The Abihka Tribe
The Abihka constituted one of the most ancient divisions of the true
Muskogee, appearing in the oldest migration legends, and are reckoned one of the
four "foundation towns'' of the confederacy. In ceremonial speeches they were
called Abihka-nagi, though what nagi signifies no one at the present time knows.
They were also called "the door shutters" because they guarded the northern
border of the confederacy against attack. Hawkins says that among the oldest
chiefs the name of this tribe was sometimes extended to the entire Creek Nation.1
Du Pratz, who, like Iberville, distinguishes most of the true
Muskogee as Conchacs, says that he
believed the terms Abihka and Conchac applied to one people.2 The
relations of this tribe were naturally most intimate with the
Hamilton quotes a Spanish manuscript of 1806 in which it is said that the Abihka
and Coosa were as
one pueblo divided into two by swift rivers.3 Later they adopted a
large portion of the refugee Natchez, who ultimately became completely absorbed.
Stiggins, himself a Natchez, has the following to say regarding the Abihka and
the people of their adoption:
The Au bih ka tribe reside
indiscriminately in the Talladega valley
with the Natche tribe, who they admitted to
locate and assimilate with their tribe as
one people indivisible a little more than a
century ago. They at this day only pretend
to know and distinguish their tribes from
the mother's side of descent, but they are
as one people with the Natches at this time,
. . . and why may they not by conjecture be
entitled to the claim of the primitive
Muscogee more than any other of the tribes,
for they are not discriminated by any
ancient denomination that is known of. For
their present appellation is derived from
their manner of approveing or acquiescing a
proposition. Tho' the national tongue is
spoken by the tribe in all its purity, yet
most notorious they assent or approbate what
you may say to them in conversation with the
long aspiration aw whereas the rest
of the nation approbate or answer short
caw. From their singular manner of
answering or approbating they got the name
of aw biw kd. Moreover, the rest of the
Indians in talking of them and their tongue
aptly call it the aw bih ka tongue, and
never resort to the appelation of Ispocoga
except in a national way A brass drum that
was in their possession not a half century
ago is kept as a trophy. And it is said by
them to have been got by their ancestors in
times of old from a people who invaded or
past in a hostile manner through their
country comeing from up the river, that they
were not like any people they ever saw
before, that they were ferocious, proud, and
impudent in their manners. From the
traditional circumstance of the brass drum
it would lead to the inference that the
proud people alluded to was the escort of
Ferdinand Soto, and that the Indians came in
possession of one of his drums by some
Another native explanation for the tribal
name is the following, originally obtained
from a former Creek head chief, Spahi'tci,
and related to me by the late Creek chief,
Mr. G. W. Grayson: At a certain time there
was contest for supremacy between the
Coweta, Chickasaw, and Abihka, and
this consisted in seeing which tribe could
bring in the most scalps and heap them
highest around the ball post. Kasihta
brought in the most, Coweta the next, the
Chickasaw still fewer, and Abihka brought in
only a very small number, which were thrown
about the base of the post in a careless
manner. From this circumstance they came to
be called Abihka because abi‘ka
"to heap up in a careless manner.''
Practically the same story is told by
Hawkins.5 Of course this is not
related by the Abihka themselves and is
simply a folk explanation. The
interpretation given by Stiggins appears
very plausible, but so far I have not been
able to identify the linguistic fact on
which it is based, and perhaps it is no
longer possible to do so.6
I have spoken of the confusion which has
resulted from the existence of an Abihkutci
town occupied by Abihka Indians and another
occupied by Okfuskee Indians.7 (See:
Coosa and Their Descendants)
Although Abihka sometimes appears on maps,
it is curious that as soon as we have a
specific town it is called Abihkutci. This
appears first, so far as I am aware,8
on the De Crenay map of 1733. It is also on
the Bowen and Gibson and Mitchell maps of
1755, on the Evans map of 1777, the
D'Anville map of 1790, and many others of
the period. We find it in the census lists
of 17389 17509
1760, and 1761, in the lists of Bartram,
Swan, and Hawkins, and in the census list of
1832.10 Few events of importance
are connected with the history of this
tribe. In 1716, according to the South
Carolina documents, they suffered a severe
defeat from the Cherokee,11 and
this was perhaps the beginning of those
Cherokee aggressions on Creek territory
which forced the Creeks out of the Tennessee
Valley. If we may believe some Cherokee
legends, however, that tribe had occupied
much of the same country at an earlier date.12
The following is Hawkins's description of
the Abihka town as it appeared in 1799:
Au-be-coo-che, is on
Nau-chee creek, five miles from the river,
on the right bank of the creek, on a flat
