Research paper prepared by Richard L. Thornton,
Architect & City Planner
National Architecture and Native American History columnist for the
Author of "Southeastern Exposure: the Indigenous Peoples of the
Southeastern United States"
Author of "The Architectural and Town Planning Traditions of the
Architect of Oklahoma's Trail of Tears Memorial in Council Oak Park,
The Kialegee Tribal Town is a federally recognized
unit of the Creek Indians, currently headquartered in Wetumka, Oklahoma.
Members of Kialegee enjoy dual citizenship in their own tribal town and
in the Muscogee-Creek Nation, which is also federally recognized. The
word "tribal town" is an approximate English translation of the Mvskoke
word, etvlwv (etalwa) which originally meant "large town," but now can
mean either "township" or "tribe." Since its formation in the 1600s, the
Creek Indian Confederacy, and later the Creek Nation, was divided into
towns, rather than bands, as was typical of less advanced indigenous
The special relationship between the Kialegee and the Federal government
is the result of an offer made by the Roosevelt Administration in 1936.
The passage of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act allowed tribal town
government even if the Creek Nation's government was inactive. The 44
Creek tribal towns were given the opportunity to be recognized
individually as tribes. Only three, Kialegee, Thlopthlocco and
Alabama-Quassarte (Koasati) accepted the offer. The tribal government
was formally established in 1939, with the constitution and bylaws being
established in 1941.
As will be explained in the following narrative, the Kialegee are
descendants of a once powerful province in northeastern Georgia that
controlled the shipments of greenstone, gold and mica mined in the
Georgia Mountains. Their ancestors were not Muskogees, but part of
another branch of the Creek People, who originally spoke a language
which mixed Itsate (Hitchiti) with Alabama words. Their ancestors were
"major players" in the mound-building activities. When forced to
relocate to the Alabama Territory in the late 1700s, they absorbed at
least two Alabama villages on the Alabama River. Over time, most
Kialegee shifted to speaking Mvskoke (Muskogee.) However, the Itsate-Alabama
heritage of the Kialegee explains why their traditional stick ball
opponents were the Alabama-Quassarte (Koasati) Tribal Town.
Four centuries of horrific plagues, wars, forced migrations and children
leaving home to find work elsewhere have left the Kialegee's a tiny
remnant of their former population. Each time they were forced to move
across the landscape of the Southeast; each time they were in a war; and
especially each time their land was allotted, the tribal members were
scattered to the winds, At present the tribal town has slightly over 440
citizens. It is quite likely that well over a thousand persons, who are
eligible for citizenship, are dispersed across the United States.
Thousands of people across the Southeastern United States, vaguely
remember that they had Creek ancestors, but are unaware of the Kialegee-Apalache
Meaning of the Tribal Town's Name
Many "Creek" place and tribal names in Oklahoma today
are actually the Anglicized form of the word. Speakers of the Creek
languages have been using the English form of the word so long that they
do not even know its original form in the Southeast. For example,
Okmulgee, OK was originally Okamoleke in Georgia. Tulsa, OK was
originally Tvlse Locapoka in Alabama. Ochesee, OK was Vcese in Georgia.
Such appears to be the situation for the Kialegee's name. Several
Oklahoma references state that the name was derived from the Mvskoke
(Muskogee) words "eka lache" which means "head left." This is possible,
but not likely since the forms of the tribal town's name appear as early
as the 1600s in a region where the Creek Indians did not speak the
Muskogee language. In fact, the majority of Creek Indians in Georgia did
not speak Muskogee. They spoke Itsate. Muskogee only became the language
used in most Creek homes after the Trail of Tears. People were all
jumbled up in Oklahoma. It was absolutely necessary that neighbors be
able to speak to neighbors.
One likely explanation is that Kialegee is the Anglicization of a hybrid
word between Alabama and Mvskoke, Kilali-ke. Kilali-ke means "Bearing
torch" - people. Kilali is the Alabama word for "torch or light."
English speaker usually write down a Muskogean "k" sound as an English
This makes sense because the area where the Kialegee originally lived in
Georgia was part of a region in which several related ethnic groups were
called the Apalachee. The Appalachian Mountains are named after them.
Apalachee is the Anglicization of the Itsate (Hitchiti) word for "those
who bear a torch." This probably refers to the custom in pre-European
times of Muskogean and Maya leaders carrying a scepter in the shape of a
torch. It is quite possible that the Kialegee were really a hybrid
people, whose ancestors spoke several languages.
