Muskogee (people)

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Former tribal area of ​​the Muskogee and first reservation (1838), their resettlement route and battles with Indian participation in the southeastern USA between 1811 and 1847

The Muskogee , also known as the Creek , are a North American Indian people who originally came from the southeastern United States . In their own language they call themselves Mvskoke or Maskoki . Today the spelling Muskogee derived from it is common , in English-speaking countries also Muscogee . Your language Maskoki ( mvskoke ) belongs to the Muskogee language group . The Seminoles are closely related to the Muskogee and also speak the Maskoki language. The Muskogee are one of the five civilized nations . Today they mostly live in Oklahoma , Alabama, and Florida .

Tribal structure

The Muskogee were divided into a red and a white clan. The red clan was headed by a war chief, while the white clan was led by a peace chief, or miko , who could also be a woman.


Early history

The prehistoric Muskogee were likely descendants of the Mississippi culture and possibly related to the Utinahica in southern Georgia . More of a loose union than a closed tribe, the Muskogee lived in independent villages in river valleys in what is now Georgia and Alabama, and were made up of many ethnic groups who spoke several different languages. They included the Abihka , Alabama , Tallapoosa, and Coushatta . Those who settled along the Ocmulgee River were called "Creek Indians" by British traders from South Carolina (English: creek = brook). The name may also have been given to all indigenous peoples in this region in general, including the Natchez and Yuchi .

The Muskogee traded with their new British neighbors and received European goods in exchange for deer skins and Native American slaves they had caught in Florida. In the 18th century, the Muskogee began marrying and intermingling with British traders and escaped African slaves . Differences in geography and interaction with Europeans may have resulted in the Muskogee towns increasingly moving into the "lower towns" in the Georgia border (on the Chattahoochee River , Ocmulgee River and Flint River ) and the "upper towns " in Alabama. River valley.

Revolutionary era

Like many Native American groups east of the Mississippi River , the Muskogee split up depending on which side they were on in the American Revolutionary War . The Lower Muskogee (Lower Creek) remained neutral; the Upper Muskogee (Upper Creek) allied with the British against the independence fighters.

This sketch by John Trumbull shows Muskogee leader Hopothle Mico , probably at the time the Treaty of New York was signed in 1790.

After the rebellion officially ended in 1783, the Muskogee discovered that Britain had added Muskogee Land to the newly formed United States of America . The state of Georgia began to expand into the Muskogee Territory. Muskogee statesman Alexander McGillivray became famous for building a Pan-Indian resistance to this intrusion and receiving weapons from the Spanish in Florida to combat passing Georgians. McGillivray worked to build a kind of Muskogee nationalism and centralize leadership by fighting village chiefs who had individually sold land to the US. With the Treaty of New York in 1790, McGillivray ceded a significant amount of land to the United States under the presidency of George Washington in exchange for recognition of the Muskogee's sovereignty in the remaining territory. However, McGillivray died in 1793 and Georgia continued to expand into Muskogee Land.

The Creek War (Rotstock War)

The Creek War of 1813-1814, also known as the "Red Stick War," began as a civil war within the Muskogee, only to be drawn into the War of 1812 . Fired on by the passionate eloquence of Shawnee leader Tecumseh and her own religious leaders, Muskogee of the Upper Towns, known to whites as "red sticks," fought aggressively against white intrusion and the "civilization programs" launched by US Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins were administered. Redstock leaders William Weatherford (Red Eagle), Peter McQueen and Menawa fought doggedly with the Lower Muskogee, led by William McIntosh , who were allied with the Americans.

On August 30, 1813, the red sticks, led by the Red Eagle, attacked the American outpost Fort Mims near Mobile (Alabama) , where, in addition to white civilians and some Indian allies, especially militiamen had holed up. A few days earlier, around 180 of these had attacked a group of Indian warriors in the Gulf of Mexico, who had just stocked up with weapons, and killed 20 of them. They then took refuge in the fort further west. In an act of revenge, around 800 red sticks took the fort and caused a terrible bloodbath: almost 250 people were killed. Unrest then gripped the southwestern border region of the USA and hundreds of volunteers volunteered.

In response to the Fort Mims massacre , Tennessee , Georgia, and the Mississippi Territory sent four powerful militia groups deep into Muskogee land that fall , which were also joined by Indian friends. Outnumbered and poorly armed, the red sticks fought a desperate battle from their fortresses built in the wilderness. On November 18, 1813, the John R. Coffees Brigade closed the village of Tallushatchee , killed the Indian warriors "like dogs," and then burned all the houses, killing women and children. In total, nearly 200 Indians died. On March 27, 1814, the Tennessee militia under the then General and later US President Andrew Jackson , supported by the 39th US Infantry Regiment and Cherokee and Muskogee allies, finally broke the resistance of the red sticks in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River : of more than 3,300 soldiers, more than 850 fighters were killed and 350 women and children were captured.

