Ribbon Dance Notes:
 
 
1. Apalachicola is the English name for the Ocesvlke Pvlvcekolv Tribe.   The name, Pine Arbor Tribal Town, was adopted in the 1970's for their ceremonial grounds now located near Blountstown, Florida--part of the ancestral homeland. Apalachicola is the Town where the Great Creek Confederacy was forged. Formerly the capitol, it was called Big Town or the Mother Town. Their supremacy was lost due to violations of the Blood Law. See the accompanying articles, The Ancient Creek Confederacy or Pvlvcekolv, An Overview, for details in addition to John R. Swanton  (1928) or Angie Debo’s 1941 work. Albert S. Gatschet's, A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians, gives an account as well. The writings of William Barthram and Creeks and Seminoles, by Leitch Wright provide additional in depth information. The most recent and compelling research is by Richard Saunders Milner. It may be found on the web at: <http://www.snyderweb.com/placenames/book_toc.htm>
 
2.  Being designated a log bearer isn't necessarily an award or recognition. Occasionally, a less than honorable man is selected for this duty because some older woman may perhaps feel the individual is in need of a spiritual awakening, challenge or cleansing. It is her intent to present the Creator an opportunity for such work. These choices may seem paradoxical but do represent spiritual purposes or needs beyond the full knowing of this community. The whole procedure is a mystery to most men folk. Women intend to keep it that way. Much symbolism is at work here. It reflects the Female-Male duality associated with creation, new life and renewal. Why do women have such an important role in this aspect of Busk? Symbolically, Earth is the embodiment of Motherhood; trees are Earth's Daughters. The Sacred Fire, one embodiment of Creator, has largely Male associations. The four specially selected ceremonial logs are "Daughters of the Town's Women." Log bearers for the New Fire are their "husbands." A mother’s concern is always for her daughter. Symbolic duality is a constant. The macrocosm and microcosm continuously reflect and represent each other symbolically but seldom at the same time.


3.  Towns were originally located near good water-hence, the origin of the English name, Creeks. Each morning men and boys arose and bathed in a designated place upstream from the community. Women bathed down steam from the settlement due to modesty and menses concerns. The modern Apalachicola Square was not situated near viable water. On ceremonial days women (acting on behalf of Mother Earth), prepared a tub of water in the East (the stream), in which men then splashed in a symbolic bathing. If women needed some special task from the men such as more split stove wood, extra meat or other needs, they placed twigs, flower petals or some other common symbol in the water. After you bathed, you were obligated to ask women, through the female leadership, if there were needs to be met or things you could do to assist their ceremonial duties. Bathing was not required if a sweat had occurred the previous evening or if you lived close or camped out in a nearby motel. The tub has seldom awaited men since 1980s. There is an adjacent but unsafe stream at Pine Arbor. A Town goal is to raise $4,100 to build a shower house with toilet facilities. Most now travel long distances to attend Busks and camp at the grounds. A decent shower facility would be appreciated by all!


4. Such a state is difficult to enter into and maintain. Nowadays, traditional Creek women must live in two distinct worlds. One world is of old Creek Ways adapted, preserved and practiced through the Busk. The other world is contemporary America. A Creek woman active in her ceremonial Town works to an extreme during Busks. Her roles are the most important, her actions the most critical to a successful Busk. What women do over cooking fires or in the cooking pots, has far reaching consequences for an entire Town. All men should more openly appreciate their vital role. Please refer to related essay The Fire, Source of Balance and Harmony, for a full definition of the woman’s Busk role as an agent for Creator [Editor's note].


5.  Posketv (BOHS-gih-duh): a fast, to fast. Also as Pvsketv (BUHS-gih-duh).


6.  Hoktvkē, Women; Pvnkv from Opvnkv, Dance (HOHK-duh-gee BUHN-guh), Hvse-Pvnkv (HUH-zhee BUHN-guh), Etske-Opvnkv (IHDS-gee oh-BUHN-guh), Also as Eckē or Etckē (IHJ-gee, IHDJ-gee).


