Though most modern Creek now live in Oklahoma, they originated in the Southeastern United States. The Creek confederacy formed after the collapse of previous southeastern cultures following exposure to European disease. The Creek lived in permanent agricultural settlements. The American government displaced the Creek to Oklahoma during the 1830s.
The Creek were preceded by a mound-building society. After European disease and conflict wiped out up to 90 percent of the native population, new southeastern confederacies formed, including the Cherokee and Creek. The Creek lived off subsistence agriculture in permanent settlements connected by rivers and trails. The Creek grew corn, beans and squash.
The Creek traded slaves and deer hides with early European settlers in exchange for textiles and metal tools, such as kettles, knives and guns. European settlers eventually stopped buying native slaves, considering them to be too dangerous. After the American Revolution, which the Creek mostly avoided, American settlers began to covet Creek territory for plantation farming.
General Andrew Jackson brutally crushed Creek resistance to encroachment and continued removal policies into his presidency. Many historians refer to native removals from the Southeast as the Trail of Tears, referring to the large number of individuals who died in forced marches to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.
By 1837, over 23,000 Creek left the Southeast. Many Creek fared poorly in Indian Territory with their population dropping to 14,000 only 20 years later. The Creek nation reformed in 1971 and now contains over 50,000 members.