McHenry feels revival of singing Mvskoke Hymns
By Darren Delaune/Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — During the 45th annual Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival Creek singing, a booming voice could be heard singing praises to Cesvs (Jesus) and Hesaketvmese (Creator) in his native tongue.
That voice belonged to Muscogee (Creek) citizen James McHenry, also known as, ‘Major.’
He said it was in 1996 when he became intrigued with Muscogee (Creek) singing.
“We had a fourth Sunday service at my church and I noticed we did not have a Mvskoke hymn sung at all,” Major said. “That was when I put it in my heart to learn.”
McHenry said he goes to Broken Arrow United Indian Methodist Church in Broken, Arrow, Okla. He said he began to learn how to sing when he began to inquire with other elders.
“I would research, ask people and go to singings,” Major said.
He remembers there was a tape of Mvskoke hymnal singing left behind by his grandfather Walter McHenry.
“On the tape it said that this would be left behind for the future,” Major said. “It was for the people who desired to learn Mvskoke hymns.”
Major said the tape had detailed instructions on how to sing the songs, what they meant and when to sing certain songs on different occasions.
“The tape helped out a lot to understand Mvskoke singing,” Major said.
He remembers leading his first singing back in 1998. From then on, he has felt nothing but encouragement to continue.
“Everyone that talks to me about singing encourages me,” Major said.
Major said he has been leading songs for over 20 years but he is still considered one of the young ones in the church.
“I am 39 fixing to be 40,” laughed Major.
He said he had a fear that Mvskoke singing in the church was dying out but recently he felt it is starting to be revived.
“I enjoy singing with the elders,” Major said. “I wish a lot more people would learn.”
Major said he is seeing a lot of the younger generation learning and singing the songs.
“They are started to lead these songs,” he said. “They are having the desire to learn.”
He said he is proud of his daughter because she likes to sing with him.
“She will tell me she wants to sing,” Major said.
He said one sing that is a favorite is called, ‘Ayis.’ He said it is the words and the meaning to pulls him to this song.
“It is a beautiful tune,” Major said. “It is about going to heaven and we will see each other there.”
Major said he has not stopped learning new songs. He wants to gain as much knowledge as he can to keep singing.
“I am always asking on how to sing certain songs and the right time and occasion to sing them,” he said.
Major said he looks at it as an honor when he is asked to lead a song in church.
“It feels great when I am asked to sing,” he said. “They could ask anybody to lead some songs so when they ask me, I take it seriously.”1 comment