. Mvskoke History

13 11 2012


Muscogee Creek are a Native American tribe of the Southeast.  Traditionally the tribes were mound builders that lived in small towns with a distinct political organization.  The Creek were mainly stationary and were great agriculturalists.  A Creek woman would grow corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and melons in a private family garden and would also have a plot within a community garden in which the entire town would tend together.  In addition to growing crops, the Creek women would gather local plants such as wild onion and berries.  The Creek men would hunt deer, bear and small game such as squirrel.  Corn was a main-stay in the Creek diet and many social and spiritual ceremonies including the Green Corn Ceremony are still a very important part of Creek culture.

The Kincaid Site in Massac Co., Illinois, showing platform mounds. Illustration by artist Herb Roe


Creeks were mound builders and lived in small villages.
Creeks planted a small private garden where the women of the family grew corn, beans, tobacco, and other crops.
Outside the town a larger plot of land was used for the communal field in which the main food supply was grown.
Corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and melons were grown in abundance.
The Lower Creeks also grew rice.
Hickory nuts and acorns were a source of sustenance.
Hunting deer and bear and fishing also supplemented the food supplies.
Pork was introduced by Europeans. Though widely used today, ethical and health issues have surfaced.

Read more: Overview of the Creek Indian Tribe


How I got interested in the food-systems of the Native American Southeast was through my children’s mother, Aria. According to her family’s oral tradition, she is descended from Creek grandmothers, through her mother’s side of the family. They came out of the Coosa River country of Northern Alabama, the traditional homeland of the Mvskoke Red Stick (resistant to European colonization) Upper Creek villages that fought against the theft of their homelands. The removal of the nations of the Creek Confederacy only happened after a colonizing army, under the command of Andrew Jackson and with the military help of the Cherokee nation and assimilated Lower Creeks, defeated the outnumbered and outgunned Mvskoke at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in northern Alabama. This event happened in 1814 and Mvskoke sovereignty was never reestablished over Alabama. By the 1830’s Pres. Jackson’s Indian Removal policy was in full swing and most Mvskoke and other Creeks were forcibly removed to Oklahoma, fled to the swamps of Florida to become the Seminoles, or tried to blend in. Aria’s grandmothers managed to blend in and stay in the Coosa country, although virtually all Mvskoke culture was extinguished from her family, probably thanks in large part to intermarriage with colonizing men who did not practice Creek culture or values.

Menawa was one of the principal leaders of the Red Sticks. After the war, he continued to oppose white encroachment on Muscogee lands, visiting Washington, D.C. in 1826 to protest the Treaty of Indian Springs. Painted by Charles Bird King, 1837.

In researching her family history I came across numerous references to Mvskoke cultural practices and life-ways. Prominent was their cultural food-system based solidly upon the cultivation of many varieties of maize (corn) and complimentary vegetables. Beans and squash also figured prominently in their traditional diet, as well as gathered foods, and hunted meat. Later, when collective land was lost to colonization and wild gathering and hunting became impossible, Creeks diets gradually became almost indistinguishable from surrounding working-class colonizers and freed slaves.

The prospect of creating some old-time traditional foods from the Mvskoke side of the family was exciting to me. Especially since it could easily be four generations since anyone in the family had prepared food in the Mvskoke way with the intention of eating Osofkee. No one in the family knew how, so I was very fortunate to make contact with the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative (MFSI) organization in Okmulgee Oklahoma. Many of the removed Alabama Creek families still reside in the area around Okmulgee and I was happy to discover that an effort is being made to keep Mvskoke food-culture alive. I spoke with a representative of the MFSI over the phone and she was very willing and helpful, and supportive of the goals of our class.

My own contribution to the feast was vegan Osofkee, a hominy and vegetable stew. By leaving out meat and adding mashed winter-squash in the Osofkee our group could offer vegetarians a taste of Mvskoke-style cooking without requiring them to compromise their 21st century ethical commitments and dietary practices. I liked it a lot! The kids ate it too, and then had a wonderful time playing outside for the remainder of the feast. There is a lot of energy in Osofkee! Our group’s meat-based and meatless Osofkee was quite flavorful when mixed together too as I found out when taking care of the children’s left-overs! It is my hope that our children’s Mvskoke grandmothers would have approved of our humble offering.


. Southeast Native Peoples

12 11 2012


A research guide to the Five Southeastern Tribes:
the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw, and Seminole

created by the Labriola National American Indian Data Center at Arizona State

Tribes and Languages of the Southeast
Wikipedia: Southeast Woodlands

SE Native American Indians are considered members of the Woodland Indians
There are approximately 30 tribes in the SE territory, among them

– QuaPaw
– Chickasaw
– Natichez
– Choctaw
– Acawama
– Cherokee
– Caiawba
– Creek
– Yamsee
– Apacchee
– Seminole

State territory ranges in and around:

– AR
– KY
– TN
– LA
– MS
– AL
– GA
– NC
– SC
– FL
– PR & VI (?)

