The Creek Warrior Class

The geographic position of the Creeks in the midst of warlike and aggressive nations was a powerful stimulant for making “invincibles” of their male offspring. The ruling passion was that of war; second to it was that of hunting. A peculiar incentive was the possession of war-titles, and the rage for these was as strong among the younger men as that for plunder among the older. The surest means of ascending the ladder of honor was the capture of scalps from the enemy, and the policy of the red or bloody towns was that of fostering the warlike spirit by frequent raids and expeditions. In some towns young men were treated as menials before they had performed some daring deeds on the battlefield or acquired a war title. 1 To become a warrior every young man had to pass through a severe ordeal of privations called fast, púskita, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth year of his age. This initiation into manhood usually lasted from four to eight months, but in certain rare instances could be abridged to twelve days.

A distinction of a material, not only honorific character was the election of a warrior to actual command as paká dsha or tustĕnúggi ‘láko.

The Charges Of Commanders

After the young man had passed through the hardships of his initiation, the career of distinction stood open before him, for he was now a tassikáya or brave. 2 According to Hawkins Sketch, the three degrees of advancement in command were as follows:

The tassikáya, who after initiation appears qualified for actual service in the field, and is promising, is appointed leader (isti paká dsha, or paká dsha) by the míko or chief of his town. When he distinguishes himself, he obtains a seat in the central cabin of the public square. When out on the warpath the leader was called imíssi, imíssi, q. v., and when initiated to the faculty of charming the approaching enemy by physic and songs, ahopáya, q. v.

Warriors of the pakā dsha class, who had repeatedly distinguished themselves on expeditions, could be promoted, when a general war was declared, to the charge of upper leader, isti paká’dsha ‘láko, or tustěnúggi.

The highest distinction was that of the great warrior, tustěnúggi ‘láko, of whom there was one in every town. This dignitary was appointed by the míko and his counselors, and selected by them among the best qualified warriors. His seat was at the western end of the míkalgi cabin in the public square. In Milfort’s time this dignitary had become a civil and military officer, 3 and nowadays his functions are those of a civil functionary only.

In cases when the towns had resolved upon a general war, a leader for all the town-tustěnúggis was appointed in the person of a “generalissimo,” called also pakā’dsha, tustěnúggi, or tustěnúggi ‘láko.

Among the Creeks now inhabiting the Indian Territory the nomenclature has been altered from the above. A young man is called tassikáya after receiving the war-title and having some employment during the busk; he becomes tustěnúggi after being declared as such by a vote of his town; but in aboriginal times a young man was not called tustěnúggi before he had shown his bravery by the taking of at least one scalp.

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

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  1. Milfort, Memoire, p. 251.[]
  2. Tassikáya, contr. taskáya, pi. taskiálgi in Cha’hta táska, in Apalache taskáya, etc.[]
  3. Milfort, Mémoire, p. 237: “Aujourd’hui il est le premier chef de la nation pour le civil et pour le militaire.”[]

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