Muscogee (Creek) stomp dances
As second chief of a Muscogee (Creek) ceremonial grounds David Proctor had a lot of responsibilities, but the most important was to learn.
He helped prepare for the ground’s regular stomp dances, receiving directions from his uncle, the ground’s Chief. “He would tell me things as he did them and I would think, why are you telling me this? That’s an older man’s job.”
When his uncle died suddenly Proctor was asked to become the ground’s next Chief. At first he wasn’t sure if he could, there was so much he didn’t know. “But when I started,” he said, “Everything came back. I guess he taught me without me realizing I had learnt.”
Muscogee (Creek) ceremonial grounds
Creek ceremonial grounds were once towns. The towns have gone, but their traditional hierarchies remain. The ground’s Chief, Second Chief, Medicine Man and warriors all work together to keep their tribal rituals alive.
“My job is to conduct these ceremonies and make sure they are done traditionally,” Proctor said, “Everything inside the square has a meaning which has been passed on.”
Preserving the traditional Muscogee (Creek) traditions
In this way Creeks have retained knowledge of their medicine through centuries of turmoil, a knowledge lost to many other tribes.
The grounds have had electricity and water installed but Proctor is determined not to let the modern world encroach on their rituals. “I tell people that as long as we don’t try to change anything for convenience, we’re going to be here forever.”
Ceremonial leaders have to inhabit three different worlds: the traditional Creek world, as practitioners and guardians of millennia old rituals; the non-traditional Creek world, where traditions can are often supplanted by Western lifestyles; and the non-Creek world, where we all live and work.
For Proctor the biggest danger isn’t the lack of interest amongst the young, there are plenty of children involved at his ground, his real concern is knowledge being lost as older Creeks pass away.
“We’ve learnt enough where we’re mimicking what we’ve seen without having knowledge of the real reason why we’re doing it,” he said. Yet this doesn’t diminish the effect of their rituals. “I can tell you first hand that what we do out there is powerful,” Proctor said, “It’s kind of scary sometimes.”
The Green Corn Ceremony
The biggest night of the traditional Creek year is the Green Corn Ceremony which takes place on a ceremonial square ground on the 2nd weekend of July, and shows thanks for the ripening of new corn.
Fire is central to the ceremony. Proctor said that fire is their altar; Creeks send messages in the smoke which rise to God in heaven.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival Stomp Dance
Around 1000 people take part in the stomp dance which opens the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival. “It’s a way of getting traditional people together and giving them a night of being honored for keeping the traditions alive,” Proctor said.
The festival stomp dance is considered more of a social than a religious event and non-Indians are welcome to watch and participate.
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