Old graveyards found on Creek Nation land

Coweta, Oklahoma (AP) 11-07

When members of the Creek Nation were given their original allotment of 160 acres, a couple of those acres would traditionally be set aside for a small cemetery.

Over the years many of these graveyards have fallen victim to neglect or worse, so the tribe steps in to protect this sacred ground.

The tribe works with the permission of the landowner in cleaning up and documenting each cemetery, said Joyce Bear of the tribe’s Culture Preservation Office.

“A lot of the time when the land had been sold, a farmer would plow over it if he wanted to plant corn or something. Or the headstones would be moved and thrown in a creek or somewhere else,” she said.

One of the old cemeteries that has survived is nestled between evergreen and oak trees near Coweta. The Atkins Cemetery saw its last burial in 1920, when Ida Wagoghe was laid to rest at the age of 23.

Just three years earlier, on Oct. 9, 1917, Billy Atkins, who owned the land, was buried at age 70.

Atkins, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, had received an allotment of 160 acres just north of the Arkansas River in the 1880s. He and his wife, Susan, or Susie, Atkins, had seven children. The family lived on the land.

Tribal members recently cleared away brush and trees from the graveyard.

The oldest headstone belongs to William Haynie, who was born July 15, 1898, and died March 25, 1901. Several of the graves belong to children younger than or near age 10.

They might have died from diphtheria, smallpox or malaria, diseases that plagued the people at that time, said Benny Parkerson, a great-grandson of Billy Atkins’.