Origins in the Southeast
Most Creek Indians today are not aware that
originally, the speakers of the three main Creek languages, Mvskoke,
Itsate (Hitchiti) and Koasati, lived primarily in Georgia, South
Carolina, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. They only
occupied the extreme eastern edge of what is now Alabama.
Three factors caused mass migrations to the west and south. First,
during the late 1600s, Native American slave raiders from Virginia
decimated the Muskogean provinces in North Carolina, South Carolina,
eastern Georgia and northeastern Tennessee. Secondly, after the Colony
of Carolina was established at Charleston in 1674, Muskogean provinces
near there suffered terribly from European plagues. The survivors merged
together, sold their lands to the British and moved westward. Finally,
when the Cherokees under British patronage began expanding rapidly in
the 1720s, Creek provinces were forced to move out of North Carolina and
Tennessee, primarily into Alabama, where they would receive assistance
from the French.
At this point in time, the Koweta Creeks in Georgia became dominant in
the Creek Confederacy, because they consistently defeated the Cherokees
in battle. In 1754 an army composed solely of citizens from the capital
town of Koweta, took on the entire Cherokee Nation. It recaptured all of
the lands in Georgia and North Carolina that had been lost in 1715.
Teenage girls from Koweta alone captured the important Cherokee town of
Quanasee. It was never reoccupied. A body of Cherokee chiefs, equal to
the number of Creek mikkos murdered in 1715, were executed. The
Cherokees quickly sued for peace and the 40 year long war ended.
The Kialegee Creeks in the 16th Century
Had it not been for a hurricane, or the decision of
Sir Francis Drake to get back to England after visiting his French
Protestant friends at Fort Caroline, the homeland of the Kialegee Creeks
might have become the capital of North America. In 1564, the French
definitely made contact with the Kialegee, but described them as a
division of the Apalache living on the Upper Oconee River near the Blue
Ridge Mountains. This was a common practice among the Creek's ancestors.
The ancestors of the Creek Indians were constantly changing the names of
their provinces with each Great Sun (king) elected. The province would
have the name of the living king, but ethnic names would span several
In September of 1565, the leaders of Fort Caroline were expecting the
arrival of about 1000 more colonists. Once they arrived, they planned to
paddle up the Altamaha River to the Oconee River then build the capital
of New France next to the Kialegee capital on the Oconee River. The site
would have been near where the University of Georgia is now located.
From there, they planned to establish a chain of gold mining towns in
the North Georgia Mountains. They planned to be equal trading partners
with the Apalachee people. Had all had gone as planned, most of the
people in North America would be speaking French, and there would have
been a lot more Native Americans around. The French Protestants treated
Native Americans as humans and equals.
Instead, a hurricane killed most of the French colonists on the ships.
The Spanish staged a surprise attack on Fort Caroline while the heavy
rains from the hurricane were still falling. The Spanish murdered most
of the people inside the fort, even though only ten were professional
soldiers. Had the ten ships of Sir Francis Drake still been at Fort
Caroline, the Spanish army, itself, would have been wiped out. France
gave up plans to colonize the Southeast and shifted its interest to
English Contacts with the Kialegee Creeks
The first mention by English explorers of an ethnic
group that was probably ancestors of the Kialegee was in 1670. Called
the Kiawah by these English explorers, they were primarily a highland
tribe, but owned what is now called Kiawah Island, SC as a salt-making
station. In 1675 the leader of the island sold it to several English
colonists. The handful of Native inhabitants on the island probably
moved inland to live with the Kusapo (Cusabo) or to their main province
in northeastern Georgia.
In 1700 explorer John Lawson spent several days at the edge of the Blue
Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with a people that the English called
by their Cherokee name of Keyauwees, but who called themselves Keoleke's.
Later, when a breakaway village of the Keowleke joined the Cherokee
Alliance, they called themselves the Kiukee's.
Lawson described the Keoleke men as being extremely tall. The men wore
cloth turbans, long shirts and mustaches. The villages were neat and
planned with squares and streets. The turbans and mustaches are certain
evidence that Keoleke's were associated with the Creeks of northeastern
Georgia. In the spring of 1540, Hernando de Soto described the Okonee
Creeks in northeastern Georgia in exactly the same terms.
The largest towns of the Blue Ridge Mountain Keoleke were named Etalwa,
Tamasee, Chauka (Black Locust) and Okonee. These are all standard Creek
words. It is definite that the Keoleke were Creeks, not Cherokees.
