Prior to the early 18th Century, most of Georgia was home to American Indians belonging to a southeastern alliance known as the Creek Confederacy. Today’s Creek Nation, also known as the Muskogee, were the major tribe in that alliance.
According to Creek traditions, the Creek Confederacy migrated to the southeastern United States from the Southwest. The confederacy was probably formed as a defense against other large groups to the north. The name “Creek” came from the shortening of “Ocheese Creek” Indians — a name given by the English to the native people living along the Ocheese Creek (or Ocmulgee River). In time, the name was applied to all groups of the confederacy.
Most of the groups of the confederacy shared the same language (Muskogean), types of ceremonies, and village lay-out. The Creek people lived in large permanent towns or italwa with smaller outlying villages or talofa that were associated with the larger town. Italwa were centered around plazas(pascova) used for dancing, religious ceremonies and games. It was here that the Sacred Fire was rekindled annually at the Green Corn Festival (Busk).
Plazas in the towns also contained a rotunda — a round building made of poles and mud used for council meetings — and an open-air summer council house. The people in the villages attended ceremonies in the towns with which they were associated. Surrounding the plaza area were the family homes. Towns were governed by a Chief, or “Mico”, an assistant chief, and a “Mico Apokta”, who acted as speaker for the Chief, announcing his decisions to the people.
These characteristics are very similar to what is known about the prehistoric Mississippian Culture who occupied the Etowah Mounds village. The people of the Etowah Mounds are believed to be the ancestors of the Creeks who controlled the area until the early 1500’s.
This description of the Creek culture and society is based on the writings of Benjamin Hawkins, “Indian Agent” to the Creek Nation.
When a Creek town reached a population of about 400-600 people they would split, with about half moving to a new, nearby site. The new town would build its ceremonial center and develop its own villages, but would also retain a “mother-daughter” relationship with its original town. This is how the confederacies were formed.
Creek legends tell of palisaded, compact towns. By the 1700’s Creek towns began to spread out, reflecting a move to an agrarian lifestyle. At the end of this century it was not uncommon for each town to have outlying homes separated by a mile or more of crops. The Creek adopted the plow and ax and raised livestock. While most Creek still lived in traditional huts (not teepees) roofed with wood shingles or grass some began to build log homes with chimneys. By the end of the century Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins described the Creek towns as being “well fenced with fine stocks of cattle, horses and hogs surrounded by fields of corn, rice and pototoes(sic).”
The modern capitol of the Creek Nation is in Okmulgee, OK.