Creek Leaders

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There was yet another class of people in the state, namely, the prophets and medicine men or shamans. These constituted a priesthood, and performed important functions. Every act of the Muskogee government, or of the officers thereof, was considered a religious act. Councils were always convened with religious ceremonies and the installation of officers was always opened similarly. In the charge given to the officers at their installation, the religious customs were enjoined and the importance of these shown. The festivals held by the people were all religious festivals, were opened with religious ceremonies, and were intended to inculcate religious ideas, so that when a festival was held religious truths were always taught. Whenever punishment was inflicted, the religious reasons there for were always explained to the culprit and to the people. All punishment was explained as a washing away of the wrong. Every officer of the government was also a religious officer and was virtually a priest, and these officers were supposed to be repositories of religious truth, so that the doctrines were handed down from officer to officer of the government from generation to generation, and the method of selecting officers long in advance of their installation was needful in order that the men might be trained in the governmental, and especially in the religious, duties. In fact, governmental and religious duties were held to be one and the same.

The principal chief of a town, called Miko or Talwa Miko, was chosen out of the domestic or White clans by the executive or Red clans. One class selected the leader from the other class. In making studied the character and qualifications of the best men that the particular group of clans had, and talked about, the matter so, times for a week or more, finally selecting the man they regarded as wisest and best. They did not, however, take a formal vote. The names of a dozen men might be mentioned at first, and the number then harrowed down to one. Afterwards one of the it number was chosen to deliver the decision. He might be called a member of the Executive Council. These Town Chiefs never held a higher office but the Executive Chiefs could be promoted. New members were added by the Executive Council itself, but a great many clans had no man fit for the position. They might number as many as 24 but, were often fewer. The name of the new chief having been announced by these men, including a list of his virtues, a committee of these same clans notified him in a speech which lasted all night. He might refuse the honor absolutely. If he did they approached him again, but if he refused the third time they left him alone. However, a man of great prudence would refuse until the third time. He would not consent at once, but if he finally accepted he would say: “If it, is your will, then it must be so.” When he had accepted the office the opposite line of clams was notified of his acceptance. When it was thought to be necessary to change a chief, the matter was taken under consideration a long time. They would say: “This man is getting too old; his thoughts are getting short, and he cannot finish an idea; he cannot rule wisely. Let us select some younger man to learn the duties of the position.” Then, after a long conference, another man would be selected and notified. A man’s son was never made chief in his father’s stead. His uncle was the nearest kin, being his mother’s brother, and having the same blood as his mother.

The installation of chiefs.-When they installed a chief they put in his hand a white wing or a white feather. White was the emblem of civic rule. Sometimes they used the wing of a large white bird or white feathers from the wing of a turkey. The fan was placed in his left hand, and in his right hand he held a white staff.

A long ritual speech was made by the celebrant to the officer who was being installed. The first idea presented to him was this: “We put you on your bench and put in your hands the white fan and the white staff of authority and we also put in your care our women, our children, and people without number.” They always used these ceremonial expressions, and also said, “We put the laws of our government in your hands.” Then they told him that he must not occasion strife nor permit it, that he must not allow the “crossing of sharp instruments,” meaning any kind of internal tribal strife, and added, “We are under you; you must see to it that this great calamity does not take place.” They told him that he must not govern by sharp instruments, that is, by war, but he must govern by the law of wisdom. They told him that, his eyes must look downward, but that he must not see the ground. This meant that he must, keep his people in view and not be influenced by anything around him. There is a great deal involved in the idea. He must look downward toward the ground but should see nothing crawling, crawling things being evils or dangers to the public welfare. He must consider only he interest of his people. The speech of installation was very lengthy.

Two persons out of certain clans were appointed by the chiefs of the towns to install officers, and the people followed them two or four deep. They followed them about until they came and stood before the candidate, when these two men walked out before him, conducted him to his bench, and proclaimed the law to him.

To be considered a person of great wisdom a man must be able, it was said, to discuss fully and completely four lines of thought.. There appears to be some confusion in the statement of these, but. it seems that the speaker first (a) gave all the objections raised by the opponents of the solution he favored, then (b) he answered those objections, (c) stated all the other objections to his own ideas he could think of and (d) finally outlined his own position on the matter in hand. Usually this was done very elegantly by a skillful speaker, setting forth in succession as convincingly as he could the cases for the negative and affirmative, and often he did it so well that one would believe he advocated the position opposed to his own.[1]

Footnotes

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  1. The four lines of thought are recapitulated right afterwards and in a somewhat different manner.


MLA Source Citation:

Hewitt, J. N. B. Notes on the Creek Indians. Edited by John R. Swanton. Anthropological Papers, No. 10. Bulletin 123, BAE. Washington: Government Printing Office. 1939. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 2 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/creek-leaders.htm - Last updated on May 6th, 2013


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