7.  Hoktvkē (HOHK-duh-gee, hohk-DUH-gee): women, plural of Hoktē (HOHK-dee), woman.


8.  When we use the word "Power," it is capitalize as an attribute of Creator, One-Above.


9.  In earlier times, women had a special abode for use during menstruation and childbirth. According to Dr. Ruth Underhill in Red Man’s Religion (pp 52-53), they regarded this time as a holiday - both a relief from hard work and a "Holy" day. Women took great pleasure in teasing men who came too close to the enclosure's established boundaries. Most Indian women no longer live apart during this time. Traditional Creek women do not prepare food or touch men's personal implements during their episodes. They observe other quiet customs unnoticed by their non-Indian neighbors. The Institute of West Florida Archeology, under the direction of Dr. Judith Bense and Dan T. Penton, excavated evidence of a woman's separation hut in 1991 near the port of Panama City, Florida. Apparently, it was used for birthing and menses activities. The excavated architectural features and recovered flint blades precisely matched those in current use at Pine Arbor Tribal Town for cutting umbilical cords. Although located at the edge of a ceremonial site, none of these features had been previously recognized in other excavations due to a broad lack of knowledge about native women lifestyles and associated objects.  College students, local volunteers, Pine Arbor and Seminole families participated as fieldwork volunteers at this and other area excavations. It was they who immediately recognized the feature and associated artifacts. Careful research further verified their statements.


10.  Pine Arbor follows two distinct ceremonial kalendars, both older than those in use by other Tribal Towns. One is terrestrial and the other, celestial-the New Year and the New Fire respectively. Other Muskogee Towns seem to only follow one kalendar and to celebrate one annual Busk, The Green Corn Ceremony. Minor ceremonies called Stomp Dances precede and follow their Busks. These towns take "Medicine" four times during their Busk. Pine Arbor celebrates four seasonal Busks and "Touches Medicine" at each Busk. Pine Arbor is matriarchal and governed as such in daily life and agricultural pursuits-that is, in elements directed by the terrestrial kalendar, women dominate. The celestial kalendar governs hunting, Busks and other masculine pursuits; thus, ceremonial decisions rest largely with the male leadership. Busk are held for males and dominated by male leadership.  Scholars studying these phenomena say this accounts for the differing ceremonial order and particular emphasis followed throughout its Busks. Pine Arbor's dual ceremonial and agricultural calendrical structure is older than corn's introduction into the South. It reflects both a woman dominated agricultural society and the male dominated hunting and gathering organization. Pine Arbor's social order, status ranking and other societal markers' reflect the same female-male division seen in its agricultural and ceremonial kalendars that govern the turning of the year and the turning of life. Maintaining balance and flexibility is a Muskogee benchmark.


11.  Pine Arbor is not aware of another Tribal Town maintaining the Turtle Dance cycle except for the Yuchi. Here, where Turtle Clan (aligned with Wind Clan) furnishes major ceremonial leadership, Turtle Dance has deep spiritual associations and is performed most reverently. The Creation Story "How All Things Came To Be" explores this historic philosophy. Several Turtle stories are included, too.


12.  In many churches, a cow horn has replaced the hard-to-find conch shell horns in Oklahoma. For an interesting comparison of cultural practices shared by traditionals and church people, refer to the article Indian Baptist Church by Sharon Fife (Sharon Fife Mouse) found on the museum web site. It was first published by the Chronicles of Oklahoma in the 1970-1971 Winter Quarterly,


13.  The name Apalachicola (Pvlvcekolv) is derived from this low ridge found around most tribal Square Grounds. Few, other than Pine Arbor, still require the use of shell to mark sacred space. Shells are also an integral part of most historic North Florida Creek gravesites. Engraved shell and copper are still common grave offerings in this area. Pine Arbor often provides such offerings for reburials of excavated Native American remains in Florida. A full complement of such grave ware by local craft workers accompanied the Crystal River Mound reburial in 1987. A video record of this reburial is archived at "THE MUSEUM," Inc., Colquitt, Georgia.


14. Nowadays, many in Oklahoma call this dance Setahvyv-Opvnkv.


15.  The Sacred Fire at Pine Arbor burns 365 days. Once ignited, it is nurtured, maintained, protected and sheltered for the whole year without being allowed to go out. At most ceremonies, except Green Corn, women prefer to start feast preparations early in the day. They can do this because the New Fire already exists from Green Corn. Men transfer the Sacred Flames from their keeping place to the Fire Mound and the women's stoves or cook Fires. Women begin their sacred work. They send word to the Speaker when they wish to start their Dance. Men perform their own duties, dances and other obligations until women send word to "Call" the Ribbon Dance.


