Civil Government Of The Creek Tribe

Several gentes, with their families, united into one town or settlement, live under one chief, and thus constitute a tribe. The tribe, as far as constituting a politic body governing itself, is called in Creek itálua, which could also be rendered by: community or civil district. Amitáluadshi is “my own town, where I belong,” amitálua “my own country.” Itálua also signifies nation. Another term, talófa, means town or village, city as a collection of houses without any reference to its inhabitants.

The executive officer of each town is the míko or chief, formerly called “king” by the whites. His duty is to superintend all public and domestic concerns, to receive public characters, to listen to their speeches, the contents of which were referred to the town, and to “deliver the talks” of his community. The town elects him for life from a certain gens. When he becomes sick or old he chooses an assistant, who is subject to the approval of the counselors and headmen. When the míko dies the next of kin in the maternal line succeeds him, usually his nephew, if he is fit for office.

Next in authority after the míko are the míkalgi and the counselors, both of whom form the council of the town. The council appoints the Great Warrior, approves or rejects the nominations for a míko’s assistant, and gives advice in law, war or peace questions.

Next in authority after the council is the body of the hini-hálgi, old men and advisers, presided over by the híniha ‘láko. They are in charge of public buildings, supervise the erection of houses for new settlers, direct the agricultural pursuits and prepare the black drink. They are the “masters of ceremonies,” and the name híniha, íniha, which is no longer understood by the present generation, is said to signify “self-adorner,” in the sense of “warrior embellished with body paint.” Hiniha ‘láko, abbreviated into Nia ‘láko, is now in use as a personal name, and recalls the name of the celebrated Seminole chief Neamáthla (hiniha imá’la). In the Hitchiti towns they were comprised among the class of the beloved men. Before the broken days, níta χátska, they consulted about the time of the busk, and during the busk directed the performances.

Beloved men or isti-tchákalgi follow next in rank after the above. They are the men who have distinguished themselves by long public service, especially as war leaders, and the majority of them were advanced in age. C. Swan states that the beloved men were formerly called míkalgi in white towns.

Then follows the common people. For the tustĕnúggi ‘láko or Great Warrior: see. “Warrior Class” and “Creek Confederacy.”

Since Indian character expresses itself in the most pronounced, self-willed independence, the power of the authorities was more of a persuasive than of a constraining or commanding nature. This will appear still better when we speak of the warrior class; and it may be appropriate to remember that no man felt himself bound by decrees of a popular assembly, by edicts of chiefs and their counselors, or by treaties concluded by these with alien tribes or governments. The law exercised by the gens was more powerful than all these temporary rulings, and, in fact, was the real motive of power in the Indian community.

The distinction between red and white towns is not clearly remembered now, and there are very few Creeks living (1884) who are able to tell whether such or such a town was red or white. As soon as the agricultural interests began to prevail over the military, through the approach of the colonial settlements, this feature had to disappear, and the social order also changed from the gens or φύλŋ into that of civitas. Adair, Hist., p. 159, seems inclined to identify the white (or “ancient, holy, old beloved, peaceable towns”) with the ” towns of refuge,” one of which was Kusa.

Gatschet, Albert S. A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians. Pub. D.G. Brinton, Philadelphia, 1884.

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