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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 8, No. 1
March, 1930

Ohland Morton

Page 42


The clan system has played a very important rôle in the history of the Creek Indians. It was the unit of social as well as political organization. In the beginning years of the Creek Confederacy there was a remarkably large number of these clans but by the beginning of the twentieth century it seems that there were only about twenty in existence.2 Many of them had become extinct through the process of absorption and others ceased to exist as a result of the casualties of the early wars.

A number of clans with their constituent families would unite to form a village, in which they lived under a chief or "miko."3 The miko was elected for life from a certain clan, usually the largest in the village from the standpoint of numbers. Preferably, he was the next of kin, on the maternal side, of the miko just deceased. The Creek woman held a peculiar station; since descent was always in the female line. If for any reason, such as old age or illness, the miko became incapacitated he chose a coadjutor, who was subject to the village council.4

The village council was composed of the leading representatives of each clan in the village. Each clan was represented according to its population, but the proportion of representation varied with the village. This council exercised great power, but mainly by moral influence or persuasion. The lack of a real executive body is typical of Indian government everywhere during the early years of the history of our

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country.1 However, the conservatism of this council is evidenced by the fact that there are few if any instances of insubordination. Every man felt himself bound by the action of his own representative. All of which goes to show the importance of the kinship group or clan as a fundamental factor in the political organization of the Creeks.2

The warlike spirit for which the Creeks were noted was naturally fostered by their position among hostile and powerful neighbors such as the Catawba, Iroquois, Shawnee, and Cherokee. It was this warlike spirit which brought into prominence and favor the warrior class. As an incentive to the young men of the tribe, there was instituted early in the history of the Creeks a series of war titles. The overwhelming passion of the youthful "brave" was to gain one or more of these titles by prowess in the field. In order to become a warrior, every young man had to pass through a period of severe training and initiation which lasted from four to eight months and upon its completion he was eligible for service in the field and possible advancement to the higher titles.3 There were three of these titles above the rank of warrior. They were "leader," "upper leader," and "great warrior." All of these titles were granted by the miko and the councillors of the village in recognition of distinguished services on the warpath. There may have been several "leaders" and "upper leaders" in the village, but the title of "great warrior" was given to only one man in the village at a time and, was held until the miko and councillors saw fit to pass it on to another who had gained distinction. The height of every young man's ambition was to achieve this office.4

There was between the councillors and the common people an intermediate privileged class of men whose duties were mostly administrative. They acted as an advisory group and also were charged with the responsibility of the preparation and carrying out of the elaborate ceremonials of the tribe. An interesting fact regarding the authority of this intermediate or civil council was that it could initiate military meas-

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ures either of aggression or defense but had to consult with the "great warrior" in carrying out these measures. Even should the council declare itself in favor of peace, the "great warrior" might persist in "raising his hatchet" against a hostile tribe and lead all who chose to follow on the war-path.

In this case the council was powerless to act.1

Each Creek village had its own council house which stood near the "great House."2 The "Great House" was occupied by the chief and his family and was the center of the social life of the town. The council house stood on a circular mound and was built in the shape of a large cone. The one described by Pickett3 was placed on walls about twelve feet high and was from twenty-five to thirty feet in diameter. It was here that the miko and council met for deliberation of a private or formal character. When not thus used the council house became a general meeting-place for various purposes. Often religious ceremonies were held here and owing to the utter lack of ventilation the early traders often spoke of it as the "hot house."4

The Creek Confederacy was made up of one dominant tribe, the Creeks, and numberless other smaller tribes. Often these tribes were remnants of once larger and stronger ones who had joined the Creeks for protection. The Creek language was the Muskogee and this explains repeated references in this study to the Muskogee Nation. Each village was practically independent of the remainder of the confederacy and in reality formed a tribe by itself. In spite of the fact that the organization and administration of the villages were identical, yet the structure of the confederacy was extremely loose. The general attitude of the confederacy was strictly defensive and often when a tribe undertook an independent offensive campaign it was not sustained by the others.

There was a head chief of the confederacy but it seems that he had no particular position of command. He was elected by the general council.5 This council determined

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the policy of the confederacy but issued no orders or commands. It was composed of representatives from the villages and met annually at a time and place designated by the head chief. Each village usually sent one representative to the meeting of the general council.1 The head chief presided over the meetings of the council. When several of the tribes or villages united in a military campaign a head war-chief was appointed for that particular emergency.

