The early historic Creeks were probably descendants of the mound builders of the Mississippian culture along the Tennessee River in modern Tennessee and Alabama, and possibly related to the Utinahica of southern Georgia. More of a loose confederacy than a single tribe, the Muscogee lived in autonomous villages in river valleys throughout what are today the states of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama and consisted of many ethnic groups speaking several distinct languages, such as the Hitchiti, Alabama, and Coushatta. Those who lived along the Ocmulgee River were called "Creek Indians" by British traders from South Carolina; eventually the name was applied to all of the various natives of Creek towns becoming increasingly divided between the Lower Towns of the Georgia frontier on the Chattahoochee River, Ocmulgee River, and Flint River and the Upper Towns of the Alabama River Valley.
The Lower Towns included Coweta, Cusseta (Kasihta, Cofitachiqui), Upper Chehaw (Chiaha), Hitchiti, Oconee, Ocmulgee, Okawaigi, Apalachee, Yamasee (Altamaha), Ocfuskee, Sawokli, and Tamali. The Upper Towns included Tuckabatchee, Abhika, Coosa (Kusa; the dominant people of East Tennessee and North Georgia during the Spanish explorations), Itawa (original inhabitants of the Etowah Indian Mounds), Hothliwahi (Ullibahali), Hilibi, Eufaula, Wakokai, Atasi, Alibamu, Coushatta (Koasati; they had absorbed the Kaski/Casqui and the Tali), and Tuskegee ("Napochi" in the de Luna chronicles).
Cusseta (Kasihta) and Coweta are the two principal towns of the Creek Nation to this day. Traditionally the Cusseta and Coweta bands are considered the earliest members of the Creek Nation.
Like many Native American groups east of the Mississippi and Louisiana Rivers, Creeks were divided over which side to take in the American Revolutionary War. The Lower Creeks remained neutral; the Upper Creeks allied with the British and fought the Americans.
After the war officially ended in 1783, the Creeks discovered Great Britain had ceded Creek lands to the new United States. The state of Georgia began to expand into Creek territory. Creek statesman Alexander McGillivray rose to prominence as he organized pan-Indian resistance to this encroachment and received arms from the Spanish in Florida to fight trespassing Georgians. McGillivray worked to create a sense of Creek nationalism and to centralize Creek authority, struggling against village leaders who individually sold land to the United States. With the Treaty of New York in 1790, McGillivray ceded a significant portion of Creek lands to the United States under the administration of George Washington in exchange for federal recognition of Creek sovereignty within the remaining territory. However, McGillivray died in 1793, and Georgia continued to expand into Creek territory.
English adventurer William Augustus Bowles was elected director general of the State of Muskogee by a congress of Creeks and Seminoles in 1799. With both Spain and the USA claiming the land Bowles hoped to be able to create their own independent nation, the State of Muskogee.
George Washington (first U.S. President) and Henry Knox (first U.S. Secretary of War) proposed the cultural transformation of Native Americans. Washington believed that Native Americans were equals but that their society was inferior. He formulated a policy to encourage the "civilizing" process, and Thomas Jefferson continued it. Noted historian Robert Remini wrote "they presumed that once the Indians adopted the practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated their children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans would win acceptance from white Americans." Washington's six-point plan included impartial justice toward Indians; regulated buying of Indian lands; promotion of commerce; promotion of experiments to civilize or improve Indian society; presidential authority to give presents; and punishing those who violated Indian rights.
In 1796, Washington appointed Benjamin Hawkins as General Superintendent of Indian Affairs dealing with all tribes south of the Ohio River. He personally assumed the role of principal agent to the Creeks. He moved to the area that is now Crawford County in Georgia. He began to teach agricultural practices to the tribe, starting a farm at his home on the Flint River. In time, he brought in slaves and workers, cleared several hundred acres and established mills and a trading post as well as his farm.
