“The three rivers have talked”: the Creek Indians and community politics in the Native South, 1753-1821

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Steven J. Peach, Doctoral Candidate & Instructor of U.S. History & Ethnohistory (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Greg O'Brien

Abstract: This dissertation is a political history of the Creek Indians spanning the years between the conclusion of the Creek-Cherokee War in 1753 and the Creek Redstick migration to Florida. That migration came to a conclusion in 1821, when the United States took possession of Florida from Spain. By examining British, Spanish, American, and Creek documents with the methodology of ethnohistory, it seeks to understand how community interests directly and indirectly shaped political leadership in Creek society. It argues that Creek towns (italwa), clans, and provinces inspired a contradictory pattern of politics among Creek peoples. On one hand, town headmen forged coalitions with other Creek towns to secure trade with Euro-Americans, pursue peace with Euro-Americans and other indigenous people, and protect Creek hunting grounds. At times, clans stabilized the cross-town coalitions, especially when town leaders forged kinship ties with one another or with a potential Euro-American or indigenous ally. On the other hand, clans undermined political agreements and policies when clansmen carried out the law of retaliation (lex talionis) against Euro-Americans and other indigenous people. By uncovering the ways in which community fostered and impeded coalition-building in Creek society, this project revises debates in Creek ethnohistory, Native American history, and the history of the “Red”/Native Atlantic. Countless examples of coalition-building demonstrate that the Creeks were not politically decentralized, as some Creek ethnohistorians have argued, but nor did they create a centralized “nation” with coercive authority, as others in the same body of scholarship have contended. Secondly, the rise, shift, and demise of coalitions pieced together by this dissertation suggest that Creeks conceptualized politics in terms of coalition units. As a result, Native Americanists should no longer use terms like faction, pro-American, or pro-British to explain Native political agency. Rather, Creek politics developed, operated, shifted, and fractured along lines of community interests, choices, and affiliations. Finally, this project asserts that the Creeks shaped the contours of empire in the Atlantic basin by giving them a decidedly political cast. European overseas empire-building in the Native South was tied to the logic of Creek politics.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Community, Creek Indians, Diplomacy, Ethnohistory, Native South, Politics
Creek Indians $x Economic conditions
Creek Indians $x Politics and government
Creek Indians $x Social conditions
Creek Indians $x History $y 18th century
Creek Indians $x History $y 19th century

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