There were two districts or divisions of the Creeks. These were spoken of as the Upper Creeks and the Lower Creeks. The governmental system in the two districts were identical and after 1860 they were united under one government as will be brought out later. They all attended the same general council, which was spoken of as the National Council, but in the administration of their local affairs they were independent of each other. It might be of interest in this connection to clarify their orders of chiefly rank. There was a principal chief of the nation elected from the Lower Creeks who was called the head chief; a principal chief of the Upper Creeks; a second chief for the Lower Creeks and one for the Upper Creeks.2 The second chiefs were appointed by the principal chiefs with the advice and consent of the general council until 1859 when they were elected by a vote of the male citizens. After removal to Indian Territory, each village also had two subordinates who assisted the village chief in the affairs of the town government.

These second chiefs and subordinates held positions similar to that of a vice-president, in that they had no responsible duties except in the absence or illness of the chiefs under whom they worked.

When the Creeks were removed to Indian Territory in 1832-40 their geographical positions were reversed. The Upper Creeks moved into the southern portion of the Creek country and the Lower Creeks occupied the northern or upper section of the lands assigned to the Creeks in general.3

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In writing on the Creek missions and general conditions in the Creek country after 1837, Reverend George McAfee says, "For several years after coming to their new home the Indians appeared to be thoroughly disheartened, soured and disappointed, and made little effort toward self-government and seemed to be careless about self-improvement.1

In 1858, W. H. Garrett, United States Agent for the Creeks, says, "With the exception of some slight alterations, they adhere to their primitive form of government, which is well adapted to the wants and capacity for self-government of the great body of the nation. Many of the principal men are moral in their conduct, and do much by their example to advance their people in the arts of civilization. They are rapidly advancing in the science of government, and are anxious to establish a form of government similar to that of our States. This feeling will be gradually diffused among the uneducated Indians, which will gradually incline them to a change, and the influence that education and association with the white man is exerting will prepare them, at no very distant day, for a more complicated form of government."2

Elias Rector, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, observed in 1859 that the Creeks still retained their old system of chiefs. In July, 1859, an election for principal and second chief was held. One of each rank, for the two districts of Lower and Upper Creeks, was elected. This election was for the first time in the history of the Creeks, conducted after a civilized and democratic fashion, and passed off quietly. Motey Kinnard, formerly second chief, was elected principal chief of the Lower Creeks, and Jacob Duerryson, second. Among the Upper Creeks, E-cho-Harjo, formerly second, was elected principal, and Ok-tar-cars-Harjo second chief. With this election the late principal chiefs of the Lower and Upper Creeks, Roley McIntosh and Tuckabatche Micco, retired from public life. They were remark-

Page 47

able men possessed of vast influence with their people, particularly McIntosh, whose power among his people was almost absolute. He had long been the ruling man among the Lower Creeks and his word was law. Tuckabatche Micco was also a man of great influence, a staunch friend of his people, a maker of treaties, and a good man. Both these men were captains in the Creek wars, and Tuckabatche Micco exerted great influence in removing the Seminoles from Florida in 1857-8. His services at that time were very valuable to the United States.1

The Upper and Lower Creeks continued to meet in general council after their removal and in 1860 some changes were made which may be regarded as distinct improvements. During the session of the general council that year a constitution was adopted. Its most important provisions possibly was the elimination of the two districts which had divided the nation heretofore. It further provided for the election by all the Creeks of one principal and one second chief for the nation. Their country was no longer to be known as the land of the Upper Creeks and the Lower Creeks but as the Muskogee Nation. The nation was divided into four districts and the council appointed one judge for each district and also five supreme judges who were to form the high court of the nation. Their duties were to take cognizance of all offenses committed within their jurisdiction and to see that all guilty parties were brought to trial. More authority was conferred upon their police, termed "Light Horse," whose duty it was to destroy all spirituous liquors brought into the nation, and levy a fine or inflict a penalty upon all persons found guilty of introducing it, or the commission of the other offenses.2 The most decided improvement was the placing of the general council in a position to act authoritatively for the nation rather than as merely an advisory group.

