Byline: Braden Harper/Reporter
TVLSE, Oklahoma – The Council Oak Tree in Council Oak Park holds a special significance to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It marks where the tribe met at the end of the Trail of Tears after Removal in the 1800s. The tree was the site of the Locvpoka (Locapoga) Tribal Town, where leaders placed coals and ash from the original fires of their homelands. The sacred tree still stands today. MCN once again gathered at this site for the 2022 Council Oak Tree Ceremony on Nov. 5.
MCN Dignitaries and Ceremonial Ground Leaders attended the event. MCN National Council Representative Galen Cloud presided over the event as the master of ceremonies. This year marked Rep. Cloud’s first time hosting. He is a member of the Nuyaka Ceremonial Ground.
“Standing there at that podium talking, looking out, and seeing all the people present, it was just a remarkable feeling,” Rep Cloud said.
Speakers at the event agreed that the ceremony was a time to reflect on where and how the tribe came to Oklahoma. In particular, it was the first settlement in present-day Tulsa.
“It’s always very important to remember the roots that started here,” MCN Principal Chief Hill said.
MCN Historic and Cultural Preservation Archaeological Technician Turner Hunt led in recognizing the veterans present at the ceremony. He also shared the history of the Council Oak Tree.
“It was in a location that was a little bit further away from downtown (Tulsa),” Hunt said. “It wasn’t until Riverside started to develop when preservation became a concern.”
It was the first time MCN Cultural Historical and Preservation organized the ceremony. The event date varies yearly but is generally hosted during the same season so all ceremonial ground members can participate.
This year’s ceremony looked a little different compared to previous years. According to Hunt, his department wanted to focus on the ceremonial grounds that are still active.
“This is a gathering to honor the traditional ceremonial folks that are keeping our culture alive,” Hunt said.
The City of Tulsa currently maintains the site within the Tulsa Parks Department.
A theme that echoed throughout the ceremony was keeping the fires going. This theme has a deep meaning within Mvskoke Culture in relation to preserving the traditional ways.
“Keeping the fires going means a lot to our ceremonial grounds because that is the main thing that we like,” Rep. Cloud said. “It’s our tradition, our culture, our ways, our language, everything that was taught to us by our elders.”
The eldest ceremonial grounds leader, Mekko George Thompson, was honored by the nation with a Pendleton Blanket for his leadership and continued efforts to keep the traditional ways alive.
Like other major MCN Events like the festival, the Council Oak Tree Ceremony was dearly missed.
“The language that was spoken, the folks who showed up, the fun and enjoyment that people had at the dinner afterward, I thought it was an amazing event,” Hunt said.
“It’s just good to see your people, to see the Muscogee People, and to come together like that. I think it was a time for healing. I think it was a time for enjoying each other’s company,” Rep. Cloud said.
If you want to learn more about the history of Council Oak Park, you can find further information by visiting the MCN website.