What is your clan?

What is your clan?
(Mvskoke Creative) Some of the Muscogee (Creek) clans include Wind, Bird, Deer and Tiger.

Liz Gray/Reporter

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Your clan is your kin, your people. The Mvskoke people are made up of several pieces. Tribal towns, clans, and families connect us and give us commonality. Familiar names are a piece of heritage. Like Chebon Harjo essentially being the Mvskoke John Smith. Maybe John Smith is a bad example of a common English name.

Apparently, my clan exists because the first animal my ancestors saw was a bird. I wonder exactly what kind of bird it seems pretty vague. Hopefully it was the Eagle that slam-dunked the Earth into existence. That is a spirit tale I read in ‘Creek Seminole Spirit Tales’ by Jack Gregory and Rennard Strickland. There is one with a talking turtle and not the creepy one like in ‘The Neverending Story.’

‘How the clans came to be,’ is one of those stories. Before the first animal was seen, it started out with a cedar tree. An Indian emerged from the roots. His keen eyes and swift movements reflected the Panther and so came to be the first clan. More Indians sprouted from the roots and here we are.

Now I have always known I belong to the Bird Clan and once I did my research, it more or less made sense. Not every citizen has the same story.

What does one do to find out their clan if they don’t know?

There is a place someone can start to find out their clan, but it is not a guarantee.

The MCN Citizenship Office can provide a list of a citizen’s lineal ancestry going back to the original enrollees of the Dawes Rolls.

The Dawes census cards sometimes list tribal towns and there are clans associated with those towns.

A Muscogee (Creek) will belong to the clan on their mother’s side. The word pressed with a permanent stamp in my mind: matrilineal.

Fortunately, the census card for my tribal town went all the way back to my three times great-grandmother: Parsinder West nee Fixico of Nuyaka tribal town.

The Citizenship Office can only tell a clan if it is on the citizenship application, mine was not. Nuyaka is associated with Bird Clan so I’m taking my mother’s word for it.

If the mother is not Creek and a citizen’s lineage comes from the father, it does not mean they do not have a clan.

College of the Muscogee Nation instructor Norma Marshall helps her students with researching and learning about their heritage including tribal towns and clans. She explained the details.

Marshall told me when a person is Muscogee (Creek) only from their father’s side, they state they are the son or daughter of his clan. If their father is Muscogee (Creek) through his father, then they become the grandson or granddaughter of a clan.

Research can be mind-numbing, but it’s worth it. I got lost in a day of microfilm and indexes and came out with a better understanding of who I come from.

But to get the true Muscogee (Creek) heritage experience, talk with family, take time to sit around and piece together the past.

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3 Comments

  • m
    July 19, 2019, 3:42 pm

    Do you know if there are symbols that were used to represent the clans?

    REPLY
  • Benjamin Reid
    August 12, 2019, 10:51 am

    I find this so interesting. I would love to know more about my clan. Thanks

    REPLY
    • Jeannette DePriest @Benjamin Reid
      August 14, 2019, 9:14 am

      All of my family on the DePriest side have passed on. But many years ago, my Dad attended a DePriest family reunion of all DePriest. This was in Oklahoma. My grandmother’s maiden name was Murray. I would love this information. I’ve found them (the DePriest side? Dawes Rolls. My grandfather was the last listed on there. In 1972, my Dad had all of of us added to the Creek Rolls. All of his great Aunts and Uncles were listed there. I lost all the info when I moved to Hawaii. I even had handwritten notes and stories. Devastated I lost them but have feeling my ex-brother stole everything. When I get home, I have a photo of my great (-great) grandparents. She is so beautiful! I’ll snap and post so Cheryl Blankenship can see as well! I live on the Big Island of Hawaii, near the protesters at Mauna Kea regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope. I should sympathize with them, I know, but my husband just retired Keck Observatory after 10 yrs and we have many friends who still work up there. The protesters are mostly young people, I understand their anger and empathize, but on the reverse, their grandparents approved the 13 other telescopes up there. It’s a huge economic boon for the Island. 10 yrs to build such a massive observatory with many many high paying jobs. Water used will not be from the Mauna and they have free access to their sacred grounds any time. I empathize much more with Standing Rock. So I was wondering. The Hawaiians are full of hate for the haoles as they call anyone who looks white. Is our Tribe the same way? We really got screwed when we were found, 90-95% eradicated, thrown into crappy reservations, killed the buffalo, etc. I have never been prejudiced because it was so long ago and I strongly believe in forgiveness. Are our people still hateful towards the rest of the country? I know what it’s like to be at that end of racism. I’d just like to know…mahalo

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