MCN Hosts First Mvskoke Language Symposium at River Spirit

Byline: Braden Harper/Reporter

TVLSE, Oklahoma – Learn it or lose it. This is the slogan on the logo seal of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Mvskoke language preservation program. The tribe takes this slogan to heart through various programs, events and initiatives to transmit the language and keep it alive.

One of the most recent efforts to reinvigorate the language was the first Mvskoke Language Symposium (Mvskoke Opunvkv Kerretv Vtelokv). The one-day event took place at the River Spirit Casino and Resort on July 28.

Although the symposium focused on teaching the Mvskoke language, it also shared the history, culture and religion of Mvskoke. These aspects shaped the tribe into what it is today.

The event has been designed to be easily accessible to those wishing to learn the language. It was streamed live on the Muscogee Nation Facebook page (Creek). It used quick response (QR) codes that allowed participants to register online via their phone. This method was also used to access hymn programs that allowed participants to sing along with featured Mvskoke hymn singers.

CMN President Monte Randall delivered the keynote address. Language and Preservation’s Koko Lowe led the crowd in a traditional Mvskoke hymn. An invocation was given in Mvskoke and English.

The symposium itinerary was structured so that groups were divided into breakout sessions to learn phrases and conversational words from native Mvskoke speakers.

The groups also had the opportunity to listen and join in the singing of traditional Mvskoke hymns. Hymns featured included translated Protestant hymns like “This May be the Last Time”, “Amazing Grace”, and traditional Mvskoke funeral songs.

In the afternoon, an advanced master-apprentice language course was offered along with a video game demo. The event took time to receive community feedback and ended with closing remarks and a blessing.

The language symposium brought together many personalities from across the country, including Principal Chief David Hill, representatives from the National Council and Mvskoke Royalty. He 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 some Nikes on them and do it,” Chief Hill said. “Just looking at the crowd, you point out a lot of Mahé who have helped, and I appreciate everyone.”

CMN National Council President 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 the legislation for the symposium to take place.

“When I first saw the legislation for the symposium fall on my desk, I really wondered what it was all 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’s an amazing thing.

A recent Yale graduate, Fife is a Mvskoke speaker who started learning the language at age 12. His passion for the language began his research into the roots and evolution of the Mvskoke language and culture.

“Our language really needs people to help it,” 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 to the Muscogee tribe and how it was used to assimilate the Muscogee people into the settler 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 has been shaped by outside influences that translated and transcribed it. According to Fife, traumatic historical events like the Great Removal that displaced the Muscogee people from their homeland significantly influenced the expansion of linguistic concepts.

“The Mvskoke language serves as the foundation of the Mvskoke religion. Without the Mvskoke language, the Mvskoke religion will cease to exist,” reads a presentation slide.

He emphasized the importance of how the cultural survival of a tribe directly correlates with the survival of the language and the language speakers.

Fife delivered 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 there. We need to revitalize it. We need to encourage others to participate in ceremonies and be who they are, Mvskoloke. Fife said.

The ultimate goal of the symposium was to advance Mvskoke culture through teaching, listening, and bringing the community together. If you want to learn more about the Muscogee language, browse Mvskoke Media’s lesson playlist. A catalog of over 50 videos is available along with links to learning materials.

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