From all accounts it seems that the Creeks were enjoying their unity and were setting about their business of adjusting themselves to their new form of government when the quarrel between the states caused them again to divide into factions. The effect of the Civil War upon the political

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and social life of the Creeks was disastrous. It is sufficient at this time to say that there was no recognized government in the Creek Nation from 1861 to 1866. The country was for the most part in the hands of the rebel forces and, after the war had ended, it was nearly two years before the Creeks were able to adjust their differences and re-unite as a nation.

Elijah Sells, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Southern Superintendency, in making his report to the Secretary of the Interior in 1865 observed that there were about six thousand Creeks that remained true allies of the United States and those who survived the Civil War had returned to their homes destitute. Also, there were six thousand five hundred Creeks that allied with the Confederacy and were living in the southern portion of the Indian Territory. They were all anxious to return and live in peace with their brothers of the same tribe.1

After the reunion of the Creeks and the signing of the peace treaty with the United States in 1866 they immediately set about to rebuild their homes and readjust their tribal affairs. By 1867 there was considerable agitation on the subject of a new code of laws for the nation. Many of the more progressive saw that the constitution of 1860, while it was a distinct improvement, was inadequate to the needs of the situation at that time. J. W. Dunn, United States Indian Agent for the Creeks in 1867 says that "The laws as now administered, require four times the number of officers that would be necessary to execute promptly and efficiently under a well-established code. These officers, whose numbers are scarcely known even to the authorities, are poorly paid, and are dissatisfied with their positions and salaries. Indeed, so imperfect is the government, that the duty of no officer is fully defined; so that it is difficult for them to determine when they attain or overstep their authority. They have many intelligent and energetic men among them who appreciate this position of affairs, and who are strongly urging reform. A better feeling is manifested between the late antagonistic parties than ever before, and I am convinced that they are determined to unite as one people in all interests. They are anxious to bend

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every energy to the improvement of the country and to devote their money to the establishment of the schools, manufactories, public buildings, and good government."1

It seems from the record of the events which followed that this agitation had its effect. The general council, or National Council of the Muskogee Nation, as it was called after 1860, met at their council grounds near Deep Fork in October, 1867. At the beginning of the meeting attention was called to the isolated location of the meeting-place and accordingly a resolution was passed which provided that all meetings of the general council after 1867 should be held at Okmulgee which was nearer the geographical center of the Nation.2


The progressive element of the Creek Nation took advantage of the dissatisfaction with the old government and set to work in the days that followed to promote the adoption of a new constitution. The October, 1867, meeting of the general council of the Creeks was indeed a memorable event in their political history. After stormy debate with the conservative and non-progressive element a constitution designed to eliminate the evils of the old form of government was adopted.3

In its general outline this constitution was similar to that of the United States; yet it was unique in many respects. It had a preamble which read as follows:

"In order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, and secure to ourselves, and our children, the blessings of freedom, we, the people of the Muskogee Nation, do adopt the following constitution."4

It contained ten articles and provided for a thorough re-organization of the legislative and judicial departments.

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An examination of it will show that much time and thought had been spent in its preparation, and that it was well adapted to the needs of a people living under the pioneer conditions of the Indian Territory in 1867.

Article I provided for the Legislature. The law-making power was lodged in a council consisting of two houses known by the peculiarly Indian names of "House of Kings" and "House of Warriors." The upper house, the house of kings, was composed of one representative from each town1 who was elected by a vote of the town represented for a term of four years. The house of warriors was composed of one representative from each town and an additional representative for every two hundred persons belonging to the town. His election and term of office were the same as that of the representative to the house of kings. The members of the council were to receive such compensation out of the national treasury as provided for by law. A majority of the members of the council constituted a quorum but Section 5 provided that less than a quorum might meet and adjourn from day to day and compel the presence of absentees.

Each house had the powers ordinarily delegated to all democratic legislative bodies such as judging the returns and qualifications of its members, impeaching members for disorderly conduct, and expulsion by the concurrence of two-thirds of both houses. Each house elected its own presiding officers and neither house was allowed to adjourn for a longer period than two days without the consent of both houses. Section 10 of Article I provided that the style of the action of the council should be: "Be it Enacted by the National Council of the Muskogee Nation." The qualifications for the members of both houses were two in number. First a member must be a citizen of the Muskogee Nation and second he must be twenty-two years of age.

