Creek Tribe

A Chief of the Creek (Muskogee) tribe

The Creek Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Creek tribe, aka the Muskogee, descended from the mound builders located in the Mississippi River valley. The people moved across the southeast and established large, organised settlements in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. The Creek people were farmers growing crops of corn, beans, squash, melons, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. The most famous Creek chiefs were Red Feather and Osceola.

Picture of the Creek Native Indian
The above picture depicts Steeh-tcha-kó-me-co, meaning Great King (called Ben Perryman), who was a Chief of the Creek / Muskogee. It was painted by the famous artist George Catlin (1796-1872) at Fort Gibson in 1834. The chief wore a fringed, tasselled, buff colored matchcoat, basically a blanket that was wrapped around the body, and this instance was hung over his shoulder. He wore decorative sashes across his chest and around his waist. His turban style headdress was worn by many of the southeastern tribes and made with strips of calico cloth wrapped around his head like a turban.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Creek tribe?
The Creek tribe, who call themselves the Muscogee, are descendants of the Mississippian culture people, who built earthwork mounds at their villages located throughout the Mississippi River valley (refer to the Natchez Tribe for more facts about the mound building Native Indians). The Creek people established villages across the Deep South but their numbers were diminished by the diseases brought by the Europeans. During the War of Independence the Creek people who aligned themselves with the Americans were called White Sticks. Those who had sided with the British were called Red Sticks, supposedly due to the red-colored war clubs that they carried into battle. Following the War of Independence the 'civilizing programs' began. Many Creeks adopted European practises such as European style dress, houses, farming techniques, cotton plantations, the use of slaves and the Christian religion.

Wars with the Red Stick Creek
The Creek War (1813–1814), also known as the Red Stick War, erupted in Alabama and Georgia as American settlers continued to encroach on Creek lands. The Creek people were forced to relocate to Oklahoma in the 1830's and many Creeks fled to Florida where they found sanctuary with the Seminoles. The Creeks in Florida became embroiled in the Seminole Wars, led by the Red Stick Creek leader Osceola against the forced re-location of Florida Indians.

The Five Civilised Tribes
The wars ended in defeat and the people were sent to reservations  and the Creek tribe became known as one of the Five Civilised Tribes who also included the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminoles tribes. The culture and social structure of the Creek people  included a judiciary system, a written constitution, two legislative chambers and a public school system.

Where did the Creek tribe live?
The Creek are people of the Southeast Native American cultural group.   The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Creek tribe.

  • The Southeast region extended mainly across the states of Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida
  • Land: River Valleys, mountains and swamps
  • Climate: The climate was hot and humid in the summer and mild in the winter
  • Animals: The  animals included rabbit, wild hog, turkey, opossum, raccoon, squirrel and deer
  • Crops: The Creek crops grown in the area were corn, beans, squash, melon and sweet potatoes
  • Natural resources: Fruit, seeds, pumpkins and nuts

What did the Creek tribe live in?
The Creek tribe lived in different styles of shelters over the years. The Mississippian culture people built earthwork mounds at their villages with grass houses. These early houses were built using a framework of poles and beams covered with wattle and daub mud. The walls were then covered by cane mats and a thatched grass roof.

The next style was the wattle and daub house  made by weaving river cane, wood, and vines into a framework, then coating the frame with mud. The roof was either thatched with grass or shingled with bark. The American settlers brought new ideas and strong, sharp tools that replaced the stone axes and in the 1800's some of the Creeks began to build American-style log cabins.

What language did the Creek tribe speak?
The Creek tribe spoke in several related dialects of the Muskogean language family.

What food did the Creek tribe eat?
The food that the Creek tribe ate included their crops of corn, beans, squash, melon and sweet potatoes. Creek men also hunted deer (venison), wild turkeys, and small game. In the 1800's they extended their farming activities to include cows, horses and pigs.

What weapons did the Creek use?
The weapons used by the Creek Native Indians included war clubs, maces, knives, bows and arrows, pikes and axes. The Europeans introduced muskets and then rifles.

