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Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

In a new branding identity effort, the Muscogee Nation has dropped (Creek) from its name.

“The identity of the Nation and how we’re viewed in the public has been discussed several times over the years,” Principal Chief David Hill said in a statement. “With this announcement coinciding with our new era as an affirmed reservation, we thought the timing was right for an update on our brand.”

While Hill said it has been discussed several times, the most recent effort has been in the works since September, tribal press secretary Jason Salsman said, and is about creating brand awareness for the tribe.

The new branding identity doesn’t mean (Creek) has been deleted from the tribal constitution.

Salesman added that while the Muscogee Nation has a tribal seal, it is not a logo suited for social media or promotions like ads and billboards.

“When you see the seal, that says ‘tribal government’ and it's really easy to say we think we know what a tribal government is but we do so much more than just a tribal government. We're doing community initiatives, we give to schools, we pave roads in different communities, we put ad dollars in big events, in big media conglomerates in Tulsa. We put sponsorship dollars in dinners and galas and all kinds of things,” Salsman said. “So to have that brand awareness was very important to us to just not have just a seal, which is very much like we said, still relevant the seal is not going anywhere.”

Salsman continued to say that the seal and new logo will likely be used alongside one another in many cases. The tribal seal is protected by the tribe’s constitution and will continue to be used for legal documents and anything representing the government, such as legislation, proclamations and executive orders.

“The official name is not going anywhere. It's still Muscogee (Creek) Nation in the constitution, it will remain that unless there's a legislative action to change it,” Salsman said.

He also referenced the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations as tribes that have logos that are different from the tribal seal.

In late 2020, the St. Regis Mohawk postponed a vote to change their official name from the former to Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe, so the Muscogee Nation is not the first to make this change.

But members of the nation are not all on board with the change, and some say their identity is being stripped away from them and what they’ve known their entire lives.

“What are we, a symbol or a people?” tribal member Bill Davis asked Wednesday. “If that had some wording on it to identify who we are as a people, then I’m for it, but if you're doing it as a symbol to be more invisible, then I'm against it.”

However, Salsman said some have overhyped the dropping of the word “Creek,” insinuating the tribe will never be able to use it again.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We want to encourage our citizens who still refer to themselves as Creek Indians can do that. Those that love the name change, hey, we're all the more about it but professionally and to the public we want to be seen as the Muscogee Nation.”

One citizen, Galen Cloud, offered a suggestion for a change that would bring the tribe back to its roots.

“We know who we are as Muscogee people. I'm glad they took the Creek out but I wish they would have gone back to the original spelling. If you look at it and you see the spelling of Muscogee it's easy to pronounce,” Cloud said.

“The traditional spelling is Mvskoke. My understanding is that the public at large couldn't pronounce Mvskoke as Muscogee because of the V in it. Now we have the opportunity to correctly spell Muscogee, and we don't because we still want to appease people,” he said.

Muscogee Nation creative manager Brian OnTheHill created the new logo for the tribe that took inspiration from Mississippian design on pottery and shell carvings.

According to the statement, “each of the logo’s four components has a longer limb and each of them reach toward the other, just as many Mississippian motifs intertwine, to form a whole. This is in reference to the union of the Muscogee-speaking tribal towns to create the Creek Confederacy and our maintained connectedness as a people. The four pieces of the logo refer to the sacred number within traditional Muscogee doctrine. Four represents balance, as in the symmetrical shape of the logo.”

The tribe also uploaded a video explaining the thoughts behind the new logo.

OnTheHill said the tribe is “changing the general public’s perception of who we are and what we do.”

“The British coined the misnomer ‘Creek,’” the artist said in the statement. “When this alias appears in parentheses alongside the proper name of the Nation it creates confusion among the general public. In order to solidify the Nation’s identification and keep the connection to the tribal seal, we focused the brand on Muscogee.”

Salsman echoed those sentiments saying Muscogee is “who we are, not what we were called,” referencing how the British saw the tribe living along waterways.

“I think a true identity and a true representation is who we are, the Muscogee Indians and the Muscogee Nation,” Salsman said. “So I think that for us it's a harkening back to our true, real self and our real identity.”

Changes are already happening, the tribe has updated their website to stay consistent with the branding changes. They commemorated the move with commercials, branded masks and have more announcements forthcoming.

All in all, the tribe is forging ahead with its new brand, while not forgetting its roots.

“We are not denying our history,” OnTheHill said. “We are declaring our own identity.”

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The Associated Press and Gaylord News contributed to this report