Jack Martin                                 Margaret McKane Mauldin

College of William and Mary                    Muskogee Creek - University of Oklahoma



Audio | Handout

Recovering Alabama's Native Literature

The native literature of the American South covers a period of almost four hundred years, from Francisco Pareja's 1612 Cathecismo in Timucua and Spanish to descriptions of Vietnam war experiences. It covers the Muskogean languages Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama, Koasati, Apalachee, Hitchiti, Mikasuki, and Creek, the southeastern representatives of the Siouan-Catawba, Iroquoian, and Caddoan families, and the language isolates Atakapa, Chitimacha, Natchez, Timucua, Tunica, and Yuchi. Very little of this literature is accessible to non-specialists, however: much of the oral literature has not been transcribed, and what is transcribed is often not published.

This paper describes our attempts to edit and translate materials in the Creek (Muskogee) language of eastern Oklahoma (formerly of Alabama and Georgia). Our work so far has involved three major collections: a) the traditional folktales of Earnest Gouge; b) the texts of Mary R. Haas; and, c) social documents of the Creek Nation. We will describe the first two here.

The Gouge stories were written in Creek for John Swanton in 1915. The manuscript contains 29 stories involving trickster rabbit, giant lizards, transformations of men into snakes, foxes, and deer, and competitions between animals. In editing and translating the manuscript, we hoped to reach several audiences: Gouge's grandchildren and the 67,000 members of the Creek and Seminole nations of Oklahoma; and, academics who might wish to understand the structure of Creek. Since the needs of these groups differ, we decided to publish in three forms: a) in book form with side-by-side Creek and English translations; b) through a website at http://www.wm.edu/linguistics/creek/gouge/ (for phonemic transcriptions and other technical materials); and, c) on DVD (for sound recordings).

The second project we will discuss is our current project editing and translating the Creek texts of Mary R. Haas, collected between 1936 and about 1941. In all, there are 22 volumes of texts and grammatical notes. Many of the materials appear to have been written first in Creek by native speakers and then reelicited through dictation and written phonemically. The texts cover some of the same types of stories found in the Gouge manuscript, but also describe specific ballgames, speeches, clans, traditional customs, autobiography, and politics. For this project, we have decided to publish interlinear versions of the texts for an academic audience, in keeping with Haas's other published texts.

In order to show the steps involved, we will show images of documents and examples of our finished work. Margaret Mauldin (Muskogee Creek) will read from selected works and discuss the importance of the materials for Creeks.