The social organization of all the Indian nations of America is based upon the existence of the tribe. The tribe itself is based upon smaller units of individuals which are joined together by a common tie; this tie is either the archaic maternal descent, or the more modern tie of paternal descent, or a combination of both. Among the Indians of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and also among many tribes west of them, the single groups descending from the same male or female ancestor form each a gens provided with a proper name or totem generally recalling the name of an animal.
Among the Creeks, Seminoles and all the other Maskoki tribes descent was in the female line. Every child born belonged to the gens of its mother, and not to that of its father, for no man could marry into his own gens. In case of the father s death or incapacity the children were cared for by the nearest relatives of the mother. Some public officers could be selected only from certain gentes, among which such a privilege had become hereditary. Regulations like these also controlled the warrior class and exercised a profound influence upon the government and history of the single tribes, and it often gave a too prominent position to some gentes in certain tribes, to the detriment or exclusion of others. The Hitchiti and Creek totems were the same.
The administration of public affairs in the Creek nation can be studied to best advantage by dividing the dates on hand into three sections: the civil government of the Creek tribe; the warrior class; the confederacy and its government. What we give below will at least suffice to give readers a better understanding of some points in the migration legend. But before we enter upon these points, let us consider the basis of Indian social life, the -gens.