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Location of Tribes.Physical Characteristics of the Southern Indians.System of Government.The Mico.The Head War-Chief.Public Buildings in a Creek Village.Mode of Warfare.Office of High-Priest.Sun-Worship. Offering of the Stag.Idol-Worship.Religious Ideas.The Sun among the Natchez.The Cacica of Cutifachiqui.Mausoleum of Talomeco.Tombs of the Virginia Kings.
By letters patent, dated the 9th of June, 1732, King George II. incorporated the trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia in America, and conveyed to them and their successors "seven-eighths of all that territory lying between the Savannah and Alatamaha Rivers, and westwardly from the heads of the said rivers respectively, in direct lines, to the south seas." In this alienation were embraced all islands within twenty leagues of the coast. Including a large portion of the present States of Alabama and Mississippi, this grant claimed an extension, in a westerly direction, as indefinite as was then the geographical knowledge of the region intended to be comprised in the royal feofment.
Of the Indian nations, east of the Mississippi River, occupying and living adjacent to this territory about the beginning of the eighteenth century, the dominant peoples were the Uchees, Lower, Middle, and Upper Creeksconstituting the formidable Muscogee Confederacythe Yamasees, the Cherokees, the Chickasaws, the Choctaws, the Natchez and the Seminoles. East of the Savannah River resided theCatawbas, the Savannahs, and the Westoesthe latter tribe including the Stonoes and the Edistoescruel and hostile peoples, between whom and the Carolina colonists early and prolonged warfare ensued. The Yamasees are mentioned by Governor Archdale as living about eighty miles from Charleston, and extending their hunting excursions nearly to St. Augustine. This was in 1695. Between the Westoes and the Savannahsboth potent tribes and numbered by "many thousands"a violent civil strife arose, in consequence of which they were greatly reduced in population and resources. This contest resulted in the final overthrow and expulsion of the Westoes"the more cruel of the two"the Savannahs continuing "good friends and useful neighbors to the English." Smallpox and other unusual sicknesses are said, at an early period of the English colonization of Carolina, to have wrought sad havoc among the natives.
Surveyor-General Lawson describes the Savannahs as a "famous, warlike, friendly nation of Indians living to the south end of Ashly River." They probably derived their name from the river whose banks they inhabited, and it is Mr. Gallatin's opinion that they and the Yamasees were one and the same people, the latter being the true Indian name.
These Yamasees and their confederates were, in 1715, routed by Governor Craven and driven across the Savannah River into the arms of the Spaniards in Florida. It is not improbable that the Yamacraws, who were occupying the present site of the city of Savannah when General Oglethorpe landed and established the colony of Georgia, were a remnant of this tribe. Among the allies of the Yamasees the Uchees were numbered, and they, too, after this signal discomfiture, contented themselves with a residence in the everglades of Florida. Theirs, of all the Indian languages of this region, was the most uncouth and guttural. Bartram asserts that their national language was radically different from the Muscogulgee tongue. He was informed by the traders that their dialect was the same as that of the Shawnees. Although at one time confederated with the Creeks, they refused to mix with them and excited the jealousy of that whole nation.
The Chickasaws at one period occupied the left bank of the Savannah River opposite Augusta.
About the date of the colonization of Georgia, the territory of the Creek Confederacyincluding lands inhabited by the Seminoleswas bounded on the west by Mobile River and by the ridge separating the waters of the Tombigbee from those of the Alabama (the latter being the contested boundary-line between the Creeks and the Choctaws), on the north by the Cherokees, on the northeast by the Savannah River, and on every other side by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. It is believed, at the end of the seventeenth century, that south of the thirty-fourth degree of north latitude the Creeks occupied the eastern as well as the western bank of the Savannah. It cannot now be ascertained with certainty when the consolidation of this confederacy was effected. "It is probable," says Mr. Gallatin, "that the appellation of Appalachians was geographical, and applied to the Indians living on the Appalachicola or Chattahoochee River, as the name of Creeks seems to have been given from an early time to those inhabiting generally the country adjacent to the Savannah River." Of the Creek Confederacy, by far the most numerous and powerful nation was the Muscogee. The Hitchittees, who resided on the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, although a distinct tribe, spoke a dialect of the Muscogee. The Seminoles, or Isty-semole (wild men), inhabiting the peninsula of Florida, were pure Muscogees, and received that name because they subsisted principally by hunting and devoted but little attention to agriculture.
When questioned as to their origin, the Muscogees responded that the prevailing tradition among them was, that their progenitors bad issued out of a cave near the Alabama River. The account given by the Hitchittees of their beginning was scarcely less fanciful. They claimed that their ancestors had fallen from the sky.
"The Chactaws," says Captain Romans, "have told me of a hole between their nation and the Chicasaws, out of which their whole, very numerous nation, walked forth at once, without so much as warning any neighbor."
