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February 28, 2014

This Day in the Maya Calendar: March 2014

Cholq'ij, the Maya sacred ceremonial calendar of 260 days—a cycle of 20 Day deities and 13 numbers—is the basis of the Maya spirituality that survives to this time, practiced daily among millions of Maya people, in thousands of communities. The interpretation of the days can vary from one Maya people to another. The interpretations given here are based on sustained conversations and participation over three decades with Maya Q'eqchi calendar priest Roderico Teni and daykeeping families in the area of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, by Jose Barreiro (Taíno), head of NMAI’s Office of Latin America, and his wife, Katsi Cook (Mohawk). Glyphs representing the Day lords appear throughout Maya Country; these were painted by Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya) of Cobán.

For more background to this series, please see Jose's introduction, "Living in the Practice." For further insight into the role of the Day lords in everyday life, please see the Maya Journal. For the complete year so far, please see the Maya calendar archive.

Illustrations: Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya), calendar glyphs. Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala; 2003. Paint on wood. Purchased from the artist. 26/2685. Photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI 

Continued in "This Day in the Maya Calendar: April 2014."

1 Kan  |  Monday, March 31, 2014
 

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 1 is the beginning. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —Jose Barreiro 

13 Kat  |  Sunday, March 30, 2014 

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 13 is the highest turbulence. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B.  

12 Aqbal  |  Saturday, March 29, 2014

262685_AqbalCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 12 is the highest balance. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B.  

11 Iq  | Friday, March 28, 2014

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 11 is high turbulence. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

10 Imox  |  Thursday, March 27, 2014

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 10 is a high balance. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping by left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B. 

9 Ajpu  |  Wednesday, March 26, 2014

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 9 is a triple rotor. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

8 Kawoq  |  Tuesday, March 25, 2014 

262685_KawoqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 8 is a double balance. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B. 

7 Tijax  |  Monday, March 24, 2014

262685_TijaxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 7 is a pivotal number. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B.

6 Noj  |  Sunday, March 23, 2014

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 6 is a middle, even number. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B.

5 Ajmac  |  Saturday, March 22, 2014

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 5 is one hand. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B.  

4 Tz'ikin  |  Friday, March 21, 2014

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 4 is a balance. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B. 

3 I'x  |  Thursday, March 20, 2014 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 3 is a rotor. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B. 

2 Aj  |  Wednesday, March 19, 2014 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 2 is duality. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B.  

1 Eh  |  Tuesday, March 18, 2014

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 1 is the beginning. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

13 Batz  |  Monday, March 17, 2014

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 13 is the highest turbulence. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B. 

12 Tzi  |  Sunday, March 16, 2014

6a01156f5f4ba1970b019b04c65ab2970d-200wiCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 12 is the highest balance. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B. 

11 Toj  |  Saturday, March 15, 2014

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 11 is high turbulence. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B. 

10 Anil  |  Friday, March 14, 2014

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 10 is a high balance. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B. 

9 Kiej  |  Thursday, March 13, 2014 

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 9 is a triple rotor. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B. 

8 Kame  |  Wednesday, March 12, 2014 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 8 is a double balance. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —J. B.  

7 Kan  |  Tuesday, March 11, 2014 

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 7 is a pivotal number. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B. 

6 Kat  |  Monday, March 10, 2014 

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 6 is a middle, even number. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B.  

5 Aqbal  |  Sunday, March 9, 2014

262685_AqbalCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 5 is one hand. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B.  

4 Iq  |  Saturday, March 8, 2014

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 4 is a balance. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

3 Imox  |  Friday, March 7, 2014

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 3 is a rotor. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping by left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B. 

2 Ajpu  |  Thursday, March 6, 2014

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 2 is duality. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

1 Kawoq  |  Wednesday, March 5, 2014 

262685_KawoqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 1 is the beginning. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B. 

13 Tijax  |  Tuesday, March 4, 2014 

262685_TijaxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 13 is the highest turbulence. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B. 

12 Noj  |  Monday, March 3, 2014

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 12 is the highest balance. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B.   

