The origin of the Creek tribe of Indians, like that of most other tribes, is shrouded in doubt and mystery. While uncivilized and of nomadic disposition, it was not possible to preserve any reliable historic records of the tribe. They have assumed the name “Muskogee Nation,” but 200 years ago, they constituted but one branch of the powerful confederation known as the “Muskhogeans,” which at one time included the other four tribes of Indian Territory. The early English settlers gave them the name of “Creeks,” because of the numerous small streams of water in the sections of Alabama and Georgia which they inhabited. It seems that the earliest recorded account of them is found in the diaries of De Soto, the Spanish explorer, who made a raid through their country in 1540. De Soto’s memoirs show that at that early date the Creeks were organized into clans, later called “towns,” over each of which a head chief presided.
The First Treaty made by the United States with the Creek Indians was executed at New York City on August 7, 1790, by Henry Knox, President Washington’s war secretary and the kings, chiefs and warriors of the Creek Nation, twenty-three in number, representing ten towns or clans. By this treaty the Creek Reservation was defined as being a large tract of land lying in the southeastern part of the present State of Georgia, bounded on the east by the Savannah River and on the west by the Altamaha. The Creeks surrendered all claims they might have had to the territory lying east and north of this reservation. For this relinquishment the United States agreed to pay the Creeks $1,500 annually and to “the Creeks to become herdsmen and cultivators the United States also agreed cause certain valuable goods in the State of Georgia to be delivered to the Creeks.” In order to encourage to furnish them “gratuitously, from time to time, with useful domestic animals and implements of husbandry.”
This treaty also provided for the punishment of offenses committed by whites on the reservation and by Indians against the whites.
The Second Treaty with the Creeks was effected at Colerain on the 29th day of June, 1796. This treaty provided that the northern boundary of the Creek Reservation, extending from the Currahee Mountain to the Oconee or Apalachee River should be clearly ascertained and marked under the direction of the President. It also provided that the United States might establish a trading or military post at Beard’s Bluff on the Altamaha River, and for that purpose the Creeks ceded a tract of land five miles square.
The Third Creek Treaty was made with commissioners appointed by President Thomas Jefferson, at Fort Wilkinson on the Oconee River on June 16, 1802. By this treaty the Creeks were induced to give up a valuable portion of their reservation adjoining the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha rivers.
For this fertile tract the United States agreed to pay the Creeks $3,000 annually and allow them $25,000 in goods and in the settlement of various claims.
This treaty also provided for the payment of $1,000 per year for ten years to the chiefs of the Creek Nation, and also for furnishing two sets of blacksmith tools, with men to work them for three years.
In 1802 Georgia released all of its claims to the land now in-eluded in the states of Alabama and Mississippi to the United States Government with the proviso that the Federal Government should cancel the titles which the Creek Indians held to land within the boundaries of that state as rapidly as it could be done.
The white people of Georgia had been in numerous skirmishes with the Indians prior to this time and the feeling of antagonism between the two races seemed to be increasing, notwithstanding the mild efforts of President John Adams to preserve peace.
The Indians asserted their right to their possessions stubbornly, and were encouraged to do so by certain classes of whites, although the governor and other prominent officials of Georgia were anxious to get rid of the Indians. At that time the Creeks were divided into two factions known as Tipper Town and Lower Town.
On the 14th day of November, 1805, the chiefs and head men of the Creek Nation were called to Washington by President Jefferson, where their Fourth Treaty was negotiated. By its terms the Creeks agreed to cede another portion of their reservation lying between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers, for which the -United States agreed to pay annually the sum of $12,000 in money or goods, for a period of eight years, to be followed by an annual payment of $11,000 during the next ten years. This ‘treaty also provided that the United States should have the use of a horse path through the Creek Reservation.
The Fifth Treaty entered into between Gen. Andrew Jackson and the chiefs, deputies and warriors of the Creek Nation on the 9th of August, 1814, cites that an unprovoked, inhuman and sanguinary war had been waged by the hostile Creeks against the United States and that the states had repelled, prosecuted and determined the same successfully, notwithstanding the instigations of impostors, denominating themselves prophets, and notwithstanding the duplicity and misrepresentation of foreign emissaries, whose governments were at war with the United States.
This treaty gives an inkling of the vigorous, unmerciful attitude which General Jackson had assumed toward the Indians, and of the machinations of designing foreigners in inciting the Indians to trouble and insurrection.
As a punishment for the aid which the Creeks rendered to England during the War of 1812 they were required by this treaty to cede another slice of their territory along the Coosa River to the United States, the Government, however, promising that inasmuch as the Creeks were reduced to extreme want, it would furnish them with the necessaries of life until they could mature a crop of corn.
