The Removal of the Creek Indians from the Southeast, 1825-1838
Type of Degreedissertation
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This dissertation examines the removal of approximately twenty-three thousand Creek Indians from Alabama and Georgia to present-day Oklahoma between 1825 and 1838. At its height, the Creek Nation encompassed most of the present-day states of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. It was a vibrant, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society. But, the Creek Nation increasingly found itself under siege by white settlers and state and federal politicians who wanted to open up the Creeks’ land for white settlement. Whites were able to acquire Creek land piecemeal in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries through treaty negotiations. In 1825, the Coweta headman William McIntosh signed the Treaty of Indian Springs which ceded all remaining Creek land in Georgia and a large portion of Creek land in Alabama to the federal government in exchange for a large sum of money and territory in present-day Oklahoma. A vast majority of the Creeks opposed the Treaty of Indian Springs and although they were able to nullify the document with a revised version in 1826, the Creeks did not recoup their Georgia land. Consequently, many Lower Creeks began a decade long period of hunger and starvation. In fact, this period marked the beginning of the end of the Creek Nation in the east. The treaties were also removal documents that gave Creeks the option of leaving the southeast in order to ameliorate their suffering. Creek headmen did all they could to keep the Creek Nation together, even signing a new treaty in 1832 that gave each Creek family legal title to a tract of land, but they ultimately had little success. Whites streamed into the Creek territory, many of whom cheated the Creeks out of their land. In 1836, a small band of Lower Creeks revolted against white encroachment and started a war that gave Andrew Jackson an excuse to remove all the Creeks west of the Mississippi River. In the span of little more than a decade this once vibrant society was gone from the Southeast. This dissertation examines the events in the Creek Nation immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825. It is a social history that focuses on three primary areas: the Creek homefront in Alabama during the removal epoch, the experiences of the Creek Indians as they traveled west, and the ways in which the Creeks reestablished their lives in present-day Oklahoma.