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Old man Tuskaya-hiniha was near bout blind before the War, and bout time of the War

he go plumb blind and have to set on the long seat under the brush shelter

of the house all the time. Sometime I lead him around the yard a little,

 

 

Narrative of Lucinda Davis, African Creek

 

Lucinda Davis was interviewed in the summer of 1937. This interview is particularly significant, because it was one that gave an insider's view of the life and culture of the Creek Freedmen. Ms. Davis spoke the Muskogee Creek language fluently, and this is evident in her interview as she explains the meaning of many words in the Muskogee Creek language. In addition to her cultural background, she was also an eyewitness to the famous Honey Spring Battle that occurred near her home in the summer of 1864. It was not until after the War that she was reunited with her parents as she had been the personal slave of the Creek Indian Tuskaya-hiniha. (Her interview was published in an issue of the Frontier Freedman's Journal in 1992.)

What yo gwine do when de meat give out?

What yo gwine do when de meat give out?

Set in de corner wid my lips pooched out!

Lawsy!

What yo gwine do when de meat come in?

What yo gwine do when de meat come in?

Set in de corner wid a greasy chin!

Lawsy!

(portions left out of this narrative for the sake of brevity. This narrative in its entirety can be read in the work, "The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives," published in 1996 by the University of Oklahoma Press.)

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And I think I learn them words long after I been grown 'cause I belong to a full-blood Creek Indian and didn't know nothing but Creek talk till long after the Civil War. My mistress was part white and knowed English talk, but she never did talk it because none of the people talked it. I heard it sometime but it sound like whole lot of wild shoat in the cedar brake scared at something when I do hear it. That was when I was little girl in time of the War I don't know where I been born. Nobody never did tell me. But my mammy and pappy get me after the War and I know then whose child I is. The men at the Creek Agency help them get me, I reckons, maybe.

First thing I remember is when I was a little girl, and I belong to old Tuskaya-hiniha. He was big man in the Upper Creek and we have a pretty good size farm, jest a little bit to the north of the wagon thepot houses on the old road at Honey Springs. That place was about twenty five mile south of Fort Gibson, but I don't know nothing about where the fort is when I was a little girl at that time. I know the Elk River' bout two miles north of where we live, cause I been there many the time.

I don't know if old Master have a white name. Lots the Upper Creek didn't have no white name. Maybe he have another Indian name, too, because Tuskaya-hinina "head man warrior" in Creek but that what everybody call him and that what the family call him too.

My mistress name was Nancy, and she was a Lott before she marry old man Tuskaya-hiniha. Her pappy name was Lott and he was pretty near white. Maybe so all white. They have two chillun, I think but only one stayed on the place. She was name Lumina, and her husband was dead. His name was Walker, and Lumina bring Mr. Walker's little sister, Nancy to live at the place too.

Lumina had a little baby boy and that the reason old Master buy me, to look after the little baby boy. He didn't have no name cause he wasn't big enough when I was with them, but he get a name later on, I reckon. We all call him "Istidji". That man "little man"

When I first remember, before the War, old master had bout as many slave as I got fingers, ir reckon. I can think them off on my fingers like this, but I can't recollect the names.

They call all the slaves "Istilusti." that mean "Black Man."

Old man Tuskaya-hiniha was near bout blind before the War, and bout time of the War he go plumb blind and have to set on the long seat under the brush shelter of the house all the time. Sometime I lead him around the yard a little, but not very much. That about the time all the slaves begin to slip out and run off.

My own pappy was name Stehpany. I think he take that name cause when he little his mammy call him "Istifani". That mean a skeleton, and he was a skinny man. He belong to the Garrison family and I think his father name George, but I don't know. They big people in the Creek, and with the with folks too. My mammy was Serena and she belong to some of the Gouge family. They was big people in the Upper Creek, and one the biggest men of the Gouge was name Hopoethe Yaholo for his Creek Name. He was a big man and went to the North in the War and died up in Kansas, I think. They say when he was a little boy he was called HoHopothili which mean "good little boy" and when he get grown he make big speeches and the stick on the "yoholo". That mean "loud whooper."

That the way the Creek make the name for young boys when I was a little girl. When the boy get old enough the big men in the town give him a name, and sometime later on when he get to going around with the grown men they stick on some more name. If he a good talker they sometime stick on "yoholo" and iffen he make lots of jokes they called him "Hadjo" If he is a good leather day called him "Imala" and if he kind of mean they sometime call him "Fixigo"

My mammy and pappy belong to two master, but they live together on a place. That the way the Creek slaves do lots of times. They work patches and give the masters most all they make, but day have some for themselves. They didn't have to stay on the master's place and work like I hear the slaves of the white people and e Cherokee and Choctaw people say they had to do.

