Back in 1987, the US Army sent me to Germany, where I was for almost three years.
Although I had two very close German ancestors on both my father and mother’s side, I knew almost next to nothing about Germany. When I got orders to deploy, I knew that we fought a war with them about 45 years earlier, and I could probably pick out their country on a map of the world. I knew they made a lot of beer and had blonde women called freulines, but that was about the extent of my knowledge.
Well the time I had over there was amazing, and I really should have sought to get German citizenship. They really do provide for all their poor and disadvantaged people. Their government housing looked very clean and well maintained. I am sure that if I was recognized as a German citizen, the government would send me a monthly pension.
I was sure that having German ancestors should have helped qualify me for citizenship. Although I arrived at the country not knowing any of the language, I was learning, and even learned enough words to order in restaurants and travel on the trains. I started wearing German clothing and going to German social activities such as volksmarches. I was even a community delegate for the local military American-German friendship club.
My great-great-grandfather from Bavaria had studied to be a Lutheran minister before coming to the United States. I am sure he was familiar with German Lutheran ceremonial practices, and with a little reading up on the subject, I was sure that I could have also been an active Lutheran ceremonial figure. I might even be able to perform Lutheran weddings and baptisms for a small fee.
It was even rumored that I might have royal blood and that my g-g-grandfather was related to a baron. I wonder if his mother was a Bavarian princess?
I even look German with physical features. Once when I worked in the Orlando airport, one of the ladies who worked there was from Germany and still had a brother in Kaiserslautern. When she showed a picture of him, I was astounded that he looked like an older version of myself.
Even with all this acquired knowledge and expertise on Germans, I am still not able to be recognized as a German citizen and get that monthly check. They are not giving any respect to my German ancestors!
I used this example to explain why I am against federal recognition for the Muscogee Nation of Florida in Bruce (Walton County) in Florida. Presently there is Senate Bill S880 IS for federal recognition of the Muscogee Nation of Florida, in front of the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Photo: The headquarters of the Muscogee Nation of Florida are housed in the historic community school house.
I commend the Muscogee Nation of Florida in Bruce for seeking to reconnect with their Native American or Muscogee heritage. But they do not fit the definition of a Native American tribe.
The Muskogee/Muscogee cultural traditions they display or reestablished have only been practiced by their community since the 1970s. Before that time, they were no different than any other rural community in Walton County or the Florida panhandle. In fact, many of the cultural traditions that they practice were observed and copied from another community in north Florida which does not seek federal recognition.
Further, the different chapters or bands of the Muscogee Nation of Florida are also modern creations; made up of people who have banded together and not necessarily from the same community. An article in the Tampa Times newspaper in 1976 details how many of these Muskogee/Muscogee Groups in the southeast would recruit members by setting up a table at a local grocery story or library.
I certainly sympathize for their plight and difficult economic situation. Their daily struggle for adequate health care must also be a challenge. Seeking federal recognition as a tribe must be one method that they seek to alleviate their problems. But over 100 years of separation from their Muskogee cultural traditions and community invalidates them for federal recognition.
Yes, there are people in north Florida who have kept Muskogee traditions and fragments of the language. Just as there are American over here who have kept German traditions and words, but that does not give them German citizenship either.