Article II provides for the executive department and stated that there should be a principal chief, to be styled the "Principal Chief of the Muskogee Nation." His term of office was four years and he was elected by a majority of the votes of the male citizens of the Muskogee Nation who had attained the age of eighteen years. Also a second

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chief was to be chosen for the same term and in the same manner as that prescribed for the election of the principal chief, and in case of the death, resignation, or removal from office of the principal chief he was to perform all the duties of that officer. In order to be eligible to the office of principal chief a person must have been a recognized citizen of the Muskogee Nation and thirty years of age.

The principal chief was vested with the reprieving and pardoning power and charged with the responsibility of seeing that all the laws of the Nation were faithfully executed and enforced. He was required to make an annual report to the national council of the condition of the affairs in the nation; and to recommend such measures as he might deem necessary for the welfare of the nation.

Section 4 of Article II provided that whenever any bill or measure should pass both houses, it should be submitted to the principal chief for his approval or rejection. In case he approved it it would become a law. If he should object to the bill or measure he was to return it to the house in which it originated within five days accompanied with his objections. If not returned within five days it was to become a law. A bill could be passed over the objection of the principal chief by a two-thirds vote of both houses. In case a bill was submitted to the principal chief within five days before adjournment, he was allowed the first three days of the next session of the council within which to return it.

The principal chief was allowed a private secretary of his own selection who was compensated out of the national treasury.

The judiciary was placed on a much better basis than it had been formerly. There was created under the new constitution a high court composed of five competent recognized citizens of the Muskogee Nation chosen by the national council and compensated out of the national treasury. In order to be eligible for a position on the high court a man must be at least twenty-five years of age. This court was to meet on the first Monday in October in each year and had power to try all cases where the issue was for more than one hundred dollars. Three members constituted a quorum.

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The Muskogee Nation was divided into six districts and each district was furnished with a judge, a prosecuting attorney, and a company of light horsemen. These district judges were chosen by the national council for a term of two years. They were to try all cases, civil and criminal, where the issue did not exceed one hundred dollars. Each judge was given the right to summon twenty-four disinterested men, out of which number a jury of twelve men for criminal and nine for civil cases might be selected. Each judge was allowed a clerk and the judge and the clerk were to be compensated out of the national treasury as provided for by law. Any person failing to obey a summons to serve as juror, without good reason for such failure, was subject to a fine of five dollars. Each juror was to receive one dollar per day for his services to the nation.

The prosecuting attorney for each district was appointed by the principal chief, by and with the consent of the national council. It was his duty to indict and prosecute all offenders against the laws of his district. For each conviction he was to be paid the sum of twenty-five dollars.

The Light Horse company consisted of one captain and four privates, elected for a term of two years by a vote of the district. The company was subservient to the orders of the judge.

Article V provided for the selection by the national council of a national treasurer for a term of four years. His duty was to receive and receipt all national funds, and to disburse the same. He was required to report to the national council at least once a year giving a statement of the condition of the national finances. He was required to furnish a bond of five thousand dollars as security for the faithful performance of his duty. No money was to be drawn from the national treasury except to carry out appropriations made by the national council. When such appropriations were made the principal chief was to issue a draft upon the treasury to meet them.

Article VI provided that: "There shall be a National Interpreter, who shall be elected by the National Council for the term of four years, and who shall be compensated according to provisions of law."

All officers of the government were liable to impeach-

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ment, trial and removal from office for neglect of duty. All bills of impeachment were to originate in the house of warriors.

Articles VIII, IX, and X, were rather general and made miscellaneous provisions. Section 1 of Article VIII provided that no laws impairing contracts should be passed. Section 2 of Article VIII was the Creeks' ex post facto law and read as follows: "No laws taking effect upon things that occurred before the enactment of the law shall be passed." Article IX provided that all cases should be tried according to the provisions of the respective laws under which they originated, and that all persons should be allowed the right of council. Article X provided that all treaties should be made by delegates, duly recommended by the principal chief, and approved by the national council, and such treaties should be subject to the ratification of the national council; and that all treaties should be the supreme law of the land.

