Miss, Jr. Miss MCN reflect on connection with culture
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — The silver crowns that the 2017-2018 Muscogee (Creek) Nation royalty display upon their head has been passed down since the late 1980s.
The scalloped shape flows with Mvskoke designs etched along the edges leading into opalescent pearls on each side. The MCN seal is engraved in the center and underneath bold uppercase letters state the respective title of Miss and Jr. Miss on each crown.
The young women wearing the crowns are extraordinary beyond the symbol that sits polished and balanced, pinned into their hair.
Miss MCN Amberly Proctor introduces herself as a daughter of the Deer Clan and member of Weogufkee Indian Baptist Church.
When asked to describe her experience in the pageant, a smile appears and she starts her praise.
Amberly first ran in last year’s pageant and received runner-up.
She gained experience and knowledge of what to expect for this year’s pageant but was still nervous when the time came to compete.
“It was really good to make friendships with the other contestants so that was a really positive experience for me,” Amberly said.
The sisterhood that Amberly developed with the other contestants is described as supportive and encouraging. She said that they would help each other when someone needed help.
Amberly takes herself back to the moment when butterflies fluttered in her stomach and time seemed to slow down when her name was called to be crowned Miss MCN.
The cultural presentation that Amberly did for the pageant was a representation of her upbringing at Weogufkee Indian Baptist Church, a traditional Creek hymn.
The year before Amberly recited the inspiration that made her decide to run for Miss MCN, the late Wilbur Chebon Gouge’s “A Struggle to Survive.”
While helping her brother study for the MCN Challenge Bowl, Amberly stumbled upon the letter that she had seen before when she studied for the Challenge Bowl.
The letter was a call for the Muscogee women to rise up and be role models for the next generation, to be keepers of tradition and culture and Proctor was ready to answer that call.
Amberly’s background in the Muscogee (Creek) culture is deep-rooted through her father, Darrell Proctor and the small town of Hanna where her family and church reside, as well as her participation in the Challenge Bowl.
By studying for the Challenge Bowl, Amberly has been able to gain knowledge of the language, both reading and speaking. She is not fluent in the Mvskoke language but hopes to be one day.
The certainty of the goals Amberly holds for her future reflects the line in “A Struggle to Survive,” ‘Yes, I am a Muscogee Creek woman, I know who I am, I know where I’ve been and I know where I am going.’
As a recent graduate from Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in accounting, Amberly is moving forward in her education to obtain a master’s degree of legal studies in indigenous people’s law from the University of Oklahoma.
Amberly hopes to follow in the footsteps of her father, the one that has given the culture to her in which she represents.
“I hope to some day combine the two [degrees] and serve on the National Council,” Amberly said.
One of the challenges that Amberly has faced was a mental roadblock she had set for herself.
“It was my own inherent bias against myself was thinking ‘I’m not dark enough, I don’t look Indian enough,’ ” Amberly said.
Now that she has overcome that obstacle, she said she does not see any challenges in her way.
A similar hurdle in the same shape but different shade had to be overcome by Jr. Miss MCN Iesha Phillips.
Iesha said she was nervous to be a contestant in the pageant because of the image of how the ideal royalty is represented and that having darker complexion might have put her at a disadvantage.
“I had this vision that all the Muscogee princesses had to have the same look,” Iesha said. “…not too dark or not too light”.
The disconnect she felt as a dark skinned Native who did not grow up in a traditional Muscogee (Creek) family motivated her to get more involved in her culture and to make her platform cultural pride.
Iesha’s willingness to learn about Muscogee (Creek) culture developed from her own motivation.
The spark that set her interest occurred during middle school when Iesha felt like she was not getting the proper history lesson about her own people.
She felt the historical depiction of Native Americans was being misrepresented in her textbook, even though she did not know the true answer it made her want to learn what it was.
Her transition to Jenks High School gave her the opportunity to participate in the Challenge Bowl and find the answers she had been looking for.
Through study guides and friendships made at Challenge Bowl and joining the Mvskoke Nation Youth Council, Iesha has been able to connect with other Muscogee (Creek) youth and gain understanding of her culture.
17-year-old Iesha is bright and has a bubbly personality that makes you want to smile with her, but according to her, she has not always been that way.
“When I was younger I used to be a whole different person, I was a delinquent,” Iesha said. “I decided to change.”
Her ultimate goal is to one day be a trauma surgeon, a dream that developed during her middle school years and pushed her to become a better person.
“I want to do something that’s not only for me but to help other people,” Iesha said.