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Creek

Creek

ETHNONYMS: Muskogee, Muscogee, Muskoke, Mvskoke Creeks, Coweta, Caveta, Talapoosa, Tallapusa, Talaposa, Apihka, Abehka, Arbeka, Coosa, Cosa, Alabama

Orientation

Identification and Location. The Creek are a multiethnic American Indian nation living primarily in central Oklahoma, with a small remnant population in Alabama. The name "Creek" derives from the eighteenth century British usage 'Ocheesee Creek Indians, " referring to those Creeks then resident on the Ocheesee (now Ocmulgee) River. They call themselves "Muskogee" or "Muskoke, " which is of foreign origin and unknown meaning. The tribal government prefers Mvskoke Creek in the twenty-first century. Important tribal divisions are referred to as the Lower and Upper Creeks, by British and American sources, or Coweta (Kawita), Cosa (Kusa), Talapusa, and Alabama by the Spanish and the people themselves.

The Creeks aboriginally claimed most of the modern state of Georgia and the eastern portions of current Alabama in the southeastern United States. This territory largely lay in the Appalachian piedmont between 30° to 35° N and 82° to 87° W.

Demography. No reliable overall population estimates exist from the early contact period (c. 1540) for the groups who later constituted the Creek Confederacy. Based on the fragmentary evidence, their number was at least ten times as high as during the eighteenth century. In 1715 the Creeks numbered about 8, 500 persons and reached their nadir in the 1720s and 1730s with only about 4,000-5,000 people. By 1764, their population rebounded to about l0,500. By 1798 there were about l6,000 Creeks and they numbered 21,792 just prior to removal in 1832. In 1859, their population had declined to 13,573. In 1890, the Creek population stood at 9,639 Indians and 4,203 freed slaves. In 2001, the tribal enrollment had grown to 51, 152 persons.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Creeks spoke several related languages of the Muskogean language family, mostly belonging to the Eastern Branch. Upper Creeks living on the Tallapoosa and Coosa rivers and a few Lower Creek towns spoke Muskogee proper, the dominant language of the Creek Confederacy. About ten thousand people in Oklahoma spoke this language as of the beginning of the twenty-first century. Most Lower Creek towns spoke Hichiti, also of the Eastern Branch of the Muskogean language family, but this language became extinct in the early twentieth century. The Alabamas and Koasatis spoke different dialects of Alabama, related to Choctaw, belonging to the Western Branch of the Muskogean language family. Both dialects were nearly extinct in Oklahoma in the late twentieth century. Several towns incorporated into the Creeks originally spoke other poorly known languages belonging to the Eastern Branch of the Muskogean language family, including Yamasee, Guale, Apalachee, Chacto, Oconee, and Apalachicola, but all became extinct in the eighteenth century. The Creek Confederacy also incorporated several Yuchi towns in the seventeenth century, who spoke their own language, an isolate. Only a few elders spoke this language at the beginning of the twenty-first century. A number of Algonquian-speaking Shawnees also merged into the Creeks during the eighteenth century, but quickly lost their language.

History and Cultural Regions

The Creek Confederacy emerged from the political and social chaos precipitated by the collapse of the earlier paramount chiefdoms in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Four regional confederacies or chiefdoms emerged in eastern Alabama and western Georgia by 1680: the Kusa, the Talapusa, the Alabama, and the Kawita. These groups also absorbed remnants of the Apalachee, Chacto, Pensacola, Mobila, Yamasee, and Oconee during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In the early eighteenth century, these four groups forged an alliance, creating the Creek Confederacy. Originally a military alliance, designed primarily to deal with the European colonial powers, the Confederacy grew in power and significance over the course of the century. Each of the groups remained internally self-governing and often pursued independent foreign policies in regard to other Indian tribes during much of the eighteenth century.

The Creeks became actively involved in the deerskin and Indian slave trades after the founding of Charleston in 1680. They also had routine contacts with the Spanish in Florida and with the French in Louisiana. The Creeks used their position to play each against the others and maintain their independence, dominating the balance of power for most of the century.