After the adoption of this constitution the general council went into legislative session and passed a number of laws for the new government. The powers of all the national officers were clearly defined in a series of laws classed under the title of "National Executive Officers."1 The next business of this session was the passing of a number of laws providing for the organization of the nation in general.2 The powers and duties of the new judiciary were set out and more fully defined.3 The six judicial districts provided for in the constitution were created and named Okmulgee, Deep Fork, We-wo-ka, Eufaula, Muskogee, and Cowetah. There followed a series of civil and criminal laws which defined the crimes and stated just what the penalty would be in each case of violation.4 Article XVII of the criminal laws provided that impeachment charges must be preferred before the house of warriors, and that body would vote as to whether articles of impeachment were to be filed. The house of kings were to act as judges on impeachment trials.5

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A number of criminal laws already in use in the Creek Nation were approved by the legislative session of the national council, October 12, 1867. They were as follows:


1. Be it enacted by the General Council, That all cases of murder shall be punished by death upon conviction.

2. Be it further enacted, That the accused shall have a fair and impartial trial, and no one shall sit on any case where he is related to either of the parties by blood or marriage unless it is by consent of the parties.

3. Be it further enacted, That if any person kill another accidentally, or in self defense, he shall not be punished.

4. Be it enacted, That should any person be convicted of rape, he shall for the first offense receive fifty lashes; for the second offense he shall suffer death.

5. Be it enacted, That if any person shall steal property from another, the party thus aggrieved shall receive damages in full.

6. Be it enacted, That it shall be unlawful for any woman to use medicine calculated to cause infanticide; and any woman who may be found guilty of the violation of this law shall receive fifty lashes on the bare back."1

Under the title of "Organization of the National Council" a law was passed which provided that the national council of the Muskogee Nation should convene within the National Capitol building at the seat of government on the first Tuesday in October of each year.2 However, in cases of great emergency the principal chief had power to convene the national council, by issuing an order to the president of the house of kings and the speaker of the house of warriors to call the members of their respective houses to convene.3

By 1868 the Creeks had published in Muskogee and English a portion of their laws, and copies were placed in the hands of every officer. This was to insure a more just

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division of punishment for offenses, as heretofore, judgment had been given by each chief according to his own discretion.


It was indeed a regrettable fact that the inauguration of this government was not without considerable trouble in the nation. It must be remembered that the Creeks before removal were classed as Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks. The constitution of 1860 had temporarily bridged the gap between the two divisions, but the Civil War had opened it again. A few of the disgruntled loyalists had remained in the Cherokee country under Spokokogeeyohola. The majority of the loyalists returned to their homes, however, and showed every inclination to reunite with their brethern who had fought with the Confederacy.

After the adoption of the constitution a party was formed under Oktars-sars-har-jo of the Upper Creeks, who will be called by his adopted name, Sands, hereafter. They refused to come into the councils of the nation. They claimed that wrong was done them in the payment of certain funds made in December, 1867, urging that it had been agreed to the satisfaction of both parties that this money should be equally divided between the two parties, northern and southern. Each party was then at its own discretion to distribute this money for the payment of its national debt. The United States recognized the government created by the constitution of 1867 and paid all the money to it. Sands further charged that the partisans of Checote had defrauded to win the election of 1867. The inauguration of the new government necessarily involved much prejudice among the less progressive, and added those who were dissatisfied with the decrease in the number of executive officers to the ranks of the discontented.1

In the election of 1867 Colonel Sam Checote was named principal chief. L. N. Robinson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1869, says in defense of the government's policy. "The constitution was adopted by an almost unanimous vote. The government of Checote is in power by the suffrage of the people, and is devoted to the interests of the nation,

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favoring religion, education, progress, and works of internal improvement. Such a government deserves and should have the sympathy and cordial support of the administration; and if need be, the Creek authorities should be furnished a force sufficient to put down insubordination or insurrection; and unless strong measures are used at once, I greatly fear the Creek people will soon be involved in civil war."1 J. W. Dunn, United States Agent for the Creeks, in commenting on the situation, says, "Growing out of these differences, a noted increase in the violations of the law may be observed. More murders have been committed within the last year than in all of the years since the close of the war. Congregations have been disturbed at their meetings, and have been compelled to disperse, until now no meetings are held in this vicinity after night, from fear that under cover of darkness a serious disturbance might be made. The correction of this state of things properly belongs to the Creek authorities, and it is not considered proper for the United States to interfere, unless the Creeks find it impossible to enforce their laws, and apply to the United States for protection. It is to be hoped that the Creeks will have the courage and power to uphold their government, which is essentially the offspring of progress and civilization. My four years among these people have led me to respect them for their truthfulness, simplicity and sincerity."2

