Collection: A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians

The Creek Warrior Class

The geographic position of the Creeks in the midst of warlike and aggressive nations was a powerful stimulant for making “invincibles” of their male offspring. The ruling passion was that of war; second to it was that of hunting. A peculiar incentive was the possession of war-titles, and the rage for these was as strong among the younger men as that for plunder among the older. The surest means of ascending the ladder of honor was the capture of scalps from the enemy, and the policy of the red or bloody towns was that of fostering the warlike spirit by frequent raids and expeditions. In some towns young men were treated as menials before they had performed some daring deeds on the battlefield or acquired a war title. 1Milfort, Memoire, p. 251. To become a warrior every young man had to pass through a severe ordeal of privations called fast, púskita, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth year of his age. This initiation into manhood usually lasted from four to eight months, but in certain rare instances could be abridged to twelve days. A distinction of a material, not only honorific character was the election of a warrior to actual command as paká dsha or tustĕnúggi ‘láko. The Charges Of Commanders After the young man had passed through the hardships of his initiation, the career of distinction stood open...

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The Creek Settlements

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. 1Cf. Yuchi, p. 22. At the time of the conquest of Mexico by Cortez, many of the interior towns of that country were whitewashed in the same manner, by means of a shining white clay coating. 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,...

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The Creek Language

The Creek Dialect of Maskoki is a harmonious, clearly vocalized form of speech, averse to nasalization. In forms it is exceedingly rich, but its syntax is very simple and undeveloped. An archaic form, called the female language, exists outside of the common Creek, and mainly differs from it in the endings of the verbs. Creek possesses all sounds of the general Maskoki alphabet; but here and in Hitchiti the gutturals g, k, χ are often pronounced with the tongue resting upon the fore or alveolar part of the palate. The alternating processes observed here also occur in most other Indian and illiterate languages: tch, dsh alternate with ts, ds, h with k, χ, g with the other gutturals, b with p, d with t, ä with e, o with u. The accent shifts for rhetoric and syntactic causes, and many unaccented syllables are pronounced long. In the pronunciation of the natives there is a sort of singing modulation, which likes to lengthen the last syllables of a sentence. 1Thus the Creek verbal ending -is, though short by itself, generally becomes -is, when concluding a sentence; also the Hitchiti ending -wáts, -tawāts. Syllables not final generally terminate in a vowel. Creek Morphology The nominal inflection shows but three cases: The first in -i (or -a, -o, -u), which may be called absolute; 2Absolute case has to be regarded as a...

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Creek Indian Tribe

The Creek Indians or Maskoki proper occupy, in historic times, a central position among the other tribes of their affiliation, and through their influence and physical power, which they attained by forming a comparatively strong and permanent national union, have become the most noteworthy of all the Southern tribes of the United States territories. They still form a compact body of Indians for themselves, and their history, customs and antiquities can be studied at the present time almost as well as they could at the beginning of the nineteenth century. But personal presence among the Creeks in the Indian Territory is necessary to obtain from them all the information which is needed for the purposes of ethnologic science. There is a tradition that when the Creek people incorporated tribes of other nations into their confederacy, these tribes never kept up their own customs and peculiarities for any length of time, but were subdued in such a manner as to conform with the dominant race. As a confirmation of this, it is asserted that the Creeks annihilated the Yámassi Indians completely, so that they disappeared entirely among their number; that the Tukabatchi, Taskigi and other tribes of foreign descent abandoned their paternal language to adopt that of the dominant Creeks. But there are facts which tend to attenuate or disprove this tradition. The Yuchi, as well as the Naktche tribe...

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The Creek Indian Trails

A correct and detailed knowledge of the Indian trails leading through their country, and called by them warpaths, horse trails, and by the white traders “trading roads,” forms an important part of Indian topography and history. Their general direction is determined by mountain ranges and gaps (passes), valleys, springs, watercourses, fordable places in rivers, etc. The early explorers of North American countries all followed these Indian trails: Narvaez, Hernando de Soto, Tristan de Luna, Juan del Pardo, Lederer and Lawson, because they were led along these tracks by their Indian guides. If we knew with accuracy the old Indian...

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Creek Ethnographic Notes

Abundant material for the study of ethnography is on hand for the earlier and later periods of the Creek nation; but here we have to restrict ourselves to some points which are especially adapted to the illustration of the migration legends. The relation of husband to wife and family being the foundation of all tribal, social and political life, should certainly be treated as fully as it deserves, but in this context only incident notes can be given on this subject. Condition of Females. Although succession among all Maskoki tribes was in the female line, the females occupied a subordinate condition among the Creeks, and in their households were subjected, like those of other Indians, to a life of drudgery. Divorces were of frequent occurrence. On the first days of the busk females were not permitted to enter the area of the square, nor were they admitted to the council-house whenever the men were sitting in council or attending to the conjurer’s performances. The women were assigned a bathing place in the river-currents at some distance below the men. It is also stated that a woman had the privilege of killing her offspring during the first lunation after the birth, but when she did so after that term she was put to death herself. 1Milfort, Mem., p. 251. This may have been the practice in a few Creek tribes,...

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The Creek Government

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....

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Chicasa Indian Tribe

The northern parts of Mississippi State contain the earliest homes of the warlike tribe of Chicasa Indians which historical documents enable us to trace. Pontotoc County was the centre of their habitations in the eighteenth century, and was so probably at the time of the Columbian discovery; settlements of the tribe scattered along the Mississippi River, in West Tennessee and in Kentucky up to Ohio River, are reported by the later chroniclers. In the year 1540 the army of Hernando de Soto crossed a portion of their territory, called by its historians ” Chicaça provincia,” and also visited a town of this name, with a smaller settlement (alojamiento) in its vicinity named Chicaçilla. Two rivers anciently bore the name of “Chicasa River,” not because they were partially or exclusively inhabited by tribes of this nationality, but because their headwaters lay within the Chicasa boundaries. This gives us a clue to the topographic position of the Chicasa settlements. Jefferys (I, 153), states that “Chicasa River is the Maubile or Mobile River, running north and south (now called Lower Alibama River), and that it takes its rise in the country of the Chicasaws in three streams.” When L. d Iberville traveled up the Yazoo River, the villages on its banks were referred to him as lying on “la riviére des Chicachas.” 1Margry IV, 180. The most lucid and comprehensive account of...

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