Byline: Kaylea Berry/Reporter
WETUMKA, Oklahoma -The Wetumka Indian Community Center held a Mvskoke Spelling Bee for the first time on Sept. 17. Wetumka Indian Community Center Assistant Secretary and Treasurer and Wetumka Sucker Day Committee member Timothy Yahola, who goes by his middle name Eric, invited the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Language Preservation and Revitalization Program to put on the Spelling Bee.
Yahola reached out to the Language Preservation and Revitalization Program because he wanted to include an event in the annual Sucker Day celebration involving Native American culture.
“Being a part of the Wetumka Indian Community, I wanted to get more Creek or Native American activities and the Indian community more involved in the celebration to create unity and have something for everyone,” Yahola said.
Wetumka Indian Community member Phyllis Noon participated in the first Mvskoke Spelling Bee at the Wetumka Indian Community Center.
“It’s new to me, and I think it’s going to be educational for those that want to learn our language,” said Noon. “I’m going to be studying on this [Mvskoke word list] because it’s good for the people; that way, they can pronounce the word right.”
“I like it, it’s my first time here, and I’ll be coming back. ”
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Language Preservation and Revitalization Program Manager Judy Montiel is pleased with the new interest in the program. She said the program had conducted the Mvskoke Spelling Bee for four consecutive years. Excluding the pandemic, the event was hosted at the Eufaula Canadian Tribal Town, and Wetumka is the second location to hold the event.
“I think the more we do these, the more the word gets out,” Montiel said. “And we’re thankful that Wetumka reached out.”
The MCN Language Preservation and Revitalization Program has specific funds from its budget to hold events such as the spelling bees. Other events the department offers include language fellowship, hymn singing, Zoom classes, and in-person classes at the community’s request.
The department received a grant of $82,609 in 2021 to increase the number of citizens listening and becoming familiar with the language. There are more specifics about the funding in a previous article on mvskokemedia.com.
“We have a grant through the ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] that we were awarded for a three-year grant to host storytelling events in the language,” said Montiel. “This next year, we will target eight different communities to host those language-speaking events.”
“We must have at least three fluent speakers to share a story in the language and translate for this next fiscal year.”
Yahola talked about his participation in classes offered by the Language program.
“I’ve taken a few beginner language classes and learned some of the basics,” said Yahola. “I did have a Creek Mvskoke song class that I was a part of a couple of years ago.”
“And that’s where I learned a little bit about pronunciation also.”
Before the spelling bee, Montiel said that if you know the “a,” “b,” “i” and “u” sound, then you can figure out how to spell the words.
Yahola learned those sounds and now thinks Mvskoke is more straightforward than English.
“English has words with the same sound but spelled differently, like they’re, there, and their,” said Yahola. “That’s a little more confusing than Mvskoke because it’s more consistent and less tricky.”
“There may be a couple of the double letters like “ff,” but other than that, when you know what makes each sound, I feel like I could spell just about anything if I hear it correctly.”
Those interested in hosting a Mvskoke Spelling Bee or participating in a storytelling event are encouraged to reach out to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Language Preservation and Revitalization Program at 918-732-7649. Those interested in joining the Wetumka Indian Community or staying up to date on current community events are encouraged to attend the monthly meetings on the second Thursday at 7:00 p.m.