Maybe my pappy and mammy run off an get free, or maybe so they buy themselves out, but anyway they move away some time and my mammy's master sell me to old man Tuskaya-hinihi when I was jest a little gal. All I have to do is stay at the house and mind the baby.

Master had a good log house and a brush shelter out in front like all the houses had. Like a gallery, only it had the dirt for the floor and brush for the roof. They cook everything out in the yard in big pots and the eat out in the yard, too.

That was sure good stuff to eat, and it make you fat too! Roast the green corn on the ears in the ashes, and scrap off some and fry it! Grin the dry corn or pound it up and make ash cake, Then boil the greens--all kinds of greens from out in the woods-and chop up the pork and the theer meat, or the wild turkey meat; maybe all of them, in the big pot at the same time! Fish too, and the big turtle that lay out on the bank!

Day always have a pot full of sofki settin right insithe the house, and anybody eat when they feel hungry. Anybody come on a visit, always give them some of the sofki. If they don't take none the old man get mad, too!

When you make the sofki you pound up the corn real fine, then pour in the water and drain it off to get all the little skin off'n the grain. Then you let the grits soak and then boil it and let it stand. Sometime you put in some pounded hickory nut meats. That make it real good.

I don't know where old Master get the cloth for the clothes, lessn' he buy it. Before I can remember, I think he had some slaves that weave the cloth, but when I was there he get it at the wagon depot at Honey Spring, I think. He go there all the time to sell his corn, and he raise lots of corn, too.

That place was on the big road what we called the road to Texas but it go all the way up to the North, too. The traders stop at Honey Springs and old Master trade corn for what he want. He get some pretty checkedy cloth one time, and everybody get a dress or a shirt made offn it. I have that dress till I get too big for it.

Everybody dress up fine when day is a funeral. They take me along to mind the baby at two -three funeral but I don't know who it is that die. The Creek sure take on when somebody die!

Long in the night you wake up and hear a gun go off, way off yonder somewhere. Then it go again, and then again, jest as fast as they can ram the load in. That mean somebody die. When somebody die the men go out in the yard and let the people know that way. Then they jest go back in the house and let the fire go out, and don't even touch the dead person till somebody get there what has the right to touch the dead.

When somebody had sick they build a fire in the house, even in the summer and don't let it die down till that person get well or die. When they die they lit the fire out.

In the morning everybody dress up fine and go to the house where the dead is and stand around in the yard outside the house and don't go in. Pretty soon along come somebody what got a right to tech and handle the dead and they go in. I don't know what give them the right, but I thinking they has to go through some kind of medicine to get the right, and I know they has to drink the red root and purge good before day tech the body. When they get the body ready they come out and all go to the graveyard, mostly the family graveyard, right on the place or at some of the kinfolk’s.

When they get to the grave somebody shoots a gun at the north, then the west, then the south, and then the east. Iffy they had four guns they used em.

Then the put the body down in the grave and put some extra clothes in with it and some food and cup of coffee, maybe. Then they takes strips of elm bark, and lays over the body till it all covered up, and then throw in the dirt.

When the last dirt throwed in, everybody must clap the hands and smile, but you so hadn't better stop on any of the new dirt around the grave, because it bring sickness right along with you back to your own house. That what they said, anyways.

Jest soon as the grave filled up, they built a little shelter over it with poles like a pig pen and over it over with elm bark to keep the rain from soaking down in the new dirt.

Then everybody go back tot the house and the family go in and scatter some kind of medicine round the place and build a new fire. Sometimes day feed everybody before they all leave for home.

Every time day have a funeral they always a lot of the people say, "Didnt you hear the stikini squealing in the night" I hear that stikini all the night! The "stikini" is the screech owl, and he suppose to tell when anybody going to die right soon. I hear lots of Creek people say day hear the screech owl close to the house, and sure nub somebody in the family die soon.

When the big battle come at our place at Honey Springs they just get through having the green corn bus. The green corn was just ripened enough to eat. It must of been along in July.

That bus was jest a little bus. They want' enough men around to have a good one. But I seen lots of big ones. Ones where day had all the different kinds of "banga". Day call all the dances some kind of banga. The chicken dance is the Tolosabanga and the Istifanibanga is the one where they make lak they is skeletons and raw heads coming to get you.

