Muscogee Nation drops colonial era name in rebranding

Leaders of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation are dropping “Creek” from the tribe’s name. One official says the new brand still will be rooted in history and tradition. (Photo courtesy of Muscogee (Creek) Nation)

Leaders of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation say they are dropping “Creek” from its name as part of a rebranding effort, but not all members are on board with the change. Some complain their identity is being stripped away from them and what they’ve known their entire lives.

“What are we, a symbol or a people?” tribal member Bill Davis asked Wednesday. “If that had some wording on it to identify who we are as a people, then I’m for it, but if you’re doing it as a symbol to be more invisible, then I’m against it.”

However, Brian OnTheHill, the tribe’s creative manager for marketing and tourism, said the new brand still will be rooted in history and tradition.

“In order to solidify the nation’s identification and keep the connection to the tribal seal, we chose to use ‘Muscogee’ as the tribe’s sole name,” OnTheHill said.

“The British coined the misnomer ‘Creek,’” he said. “When this alias appears in parentheses alongside the proper name of the nation, it creates confusion amongst the general public and it is often mistaken as an interpretation of Muscogee, or the two are read together as if it were one name.”

Despite the tribe’s expressed good intentions, some members said they are upset they weren’t able to offer input into such a major decision.

“We are a tribe of many creative people, and we love our nation,” artist and social activist Dana Tiger said. “It would be great if we could come together to an agreement on what would represent us the best.”

Galen Cloud offered a suggestion for a change that would bring the tribe back to its roots.

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“We know who we are as Muscogee people,” he said. “I’m glad they took the Creek out, but I wish they would have gone back to the original spelling. If you look at it and you see the spelling of Muscogee it’s easy to pronounce.

“The traditional spelling is Mvskoke. My understanding is that the public at large couldn’t pronounce Mvskoke as Muscogee because of the V in it. Now we have the opportunity to correctly spell Muscogee, and we don’t because we still want to appease people.”

The nation also created a new logo to be used as a representation of the tribe. OnTheHill describes the meaning behind the logo in a video, but it was not made known to all members.

“I have no idea what the meaning behind (the symbol) is,” Tiger said. “I was surprised that they just changed it.”

“That’s kind of the way the tribe has always been,” Davis said. “It’s just a handful of people that make decisions for the whole and people have just learned to accept it. If I wasn’t on the computer yesterday and this weekend, I wouldn’t have known that this happened.”

The tribe’s official name will remain the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, but leaders will prefer it to be known as the Muscogee Nation.

Tiger said she doesn’t mind the actual change, but wishes members had been given more of a chance to share their ideas.

“I want to see the voices of the people included in the emblem that represents us,” she said.

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Cronkite News has partnered with OU to expand coverage of Indigenous communities.