Byline: Braden Harper/Reporter
TVLSE, Oklahoma – Learn it, or lose it. That’s the slogan on the seal of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Mvskoke Language Preservation Program Logo. The Tribe takes that slogan to heart through various programs, events and initiatives to pass down the language and keep it alive.
One of the most recent efforts to invigorate the language was the inaugural Mvskoke Language Symposium (Mvskoke Opunvkv Kerretv Vtelokv). The all-day event was held at River Spirit Casino and Resort July 28.
While the symposium focused on teaching the Mvskoke Language, it also shared Mvskoke history, culture, and religion. These aspects have molded the Tribe into what it is today.
The event was designed to be easily accessible to those interested in learning the language. It was live streamed through the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Facebook page. It utilized Quick Response (QR) Codes that allowed participants to register online through their phones. This method was also used to access hymnal programs that allowed participants to sing along with featured Mvskoke hymnal singers.
CMN President Monte Randall gave opening remarks. Koko Lowe of language and preservation led the crowd in a traditional Mvskoke Hymn. An invocation was given in Mvskoke and English.
The symposium’s itinerary was structured where groups were divided into breakout sessions to learn conversational phrases and words from native Mvskoke Speakers.
Groups also had the opportunity to listen and join in singing traditional Mvskoke Hymns. Featured hymns included translated protestant ones like “This May be the Last Time,” “Amazing Grace,” and traditional Mvskoke Burial Songs.
In the afternoon, an advanced language class, master-apprentice, was offered along with a video game demo. The event took time to receive feedback from the community and was wrapped with closing remarks and a benediction.
The language symposium saw many prominent people from across the nation, including Principal Chief David Hill, Representatives of the National Council, and Mvskoke Royalty. It also saw many families with adults and elders. Jay Fife was the keynote speaker.
“When Monte first told me about having the symposium, like I told the cabinet, just put them Nikes on and just do it,” Chief Hill said. “Just looking out at the crowd, you point out a lot of Mahe’s that helped, and I appreciate each one.”
MCN National Council Speaker William Lowe was curious about the prospect of a language symposium; however, it did not take long for him and the National Council to approve legislation to make the symposium happen.
“When I first saw the legislation for the symposium come across my desk, I just really wondered what it was about,” Lowe said. “We went through the committee and learned more about it, and Dr. Randall was able to share that with us. I can see that it’s an amazing thing.”
A recent Yale Graduate, Fife is a Mvskoke speaker who started learning the language at 12. His passion for the language would begin his research into the roots and evolution of the Mvskoke Language and Culture.
“Our language really needs people to help out,” Fife said. “We can all do our part to save the language.”
Fife gave a detailed presentation on the language titled “Christianity is an Irregular Verb.” The presentation detailed the introduction of Protestantism in the Muscogee tribe and how it was used to assimilate the Muscogee people into the colonist’s culture. This would lead to the two main ways of spiritual practice in the Tribe, Protestantism and the old ways.
Over time, the Mvskoke language was molded by outside influences that translated and transcribed it. Traumatic historical events like the Great Removal that displaced the Muscogee People from their homelands significantly influenced expanding linguistic concepts, according to Fife.
“The Mvskoke language serves as a foundation of the Mvskoke religion. Without the Mvskoke language, Mvskoke religion will cease to exist,” a presentation slide read.
It stressed the importance of how a tribe’s cultural survival is directly correlated to the survival of the language and language speakers.
Fife gave an unapologetic message and a clear call to action. “We can’t say preserve because If we preserve it, it’s already gone. Our culture is still here. We have to revitalize it. We must encourage others to partake in the ceremonies and be who they are, Mvskoloke.” Fife said.
The symposium’s ultimate purpose was to usher the Mvskoke Culture forward through teaching, listening, and to bring the community together. If you have an interest in learning more about Muscogee language, browse through Mvskoke Media’s lesson playlist. A catalog of over 50 videos is available along with links to learning materials.