Although the red sticks had been destroyed, about 3,000 Lower Muskogee died in this war, which the remaining resistance of the Upper Muskogee maintained for several months. In August 1814 they surrendered to Andrew Jackson at Wetumpka (near what is now Montgomery, Alabama ). On August 9, 1814, the Muskogee were forced to sign the Fort Jackson Treaty, which ended the conflict and required them to cede 81,000 km² of land - more than half of their original territory - to the United States. Those Muskogee who had fought together with Andrew Jackson were also forced to surrender land because they blamed Jackson for the rise of the Red Sticks. The state of Alabama emerged from this territory and became part of the United States in 1819.

The expulsion to the west

After the War of 1812, some Muskogee leaders like William McIntosh signed a number of treaties that ceded more and more land to Georgia. Eventually, the Muskogee Association passed law making any further land cession a felony. Even so, on February 12, 1825, McIntosh and other chiefs signed the Indian Springs Treaty , which ceded most of the remaining Muskogee land in Georgia.

Menawa visited Washington DC in 1826 to protest the Indian Springs Treaty. Painted by Charles Bird King .

McIntosh was a cousin of Georgia Governor George Troup , who viewed the Muskogee as a threat to white expansion in the area, and had been elected to a platform for Indian resettlement for the Democratic Party . McIntosh's motifs have been interpreted differently. Some believed he had been bribed to sell his people, others claimed that he understood that the Muskogee would eventually lose everything and that he wanted to get the best out of them. After the Senate ratified the treaty, McIntosh was assassinated on May 31, 1825 by Muskogee, led by Menawa ( Major Ridge of the Cherokee later behaved the same as McIntosh and paid the same price).

The Muskogee National Council, led by Opothle Yohola , campaigned with the US to annul the Indian Springs Treaty. President John Quincy Adams sympathized with the protests: in 1826 the treaty was replaced by a new agreement, the Washington Treaty . Historian R. Douglas Hurt writes: "The Creek achieved what no Indian nation had ever done or will do again - the annulment of an already ratified treaty."

Georgia Governor Troup ignored the new treaty and began to evict the Indians by force, according to the terms of the first treaty. At first President Adams tried to intervene with federal forces, but Troup called the militia together and Adams, fearing civil war, relented. As he told his confidants, "it is not worth the Indians to start a war" .

Although the Muskogee had been driven from Georgia, with many Lower Muskogee moving to Indian Territory, there were still about 20,000 Upper Muskogee living in Alabama. The state, however, proceeded to ban tribal governments and extended state law to the Muskogee. Opothle Yohola appealed to President Andrew Jackson's administration to protect them from Alabama; when nothing went further, the Treaty of Cusseta was signed on March 24, 1832 , which divided the Muskogee land into individual plots. The Muskogee could either sell their land to move west or stay in Alabama and submit to the US Army and civilian power. Land speculators and squatters began to drive the Muskogee away from their properties, leading to outbreaks of violence that culminated in what is known as the " Creek War of 1836 ". Secretary of War Lewis Cass sent a notice to General Winfield Scott to end the violence by forcibly evicting the Muskogee into Indian territory west of the Mississippi.

The Muskogee's official website describes the next phase in their history:

In the new nation, the Lower Muskogee established their farms and plantations on the Arkansas River and Verdigris River . The Upper Muskogee re-established their original towns on the Canadian River and its northern tributaries. The tribal cities of both groups continued to send representatives to a national council that met at High Springs. The Muskogee nation as a whole began to experience a new prosperity .


The polytheistic - animistic tribal religion of the Muskogee knows a creator god named Esaugetuh Emissee (about "keeper of the breath"; also Hisagita-imisi or Hisakitaimisi ), who originally lived alone in a house on the hill Nunne Chaha , which is the only island in the world from the Ocean loomed. He created various deities - including brother moon and sister sun -, the earth with all creatures, and the four directions to hold the world. The first two creeks to be the descendants of Sister Sun and the Horned Serpent were named Lucky Hunter and Corn Woman . The gods, who live in an orderly, heavenly pantheon , face a chaotic underworld with strange creatures.

Next to the gods stands Hiliswa , an all-pervasive, spiritual force or world soul that is very similar to the Orenda of the Iroquois or the Manitu of the Algonquin. However, its strength can vary in size depending on the person, place or object in which it resides. Living beings have two souls: the life force ( Hisakita or breath), which dissolves at death, and the eternal spiritual soul (Poyifikca), which can also have dead objects. The Muskogee believe that some people can capture souls from other living beings or spirits in order to use them for their own purposes.

The Muskogee tribes did not have necromancers like most other Native American peoples in North America, but had a differentiated priesthood (Alektca), whose ritual and political power depended on Hiliswa possession. Power was inherited mainly through the female line. In addition, the candidates completed a longer training in order to learn the sequence of the sacred ceremonies and their management.

The ritual year of the Muskogee was centered around four calendar ceremonies that marked the agricultural cycle. Each city held its own ceremonies. The season opened with a planting ceremony in late April or early May. Little Green Corn and Green Corn (Apuskita; green corn ceremony) followed at approximately monthly intervals . The latter was the most important ceremony and marked the new year with the re-kindling of the sacred fire and the general renewal of the world. The harvest ceremony took place between the end of August and the beginning of October, depending on the city. Some Muskogee settlements continue to celebrate this ceremonial cycle.