16.  Emarv (ih-MAH'hluh, ih-MAHT'h'luh): a disciplinarian or prompter; literally, "one who moves among them," or "makes them stir." The role of "whip" or "tail twister" is filled by young men learning the ceremonial duties of their station. As a war-title, Emarv (Emara or Maro) means or indicates "Reliable Leadership." Occasionally, these young emissaries are called Tepalv (dih-BAH-luh)or Twisters, because they seem to turn around often during Busk and the dances. Or, they may be called Em-puhvtv Cuko-vfastv (ihm-boo-HAH-duh joo-GOH uh-FAHS-duh) deacon, overseer, "those who make the dance go."


17.  Koha (GOH-hah): cane, river cane; Koha-Tafv (GOH-hah DAH-fuh) feathered wand or cane; not the same as Rawv or Rvp Rvkko (Thlop-thlocco, H'lop h'lock-koh), the larger red cane used for blow guns. It is also the name of an important Tribal Town, "Thlopthlocco," also called "Big Town." Many believe it to be an original daughter town to old Apalachicola according to Remus Cook, Tallahassee, and Rueben Cook, Thlopthlocco.


18.  Paskofv (bahs-GOH-fuh): swept clearing used as a fasting place; the Square Ground; Hvpo (HUH-poh): camp.


19.  If a woman appears genuinely angered, out of sorts, rude, bitter or unhappy, other women or the ceremonial leaders quietly put her aside or try to send her away from food preparations. A pot stirred by such a person will embitter or sicken all who eat from it to some degree--so it is said. In all things Tribal, the common weal, not the individual's weal, comes first.


20.  Shakers were formerly made of Turtle shells or dew claws. Many women now use milk, juice or snuff cans. This community is forbidden to take a Turtle's life. In the past, we traded for Turtle shells. Southern states no longer have other traditional Towns to occasionally gift us with a set of Turtle Shakers in exchange for crafts and herbs picked in our locale. Our southern Seminole relatives largely use can shakers, too. Few of either community now own Turtle Shakers. At Pine Arbor, the Town, itself, and not individuals, own primary ceremonial equipment. This was one of several reasons for establishing "THE MUSEUM," Inc. It is a central repository and archive center for Pine Arbor, the traditional Town and the Florida Tribe of Creek Indians, the governmental unit.


21.  Local tradition holds that in ancient times, perhaps in the "Mexico Days," Muskogees were a most cruel and vengeful lot. After a battle or war campaign, whole heads, scalps or other grisly trophies were brought home. Women adorned themselves with this bloody plunder and danced most savagely. At some unknown point in our collective history, the four original Teachers, the Hvyahvlkē, Hvyayvlkē [Beings of Light] revisited and re-instructed the people. An understanding of a real inward peace came to be known. Over time, our understanding grew with the ever-increasing light of One Above’s Sacred Fire. The woman's gruesome war-trophy dance gave way to a celebration of Life, Light, Wisdom, Renewal and Knowledge. Ribbons replaced death trophies and women ascended to their full responsibilities as "Co-Creators," "Life Givers" and "Nourishers." From this past, Ribbon Dance evolved into today's celebration of hope, joy and peace. Dean C. Engstrom, who has studied Pine Arbor musical traditions since the 1970's, hypothesizes that dance traditions of early Spanish colonizers may be responsible for the modern use of ribbons. Ornamental use of ribbon is prominent in the Morris Dance (Moor’s) traditions of some early Spanish and other European invaders.


22.  Anciently, a woman dancing by a man at stomp dances gave him a small carved or decorated stick or other emblem with her clan sign on it; within the same moon, he could redeem his trinket for a meal. In later times she gave him a quarter. Unfortunately, for single males, these practices have fallen into severe disuse just when "two-bits" and a good free meal are hard to come by! But, if you received no token you got a definite opinion, too!