Relations with the Americans after the Revolution remained strained. The nativist Red Stick movement precipitated a crisis, resulting in the Red Stick War of 1813-1814 with the United States and extensive land cessions. In 1832, the Creeks acquiesced to American pressure and signed a removal treaty, exchanging their lands in the east for land in Indian Territory and emigrated there in 1836-1837.

The Creeks reestablished their towns in Indian Territory and enjoyed relative prosperity until the outbreak of the American Civil War. The Creeks participated in the war, which divided the nation. The restoration treaty with the United States in 1866 forced the tribe to cede the western half of their reservation. After the war, the Creeks again reestablished their lives and prosperity until the United States forced the tribe to accept allotment and the dissolution of the tribal government after 1898. In 1907, the state of Oklahoma was established and the Creeks became citizens of the state.

Settlements

The Creeks occupied permanent nucleated villages strung along rivers and streams during the eighteenth century and earlier. At contact, large vacant buffer zones separated chiefdoms and some buffering between regional groupings continued through the eighteenth century. Within groups, 1-5 miles (1. 6 to 8 kilometers) typically separated villages, though out-settlements on tributary streams might be more isolated. Rivers connected settlements, as did an intricate network of trails. The central village of each italwa (group of villages) served as a capital and contained the chief's residence and a central ceremonial plaza and rotunda, which served as the center of political and ritual activity for all of the villages of the italwa, as well as a chunky yard and ball field.

The number of villages varied through time, with about thirty to forty in the early eighteenth century and over eighty at the end of the century. The Kawitas and Kusas contained the most villages, with about a dozen each early in the eighteenth century and over thirty each later. The Alabamas only had about four to six villages throughout the century. The Talapusas numbered eight to fifteen villages at this time. Towns varied between thirty and three hundred early, averaging about one hundred to two hundred. In the 1790s, they ranged between seventy and one thousand, with most between two hundred and three hundred. Houses consisted of two to four rectangular wattle and daub buildings arranged around a central yard. The suppression of warfare after the American Revolution led to a greater dispersal of the population into more but smaller villages.

After Removal to Indian Territory, the Creeks reestablished their towns, with most Lower Creek towns settling along the Arkansas River and the Upper Creek towns along the Canadian, North Canadian, and Deep Fork Rivers to the west. The Creeks maintained forty-eight tribal towns in Oklahoma during the nineteenth century. Log cabins replaced older structures by mid-century. They also developed several Euro-American style towns such Muskogee, Okmulgee, and Holdenville. During the latter nineteenth century, the Creeks adopted a more dispersed settlement pattern, with more isolated homesteads, but continued the central towns with its square ground or later, church. All tribal towns were broken up in the early twentieth century, though dispersed rural communities remain in some areas. Large numbers of Creeks now live in the white towns and cities of Oklahoma.

Economy

Subsistence. The Creeks were farmers raising maize, beans, squashes, and other crops by intensively farming the river levies, supplemented by hunting, fishing, and gathering. Several varieties of each of the major crops were raised. The Creeks maintained an in-field/out-field system, with small garden plots near the houses and large town fields some distance away along the river levies. The women of each house-hold individually farmed their in-fields. The town fields, which contained individual plots for each household, were worked by communally organized work gangs of men under the command of the town chief.

The chief game animals were the white-tailed deer, raccoons, and turkeys. Men hunted primarily during the late fall and winter (October-March), with both communal drives and smaller parties. Men often left the villages for weeks or months at this time. Meat from these hunts was dried and smoked for future use. Men only hunted close to the villages during the agricultural season.

Commercial Activities. During the eighteenth century, the Creeks adopted cattle, horses, hogs, and chickens from the Europeans, along with a number of vegetable and fruit crops. They also became heavily involved in the European deerskin trade at this time and grew increasingly dependent on European manufactures, particularly edged tools, cloth, and firearms. The trade collapsed at the end of the eighteenth century and some Creeks shifted to selling cattle and working in intensive, commercial agriculture.

