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Muskogee Chief Dan "Sky Horse" Helms on native medicine, ceremony, and dance

Santa Rosa Creek Tribe
Chief Sky Horse

Environmental and indigenous rights activist Chief Dan "Sky Horse" Helms of the Santa Rosa Creek Muskogee (Mvskoke) Tribe describes the environmentally harmonious usage of the Muskogee land in the Santa Rosa area, and how wildlife thrives within it. He also touches on the worldview and cosmology of the Creek people that connects them in a direct relationship to the Earth. Lastly, he explains traditional Muskogee practices such as herbal medicine, storytelling through nature, and the use of dance in Creek ceremonies.

Be sure to go back and have a listen to the first part of our chat where Chief Sky Horse delves into the history of the Creek people in the American south.


On the Santa Rosa Muskogee (Mvskoke) Creek tribal grounds as a wildlife release point

We have 95 acres of land as our tribal grounds. About 25 acres is cleared and the remainder is all natural woods. We have the head of Pond Creek running through our property and we own property for about a half mile on either side of Pond Creek.

So far as wildlife on our tribal grounds, we are actually a release point for rescued wildlife and they occasionally bring out some of everything. We do a blessing and a smudge and then they release them out into the wild.

In our ceremonial smudging, we use Cedar, sweet grass, tobacco, and some other things that are Indigenous and natural to our area, and those are the things that we use for smudging in ceremony.

We have deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and all kinds of snakes. There was one evening, late. We were actually having one of our pow wows. It was just after dark and we were still there. All of a sudden, there was this just hair raising scream that came from out in the woods, and it was a Panther.

I had always heard that it sounded like a woman screaming. It did, and it made the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It was so intense. . . and then we got in our vehicles and we left! And gave the swamp to the Panther.

We've heard it, but we have never seen it because they're basically nocturnal. And of course, the woods are very thick uh and I'm not walking in there to see if I can see it!

On the indigenous and traditional plants used medicinally and ceremonially

Pretty much all of the Indigenous trees in the area grow on the tribal grounds. We've got some of everything on there, because uh we've got some uplands and we've got some low lands. On my personal property, it's more upland, so I don't have any of the Cypress trees and the sweet gum trees and such that are more around the wet areas.

From medicinal plants. We have all kinds of things like plantains and elderberries. You could actually build a natural pharmacy just being in the woods here!

I'm a certified herbalist. At some of our events we have classes that we teach, and we do teach the medicines that can be made from the natural plants and what they are. We don't have anything like a shaman or a medicine uh man or some of those things, but we do teach the use of natural medicines.

Elderberry is the bomb! That is one of the best immune system boosters. And if your immune system is working good, it takes care of a whole host of other issues that might pop up. In a syrup is the way it's done medicinally. But elderberry uh jams are really good too.