The Hadjobanga is the crazy dance and that is a funny one. They all dance crazy and make up funny songs to go with the dance. Everybody think up funny songs to sing and everybody whoop and laugh all the time.

But the worse one was the drunk dance. The jet dance ever which a way, the men and the women together, and they wrestle and hug and carry on awful! The good people don't dance that one. Everybody sing about going to somebody else's house and sleeping with them, and shout, "We is all drunk and we don't know what we doing and we ain't doing wrong cause we is all drunk" and things like that. Sometime the bad ones leave and go to the woods, too!

That kind of doing make the good people mad, and sometime they have killings about it. When a man catch one his women--maybe so his wife or one of his daughters been to the woods, he catch her and beat her and cut off the rim of her ears!

People think maybe so that ain't so, but I know it is!

I was combing somebody's hair one time---I ain't going tell who and when I lift it up offn her ears I nearly drop thead! Dar the rims cut right offn em! But she was a married woman, and I think maybe so it happen when she was a young gal and got into it at one of them drunk dances.

Them Upper Creek took the marrying kind of light anyways. Iffy the younguns wanted to be man and wife and the old ones didn't care they jest went ahead and that was about 'cepting some presents maybe. But the Baptists changed that a lot amongst the young ones.

I never forget the day that battle of the Civil War happen at Honey Springs! Old Master jest had the green corn all in, and us had been having a time getting it in, too. Jest the women was all that was left, cause the men slaves had all slipped off and left out. My uncle Abe done got up a bunch and gone to the North with them to fight, but I didn't know then where he went. He was in that same battle, and after the War they called him Abe Colonel. Most all the slaves round that place gone off a long time before that with day masters when they go with Old man Gouge and a man named McDaniel.

We had a big tree in the hard, and a grape vine swing in it for the little baby "Istidji". And I was swinging him real early in the morning before the sun up. The house set in a little patch of woods wed the field in the back but all out on the north side was a little open space, like a kind of prairie. I was swinging the baby, and all at once I seen somebody riding this way cross that prairie---jest coming a-kiting and a laying flat out on his hoses. When he see the house he begin to give the war whoop, "Eya-a-a-a-he-ah!" When he get close to the house he holler to get out the way "case they gwine to be a big fight, and old Master start rapping with his cane and yelling to get some grub and blankets in the wagon right now!

We jest leave everything setting right where it is 'cepting putting out the fire and grabbing all the pots and kettles. Some the Negro women run to get the mules and the wagon and some start getting meat and corn out of the place where we done hid it to keep the scooters from finding it before now. All the time we getting ready to travel, we hear that boy on that horse going on down the bit Texas road hollering, ""Eya-a-a-a-he-ah!"

Then jest as we starting to leave here come something across that little prairie sure nub. We know day is Indians the way they is riding, and the way they is all strung out. They had a flag, and it was all read and had a crisis-cross on it that look like a saw horse. The man carry it and rear back on it when the wind whip it, but it flap all round the horse head and the horse pitch and rear like he know something going to happen sure!

Bout that time it turn kind of dark and begin to rain a little, and we get out to the big road and the rain come down hard. It rain so hard for a little while that we jest have to stop the wagon and set there, and then long come more soldiers than I ever see before. They all white men, I think, and dry have on that brown clothes dyed with walnut and butternut, and old Master say they the Confederate soldiers. They dragging some big guns on wheels and most the men slopping long in the rain on foot.

Then we hear the fighting up to the north long about where the river is and the guns sound like hoses loping cross a plank bridge way off somewhere. The head men start hollering and some the hoses start rearing and the soldiers starting trotting faster up the road. We can't get out on the road so we jest trek off through the prairie and make for a creek that got high banks and a place on it we call Rocky Cliff.

We get in a big cave in that cliff, and spend the whole day and that night in there, an listen to the battle going on.

That place was about half a mile from the wagon depot at Honey Springs, and a little east of it. We can hear the guns going all day, and along in the evening here come the South sithe making for a getaway. They come riding an drumming by where we is, and it don't make no difference how much the head men hollers at em day can't make that bunk slow up and stop.

After while here come the Yankees, right after em and they goes on into Honey Springs and pretty soon we see the blaze where they is burning the wagon depot and the houses.

The next morning we goes back to the house and find the soldiers ain't' hurt nothing much. The hogs is where they is in the pen and the chickens come cackling round too. Them soldiers going so fast they didn't have no time to stop and take nothing, I reckon.

