Muscogee Creek Nation Honors Ancestors on Bicentennial of Historic Battle

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Underneath a cloudless azure sky, the solemn harmonies of commemorative songs and soulful prayers echoed through an open, grassy stretch of land in Alexander City, Alabama. This unassuming site bore silent witness to the bloodbath that transpired centuries ago, where more than 800 Muscogee men, women, and children made their final stand against the encroaching forces of the United States.

The folks who returned to this hallowed ground over the weekend represented the enduring spirit of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Their purpose? To honor their ancestors on the 210th anniversary of the gruesome Battle of Horseshoe Bend, a conflict that stands as the most deadly confrontation involving Native Americans and U.S forces. His face solemn and voice laced with reverence, David Hill, the principal chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation, made it clear that this was not a celebration but a commemoration.

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Over a thousand Muscogee warriors, women, and children from six tribal towns sought sanctuary at the site, christened after the dramatic curve of the nearby Tallapoosa River. It was on this land that they braced themselves for a desperate fight on March 27, 1814. Their opponents: a formidable force of 3,000 sent by the soon-to-be US President Andrew Jackson.

“Repeatedly remember, they were determined to fight to the last,” Hill said, speaking with an intensity which mirrored the struggle of his ancestors, “These brave warriors and their families vowed to protect their freedom, their home, and each other.”

In a moment resonating with symbolism, the tribe’s leaders laid a wreath composed of red flowers on the site of the historic battlefield. The crimson blooms served as a poignant nod to their ancestors, known as the Red Sticks, decorated with six eagle feathers, each representing a tribal town that had taken refuge there.

Regrettably, no treaty could save the Muscogee from eventual forced expulsion by the United States, leaving their homes in the Southeast for lands in Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears. Several of their descendants embarked on a reverse journey, retracing the steps their ancestors were compelled to undertake, to attend the remembrance ceremony in Alabama.

As she stood on that ancestral ground, Dode Barnett, a member of the Muscogee Nation Tribal Council, confessed feeling a stirring within her. She said, “Listening to the rustle of the leaves, the whispering wind, imagining those who came before us hearing those same sounds awakens something deep in your DNA.”

RaeLynn Butler, the tribe’s secretary of culture and humanities, reflected on her multiple visits to the site, each one laden with heartfelt emotions. “There’s an overwhelming sensation when you hear our language, our songs. It’s a history we must continue to share, no matter how painful,” Butler declared.

As the day bled into twilight, luminaries dotted the field, each flickering light a tribute to those Muscogee who had lost their lives there. The air filled with the melody of a song in the Mvskoke language, followed by the pronunciation of the names of the six tribal towns, punctuated by shouts of “Mvto,” which means thank you.

Watching his young grandson frolic around with innocent abandon moved Hill profoundly. He envisioned the spectral echoes of children just like his grandson, playing on the very same ground centuries ago, moments before the tranquillity was replaced with the terrifying sounds of combat defending their homes.

However, as moving as the past was, it was not merely about pain and loss. Instead, as Hill and others argued, it is a testament to the resilience and survival of a people.

Jonodev Chaudhuri, the Muscogee Nation’s ambassador to the US, gravely intoned, “Our tribal towns continue to thrive. Our culture, our people, our bloodline, our ideologies – they persist.”

Through the sobering recollections of this event, Chaudhuri also highlighted the enduring legacy of the fallen. “Their ultimate sacrifice illuminates our present, lending strength to our ongoing struggle to protect our culture, sovereignty, and way of life. We stand here today as the living continuation of lessons taught by those brave folks who died protecting what mattered most to us.”