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Native Americans in South Georgia

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Southwest Georgia has an interesting connection to Native American tribes and their history. In South Georgia, Native American tribes in the area were Creek Indians, also known as Muscogee. The cross-section of rivers, mountains, and coastal plains brought their ancestors here thousands of years ago. They are considered descendants of earlier mound-building people (Mississippian) found throughout the state.

The Creek Indians received their English name from Spanish and English explorers who noticed their frequent tribal locations near creeks and similar bodies of water. The Creek Indians were a loose confederation of tribes, eventually dividing into Upper and Lower Creek tribes between Georgia and Alabama.

Creek Indians were one of the “Five Civilized Tribes” named by George Washington. As the Creek Indians met white settlers, they altered their lifestyle to align with the white settlers. This included intermarrying, adopting European farming methods, owning slaves,  and adopting European styles of dress.

At various points in American history, some Creek Indians supported the fledgling country and created alliances with them, while others fought against the United States. There were also internal battles within the Creek tribes to determine how they would interact with white settlers. Lower Creek tribes in Georgia were neutral during the Revolutionary War, but their Upper Creek counterparts in Alabama sided with the British. After the war ended, the Creek learned that Britain gave up Creek lands to the United States.

While there was relative peace throughout the remainder of the 1700s, early settlers continued to expand into Creek territories in Georgia. From 1813-1814, Creek Indians fought a civil war that included American settlers. The war ended with the Treaty of Fort Jackson, where 20 million acres of Creek land was surrendered to the United States. The land was more than half of the Creeks’ ancestral territory.

As new settlers took over these ceded lands, Creeks were pushed further west towards Alabama. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was signed. It promised Native Americans land in the west in exchange for lands given up in the east. Like other Native American nations in the Southeast, the Creeks did not voluntarily leave. Eventually, they were ordered west by the United States government, relocating to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears.

For those looking to find connections to Creek Indian history, the Columbus Museum hosts a permanent collection called Chattahoochee Legacy. The collection contains artifacts from Native Americans in the area, as well as a mound on display.

Nowadays, when looking for connections to Creek history, there is not as much remaining evidence in the Pine Mountain and Warm Spring area as compared to other Native Americans like the Cherokee in northern Georgia. The Cherokee had a more structured form of government, with their headquarters in New Echota, Georgia which helped with the preservation of their history that remains today throughout northern Georgia.

Because Creek Indians were agricultural people who often lived near water, you might find pottery, arrowheads made of local stone, farming tools, and other conventional items on Mountain Top property, along the river or in the surrounding state parks. Many historians believe Native Americans in other parts of the United States bent trees to use as navigational or communication devices, and while no trees have been designated, many can be found in the State Park and surrounding area. However, historians are divided about their use with Native American tribes who may have frequently traveled back and forth amongst villages, perhaps needing less reliance on such tools.

 

 

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