Creek Tribe: History, Facts & Culture Video

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  • 0:01 Creek History & Culture
  • 1:46 European Explorers & Trade
  • 2:54 Conflict & the Creek Civil War
  • 5:05 Land & the Trail of Tears
  • 6:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michael Knoedl

Michael teaches high school Social Studies and has a M.S. in Sports Management.

In an effort to keep the peace between Native Americans and white settlers, many tribes opened their culture to outside influence. These influences often caused strife within their own tribe. Learn about the Creek tribe and how they dealt with white settler influence in this lesson.

Creek History & Culture

The Creeks did not call themselves Creeks until Europeans began using that particular term to refer to that Indian tribe. The Creeks had referred to themselves as 'Muskogee' or 'Ocmulgee' Indians. Europeans began calling these people 'Creeks' in the early 1700s and that became their name, although whites were simply referring to the 'Indians living on Ochese Creek' near present-day Macon, Georgia.

Creek Indians were not nomadic, but rather lived in large towns. These towns would be almost completely self-sufficient, having their own governments, materials and land. When the town grew large enough, the Indians would split it, and about half the town would go build a new town several miles away. They lived in wooden homes with thatched roofs made of sticks and long, thick-bladed grasses.

The Creek Indian Tribe is still very young when compared to other Native American tribes. There was no such tribe prior to the 1700's. Instead, these Indians lived in very large chiefdoms. A chiefdom is a group of tribes living together under one leader. These chiefdoms were very agricultural and were mound-building communities. Sometime around 1500, the chiefdoms collapsed, and the Creeks split into much smaller groups. The reason for the collapse and split is unknown.

Mounds were used to communicate, hold festivals, and worship

Some of the most famous mound-building Native Americans were found in Mexico, which is where the Creek Indians originally migrated from. The Creeks' mounds were flat-topped pyramids that would rise up to 50 feet in height, and many were larger, in terms of ground area covered, than the Pyramids of Egypt. Mounds were typically used to communicate by smoke, hold festivals and celebrations, religious worship, and for other reasons. However, these mounds were not quite as impressive as the Egyptian Pyramids to the Europeans.


In the 1500s, Spanish explorers brought smallpox to the 'Creeks'. It is estimated that 90% of their population was killed by smallpox prior to 1700. By 1715, when they started becoming known as Creeks, their population was down to around 10,000. Nevertheless, the Creeks wanted many European goods and were willing to trade with whites.


As early as 1650, the Creeks were trading with the English. When South Carolina was officially established in 1670, the Creeks made a large profit selling slaves to the settlers there. The Creeks would capture Indians from present-day Florida and take them to market in South Carolina. However, the culture in South Carolina shifted away from using Indian slaves toward using slaves from Africa.

To continue the flow of goods into the Creek camps, they continued trading deerskins and other furs. These furs would be shipped to England and made into clothing or other goods. In return, the Creeks received cloth, guns, iron kettles, and rum. These items improved the Creeks' standard of living, but caused conflict within the tribe and with whites.


The Creeks were able to mostly stay out of the American Revolution. However, after the Revolution, the tribe was faced with difficult times. Decreased demand for deerskins and decreased supply of white-tailed deer hurt their economy. The newly-created state of Georgia also pressured the Creeks to turn some of their lands over for plantations. The Creeks gave up parts of their land in the 1790 Treaty of New York, the 1802 Treaty of Fort Wilkinson, and the 1805 Treaty of Washington.

The U.S. government also attempted to turn the Creeks into 'useful' economic tools. The program aimed to assist Creeks in learning to work and own large ranches and plantations. Some Creeks embraced this new lifestyle, while others were angered by it and would eventually lead to a civil war.

Creek Civil War

Some consider the Creek Civil War an extension of the War of 1812 between England and the U.S. Some Creeks backed the U.S. during the war, although the traditionalist group backed the English. The issues over how to deal with whites got so bad, that in 1813, the Creek Civil War began. Traditionalist Creeks were known as Red Sticks, due to the red sticks carried by the medicine men of the tribe. As such, the war has also been referred to as the 'Red Stick War.' The Red Sticks first battled the pro-American Creeks, and the Georgia militia, at the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek in July 1813. The Red Sticks scattered after a surprise attack, but regrouped and drove the militia and other Creeks away.

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