By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Principal Chief George Tiger asked Muskogee High School students to stand if they were proud to be Native American.
He encouraged them to keep standing.
Tiger, principal chief of the Creek Nation, shared his encouraging words at a Native American Heritage Week assembly Tuesday morning at MHS.
“When someone asks you how proud you are to be Indian, you tell them by standing,” he said, “Today, you should know you are standing up for a very unique group of people.”
Tiger spoke to MHS freshmen and seniors during the assembly. He recalled growing up in a tiny northeast Oklahoma community and entering grade school unable to speak English.
At the time, public schools and Indian boarding schools disapproved of Native American culture, he said.
“It’s ironic, because more battles in World War II were won through Navajo code talkers, Comanche code talkers and Choctaw code talkers,” Tiger said. “Even in World War I, when Indians were not considered citizens of this country, they were the first to serve.”
Tiger encouraged the MHS students be as strong as those in the past.
“I know you face obstacles, but prior to you, there were many people who paid the ultimate price as Indian people,” he said.
MHS senior Patrick Bell said he’s Cherokee and he paid attention when Tiger talked about the Cherokees.
“Whenever I get a chance to learn about my culture, I take it,” Bell said. “And when he talked about the Trail of Tears, I wanted to learn about that.”
Tiger said the Creek Trail of Tears began in Georgia and ended in Okmulgee. He told the story of how those on the trail stopped at the Arkansas River at Fort Gibson.
“They knew it was a new beginning, and they prayed about the future,” Tiger said. “My wish, if nothing else, is that something I have said could have helped people.”
Freshman Madison Reavis said Tiger’s speech made her proud.
“Always remember where you came from,” she said. “Wherever you go, remember you have people who raised you to be who you are.”
The assembly also featured Laura Webster and Madison Shoemaker singing “Amazing Grace” in Cherokee. Webster is Miss Junior NASA and Shoemaker is the former Miss Junior NASA. NASA stands for Native American Student Advocacy.
Tiger’s visit is part of a week of Native American observances at Muskogee Public Schools. Other program include Native American dancers a Alice Robertson Junior High, plus storytellers and dramas at elementary schools.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.