After Removal, most Creeks continued their earlier patterns in Oklahoma, though livestock became increasingly more important, while hunting declined. Some expanded their commercial farming and cattle raising operations during the nineteenth century. Later in the century, the Creeks moved to more dispersed individual fields, though some communal labor continued until the early twentieth century. After allotment, most large operators went out of business, though many Creeks continued to practice diversified subsistence agriculture until after World War II. Few Creeks farm today, though many maintain gardens and a few livestock, mostly hogs and chickens. Most Creeks rely on cash incomes from wage labor, leasing, and government assistance. Unemployment is high and employment tends to be concentrated in the service industry, oil field related industries, and construction.

Industrial Arts. Aboriginal crafts included metalworking in copper and later brass and silver, shell working, ground and chipped stone, and wood working by men. Creek women spun cordage and wove cloth, made baskets and mats from split cane and hickory, and made pottery. Weaving, shell working, and much of the stone industries largely died out during the eighteenth centuries when European trade goods replaced native manufactures. Only a little finger weaving of sashes and some traditional woodworking remain in the twenty-first century.

Trade. Extensive trade networks linked the Creeks to much of the continent prior to contact and large chiefdoms emerged to control the flow of goods. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this aboriginal trade was highly disrupted and trade with Europeans was not well developed. After the founding of Charleston in 1680, the deerskin trade became central to the Creek economy. During the nineteenth century, trade shifted to livestock and agricultural produce and the Creeks became major exporters throughout the century.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, men hunted, fished, farmed the town fields, and traded; they also produced most stone, bone, wooden, and metal implements. Women gardened, gathered wild plants, assisted in communal fishing and cultivation, processed all foods and textiles, prepared hides, and manufactured pottery, basketry, and mats, and cloth and clothing. Women also had primary childcare responsibilities. Men heavily dominated ritual and medicinal activities, and politics and warfare were exclusively male activities. In the eighteenth century, women also tended fruit orchards and raised hogs and chickens. Men primarily herded the cattle and horses, though a few women also owned these animals. In the late eighteenth century, some women also began selling food, agricultural produce, and manufactures to resident traders, but women's trade generally remained a minor activity. While many Creek women in the twenty-first century remain at home, poverty dictates that many must seek employment, primarily in the service industry.

Land Tenure. Aboriginally, each town maintained a separate territory and all land belonged to the town. Allied towns often shared hunting territories. The chief apportioned agricultural lands among the clans, which then distributed them to their members. Clans and households retained use rights to these lands so long as they were used and rights to land passed through women. Owing to pressure from whites to cede lands, the Creeks passed laws in the early nineteenth century vesting title to all lands in the national government and making unauthorized sales treason. Between 1900 and 1906, the federal government allotted the Creek lands in Oklahoma and most passed into white ownership. The tribe retains a few scattered acreages and some individuals also retain allotted lands, all of which is held in trust by the federal government.

Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. More than fifty nonlocalized, exogamous matrilineal clans are reported for the Creeks. Not all clans were present in all towns and a single town rarely had more than twelve. The most clans recorded for a single town was twenty-eight. All localized clan segments contained unnamed lineages and some had named sub-clans. The clans were grouped into exogamous phratries of variable composition, typically with six to eight per town. Clans further were grouped into two moieties (Hathakaki and Cilokaki), which served primarily ritual functions in the nineteenth century. Other than establishing mutual obligations of hospitality and regulating marriage, clans had no corporate identity outside of the individual towns. All local descent groups were internally ranked on the basis of seniority. Local clan segments and phratries also had formal leadership consisting of the senior man from the senior internal segment. Clans regulated marriage and served as political and jural units within the towns. Clans remain ritually significant to the Creeks and most still know their clans.