11 Ajmac  |  Sunday, March 2, 2014

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 11 is high turbulence. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B.  

10 Tz'ikin  |  Saturday, March 1, 2014

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 10 is a high balance. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B. 

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Meet Native America: Colley Billie, Chairman of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Colley Billie. I’m the current chairman of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida

Can you give us your Native name and its English translation?

My Native name is in Creek, not in Miccosukee. Since I do not speak Creek, I am unable to translate my Native name into English.

Chairman Colley Billie 1
Chairman Colley Billie, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.

Where is your tribe located? 

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida is located in South Florida, in the heart of the Florida Everglades. 

Where are the Miccosukee people originally from? 

Before white settlement on Indian lands, most of the mid-southeast region of the United States was Miccosukee territory. This area comprised most of what is today Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky. 

What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share? 

During the Indian removal of the early to mid 1800s, when Indian tribes were being forced to move west into present-day Oklahoma and Kansas, our tribal members sought refuge in the remote Florida Everglades. We went from a dry land environment to subtropical wetland—an area that is mostly water. Although this new land was vastly different from any territory our people had ever encountered, we were able not only to adapt, but also eventually to thrive in this novel environment. 

This is a reflection of the versatility and adaptability of the Miccosukee people to thrive in the face of adversity and turn hardship into opportunity. 

Today we face another new challenge, and the landscape we must adapt to is of a cultural and ideological nature. Our way of life now is very different than that of our ancestors when they first arrived in the Florida Everglades. 

How is your tribal government set up? 

The Miccosukee Constitution makes the Miccosukee General Council the governing body of the tribe. The General Council is composed of all adult members,18 years of age or older. The officers of the General Council consist of the chairman, assistant chairman, treasurer, secretary, and lawmaker, with officers elected and seated in November, and serving four-year terms. Aside from the day-to-day business activities of the tribe—including those involving membership, government, law and order, education, welfare, recreation and fiscal disbursement—the core responsibilities of the officers of the General Council include development and management of resources. This group is also known as the Business Council, and its overarching structure is formed by a combination of traditional tribal government and modern management tenets. 

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system? 

Miccosukee families are broken down and identified by affiliation with a clan that is passed down from the mother, as we are a matriarchal society. There is also a traditional hierarchy within the clans. The main clans designated as leaders are the Panther and Wind clans, with the Bird clan playing a pivotal role in providing critical assistance. This system allows effective, egalitarian leadership and support. Hierarchically, within the clan systems, the traditional governing structure is as follows: The medicine leaders, or Bundle Carriers, make executive decisions; supporting clan members carry out and maintain the objectives set forth by the Bundle Carriers. 

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Our elections are held every four years. 

How often does your tribal council meet?

The General Council meets quarterly; the Business Council convenes on a monthly basis.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

When you’re in a position like the one I am in, it is essential to seek traditional knowledge within the tribe, but at the same time to have a strong footing in conventional channels of knowledge. From an early age, I not only participated in traditional training, but also I was encouraged to participate in non-Indian education and attend school. I was never told, or made aware, that this was actually preparing me for the leadership role that I currently hold, but with the knowledge that I gained I can now be a better help for my family and my tribe. 

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

I am responsible for the welfare of the tribe, from the youngest to the eldest member. I am responsible for providing effective leadership in addition to basic services, including medical care, police protection, etc.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My mentors were my father, Sonny Billie—who served as chairman and was a traditional leader—and my uncles. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?

My father, Sonny Billie, held the highest position that can be attained in the tribe’s governmental system, that of Bundle Carrier. My uncle Buffalo Tiger—my mother’s brother—was also the first chairman of the tribe. 

Chairman Colley Billie 3a
Colley Billie, standing between portraits of his father, Sonny Billie (left), and uncle, Buffalo Tiger, both of whom also served as chairmen of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. The tribe's flag is at the right. 

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida consists of 594 members.

What are the criteria to become a member of the Miccosukee Tribe?

