More Found Poetry from Muscogee Nation Indian Territory

Volume 28, No. 3 - Spring 2017
Share on Facebook2Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this page


(Editor’s Note: Read James Treat’s full introduction and the three poems that appeared in the spring issue of TCJ.)

 The seven found poems that follow supplement the three pieces published in the Spring 2017 issue of Tribal College Journal. All 10 are part of a book-length manuscript drawn from Muscogee interviews in the Indian Pioneer History Collection. Earlier versions of these seven poems have been previously published in various literary journals, including Blood and Thunder, District Lit, Juked, Reckoning, Star 82 Review, The Fem, and Verbatim Found Poetry.


Mother Was a Deer


a long time ago there was a flood

when the flood was over
they would see a bear or tiger or something
that wasnt drowned
          the one who saw it first would say that
she would take that for their kin
          there are lots of different kinds

they held to this relationship
but not to the blood relationship
          they were much more strict about
marrying a clan kin than people are about
marrying blood kin
          not often clan kin married blanket
marriage of course   but when they did
they always received a severe whipping
and sometimes were disfigured for life


now i dont expect you to believe this story
for it doesnt sound reasonable to me
but it was told to me for the truth

long years ago
the old women could change themselves
into different kinds of animals and birds
like a magician
          the woman who could change herself
to a deer and back again
was the ancestor of all the deer clan kin

my mother was a deer and my father a tiger
          i am a deer and my wife is a beaver
so my children take after their mother
and are beaver
          the children always take the name of
the mothers clan as their clan name

a young person shouldnt be ahead of
or tell an older person what to do
Lucy Scott, b. 1857
George Looney, b. 1892


Older and Very Sour


the creek indians had
many different delicious dishes
made from corn one of which is

it is not intoxicating
as some white people believe

very few know how to make osafke
          the old indian women are
especially learned in making it
          it must be made right
or it will not taste good

vce cvlvtwe is the indian name
of the corn from which
osafke   or safke   is made
          the corn is used when it
has dried after it has ripened
          it is shelled by hand

the corn is put in the
mortar   keco   while wet
then the
pounder   kecvpe   is taken up
by hand about the middle and
the pounding begins


the corn is then placed in a woven
birch skin basket with small spaced holes
which separates the flakes and dust
from the corn
          the corn grits are then emptied into
a kettle of hot water
          when the water reaches the boiling point
one half cup of a lye solution is added
to taste and soften the safke   it is then
boiled from three to four hours

safke is placed in an earthen jar and
kept about four or five days until it sours

safke is used as a drink and as a food
          the indians raised white corn
which they called safke corn
          when the corn matures it is
about twelve to fourteen inches long


safke corn is a flint corn   hard
and smooth

the proportions are
three buckets of water in washpot
one gallon of grits
and one cup of lye

most people dont like it when
it gets sour i think its better
when its two or three days old


i liked safke when it was
first made and sweet
and i liked it when it was
older and very sour
          nobody will like the
sour safke when he first
tastes it   you have to
get used to it


i have heard a story about an old woman and how she
made the first safke   a drink which is a great
favorite of the indians

there was once a young man who lived with his old
grandmother the young man would often go off into
the woods on hunting trips and be gone all day

every time he left he came home to find that the
grandmother had prepared the safke   the young man
began to ponder over this because there was no corn
around the place

he finally decided to stay near the place and find
out what the old grandmother did


the old grandmother said since you have found out
the secret now you take me to the old corn crib and
lock me up in it close all the openings and
cracks after four days you look in and look at
what there is

that is why some people say that the corn is an old
woman and it was best not to provoke it

all old ladies are easily provoked and are cranky

if you do not care for the corn you will lose it
Jefferson Berryhill, b. 1909
Sarah Fife, b. 1861
Martha Scott Tiger, b. 1890
William Baker, b. 1868
Robert Thompson, b. 1888


In a Hollow Tree


about a hundred years ago
the creeks lived in villages
which were far apart
          when a newborn baby would
die it was so small that it didnt
smell very far and not far enough
to be offensive in the villages
          so they put it in a hollow tree
and boarded up the opening
so nothing could bother the body

remember   they didnt have tools
like we do now and had to do
everything in the easiest and yet
good way


they have a certain man for that
job   ive been told that lewis starr
was a tree stumper
          an indian baby is made as much
over as a grown person even if it
never breathes   it has lived or it
never would have developed

once john and grover were hunting
about eighteen ninety
          they were just big enough to
hunt and boys started hunting early
in those days and they found a hollow
tree with a babys skeleton in it


during the civil war
grandma   mary barnett   found
two little girls in a hollow tree
in the woods
          they were too small to tell
who they were or where they came from
          she named them nancy and patsy
and kept them until they were grown
          both are dead now

they were found in the creek nation
is all i know
George Looney, b. 1892
Larkin Bun Ryal, b. 1854
Milley Fish Gilroy, b. 1900


