Free and Open Country

i was forty six years of age
as certified by my master
at the time of emancipation

i can remember when the steam
boats first began to run on
the southern rivers
also when there was not a
railroad in the southern states
     the only transportation
we knew was wagons and two
wheeled carts drawn by ox teams

i have seen the country
where muskogee now stands
when it was an open range
covered with bluestem prairie
grass higher than a mans head
     in those days this country was
a beautiful free and open country
a land of plenty for its people
a hunters paradise
as there were plenty of wild game
wild fruit
in fact everything to supply
the needs of the people
furnished through the natural
resources of gods creation
     i have lived to see a
change in this country which
i am unable to describe

Allen Morris, b. 1817

James Treat is the author of Around the Sacred Fire: Native Religious Activism in the Red Power Era (Palgrave Macmillan / St. Martin’s Press, 2003; paperback edition, University of Illinois Press, 2008) and the editor of several volumes of native literature. At the University of Illinois, he teaches courses on indigenous religious and ecological traditions and on the place of nature in contemporary criticism. Treat is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. https://jamestreat.wordpress.com

This is a found poem drawn from interviews with elderly citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation recorded in 1937-38 and archived as part of the Indian-Pioneer Papers, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma.

You can see another poem in 4.2 here.