You have to be at least half Miccosukee in terms of blood quantum. Although not a strict requirement, the council mandates a clan affiliation, which is passed down through the mother.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

The Miccosukee language is a living language, still spoken by our people today. As far as a percentage, although it is difficult to determine an exact number, I would say 90 to 95 percent of Miccosukee are fluent speakers of the Miccosukee language.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida owns several successful enterprises in South Florida, including the Miccosukee Indian Bingo, Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, Miccosukee Indian Village & Airboat Rides, Miccosukee Tobacco Shop, two service plazas, a restaurant, and a general store.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

In addition to supporting local nonprofit organizations, the tribe hosts several annual community events that serve as important cultural and pedagogical venues, including the annual Miccosukee Tribe Celebrates American Indian Day—held on the fourth Friday of September—to celebrate Native American heritage and tradition. Another annual event that is very important to us is the Miccosukee Indian Arts & Crafts Festival—held in December—a unique commemoration of the common links that thread Native American people with the non-Indian world, featuring traditional musical and dance performances, authentic arts and crafts, and Native American storytelling.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

At Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, guests can enjoy a world-class gaming experience—featuring over 1,900 gaming machines, and high stakes poker and bingo—as well as state-of-the-art resort accommodations. The Miccosukee Indian Village offers visitors the opportunity to explore Miccosukee culture and history, see Native arts and crafts such as traditional beadwork and patchwork, and discover the Everglades on an airboat ride. The Miccosukee Golf & Country Club offers golf enthusiasts the best of the Miami golf scene. Visitors can also try Native food at the Miccosukee Restaurant.

How does the Miccosukee Tribe deal with the United States as a sovereign nation?

We have always been a nation that has respected other nations as independent entities. As a people, we never really had a line separating “us” from “them”; those lines were drawn up by the non-Indian governmental structure. Even with other tribal nations, we always upheld a mutual respect, considering all as independent, sovereign nations. When the first white settlement approached us to reside within our lands, we extended that same respect to them to operate as a separate group. They could decide what to do with their own people and how to run their affairs, and in turn, we didn’t expect them to be able to dictate how we should treat our people or conduct our dealings. We’ve always believed that the current government known as the United States of America is built on Indian lands. Essentially, this is a country built on top of another country.

What message would you like to share with the youth of your tribe?

I believe that our youth represent the next wave of leaders. They’re the ones charged with continuing on with our efforts and struggles. To achieve peaceful coexistence between the Indian and non-Indian worlds, our children need to learn about their own traditions and at the same time learn about the non-Indian culture, society, and government. Finding the delicate balance between these two worlds will be at the crux of the struggles facing future generations of Miccosukee leaders. Therein lie both the challenge and opportunity to build a world together where both cultures can flourish.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to take this opportunity to bring attention to the plight of the Florida Everglades in the hopes of inciting awareness and support for our struggles to help, protect, and defend this unique ecosystem for the next generations.

The Everglades is our mother. Until recently, it has protected and nurtured us. In our time, the delicate balance of the Florida Everglades has been pushed beyond its breaking point, and the Everglades is dying a slow death. We once were able to drink the clean water of the Florida Everglades. We were able to swim in its waters and eat from the land. Mismanaged by governmental agencies over the past 50 years, the water in the Florida Everglades is now heavily polluted. For this reason, crucial elements of our way of life are no longer possible.

The dire situation in the Everglades is a direct reflection of the struggle of the individual tribal member. We were once people who were able to thrive independently within the sanctuary of the Everglades, and our position has always been to be left alone to live as we used to live before Columbus. Our original way of life has been made virtually impossible because the land that we used to depend on is not the same. In a sense, we have been forced to come out into the non-Indian world and learn how to be a part of it and live in it. One of our responsibilities as members of the non-Indian world is to emphasize the quandary of the Florida Everglades to create positive change. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was started around the year 2000. Thirteen years and over a billion dollars later, it has been unsuccessful in doing what it was purported to do—to re-establish the original path of water from Lake Okeechobee into Florida Bay. For example, the one-mile bridge that was recently constructed on the Tamiami Trail for the purpose of restoring sheet flow to Florida Bay has not done so. Yet there is a two-mile flyover bridge planned for the same purpose.

