Settled along the Creeks

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 mvskoke indians settled along the creeks
so as to be on good land for their corn
            hunting was better near water
and their herbs mostly grew there
and there was water for them to use
and trees to build with and to burn

their being along the creeks
caused the white people to call them creeks
and that name was finally given to them
in the place of their own


we are not creeks
were the words of the indians who were
so named because they were found
living and inhabitating the old country
where there were numerous small and large
streams of water

although these indians were known as
belonging to the creek confederacy
they resented the name

their resentment of the name was
mostly because the waters of
any of the creeks
would at some
time dry

each indian member was very proud of
the town name to which they belonged
           some towns boasted of many members and
were powerful in standing for their rights
it was back in the old country that
the early tribal town members chose
the names for their tribal town
           they would always select a name
that was not easily crushed
but something solid that would exist
through thick and thin and end in victory


back in georgia
long years before the indians were
moved to the indian territory
in a wooded place along the coosa river
some of the indians of the mvskoke tribe
were gathered to form
a new and separate town

this wooded place along the river was
a favorite haven for the crane       wvko rakko
           it was here that the crane       wvko rakko
laid their eggs and multiplied

the indians had selected this place for
a gathering for the purpose of selecting a name for the new town
about to be organized
           it seemed that a suitable name
could not be readily decided on when
an old woman spoke up
and suggested the name of wvkokaye meaning
hatching or laying place of the crane

this name was accepted

William Benson, b. ca. 1875
Tom Simpkins, b. ca. 1874
Willie Harjo, b. ca. 1870

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.