Until the Frost Hit


indian medicines
were made from roots and herbs
          boneset   which the creeks called
angelica   was used for a purgative
and likewise button snakeroot
used for the same purpose
          dogwood root and butterfly root
including goldenrod
were used as you would use quinine
to break a fever
          frost root
and a root they called

in eighteen eighty one
there was a smallpox epidemic at
indian territory
and it came near wiping out the
entire population of this village


we raised a little corn and cotton
          we had horses that did not
know what corn was   in fact
they would not eat it

i have seen grass so tall here that
you could ride through it on a horse
and it would be over your head
in places
          when they made hay
on some farms they would cut
until the frost hit

in nineteen o seven
oil was discovered near morris
          the first well was drilled
north of here
Jake Simmons, b. 1865
Leona Moore, b. 1885


Changes of the Season

before the work of the dawes commission
in the enrolling of indians the ages of
each older indian to be enrolled was not
          it was a difficult task for the
members of the commission to take and
make an accurate list of the ages as
they never knew what year they were born
on what day or the month
          they would forget their ages in the
following years and wouldnt bother about
keeping up with them

they could only fix the time of their
birth by the different changes occurring
in a season as they knew it or by some
certain incident that was generally known
such as cherry blossom or plum blooming
          some told of how they were able to
ride a horse alone at the outbreak of
the civil war   horre rakko   big war
or indicate how tall they were
          others told of how they were able
to walk at some certain event they
          some spoke of the time of the first
fall of leaves or when corn was so high
and indicating this time with the hands
showing an imaginary height of corn
          they never knew the names of the
months of the present calendar but they
used their own adopted and selected
names for the different months according
to the changes of the season such as
may being mulberry month
june being blackberry month

my allotment consisted of only about
thirty seven and one half acres of
practically worthless land located
near a river which overflowed onto it
          i sold it at the first opportunity
William Chisholm, b. 1880


All Kinds of Diseases


little fish was a great medicine man
the mēkko of nuyakv town always
until his death last year
          his clan kin was the bear
          he believed in the great spirit
          everybody came to him to advise them about
from sickness
to find something that had been stolen
          he had a stick that was a little different
than my husbands that he used to write in the
sand with when he wanted to know anything
          he was an herb doctor as well as spirit
          being a mēkko he was also a member of
the council at okmulgee
          he was a mvskoke

i know some of the names of medicines he used
but you wouldnt know how to use them
so it wouldnt do you any good

poke root
blackberry root
wild cherries
there were lot of things


i believe i could make it plainer about the
medicine man

little fish   my father   was a medicine man
          he doctored all kinds of diseases
small pains
chills and fever
venereal diseases
anything in the way of sickness
          he used herbs and white people would come
and get him when their white doctors gave up
some of their people
          sometimes hed stay several weeks with them
and cured the sick person
          if he gave a person up there was no use to
go to anyone else for that person was too bad
off to be cured or he would have cured them
          he used a peculiar stick to stir his
medicine with   similar to a thin cane the
size of your finger and about a yard long

tvlse haco was the name the king gave
little fish

crazy george was a good prophet but people
put him in the asylum at norman they thought
he was crazy but he was smarter than they
Milley Fish Gilroy, b. 1900
Winey Lewis, b. ca. 1888


Barefooted in the Snow

if i ran off from the mission once
i ran off a thousand times
but it didnt do me any good
my folks would take me back
the very next day and id get
a whipping besides
          i dont think there ever
passed a day that i didnt get
punished for something
          i ought to be an authority
on punishment

we had to learn english and wed
never hear it except at school
          its a wonder we ever learned
anything   i dont remember any
of the teachers and dont want to
          why   i stayed in the first
reader till i was twenty years old
and then just got to the center of it
          the first half of the book
was as dirty as could be and
the last half was just like new

i dont like to think about the past
          people now dont know what
hard times are
          little children went barefooted
in the snow
          i dont know why the indians
sent their children to school
unless it was because they would be
better taken care of
Wallace Cook, b. 1880


About Found Poetry. (2016). The Found Poetry Review. Retrieved from

How to Write a Verbatim Poem. (2009). Verbatim Found Poetry. Retrieved from

Oklahoma Historical Society. (1937). Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society, January 28, 1937. Chronicles of Oklahoma, 15(1), 122.

Oklahoma Historical Society. (1938). Annual Meeting Oklahoma Historical Society, May 5-6, 1938. Chronicles of Oklahoma, 16(2), 258.

Oklahoma Historical Society. (1939). Annual Meeting of the Oklahoma Historical Society, May 11-12, 1939. Chronicles of Oklahoma, 17(2), 244.

Perdue, T. (1980). Nations Remembered: An Oral History of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1865-1907. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

James Treat, Ph.D., is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and author of Around the Sacred Fire: Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era.

2017 AIHEC Student Poetry Slam


On the opening evening of the 2017 AIHEC Student Conference in Rapid City, students from an array of TCUs entertained conference goers with the spoken word at the annual poetry slam. View the video

Life of a Tribal College Mom


I Am an Ancestor’s Dream

Change, especially institutional change, takes time-and instead of just throwing our hands up in the air we should take it slow, each of us has our own roles to play.

. Read more →