Historically, the problem with the restoration of the Everglades has been fragmented efforts with no solid, unifying direction. Projects have been based on the perspectives of people versus what is actually required for the Everglades to survive.

For the Miccosukee people, true restoration is to allow water to flow uninterrupted from Lake Okeechobee and wash out into Florida Bay. And that water must be clean. Only when the polluted water is cleaned can the Florida Everglades and its wildlife begin to recover.

I’d like to conclude by saying Shonaabeshaa (shoh-naah-beh-shaah), which in the Miccosukee language means thank you.

Thank you. 

The photographs above are courtesy of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. Used with permission.

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. Meet-native-america

From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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February 20, 2014

Meet Native America: Melvin R. Sheldon, Chairman, Board of Directors of the Tulalip Tribes

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Melvin R. Sheldon, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tulalip Tribes.

Where is your nation located?

Tulalip, Washington, is about 35 minutes north of Seattle, next to Interstate 5. The closest city outside the reservation is Marysville, Washington. 

Where are  your people originally from? 

We are the successor of interest to Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and other allied tribes and bands signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. We lived from the mountains down to the salt waters of the Coast Salish Sea. 

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Melvin R. Sheldon, Chairman, Board of Directors of the Tulalip Tribes, during the first White House Tribal Nations Conference, November 2009. Washington, D.C. 

What is a significant point in history from the Tulalip Tribes that you would like to share? 

Recently Northwest tribes remembered the Judge Boldt decision of 1974. This decision recognizing treaty fishing rights redefined and reconnected a way of life for Tulalip people. Our tribal men and women are proud to be salmon fishing people. 

How is your national government set up? 

We have a constitution and bylaws adopted in 1936. Our governing body is composed of a seven-member Board of Directors. The board is a legislative body that creates laws that govern our reservation. 

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system? 

As in many tribes, our elders have a strong voice in tribal affairs. Their history and traditional values keep us grounded as we move forward and face the challenges of a growing tribe with outside competing values. 

How are elected leaders chosen? 

Each year board members are elected by popular vote. We have three-year terms on a staggered schedule. Each year at General Council, executive offices are chosen by those present; the chairman, vice chair, secretary, and treasurer are elected on that day for the next year. 

How often does the Board of Directors meet?

The Tulalip board meets once a month to conduct official business as mandated by our constitution. We have committee meetings throughout the week as we oversee our business and service needs. 

What responsibilities do you have as a leader?

As chairman I preside over monthly meetings and the General Council. Further duties include representing our tribe at meetings of all levels and being principal spokesperson. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

Learning to listen became a major foundation as I entered leadership. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!

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Chairman Sheldon and former Chairman Stan Jones, Tulalip Tribes, honoring Memorial Day, May 27, 2013. Mission Cemetery, Tulalip, Washington. On Veterans Day 2013, Chairman Sheldon wrote about his experiences as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam for the Indian Country Today Media Network.


Who inspired you as a mentor?

Tulalip has been gifted with great leadership through the years. There are many of our past leaders who left behind a legacy, and they have become mentor examples. I thank them and raise my hands to our past leaders.

Approximately how many members are in the Tulalip Tribes?

Today we have just over 4,300 tribal members.

What are the criteria to become a member of Tulalip?

We have a residency requirement for membership.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

Our language, Lushootseed, was almost lost, but through several key elders and tribal support we were able to revive our language. Today we teach our young ones Lushootseed. 

What economic enterprises do the Tulalip Tribes own?

Tulalip Tribes were only the scond Indian nation to establish a federally recognized city, Quil Ceda Village. Our business park and municipality form a bustling, growing commercial center. At the center is the Tulalip Resort Casino (TRC), with a hotel and conference center. Further tribal businesses include two gas stations, two liquor/cigarette stores, and Tulalip Data Service/Cablevision operation. Tulalip—which includes the tribal government, Quil Ceda Village, and the TRC—directly employs 4,500 team members.

What annual events does your community sponsor?

We have our Salmon Ceremony every spring. This celebration brings our community together to remember our special relationship with salmon. Our veterans host a pow wow each year inviting dancers and drums from all over the Pacific northwest. 

