Who was here before us? Right HERE, where you live? Have you ever
wondered? For some people the past is a tiny footnote to the present.
For others, the past exerts a fascination bordering on obsession. My
obsession with long ago times began at my great grandmother's knee,
soon after I learned to walk and talk. Grandma Maxy's own grandmother
was part of the forced removal of the Muscogee from the N, Alabama
area. Grandma remembered the pre-allotment period, and still lived on
her little piece of the Nation, near Leonard. To the little boy I was, she
was old as the hill she lived on, and remembered everything of
consequence since the beginning of history. I remember so many
wonderful stories she told, and I also remember a question I asked which
foreshadowed my path through the coming years. "Grandma, who was
here before us?

"Why. No one, Robbie" she said with mild surprise. It was as if the
question had never occurred to her, although I'm sure it must have. No
one was here. This beautiful land I love, empty of people until the Great
Father in Washington gave it to the Creeks. I didn't believe it. Not even
as a 5 year old.

So began my 45-year quest for knowledge about the pre-historic
inhabitants of the Muscogee Nation's new home in N.E. Okalahoma.
Many of us, like my Grandma, don't spend a lot of time worrying about
the way people lived 10,000 years ago. Somehow it just doesn't seem
relevant to them and the life they live now. But those of us who study the
past see important lessons for those who live here today in the
experiences of those who lived here before.

Among the first solid evidence that my family was not the first group of
humans to live along the Arkansas River in Tulsa Co. were the stone
tools and weapons found by neighbors and family members in the fields
and creeks. Some of these "arrowheads" were very beautiful, and made
an impression on my young mind that has never left. Some one made
these, I knew. All through my school years, I continued to read in the
fields of archaeology and anthropology. The story the books told was
simple, logical, and straightforward. It seemed a bit too simple, to my
untrained mind.

As an adult I began to study stone tools in earnest. They have often
been referred to as "stories in stone", and I resolved to examine every
authentic artifact I could until I understood the "language" of worked
stone. I say every authentic stone artifact because I was soon made
aware that many modern artifacts were accidentally or deliberately
represented as genuine. Soon I was using a microscope and black light
to weed the modern points and tools from the collections I studied. As I
made more contacts among hunters and collectors of  "arrowheads", I
found myself asked to examine many artifacts and collections. Eventually
I was persuaded to begin certifying surface collected artifacts, providing
a written, notarized Certificate of Authenticity and opinion of age and
cultural affiliation.

Prehistoric Oklahoma was home to many ancient groups of people, often
at the same time. The complexity of its culture, from the earliest times, is
astounding. I am not an archeologist, but through sharing the knowledge
I've gained with school groups, clubs, and other groups. I have tried to
raise awareness among those who live here now about those who lived
here long ago. I've written articles containing original work for
publications such as Central States Archaeological Journal, and tried to
contribute to the body of knowledge about our home. But I am most
proud of the work I've done to educate people who find and care for
these treasures of the ancient ones, those who rescue talking rocks from
the plow, and often care for them better than any museum. Many times I
have shown owners things about their artifact, which they had not
noticed in all the decades they owned it. To see the excitement on their
faces is truly priceless. And the Certificates of Authenticity I issue will
provide a lasting record of my interpretation.

Learning who was here before us has been my passion, and my privilege.


Who was here before