For years, he would meet with chiefs on his porch and discuss matters. He was responsible for the longest period of peace between the settlers and the tribe, overseeing 19 years of peace. When a fort was built, in 1806, to protect expanding settlements, just east of modern Macon, Georgia, it was named Fort Benjamin Hawkins.
Hawkins was dis-heartened and shocked with the Creek War which destroyed his life work of improving Creek Native Americans quality of life. Hawkins saw much of his work toward building a peace destroyed in 1812. A group of Creeks, led by Tecumseh were encouraged by British agents to resistance against increasing settlement by whites. Although he personally was never attacked, he was forced to watch an internal civil war among the Creeks, the war with a faction known as the Red Sticks, and their eventual defeat by Andrew Jackson.
The Creek War of 1813-1814, also known as the Red Stick War, began as a civil war within the Creek Nation, only to become enmeshed within the War of 1812. Inspired by the fiery eloquence of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and their own religious leaders, Creeks from the Upper Towns, known to the Americans as Red Sticks, sought to aggressively resist white immigration and the "civilizing programs" administered by U.S. Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins. Red Stick leaders William Weatherford (Red Eagle), Peter McQueen and Menawa violently clashed with the Lower Creeks led by William McIntosh, who were allied with the Americans.
On August 30, 1813, Red Sticks led by Red Eagle attacked the American outpost of Fort Mims near Mobile, Alabama, where white Americans and their Indian allies had gathered. The Red Sticks took the fort, and a bloody clash ensued, as prisoners — including women and children — were killed. Nearly 250 people were killed, spreading panic throughout the American southwestern frontier.
In response to the massacre at Fort Mims, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Mississippi Territory sent armies deep into Creek country. Outnumbered and poorly armed, the Red Sticks put up a desperate fight from their wilderness strongholds. On March 27, 1814, General Andrew Jackson's Tennessee militia, aided by the 39th U. S. Infantry Regiment and Cherokee and Creek allies, finally crushed Red Stick resistance at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River.
Though the Red Sticks had been crushed — altogether, about 3,000 Upper Creeks died in the war — the remnants of the Upper Creek resistance held out for several months. In August 1814, exhausted and starving, they surrendered to Jackson at Wetumpka (near the present city of Montgomery, Alabama). On August 9, 1814, the Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which ended the conflict and required them to cede some 20 million acres (81,000 km²) of land—more than half of their ancestral territorial holdings—to the United States. Even those Creek who had fought alongside Jackson were compelled to cede territory, because Jackson held them responsible for allowing the Red Sticks to rise up. The state of Alabama was carved out of this domain and was admitted to the United States in 1819.
Many Creeks, who refused to surrender, escaped to Florida in the aftermath of the war, some of them allied with Florida Indians (who eventually become collectively called the Seminoles) and British against the Americans. They were involved in both sides of the Seminole War in Florida.
Most Muscogees were removed to Indian Territory, although some remained behind. There are Muscogees in Alabama living near Poarch Creek Reservation in Atmore (northeast of Mobile), as well as Creeks in essentially undocumented ethnic towns in Florida. The Alabama reservation includes a bingo hall and holds an annual powwow on Thanksgiving. Additionally, Muscogee descendants of varying degrees of acculturation live throughout the southeastern United States. The tribal government operates a budget in excess of $106 million, has over 2,400 employees, and maintains tribal facilities and programs in eight administrative districts. The nation operates several significant tribal enterprises, including the Muscogee Document Imaging Company; travel plazas in Okmulgee, Muskogee and Cromwell, Oklahoma; construction, technology and staffing services; and major casinos in Tulsa and Okmulgee. The tribal population is fully integrated into the larger culture and economy of Oklahoma, with Muscogee Nation citizens making significant contributions in every field of endeavor, while continuing to preserve and share a vibrant tribal identity through events such as annual festivals, ball-games, and language classes. The Stomp Dance and Green Corn Ceremony are both highly revered gatherings and rituals that have largely remained non public and not by coincidence "Pure". The Nation's historic old Council House, built in 1878 and located in downtown Okmulgee, was completely restored in the 1990s and now serves as a museum of tribal history.