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Quil Ceda Village has become a leading destination for many travelers. Not only can a person stay at our Tulalip Resort Casino, but visitors can shop at Seattle Premium Outlet stores (125) and after shopping they can visit the tribe’s Hibulb Cultural Center. One can also drive to Tulalip Bay and view our fishing fleet with the Olympic Mountains in the background.

What message would you like to share with the youth of your nation? 

I would ask our youth to take advantage of the opportunity to get an education. We have many job opportunities that were not here 20 years ago, develop your passion! 

Thank you.

Photographs courtesy of the Tulalip Tribes. Used with permission.


To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. Meet-native-america

From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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February 14, 2014

"The Return of the Native Son: George Morrison's Artistic Journey": An evening with curator W. Jackson Rushing III, Thursday, February 20

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George Morrison (Chippewa, 1919–2000), Cumulated Landscape, 1976. Wood, 48 x 120 x 3 in. Minnesota Museum of American Art, gift of Honeywell Inc. 2000.01 

 

Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison closes at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York on Sunday, February 23. The exhibition pays homage to the renowned modernist (Chippewa, 1919–2000) with key works—78 paintings, drawings, prints, collages and sculptures, to be exact—from all of his periods in every medium he employed over a nearly six-decade career. In conjunction with the show, curator W. Jackson Rushing III will give a lecture entitled "The Return of the Native Son: George Morrison's Artistic Journey" Thursday, February 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the museum.

Rushing, Adkins Presidential Professor of Art History and Mary Lou Milner Carver Chair in Native American Art at the University of Oklahoma, will provide an overview of the exhibition, emphasizing Morrison's personal and artistic journey, beginning in the woodlands of Minnesota and continuing through his time in New York and Paris, among other places. Rushing will also explore the major themes and styles of Morrison's career and how Morrison's abstract expressionist paintings and abstract collages embody indigenous content. Rushing contends that Morrison's understanding of who and what he was shifted, as it does for many people, throughout his life. 

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George Morrison (Chippewa, 1919–2000), Whalebone, 1948. Oil on canvas, 25 x 24.75 in. Collection of Kevin and Kathy Kirvida.

According to Rushing, Morrison experienced a gradual change in his thinking about his Chippewa (the word Morrison always used) heritage. "When he returned to Minnesota to teach in 1970, after being based on the East Coast for nearly 30 years, the American Indian Movement was underway, and he became active in urban Indian life more than he had been before." His background became increasingly important in his life and art. "Similarly, the art world's perception of him as 'Native' artist (or not) also changed over time." says Rushing. "That he 'made it' is clear, and my sense is that many younger Native artists hold him in high esteem."

While Morrison was committed to modernist expression in his art, Rushing won't commit to saying that he was the first Native American artist to embrace it. "Figuring out who was 'first adopter' in the art world is a tricky business and may suggest, wrongly, that some sort of game is being played, with the winner being the one who 'got there' first. 'Likely' allows for the possibility that someday we will discover that some other artist as yet unknown to us was the first Native American artist to use modernist principles. Frankly, I think that's unlikely. All my research indicates Morrison was first in that regard, but was followed, not long after, by a distinguished group that includes Joe Herrera, Allan Houser, Pablita Velarde (briefly), Dick West, Terry Saul, and certainly Oscar Howe." 

Before this curatorial opportunity came his way, Rushing had written about Morrison. He also knew him briefly and says that he was multi-faceted and complex: "[He was] plain-spoken, perhaps, but not simple at all. He was very well read and so knowledgeable about many subjects, the history of modernism being chief among them. His journals reveal his passion for poetry, philosophy, and science. He had a sly sense of humor and was a gourmet cook!"  

So, what does one need to know to put a show like this together? Rushing has had an illustrious career. He trained in art history at the University of Texas at Austin, focusing his Ph.D. research on the history of ideas in modern art. That and his interest in 20th- and 21st-century Native American art made Rushing a natural fit to curate Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison.

