Background to Creek Nation

Background to Creek Nation (Muskogee) Genealogy

The Muskogee (or Creek) Nation is one of the Native American groups referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes” (along with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole). While most Creek pure-bloods live in Oklahoma today, they formerly inhabited towns from Georgia’s Atlantic Coast and the vicinity of the Savannah River to the center of Alabama. Other Muskogee enclaves existed in Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. The Creek Confederation at one time comprised scores of smaller tribes, including the Apalachicola, Hitchiti, Ikan, Tuskegee, and others. The Creeks early on became divided into Upper Creeks, inhabiting the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers; and the Lower Creeks of the lower Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee.

To gain a fuller understanding of the salient features and events in Creek history, we turn to John Swanton’s incomparable synthesis of Native Americana, Indian Tribes of North America:

“Muskogee tradition points to the northwest for the origin of the Nation. In the spring of 1540, De Soto passed through some [Muskogee] settlements and a ‘province’ called Chisi, Ichisi, and Achese, in southern Georgia . . . It is probable that part if not all of the province of Guale on the Georgia coast was at that time occupied by Muskogee, and relations between Guale Indians and the Spaniards continued intimate from 1565 onward . . . . At any rate it was in a flourishing condition in 1670 when South Carolina was colonized and probably continued to grow more rapidly than before owing to the accession of Creek tribes displaced by the Whites or other tribes whom the Whites displaced . . . Occupying as they did a central position between the English, Spanish, and French colonies, the favor of the Creeks was a matter of concern to these nations, and they played a more important part than any other American Indians in the colonial history of the Gulf region. For a considerable period they were allied with the English, and they were largely instrumental in destroying the former inhabitants of Florida and breaking up the missions which had been established there. Finding the territory thus vacated, very agreeable, and one abounding in game, they presently began to settle in it permanently, particularly after it was ceded to Great Britain in 1763.

“In the last decades of the eighteenth century, the internal organization of the Confederacy was almost revolutionized by Alexander McGillvray, the son of a Scotch trader, who set up a virtual dictatorship and raised the Confederacy to a high position of influence by his skill in playing off one European nation against another. After his death friction developed between the factions favorable to and those opposed to the Whites. Inspired by the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, a large part of the Upper Creeks broke out into open hostilities in 1813, but nearly all of the Lower Creeks and some of the most prominent Upper Creek towns refused to join with them and a large force from the Lower Creeks under William MacIntosh and Timpoochee Bernard, the Yuchi chief, actively aided the American army. The war was ended by Andrew Jackson’s victory at Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa River, March 27, 1814. One immediate result of this war was to double or triple the number of Seminole in Florida, owing to the multitude of Creeks who wished to escape from their old country. From this time on friction between the pro-White and anti-White Creek factions increased . . . . [The] leaders of the Confederacy finally agreed to the removal, which took place between 1836 and 1840, the Lower Creeks settling in the upper part of their new lands [Indian Territory] and the Upper Creeks in the lower part. The former factional troubles kept the relations between these two sections strained for some years, but they were finally adjusted and in course of time an elective government with a chief, second chief, and a representative assembly of two houses was established, which continued until the nation was incorporated into the State of Oklahoma.

“The report of the United States Indian Office for 1923 gives 11,952 Creeks by blood . . . .The United States Census of 1930 gave 9,083 but included the Alabama and Koasati Indians of Texas and Louisiana and individuals scattered through more than 13 states outside Oklahoma, where 8,760 lived . . . . [The Muskogee] were one of the principal mound-building tribes to survive into modern times and were unsurpassed in the elaborate character of the ceremonials (except possibly by the Natchez), while their prowess in war was proven by the great contest which they waged with the United States Government in 1813-14, and the still more remarkable struggle which their Seminole relatives and descendants maintained in Florida in 1835-1842. Their great war speaker, Hopohithli-yahola, was probably surpassed in native greatness by no chief in this area except the Choctaw Pushmataha.”

Of related interest . . .

Researchers with Creek forebears are encouraged to examine Mr. Jeff Bowen’s ongoing series Applications for Enrollment of Creek Newborn-Act of 1905. (Now through Volume VI):

Volume I:

Volume II:

Volume III:

Volume IV:

Volume V:

Volume VI:


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