ETHNONYMS: Muscogee, Muskogee
Prior to European settlement, the Creek were a confederacy of tribes who lived in about fifty villages mainly in central Georgia and in other locations from the Atlantic coast to central Alabama. Included in the confederacy were the Kawita (Coweta), Kasihta, Abihka, Hilibi, Kusa (Coosa), Wakokai, and Huhliwahli. The groups spoke six languages—Muskogee, Hitchiti, Koasati, Yuchi, Natchez, and Shawnee. The Creeks were so named by the English because of the large number of streams and creeks in the region. When met by Hernando De Soto in 1540, the confederacy had already been formed as a means of defense against attacks from powerful northern groups.
Between 1836 and 1840 nearly twenty thousand Creeks were removed from their homeland and settled in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Today, there are four main groups of Creeks in Oklahoma—the Creek Nation, the Alabama-Quassarte (Coushatta), the Kialegee, and the Thopthlocco Creek, each governed by a tribal council. Together, they form the modern Creek Confederacy, with about fifty thousand members. There is also a small community near Atmore, Alabama.
Traditional villages in the Southeast contained irregular clusters of four to eight houses each, with as many as twenty-five different matriclans represented in a village. Subsistence was based on the cultivation of maize, beans, and squash Supplemented by hunting and gathering. Each tribe or village was governed by an elected chief ( miko ), subchief, and a Council. The military was under civilian control, with war chiefs leading war parties while governing was left to the chiefs who were chosen for their wisdom and skills. The major religious Ceremony was the Busk or Green Corn Dance ( puskita ) held in midsummer to celebrate the ripening of the new maize crop. The lighting of the new fire and drinking of the ritual black drink as well as the forgiving of all grudges and most offenses were important accompaniments.
Green, Donald E. (1973). The Creek People. Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series.
Swanton, John R. (1928). Social Organization and Social Usages of the Indians of the Creek Confederacy. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, 42nd Annual Report (1924-1925), 23—472. Washington, D.C.