By Angel Ellis, Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma– Camela Owens is a Citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and an elder in the community. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic she has focused on settling into her new home and perfecting her arts and crafts.
Owens was starting from scratch when she moved back to Oklahoma from the west coast three years ago. When she first returned, she was living on family allotment land in a cabin.
“I was living in this cabin with no water and no electricity,” Owens said. “I was camping out but it got too cold.”
She spent much of her time throughout the COVID-19 pandemic settling into her home. Owens has also found the services she needs to fill in the gaps in Okmulgee.
“I got some help and I got moved to Okmulgee,” Owens said. “I started out with a dumpy little house, then an apartment, now I just moved in here [MCN Subsidized housing] when they started shutting everything down.”
She said she feels like focusing on getting her home set up helped her stay busy through the early uncertainty with COVID-19.
“I’m a bit a loner so less socializing doesn’t bother me but I found the anxiety and uncertainty was hard,” Owens said. “I’ve just been settling in, starting my raised bed garden that I created with potting soil and hay bale mix.”
“All of my supplies, I had dropped here on the driveway and that helped me.”
Owens feels like some of her habits prepared her for the social distancing. She has for several years taken advantage of deliveries for household items.
She is about to turn 65 in a few months and navigates Amazon and her support services.
“I’ve been getting things delivered by Amazon pretty solidly for several years now,” Owens said. “I think I’ve only had to even go into Wal-Mart twice.”
But when she first started hearing about COVID-19 she was worried.
“My first thought was this is going to world wide impact for people,” Owens said. “My grandmother told me what it was like to live through difficult times.”
“I’m three generations from the people being dumped here in Oklahoma and were told ‘there ya go,’ and so I had some mental preparation,” Owens said.
When it comes to the stores running out of things or markets like beef having trouble, she feels prepared.
“My grandpa was a gardener handed down those skills,” Owens said. “It does not bother me to get by with less meat and such.”
She said she is not completely isolated because she has a roommate whom she has staying in her spare room. The roommate relies on tribal transit for work and has been stuck home as well. Owens has found she is missing the alone time.
“It’s actually about my limit, it is too much togetherness for me,” Owens said.
Owens supplements her income as Native American Crafter. She makes baskets and has learned to make beaded collars. Getting supplies is not a challenge during social distancing.
“I can call up and tell them the numbers of the supplies I need and they can charge me.” Owens said. “The items arrive usually the next day by mail.”
“But I don’t know if Creek Festival is going to happen now, and that is the big thing is that the world as we knew it ceased to exist over night…just stopped and it was a shock.”
She said she enjoys her alone time. It gives her the time she needs to work on her crafts. Owens use to be more plugged in socially, but she had already tapered some of that off before COVID-19.
“I use to run two different auction sites, then Facebook took over my life,” Owens said. “It was fun to organize but it eats up all your time.”
“Once I stopped doing that, I was able to really concentrate on my baskets and learning the beading.”
She enjoys having that time freed up for her work but doesn’t like the difficulty that comes with COVID-19 creating the need to cancel festivals that she relied on. Owens was able to take advantage of a class held by violence prevention.
Many of her family are on the west coast where she lived for a long time. One of her sons is in Oklahoma and they keep contact pretty regularly.
“I have a granddaughter in L.A. and that worries me sometimes,” Owens said. “I’m glad that Chief Hill is taking time and going gentle with re-opening.”
Owens said she relies on the gardening and crafting to help her cope with anxiety.
“That anxiety hit me in the beginning,” Owens said. “To watch this all unfold is like history repeating itself, and you wonder where this fear comes from.”
“But it’s just your bodies reaction to having that flight or fight response and you have to just breath.”
She said her roommate copes by taking long walks. Those walks give her the chance to be with her own thoughts.
“I got healthy boundaries,” Owens said. “It’s taken a long time but I know those boundaries now and can face them.”
“Age is not for sissies.”
Owens said that she looks forward to things getting back to normal. One of the things she wants to be involved in is food sovereignty with the tribe.
“I have tomatoes growing and zucchini blossoms already,” Owens said. “I’d like to look into more food sovereignty, that to me is interesting.”