What clothes did the Creek people wear?
Prior to the late 1700's the Creek men were breechcloths made from deer skin or bark fabric. The early Creek women wore a knee-length skirt, also made from deerskin or a bark fabric. The above picture of the chief show how the clothes worn by the Creek people were greatly influenced by the Europeans and the availability of trade cloth.

Creek History: What happened to the Creek tribe?
The following Creek history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks of the people. The Creek timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Creek History Timeline

  • 700AD: The Mississippian culture began

  • 1542: Early contact with the Europeans began with their encounter with Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer

  • 1500's: The Creek Alphabet was developed using symbols for letters. The Creek Alphabet was created by the ancient Taliwa people, believed to have descended from the Mound Builders.

  • 1542: Epidemics of smallpox and measles and inter-tribal warfare with the Cherokee and Catawba diminish the Creek populations in the late 1500's and 1600's

  • 1700's: The Creek syllabary first appeared in writing in the late 1700's

  • 1702: (1702-1713) Queen Anne's War and the Muscogee (Creek) were allied to the British colonies and began raiding the Spanish Apalachee missions

  • 1733: James Oglethorpe and his Georgia colonists arrived in 1733. Close contact and trade with the Europeans led to the establishment of strong cultural ties between the Creek and the newcomers

  • 1775: Supported the British forces during the American Revolutionary War

  • 1783: The State of Georgia began to expand into Creek territory

  • 1790: The Treaty of New York, under the administration of George Washington, the Creek people ceded a significant portion of Creek lands to the US on the condition that they were allowed to live in the remaining territory

  • 1796: Benjamin Hawkins was appointed the federal agent to the Creek tribe and began the 'civilizing programs' leading to the name of the Five Civilised Tribes

  • 1813: Creek War (1813–1814) erupted in Alabama and Georgia. White settlers continue to encroach on Creek lands.

  • 1813: The Fort Mims massacre on August 30, 1813, led by Chief Red Eagle, was a decisive victory for the Red Stick Creeks and spread panic throughout the Southeastern United States

  • 1813: The 'Year the stars fell', the Leonid meteor shower was bad omen of a great disaster took place on the morning of November 13, 1833

  • 1813: The Creek were defeated by American forces led by Andrew Jackson at Talladega

  • 1814: The Red Stick Creeks were defeated at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama by General Andrew Jackson, 750 Creeks were killed or drowned and the US troops started to burn all the Red Stick villages. Many surviving Red Stick Creek Indians fled from Alabama and headed towards Florida

  • 1815: Creek people find sanctuary with the Seminoles of Florida, which was under Spanish rule. Tensions between the United States and Spanish Florida had begun to escalate

  • 1816: President James Madison appoints David B. Mitchell, a former governor of Georgia, the federal agent to the Creek tribe. Mitchell undermines the Creeks' sovereignty and initiates acts to take all of their lands in Georgia

  • 1817: General Andrew Jackson invaded Florida in pursuit of Seminole Indians sparking the start of the First Seminole War (1817-1818)

  • 1819: The United States acquired Florida from Spain via the Adams Onis Treaty

  • 1823: The 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek is signed by which the US seized the northern Seminole lands

  • 1825: Creek Chiefs cede all Creek lands in Georgia to the United States in the Treaty of Indian Springs

  • 1830: The Indian Removal Act of 1830

  • 1834: The Creeks in the Deep South were forcibly marched to Oklahoma

  • 1835: The Battle of Ouithlacoochie a victory under the leadership of Osceola, began the Second Seminole War

  • 1837: General Thomas Jesup captured Osceola in a trap. He was sent to Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island, outside Charleston, South Carolina

  • 1838: Osceola died on January 31, 1838 in mysterious circumstances

  • 1887: The Dawes Act

  • 1893, President Grover Cleveland appoints Senator Henry L. Dawes, to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes

  • 1893: The Dawes Rolls, or the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes, entitled an allotment of land to tribe members, in return for abolishing their governments and recognizing Federal laws

  • 1934: The individual allotment policy of the Dawes Act was terminated by the Indian Reorganization Act

Creek History Timeline

The Story of Osceola and Fort Mims
For additional facts and information refer to the legend and the Story of Osceola, the War with the Creek Nation and the story of
Old Fort Mims.

Native American Indian Tribes
Native Indian Tribes Index

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