OKMULGEE, Okla.- The Sons of Mvskoke hosted their eighth annual Mvskoke Men’s Summit at the Okmulgee Indian Community Center on Dec. 1. The keynote speaker was Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill and a boarding school survivor who spoke about his experience growing up. This event provided breakfast, lunch and door prizes.
College of the Muscogee Nation (CMN) President and Founder of the Sons of Mvskoke, Dr. Monte Randall (Mvskoke), along with the co-founder of the Sons of Mvskoke, Julian Watson spoke about the importance of the event.
This year’s summit was free to attend. It received help from Belvin Baptist Church who provided breakfast for the summit, and Jo Jo’s Q, who provided lunch. The afternoon featured a talking circle led by Watson.
In the past the group has received gifts like the big drum used for this year’s summit.
“I know that it’s not Mvskoke but we have a lot of people that know different ways. We are not saying this way or that way, it’s however you feel led to talk to your Creator and talk to yourself. While we focus on Mvskoke and mostly Native American culture we understand we have a lot of brothers who join us from different cultures,” Randall said.
The purpose of this year’s men’s summit is “healing Indian Boarding School trauma through Mvskoke cultural and language revitalization”.
Dr. Randall brought in CMN instructor Eugene Herrod to share his personal experience from the boarding school he attended. According to Randall, Herrod had relocated to California, but now currently lives within the Muscogee Reservation.
Although Herrod did experience trauma from boarding school, he did have some good memories from his time there, specifically how he coped with it.
“He shared a few things with me and some funny stories. I can’t even pretend to give any examples from my life because I didn’t experience that but when you’re in a situation as Native people we like to laugh and so he shared a lot of stories of how they coped. He’ll talk about some of these funny experiences and how they kind of came together,” Randall said.
Watson’s father went to Chilocco Boarding School when he was younger. His father is currently 91 years old. Watson’s mother is from Weleetka area, she attended school up to sixth grade but did not get to finish her education.
Watson mentioned how he is trying to stay rooted in his culture as much as possible. “For a lot of us in my age and under were the result of that, we don’t speak our language, why? Because of the boarding schools and some of us don’t know how to be parents, why? Because our parents weren’t parents, why? Because of the boarding schools,” Watson said.
When the men’s summit had been hosted in the past, veterans had shared what they hoped to get out of time spent together. “I’ve heard from the veterans say, ‘hey we got to get our smile back, we got to learn to re-love ourselves, we got to learn to be community people again because those things were taken from our parents. Let’s have a good time giving it back and getting our land back,’” Watson said.
Ultimately, part of the goal of the summit is to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma in order to provide a brighter future.
“Vnokecv (love on another) for us to live, for our children and our ones yet to come. That’s what the elders told us to do and the reason why to do them so the next generation could feel some kind of love, feel some kind of acceptance because they didn’t get it in the boarding schools,” Watson said.
Sons of Mvskoke Start Up
Sons of Mvskoke is a male youth mentor non-profit organization that operates within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) with five board members. The organization received appropriation funds from the MCN National Council in 2017. According to Dr. Randall, throughout the years they have received grants from other organizations.
The Sons of Mvskoke began when the Warriors Honor Woman group was sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Program.
Watson and Randall were both on the group’s committee but wanted to transition out of the domestic violence prevention program in order to mentor others. During that time, they were in the works of spreading awareness on Indian Boarding School abuse that happened in schools around the Mvskoke reservation That is when the Men’s Summit began. Former MCN Principal Chief James Floyd and his administration officially organized it in 2016.
Principal Chief Floyd invited Watson and Randall to serve on the planning committee for the first Men’s Summit in 2016. That is when the Sons of Mvskoke was formed. The event has been hosted by the group ever since.
“They wanted to really support the men, they wanted to provide this emotional support and the behavioral health support. They really wanted to strengthen the men as we go into the holiday season with all the stress and things that have taken place on families in general,” Randall said.
When the men were under the Warrior Honor Women group they held a sweat lodge. During that time Watson and Randall both participated in the activity. Watson took time to sit and pray. He saw men praying, and suffering with their ancestors in spirit. Watson remarked that people who view men as traditionally masculine were crying in prayer.
During Dr. Randall’s time as the President of the College of Muscogee Nation he has imbued some of these values in the Sons of Mvskoke male youth. One of those values includes being a responsible citizen of your community.
Watson believes education is important to men’s health issues that group members currently face today. “I root it back to that, education is the need and what was stolen. I get a little bit emotional because it’s all about education, it’s about teaching,” Watson said.
Randall agreed that education is important. Additionally, other factors like promoting self-esteem are also important.
Self esteem issues involve behavioral, problem solving or avoiding problems. Randall admits he is not a counselor, but is aware of these issues from his doctoral research on American Indian life skills curriculum development.