23.  Nettv Kvckv (NIHT-duh GUHG-guh): Broken Days. A twenty-day period preceding Busk. The name comes from the 20 small sticks sent out as the "day counters" marking the ceremonial preparation period before a Busk encampment. These were sent from the Mother Town to all the outlying areas. One stick was broken to mark each passing day. At Pine Arbor, the sticks are reddened. Their manufacture and distribution is the responsibility of the Tvstvnvke Rakko or someone appointed by him. From these sticks comes the origin of the phrase "Red Sticks."


24. Except for "medicine" practitioners, Pine Arbor Families and some Florida Seminole Families are the only remaining Muskogee who regularly continue the practice of maintaining Clan or Family Bundles in association with Busks.


25. Women physically unable to dance for non-ceremonial reasons sit in the East Arbor as the Dance unfolds. If physically possible, they walk slowly at the end of the line on the last round of the third set or the first round of the fourth set. Women in menses do not enter or even approach the Square Grounds. They remain in their appointed retreat or behind some established boundary.


26.  In fact, Tribal Town Squares come in a variety of architectural arrangements. Many have only three Arbors. Some have two, one or none. A couple have a fifth Arbor just at the edge of the grounds from where their Ribbon Dancers emerge and return. See Swanton, 1928, for complete diagrams of all major Creek and Seminole Town Squares. Swanton also revisited the Oklahoma squares in the 1930's and published a set of revised diagrams.


27.  Este-vcake (ihs-DEE uh-JAH-gee): a Beloved One; a wise experienced elder of good heart, sound learning and richly steeped in tradition. The Este-vcake are the final earthly authority, judge in all matters temporal and the a check on Makers of Medicine and Mekkos. This term applies to both the female matriarch and male patriarch.


28.  Mekko-emtopv (MIHK-goh ihm-DOH-buh): The King's arbor. Pine Arbor's West Arbor.


29.  Atasse (ah-DAHZ-she) also Vtvse (uh-DAHS-zhee): a ceremonial flint knife, war club, scalping knife and the blade used to sever an umbilical cord. If metal is used to free a child from the mother at birth, the child will most likely die by metal (lead bullets?), or so it is said in Pine Arbor's oral tradition. The article, "A History of the Blades," recounts full details.


30.  One should not even scratch an itch directly during this time but should use a small stick or twig to accomplish the need. One definitely does not physically touch another during those hours when mind, body, spirit and soul are each being separately readied for renewal. To do so is to risk personal contamination or discomfort that in turn, may pollute the Town and weaken its Fire.


31.  Opunayv (oh-bu-NAH-yuh, oh-BU-nah-YUH): Speaker, also em-punayv. Sometimes, this role is called the Tongue, Tvlaswv, or the chief's second or twin.


32.  However, indiscriminate invitations for visitors to participate are discouraged--disaster may result. The Town may be severely affected by visitors' hidden or unworthy attributes. This may inadvertently bring negative forces to bear on the New Fire or Sacred Bundle. This is a very difficult concept to communicate, especially to casual Creek participants who come from non-traditional homes and who don't fully grasp the powerful significance or the deadly consequences of such action. Damage to Pine Arbor's internal spiritual structure could result from improper proximity of menstrual blood, pregnancy or other woman borne Powers "intruded upon the Busk" by visitors. Creek women who practice traditional ways are careful not to come in contact with ceremonial leaders, cooking fires or sacred areas.  Medicine Bundles, their holders or other men could suffer dreadful consequences or some spiritual weakening. Previously, a woman new to the community sat out several Busks before participating in Ribbon Dance. In the mid 1980's, Town members not well versed in their own history or ceremonial practices began bringing others into the dance. Many problems have come out of this but current elders see no way to undo the damage without causing greater damage in the area of human interaction. Restraint must be exercised regarding these easily tendered dance invitations to visiting women. Busk activities, other than Ribbon Dance, are not as critical or potentially damaging. Visitors are welcome in these. Desire and interest alone are not enough; worthiness must be considered, too. The future of Pine Arbor depends on wise adherence to these ancient and effective traditions that have sustained and nourished the community over the centuries. Appropriate visitors are traditionally an integral part of Busks. However, Busks are not "show and tell" stuff. They are deeply moving spiritual experiences that Pine Arbor is willing to share under proper circumstances. [Please take no offense for this digressive paragraph. It is important for the reader to understand this about Pine Arbor's collective beliefs and ancient ceremonial traditions that have sustained us for generations.]