Kinship Terminology. The Creeks kinship terms traditionally followed the Crow system.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Creeks traditionally prohibited marriage within one's own clan or phratry and one's father's clan. Parents or clan elders normally arranged first and sometimes subsequent marriages, giving their children only the right of refusal. Older individuals might exercise greater choice of mates. Little ceremony, other than nominal gift exchange, marked marriage. Newlyweds typically lived with the wife's parents for the first year or two, after which a separate house was constructed nearby. Adultery was severely punished and women could be beaten and have their hair and ears or noses cropped and men could be beaten senseless by their wives' female relatives. At the death of a spouse, the survivor entered a period of mourning during which he or she remained largely secluded and unkempt, cared for by the deceased's female relatives. This period lasted four months for men and four years for women, though the deceased spouse's female relatives could shorten that period. At the end of the mourning period the clan of the deceased was expected to provide a replacement spouse, who could be refused by either men or women. Divorce was common and could be initiated by either party. Men became free immediately, but women had to wait until the next Green Corn Ceremony. No stigma was attached to divorced persons, except in cases of adultery. These practices continued into the early twentieth century, but were subsequently abandoned, though a preference for matrilocality still exists among social conservatives.

Domestic Unit. Traditionally Creeks lived in nuclear family houses comprising two to four buildings around an interior courtyard. Houses were arranged in matrilocal extended family clusters and clan wards. Each household was economically independent, though some labor pooling and resource sharing existed within the extended family and clan. During the twentieth century the economic and social conditions produced trends toward dispersed nuclear family households. Some extended family clusters characterize more conservative rural communities and three generational families are common, owing to poverty and the prevalence of single mothers since the late twentieth century.

Inheritance. Aboriginally inheritance passed from mother to daughter and mother's brother to sister's son, though fathers could bequeath some limited property to their own children by public declaration. During the nineteenth century the Creek Nation permitted general patrilineal inheritance, but required public testament. Matrilineal inheritance remained the default rule until the twentieth century and the conflicting rules provided a major source of legal disputes. Since 1907, Oklahoma statutes governing intestate inheritance have prevailed, though there is some tendency to ultimogeniture in actual practice.

Socialization. Aboriginally mothers had primary responsibility for socializing children, aided by their brothers and clan elders. These latter also supervised the education of boys from about five or six. Socialization was and is generally permissive, with ridicule and ostracism used to discipline the children. Clan uncles punished more severe or repeated infractions by scratching the arms or legs with a gar tooth or sewing needle. Since the 1930s, fathers have assumed a more active role in socializing children along with other trends toward Euro-American practices. Maternal uncles often retain an active interest in socially conservative families.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Hereditary ranking and seniority played a central role in aboriginal social organization. All of the descent groups were ranked, with the Hathakaki superior to the Cilokaki. One clan within each phratry and one lineage within each clan acted as "elder brother" or "mother's brother, " providing group leadership. Despite matrilineality and matrilocality, marked male dominance characterized gender relations, though women retained important property rights and unmarried women enjoyed complete sexual freedom. Interaction and intermarriage with white traders led to the emergence of a new mercantile class in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which came to dominate the tribal government. This class adopted many elements of Euro-American culture and became distinct from the mass of the people.

Political Organization. The town or italwa, which comprised one or more villages (talofa), was the primary sociopolitical unit. Each town was a quasi-independent political, ritual, and social unit and one village served as the capital with a ceremonial plaza or square ground where public political discussion took place. A hereditary chief or mikko, advised by a council of hereditary and appointive officials, clan heads, and other prominent men, governed each town. Each town also had a military organization, subordinate to the civil authorities, headed by the tastanakaki or war chiefs. Town membership was inherited matrilineally, but individuals could be adopted in with the mikko's permission.

Towns were grouped into four named regional groups organized as confederacies of paramount chiefdoms, each with a council of town officials and a paramount chief. In the early eighteenth century, these region groups joined together to form the Creek Confederacy under the leadership of Coweta. By the late eighteenth century, the Coosas, Talapusas, and Alabamas had merged to form a single "Upper Creek" council and the Confederacy had evolved into a true national government. Separate Upper Creek and Lower Creek (Coweta) councils continued until after the American Civil War. The Creek Nation adopted written laws in 1840 and a written constitution in 1859. Under the constitution, the government consisted of the "principal chief from Coweta, a "second chief' from the Upper Creeks, and National Council consisting of the mikkos (the House of Kings) and the head warriors (House of Warriors) of all the towns. A new constitution after the Civil War provided for elected officials, but the Lower Creeks continued to provide most principal chiefs and hereditary officials continued to represent many of the towns. The tribal government was dissolved in 1906 by the federal government following allotment and antecedent to creating the state of Oklahoma, but was reestablished in 1971, under provisions of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act. The current tribal government consists of a principal chief and second chief, elected at large, and a council of representatives of each of eight districts.

