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Also referred to as the Muskogee, the Creek Tribe is a collection of separate Native American tribes that eventually merged and migrated to the Southeastern United States. The union of tribes, also known as the Creek Confederacy or, simply, the Creek, has evolved over time, as groups often ceded and other alliances merged with the tribe. Today, the Creek Tribe is governed by a tribal government situated in east central Oklahoma.
Some of the Creek live in southern Florida as part of the Seminole Tribe, and a band of Poarch Creeks reside on a reservation in Alabama. Members of the tribe are American citizens. However, the Creek Tribe is a sovereign nation with its own set of laws and own form of government.
During the 1500s, the tribe primarily lived in the area that is now Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The tribe received its name from the Europeans who identified the Native Americans with the Ocmulgee Creek in Georgia. In the 1600s, the Creek were slowly forced out of their lands by the Cherokees and also by the Europeans. In the 1800s, a large number of the Creeks relocated to Oklahoma, where they ultimately formed their own nation.
Prior to the 1800s, the Creek Tribe lived in villages called Italwa, where people spoke the same language and enjoyed the same traditions. The Native Americans lived in communities where the men hunted and the women prepared food and raised children. Men were often warriors who decorated themselves with ceremonial headdresses and tattoos. Towns were ruled by a male chief and an assistant chief, who were selected by a tribal council.
The Creek never let their towns grew too large. Once a town of the Creek achieved approximately 600 inhabitants, half of the residents would move to a nearby location and form another town. In the 1700s, the Creeks started to move further apart and gradually, adapted an agricultural way of life.
During their dealings with the Europeans, the Creeks were divided into two distinct geographic areas. Settlers referred to the Creeks located along the Tallappoosa River region in Alabama as the Upper Creeks. Europeans called the Native Americans located along the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers in northern Georgia the Lower Creeks. The Lower Creeks had more interaction with the Europeans, while the Upper Creeks kept more to themselves.
In the 1800s, the United States attempted to transform members of the Creek Tribe into ranchers and planters. In 1813, a civil war erupted between different factions of the Creek Tribe. American troops intervened and under General Andrew Jackson, several hundred Creeks were killed. Under a treaty with the United States government, the Creeks conceded more than 20 million acres. After the Civil War, the Creeks relinquished more than 3 million acres to the US government.