The Sixth Creek Treaty was negotiated by President Monroe with the kings, chiefs, head men and warriors at the Creek Agency on Flint River on the 22d of January, 1818. This treaty provided for the cession of two fertile tracts of land in the vicinity of Ocmulgee and Apalachee rivers, for the consideration of $20,000 cash, and $10,000 annually for ten years.
Their Seventh Treaty was concluded at Indian Spring on January 8, 1821. By this treaty the Creeks surrendered control of a part of their reservation adjoining the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, reserving to the Indians 1,000 acres surrounding Indian Spring and also reserving a square mile of land for Chief McIntosh on the bank of the Ocmulgee River, and a square mile each for Michey Barnard, James Barnard, Buckey Barnard, Cussena Barnard and Efauemathlaw on the Flint River. For this cession of land the United States agreed to pay $10,000 in cash, $40,000 upon the ratification of the treaty, $5,000 annually for two years, $16,000 annually for five years thereafter and $10,000 annually thereafter for six years.
This treaty also provided that the United States would assume a claim of the State of Georgia against the Creek Nation in the amount of $250,000.
This was one of the most important treaties made by the Creeks, and by it they surrendered control of what was probably the best portion of their reservation.
It resulted in great dissatisfaction and unrest among the Creek people as they regarded it as being almost the final attempt, upon the part of the white invaders, to dispossess them of their homes and hunting grounds. Some of them Were already thinking of emigrating to the wild country west of the Mississippi.
The Eighth Creek Treaty negotiated at Indian Spring on February 12, 1825, provided for the relinquishment of practically all of the Creek holdings in Georgia in exchange for lands west of the Mississippi and a money consideration of $5,000,000. This treaty was signed by William McIntosh, head chief and fifty-one town chiefs and head men of the Creek Nation, but the Takaubatchee delegates refused to sign it. It created a great furore among the Creek people, almost resulting in a Civil war, many of the Indians claiming that their chiefs had not been authorized to make such a treaty.
Charges of bribery and misrepresentation were made against the signers of this treaty and the opposition to it became so strong and bitter among the Creeks that President J. Q. Adams, who was just entering upon his term of office, declined to carry it into effect. Chief McIntosh was said to have been a cousin of Georgia governor (Troup) and it was claimed that undue influence was brought to bear upon him to induce him to sign this treaty. Two months later McIntosh was killed by Creeks who were incensed at the provisions of this treaty and the delegates who signed the treaty with him were driven from the reservation.
Just at this point the dispute arose between the Government of the United States and the State of Georgia as to jurisdictional rights over Indian lands, in which the doctrine of “State’s Rights” was strongly asserted by Georgia, and which, for a while, threatened war between the state and the nation.
The rule of law was then asserted (and maintained) that when the title to Indian lands lying within the limits of one of the thirteen original states was extinguished, the land reverted to the state in which it was located but that when a new state was formed and admitted into the Union, the Indian lands included within such new state, reverted to the United States Government whenever the Indians surrendered their title to them. Asserting their rights under this rule of law, the authorities of the State of Georgia claimed that upon the execution of the Indian Spring Treaty, the land ceded therein, became vested in their state absolutely and that the Federal Government had no right to cancel the state’s title, thus acquired. When Governor Troup sent a company of surveyors to survey and plat the land claimed by Georgia under the terms of this treaty the Creeks refused to permit the surveyors to proceed with their work, which refusal was approved by President Adams, but when he finally referred the matter to the United States Senate, that .body decided that the State of Georgia had legally acquired title to the land in question by virtue of the terms of the Indian Spring Treaty.
In order to forestall a revolution which was threatened among the Indians, their chiefs and head men were called to Washington, where, on the 24th of January, 1826, Treaty Number Nine was negotiated.
By the terms of the Indian Spring Treaty the Creeks ceded a. portion of their reservation along the Chattahoochee River in the vicinity of Buzzard’s Roost. For this cession the Creeks were to receive $217,600 and a perpetual annuity of $20,000. This treaty also provided that the United States would pay expenses and one year’s subsistence to such Creeks as would emigrate to the new country west of the Mississippi River within two years from that date.
This treaty also provided for the payment of $100,000 to be divided among the Creek chiefs and warriors provided they could induce 3,000 of their people to emigrate to the far west country within the two years.
The Tenth Creek Treaty was concluded at the Creek Agency on the reservation on November 15, 1827, by which the Creeks gave up a certain tract of land claimed by the State of Georgia and which was supposed to have been included in the last treaty above mentioned. For this relinquishment the Creeks were to receive $27,491, in addition to $15,000 for goods and education.
