A Direction of Respect

by James Treat

These found poems are drawn from interviews with elderly citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation recorded in 1937-38 as part of the Indian-Pioneer History Project sponsored by the federal Works Progress Administration and archived at the Oklahoma Historical Society and the University of Oklahoma. You can read more about this project at Tribal College and Reckoning. —Eds.

the east was always a direction of respect

the old country
in the talks of the older indians
has been often referred to
and to them has been
hvsossv lecv    under the
rising of the sun

the rising of the sun in the east
denoted the new day
as well as the new sun
which to them was representative of
the beginning of a life

the east was a mother country
and home to them
and they never fully forgot their life there

they had enjoyed their own hunting grounds
their life as they wished it lived
and the other things that came dear to them

they had first planted their customs and beliefs
in the old eastern country home
where they were strictly observed and kept up

nothing was ever done
either in ceremonial or medicine
unless the east was faced

even during the birth of children
the east was always faced by the woman

the old customs of the old country
are being followed when
the medicine of the tribe
is taken when facing the east

Siah Hicks, b. ca. 1879

JAMES TREAT is the author of Around the Sacred Fire: Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era and the editor of several volumes of native literature. His essays and poems have appeared in American Indian Culture and Research JournalAmerican QuarterlyContemporary Verse 2Cultural Survival QuarterlyFourth GenreIndian Country TodayInterdisciplinary Studies in Literature and EnvironmentMuscogee Nation NewsNative AmericasOrionStudies in American Indian LiteratureTribal College JournalVerbatim Found Poetry, and other academic and literary journals. Treat is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. More information about his work is available at his website.