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Language: Mikasuki/Miccosukee

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Okay, time to talk about some Native stuff. You probably don't want to hear about how all the rain last night made my septic tank back up. The cost of living in paradise, I suppose.

Most of the Seminoles here in Florida speak the Mikasuki-Hitchiti language. The language is no longer spoken by the Oklahoma Seminoles, who now only speak Muskogee. In Florida, the Brighton reservation Seminoles northwest of Lake O speak mainly Muskogee, but number of native speakers has dwindled in the last few years.

The Muskogee language comes from the Lower Creeks, where the main trade and ceremonial language was Muskogee. Much like Koine Greek was the main trade language of the Greek empire.

Another main language from the Creeks was the Hitchiti language from the Upper Creeks in what is now Alabama. The Hitchiti were the largest rival faction who eventually joined with the Muskogees to form the Creek confederacy. Nowadays the Hitchiti language has become the Miccosukee language.

The Hitchiti language spoken by the Miccosukee is probably sprinkled with some words of Muskogee and even some remnants from the native Calusa who were here before. So it is probably more correct to call it Miccosukee language now, instead of Hitchiti.

Although the same Hitchiti-Miccosukee is spoken by the Seminoles, there are differences there, too. There are enough variations in the dialect that native speaker from Big Cypress might not understand a native Miccosukee from the Loop Road off the Tamiami Trail. The language has never really been written down or standardized. There has been some work in the past few years to do this, but it is within the tribes themselves, and not public.

Culture is definitely tied to language, and if you lose your native language, you lose the culture as well. The Seminole and Miccosukee both guard their language zealously, and do not want the whiteman to learn it. They feel that the whiteman has stolen almost everything from them, and if they learn the language, they will steal that as well. So any tribal member is very reluctant to let the language be learned by anyone outside the tribe.

One more note on the spelling: Mikasuki verses Miccosukee. It is a non-english word anyway. The different spellings show up alternately in different historical documents. The older, Mikasuki spelling, usually now refers to the culture. (Which includes language.) The more modern Miccosukee spelling refers more to the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida. Although now I am seeing it used more than the older variety. Maybe in a few years the Mikasuki spelling will disappear entirely.
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On June 21st, 2006 02:47 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
OK--Just when I thought I had it figured out, someone has to come along and tell me I've got it backwards. The whole evolution of the Muskogee--Mikasuki/Hitchiti is a muddy subject at best, but I had always distilled it down to Muskogee as being more Upper Creek and Hitchiti as being mostly Lower Creek. After reading your posting I had to go back and look at how I came by that opinion. Covington wasn't much help. Lietch Wright (pg 1-10) indicates that Muskogee was more western (Upper) and Hitchiti more eastern (Lower), but leaves you feeling that there were so many dialects moving around the area that anyone might be speaking anything at anytime. Brent Wiesman (pg 12-13) concurs with what I was thinking, so that's probably where I got it. For all I know, they're probably both derived from Chinese. I don't even want to think about trying to explain how the two languages ended up where they are today...my brain might explode.

Nice Blog--J&ML
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On June 21st, 2006 10:31 am (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Re: Languages
Thanks John and Mary Lou,

You are right, there were no clear-cut distinction and borders. Muskogee was mostly spoken around Coweta town near present-day Columbus, Georgia, and southwest Georgia. (I consider those Lower Creeks.) The Hitchiti people were in Upper Creek territory, or the rivers that run into the Alabama River in central Alabama; the Coosa or Tallapoosa Rivers. Most of the souce I am using here is John Swanton.

Then Swanton says there were towns like Apalachicola, who spoke Muskogee in later times, but in earlier times had spoken Hitchiti.

One document I saw in the Creek Museum files in Oklahoma says that the British encouraged the Muskogees to subdue towns and require them to speak Muskogee, so there would be one common trade language.

So when is your next book coming out?

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