While around 20 to 25 percent of the creeks still follow traditional religion today, most are Christians. The Baptists among them are independent of other church associations and strongly influenced by ethnic beliefs and rites ( syncretism ) .

The Creek buried their dead (at least the elite) with rich grave goods under special houses built for this purpose. Access to the houses of the dead was forbidden after the burial ceremony was over. Sometimes a whole village ( necropolis ) emerged from it .

The Muskogee today

Spc. Stacy R. Scott, a 20-year-old Muskogee from Okemah , kneads the ingredients for a Native American toast during a powwow at Camp Taqaddum , Iraq , Sept. 18, 2004

Most of the Muskogee moved to Indian territory, although some resisted the eviction. In 2010 there were 88,332 Muskogee people, around 56,000 of whom live in Oklahoma. There is no longer a reservation there. Further descendants of the displaced are now the "Poarch Band of Creek Indians" in Alabama, who were the only Indian people in Alabama to receive state recognition. Most of them live in the Poarch Creek Reservation in Atmore northeast of Mobile . Likewise, a number of Muskogee live in non-reserve cities in Florida. In addition, the descendants of the Muskogee live in various degrees of integration across the southeastern US states.

Although the Muskogee Confederation was one of the largest Indian organizations, its unpopularity after the Creek War made the Muskogee "more susceptible" to assimilation into other tribes and the Euro-American culture.

The traditional religion of the creeks of eastern Oklahoma has been preserved to this day , which is practiced in summer during the green corn ceremonies and the dances that prepare them. During the winter, however, they go to church. Both religions exist side by side without influencing each other. According to the ongoing surveys by the evangelical-fundamentalist conversion network Joshua Project , 25 percent of all Creek still profess the old religion.

Famous Muskogee

  • Floy Pepper , teacher and educationalist ("Teachers and students solve discipline problems")
  • Jim Pepper , jazz musician, combined elements of traditional music with jazz
  • Will Sampson , actor, most famous for his portrayal in Miloš Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).
  • Greg T. Walker, rock musician (Blackfoot, Lynyrd Skynyrd and others)
  • Joy Harjo , poet, musician and activist

See also

Commons : Muscogee  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Christopher D. Haveman: Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 2020, ISBN 978-1-4962-1954-1 .
  • Bryan C. Beef: George Galphin's Intimate Empire: The Creek Indians, Family, and Colonialism in Early America. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa 2019, ISBN 978-0-8173-2027-0 .
  • Thomas Foster, Mary Theresa Bonhage-Freund, Lisa O'Steen: Archeology of the Lower Muskogee Creek Indians, 1715-1836. University of Alabama Press, 2007.
  • Earnest Gouge: Totkv mocvse / New Fire. University of Oklahoma Press, 2004 (Myths and Legends) (creek and engl.).
  • Pamela Joan Innes, Linda Alexander, Bertha Tilkens: Mvskoke emponvkv / Beginning Creek. University of Oklahoma Press, 2004 (by linguist and anthropologist Pamela Innes and native speakers Linda Alexander and Bertha Tilkens, introduction to the language and culture of the Creek-speaking groups).
  • Robbie Franklyn Ethridge: Creek Country. The Creek Indians and their World. University of North Carolina Press Books, 2003 (historical work begins 1796).
  • John R. Swanton: The Early History of the Creek Indians and their Neighbors. In: Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin. Washington, United States Government Printing Office , 1922. (Still important as based on numerous sources).

Web links

Individual references and sources

  1. Basic: Gregory A. Waselkov: A Conquering Spirit. Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814. University of Alabama Press, 2009.
  2. a b Aram Mattioli : "We shot them like dogs". Repressed Crimes: The British-American War sealed the fate of the Indian nations between 1812 and 1814. In: The time . December 11, 2014, accessed June 9, 2015 .
  3. Mattioli characterizes it as the most costly carnage. After that, the power of the red sticks was broken. Aram Mattioli: "We shot them like dogs." In: DIE ZEIT of December 25, 2014
  4. ^ Oklahoma State University Library Electronic Publishing Center: Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties
  5. Houghton Mifflin: ( Memento from December 10, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ Oklahoma State University Library Electronic Publishing Center: Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties
  7. ^ Hurt, R. Douglas: The Indian Frontier: 1763-1846. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002), p. 148.
  8. ^ Oklahoma State University Library Electronic Publishing Center: Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties
  9. Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma: Muscogee (Creek) History ( Memento of March 14, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  10. a b Keyword: Creek (People) #Religion , accessed on March 24, 2020.
  11. a b c d Richard Sattler: Keyword: Creek in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, accessed on March 24, 2020.
  12. 2010 Census CPH-T-6. American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2010 . In: . Accessed in 2015.
  13. Christian F. Feest : Animated Worlds - The religions of the Indians of North America. In: Small Library of Religions , Vol. 9, Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-451-23849-7 . P. 192.
  14. Joshua Project: United States ( Memento of the original from February 19, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Entry: Creek, Muskogee , accessed December 23, 2015. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /