Poarch Stories

Welcome to Poarch Stories, a journey through the rich and diverse history of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Native American Heritage Month: Part 4

Join us in this episode as Gregory McGhee sits down with us to delve into the intricacies of powwow etiquette and traditions. Greg shares his journey from a small town in Atmore, Alabama, to embracing his Native American heritage and participating in powwows. We discuss the significance of powwows as cultural gatherings, emphasizing the importance of respect for dancers, regalia, and traditions. The conversation explores the roles of emcees, arena directors, and head dancers, shedding light on the intense competitions and drum contests. The episode not only educates listeners about powwow customs but also highlights the importance of fellowship and respect within the powwow community!


[1:17] – Gregory shares some background information about himself.

[3:33] – After attending an all-Indian university, Greg developed a deep appreciation for the community and traditions.

[6:16] – Greg continues to learn from powwows even though he’s been to many.

[7:59] – What is a powwow?

[10:36] – Last year’s 50th powwow marked a significant milestone, showcasing growth and community spirit.

[12:18] – Greg emphasizes the importance of showing respect at powwows.

[14:16] – Hear why Greg prefers the word “regalia” over “costume.”

[17:11] – When in doubt, ask for permission respectfully; inquire about cultural aspects.

[18:53] – Greg reiterates that respect and reverence are vital at powwows, especially during moments like eagle feather drops.

[19:54] – Eagle whistles symbolize honor, granted for passion, with significant responsibilities.

[21:03] – Greg adds that being whistled with an eagle signifies profound respect and fulfillment.

[23:38] – What does the eagle whistle sound like?

[25:49] – What are the responsibilities of an emcee?

[28:48] – Greg explains the role of the arena director.

[29:49] – What is the grand entry?

[30:47] – The eagle symbolizes unity and strength in Native American culture.

[33:24] – Greg discusses how flag songs unite tribes, honoring ancestors and preserving cultural legacies.

[35:38] – The emcee guides the audience during the grand entry, emphasizing respect and participation.

[37:17] – The arena area is reserved for dancers and families, with spectators using designated seating like bleachers.

[39:28] – Learn about intertribal dances.

[42:38] – Greg explains that the head man and head lady serve as lead dancers.

[45:54] – Dance and drum contests at powwows can be incredibly intense and anxiety-inducing.

[48:41] – Experienced judges select diverse dancers, ensuring fairness and competition integrity.

[50:08] – Dancers are evaluated based on symmetry, rhythm, and movement consistency.

[52:37] – The drum contest is an especially exciting aspect of the powwow.

[54:49] – Drum contests involve distinct northern and southern styles.

[57:48] – Drum contests’ formats vary at different powwows, leading to intense judging and competition.

[1:00:03] – Greg emphasizes that maintaining focus, especially during dance leads, is crucial.

[1:02:58] – Greg has learned that a lot of vendors are willing to barter and/or trade.


Native American Heritage Month: Part 3

In this episode of our Native American Heritage Month series, we are so happy to welcome Alex Alvarez, an educator, artist, and seasoned powwow enthusiast. Alex shares his lifelong journey into the powwow tradition, tracing his roots back to his Creek heritage. Powwows, he explains, have been his sanctuary, a place of belonging and celebration of Native American culture. He describes the evolution of powwow drum contests, from modest prizes a decade ago to today’s highly competitive events offering substantial cash rewards, and he emphasizes the importance of respect and tradition in powwows, from the structured patterns of drumming to the significance of tobacco offerings and the sacredness of the drum. Through insightful anecdotes and wisdom, Alex sheds light on the intricacies of powwow culture, revealing the heartwarming mentorship and mutual respect that keep this ancient tradition alive and thriving.

Native American Heritage Month: Part 2

Join us today as we sit down with Mindy Jackson to delve into the fascinating world of the Princess Contest in the Poarch Creek Indian community. Mindy, a former participant herself, shares her insights on the evolution of the contest, shedding light on the rigorous preparations contestants undergo. From intricate traditional arts like patchwork and beadwork to mastering the Muskogee language, these young ambassadors dedicate themselves to representing their tribe. Mindy emphasizes the importance of family support and the cultural department’s pivotal role in shaping these young leaders. Contrary to misconceptions, the Princess Contest isn’t just a beauty pageant; it’s a platform for preserving tribal heritage, fostering pride, and instilling a deep sense of cultural identity. Join us as we uncover the rich tapestry of tradition, talent, and tenacity that defines the Princess Contest in the Poarch Creek Indian community!

Native American Heritage Month: Part 1

Join us today as we sit down with Ding Ding, the planning and events coordinator for the tribe. We discuss the intricacies of planning the Poarch Creek powwow, shedding light on the behind-the-scenes efforts that make this event one of the largest powwows in the southeastern United States. Ding Ding also shares insights into the historical significance of the powwow, emphasizing its deep sentimental value and cultural importance to the Poarch Creek tribe. The conversation delves into the meticulous planning involved, from selecting head staff and organizing drawings to accommodating vendors and spectators. We also highlight the involvement of local churches, the challenges faced in preserving traditions, and the importance of intertribal relationships.

Consolidated Schoolhouse Series: Part 6

Today, we’re continuing our conversation about the Consolidated School. James and Benjamin Colbert join us to discuss their time attending various schools. From learning how to read and write to learning basic Alabama history, Benjamin reminisces about his time at the Consolidated Schoolhouse.

Consolidated Schoolhouse Series: Part 5

Today, we’re continuing our conversation about the Consolidated School. Sheila Odem joins us to discuss her time attending the Consolidated School and how it differs from school life today. We listen in as she reminisces about “the good ole days”.

Consolidated Schoolhouse Series: Part 4

Today, we’re continuing our conversation about the Consolidated School. Ronnie Jackson and Kent McGhee join us to discuss her time attending the Consolidated School and how it differs from school life today. The two men reminisce about their time in school, from their first jobs to what they’re doing now.

Consolidated Schoolhouse Series: Part 3

Today, we’re continuing our conversation about the Consolidated School. Maxine Lassiter joins us to discuss her time attending the Consolidated School and how it differs from school life today. We listen in as she reminisces about her early years attending school to becoming the school’s bus driver.

Consolidated Schoolhouse Series: Part Two

In the 1940s, Escambia County opened the Poarch Consolidated School to provide Indian children with a “separate but equal” education.

Today, Ethel Walker and Eloise Hall join hosts Billy Baily, Brandy Chunn and Blake Crook to continue the conversation about education in the Poarch Creek community.  The two women share stories about their experiences in the Poarch Consolidated School. They reminisce not only about their school but also their memories of growing up in the Poarch Creek Community.

Consolidated Schoolhouse Series: Part One

Education is one of the most important things to the Poarch Creek people. But it wasn’t always easy. Segregation and poverty were just two things the Poarch Creek people had to contend with as they strived for quality education.

Today, Lori Sawyer joins hosts Billy Baily, Brandy Chunn, and Blake Crook to discuss the long and sometimes complicated history of education in the Poarch Creek community. We learn about how the Tribe’s perseverance helped pave the way for students today.

Emerging Nations

For this episode, the PBCI Tribal Historic Preservation Office interviewed Dr. Gregory Waselkov, a retired professor of archeology for the University of South Alabama. He shared his knowledge on Creek history from first contact with Europeans up to the Creek War, primarily focusing on trade between the Creeks and the Europeans.

Poarch Stories Introduction

Early Poarch Creek Way of Life

In this episode, we discuss the time period after Creeks were removed from Alabama. Our Poarch Creek ancestors were able to utilize the land, which provided everything they needed for survival. We dive into how the cattle and timber industry gave our ancestors a glimpse into the outside world.

The Churches that Made Poarch

From Baptist to Pentecostal to Episcopal, The Tribe has always had a strong connection to Christianity. Though the Poarch community was so small when all of these denominations got their start, they were still able to thrive. Their success was due, in part, to each denomination leader’s willingness to allow the religion to adapt to the Poarch community’s way of life.