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Creek Indians

By Larry Worthy
Managing Editor
About North Georgia

According to the mythology of the Creek Nation, they came from the West to inhabit much of the present-day Southeastern United States. It is documented that they held the ancient mounds of the Moundbuilder culture as holy, for example encircling the mound in a ritualistic ceremony as reported by William Bartram, an early chronicler of the Native American population of Georgia. It is possible that this Native American culture is the remnants of the earlier Mississippian Moundbuilders.

Frequently described as a confederacy, the Creek Nation encompassed perhaps twelve distinct tribes throughout the state of Georgia. Each tribe had its own language and customs. A "trading language" united the members of the individual tribes, allowing them to converse between tribes, although this language extended beyond the members of the Confederacy.

As the Spanish explorers pushed north from the Caribean Sea they met the Creek along the coast and further inland, especially along the Lower Chattahoochee and Flint River. The first sustained English contact came in the 1680's when Dr. Henry Woodward journeyed into backcountry Georgia in an effort to reduce Spanish control. There, along Ochese (Ocmulgee) Creek, he found a number of Indian villages.

Over the next 145 years settlers would push these First Americans west in a repeated sequence of events. A boundary line would be established, then crossed by encroaching settlers. These settlers would live on the land for a while, claim it, then demand protection. The government would negotiate a new line and the process would begin again. The last group of Creek in North Georgia were forced to move west in the 1820s.

Many of the colorful place names in the area are actually Creek in origin. Chattahoochee, Chattanooga, Chickmauga and Etowah are all probably Creek in origin, even though they are frequently ascribed to the Cherokee.

The lasting legacy of the Creek Indians can be seen at the Funk Heritage Center, which has information on all Southeastern Indian tribes.

Larry Worthy is currently writing a detailed history of the Creek Indians for Our Georgia History.

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