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 and the tribes of Alibamu descent 1 have retained their language and peculiar habits up to the present time, notwithstanding their long incorporation into the Creek community. The Hitchiti, Apalatchúkla and Sawokli tribes, with their branch villages, have also retained their language to this day, not withstanding their membership in the extensive confederacy, a membership which must have lasted for centuries; and in fact we cannot see how the retention of vernacular speech could hurt the interests of the community even in the slightest way. There were tribes among the Maskoki proper, which were said to have given up not only their own language, but also their customs, at a time which fell within the remembrance of the living generation. Among their number was the Taskigi tribe, 2 on the confluence of Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, whose earlier language was probably Cheroki. But, on the other side, a body of Chicasa Indians lived near Kasiχta in historic times, which during their stay certainly preserved their language as well as their traditional customs. From Em. Bowen’s map it appears that Chicasa Indians also lived on Savannah River (above the Yuchi) for some time, and many Cheroki must have lived within the boundaries of the consolidated Creek confederacy. The more there were of them, and the nearer they were to their own country, the more it becomes probable that they preserved their own language and paternal customs. The existence of Cheroki local names amid the Creek settlements strongly militates in favor of this; we have Etowa, Okóni, Chiaha, Tamáli, Átasi, Taskígi, Amakalli.
In the minds of many of our readers it will ever remain doubtful that the Creek tribes immigrated into the territories of the Eastern Gulf States by crossing the Lower Mississippi River. But there is at least one fact which goes to show that the settling of the Creeks proceeded from west to east and southeast. The oldest immigration to Chatahuchi River is that of the Kasíχta and Kawíta tribes, both of whom, as our legend shows, found the Kúsa and the Apalatchúkla with their connections, in situ, probably the Ábiχka also. If there is any truth in the Hitchiti tradition, the tribes of this division came from the seashore, an indication which seems to point to the coast tracts afterwards claimed by the Chahta. All the other settlements on Chatahuchi River seem younger than Kasíχta and Kawíta, and therefore the Creek immigration to those parts came from Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. At one time the northern or Cheroki-Creek boundary of the Coosa River settlements was Talatígi, now written Talladega, for the name of this town has to be interpreted by “Village at the End,” itálua atígi. If the name of Tallapoosa River, in Hitchiti Talepúsi, can be derived from Creek talepúla stranger, this would furnish another indication for a former allophylic population in that valley; but l rarely, if ever, changes into s. The Cheroki local names in these parts, and east from there, show conclusively who these “strangers” may have been.
It appears from old charts, that Creek towns, or at least towns having Creek names, also existed west of Coosa river, as on Canoe creek: Litafatcha, and on Cahawba river: Tálua hádsho, “Crazy Town,” together with ruins of other villages above this.
- Wítumka (Great), Muklási, and the four Alibamu villages named by Hawkins. To these we may add Koassáti.
- Hawkins, p. 39.