Growing up in Oklahoma City, Okla., Rhonda Grayson remembers spending time at her grandparents’ home in the small community of Wewoka – the place where many of her closest family members built their lives. It was there that she was told stories of her ancestors, known as the Creek Freedmen, and learned how to cook traditional Native American dishes such as wild onions with eggs, poke salad made with American pokeweed and hominy, the corn used to make grits.
Grayson says that while she now understands that the food she grew up with is distinctly Native American, it just wasn’t something she thought of at the time. What she did become keenly aware of as she grew older was the push and pull of her two identities, both as an African and a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, as her people fought for the tribal rights they had long ago been bestowed with.
One of the largest federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States, the Muscogee Creek Nation spans more than 7,000 square miles across the state of Oklahoma from as north as the city of Tulsa all the way down to the Canadian River, the largest tributary of the Arkansas River. More than 86,000 enrolled citizens can be found there today, all descendants of the Natives and Africans who made their way across the country by foot along the notorious Trail of Tears back in the 1830s.