“You come with a clean heart, a clean spirit, you have to let go of bitterness.”—Duck Creek Ceremonial Ground member
MCN visits Smithsonian Institute
WASHINGTON D.C.—Members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation traveled to Washington D.C. for the Etvlwv Festival Nov. 15, hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Citizens from all walks of life attended the three-day long event, which showcased various aspects of Mvskoke culture.
The MCN Honor Guard, Muscogee (Creek) artists and several departments were among the tribal members on hand each day to answer questions and interact with the public.
Many groups were featured during the event. Two groups that attracted large amounts of spectators each day were the stompdancers, made up of various ceremonial ground members, and the traditional Creek hymn singers.
Both groups held two demonstrations daily with a two-hour break between each. The lulls between the events were filled with conversations between museum guests and tribal members.
During the pauses, the acoustics of the museum interior magnified the many discussions taking place. The conversations dispelled some common misconceptions about Native people.
“It’s important to let people know that we are still here, and we don’t live in teepees and run around in buckskin. I think people just watch too much TV and they think that’s what we are,” vendor Danny Beaver said.
Sarah Walker, an anthropology student at George Washington University said of her day spent at the museum, “I don’t think enough people know about Native American culture and it is important to know how this country was made and some of the injustices that came from its formation.”
NMAI officially opened in 2004, the result of a 15 year-long initiative spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye of Hawaii. It features exhibits of tribes from across North America including the First Nations of Canada. The design of the building was meant to resemble stone formations made by wind and water over time.
Its most recent addition is its Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and the American Indian Nations exhibit. The exhibit features eight treaties, on loan from the National Archives, that best represent the nearly 400 treaties made between the U.S. and the various tribes.
The first treaty visitors encounter is the Muscogee Treaty of 1790, also known as the Treaty of New York. It was the first treaty to be made outside of Indian-held land with a Creek delegation traveling to Washington D.C. to negotiate the terms.
A walk through the museum is to take a walk through the history of the MCN. The different tribal customs, art and beliefs on display mirror those of the Muscogee people. As our best characteristics are strikingly similar, the wrongs endured by all tribes are virtually identical.
One quality expressed by some tribal members in attendance was summed up by a member of the Duck Creek Ceremonial Ground when he said, “You come with a clean heart, a clean spirit, you have to let go of bitterness.”
This was on display walking through the crowds seeing the MCN principal chief, second chief, Council representatives, ceremonial ground and church members all in fellowship with people, both young and old, from around the globe.
For some, the festival did more than showcase Mvskoke traditions and customs. It shouts the tribe’s heritage voiced over and over by every Creek in attendance, “We are still here.”
For many of the museum visitors, exposure to Native Americans has been limited, and the need and want to learn about Native people was unmistakable.
Thanks to NMAI’s Etvlwv Festival, MCN was able to answer that call.