Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors

The present paper originated in an attempt to prepare a report on the Indians of the Creek Confederacy similar to that made in Bulletin 43 for those along the lower course of the Mississippi River. 1 In this study, however, it is still possible to add information obtained from living Indians, about 9,000 of whom were enumerated in 1910. 2) But when material from all sources had been tentatively brought together the amount was found to be so great that it was thought advisable to divide the work into two or three different sections for separate publication. As our account of the distribution, interrelationship, and history of these people is to be gathered rather from documentary sources than from field investigations it is naturally the first to be ready for presentation. Since it has been compiled primarily for ethnological purposes, no attempt has been made to give a complete account of the later fortunes of the tribes under consideration, such important chapters in their career as the Creek and Seminole wars and the westward emigration belonging within the province of the historian strictly so considered. The writer’s main endeavor has been to trace their movements from earliest times until they are caught up into the broad stream of later history in which concealment is practically impossible. Although not pretending that this work is as yet by any means complete, he has aimed to furnish something in the nature of an encyclopedia of information regarding the history of the southeastern Indians for the period covered, and hence has usually included direct quotations instead of attempting to recast the material in his own words.

It was found that a satisfactory study of the Creek Indian would make it necessary to extend the scope of this work so as to consider all of the eastern tribes of the Muskhogean stock as well as the Indians of Florida. The Yuchi, on the ethnological side, have been made a special subject of inquiry by Dr. Frank G. Speck, 3 but so many new facts have presented themselves in the course of this investigation regarding the early history of these Indians that they have been treated at length. Some new information is also given regarding the Natchez and those Shawnee who were for a long period incorporated with the Creeks. The Siouan tribes of the east have been made the subject of a special study by Mr. James Mooney, 4 and all that we know regarding two other southern Siouan tribes, the Biloxi and Ofo, has been given by the writer in another publication. 5 The ramifications of the Creek Confederacy extended so far that even the Chickasaw are found to be involved, and they have in consequence been considered in this paper. The Choctaw, however, form a distinct problem and the principal attention paid them has been to incorporate a statement regarding their population so that it may be compared with that of the other Muskhogean tribes.

Sections have been included on the ethnology of the Cusabo Indians and the Florida tribes, for which we are dependent entirely on documentary sources.

To illustrate this work several of the more significant of the older maps have been reproduced, and two from data compiled by the author. It must be understood that the main object has been to trace historical movements and give the relative positions of the various tribes and bands, so that few of the locations may be considered final. It is hoped that eventually intensive work in the Southeast, and in other parts of the country as well, will take form in a series of large-scale maps in which the historical as well as the prehistoric village sites of our Indians will be recorded with a high degree of accuracy. So far as the Southeast is concerned, an excellent beginning has been made by the Alabama Anthropological Society. The handbook of this society for 1920, which comes to hand as the present work is going through the press, contains a catalogue of “Aboriginal Towns in Alabama” (pp. 42-54), which marks an advance over anything which has so far appeared and should be consulted by the student desirous of more precise information regarding the locations of many of the towns dealt with in this volume. In two points only I venture a criticism of this catalogue. First, I am entirely unable to embrace that interpretation of De Soto’s route which would bring him to the headwaters of Coosa River below the northern boundary of Georgia; and secondly, it seems to me a little risky to attempt an exact identification of the towns at which that explorer stopped in the neighborhood of the upper Alabama. At the same time I grant that such identifications are highly desirable and have no personal theories in conflict with the ones attempted.

Creek, History,

Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

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  1. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley, Bull. 43, Bur. Amer. Ethn., 1911.[]
  2. This includes the Creek and Seminole Indians of Oklahoma, the Seminole of Florida, and the Alabama and Koasati of Texas and Louisiana. (Ind. Pop. in the U. S. and Alaska, 1910. Wash., 1915.[]
  3. Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians, Anthrop. Pubs. Univ. Mus., Univ. Pa., I, No. 1, 1909.[]
  4. Siouan Tribes of the East, Bull. 22, Bur. Amer. Ethn., 1894.[]
  5. Dorsey and Swanton, Dictionary of the Biloxi and Ofo Languages, Bull. 47, Bur. Amer. Ethn., 1912. Introduction.[]

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