Tribes & States:

– Catawba Indian Nation, Catawba, SC
– Chitmacha Indian Tribe of Louisiana, Charenton, LA
– Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Elton, LA
– Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, NC
– Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, Jena, LA
– Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, Miami, FL
– Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Philadelphia, MS
– Poarch Creek Indians, Atmore, AL
– Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hollywood, FL
– Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, Marksville, LA

In researching some of these tribes, it seems all tribes have common themes throughout history. They share similarities in the following areas:

– early nomadic ways, especially in following food sources
– tribes, bands and clan structures
– hunter-gathering to farming, to reservation life
– spiritual and ritual ceremonies for almost every action taken in their daily lives
– arts & crafts:
– daily hand tools (hunting, cooking, etc.)
– clothing, jewelry, art work, pottery, etc.
– story tellers (elders passing on history of their people and used in training young people
– dancing and singing

Southeastern Tribes
Southeastern tribes lived in states like Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama. They were hunters and gatherers. Some of them moved from one area to another but the majority stayed in the same area. It just depended on where they lived and how much food was available.

Some of the tribes lived in round homes much like wigwams – made from logs and sticks, then covered with grass. There was a hole in the top so light could enter. A few tribes had two-storey frame houses covered with bark, others had thatch-roofed houses.

The food hasn’t changed that much over the years. It’s still the same typical diet of southeastern diets. They ate cornpones, corn bread, hominy grits, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes. They also had more possum, bear and most other available meats, but rarely pork. Turkey was a regular meal as well as veggies.

Some of the Southeastern tribes were into bright colors, while others probably didn’t have that option. In the summer the woman usually went naked from the waist up. In the winter they wore moss and wool. One of the styles of clothing that became popular later on was a long skirt and a cloth that went over the shoulders.

The Green Corn Festival was one of the most important ceremonies. It happened in the fall. Tribal members circled a cooking fire, carrying corn. After the corn was boiled, it was hung up above the fire as a sacred offering to the Great Spirit. A new fire was built and enough corn for the entire village was made while people danced.

Did U Know?
Southeastern tribes were famous for intermarriage. The Shawnee Chief, Blue Jacket, was an adopted Caucasian. There was even an African American, John Horse, who was a Seminole warrior. Many others were a mix of races and tribes. Nobody cared as long as the culture was kept alive

Read more: American Indian | Native | First Nations | Plains and Southeastern Tribes | Sioux | Cheyenne

. Traditional Technologies

12 11 2012

Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden
as recounted by Maxi’diwiac (ca.1839-1932) of the Hidatsa
full text online at the University of Pennsylvania Library digital project

Montana Indian Education For All

National Museum of the American Indian


Native American Food: Agriculture, Hunting and Gathering, Fishing, and other food sources

Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web site:
“Hunting Tools and Techniques; Food Preparation and Storage”

see also: Readings

. Feast for Change

12 11 2012

On October 28, 2012, the Native Food Systems Class at Montana State University prepared and organized a grand feast with all Native American Food, from different parts of the continent. We gathered at Christus Collegium just off campus.

Southeast group:


Jimi+kids, Ryan, Melinda, Stephanie, Evan, Ben, Lynn

. Indigenous Food Systems

12 11 2012

“The Indigenous Food Systems Network Website is designed to allow individuals and groups involved with Indigenous food related action, research, and policy reform to network and share relevant resources and information.”

foods indigenous to the Western Hemisphere
from Devon Mihesuah’s website
AIHDP: American Indian Health and Diet Project

. Corn

12 11 2012


I believe that what has impacted me most in our study of Southeastern native communities is their multitudinous use of corn to create a plethora of flavors and dishes. The corn itself, traded to the area from Mexico and points south, made an incredible journey to become a staple food among nearly all native cultures. It is impressive that, dependent on the region, climate, and culture, corn was used in so many unique ways; but always respected as something sacred.

Through various cooking styles and preparation methods, native cultures were able to extract or impart different forms of nourishment from many simple ingredients. Aside from their genius in culinary preparations, their ability to live among their natural environment, instead of in spite of it, truly points to an enlightened culture. I can’t help but wonder what our world would look like today had the greed of manifest destiny not clouded the minds of our forefathers.

Selu and Kana’ Ti: Cherokee Corn Mother and Lucky Hunter by Red Earth
Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom by Marilou Awiakta


This article explains the benefits of making hominy from whole-kernal corn.
Wikipedia: Nixtamalization

. Hominy

11 11 2012


Hominy is a traditional food used by many North American Tribes.
Some of the corn was dried to preserve and keep it for food throughout the winter months. Dried corn could be made into a food called hominy. To make hominy, the dried corn was soaked in a mixture of water and hard-wood ashes for two days. When the kernels had puffed up and split open, they were drained and rinsed in cold water. Then the hominy was stir-fried over a fire.

from Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods

(We found it very difficult to obtain hard flint corn locally.)