October 14 is Indigenous Peoples Day, and the Commission on Racial Justice & Reconciliation used its scheduled September meeting to learn more about the Poarch Band of Creek Indians near Atmore, Alabama.
We respectfully recognize that prejudice, bias, discrimination and oppression have been visited upon more people of color than our African American brothers and sisters. Racism is not a binary issue of Black and White. This is not to diminish the horror suffered, but to acknowledge others have, as well. White Supremacy and the Doctrine of Discovery have been the source of countless previous wrongs. For example, for many decades the children of the indigenous people in Poarch were refused admittance to the Atmore public schools, nor were they allowed to ride the public bus. Access to healthcare and other services were also denied or delayed. In our own Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, there are many people of respective skin colors who today face harsh treatment, if not wrongful discrimination, mainly because of their skin color.
Learning the rich history of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians began with a deep dive into The Kerretv Cuko (Building of Learning) Poarch Creek Indians Museum*. Don’t let the small exterior of the building fool you---its use of space and technology share an immense story. We were creatively educated and challenged by an exceptional leader, Brandy Chunn, the museum director. Historic ways, spiritual practices of our One God, trading partners, and treaties with the United States are well-examined in the museum. According to their website, the Poarch Creeks were not removed from their tribal lands and have lived together for almost 200 years in/around the present day reservation.
There is much more to learn but a brief look back was revelatory: After a long-advocated effort, it was not until 1984 that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians became Alabama’s only federally recognized tribe. As a shout-out to church historiographers who might wonder why we keep records, the ancient documents of the Episcopal missionaries to these indigenous people proved their existence as a tribe.
Our group also spent much time at historic St. Anna’s Episcopal Church**. It is an organized mission of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, established in 1929. Diocesan statistics reflect 142 active baptized members. The Rev. Michael Hill celebrates the Eucharist at the 9 a.m., Sunday services. St. Anna's senior warden, Ms. Gerrie Bell gave us a tour and lovingly shared the history of this faithful community. The Commission’s meeting was held in the new parish hall where we gave thanks for a memorable day. Poarch Creek Indians ancient wisdom reveals “A single reed is fragile, but when bound with others they are strong." We cannot change our past, but we can make today better and tomorrow more promising as together we Become Beloved Community.
*The Kerretv Cuko (Building of Learning) Poarch Creek Indians Museum is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance is free. Phone: 251.368.9136. Address: 5484 Jack Springs Road, Atmore, AL.
**St. Anna's Episcopal Church is located at located 100 Lynn McGhee Drive, Atmore, AL.
To learn more about the Commission on Racial Justice & Reconciliation visit www.diocgc.org/racial-justice-and-reconciliation.