The Eleventh Creek Treaty, made between Lewis Cass and the Creek chiefs at Washington was proclaimed April 4, 1832. By its terms the Creeks gave up practically all of their reservation in exchange for lands west of the Mississippi. The United States agreed to spend annually, for twenty years, the sum of $3,000 upon the education of Creek children and to furnish a blacksmith, rifles and blankets to the emigrant Indians.
This treaty also solemnly guarantees that no state or territory shall ever have a right to pass laws for the government of the Creeks in their new home.
On February 14, 1833, their Twelfth Treaty was concluded at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. This treaty described the boundaries of the new reservation and settled a dispute which had already arisen concerning the boundary line between the Creek and Cherokee reservations. Montfort Stokes, Henry Ellsworth and John F. Schermerhorn represented the Government in making this treaty.
The Thirteenth Creek Treaty, made by General Armstrong, superintendent of Western Territory, assisted by Brigadier General Arbuckle, with the Creek chiefs at Fort Gibson, was approved on the second day of March, 1839.
This treaty adjusted some of the claims for property and improvements abandoned or lost on account of the Creek’s emigration from their old homes to the new territory west of the Mississippi River. This treaty also provided for the maintenance of a manual labor school for the Creeks in the Canadian District and one in the Arkansas District.
The Fourteenth Creek Treaty, concluded at Washington, D. C., on the 7th of August, 1856, was one of the most important in the history of the Creeks. The names of the Creek delegates who signed itTuckabatchee Minco, Echo Harjo, Chilly McIntosh, Benjamin Marshall, George W. Stidham and Daniel N. McIntosh, are familiar to those now living, and their children are among the leaders of the present generation of Creeks. This treaty is an attempted summary of all former treaties, canceling many old provisions which seemed to have outlived their usefulness and adjusting many disputes which had arisen during the preceding decade.
It settled a dispute concerning the boundaries of the Creek and Seminole reservations and provided that members of either tribe might settle upon land in either reservation. The treaty was signed also by Seminole delegates, who agreed to use their influence toward inducing their brothers back in Florida to emigrate to their new reservation. By the terms of this treaty the Creeks were to receive $1,000,000, for which they agreed to release all claims to their old reservation. The Seminoles were to receive $90,000 and an allowance for schools and shops. The United States also agreed to allow the Seminoles an invested fund of $500,000 for their holdings in Florida, one-half of which should be held in abeyance until all of the Seminoles in Florida had joined their brethren in the West.
It was expected that this treaty would bring about peace and harmony among all parties concerned but the pipe of peace was smoked in vain. While living back on their old reservations, the Indians, in common with the whites of the southern states, held negroes as slaves. When they emigrated to their new home in the West many of them took their slaves with them. Their interests were closely related to, if not identical with the South, and when the War of 1861 began many of the Creeks joined the Confederate Army and fought against the Union. On July 10, 1861, the Creeks who sympathized with the South entered into a treaty with the Confederate states, whereby they ignored their allegiance to the United States and cast their lots with the South, thereby rendering themselves liable to forfeit all benefits and advantages enjoyed by them in lands and annuities. At the close of the war, however, certain Creek delegates met at Fort Smith, Ark. (September 10, 1865) and cancelled and repudiated this treaty and again declared their allegiance to the United States. Some of them, however, remained loyal to the Government, many of them fighting valiantly in the Union Army. Some battles were fought within the limits of the Creek Reservation in which members of the same tribe were arrayed against each other. This unfortunate condition of affairs resulted in much suffering and trouble for the Indians. Their horses were stolen, their cattle were driven away, their houses burned, some of them were killed and others compelled to flee from their homes in search of places of safety. Bitter dissension arose among the members of the tribe and a Civil war of their own was threatened.
In order to quiet this trouble among the Indians and to effect a settlement with them for the part which they had taken in this war, President Andrew Johnson negotiated the Fifteenth Creek Treaty on the 14th of June, 1866, at the City of Washington. By this treaty the Creeks bound themselves to remain firm allies and friends of the United States and to remain at peace with all other Indian tribes. This treaty provided that slavery should no longer exist among the Creeks and that the former slaves residing on the reservation and their descendants should share equally with the Indians in their lands and national funds.
The Creeks were required to cede to the United States the west half of their entire domain, estimated to contain 3,250,560 acres, for which the United States agreed to pay them 30 cents per acre. The United States also agreed to pay those Creeks and Freedmen who had remained loyal to the Government during the war for their services, and for losses incurred.
Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.