Arts and Craft Day preserves traditional Creek ways 

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

On March 18, members of the Ma-Chis Lower Creek Indian Tribe gathered at their meeting house just outside of Elba to learn and practice traditional arts and crafts. The event was part of an ongoing tribal effort to preserve their cultural heritage and pass it on to future generations.

The day brought several people together who wished to immerse themselves in the old ways, both through learning and preservation. 

As the guest of a tribe member, Brandy Smith of Brantley participated in a pottery class taught by Juanita Mitchell of Rose Hill. Mitchell helped tribe members and guests learn how to make pottery the same way her Native American ancestors had and also shared tidbits of knowledge about old ways and her heritage.

Smith said she enjoyed the class and is thankful for what she learned. 

 “I think it is important we keep the old ways alive for many reasons, including the fact that we may have to revert back to living more completely off the land at some point,” Smith said.  “Pottery making was a lot harder than I thought it would be and it is really interesting to think about how hard the natives had to work to make pottery to store seeds in and cook in, and how hard they had to work to do anything really. Taking pride in one’s heritage is something we must all do to keep things like pottery making, and other important parts of culture alive.”

David Daughtery of Dozier conducted a flint knapping demonstration and provided a lesson on arrowhead making to members of the tribe who registered for the class. 

Nancy Carnley, the tribe’s vice chief, shared her expertise in stick weaving and making the official Creek regalia sashes. Carnley shared significant and unique facts about the Creek people with those in attendance, offering insight on the turbans Creek people used to wear. The skill is almost a lost art, something which her mother is one of the few who knows how to perform with expertise. 

“It is very important that we maintain the knowledge of the old ways,” Carnley said. “Not only may these techniques keep us alive one day, but preserving and actively participating in the traditional Creek ways pays homage to our ancestors and helps to promote unity among the tribe and beyond.”

Amy Daugherty, a Dozier resident, was on hand to teach the art of making pine needle baskets.. Daughtery demonstrated the same techniques her ancestors would have used, which involves weaving long pine needles together to create simple or intricate baskets. 

The event was well-received by members of the tribe and provided an opportunity for them to connect with their cultural roots. By preserving traditional arts, crafts, and antiquated techniques of making items once considered necessities, the Ma-Chis Lower Creek Indian Tribe hopes to ensure future generations will continue to appreciate and practice their ancestral traditions.