The Muscogee (Creek) Nation: Connecting Through Service
“Serve always” is one of Freese and Nichols key values, and we serve because it’s at the core of what we do and who we are. Our relationship with The Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, exemplifies how we connect through service.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in others.”
The Muscogee Nation, a self-governed Native American Tribe, is the fourth-largest federally recognized tribe in the United States with a reservation roughly the size of New Jersey. Native Americans make up a significant part of Tulsa’s demographic, with three federally recognized tribes (Cherokee, Muscogee, and Osage) converging in the metro area.
Annie Vest, our Mitigation and Disaster Planning Lead, based in Tulsa, began working with the Muscogee Nation and their Director of Emergency Management in 2019.
“I just kind of fell in love with their culture,” Annie said.
While at a previous firm, she helped the Muscogee Nation write their first Hazard Mitigation Plan. In the process, she interviewed the nation’s elders, and learned about their language and culture. She also serves as a volunteer for the nation.
“Annie is a valued member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation family,” said Bobby Howard, Muscogee Nation Director of Emergency Management. “She has worked as a volunteer to the Emergency Management Office on numerous disasters while working in her full-time role on the nation’s mitigation projects. Principal Chief Hill values her opinion and advice concerning all matters related to FEMA concerning the nation.”
Annie Vest helped the Muscogee Nation write their first Hazard Mitigation Plan. Annie said she helps the tribe complete paperwork for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance in case of disasters. she also writes the nation’s emergency declarations to make sure they meet requirements for federal aid.
“They had a disaster in May of 2022, and I wrote their request for federal assistance directly to President Biden that the Chief signed,” she said.
In June, a complex of storms ravaged Tulsa with straight-line winds upwards of 117 miles per hour. Widespread power outages, downed trees, and property damage was reported across northeast Oklahoma.
Annie accompanied Bobby as he delivered generators to various facilities in Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma, including a children’s home. Whenever the community is in need, Annie said, the Muscogee Nation and other Native American tribes step up in a big way. They are the backbone of the community, which is why she considers it important to help preserve their culture.
“When hazards impact the Muscogee Nation, it’s a lot different because they lose things that can no longer be found anywhere on the earth,” Annie said. “That’s a bigger burden to bear when you’re thinking about helping them salvage that culture.”
She said volunteering with the Muscogee Nation has given her perspective that impacts her daily.
“I feel like I benefit more from the things that I personally gain in terms of understanding that heritage, and just getting a glimpse into them as a community that helps me be a better human on the daily when I think about my own personal privilege in comparison,” Annie said.