Social Control. Much behavior was regulated by gossip or by fear of divine retribution for violations of sacred law. Clans also regulated the conduct of their members and elders could punish members for infractions, typically by fines or scratching. Clans also sought direct remedies for personal injury to the members by beatings, confiscation of property, or by retaliatory killing for homicide. The mikko could intervene and adjudicate conflicts between clans within the towns. The tastanaki enforced his edicts by fines or whippings. The national government settled disputes between towns, and the national council served as a court of appeals in the nineteenth century. The tribal courts were dissolved along with the tribal government and the Creeks placed under federal and state courts.

Conflict. During the eighteenth century, the regional groups often pursued independent policies. In the late eighteenth century, a new mercantile class, mostly of mixed ancestry, emerged, dividing the nation. In the 1820s conflicts between Lower Creek members of this class and conservatives erupted over removal. Conflicts between the Lower Creeks, dominated by the mercantile class, and the more conservative Upper Creeks characterized the nation after removal, culminating in the civil split. These conflicts continued until allotment. In the twentieth century, conflicts emerged between Christians and traditionalists, as well as between social conservatives and more assimilated tribal members.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Aboriginal religion is polytheistic, with several gods who reside above, and a multitude of spirits, who primarily reside under the earth. They also believe in a pervasive spiritual power (hiliswa) that permeates the universe and inheres to varying degrees in persons, places, and objects. Ritual and political office derives from possession of this power, which is inherited, primarily in the female line. Animate beings possess two souls: the vital force (hisakita or breath) which dissipates at death and the eternal spiritual soul (poyifikca). Even inanimate objects may possess this soul. Individuals can capture the soul of another, including those of under-earth spirits, and harness its power for their own use. The creator, Hisakita Imissi (Master of Breath) heads the pantheon, followed by the Sun and the Sacred Fire. The latter is the tutelary deity of the town and the creator's representative. Other deities include the Moon, Thunder, Corn, and the Four Winds.

While about 20-25 percent of the Creeks still follow the traditional religion, most are Christians, primarily of the Baptist or, less commonly, Methodist denominations. The Creek Baptists and Methodists maintain their own churches with a native clergy and native language services, which are associated with the tribal towns. The Baptists are totally independent of other church associations and heavily influenced by native belief and practice.

Religious Practitioners. Native priests supervised most ritual activity and all public celebrations. Candidates were chosen on the basis of inherent sacred power and served a prolonged apprenticeship that was required to memorize the ceremonies. Some candidates only completed part of the training or only took specialized courses. Those who completed the full course helped conduct the public ceremonies and became eligible to succeed as head priest of the town. The Creeks also had specialized diviners and a separate war priesthood. Ordination of native preachers played an important role in converting Creeks to Christianity. Native Baptist preachers often function in a similar manner to native priests.

Ceremonies. The Creek ceremonial cycle focused on four calendrical ceremonies marking the agricultural cycle. Each town held its own ceremonies. A planting ceremony in late April or early May opened the ceremonial season. Following at approximately monthly intervals came Little Green Corn and Green Corn or Apuskita. This latter was the most important and marked the new year, with the rekindling of the sacred fire and general world renewal. The harvest ceremony occurred between late August and early October, depending on the town. Some towns continue to celebrate this ceremonial cycle, but most Creeks have converted to Christianity.

Arts. The Creeks once had a highly developed decorative art tradition in several media, but most has disappeared. Only a small amount of finger weaving of sashes remains. Sewing of ribbon shirts, decorative vests, and special women's dresses and blouses emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Music, central to native religious practice, remains a vital tradition. In addition to sacred and secular songs in the native tradition, there is also a Western-derived gospel music tradition in the native language.