Then long come lots of the Yankee soldiers going back to the North, and they looks pretty wore out but day is laughing and joshing an going on.

Old Master pack up the wagon with everything he can carry then and we strike out down the big road to get out the way of any more war, id day going be any.

That old Texas road jest crowded with wagons! Everybody doing the same thing we is, and the rains done made the road so muddy and the soldiers done tromp up the mud so back that the wagons get stick all the time.

The people all moving along in bunches, and every little while one bunch of wagons come up wit another bunches all stuck in the mud, and they put all the horses and mules on together and pull em out, and then day go on together awhile.

At night day camp, and the women and what few Negroes they is have to get the super in the big pots, and the men to so tired they eats everything up from the women and the Negroes pretty nigh.

After while we come to the Canadian town. That where old man Gouge been and took a whole lot the folks up north with him, and the South soldiers go in there ahead of us, and took up the houses to sleep in.

Day was some of the white soldiers camped there, and they was singing at the camp. I couldn't understand what the sing, and I asked a Creek man what they say and he tell me day sing "I wish I was in Dixie, look away, look away.

I ask him where that is, and he laugh and talk to the soldiers and they all laugh and make me mad.

The next morning, we leave that town and get to the big river. The rain make the river rise, and I never see so much water! Jest look out there and there all that water!!

They got some boats we put the stuff on, and float the wagons and swim the mules and finally get across, but it look like we gwine all drown.

Most the folks say they going to Boggy Depot and round Fort Washita, but old Master strike off by hisself and go way down in the bottom somewhere to live.

I don't know where it was, but the been some kind of fighting all around there cause we camp in houses an the cabins all the time and nobody live in any of em.

Look like the people all get away quick, cause all the stuff was in the houses, but you better scout up around the house before you go up to it. Liable to be some scooters already in it.

Them Indian soldiers jest quit the army and lots went scouting in little bunches and took everything they find. Iffy somebody try to stop them they get killed.

Sometime we find graves in the yard where somebody has been buried fresh and one house had some dead people in it when Old Mistress poke her head in it. We get away from there and don't mistake!

By and by we find a little cabin and stop and stay all the time. I was the only slave by that time. All the others done slip out and run off. We stay there two year I reckon, cause we make two little crop of corn. For meat a man name Mr. Walker with us jest went out in the woods and shoot the wild hogs. The woods was full of them wild hogs. The woods was full of them wild hogs, and lots of fish in the holes war he could sicken em with buck roots and catch em with his hands all we wanted.

I don't know when the War quit off, and when I get free, but I stayed with old man Tuskaya-hiniha long time after I was free, I reckon. I was jest a little girl, and he didn't know where to send me to, anyways.

One day three men ride up and talk to the old man awhile in English talk,. Then he called me and tell me to go with them to find my own family. He jest laugh and slap my behind and set me up on the hoses in front of one the men add they take me off and leave my good checkedy dress at the house!

Before Long ewe get to that Canadian river, again, and the men tie me on the hoses so I can't fall off Dar was all that water, and they ain't no boat, and the ain't no bridge, and we jest swim the horses. I knowed sure I was going to be gone that time, but we get across.

When we come to the Creek Agency there is my pappy and y mammy to claim me and I live with them in the Verdigris bottom above Fort Gibson till I was grown and they is both thead. Then I marries Antherson Davis at Gibson Station, and we get our allotments on the Verdigris east of Tulsa---kind of south too, close to the Broken Arrow town.

I knowed old man Jim McHenry at that Broken Arrow Town. He done some preaching and was a good old man, I think.

I knowed when they started that Wealaka school across the river from the Broken Arrow town. They name it for the Wilaka town, but that town was way down in the Upper Creek country close to what lived when I was a girl.

I had lots of children, but only two is alive now. My boy Antherson got in a mess and went to that McAlester prison, but he got to be a trusty and they let him marry a good woman that got lost of property there, and they living all right now.

When my old man die I come to live here with Josephine, but I'se blind and can't see nothing and all the noises pesters me a lot in the town. And the children is all so ill mannered, too. They jest holler at you all the time. They don't mine you either!

When I could see and had my own younguns I could jest set in the corner and tell them what to do, and iffen they didn't do it right I could whack em on the head, cause day was raised the old Creek way, and they know the old folks know the best!

See laso CreekFreedmen

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The White Masters of the World

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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