More on the Okie Stomp and Okies [was Okie Stomp/Grant's Tomb]

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 10 06:54:44 MDT 2003


Tom writes:

Last time I was at Grant's Tomb, an extraordinarily skilled trombonist was
> practicing there. A lot of jazz, a little classical music, some salsa. Not
> sure how that compares with the Okie Stomp!
>
> Tom

Thanks for your note, Tom. Good comment and I'm sending this around a little
more broadly.

No competition for the Okie Stomp -- whether we're talking Inside the Tomb
or the gifted trombonist on the outside.  The Okie Stomp Dance actually grew
in large measure out of the traditional and ritualized and staid and still
very culturally viable Green Corn Stomp Dance of the Creek Indian Nation.
As you probably know, the five large Southern tribes -- Cherokee, Choctaw,
Creek,Chickasaw, Seminole -- were forced from their Deep South lands by
Andrew Jackson and his infamous Removal successors, moved westward at great
loss of life, and dumped in "Indian Territory" [much later, of course, to
become Oklahoma.]  One group of Cherokees were able to remain in the
Mountain South, as well as a faction of Choctaws in Mississippi and a large
group of "resistant" Seminoles in the remote Florida everglades -- a more
recent breakaway faction of which has become the Miccosukees. A few
scattered remnants of Chickasaws and Creeks remained in the Southern swamps
and have, very recently, emerged in an activist sense.

I have a half-Mississippi Choctaw grandson  and relatives in Oklahoma.  But
my experience with the Okie Stomp draws from the fact that my home town of
Flagstaff, Arizona -- on Highway 66 -- saw vast numbers of Dust Bowl /
Depression refugees passing through on their way to California.  Most were
from Oklahoma, some from Kansas and Arkansas.  Once at  cool Flagstaff --
high elevation  [7,000 feet above sea level and the immediately adjacent San
Francisco Peaks that go up to 13,000] -- some stopped at that point,
attracted by work in the lumber woods and sawmills [vast stands of Ponderosa
Yellow Pine.]  Others went on  to California, only to be often driven back
at the border by armed California posses and state police -- and they went
back to Flag, stopping there.  So I grew up with lots of Okie friends --
virtually all of whom were part-Indian [often a quarter, sometimes an
eighth, not infrequently one-half.]  And some were relatively full-blooded.
When the Okie Stomp Dance began to develop in the Muskogee, OK region and
environs, its seeds certainly came to land in Flagstaff where it had lots
and lots of kin.

The traditional Creek Stomp Dance -- guided carefully by highly trained
Native singers and drummers -- proceeds in a wide circle around a sacred
fire which the Creeks actually brought with them to Indian Territory [OK]
from Alabama.  As with all Native dances, there are very strong religious
connotations.

The Okie Stomp Dance is purely social -- and it's a very wild and woolly
affair.  Couples and singles walk  slowly and consecutively in hard, steady
stomping fashion in a  large circle around either a fire or something
simulating a fire [e.g., a Coleman gasoline lantern.]  The steady drum beats
are extremely strong and very profoundly resonant.  There is wild fiddle and
guitar music.  In time, there's a good deal of yelling and whooping with
Stetsons thrown in the air.  An Okie Stomp can easily last a half hour or
so, sometimes an hour.

My two  younger brothers "innocently" took a very respectable visiting
cousin from my Anglo mother's side to a Saturday night of dancing
culminating with the Okie Stomp, at Lake Mary, south of Flagstaff.  The kid
was from a  quite well established business family -- one of whom had
married a Cherokee lady from the North Carolina/Tennessee border.  My Native
father didn't think it was a good idea to subject Cousin D. to the Stomp --
but my brothers. quietly critical of the kid, went ahead anyway.  Initially
badly shaken by the generally chaotic atmosphere [some men were wearing
revolvers], he really got into the spirit of things and, by the time the
Stomp rolled around, he was  totally caught.

He later married a Native woman.  Don't know if the evening at Lake Mary --
and the Stomp -- had anything to do with that, but who knows?

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'


In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunterbear]







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