“Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers.” ~Tecumseh~
The Muscogee (Creek) are descendents from the region known today as the Southeastern United States. Early ancestors of the Muscogee constructed earthen pyramids along the rivers of this region as part of their elaborate ceremonial complexes. The historic Muscogee also built towns within these river valleys in the present states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. The historian Walter Williams and others believe the early Spanish explorers encountered ancestors of the Muscogee when they visited Mississippian-culture chiefdoms in the Southeast in the mid-16th century
The Muscogee were not one tribe but a union of several. This union evolved into a confederacy. Member tribes were called tribal towns. Within this political structure, each tribal town maintained political autonomy and distinct land holdings. In the 19th century, the Muscogee were known as one of the “Five Civilized Tribes”, because they had integrated numerous cultural and technological practices of their more recent European American neighbors.
Throughout the period of contact with Europeans, most of the Muscogee population was concentrated into two geographical areas.
The English called the Muscogee peoples occupying the towns on the Coosa and the Tallapoosa rivers, Upper Creeks, and those to the southeast, the Lower Creeks.
The distinction was purely geographical. Due in part to their proximity to the English, the Lower towns were substantially effected by intermarriage and its consequent impact on their political and social order. The Upper towns remained less effected by European influences and continued to maintain distinctly traditional political and social institutions.
Influenced by their prophetic interpretations of the 1811 comet and earthquake, the Upper Towns of the Muscogee, supported by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, began to resist European-American encroachment. Internal divisions with the Lower Towns led to the Red Stick War (Creek War, 1813–1814)
begun as a civil war within the Muscogee Nation, it involved them in the War of 1812 against the United States.
In the removal treaty of 1832, Muscogee leadership exchanged the last of the cherished Muscogee ancestral homelands for new lands in Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
Many of the Lower Muscogee (Creek) had settled in the new homeland after the treaty of Washington in 1827.
But for the majority of Muscogee people the process of severing ties to a land they felt so much a part of proved impossible. The U.S. Army enforced the removal of more than 20,000 Muscogee(Creeks) to Indian Territory in 1836 and 1837.
During the Indian Removal of 1830, most of the Muscogee Nation moved to Indian Territory. The Muscogee Creek Nation based in Oklahoma is federally recognized, as are the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. In the new nation the Lower Muscogees located their farms and plantations on the Arkansas and Verdigris rivers. The Upper Muscogees re-established their ancient towns on the Canadian River and its northern branches.The tribal towns of both groups continued to send representatives to a National Council which met near High Springs. The Muscogee Nation as a whole began to experience a new prosperity.
The first three battles of the war in Indian Territory occurred when Confederate forces attacked a large of neutral Muscogee (Creeks) led by Opothle Yahola. For the majority of the Muscogee people, desired neutrality proved impossible. Eventually Muscogee citizens fought on both the Union and Confederate sides.The reconstruction treaty of 1866 required the cession of 3.2 million acres — approximately half of the Muscogee domain.In 1867, the Muscogee people adopted a written constitution that provided for a Principal Chief and a Second Chief, a judicial branch and a bicameral legislature composed of a House of Kings and a House of Warriors.
Representation in both houses of this Legislative assembly was determined by tribal town. This “constitutional” period lasted for the remainder of the 19th century. A new capital was established in 1867 on the Deep Fork of the Canadian at Okmulgee. In 1878 the Nation constructed a familiar native stone Council House which remains at the center of the modern city of Okmulgee… In the early 20th century, the process of allotment of the National domain to individual citizens was completed. However, the perceived dismantling of the Muscogee government was never fully executed. The Nation maintained a Principal Chief throughout this stormy period.
In the decade of the 1970s the leadership of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation drafted and adopted a new constitution, revitalized the National Council and began the challenging process of Supreme Court decisions affirmed the Nation’s sovereign rights to maintain a national
court system and levy taxes. In 1971, the Muscogee people, for the first time since the partial dismantling of their National government, freely elected a Principal Chief without Presidential approval.
In the 1990s, almost 100 years after the dark days of the allotment era, the Muscogee (Creek) people are actively engaged in the process of accepting and asserting the rights and responsibilities of a sovereign nation.
Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion
1. In what area did the Muscogee (Creek) originate?
2. Why were the The Muscogee known as one of the “Five Civilized Tribes”?
3. The Muscogee people were divided into two groups. Why?
4. In what areas did each group reside?
5. The Upper Towns of the Muscogee, were supported by which Shawnee leader?
6. During the Indian Removal of 1830, where did the majority of the Muscogee Nation move?
The Muscogee (Creek) NationToday
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has their 1867 constitutional organization of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government, with distinct separation of power among the three. There are opportunities for employment in various professional areas. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has hospitals and nine health programs.
The Nation has a duty to ensure that th children receive support from both parents. The Office Of Child Support Enforcement was created basically to enhance the well being of all Indian Children. In addition, the Creek Nation operates two truck stops, 30 tribal smokeshops, two bingo halls, and eleven casinos.
Joy Harjo is a multi-talented artist of the Muscogee/Creek Nation. She is an internationally known poet, performer, writer and musician. She has published seven books of acclaimed poetry. They include: She Had Some Horses, In Mad Love and War, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and her most recent, How We Became Human, New and Selected Poems from W.W. Norton.