Matters continued to grow worse and in 1870 the Board of Indian Commissioners listened to Sands' claims. His principal claim seemed to be that he was defrauded out of the office of principal chief in the election of 1867 by the partisans of Checote; but he was unable to submit any proof. The commissioners declined to have anything to do with the matter.3

The feeling of bitterness became so tense that when chief Checote tried to convene the national council at Okmulgee in October, 1871, about three hundred of the followers of Sands marched on the capital and broke up the council meeting. Federal agents appeared on the scene,

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however, and persuaded both sides to lay down their arms and agree to an armistice.1

In 1872, Sands, Cotchochee, and Ketch Barnett, leaders of the Sands faction died and the bitter feeling that had been engendered between the two parties gradually died out.2

It may be of interest to note in passing that the construction of the M. K. & T. railroad through the Creek Nation was in progress during the time of the Sands rebellion. In order to appear neutral in the controversy, and as

2Rep. Com. Ind. Aff., 1872, p. 239.

Benedict, History of Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma, Vol,. I, p. 187.

Also, From Report of Comm. of Indian Affairs, 1871, pp. 573-574.

F. S. Lyons U. S. Agent for Creeks.

"With reference to the political difficulties among the Creeks, I have the pleasure of reporting very entire satisfaction with the settlement effected last October for four or five months thereafter. During that time there was held a session of the Creek National Council, in which all the towns but two were represented by those duly elected as members of the council for the next four years. It was pronounced the most harmonious session that had been held for some years. They met as brothers and friends, and, in accordance with their mutual agreement, each took the prescribed oath to support and defend the Constitution. All seemed rejoiced at the prospect of peace and quietude, and there seemed nothing in the way, so far as the Indians alone were concerned, of the formerly discordant elements blending and laboring together for the mutual interests and improvement of all the Creeks. But, under the guise of friendship and special regard for the formerly disorderly faction, two white men, most thoroughly irresponsible and unreliable, doubtless employed by emissaries, clandestinely entered the Creek Nation, and informed the Sands faction that they had been abused and deceived, and therefore were under no obligation to keep either their pledges or their oaths. A tissue of falsehoods was arranged in the form of a petition, and, having obtained by strategy, of course, the indorsement of a Western Senator, said to be a railroad millionaire, an Investigation of the Creek difficulties by a special committee was obtained. But the excitement among this ignorant portion of the Creep had been raised so high by the inflamatory influence of these two 'apostles of liberty' and a few others of kindred spirit, that they could not wait the slow action of the United States Government, and so they continued to hold insurrectionary councils and to harbor horse thieves and desperados until the Creek authorities felt obliged to raise a larger force to overawe the insurrectionists. This force, joined with the interposition of the "investigating committee" and the military, resulted in a peace under about the same conditions as agreed upon by the contending parties last October. The whole matter now awaits the action of the Department upon the report of the Investigating Committee. I must here express my firm conviction that the revival of this old difficulty was unfortunate and unnecessary."

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a bid for the favor of both parties, stations were named for the principals in each faction. The station of Checotah was named for Colonel Sam Checote, and Oktaha for Sands (Ok-tars-sars-har-jo).

Thus we find the Creeks by 1872 with a new form of government which has withstood the first onslaught of those who would destroy it for selfish reasons. A great deal of the opposition to the constitution adopted in 1867 and to the government created under it may be laid at the door of superstition and ignorance. The Indians of the conservative elements looked upon the adoption of the white man's institutions with fully as much disfavor as they did the opening of the country to white settlement and this explains the opposition to both the new government and the constitution providing for an inter-tribal territorial government which was proposed at Okmulgee in 1870.

The new government withstood the first attack but we shall soon see that its sailing in later years was by no means smooth. In the following pages we shall trace the effects of the old tribal divisions of Upper and Lower Creeks which have caused so much discord among the leaders. At every crisis in the history of this tribe we see this old geographical division coming to light. We saw the first display of this discord in the assassination of William McIntosh of the Lower Creeks in 1825. The second division came when the Civil War undid all that the constitution of 1860 had accomplished toward tribal unity. Then the Sands rebellion, which has just been discussed, was a fight, pure and simple, between the Upper and Lower Creeks. Had Sands, of the Upper Creeks, been elected in 1867, there would have been no Sands rebellion. A political history of the Creek Indians would be incomplete without the story of the Isparhecher War and the uprisings growing out of it.


