The Creek originally lived in permanent farming communities situated on rivers and streams in what is now northern Georgia and eastern Alabama. Large buffer zones separated individual chiefdoms. Relations with European settlers gradually worsened after contact, and the American government eventually forced the Creek to move to reservations in what is now Oklahoma, an event historians refer to as the Trail of Tears.
The Creek emerged as a confederacy out of the collapse of earlier mound-building societies that existed until the 15th century. Contact with Europeans led to chaos during this period, as unfamiliar diseases, such as small pox, killed up to 90 percent of the native population. The Creek actively traded deerskins and aboriginal slaves with early settlers, starting in 1680 with the establishment of Charleston.
The Creek built wattle houses centered around a central yard, and two to three hundred people typically lived in each town. The Creek intensively grew corn, beans and squash, using levies to control irrigation. They supplemented their diets with hunting, fishing and gathering. The Creek also quickly adopted European crops and animals, including cattle and horses. The Creek used copper for metalworking, and made many other goods, such as cloth, pottery and baskets, which they traded along extensive trade networks.
Most Creeks now live in Oklahoma, after losing a number of conflicts with the United States during the early 19th century. Many Creeks died during forced removals to Oklahoma. When the federal government drove remaining Creeks from their land in 1836, 3,500 out of 15,000 died.