Last weekend I went to a demonstration by a group in the Fla. panhandle doing Stomp Dancing. It was at a public park and event. I am not a member of their group, and have never seen them before. They claim no tribal town affiliation, set up their own place, and you can get a free membership from their web site whether you have Creek ancestry or not. They are church folks, and their leaders are attempting to blend their church background and put a Muscogee appearance on top of it.
Then, some other people showed up from another group. They said they were there to show their support, and that these were nice people.
I am sure they are “nice people,” but being friendly does not excuse them for the misrepresentation of culture that I saw. Their leader walked backwards during their “stomps” and yelled out both the call and response. His version of the Muskogee language not only mispronounced words, but misinterpreted their definitions. Then at the end of the stomps, he yelled out, “Leh-gih-duh!” Which means “to sit.” I have never seen these done at any stomp demonstration I have attended, either by my Seminole friends, Miccosukee neighbors, or even other Creeks. It was absolutely horrid. Being “nice” does not excuse them for this.
So if they are “nice people,” then why do I feel so hostile? That bothered me, until I came up with the answer.
What they are doing is sending the Muscogee culture through the meat grinder. Without any real background or knowledge, they are just taking what they want and discarding what they don’t want. They have a false interpretation of the culture and practices, and start without any training, which is why they had those horrid stomp dances. They are doing it wrong, it looks like crap, and misrepresenting it to the public as real Muscogee culture and dances, when it is not.
Their leader is a church pastor who compares everything Muscogee to his Christian philosophy. During a talk he gave, he said the Muscogees have a heaven and hell just like Christianity, and have a Creator and a devil. He said the Great Horned Serpent was the devil from the Under World. Well, this is not a correct interpretation at all. He is taking square pegs and hammering them into round holes. In Muscogee lore, the Great Horned Serpent is not a devil figure, but represents something else that is in the cosmos or sky, which is the upper world.
What Mr. church pastor is doing, is taking the Muscogee beliefs and practices which he doesn’t even understand and misinterprets, and forces them to fit his beliefs and practices that he is familiar with in the Christian church. He is no different with what he is doing, than James “Scamming Eagle” Mooney and his peyote-prostitution church, who calls himself a Seminole Medicine Man, and is connected with another group in Florida. (Which is the bizarre cult of the “Oklevueha Band of Yamasee Seminoles” in Orange Springs, Fla.) These people are helping to destroy Muskogee culture at a rapid pace. They are the same type of people as the leadership of the Poarch Band in Alabama, who callously dig up the bones of their ancestors, dump them in a bucket, and build a casino on top of their graves. All these three groups are rapidly destroying the Muskogee/Seminole culture with a false misrepresentation.
That’s a shame, because this culture has survived thousands of years. In this culture, everything is inter-connected, and you have to take it as a whole. You just can’t break off parts and make them fit your own beliefs and practices. Unfortunately many of the people who grew up in the Muscogee culture and ways, and were fluent in the language, are mostly now gone. Maybe in 100 years our Nenne Mvskoke will be totally among the stars, and that will be a sad day.