The Isparhecher, or "Spiechee," War caused a great deal of the excitement and anxiety while it was in progress, yet it did not result in many casualties. The most harm done by it was the bad feeling throughout the Creek Nation which resulted from it.

With the close of the Sands rebellion, leaders had begun to hope that the Creeks might devote their entire at-

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tention to matters of state and society. Such was not the case, for in less than three years trouble again broke out. In 1875, Lachar Haijo, of the Upper or Loyal Creeks, was elected principal chief over Colonel Sam Checote, who had held the office since 1867.1 The Lower or Southern Creeks were in control of the Legislature. On account of disagreements between the principal chief and the legislative bodies, Chief Haijo was impeached in 1876. (Thus a worthy example was set for future Oklahoma legislatures.) Ward Couchman, of the Lower Creeks, was appointed to serve the three remaining years of Haijo's term.2

In the election of 1879, Checote was again elected principal chief and his election increased the antagonism between the two factions. Isparhecher, a former member of the National Council, was principal judge of the Okmulgee district at this time. For alleged seditionary acts, he was impeached and deposed.3 Immediately, he identified himself with the conservative element which was more or less of a hang-over from the Sands rebellion, and was made up largely of an aggregation of horse-thieves and other violators of the law.4 Naturally such an element would be opposed to order and progress. In a very short while, Isparhecher, who was a very able man, become the leader of this element. However, even though the neucleus of this group, was made up of law-violators, there was added to it a large number of pure-blood Creeks and a few negroes, all of whom were sincere in their beliefs and had no criminal intentions.

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The policy taught and promulgated among this element was purely one of retrogression. They were taught to believe that the governmental, educational, and religious policies of the Creek Nation were not suited to Indians, and that all who would espouse Isparhecher's cause need not be bound by them. They were taught that since their forefathers knew nothing of schools and churches, constitutions, and written laws, yet prospered, that they must return to the habits and customs of their foreefathers in order to become a prosperous people. Thus, were the Creeks to discourage all such white man's interests.1

By 1882 these "Loyal" Creeks numbered about three hundred and fifty warriors. They with their families were established in a sort of military camp at Nuyaka, twelve miles west of Okmulgee, the Creek capital. Isparhecher announced that his purpose was to restore to the Creek Indians their primitive tribal government and society. Officers were elected and light horse companies were formed and provided with arms and ammunition. Intimidation of the Indians, in the vicinity of Nuyaka, who favored the Checote government, became quite frequent. Attempts were made daily to organize others and initiate them into the "Loyal" faction.2

General Pleasant Porter,3 who was in command of the Creek military forces (light horsemen), was at this time in Washington on official business; but Checote, on being

3Pleasant Porter was born on a plantation near Clarksville, in the Creek Nation, September 26, 1840. His paternal grandfather, a native of Pennsylvania, was a captain in the United States Army at the time of the Creek War, and showed such consideration for the defeated Muskogee Indians that they formally adopted him into their tribe. Years later, Pleasant Porter's father, Benjamin E. Porter, came to the Creek country and married the daughter of a prominent chief, Tah-to-pee Tust-e-nuk-kee, and settled on a plantation. Pleasant Porter's early life was simple, if not uneventful. His education was secured at the Presbyterian Mission School at Tallahassee. At the outbreak of the Civil War he entered the Confederate Army as a private. He saw much active service during the war, and was promoted through the various grades to the rank of first lieutenant. The close of the war found him, like most of his fellow tribesmen, penniless. He began life then as a farmer. His first official position in civil life was that of superintendent of schools of the Creek Nation, in which capacity he re-organized the educational system, which had ceased to exist during the war. His ability becoming recognized, his services were soon in demand as a representative at Washington. At the time of the Spiechee War in 1882-3, Pleasant Porter was entrusted with the command of the administration military forces, a duty which he discharged not only fearlessly, but also with great judgment and tact. During the later years of his life he occupied the position of principal chief of the Creek Nation. His attainments and integrity were such that he easily ranked as one of the most distinguished and influential Indians of his time. His death occurred at Vinita, in September, 1907. Thoburn and Halcomb, A History of Oklahoma n. p. 156.

