||Introduction to the Creek War, 1813-14|
In the early part of the sixteenth century, white explorers who visited the territory now forming the southeastern United States found it occupied by tribes of American Indians who had lived there for centuries. The Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indians saw the land they inhabited become an object of desire for the visitors. Inevitably, this interest in the southeastern Indian land caused contention, conflict, and the eventual forced removal of the tribes to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.
As white settlers began to move into the region at the start of the nineteenth century, the Creeks became increasingly hostile. Many did not wish to adopt the ways of whites as government agents urged them to do under a new Indian policy instituted by President George Washington. Indian agents were supposed to instruct Indians how to plow, raise cotton, weave, spin, care for domestic animals, and become skilled in carpentry or black smithing. Indians also wanted to keep their lands. Unfortunately for them, they had granted the American government the right to maintain horse paths through their territory over which white pioneers were allowed to travel to the region around Mobile. These horse paths became highways of settlement.
As white population increased, the Creeks began to divide among themselves, into those who held more traditional views and those who were more assimilated through contact with whites. The traditionalists responded to Tecumseh, the great Shawnee Indian leader. Just before the start of the War of 1812 between England and the United States, Tecumseh traveled south from the Great Lakes to try to unite all Indians against white Americans. After Tecumseh's visit, the Creeks divided. Most Upper Creeks, called Red Sticks because of their bright red war clubs, wanted to resist white encroachment. Most Lower Creeks, more accustomed to whites, were inclined toward peace. This division led to the Creek War of 1813-14, which was a part of the War of 1812.
During the War of 1812, the waring Creek Indians were supported by Spain and England. They fought against the Americans led by General Andrew Jackson and the allied Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and "friendly" Creek. The "friendly" Creeks were often of mixed heritage due to decades of intermarriage between the Indians and Europeans. The Creek War ended in 1814 when the Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding some forty thousand square miles of land to the United States. Although the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee fought for the United States against the Creek, they, too, were soon pressured to cede their lands.
After the War of 1812, the federal government began to force southeastern Indians to exchange their remaining lands for land in Indian Territory. Most Indians fiercely resisted leaving their ancestral homelands, but with the election of Andrew Jackson as president in 1828, Indian removal was established as a national policy. States quickly passed laws to ensure jurisdiction over Indians living within their borders, and President Jackson informed the Indians that the federal government was helpless to interfere with state laws. He told them their only option was to comply with removal. In Alabama, removal was completed by the late 1830s, though a few native Alabamians, such as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, escaped removal and remain in Alabama today.