Medicine. No real separation existed between religion and medicine in the native system and most curers were priests or had received some priestly training. Disease derived from violations of sacred law or spiritual pollution or from the malevolent actions of another. Curing consisted of ritual purification and driving out of evil influences. Witches and animal spirits were commonly cited as causes of disease and some diseases were associated with particular animal species. Herbalists also practiced and most people knew curing rituals for minor afflictions. Native Christian preachers and deacons also often work as curers in this native tradition. Most Creeks now receive Western clinical treatment, but many also rely on the native curers who are numerous in many areas.

Death and Afterlife. In native belief the afterlife generally resembles earthly life, but without suffering. At death, the life force dissipates and the soul travels to the land of the dead in the west along the Milky Way. The soul remains around the grave for four days after death and may return to it at various times. Both traditionalist and Christian Creeks maintain low grave houses over the graves for the use of the returning souls. Some classes of the dead, such as women who died in childbirth or unavenged murder victims, were considered unable to complete the journey and to wander lost or become malevolent ghosts at the site of their death. The body is buried with personal possessions and food offerings for the journey and monthly offerings are left at the grave for the first year. The spirits of the dead are believed to appear in dreams to advise the living. Dead bodies were considered polluting and only members of the immediate families traditionally touched them. Among traditionalists, no one who has attended a funeral can participate in the ceremonies.

For the original article on the Creek, see Volume 1, North America.

Bibliography

Crane, Verner (1929). The Southern Colonial Frontier, 1670-1732. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Debo, Angie (1972). And Still the Waters Run. New edition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

(1941). The Road to Disappearance: A History of the Creek Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Green, Michael D. (1982). The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Hudson, Charles, and Carmen Chaves Tesser, eds. (1994). The Forgotten Centuries: Indians and Europeans in the American South, 1521-1704. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Swanton, John R. (1928). "Social Organization and Social Usages of the Indians of the Creek Confederacy." Bureau of American Ethnology, Annual Report 42: 23-472.

(1928). "Religious Beliefs and Medical Practices of the Creek Indians." Bureau of American Ethnology, nnual Report 42: 474-672.

(1931). "Modern Square Grounds of the Creek Indians." Smithsonian Institution, Miscellaneous Collections 85(8). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

Thomas, David Hurst, ed. (1990). Columbian Consequences, vol. 2: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives on the Spanish Borderlands East. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

RICHARD A. SATTLER

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Creek

CREEK

CREEK. The Creek Nation is centered in Muskogee, Oklahoma, but its early history rests in the Southeast. In the sixteenth century, long before a Creek people existed, Old World diseases, especially smallpox, decimated Natives in the Southeast, destroying towns and forcing survivors into refugee communities. By the end of the 1600s, some of these survivors, scattered in thirty to forty towns along Georgia and Alabama rivers, joined together in an


Their residents, numbering about ten thousand, spoke a number of languages, including Muskogee, Alabama, and Hitchiti. But despite their varying ethnic origins, they presented a united front to Spanish, French, and English colonists. South Carolina colonists were soon calling these allied peoples "Creeks," a shorthand for Indians living on Ochese Creek in Georgia.

alliance. In the late seventeenth century, the Creeks established an active trade with French, Spanish, and English colonists. The Creeks traded Indian slaves and deerskins in exchange for textiles, kettles, and guns. The slave trade declined after the Yamasee War of 1715, when South Carolina determined that the risk of enslaving Indians was too great. The deerskin trade continued to flourish, however, especially after English colonists established the Georgia colony in 1733. In the 1750s, Savannah exported over sixty thousand skins annually. In Creek towns the profits of the trade, including cloth, kettles, guns, and rum, eased the labor of Creeks but also introduced new conflicts among men and women and rich and poor.

