The Abihka constituted one of the most ancient divisions of the true Muskogee, appearing in the oldest migration legends, and are reckoned one of the four “foundation towns” of the confederacy. In ceremonial speeches they were called Abihka-nagi, though what nagi signifies no one at the present time knows. They were also called “the door shutters” because they guarded the northern border of the confederacy against attack. Hawkins says that among the oldest chiefs the name of this tribe was sometimes extended to the entire Creek Nation. 1 Du Pratz, who, like Iberville, distinguishes most of the true Muskogee as Conchacs, says that he believed the terms Abihka and Conchac applied to one people. 2 The relations of this tribe were naturally most intimate with the Coosa Indians. Hamilton quotes a Spanish manuscript of 1806 in which it is said that the Abihka and Coosa were as one pueblo divided into two by swift rivers. 3 Later they adopted a large portion of the refugee Natchez, who ultimately became completely absorbed. Stiggins, himself a Natchez, has the following to say regarding the Abihka and the people of their adoption:
The Au bih ka tribe reside indiscriminately in the Talladega valley with the Natche tribe, who they admitted to locate and assimilate with their tribe as one people indivisible a little more than a century ago. They at this day only pretend to know and distinguish their tribes from the mother’s side of descent, but they are as one people with the Natches at this time,… and why may they not by conjecture be entitled to the claim of the primitive Muscogee more than any other of the tribes, for they are not discriminated by any ancient denomination that is known of. For their present appellation is derived from their manner of approving or acquiescing a proposition. Tho’ the national tongue is spoken by the tribe in all its purity, yet most notorious they assent or approbate what you may say to them in conversation with the long aspiration aw whereas the rest of the nation approbate or answer short caw. From their singular manner of answering or approbating they got the name of aw biw kd. Moreover, the rest of the Indians in talking of them and their tongue aptly call it the aw bih ka tongue, and never resort to the appellation of Ispocoga except in a national way A brass drum that was in their possession not a half century ago is kept as a trophy. And it is said by them to have been got by their ancestors in times of old from a people who invaded or past in a hostile manner through their country comeing from up the river, that they were not like any people they ever saw before, that they were ferocious, proud, and impudent in their manners. From the traditional circumstance of the brass drum it would lead to the inference that the proud people alluded to was the escort of Ferdinand Soto, and that the Indians came in possession of one of his drums by some means. 4
Another native explanation for the tribal name is the following, originally obtained from a former Creek head chief, Spahi’tci, and related to me by the late Creek chief, Mr. G. W. Grayson: At a certain time there was contest for supremacy between the Kasihta, Coweta, Chickasaw, and Abihka, and this consisted in seeing which tribe could bring in the most scalps and heap them highest around the ball post. Kasihta brought in the most, Coweta the next, the Chickasaw still fewer, and Abihka brought in only a very small number, which were thrown about the base of the post in a careless manner. From this circumstance they came to be called Abihka because abika i′djita means “to heap up in a careless manner.” Practically the same story is told by Hawkins. 5 Of course this is not related by the Abihka themselves and is simply a folk explanation. The interpretation given by Stiggins appears very plausible, but so far I have not been able to identify the linguistic fact on which it is based, and perhaps it is no longer possible to do so. 6
I have spoken of the confusion which has resulted from the existence of an Abihkutci town occupied by Abihka Indians and another occupied by Okfuskee Indians. 7 (See: Coosa and Their Descendants) Although Abihka sometimes appears on maps, it is curious that as soon as we have a specific town it is called Abihkutci. This appears first, so far as I am aware, 8 on the De Crenay map of 1733. It is also on the Bowen and Gibson and Mitchell maps of 1755, on the Evans map of 1777, the D’Anville map of 1790, and many others of the period. We find it in the census lists of 1738 9 1750 9 1760, and 1761, in the lists of Bartram, Swan, and Hawkins, and in the census list of 1832. 10 Few events of importance are connected with the history of this tribe. In 1716, according to the South Carolina documents, they suffered a severe defeat from the Cherokee, 11 and this was perhaps the beginning of those Cherokee aggressions on Creek territory which forced the Creeks out of the Tennessee Valley. If we may believe some Cherokee legends, however, that tribe had occupied much of the same country at an earlier date. 12
The following is Hawkins’s description of the Abihka town as it appeared in 1799:
Au-be-coo-che, is on Nau-chee creek, five miles from the river, on the right bank of the creek, on a flat one mile wide. The growth is hard-shelled hickory. The town spreads itself out and is scattered on both sides of the creek, in the neighborhood of very high hills, which descend back into waving, rich land, fine for wheat or com; the bottoms all rich; the neighborhood abounds in limestone, and large limestone springs; they have one above, and one below the town; the timber on the rich lands is oak, hickory, walnut, poplar, and mulberry.