The Uchees and the Natchez both acknowledged allegiance to the Creek Confederacy. The original seats of the Uchees are thought to have been east of the Coosa, and probably of the Chattahoochee. They declared themselves the most ancient inhabitants of the country, and it has been suggested that they were the peoples called Appalaches by the historians of De Soto's expedition. Their country was mentioned as a land abounding in towns and subsistence. Early in the eighteenth century, they occupied the western bank of the Savannah River; and, as late as 1736, claimed the country both above and below Augusta. The name of at least one creek in Columbia County perpetuates at once their memory and the fact of their former occupancy of this region.
A residue of the Natchez forsook their old habitat on the banks of the Mississippi, and, journeying east ward, associated themselves with the Creeks less than one hundred and fifty years ago. The principal towns of the Creeks were Cussetah, Cowetah, Tukawbatchie, and Oscoochee. The Muscogee, the Hitchittee, the Uchee, the Natchez, and the Alibamon or Coosada, were the principal languages spoken by the various tribes composing the Creek Confederacy. On the 12th of March, 1733, General Oglethorpe mentions the Lower and Upper Creeks, and the Uchees, as the three most powerful Indian nations in Georgia between the mountains and the coast. The Lower Creeks consisted of nine towns or cantons, and their warriors were estimated by him at one thousand. The military strength of the Upper Creeks he computes at eleven hundred men capable of bearing arms, while it was supposed that the Uchees were at that time unable to bring into the field more than two hundred bow-men. This estimate is evidently too small, and was vaguely formed. De Brahm, at a later date, reckons the population of the Upper and Lower Creeks at fifteen thousand men, women, and children, and rates their warriors and gun-men above three thousand. To Colonel Hawkins we are indebted for a very valuable sketch of the Creek country in 1798 and 1799.
The Creeks are described as powerful warriors, great politicians, and full of jealousy. They were a terror to the Cherokees and to the various Indian nations with whom they waged ceaseless wars.
Captain Romans enumerates remnants of the Cawittas, Talepoosas, Coosas, Apalachias, Conshacs, or Coosades, Oakmulgis, Oconis, Okchoys, Alibamons, Natchez, Weetumkus, Pakanas. Taensas, Chacsihoomas, Abékas, and of other tribes, whose names he did not recollect, all calling themselves Muscokees, and constituting what was known as the Creek Confederacy.
"The territories of the Cherokees, Chelakees, or more properly, Tsalakies," says Mr. Gallatin, "extended north and south of the southwesterly continuation of the Appalachian Mountains; embracing on the north the country on Tennessee or Cherokee River and its tributary streams, from their sources down to the vicinity of the Muscle Shoals, where they were bounded on the west by the Chicasas. The Cumberland mountain may be considered as having been the boundary on the north; but, since the country has been known to us, no other Indian nation, except some small bands of Shawnoes, had any settlement between that mountain and the Ohio." On the west side of the Savannah, the Cherokees were confronted on the south by the Creeks, the division-line being Broad River and generally along the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude. East of the Savannah, their original seats embraced the upper waters of that river, of the Santee, and, probably, of the Yadkin, but could not have extended as far south as the thirty-fourth degree of north latitude. They were bounded on the south, probably, by Muskhogee tribes in the vicinity of the. Savannah, and, farther east, by the Catawbas.
Between the Shawnoes and the Cherokees prolonged strife occurred, which resulted in the expulsion of the former from the country south of the Ohio. With the Creeks also the Cherokees were constantly at variance. When in 1730 the whites interposed their good offices to bring about a pacification between the Tuscaroras and the Cherokees, the latter responded: "We cannot live without war; should we make peace with the Tuscaroras, with whom we are at war, we must immediately look out for some other with whom we can be engaged in our beloved occupation."
The history of the Cherokees is marked by continued and prolonged struggles. Their country being strong, their men trained to arms, and the integrity of the nation at all times wonderfully preserved, these peoples do not appear, in their territorial possessions, to have been materially injured by their frequent contests with adjacent tribes. In 1762 Adair estimated the number of their warriors at three thousand two hundred, and adds, he was informed that, forty years before, they had at least six thousand men capable of bearing arms.
In perpetuating his impressions of the PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS of the Southern Indians, Mr. Bartram writes: "The males of the Cherokees, Muscogulgees, Siminoles, Chicasaws, Chactaws, and confederate tribes of the Creeks, are tall, erect, and moderately robust; their limbs well shaped, so as generally to form a perfect human figure; their features regular and countenance open, dignified, and placid; yet the forehead and brow so formed as to strike you instantly with heroism and bravery; the eye, though rather small, active and full of fire; the iris always black, and the nose commonly inclining to the aquiline. Their countenance and actions exhibit an air of magnanimity, superiority, and independence. Their complexion of a reddish brown or copper color; their hair long, lank, coarse, and black as a raven, and reflecting the like lustre at different exposures to the light. The women of the Cherokees are tall, slender, erect, and of a delicate frame ; their features formed with perfect symmetry, their countenance cheerful and friendly; and they move with a becoming grace and dignity.