By 1800, the deer population had plummeted, and white Americans began seeking Creek lands rather than Creek deerskins. Under compulsion, Creeks ceded vast amounts of territory. At the same time, U.S. Indian agents pressured them to adopt American economic and religious practices. Grassroots resistance to these changes built until a civil conflict known as the Red Stick War erupted within the tribe in 1813. U.S. troops led by Andrew Jackson soon entered the fray on the side of the friendly Creek leadership. The rebels were defeated, and the Creek Nation lay in ruins. Removal followed swiftly, despite Creek resistance. In 1832, the Creeks agreed to cede their remaining southeastern lands, and U.S. troops hastened the process by rounding them up at gunpoint in the Creek War of 1836.

By 1837, more than 23,000 Creeks had left their southeastern homelands for Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), where they suffered terrible floods, droughts, and epidemics. The population fell almost by half to 14,000 in the space of twenty years. Yet some Creeks fared well, particularly plantation owners who exploited slave labor. The Civil War dealt yet another blow to the Creeks. It freed roughly 2,000 slaves held in the Creek Nation but devastated the land, destroying crops, buildings, and equipment. Although Creeks rebuilt their nation, at the end of the nineteenth century the Curtis Act (1898) dissolved the Creek Nation. Despite resistance organized in 1900 by Chitto Harjo, or Crazy Snake, the United States divided Creek lands into individual allotments and unilaterally dissolved the Creek government.

The Creeks lost millions of acres of land, and their government nearly ceased functioning until 1971. In that year, the Creek Nation elected a principal chief for the first time since 1899. In 2001, the revitalized Creek Nation counted more than 50,000 citizens.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Debo, Angie. The Road to Disappearance. A History of the Creek Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1941.

Green, Michael D. The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

Saunt, Claudio. A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733–1816. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

ClaudioSaunt

See alsoGeorgia ; Indian Removal ; Trail of Tears ; Tribes: Southeastern .

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Creek

Creek, Native North American confederacy. The peoples forming it were mostly of the Muskogean branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The Creek received their name from early white traders because so many of their villages were located at rivers and creeks. They lived primarily in Alabama and Georgia and were settled, agricultural people. There were more than 50 towns, generally called tribes, in the confederacy, which was formed chiefly for protection against the tribes to the north. Certain villages were set aside for war ceremonies, others for peace celebrations. Each had its annual green corn dance. This festival was a time for renewing social ties and was a period of amnesty for criminals, except murderers. The Creek Confederacy was not ruled by a permanent central government. The structure was a combination of democratic and communal principles. Decisions by the national council were not binding on towns or individuals who wished to dissent. Nevertheless, civil strife was almost unknown among them. Private ownership of land was unknown, but crops were privately owned to a degree. Each owner was required to contribute a certain portion for public use.

The Creek impressed the first European explorers (Hernando De Soto saw them in 1540) by their height, their proud bearing, and their love of ornament. They were hostile to the Spanish and therefore friendly to the British in colonial days, but, frightened by white encroachment and fired by the teachings of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, they rebelled in the Creek War of 1813–14. They massacred a large number of American settlers at Fort Mims, and Andrew Jackson won part of his reputation by defeating them at the battle of Horseshoe Bend. By a treaty signed in 1814 the Creek ceded approximately two thirds of their land to the United States, and subsequent cessions further reduced their holdings. Eventually they were moved to the Indian Territory, where they became one of the Five Civilized Tribes. A treaty signed by the confederacy in 1889 permitted white settlement of their lands, and there was great bitterness among the Creek. In 1990 there were over 45,000 Creek, most of them living in Oklahoma.

See J. R. Swanton, The Early History of the Creek Indians (1922) and Social Origins and Social Usages of the Indians of the Creek Confederacy (1928, repr. 1970); G. Foreman, The Five Civilized Tribes (new ed. 1953, repr. 1966); D. H. Corkran, The Creek Frontier, 1540–1783 (1967).