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George Morrison (Chippewa, 1919–2000), Red Painting (Franz Kline Painting), ca. 1960. Oil on canvas, 47 x 79 in. Loan courtesy of Dorit and Gerald Paul. 

"In my teaching and scholarship I have been interested in two interrelated subjects. When, how, and why did Native American artists adopt modernist strategies and principles in order to best express contemporary indigenous content? In other words, why did George Morrison, for example, think of modernism as a tool for expressing his own complex experience as a Chippewa Indian from the north shore of Lake Superior?" Rushing has also "sought to understand when, how, and under what circumstances did Euro-American artists derive nourishment (formal, intellectual) from Indian art, myth, and ritual."

Kristin Makholm, executive director of the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMMA), is a long-standing friend of Rushing and knew of his interest in the subject matter. She approached him about putting together a Morrison exhibition based on her museum's collection. "I was very keen on the project from the beginning,” Rushing says. “Once I had an opportunity to review the MMAA collection, I understood immediately the incredible potential for an in-depth retrospective survey of his remarkable career. My role was to develop a curatorial vision, develop a checklist, and write and edit the catalog." 

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George Morrison (Chippewa, 1919–2000), Red Totem I, 1977. Stained redwood panels on plywood form, 144 1/4 x 15 1/4 x 15 1/4 in. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Robert J. Ulrich Works of Art Purchase Fund. 2012.5

Rushing's interest in Native American art began when he was just five years old. He found himself captivated by a picture of a Plateau Indian parfleche, and the rest is history. In his 20s, he became an expert on Native American art while working as an art dealer, marketing primarily Southwestern traditional and contemporary works. In the mid-to-late 1970s, Rushing developed an interest in the work of Joe Herrera, Allan Houser, George Morrison, Dan Namingha, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and early modern Pueblo painters, such as Awa Tsireh. At the same time, he began to learn about 20th-century Native painters from Oklahoma, including the Kiowa Five, Dick West, and others. 

Although Rushing says he could never pick a favorite piece in the show—because that's like asking a parent, Which of your children do you love most?—he does point out that spectators frequently identify closely with the large wood collages Morrison began making on the Atlantic shore in the summer of 1965. "The natural materials and the nature—pardon the pun—of his creative process are revealed directly in these objects, and people seem to fall in love with them." Rushing also highlights as must-sees for museum visitors Morrison's Horizon Series of paintings and his Surrealist works on paper.

New Yorkers, in particular, will find common ground with George Morrison. "Manhattan was one of George Morrison's home places," says Rushing. "He attended the Art Students League and had a dozen solo shows in the city, beginning in 1948. He was included in numerous group shows in New York City and was friends with many important artists, including Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning." 

Morrison was also a key figure in the history of the New York School, according to Rushing, something he would like to see more widely known and understood. “He matured as a modern artist in the city, and his work reflects that fact in an intimate way." 

While there's a lot to learn about Morrison, no previous exposure to his art is required to attend the free event. Rushing insists, however, that his lecture "is guaranteed to make people want to see the show!" 

 —Paul Niemi

Paul Niemi is an arts and culture writer and a volunteer at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. The quotations in this article are from Paul's recent email interview with Dr. Rushing. 

All photographs courtesy of the lenders and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Used with permission.

Prof. Rushing's presentation, "Return of the Native Son: George Morrison's Artistic Journey," is free and open to the public. Click here for a listing of this program and other upcoming artists' talks at the museum. 

 

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February 07, 2014

Meet Native America: George Tiger, Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

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George Tiger, Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Photo courtesy of Mvskoke Media.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

George Tiger, Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Can you give us your Native name, its English translation and/or nickname? 

Mekko (pronounced mee-koe), which means chief, king, or leader. 

Where is your nation located? 

Okmulgee, Oklahoma, is the capital and headquarters. 

Where are the Muscogee (Creek) people originally from? 

Alabama and Georgia. 

What responsibilities do you have as Principal Chief? 