one mile wide. The growth is hard-shelled
hickory. The town spreads itself out and is
scattered on both sides of the creek, in the
neighborhood of very high hills, which
descend back into waving, rich land, fine
for wheat or com; the bottoms all rich; the
neighborhood abounds in limestone, and large
limestone springs; they have one above, and
one below the town; the timber on the rich
lands is oak, hickory, walnut, poplar, and
There is a very large cave
north of the town, the entrance of which is
small, on the side of a hill. It is much
divided, and some of the rooms appear as the
work of art; the doors regular; in several
parts of the cave saltpetre is to be seen in
crystals. On We-wo-cau creek there is a fine
mill seat; the water is contracted by two
hills; the fall twenty feet; and the land in
the neighborhood very rich; cane is found on
the creeks, and reed grows well on these
This town is one of the
oldest in the nation; and sometimes, among
the oldest chiefs, it gives name to the
nation Au-be-cuh. Here some of the oldest
customs had their origin. The law against
adultery was passed here, and that to
regulate marriages. To constitute legal
marriage a man must build a house, make his
crop and gather it in; then make his hunt
and bring home the meat; putting all this in
the possession of his wife ends the ceremony
and they are married, or, as the Indians
express it, the woman is bound, and not till
then. This information is obtained from
Co-tau-lau (Tus-se-ki-ah Mic-co of Coosau),
an old and respectable chief, descended from
Nau-che. He lives near We-o-coof-ke, has
accumulated a handsome property, owns a fine
stock, is a man of much information, and of
great influence among the Indians of the
towns in the neighborhood of this.
They have no fences, and
but a few hogs, horses, and cattle; they are
attentive to white people who live among
them, and particularly so to white women.13
The Abihka took practically no part in
the Creek uprising of 1813. After their
removal to Oklahoma they established their
first square ground a few miles from
Eufaula. Later many of them moved farther
west, following the game, and they
established another square, sometimes called
"Abihka-in-the-west." Both of these have
been long abandoned.
Before they left the old country two branch
towns had arisen - Talladega [Taladigi] and
ground). They were perhaps late in forming,
since they do not appear separately listed
before the census of 1832.14
There is a place called "Conchar-dee" a few
miles northwest of Talladega, in the county
of the same name, Alabama. After their
removal the Kan-tcati busk ground was soon
given up, but that of Talladega has
persisted down to the present day (1912).
Gatschet enumerates two other Abihka towns,
Tcahki låko or
Big Shoal and Kayomalgi.15 The
former was on Choccolocco ("Big Shoal")
Creek in Calhoun or Talladega County, Ala.,
and is to be distinguished carefully from
the Okfuskee town so called.16 (See:
Coosa and Their Descendants)
There is some reason for thinking that
Kayomalgi may have been settled by Shawnee,17
though in 1772 a Chickasaw settlement was
made on the creek which bore this name.18
"The Lun-ham-ga Town in the Abecas" is
mentioned by Tobias Fitch in 1725.19
On the Lamhatty map is a town called "Apeicah,"
located apparently on the east bank of the
lower Chattahoochee.20 This may
perhaps be intended for Abihka, but if so it
is badly misplaced. We have no knowledge of
any portion of the Abihka people living so
far to the south and east.
- Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III,
- Du Prat Du Pratr, La Louisianc, II, p.
- Hamilton, Col. Mobile, 1910, p. 572.
- Stiggins, MS. Nevertheless from
what Swan says regarding the number of
British drums in Creek towns and the esteem
in which they were held it is possible that
this Abihka specimen was of much more recent
introduction. See Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes,
v, p. 275.
- Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, p. 82.
- Mr. H. S. Halbert suggests a
possible derivation from the Choctaw aiabika,
See p. 247.
- Plate 5; Hamilton, Col. Mobile, p.
- MSS., Ayer Coll.
10 Miss. Prov. Arch., I, p. 95; Ga. Col.
Docs., VIII, p. 523; Bartram, Travels, p.
461; Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, v, p. 262;
Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, p. 25; Senate
Doc. 512, 23d Cong., 1st sess., pp. 315-318.
- S.C. Docs., MS.
- See p. 213.
- Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, pp. 41-42;
IX, p. 170.
Sen. Doc. 512, 23d
Cong., 1st sess., IV, pp. 304-307.
- Ala. Hist. Soc., Misc. Colls., I, p.
See p. 249.
- See p. 319.
- Taitt in Mereness, Trav. in Amer.
Col., pp. 531-532.
- Ibid., p. 189.
- Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. x, p. 569.
Notes About Book:
Source: Swanton, John R., Early
History of the Creek Indians and Their
Neighbors. Pub. Smithsonian
Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology,
Bulletin 73. Washington, 1922.
Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr'd and heavily
edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as
online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in
the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow
better online presentation.