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Creek

Creek

ETHNONYMS: Muscogee, Muskogee

Prior to European settlement, the Creek were a confederacy of tribes who lived in about fifty villages mainly in central Georgia and in other locations from the Atlantic coast to central Alabama. Included in the confederacy were the Kawita (Coweta), Kasihta, Abihka, Hilibi, Kusa (Coosa), Wakokai, and Huhliwahli. The groups spoke six languagesMuskogee, Hitchiti, Koasati, Yuchi, Natchez, and Shawnee. The Creeks were so named by the English because of the large number of streams and creeks in the region. When met by Hernando De Soto in 1540, the confederacy had already been formed as a means of defense against attacks from powerful northern groups.

Between 1836 and 1840 nearly twenty thousand Creeks were removed from their homeland and settled in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Today, there are four main groups of Creeks in Oklahomathe Creek Nation, the Alabama-Quassarte (Coushatta), the Kialegee, and the Thopthlocco Creek, each governed by a tribal council. Together, they form the modern Creek Confederacy, with about fifty thousand members. There is also a small community near Atmore, Alabama.

Traditional villages in the Southeast contained irregular clusters of four to eight houses each, with as many as twenty-five different matriclans represented in a village. Subsistence was based on the cultivation of maize, beans, and squash Supplemented by hunting and gathering. Each tribe or village was governed by an elected chief (miko ), subchief, and a Council. The military was under civilian control, with war chiefs leading war parties while governing was left to the chiefs who were chosen for their wisdom and skills. The major religious Ceremony was the Busk or Green Corn Dance (puskita ) held in midsummer to celebrate the ripening of the new maize crop. The lighting of the new fire and drinking of the ritual black drink as well as the forgiving of all grudges and most offenses were important accompaniments.


Bibliography

Green, Donald E. (1973). The Creek People. Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series.

Swanton, John R. (1928). Social Organization and Social Usages of the Indians of the Creek Confederacy. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, 42nd Annual Report (1924-1925), 23472. Washington, D.C.

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creek

creek
A. narrow inlet in a coast XIII; arm or branch of a river (esp. in non-British use) XVI;

B. chink, corner, nook XIII.
i. ME. crike — ON. kriki chink, nook (in handarkriki armpit), whence also (O)F. crique, which may be partly a source of the Eng. word;

ii. ME. crēke, either — MDu. crēke (Du. kreek creek, bay), or by lengthening of ī in crike; ult. orig. unkn. (a stem with ī occurs in ON. krikar m. pl. groin).

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Creek

Creek Confederation of Native Americans, part of the Muskogean-language group. One of the largest groups of se USA, they ranged from Georgia to Alabama. They formed a settled, agricultural society, with land owned communally. Within the confederacy, individual settlements had a degree of autonomy. After the Creek Wars (1813–14), they were removed to Oklahoma, where c.60,000 remain today.

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creek

creek / krēk; krik/ • n. a stream, brook, or minor tributary of a river. ∎  an inlet in a shoreline, a channel in a marsh, or another narrow, sheltered waterway. PHRASES: be up the creek inf. (also be up the creek without a paddle) be in severe difficulty or trouble. be up shit creeksee shit.

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Creek

Creek / krēk/ • n. (pl. same) 1. a member of a confederacy of native peoples of the southeastern U.S. in the 16th to 19th centuries whose descendants now live mainly in Oklahoma. 2. the Muskogean language of this confederacy. • adj. of, relating to, or denoting this confederacy.

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creek

creekantique, batik, beak, bespeak, bezique, bleak, boutique, cacique, caïque, cheek, chic, clique, creak, creek, critique, Dominique, eke, freak, geek, Greek, hide-and-seek, keek, Lalique, leak, leek, Martinique, meek, midweek, Mozambique, Mustique, mystique, oblique, opéra comique, ortanique, peak, Peake, peek, physique, pique, pratique, reek, seek, shriek, Sikh, sleek, sneak, speak, Speke, squeak, streak, teak, technique, tongue-in-cheek, tweak, unique, veronique, weak, week, wreak •stickybeak • grosbeak • houseleek •forepeak • technospeak • newspeak •doublespeak • hairstreak • tugrik •fenugreek • Realpolitik • Ostpolitik •pipsqueak • workweek

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