Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)

Degree Level





Kirstin Erickson

Committee Member

JoAnn D'Alisera

Second Committee Member

George Sabo III


Ceremonial Practices and Religion, Ethnoecology, Mvskoke/Muskogee/"Creek", Phenomenology, Reflexivity, Southeastern Native Americans


This dissertation is an ethnographic investigation of the intersection between cosmology, worldview, ethnoecology, and traditional religious performance, particularly in terms of the relationship between subjective experience and intersubjectivity. It is a study of how people come to understand the world – an attempt to understand understanding. I explore the acquisition of social, cultural, and ecological knowledge through participation in the traditional religious ceremonialism of a Mvskoke ceremonial community, called the Busk. I write about living people and living religious traditions, but I am also a member of this community and, therefore, I am also telling my own story. Reflexivity, then, serves a strong methodological role in highlighting my own positionality and experiences within the community. I use a phenomenological approach that directs the research focus to people’s actual experiences of the world around them in order to investigate how individuals come to perceive and understand the world differently as a result of participation in the Busks. The Busk ceremonials are the primary means of inculcation of the traditional teachings that inform and reinforce a distinctive framework of understanding, an intersubjectively negotiated worldview called the Mvskoke-Nene, or Muskogee Path. Walking the Mvskoke-Nene is a phrase used to describe a way of seeing and understanding the world, a way of being. As people walk the Mvskoke-Nene, the teachings of the Busk ceremonials are internalized and implemented into their daily lives, and give rise to new ways of perceiving and interacting with the world. In this dissertation, I examine the teachings of the Busk and explore the system of knowledge and natural symbolism that gives meaning to those teachings.