There is a very large cave north of the town, the entrance of which is small, on the side of a hill. It is much divided, and some of the rooms appear as the work of art; the doors regular; in several parts of the cave saltpetre is to be seen in crystals. On We-wo-cau creek there is a fine mill seat; the water is contracted by two hills; the fall twenty feet; and the land in the neighborhood very rich; cane is found on the creeks, and reed grows well on these lands.
This town is one of the oldest in the nation; and sometimes, among the oldest chiefs, it gives name to the nation Au-be-cuh. Here some of the oldest customs had their origin. The law against adultery was passed here, and that to regulate marriages. To constitute legal marriage a man must build a house, make his crop and gather it in; then make his hunt and bring home the meat; putting all this in the possession of his wife ends the ceremony and they are married, or, as the Indians express it, the woman is bound, and not till then. This information is obtained from Co-tau-lau (Tus-se-ki-ah Mic-co of Coosau), an old and respectable chief, descended from Nau-che. He lives near We-o-coof-ke, has accumulated a handsome property, owns a fine stock, is a man of much information, and of great influence among the Indians of the towns in the neighborhood of this.
They have no fences, and but a few hogs, horses, and cattle; they are attentive to white people who live among them, and particularly so to white women. 13
The Abihka took practically no part in the Creek uprising of 1813. After their removal to Oklahoma they established their first square ground a few miles from Eufaula. Later many of them moved farther west, following the game, and they established another square, sometimes called “Abihka-in-the-west.” Both of these have been long abandoned.
Before they left the old country two branch towns had arisen – Talladega [Taladigi] and Kan-tcati [Kån tcáti] (Red ground). They were perhaps late in forming, since they do not appear separately listed before the census of 1832. 14 There is a place called “Conchar-dee” a few miles northwest of Talladega, in the county of the same name, Alabama. After their removal the Kan-tcati busk ground was soon given up, but that of Talladega has persisted down to the present day (1912).
Gatschet enumerates two other Abihka towns, Tcahki låko or Big Shoal and Kayomalgi. 15 The former was on Choccolocco (“Big Shoal”) Creek in Calhoun or Talladega County, Ala., and is to be distinguished carefully from the Okfuskee town so called. 16 (See: Coosa and Their Descendants) There is some reason for thinking that Kayomalgi may have been settled by Shawnee, 17 though in 1772 a Chickasaw settlement was made on the creek which bore this name. 18 “The Lun-ham-ga Town in the Abecas” is mentioned by Tobias Fitch in 1725. 19
On the Lamhatty map is a town called “Apeicah,” located apparently on the east bank of the lower Chattahoochee. 20 This may perhaps be intended for Abihka, but if so it is badly misplaced. We have no knowledge of any portion of the Abihka people living so far to the south and east.
- Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, p. 52.
- Du Prat Du Pratr, La Louisianc, II, p. 208.
- Hamilton, Col. Mobile, 1910, p. 572.
- Stiggins, MS. Nevertheless from what Swan says regarding the number of British drums in Creek towns and the esteem in which they were held it is possible that this Abihka specimen was of much more recent introduction. See Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, v, p. 275.
- Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, p. 82.
- Mr. H. S. Halbert suggests a possible derivation from the Choctaw aiabika, “unhealthful place.”
- See p. 247.
- Plate 5; Hamilton, Col. Mobile, p. 190.
- MSS., Ayer Coll.
- Miss. Prov. Arch., I, p. 95; Ga. Col. Docs., VIII, p. 523; Bartram, Travels, p. 461; Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, v, p. 262; Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, p. 25; Senate Doc. 512, 23d Cong., 1st sess., pp. 315-318.
- S.C. Docs., MS.
- See p. 213.
- Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, pp. 41-42; IX, p. 170.
- Sen. Doc. 512, 23d Cong., 1st sess., IV, pp. 304-307.
- Ala. Hist. Soc., Misc. Colls., I, p. 391.
- See p. 249.
- See p. 319.
- Taitt in Mereness, Trav. in Amer. Col., pp. 531-532.
- Ibid., p. 189.
- Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. x, p. 569.