“I never want to stop learning about my own people.”
A personal reflection of Muscogee identity
OKMULGEE, Okla. — “Who is your family?”
The question is less of a question and more of an invitation to introduce oneself.
My name is Elizabeth Pearl Gray, daughter of Regina Keith and granddaughter of Cheryl Grayson. My family is the Tarpalechee’s, their church is Big Cussetah, and I am Bird Clan.
My tribal town is Nuyaka, this was only discovered through my own personal research on my genealogy. I do not go to ceremonial grounds and this is not out of distain. It is because the thought of going blind into a world that has a major impact on a group of people’s lives intimidates me.
I am a quarter Muscogee (Creek). The rest of my genetic makeup is a mix of Irish and some other European lineage, a part of me that is a mystery.
I grew up knowing, without a doubt, I was Muscogee (Creek). The biggest complication with being a quarter with no other tribal or ethnic affiliation is that I look ‘white’.
I have light skin, with frizzy hair and average cheekbones. When someone calls me white girl, I get slightly offended because I have never identified with anything but being Native.
The confrontation of my authenticity happened when I ran for Miss Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It was not from a third party criticism, but my own self-judgment.
My family is not what one would consider ‘traditional.’ Though I had always identified as Muscogee (Creek), the realization that there was more to learn about my culture and history sparked my interest.
After being given the title the experience of my reign as Miss MCN helped me develop. Through age and experience, I’ve gathered knowledge about all the different aspects of being Muscogee (Creek). My desire is to know every aspect of my people, culture and history.
At one point, I was deep into my genealogy discovering the trails of my ancestry. All the Dawes Roll research in the world is limited in helping one understand the broad range of culture within a Native American nation.
My tribal identity is with Muscogee (Creek) Nation. I am a quarter-blood, I have never been to a ceremonial ground, I do not go to church, and I do not consider myself traditional.
My desire is to learn how other members of my tribe consider themselves Muscogee (Creek). Is our personal culture defined by our blood quantum or is it the impact that we have on our Nation?
My belief is that there is not one answer and that it varies from person to person. I look forward to exploring the diversity and different backgrounds of the people that make up my tribe. I never want to stop learning about my own people.
I am one part of an estimated 82,000-piece puzzle. There are many others like and different than me. No matter what road we travel, we are Muscogee (Creek).4 comments