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Creek Cemeteries in North Florida

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One recent email that I received asked about grave houses in cemeteries. In north Florida there were several communities of eastern Creeks. A few cemeteries still have remnants of grave houses.

I have heard of cemeteries with grave houses in Blackwater in Panama City, Crestview, and a Methodist Church in a community called Pine View. (I think.) There used to be some in a cemetery at Wakulla Springs area, but the person who I talked with has not been there in 25 years.

(Above) A cemetery with Creek burial houses in Okaloosa County, Florida Memory Project

It is an aboriginal practice that is still active in Oklahoma, and you can see many cemeteries with grave houses over there today. (I visited them in 1997 & 1998.) The Seminoles did the same thing, except not as complex--more often just a box / coffin above ground covered with poles.

(Above) A Seminole burial from an old postcard. The woman and child are obviously superimposed on the image, as no Seminoles would agree on posing for such a photo. Florida Memory Project

If any of you have visited the new visitor center at San Luis Mission in Tallahassee, often the native people would incorporate their own beliefs when Christianity was imposed. Same thing with the burials or grave houses. Usually documentation with photos of the grave houses says that they are, “Christian Creek burial plots.”

The Florida Memory Project / state photo archives has photos of some of the cemetery grave houses. I don't know if the grave houses shown still exist as in the photos. Often it is the case that they are torn down or fixed up by Christian people unfamiliar with the traditions.

In the Muskogee / Seminole world, everything is a duality or an opposite reflection in the other world where the spirit goes too. As the grave house deteriorates in this world, it improves in the world of the afterlife. So they are allowed to fall into decay on purpose, so that they will improve and look better for the spirit in the afterlife.

Make sense?

Another tradition was to put conch shells or belongings on the grave. North Fla. Creek cemeteries might also have these. I once talked to a young lady at a festival that Earl DeBary and myself were set up at, how she had family graves like that in Wakulla County. When she asked her family why the conch shells were there, their reply was, “because they were fisherman.” (Still trying to hide the native American identity.)

I thought that this might make an interesting subject for discussion about something that many people are not aware of.
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