“To me, it’s a homecoming…” –David Proctor
Ceremonial ground mekko shares history with MCN Festival stompdance
OKMULGEE, Okla. — Stompdance has always had an elusive definition to me.
The glimmer of ceremonial life that I have witnessed is during the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival when the stompdance held kicks off the celebration.
I have wondered about the basis of the way of life for someone active with ceremonial grounds, so I met with a man that has shared his love for Muscogee (Creek) ceremonial life for about a decade.
David Proctor is the mekko of Tulahasse Wvkokaye Ceremonial Ground and has helped conduct the MCN Festival stompdance for the past 10 years.
The history of Proctor’s involvement with his ceremonial ground starts when he was a young boy.
“I was always interested in it because you could hear it from where we lived,” Proctor said.
He reflected on his childhood when he would hear his aunts talk about the grounds and watched, as his cousins would attend.
“I always wanted to go but I never had the opportunity,” Proctor said.
Though his mother and father’s side of the family were active in their ceremonial grounds, his father was an evangelist.
Proctor wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a minister, and then something changed.
“Somewhere along the line, I don’t want to say he lost faith, but something happened to turn him back to the ceremonies,” Proctor said.
Around the age of nine, Proctor’s father opened his mother’s old camp. His family has been active in the ceremonial ground ever since.
“I guess you can say it’s just in your blood,” Proctor said. “You want to follow in the footsteps of your elders.”
The ceremonial way of life has been present in Mvskoke culture for centuries.
In his current position at MCN Cultural Preservation, Proctor has studied and received the opportunity to meet people from different tribes.
He has observed what other Native Americans do and what they have lost in their own culture.
This loss inspires Proctor to preserve his culture, to hang on to what was given to the Mvskoke people.
What I gathered from both Proctor and my own research, ceremonialism originates from the days when corn played a significant role in the Muscogee way of life.
During the summer months, when the corn would ripen, Green Corn was celebrated. It still remains a time of gathering, a way to thank the Creator for what he has provided, a renewal of the earth. In a way, it can be seen as a Muscogee New Year.
My personal experience is limited to the MCN Festival stompdance that is held every year, commencement that invites everyone to join and experience what is called a social dance.
Proctor said the stompdance has always been part of Festival. When the Festival committee approached Proctor’s grounds to conduct the event, he wanted to treat it with the respect he thought it deserved.
He decided to spotlight the stomp dance by introducing its own night and took his knowledge of his people to provide food for the evening.
“The biggest way to bring Creek people together is food,” Proctor said.
The first year Proctor’s grounds hosted the attendance was roughly 125, but as the years have progressed the stompdance has gained over 500 attendees.
Proctor said that he is aware of the opinion of some people from the ceremonial grounds who believe that stompdances should not be taken off of the grounds.
He said that there are certain things that are sacred to the ceremonial grounds and those sacred things are agreed upon to stay at the grounds.
Anyone who is curious and also has internet can put in a Google search of “Creek stompdance.” Unfortunately, the results are not the true Muscogee stompdance because of the restricted use of photos and videos at the grounds.
There are rules, which he understands. Proctor does not involve any medicine, nothing sacrilegious is involved, it is more of a demonstration.
His goal is to give people an understanding of the right way to participate.
What Proctor provides for the Festival is not to make fun of stompdance. It is an attempt to get people together to make them feel a part of the MCN Festival.
“To me, it’s a homecoming,” Proctor said. “…a night of relaxation and socializing.”
Through my conversation with Proctor, I have learned about something that appeared foreign to me. A heritage that is close to me and at the same time, out of reach.
Our language, culture, customs and traditions are unique to us. They are Muscogee.