- Lost Creeks: Collected Journals, and: Song of the Oktahutche: Collected Poems
Every spring in central Oklahoma we would look forward to the thunderstorms that would flood the South Canadian River so we could be sure the family reunion float trip would offer a little adventure. Usually sleepy and occasionally bone-dry, come May the meandering river would turn high, fast, and unpredictable. One thing we could count on by the time we pulled the tractor tire tubes out was pockets full of red mud. Alexander Posey, the Creek writer whose Fus Fixico dialect letters put a hilarious spin on the very unfunny allotment of Indian land under the Dawes Act, lived most his life a ways east and one branch up from where we were, on the North Canadian River. As Craig Womack and Daniel Littlefield recount, at the early age of thirty-four, Posey too much of water had, and drowned in the waters he knew and loved so well.
The river weaves in and out of Posey's recently published collected journals and poetry, edited and introduced by Matthew Sivils. Practically unavailable until now, these autobiographical sketches [End Page 88] and poems about Muscogee politics and place offer a fascinating look into Posey's formative writing life during a crucial historical moment, even if they occasionally glide by less picturesque details of the Oklahoma landscape. No one who has tried to wash the Canadian's mud out of cutoff Wranglers would buy Posey's description of its sky-blue tide or fail to shudder at the remark, "This river water ain't so bad, is it? Tastes pretty good, I think" (Lost Creeks 103). Despite the occasional casting of local flavor in felicitous terms, Posey in these books previews the acute eye and ear for detail that made his Fus Fixico letters such an innovative contribution to American literature.
The volumes of journals and poems thematically overlap to some degree, especially in their attention to the natural world that shapes and is shaped by Posey's concerns with allotment, progress, Creek traditions, and literature. The primary material in Lost Creeks mainly consists of the journal Posey kept when he worked as superintendent of the Creek Orphan Asylum. The entries largely focus on his family, the natural world, and his literary readings. The approximate latter half collects two accounts of a float down the Oktahutche (the Creek word for the North Canadian), a short autobiographical account, and a too-brief journal of the time he spent as a field clerk and interpreter for the Dawes Commission. For this last assignment, he was charged with instructions "to secure additional evidence in applications for enrollment, search for 'lost Creeks' and conciliate the 'Snakes'" (121). This fascinating section recounts his interview with Chitto Harjo, the leader of Creek resistance against allotment. A list of Posey's personal library now held by Bacone College is also included, as is Sivils's useful biography and thorough introduction.
Here Sivils makes a strong case for Posey's thoroughgoing Creek-ness, divesting the construction of mixed-bloodedness of its imputed requisite identity crisis. He does, however, in diversifying the different ways in which Creeks can be Creeks, maintain that Posey's attitude toward full-bloods or traditionalists was rooted in romanticized and tragic appraisals of their chances in the face of progress, approximating mainstream sympathies for noble savages. To be sure, Posey's melodramatic language supports such a reading, [End Page 89] but his irreverent undercurrents should also caution against taking him too credulously.
Posey is by no means at his most ironic in the journals, but he has several clever moments, especially concerning his interactions with Creek traditionalists. Posey tells one at his own expense, speaking of Dickey,
"just a common everyday Indian" who generally gets the best of me. For instance, he will come, as he did today, and draw...