TULSA, Oklahoma – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation selected five honorees this year for the Living Legends Class of 2022 at River Spirit Casino and Resort June 23. The five MCN citizens selected were Mose A. (Pete) Beaver, John Brown, Michael D. Coon, Edward F. Mouss and Dana Tiger.
The ceremony was led by Press Secretary of the Nation, Jason Salsman. Principal Chief David Hill gave opening remarks, and Second Chief Del Beaver gave the invocation. Second Chief Beaver’s daughter, Olivia, signed the Lord’s Prayer. The MCN Honor Guard presented the Country, State, and Tribal colors for the opening salute.
“There are not only examples of these folks being great family members to their families and tribal citizens to their nation but also just leaving a mark on this world,” Salsman said. “That’s why we’re so excited about days like this.”
It was attended by several members of the National Council and past Living Legends. This year’s honorees were presented with Pendleton blankets and MCN Seal Plate Awards.
The first honoree to be recognized was Mose Beaver. He spent his career in Indian Education working as a superintendent. He also served on the MCN National Council for 14 years.
One of Mose Beaver’s most notable achievements was co-authoring a statement plan called “Native Americans: Leaders in the 21st Century”. The Oklahoma State Board of Education would later approve the plan to certify Native American languages as course credits in Oklahoma Public Schools.
Although Mose Beaver was unable to attend the ceremony, his family accepted his award in his honor. His family remarked that he wanted to thank everyone for their support and pass along his congratulations to the other recipients.
John Brown was honored for his contributions to preserving MCN culture. A talented craftsman, he is a bow, canoe, flint napper, blow gun, and atlatls maker. He is the leader of the Muskogee Bow Shoot Society and an active member of the Duck Creek Ceremonial Grounds. Brown announced he was selected as a recipient of the 2022 AARP Native American Elder Award.
During his speech, Brown highlighted the importance of keeping Muskogean traditions alive, big or small. According to Brown, that can range from hunting, providing food, survival, or understanding how to use the smallest resource.
“Being able to keep some of the stuff that our people used to use hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” Brown said. “A flower, something as simple as a thistle… that little flower represents so much more in the Muskogean.”
Brown said we still have a lot of work to do. It’s up to all of us to make sure we pass down the traditions and culture of the Muscogee People.
“In the meantime I am going to teach every kid I can find something about our culture,” Brown said. “With the help of our administration, help of our people, and awards like this it will be done. I want to thank you all, everybody.”
Michael D. Coon was honored for his military service and contributions to Indigenous Veterans. Coon comes from a military family. His father, Philip, served in World War II. His son, Michael served in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Coon is a Vietnam Veteran and has worked for the MCN.
“It was hard shoes to fill, my mother being an ambassador, my father being a Bataan Death March Survivor, a well-known World War II Veteran,” Coon said. “I used them as mentors for things I wanted to accomplish in my life.”
Coon’s most notable contribution to the MCN is bringing the National War at Home Memorial to the Muscogee Reservation in Broken Arrow. Unveiled to the public within the past month, the memorial is the first of its kind, honoring veterans who committed suicide due to mental illness.
“I know they had memorials for the fallen, but I had never heard of one for losing the war at home.” Coon said.
The memorial was funded by Mission 22, the City of Broken Arrow, and the MCN. Coon has worked closely to honor the twenty veterans featured on the memorial, including his son. Due to his contributions to Mission 22 and Gold Star Families, Coon was selected as a guardian of the memorial.
Mouss was next on the agenda and was honored for his contributions to Native Americans across the United States. He’s worked in several positions as an engineer, deputy associate director, information resource management, and tribal co-chair. He served in the MCN, Indian Health Service, Tribal/Federal Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, and the U.S. Department of Interior. His wife accompanied him as he gave his acceptance speech.
“I just want to say the honorees here are a very impressive group who have a lot of history and a lot of experience, ” Mouss said. “A lot of Creeks working in different parts of the Reservation”
Mouss shared stories about his time working on Native American reservations in Montana. He remarked on one thing all Native Americans have in common that has kept them resilient.
“I’ve got so many stories about Indian people, what they’re like, and we all have the same humor,” Mouss said. “You might have the most serious thing in the world out there but that Indian humor keeps people going”
Tiger rounded out the ceremony. She was recognized for her contributions as an artist. Tiger uses her art to empower Indigenous people, particularly women. She has used her talents to advocate for the AIDS Coalition for Indian Outreach, the American Cancer Society, the National Organization for Women, and the Legacy Cultural Learning Community.
Tiger’s work has garnished many awards, including Youngest Master Artist by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum, first place in the Watercolor Division at the 1998 Tulsa Indian Art Festival, and MCN Artist of the Year. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001.
“Thank you for embracing me and my family, my dad would be so proud, my mom would be so proud,” Tiger said. “I’m 60 and this is the best year of my life.”
Tiger gave a rousing and emotional speech, sharing her experience of coming back from visiting the Muscogee Homelands in Oxford, Alabama.
“This is the center of the universe,” Tiger said. “This is our place, this is our land, we must take it, love it, treat it with respect, grow our corn, do our ceremonies and pray like heck for each other.”
The Living Legends Ceremony was part of the 2022 Muscogee Festival. This year was notable because it was the first time since 2019 the ceremony has been held in person.