Her poetry awards include the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, Oklahoma Book Awards, 200; The American Indian Festival of Words Author Award from the Tulsa City County Library: the 2000 Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award,: 1998 Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award: the 1997 New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She co-edited an anthology of contemporary Native women’s writing: Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, Native Women’s Writing of North America.
Muscogee (Creek) Myth
The Fox and the Fry Bread
Like ol’ Rabbit and the wily Coyote, Mr. Fox was bad about tricking other animals whenever an opportunity slid into his lap. Now and then, one of those other animals occasionally tricked that Fox. This usually happened when hunger had a good hold on Mr. Fox. Then, it was his stomach that ruled, not his brain. In fact, we heard it like this . . . long before Indians had corn.
One time ol’ Mr. Fox happened upon Rabbit sitting on a little hill gazing quietly at a pool of water. Being somewhat hungry and thinking his friend Rabbit (did I say friend?) would make a pleasant little snack, Fox thought he should mosey over and check out the “vittles” situation.
“Whatcha doin’ Rabbit?” asked Fox, all famished. Of course, Fox thought to himself what a fool that Rabbit was . . . just sitting there in the open like that.
“I’m looking at that pool. Isn’t it beautiful?” Rabbit said to ol’ bushy tail.
“Well, I don’t see anything special about it,” retorted Fox. This Rabbit really is a flake, thought the Fox. He deserves to be eaten and right now, too!
“Naturally, you can’t see it yet but soon, tonight, there will be something very special about this pool,” Rabbit replied.
“How can that be?” asked a curious Fox–curiosity does cloud one’s thinking.
“Well now,” Rabbit said, “just tuck up your tail and have a ‘sit down’ right here; I’ll tell you all about it. You know how those Creek women gather acorns each year and make some really good sweet acorn flour–now don’t you?”
“Yeah, I’ve spied upon’em many a time when they go agathering,” Fox added.
“Then surely you know those Indian women make the world’s best golden yellow acorn bread. They get that acorn flour all ready, sweeten it with wild honey, flatten it out and cook it in succulent bear fat,” said Rabbit.
“Hush, furry, you’re making me mighty hungry,” spoke the red haired Fox.
Rabbit continued–”That bread is the reason tonight is special. You see, all the women got together today and made a very special piece of golden yellow acorn bread–oh, it’s so-o-o bi-i-i-i-g! It’s an offering, a gift for One Above, the Creator. They’re thanking Creator for all the good things Creator has provided everyone–and, they’re going to put it in One Above’s favorite pool tonight. I heard them talking about it when I was hiding in the garden eating their beans.”
“Rabbit, you’re not only furry but downright stupid, too, if you expect me to believe that,” ol’ Mr. Fox answered.
“No, wait, you’ll see,” Rabbit replied. Just then, the sun went down and night fell quickly. The two sat quietly for a while. Rabbit was contemplating the genius of his own story while that starving Fox was deciding how best to eat his friend, Rabbit. (Did I say friend, again?) Suddenly, Fox was astonished to see something that looked just like a huge piece of golden yellow acorn bread slide into the pool of water. He was amazed!
“Well I’ll be–why I never–” The sight of that delicious looking bread–the mere sight of it, nearly caused Fox to faint from hunger. It was the biggest piece of bread in the whole world!
“How can we get it?” yelped the ol’ Fox.
“Ah, that is a sacred gift–you don’t want to eat that,” answered Rabbit.
“Why, I’m so hungry I could eat a whole bear–fur and all.” volunteered a famished Fox.
“Don’t be greedy, silly Fox,” spoke Rabbit. “Creator might send you trouble instead of bread if you bother that.” However, Fox insisted he must have that bread, no matter what. Rabbit got up and took Fox to the pool’s edge. My, that was one large piece of bread! Fox could see it clearly on the other side.
“If you insist,” Rabbit continued, “I’ll tell you how to get it. Just start drinking–it’s a small pool, and you’ll draw it over to you–just like that!” Then, Rabbit just sat back watching as Fox began lapping the water furiously. It was all Rabbit could do not to burst out laughing. Fox drank and drank and drank . . . and then drank some more.
Finally, the pool shrunk to a very small puddle–Fox’s belly grew to an enormous size. Mr. Fox raised his head, bared his teeth to bite the bread and–
Just then, Rabbit tossed a stone into the remaining puddle; the golden yellow acorn bread turned into ripples and rings of light!
Suddenly, Fox realized that he had been tricked by Rabbit and his own hunger into thinking the reflection of the moon was fried golden yellow acorn bread. Old Mr. Fox tried to chase Rabbit but his full belly of water kept him firmly anchored in place. Rabbit merely skipped off a short distance away, sat down and commenced to laugh and laugh . . . then laughed some more.
“If you were not so greedy,” said Rabbit, “you would not be in such a predicament now! And, as you were warned, you must suffer for trying to steal One Above’s fry bread.”
Rabbit laughed and laughed the night away while a bloated and miserable Fox whimpered and moaned ’til dawn. Ever since then (and out of sympathy for their cousin, the Fox), the whole Canine Nation, all dogs, coyotes and wolves howl at each full moon. I wonder why?
[This ancient tale is important because it preserves a glimpse of pre-maize subsistence patterns. It warns listeners about inherent toxic dangers in the vegetable kingdom.]