole tribal members attending these events who are descendants of the warriors who fought here in 1836, and it is important that we honor their ancestors with a proper impression.
SEMINOLE & CREEK WAR CHRONOLOGY
Order now at: https://www.createspace.com/4031106
The response of my new book has been very favorable. I have even sold one copy via Amazon Europe to a researcher in Italy. Hopefully the book will be picked up by some museums I have contacted. I have paid for the extra promotion so book stores and libraries can order copies through their suppliers and wholesalers.
Anyone remember my Seminole War Timeline book from 12 years ago? I have re-published it! And it is an improved version which is now available on-line. You can order a hard copy from createspace, or a digital one on kindle.
The Florida Seminole Wars were the longest, most costly and bloodiest conflict the United States Military ever fought against Native American people. What history calls three wars are considered among the Seminoles as one long conflict lasting decades. Never before has there been such an interesting and accurate chronology of the Florida Seminole Wars. Additionally, this academic quality book provides a regional perspective of the Seminole Wars importance by covering the first and second Creek Wars of the southeast. After 20 years of research, the author has documented many small skirmishes and events that were often overlooked in previous publications making this a must have for anyone interested in Florida or American history.
I do not have the fort list that my old copy had—too many issues with it, and I had constant problems with the list. There are other books that include fort lists anyway. This chronology is unique and no one else has done a successful job at printing anything new like this. So I stuck to the timeline, but it is now improved. I researched several skirmishes over the past 12 years that I had problems with, to verify or correct.
Several books on the Creek wars published in the past 5 years have really helped me out, and I have added the Creek War battles as well. I think that many of you will be astonished at the Creek War battles that covered 1836 in Georgia and Alabama--most of which the Creeks won!
Order from here:
https://www.createspace.com/4031106 Seminole and Creek War Chronology
I am very excited to see this become available!
One thing that I was first told when I started to follow nenne Mvskoke was: Medicine is its own teacher. You can also say that wisdom is its own teacher.
And I learned that this is certainly true. Sometimes the answers are in front of us if we just look and observe. If we don’t, then we will miss it.
It is a really good thing to take quiet time each day and just observe or contemplate on something. Almost all religions have some type of meditation or quiet time.
Unfortunately for me, it seems that I have little of it. You would think that living and working in a park, I am always around the peaceful outdoors. I feel that I never am. Especially this time of year when the weather is great and I wish that I could hike around and enjoy the outdoors. Instead, it is the constant problems that came with working in a park that we have to deal with. Just coming into a peaceful park does not make people peaceful; on the contrary, it seems that they find reason to complain about anything and everything. So our job is always to deal with these problems and situations. In the summertime, the bugs are so bad you can’t go outside. So when the people are not hear, then forget going outside and enjoying the wilderness as well.
So I really need my quiet time. It really helps when I am able to get alone and unwind.
The founding fathers who created this American nation and government 240 years ago were brilliant thinkers. Anyone who reads their writings can see this. Someone suggested that it was that way because of the technology. It would take days and weeks to travel from their home to the national capital. So they would be in constant thought while travelling.
Maybe that is what I need in order to learn. Where is that horse carriage that is going across the country?
I want to start a new regular column on my blog called “Nenne MvskokE” which means the Muskogee way or Muskogee Road. For those who do Seminole and Creek living history, you need to do more than just dress the part and blow off some smoke. You need to understand what the people were thinking 150-200 years ago. So I will start giving my thoughts that I have received over the past 30 years.
My Mom was an anthropologist, but she was a social or cultural anthropologist. She was more interested in finding out what the living people were thinking. She did work cataloging collections in museums in Orlando back in the 60s to the 90s. She took part on a few famous digs of some spectacular places in Florida, like Crystal River Mounds or Tick Island near Deland. So this interest rubbed off on me. She passed away 5 years ago, and I like to think that she would be proud of what I am doing today. I truly believe that Nenne MvskokE is my own path, too. And I always learn something new and have had a few surprises.
So I want to talk about the Muskogee Way. The thinking of the people. The Creeks, Seminoles, and all southeastern tribes carry on the traditions of the Mound Builders who were known as the Mississippian or Weeden Island people. They don’t have a name for their beliefs, other than something like Nenne MvskokE. And consider it a philosophy more than a religion. It is a way of doing things. What is your reason and purpose on this earth, and how you are part of it. The Way is flexible and accepts anyone willing to follow it, whether they are Christian, Pagan, Straight or Homosexual. There are two sides to everything, and a balance must be sought. The ways and traditions my also differ between different towns, clans, or other tribes. What I will say will be my way, but not necessarily the only way. People are welcome to disagree and have alternate traditions. But what we know as the southeastern ceremonial complex seems to be universal not only in the southeast, but up along the Woodland culture, the northeast, the Ohio, and into Canada. Even native people on Hawaii have similar traditions.
I will not tell everything, and try to keep back from the sacred, but more the life philosophy and ways. Some things I will mention may border on the sacred, but you can research the same information and find it out elsewhere.
Shall we begin?