Creeks, an important confederacy of Indian tribes and tribal remnants, chiefly of Muskogian stock, formerly holding the greater portion of Central and Southern Georgia and Alabama, but now settled in Eastern Oklahoma. The name by which they are commonly known was originally applied not to the Indians, but to their home territory, i.e. “the Creek Country”. The dominant tribe is the Maskoki (Muscogee), who constitute about one-half of the whole body. Besides these there are Ilichitee, Icoasati, and Yuchi, each with a distinct language; there are also several smaller broken tribes. The Seminole, too, are originally a separated band of Creeks. According to traditional and linguistic evidence, the Muscogee and their cognate tribes had in ancient times lived west of the Mississippi River, but they were found settled in Georgia and Alabama as early as 1540 by De Soto, who crossed their territory from east to west. In the colonial period they held the balance of power between the English of Carolina on the one side and the Spaniards and French of Florida and Louisiana on the other. Their most constant alliance was with the English, whose traders supplied them with guns, and it was chiefly by this means that the English accomplished the utter destruction of the flourishing Franciscan missions of upper Florida in 1702-8. In the final inroad, 1400 of the Christianized mission Indians were carried off and distributed as slaves among the English of Carolina and their savage allies. This unfortunate outcome of more than a century of devoted missionary effort was due to the short-sighted policy of the Spaniards, who refused ‘guns to their own Indians, even in the face of threatened invasion. The Creeks adhered to the English side in the war of the Revolution, but made a treaty of peace with the United States in 1790. English instigation in the War of 1812 led to another war with the Creeks in 1813-14, in which they suffered such heavy losses that they were obliged to purchase peace by the surrender of half their remaining territory. Other land-cessions followed in quick succession until, in 1832, they sold their last acre east of the Mississippi and were removed to a new home in the Indian Territory, where they were permitted to organize an autonomous government under the name of the Creek Nation. In 1906, by previous treaty agreement, this Indian government was formally dissolved, the Indians being admitted to citizen-rights and their country incorporated into the new State of Oklahoma. They number now about 10,000 souls, besides half as many more “freedmen”, descendants of their former negro slaves.
In their old homes the Creeks were a sedentary and agricultural, but brave and warlike, people. Their houses were well constructed of logs, and their villages were regularly built around a central square devoted to public games and ceremonies, chief of which was the great annual Buskita, or Creek Corn Dance, when every fire in the settlement was extinguished and solemnly relighted from a new sacred fire kindled by means of friction. There was no recognized central authority, but neighboring or closely cognate villages commonly acted together. They had the clan system, intermarriage within the clan being strictly prohibited. No systematic mission work was attempted among them until after their removal to the Territory, when a beginning was made by the Presbyterians. A few of their children are now attending the neighboring Catholic mission schools.