Christianity and tribal tradition blend in Muskogee Indian culture.

On Saturday, August 24, Dr. Peggy Venable of Cairo, Georgia addressed a packed meeting room at the Eastpoint Firehouse to explain the traditions and beliefs of her people.

The day began with recordings of traditional Native American music. Venable sang along in muted undertones as the crowd took their seats.

Venable, who is a staff member at the Muskogee Vocational Rehabilitation Center and an authority on Muskogee culture, began her talk with a prayer. She explained that she is a Christian and that the Primitive Baptist church was largely responsible for the continued existence of Muskogee culture during the Trail of Tears and the Indian Removal of the early 19th century.

“They took us in,” she said. “We were the first Indian people to get a Bible in our own language.”

She said the tribes were largely disbanded and only in 1981 did the Muskogee win their tribal rights after 200 tribe members “walked the halls in Tallahassee, Atlanta and Washington D.C.

Within their traditional culture, the Muskogee were a social and spiritual people. Venable said they thanked God daily for the “water, the fire and the corn,” and offered “directional prayers” to the four points of the compass.

She said 55 tribes speaking many languages formed a loose confederacy of towns each with a population of about 125 people.

“I’m not sure where we came from but we’re here and that’s what matters,” she said.

Unlike the popular image of Native Americans who rode ponies and lives in teepees, she said the Muskogee inhabited the swamps in the Southeast, traveled on the rivers and lived in clusters of log houses.

“We had a really big history in this area,” said Venable. “There were 10 towns in the area of Apalachicola.”

She said she believes there are many residents in Franklin County who are unaware of their Native American heritage.

During Saturday’s beginners’ class, Venable briefly discussed Muskogee religion, government and lifestyle in the morning. After a shared lunch, the group learned about myths and legends of the tribe during the afternoon session.

Tanya and Joseph James and Sondra Powell organized the seminar.