Well, thank you. I don’t like doing shameless plugs, so I’m glad that Jack did it for me.

In January 1827, a company of United States soldiers observed near-starving Lower Creeks fleeing to Florida, surviving by stealing from residents of the Seal settlement of Hogtown. The Americans noted that these people were “in the most miserable and wretched condition it is possible to conceive, many of them skeletons and their bones almost worn through the skin.” Perhaps around the same time, a “small village of full-blooded Creek Indians consisting of 15 families” was established some 50 miles over the creek Cherokee line. What these asylum seekers had in common was that they were all Mvskoke peoples who had once called Georgia home.

In February 1825, Kawi Leader William McIntosh signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, which ceded all of the Creeks’ Georgia land and a large section of their Alabama land to the federal government in exchange for equal parts land in present-day Oklahoma. The treaty was also an immigration document that enticed the Creeks to move west by promising to pay for a year’s worth of crops, food, transportation, as well as supplies like blankets, kettles, and traps. These emigrants to the Seminole and Cherokee countries, however, had refused to move across the Mississippi River and instead chose to live among their southeastern Indian neighbors.

They weren’t the only ones. As life became increasingly difficult for the Creeks in the 1820s and 1830s, hundreds and potentially thousands of Mvskoke peoples chose to seek asylum in the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Seminole Nations rather than move to Indian Territory. These Creeks married into Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Seminole families and were subsequently provided material aid as well as legal and military support. The Creeks, in turn, provided their adoptive neighbors help in resisting their own removal to Indian Territory. Federal officials, however, went to great lengths to find and remove these Creek refugees, but the degree to which these Creeks were embedded in their Southeastern Indian neighbors made their removals a costly failure.

After the Treaty of Indian Springs was signed, the Creeks opposed to immigration began a concerted effort to overturn the treaty and restore the ceded land to the Creek Nation. Delegates went to Washington to lobby the president and members of his cabinet, while those who remained behind lobbied the federal agents sent by President John Quincy Adams to enforce the treaty. Over the course of 1825, the campaign worked. In January 1826, the Treaty of Indian Springs was nullified, becoming the only Indian treaty in American history ever overturned after confirmation by the Senate and its ratification by the president. But it did not come without cost. The 1826 Treaty of Washington, which superseded the Treaty of Indian Springs, returned the Creeks’ Alabama land but not their Georgia domain. The Creeks had until the end of 1826 to vacate their ancestral homeland.

The treaties of Indian Springs and Washington created two very difficult problems for the Mvskoke people. First, it eroded the buffer between the whites in Georgia and the large Lower Creek settlements on the Chattahoochee River, and quite frankly, this is the number one thing that is going to ultimately contribute to forced removal a decade later—whites encroaching on Creek land, stealing Creek land, selling alcohol on credit, getting the Creeks in debt, etc. The second problem was that approximately 7,000 Lower Creeks from Georgia were now forced into the Alabama domain where 15,000 Creeks resided on a small 5-million-acre plot of land.

The problems associated with a large population living on a reduced domain were only exacerbated by the scarcity of quality soil within Alabama. One federal topographical engineer believed that only a fraction of what remained in the Creek Nation after 1827 was considered quality land, with the area already “comparatively populous, inhabited by Indians.” The several thousand Georgia refugees were left scrambling to find the few remaining tracks of unoccupied arable soil. Many, it appears, were unable to find it or were unwilling to look for it and began an extended period of transience.

Basil Hall, a British traveler who visited Alabama in 1828, observed firsthand the precarious condition of the Lower Creek refugees only a year after they were forced from Georgia. When Hall and his family crossed the Chattahoochee and stopped by the new Creek agency, he observed “crowds of those miserable wretches who had been dislodged from their ancient territory to the eastward of the river but had not yet taken root in the new lands allotted to them.” Hall and his wife observed these dispossessed Lower Creeks “wandering about like bees whose hive had been destroyed.” Having spent what little money they had, Hall reported that many were “bordering on starvation and great numbers of them actually perished from want.” Hall’s wife, Margaret, observed that the Creeks were “in a state of starvation and were flocking about the agency in eager expectation of supplies of food.”

Another traveler who visited the agency at around the same time observed “the indiscriminate jabbering of crying hunger” as the famished Creeks devoured a barrel of flour provided by the agent. The Creeks returned the next day and petitioned for more, while on the third morning, 500 Uchies arrived looking for corn. With the dire situation occurring in Alabama in 1826 and 1827, it is not surprising that the asylum seekers we discussed a few minutes ago chose to try their fortune in the Cherokee or Seminole Nations rather than in Alabama or in present-day Oklahoma.

The Treaty of Indian Springs and Treaty of Washington were designed to create chaos. As life became increasingly unbearable in the Creek Nation due to encroachment, debt cycles that the Creeks couldn’t break, alcohol consumption, etc., federal agents used the desperation of the people as a way to recruit immigrants for Indian Territory in the west. These treaties were not unique among the Creeks; they were signed by many Southeastern Indians. The idea was to push the Indians onto such a small domain that life becomes difficult, starvation sets in, white encroachment sets in, and then when they go petition for help in Washington, D.C., the President says Oklahoma is where you need to go, Indian Territory. They have this really terrible choice to make: live and die on the land of their ancestors or try a new life in a strange land to the west.

The first party voluntarily moved west. When I use “voluntary,” of course, some went eagerly. The Macintosh party literally were very eager to go west. It looks like they thought that they could make a lot of money, and they did, in fact, in Oklahoma. But a lot of them just begrudgingly went. So, I use this term very loosely. The first went in 1827, and these were mostly friends and followers of William Macintosh. A second party went a year later, and I have a map. Let me skip over this. I’ll come back to this.

This is the second party. You can kind of follow the route. They went overland, and then the women and children and elderly went along the river routes. For those Mvskokes who refused to move west and were resolute in their determination to live and die on their ancestral Alabama homeland, life only grew increasingly worse. Whites streamed into the Creek Nation from the new town of Columbus, Georgia, and forcibly evicted Creeks from their farmsteads, while others illegally squatted on unoccupied land. By the early 1830s, one census estimated that there were more whites living illegally in the Creek Nation than there were Creek Indians. Censuses are not terribly accurate, but one I saw estimated 25,000 whites living illegally in the Creek Nation, and there were only 21,000 Creeks estimated at the time. Other whites were whiskey traders who sold alcohol to the Creeks on credit and began a debt cycle that the Creeks found difficult to break. The Creek agent observed that “hundreds of families will sell the last bit of corn

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Christ Haveman

Well, thank you. I don’t like doing shameless plugs, so I’m glad that Jack did it for me. In January 1827, a company of United States soldiers observed near-starving Lower Creeks fleeing to Florida, surviving by stealing from residents of the Seal settlement of Hogtown. The Americans noted that these

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