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Fall Conference #2: Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium

At the beginning of October (8-9), I participated in the first even Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium, an event organized by the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians and held in conjunction with the tribe’s annual Heritage Days Festival. The event took place near Kellyville, Oklahoma at the Creek County Fairgrounds, the place where the first Euchee Heritage Days Festival took place 14 years ago. (I am starting to feel really old!)

The inaugural history symposium is an outgrowth of the tribe’s current ANA-funded history project. The format for the event featured presentations by historians and historical anthropologists with broad knowledge of native (and non-native) history in the American South that is relevant to the specific question of Euchee tribal history. Presenters included Robbie Ethridge, David Chang, Steve Warren, Steve Martin, Joshua Piker, Mary Linn, Cindy Tiger (Euchee) and Tamara Wilson (Euchee). Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians Chairman Andrew Skeeter hosted the event and I had the honor of serving as a sort of facilitator and master of ceremonies. The symposium and the festival as a whole was very expertly organized and staffed by a very large and effective group of volunteers from the Euchee community.

The symposium program was organized chronologically and spanned the period from first contact with Europeans through to the present. Each of the presenters brought valuable knowledge to the table and there was much fruitful discussion among everyone assembled.  I think that there were eye opening moments too for all involved.  Those who were visiting Euchee country for the first time were, I know, impressed with the vitality of Euchee community life and the seriousness with which Euchee people pursue their language, culture and history work.  For Euchee community members, I think that there was a deepening of understanding of how complicated, and often troubling, the historical narrative of the past 500 years of Euchee history is. (The story of native involvement in the colonial slave trade was a source of much discussion.) For everyone, there was renewed hope that the complexities of this story can be sorted out and presented in ways that will be valuable to both the community and to scholars who have so often misunderstood the place of the Euchee in the larger history of North America.

The symposium was an all-day event on Friday (10/8/10) and then a briefer recap of the Friday discussions was held on Saturday morning as the first of the day’s festival events.

The festival itself is always fun and this year it was particularly excellent. In addition to the symposium there were a number of other firsts, including much involvement from the Euchee language classes.  Some hilarious skits and plays were staged in the Euchee language throughout the event. For the first time ever, the tribe selected its first tribal princess.  All of the participants (and organizers) did a wonderful job and Miss Julia Wakeford was crowned the first Miss Euchee Princess. The festival also featured the first all-Euchee Color Guard and, for the first time, an old fashioned Corn Stalk Shoot with old style bows and arrows.

As a scholarly conference that included amazing food, a stomp dance, a horseshoe tournament, hilarious Euchee comedy, lots of raffles and prizes, a bingo night, oodles of arts and crafts, cultural demonstrations, and socializing with lots of nice people from all over Eastern Oklahoma, the first Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium set a standard for work and play that no regular academic conference can ever meet.  The Euchee people have every reason to be proud of this very successful event. I am very thankful that I was able to participate.

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