Published on February 15, 2015 by Carol
Alexander Lawrence Posey (1873—1908) was a Native American Muscogee Creek poet, humorist, journalist, and politician.
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Alexander Posey born on August 3, 1873, near present Eufaula, Creek Nation. He was the oldest of twelve children, and his parents were Lawrence Hence Posey, who was Scots-Irish, and Nancy Phillips Posey (Creek name Pohas Harjo), who was Muscogee Creek and a member of the Harjo family.
Because Posey’s mother was from the tribal town of Tuskegee and Creek clan membership follows matrilineal lines, Posey himself was a Wind Clan member of Tuskegee. Although Posey’s father named Lewis H. Posey was born to European-American parents, he called himself Creek. He was raised in the Creek Nation from the time he was orphaned, he spoke the Muscogee language fluently, and he was a member of the Broken Arrow tribal town. Young Alexander spoke only Muscogee. When he was fourteen, his father insisted that he speak English and punished him if he spoke in his native language. From that time, Posey received a formal education, including three years at Bacone Indian University in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
In 1896, Posey married Minnie Harris, a schoolteacher. Together they had three children, Yahola Irving, Pachina Kipling, and Wynema Torrans, each with a middle name reflecting the couple’s literary heroes.
Posey worked at Indian Journal, where he published poems. In 1895, he became a member of the Creek National Council. He was also the director of a Creek Orphanage.
In 1901, Posey edited the journal Eufaula Indian Journal and received national recognition for founding the first Indian-published Indian-published daily newspaper.
In 1906, Posey was secretary for the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma, he is credited with having written most of that constitution.
As Posey honed his satirical skills, he created a fictional persona, Fus Fixico (Muscogee Creek for “Heartless Bird”), whose editorial letters were published in the Indian Journal. Fus Fixico was a fullblood Muscogee traditionalist, who chatty letters about his everyday life or detailed accounts that he had heard from the fictional Muscogee medicine man Hotgun share with an audience of Creek elders: Kono Harjo, Tookpafka Micco, and Wolf Warrior. These monologues are given in Creek dialect.
The Fus Fixico letters have aspects of nostalgia but are primarily sharp political commentary about Muscogee Nation, Indian Territory, and United States politics. This was a time of political upheaval because Creek lands were broken up in individual allotments under the Dawes Act. The Curtis Act of 1898 destroyed tribal governments and institutions, paving the way for Indian Territory to become the state of Oklahoma. Experienced politicians from the so-called Five Civilized Tribes attempted to create an indigenous-controlled State of Sequoyah, but their proposals were rejected by the US Federal Government. Posey served as secretary for the 1905 State of Sequoyah convention. His Fus Fixico letters from 1902 to 1908 poked fun of the statehood debated. Various US newspapers proposed syndicating the Fus Fixico letters nationwide, but Posey refused. His readership was within Indian Territory, and he didn’t believe a non-Native audience would understand the humor.
So-called dialect literature was extremely popular at the dawn of the 20th century. Usually dialect literature imitated African-American dialect, but the Posey family also avidly read Robert Burns, who wrote poetry in the Scots language. Posey’s father read such dialect writers as Max Adler, Josh Billings, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and James Whitcomb Riley. Alexander Posey saw dialects as a means of reflecting Muscogee oratory styles in English and did not care for dialect writers who simply used it because it was trendy at the time: “Those cigar store Indian dialect stories…will fool no one who has lived ‘six months in the precinct.’ Like the wooden aborigine, they are the product of a white man’s factory, and bear no resemblance to the real article.”
Alexander Posey and a friend attempted to cross the North Canadian River, when he drowned in the flooded river on April 28, 1908, aged 34 years old. Posey is buried at the Greenhill Cemetery in Muskogee.