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The Creek Settlements
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Native American | No Comments
The towns and villages of the Creeks were in the eighteenth century built along the banks of rivers and their smaller tributaries, often in places subject to inundation during large freshets, which occurred once in about fifteen years. The smallest of them contained from twenty to thirty cabins, some of the larger ones up to two hundred, and in 1832 Tukabatchi, then the largest of all the Creek settlements, harbored 386 families. Many towns appeared rather compactly built, although they were composed of irregular clusters of four to eight houses standing together; each of these clusters contained a gens (“clan or family of relations,” C. Swan), eating and living in common. The huts and cabins of the Lower Creeks resembled, from a distance, clusters of newly-burned brick kilns, from the high color of the clay.1
It will be found appropriate to distinguish between Creek towns and villages. By towns is indicated the settlements which had a public square, by villages those which had none. The square occupied the central part of the town, and was reserved for the celebration of festivals, especially the annual busk or fast (púskita), for the meetings of chiefs, headmen and “beloved men,” and for the performance of daily dances. Upon this central area stood the “great house,” tchúka láko, the council-house, and attached to it was a play-ground, called by traders the “chunkey-yard.” Descriptions of these places will be given below.
Another thoroughgoing distinction in the settlements of the Creek nation was that of the red or war towns and the white or peace towns.
The red or kipáya towns, to which C. Swan in 1791 refers as being already a thing of the past, were governed by warriors only. The term red refers to the warlike disposition of these towns, but does not correspond to our adjective bloody; it depicts the wrath or anger animating the warriors when out on the warpath. The posts of their cabin in the public square were painted red on one side.
The present Creeks still keep up formally this ancient distinction between the towns, and count the following among the kipáya towns:
Kawíta, Tukabátchi, La-láko, Átasi, Ka-iläídshi, Chiáha, Úsudshi, Hútali-huyána, Alibamu, Yufala, Yufala hupáyi, Hílapi, Kitcha-patáki.
The white towns, also called peace towns, conservative towns, were governed by civil officers or míkalgi, and, as some of the earlier authors allege, were considered as places of refuge and safety to individuals who had left their tribes in dread of punishment or revenge at the hand of their pursuers. The modern Creeks count among the peace towns, called tálua-míkagi towns, the following settlements:
Hitchiti, Okfúski, Kasiχta, Ábihka, Abiχkúdshi, Tálisi, Oktcháyi, Odshi-apófa, Lutchapóka, Taskigi, Assi-lánapi or Green-Leaf, Wiwuχka.
Quite different from the above list is the one of the white towns given by Col. Benj. Hawkins in 1799, which refers to the Upper Creeks only: Okfúski and its branch villages (viz: Niuyáχa, Tukabátchi Talahássi, Imúkfa, Tutokági, Atchinálgi, Okfuskūdshi, Sukapóga, Ipisógi); then Tálisi, Átasi, Fus-hátchi, Kulúmi. For this list and that of the kipáya towns, cf. his “Sketch,” p. 51. 52.
The ancient distinction between red and white towns began to fall into disuse with the approach of the white colonists, which entailed the spread of agricultural pursuits among these Indians; nevertheless frequent reference is made to it by the modern Creeks.
Segmentation of villages is frequently observed in Indian tribes, and the list below will give many striking instances. It was brought about by over-population, as in the case of Okfúski; and it is probable that then only certain gentes, not a promiscuous lot of citizens, emigrated from a town. Other causes for emigration were the exhaustion of the cultivated lands by many successive crops, as well as the need of new and extensive hunting grounds. These they could not obtain in their nearest neighborhood without warring with their proprietors, and therefore often repaired to distant countries to seek new homes (Bartram, Travels, p. 389).
The frequent removals of towns to new sites, lying at short distances only, may be easily explained by the unhealthiness of the old site, produced by the constant accumulation of refuse and filth around the towns, which never had anything like sewers or efficient regulations of sanitary police.
The distinction between Muscogulge and Stincard towns, explicitly spoken of in Wm. Bartram s Travels (see Appendices), refers merely to the form of speech used by the tribes of the confederacy. This epithet (Puants in French) may have had an opprobrious meaning in the beginning, but not in later times, when it simply served to distinguish the principal people from the accessory tribes. We find it also used as a current term in the Naktche villages.
Bartram does not designate as Stincards the tribes speaking languages of another stock than Maskoki, the Yuchi, for instance; not even all of those that speak dialects of Maskoki other than the Creek. He calls by this savorous name the Muklasa, Witumka, Koassáti, Chiaha, Hitchiti, Okóni, both Sawokli and a part of the Seminoles. He mentions the towns only, and omits all the villages which have branched off from the towns.
The present Creeks know nothing of such a distinction. Although I do not know the Creek term which corresponded to it in the eighteenth century, it is not improbable that such a designation was in vogue; for we find many similar opprobrious epithets among other Indians, as Cuitlateca or “excrementers in Mexico; Puants or Metsmetskop among the Naktche2 ; Inkalik, “sons of louse-eggs” among the Eskimo; Käkatilsh or “arm-pit-stinkers” among the Klamaths of Southwestern Oregon; Móki or Múki, “cadaverous, stinking,” an epithet originally given to one of the Shínumo or Moki towns for lack of bravery, and belonging to the Shínumo language: múki dead.
The plural forms: tchilokóga and tchilokogálgi designate in Creek persons speaking another than the Creek language; tchilókäs I speak an alien language. “Stincards” would be expressed in Creek by ísti fámbagi. Of all the gentes of the Chicasa that of the skunk or hushkoni was held in the lowest esteem, some of the lowest officials, as runners, etc., being appointed from it; therefore it can be conjectured that from the Chicasa tribe a term like “skunks,” “stinkards,” may have been transferred and applied to the less esteemed gentes of other nations.
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