Basically the same duties as the President of the United States.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

When you know people (in my case, my family) who have been part of tribal government, that naturally gives you an idea or an interest. I’ve been around the Muscogee (Creek) Nation since 1975, that’s more than 39 years, as an employee, elected official, Speaker of the House, and now Chief. As well as observing government, I have also had a lot of guidance—from my father, Chief Cox, Chief Fife, and Chief Beaver. I felt like this was something I wanted to attempt to do and was blessed enough to be elected. 

Who inspired you as a mentor?

One would be my father, who was a resolution writer for the National Council in the mid 1950s to the early ’60s. Also my grandfather, Chief Motey Tiger (who served from 1907 to 1917), was an inspiration. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?

In addition to my grandfather, there is my cousin, Chief Roley Camard. They both served as Principal Chiefs for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. 

What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share? 

A significant point in Muscogee Nation history that deeply affected our culture was the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This act, enforced by President Andrew Jackson, forcefully removed the "Five Civilized Tribes" from the southeastern United States. 

For the Muscogee people, this meant leaving our ancestral homelands in Georgia and Alabama, relocating in Indian Territory, which is now present-day Oklahoma. Our ancestors endured the decade-long forced removal through all seasons of winter weather and summer heat with a significant loss of life along the Trail of Tears. To this day our oral histories and tribal songs continue to recount the harsh weather and loss of life at the hands of the U.S. Government. We remain proud today, and our culture endures as Muscogee people. 

How is your national government set up? 

We have a tripartite government—Executive, Legislative, and Judicial—similar to the federal system. 
 

Moundbuilding
The Mound Building, on the grounds of the Muscogee (Creek) Capitol, Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Inspired by the earthworks of the Muscogee (Creek) people's ancestors before contact, the Mound Building houses the National Council and District Court. Photo courtesy of Mvskoke Media. 

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system? 

Yes, we have traditional Mekkos, ceremonial grounds, and tribal towns. A tribal town is a traditional township within the Muscogee Creek confederacy. There are three remaining tribal towns from what were originally forty-four: Kialegee, Thlopthlocco, and Alabama–Quassarte. 

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

For the Principal Chief and Second Chief, it’s every four years. The legislature, or National Council, is elected every two years. 
 
How often does the National Council meet? 

There is a monthly meeting, and at times there may be extraordinary sessions called. 

Approximately how many members are in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation? 

More than 77,000.

What are the criteria to become a member of your nation?

As long as you can prove lineage to the Dawes Rolls, you can be a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. 

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

Yes, the Mvskoke langauge is still spoken. We have approximately ten percent of our people who are fluent speakers.

What economic enterprises does the nation own?

We own hospitals, a physical rehabilitation center, travel plazas, casinos, a retail shopping mall, and a country club. 

Tiger Smithsonian 2a
Chief Tiger addressing members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, visitors, and museum staff, during the festival Mvskoke Etvlwv. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., November 2012. Photo courtesy of Mvskoke Media.

What annual events does your community sponsor?

We have the annual Mvskoke Nation Festival; the Mvskoke Hall of Fame (where we recognize notable tribal citizens), the Challenge Bowl (to promote learning about our culture, society, history, government, and language using traditional values as the foundation), the Native Made Art Festival/Indian Fall Festival in early November this year, and the Council Oak Ceremony (to remember our history and the peole who came before us). We are also a major sponsor for some of the state’s college and professional sporting teams. 

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

We are very proud of our historic Creek Council House; the state’s oldest country club, the Okmvlke Country Club and Golf Course; Council Oak; the Mound Building, which houses the National Council and District Court, and the Veterans Affairs Building; River Spirit CasinoFountain Head Golf Course; the College of the Muscogee Nation; and Honey Springs Battlefield in Checotah.

How does the Muscogee (Creek) Nation deal with the United States as a sovereign nation?

We recognize each other as sovereign nations and handle relationships in that matter. 

What message would you like to share with the youth of your nation? 

The number one thing is getting an education. That would allow us to always have a pool of leaders for our future. Not only do we need leaders in our tribe, but also leaders of the various entities we have under the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

In the two years I’ve been in office, my administration has been aggressive in terms of business and economic development. I’m proud to say that work is being noticed by the state as well as by other tribal nations.

Thank you.


To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. Meet-native-america

From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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