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informed of Isparhecher's activities, telegraphed him to return and take charge of the Creek light horse brigade.1 He returned at once and organized a band of six hundred mounted Indian light horsemen.

A horse thief who was supposed to be a member of Isparhecher's band was killed by one of Porter's men in Muskogee. Isparhecher immediately threatened an attack upon Okmulgee. Checote sent a small band of light horsemen on a scouting expedition to ascertain the strength of Isparhecher's forces. On December 24, 1882, this scouting party found and attacked the Loyal band at Nuyaka. In the skirmish which followed seven of the light horsemen were killed.2

General Porter, with his forces, immediately took the field to begin an offensive campaign. On arriving at Nuyaka, the Isparhecher camp was found deserted. Isparhecher and his followers had fled westward. General Porter pursued and effected a capture of a number of the fugitives, but being outside of the Creek boundary was forced to return.3 The fleeing band continued on their way unmolested. They passed across the Sac and Fox Reservation, the Kickapoo country, the unassigned lands, and thence to the Kiowa Indian agency on the Washita at Anadarko.4 They had abandoned their farms and homes and were poorly equipped for a winter campaign. There was considerable suffering among them. Attempts were made by them to organize a war party among the Sacs and Foxes but these all failed. The "Loyal" Creeks were unwelcome visitors on the Kiowa reservation, and when they did not return home in the

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spring of 1883, it was necessary for the United States troops to remove them.1 They were marched back through the Creek country to Fort Gibson in the Cherokee Nation2 under the command of Captain John C. Bates.3 They were held at Fort Gibson under authority from the War Department until July, 1883, when they were disarmed and released with permission to return to their homes. Instead of returning to their homes and industries, the main leaders with Isparhecher again went into camp at Nuyaka.4

During the excitement caused by the enforced return of the Loyal Creeks, the neighbored schools of the Creek Nation were closed by order of the Principal chief. It was just as well because the inhabitants of the nation refused to allow their children to leave home except in company with someone to protect them.5

A Government commission was appointed to visit the Indian Territory and seek to adjust the differences between the Creek leaders and factions. Only two members of this commission came to the meeting. They were General Clin-

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ton B. Fisk of New Jersey and General Eliphalet Whittlesey, of Washington, D. C.1

These commissioners met the representatives of the two factions in council at Muskogee, August 6, 1883. There were fifteen delegates from each faction, and each group submitted a written statement of its position. Then the commissioners gave all the delegates an opportunity to express themselves freely and to air any personal views they might have on the controversy. A subcommittee from each delegation was appointed to try to compose the differences2

The commissioner of Indian Affairs said, regarding this meeting, "A full and free discussion of all matters of disagreement between them was solicited, and was participated in by the various chiefs and others specially invited. The discussion was ably and intelligently conducted on both sides, and was characterized by a spirit of kindness and conciliation which was highly commendable, and reflected great credit upon the various participants. Both sides appeared to be anxious to reach an amicable solution of existing difficulties, with a view to having the supremacy of civil law restored and firmly established throughout their nation; and this sentiment was promptly seconded by the commissioner."3

Isparhecher and his followers contended that since they had remained loyal during the Civil War, it was not fair and just that they were made to surrender a large part of the Creek country because of the fact that a large part of the Creeks had espoused the cause of the confederacy. By way of compensation for this and other grievances, they demanded that the Creek Nation should be divided into two separate tribes and that the reservation should be divided into equal parts by a line running east and west.4 This

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proposition was rejected and, after some days in negotiation, an agreement of peace was duly signed by the members of both delegations, whereby amnesty was granted for all crime growing out of the late trouble and the Isparhecher party agreed to take an oath of allegiance to the government of the Creek Nation.1

Colonel Sam Checote, Principal Chief, manifested a most pacific disposition. He resigned his position and called an election to be held in the following September to fill the vacancy thus created.2

Three tickets were placed in the field,3 the candidates being Checote, Isparhecher, and J. M. Perryman. Isparhecher had a plurality in the election and he assumed the authority of principal chief, but Perryman contested his right to the position on account of some irregularity in one of the voting precincts.4 The Department of Interior decided in favor of Perryman and Isparhecher was deposed. The Creeks both Lower and Upper resented very much the Government interference in this election; but Perryman, after he had assumed office received the hearty cooperation of the entire tribe.

(Continued in June Number)

Eastern Oklahoma College
Wilburton, Okla.

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