Notes on the Creek Indians

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In the administrative report of Dr. J. Walter Fewkes, Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology, for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1921, Mr. J. N. B. Hewitt reported that he was “at work on some material relating to the general culture of the Muskhogean peoples, especially that relating to the Creeks and the Choctaw.” He went on to say that–

In 1881-82 Maj. J. W. Powell began to collect and record this matter at first hand from Mr. L. C. Perryman and Gen. Pleasant Porter, both well versed in the native customs, beliefs, culture, and social organization of their peoples. Mr. Hewitt assisted in this compilation and recording. In this way he became familiar with this material, which was laid aside for lack of careful revision, and a portion of which has been lost; but as there is still much that is valuable and not available in print it was deemed wise to prepare the matter for publication, especially in view of the fact that the objective activities treated in these records no longer form a part of the life of the Muskhogean peoples, and so cannot be obtained at first hand. In addition to this material, it is designed to add as supplementary matter some Creek tales and mythic legends collected by Mr. Jeremiah Curtin.

At that time I was preparing my extensive Creek material for the press and suggested to Mr. Hewitt that he print his own notes first so that I could refer to them. But although the administrative report for the year following indicates continued work by Mr. Hewitt on his manuscript and it appears that he took it up again in 1926 for a time, it remained unpublished at the time of his death.

Although Choctaw is mentioned in the administrative report of 1920-21 as well as Creek, the material is practically all Creek. The greater part of this Hewitt had copied, in a somewhat amplified form. I have checked his copies by the originals and have completed the copying. The material is not very extensive and in considerable measure it duplicates what I published in the Forty-second Annual Report of the Bureau, but there is some information which is unique.

The greater part of this material was obtained from Legus F. Perryman of the Okmulgee or Big Springs town and the remainder from Gen. Pleasant Porter, also of Okmulgee. Porter was at one time head chief of the Creek Nation and Perryman probably accompanied him as his “interpreter”, though both appear to have been able to speak and write English, and most of these notes were originally written down by them. Mr. Hewitt states that they were obtained at Jersey City in 1881-82, but on one sheet appears the address “Tremont House, Washington, D. C.,” and so it is probable that some additions were made in Washington. This would seem to be implied by Hewitt’s reference to Powell’s part in obtaining them. In 1881-82 Hewitt was working over Iroquois material with Mrs. Erminnie Smith, generally in New York State, but the place of residence of both was Jersey City. Some notes were evidently added in 1883. The editor met Mr. Perryman once in 1912, not many years before his death. In the 30 years that had elapsed between these two dates it is evident that much had dropped from Mr. Perryman’s mind. Be that as it may, many of the items in this paper have never been printed before and add some valuable details to our knowledge of the ancient Creeks, and this in spite of the fact that Okmulgee was one of the towns most rapidly affected by European influence. It was formerly one of those affiliated with the Hitchiti, speaking the Hitchiti language which was nearer to Choctaw than to Creek.

Notes on the Creek Indians

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. Web. 30 January 2015. - Last updated on May 6th, 2013


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