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The dominant people of the Creek Confederacy called themselves and their language in later times by a name which has become conventionalized into Muscogee or Muskogee, but it does not appear in the Spanish narratives of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and careful examination seems to show that the people themselves were complex. If we were in possession of full internal information regarding their past history I feel confident we should find that the process of aggregation which brought so many known foreign elements together had been operating through a much longer period and had brought extraneous elements in still earlier. Evidence pointing toward a foreign origin for several supposedly pure Muskogee tribes will be adduced presently. At the same time we are now no longer in a position to separate the two clearly, and will consider all under one head. We do know, however, that even though they spoke the Muskogee language, there were several distinct bands, the history of each of which must be separately traced.
The name Muskogee was of later origin, presumably, than the names of the constituent parts. What it means no Creek Indian seems to know. In fact it does not appear to be a Muskogee word at all. Several explanations have been suggested for it, but the one to which I am inclined to give most weight is that of Gatschet,1 who affirms that it is derived from an Algonquian word signifying “swamp” or “wet ground.” Gatschet devotes considerable space to a discussion of the name. It was probably first bestowed by the Shawnee, who were held in high esteem by the Creeks, especially by those of Tukabahchee, and probably came into use for want of a native term to cover all of the Muskogee tribes.
The origin of the English term “Creeks” seems to have been satisfactorily traced by Prof. V. W. Crane to a shortening of “Ocheese Creek Indians.” Ocheese being an old name for the Ocmulgee River, upon which most of the Lower Creeks were living when the English first came in contact with them.2
A careful examination of the Muskogee bodies proper yields us about 12 whose separate existence extends back so far that we must treat them independently, although we may have a conviction that they were not all originally major divisions. On the other hand, there are a few bands not included among the 12 which may have had an independent origin, though this seems very unlikely. The 12 bodies above referred to are the Kasihta, Coweta, Coosa, Abihka, Wakokai, Eufaula, Hilibi, Atasi, Kolomi, Tukabahchee, Pakana, and Okchai. As we know, they were in later times distinguished into Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks, the former including those residing on the Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Alabama Rivers, and in the neighboring country, and the latter those on the Chattahoochee and Flint. The “Upper Creeks” of Bartram are the Creeks proper, while his “Lower Creeks” are the Seminole. Sometimes a triple division is made into Upper Creeks, Middle Creeks, and Lower Creeks, the first including those on the Coosa River, the Middle Creeks those on and near the Tallapoosa, and the last as in the previous classification. The first are also called Coosa or Abihka, the second Tallapoosa, and the last Coweta. The traditions of nearly all, so far as information has come down to us, point to an origin in the west, but these will be taken up in a separate volume when we come to treat of Creek social organization. That the drift of population throughout most of this area had been from west to east can hardly be doubted, but it is plain that practically all of the Muskogee tribes had completed the movement before De Soto‘s time, though all cannot be identified in the narratives of his expedition. The prime factors in the formation of the confederacy were the Kasihta and Coweta, which I will consider first.
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