"The Muscogulgee women, though remarkably short of stature, are well formed; their visage round, features regular and beautiful, the brow high and arched; the eye large, black, and languishing, expressive of modesty, diffidence, and bashfulness; these charms are their defensive and offensive weapons; and they know very well how to play them off; and, under cover of these alluring graces, are concealed the most subtle artifices; they are, however, loving and affectionate; they are, I believe, the smallest race of women yet known, seldom above five feet high, and I believe the greater number never arrive to that stature; their hands and feet not larger than those of Europeans of nine or ten years of age; yet the men are of gigantic stature, a full size larger than Europeans; many of them above six feet, and few under that, or five feet eight or ten inches. Their complexion much darker than any of the tribes to the north of them that I have seen. This description will, I believe, comprehend the Muscogulges, their confederates, the Chactaws, and, I believe, the Chicasaws (though I have never seen their women), excepting some bands of the Siminoles, Uches, and Savaunucas, who are rather taller and slenderer and their complexion brighter.
"The Cherokees are yet taller and more robust than the Muscogulges, and by far the largest race of men I have seen; their complexions brighter and somewhat of the olive cast, especially the adults; and some of their young women are nearly as fair and blooming as European women.
"The Cherokees, in their dispositions and manners, are grave and steady; dignified and circumspect in their deportment; rather slow and reserved in conversation; yet frank, cheerful, and humane; tenacious of the liberties and natural rights of man; secret, deliberate, and determined in their councils; honest, just, and liberal, and ready always to sacrifice every pleasure and gratification, even their blood and life itself to depend their territory and maintain their rights....
"The national character of the Muscogulges, when considered in a political view, exhibits a protraiture of a great or illustrious hero. A proud, haughty, and arrogant race of men, they are brave and valiant in war, ambitious of conquest, restless and perpetually exercising their arms, yet magnanimous and merciful to a vanquished enemy when he submits and seeks their friendship and protection; always uniting the vanquished tribes in confederacy with them: when they immediately enjoy, unexceptionably, every right of free citizens, and are, from that moment, united in one common band of brotherhood. They were never known to exterminate a tribe, except the Yamasees, who would never submit on any terms, but fought it out to the last, only about forty or fifty of them escaping at the last decisive battle, who threw themselves under the protection of the Spaniards, at St. Augustine.... The Muscogulges are more volatile, sprightly, and talkative, than their northern neighbors, the Cherokees.
The SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT obtaining among these Southern nations seems, in its general features, to have been quite similar. In the Muscogulgee confederacy every town or village was regarded as an independent nation or tribe having its own mico, or chief. In the soil and in the hunting privileges of the region each inhabitant had an equal right. Private property in habitations and in planting-grounds, however, was conceded and respected.
The Mico was considered the first man, in dignity and power, in his nation or town. He was the supreme civil magistrate, and presided over the national council. His executive power was not independent, however, of the council, which convened every day, in the forenoon, in the public square. This office of mico or king was elective. The advancement to this supreme dignity was always conferred upon the person most worthy of it.
Next in the order of dignity and power was the Great War-Chief. He led the army. In council his seat was nearest the mico, on his left, and at the head of the most celebrated warriors. On the right of the mico sat the second head-man of the tribe, and below him the younger warriors of the nation.
When assembled in the Great Rotunda, or Winter Council-House, for the purpose of deliberating upon matters of general concern, the most profound respect and homage were paid by every one to the mico. To him the members of the council bowed very low, almost to his feet, when the cup-bearer handed him the shell filled with the black-drink. This decoction of the leaves and tender twigs of the cassine or ilex yupon was freely used by the natives upon occasions of solemn deliberation. Being a most active and powerful diuretic, its purgative influences were invoked to free their bodies from all hinderance to thought; and, thus prepared for careful discussion, they entered upon the consideration of the important matters presented for the action of council. De Bry presents us with a spirited sketch of the king and warriors in convention assembled, drinking freely of this cassine from shell-cups and listening to the animated address of one of the principal men. When out of the council-house, and unemployed in public affairs, the intercourse between the mico, and the common people was cordial and free from restraint. If we may credit the representations of De Bry, no little ceremony was observed when the kings and queens of the Florida tribes appeared in public. The Mico alone had the disposal of the corn and fruits collected in the public granary. These general storehouses, circular in formtheir walls constructed of stone and earth, and their roofs fashioned with the branches of trees, grass, clay, and palmetto-leaveswere located in the neighborhood of streams and in retired spots where they were protected from the direct rays of the sun. They were built and furnished by the common labor of the tribe, and in them were stored, corn, various fruits, and the flesh of fishes, deer, alligators, snakes, dogs, and other animals, previously smoked and dried on a scaffold.
The Study of Myths and Rituals
By William G. Doty
THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA PRESS
Copyright © 2000 The University of Alabama Press. All rights reserved.