33. In all things occurring within the Square, male leadership is generally notified.


34.  This, of course, is at the Green Corn Busk. The Fire is already present at the other three Busks: the "Berry & Arbor Dance" in Spring, "Little Green Corn" (now called the Cold Busk) in late Summer and "The Harvest Ceremony" which occurs in Fall at the time of the first frost.


35.  People of Pine Arbor are not Sun worshipers but Sun respecters. The Sun is their supreme natural symbol for the Supreme Being, One Above. Christians do not worship Cross and Bible but regard them as necessary and supreme symbols of their faith. It is the same with the people of this Tribal Town.


36.  If held late in a day, Dancers may line up at the West Arbor in order to face Sunward at the start. In times past, though the Dance began in the eastern orientation, women would mark time before the West Arbor facing outward to the Sun for a moment and then resume. This hasn't been done since the early 1970s. The western stop is seldom done if no singers sing for the Ribbon Dance. Usually, two singers with hand-held rattles are used.


37.  The rest period as a dividing point, it has been suggested, reflects an ever-present duality permeating all Creek beliefs. Several women have stated that they prefer going the eight rounds before a full break. The extra effort, hardship and the necessary endurance makes them feel stronger and more accomplished in their appointed tasks as Life-Givers. Such is sacrifice.


38.  A small hand drum or rattles occasionally accompany ribbon Dance. In years gone by, when the town was considerably larger, a group of specifically designated men sang for this Dance. For fulfilling this privilege, they received gifts of Tobacco from the community at large. Few singers have been used since 1956. In some recent years one man has sung an occasional song. There have been a few years in which the entire Dance proceeded without any accompaniment. During World War II, women refused to wear Shakers or allow the use of rattles. Several explanations seem plausible for this action, but none have been put forth publicly. Women with sons in Korea, Viet Nam or other active military campaigns, did wear shakers either.


39.  Hvce (HUH-jee, HUH-tsee): Tail, rear end, derriere and other unmentionables; end of a line.


40.  Murder cannot be forgiven by the Fire's pledge. The women, givers of life, must avenge it. Only the mother, sister or daughter (or other close female kin in their absence) of a victim can make an exception and accept a pledge and offer forgiveness for murder.


41.  In symbolic representations of all things spiritual, lines of kinship are inherently found in things Muskogee. Could these lines be the cords that bind dualities into oneness?


42.  Even though a man kindles the physical New Fire, he must be clean and in a state of grace to approach the Fire after it has ignited and is growing. The Fire becomes its own Being. Woman purifies man for the task. Ohfvnkv (Oh-Fuhn-guh): One Above, God.


43.  People of Pine Arbor, and all Muskogees, call themselves "People of One Fire." They are Children of the Sun. Yuchi (Euchee) also speak of themselves of Children of the Sun. The Sun originally burned away the deep fog of ignorance in the First Times. Then, all could see and come to know Ohfvnkv, the One Above, the Father Spirit, Master of Breath, Creator and Source. By way of the Sun and its offspring, the Sacred Fire, Ohfvnkv, through whose creation all that is, was or will be, is both a symbolic and actual presence. Pine Arbor's people are not Sun worshippers, idolaters or heathen. They merely know that God is in and of all things. What they do is for their own uplift and spiritual improvement. They do these in the manner given them in the ancient times by the sacred teachers [Dr. Michael Hittman, 1978].


44.  Mvto (mvh-DOH): "That's the thing! That's the proper way. That's as it should be. That's it - that's really it." In other words, it is more than Thanks or Thank you. It is an acknowledgment and recognition that everything is as it should be and in proper order, too. It is a simple but powerful word in Creek. The last syllable is drawn out with a raised ascending pitch. Even the sound is powerful when uttered in unison.


45.  More has been left out of this article than has been included. Only an intimate conversation with knowledgeable citizens of Pine Arbor will really bring a fuller understanding to this great annual happening. You will greatly increase your comprehension and appreciation of the symbolic nature of the Woman's role at Apalachicola's Pine Arbor Tribal Town by reading the short articles on "Thoughts of the Elders," "Power'" and "The Muskogee Cosmos."
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