Nevertheless, it was their anglicized Cherokee name that was given to
the Keowee River in South Carolina.
During the early 1700s, Indian traders from Fort Moore on the Savannah
River, made contact with the main body of the Keoleke's in the Upper
Oconee River Basin. They also called them by their anglicized Cherokee
name. Athens, GA and Watkinsville, GA contain mounds that were built by
this branch of the Creek Indians. Apparently the capital town was where
Watkinsville is now located. The archaeological record in this region
shows a strong cultural connection to the great town of Etalwa (Etowah
Mounds) in northwest Georgia. In fact, one of the most important Native
American trade routes, the Etowah (Hightower) Trail connection Etawa
with the towns of the Kialeke.
At sometime after Georgia was founded in 1732 the Kialekee left the
Oconee River Basin and moved westward to the Apalachee River. Of course,
the Apalachee River got its name from the other name for the Kialegee.
This move was probably to distance the Kialekee some from the Cherokees.
The Creek-Cherokee War began in 1715, when the Cherokees invited all the
Creek leaders to a friendly diplomatic conference at the border town of
Tugaloo, then murdered them in their sleep. The Kialeke were the closest
Creek province to the Cherokees.
By 1744, the Creeks were beginning to get the upper hand in this 40 year
long war. An official Georgia map from that year showed that the Creeks
had resettled northeast Georgia. However, no maps show the names Kialeke
or Kialegee in their former homeland. Koweta Creeks are shown in that
area. An alternative explanation to the available evidence is that the
Kialeke joined the Koweta Creeks to get protection from the Cherokees.
Broken Arrow Associated with the Kialegee Tribal Town
The name of Broken Arrow is definitely associated
with the Kialeke Creeks or Kialegee Tribal Town. It was the name of a
Creek Indian town and a stream in Walton County, near the Apalachee
River. The location was about 10 miles west of the Kialekee capital on
the Oconee River near present day Watkinsville. The town was located on
the Etowah (Hightower) Trade Path between the Oconee River and the great
town of Etalwa.
In 1783 during what was one the last, or the last battle of the American
Revolution, a joint army of Georgia and South Carolina militia attacked
the Cherokee town of Long Swamp Creek in what is now Pickens County, GA.
The Cherokees were harboring a band of Tory cutthroats, who had been
murdering and plundering on the Georgia frontier for years.
The Cherokee village quickly surrendered. Its chief then offered a peace
treaty in English that gave away all CREEK lands in northeastern
Georgia. These lands happened to belong to the branches of the Creeks
who had been staunch allies of the Patriots. Georgia gladly signed the
treaty and stole the lands of the Kialeke, Okonee and Koweta Creeks
living there. This new boundary put the Kialeke village of Broken Arrow
on the edge of the Creek Confederacy's lands.
In 1793, a strip of land that included Broken Arrow, GA was sold by the
Creek Nation to Georgia. Apparently, some of the Creeks living there
chose to stay as citizens of the state, because the name remained. The
village appears on maps as late as the 1860s. Most Kialeke villages
moved west of the Chattahoochee River in what was to become Alabama or
southward into the areas controlled by the Seminoles.
The Kialegee Creeks in Alabama
A Creek town named Broken Arrow next appeared in
Russell County, Alabama, immediately west of Columbus, GA. Americans now
called them Kialegees. The site of the town is now located on Broken
Arrow Creek. Apparently, the Kialegees settled in several locations
between the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa River and the
Chattahoochee River. In 1796 leaders of Kialegee signed a peace treaty
with the United States.
Little Prince (Tustunnuggee Hopoi) of Broken Arrow was one of the most
important leaders of the Creek Confederacy during the early 1800s. He
was an ally of the United States in the War of 1812 and the Red Stick
War. Kialegees living near Broken Arrow were aligned with majority
faction. In 1813, the Kialegees in the vicinity of Tuckabatchee aligned
with the Red Stick faction.
In 1825 a draft treaty between the Creek Nation and the United States
was given to the Creek leaders at Broken Arrow by General E. P. Gaines.
A small portion of Creek leaders later signed the formal version of this
draft at Indian Springs. In 1826, Congress declared both treaties to be
fraudulent, and therefore nullified them.
Apparently, during the 1800s the Kialegee villages were subordinate to
Tuckabatchee, a powerful Shawnee-Creek town on the Tallapoosa River.
However, they were definitely not "spin-off" villages of Tuckabatchee,
as most Oklahoma history books state. The Kialegee and Tuckabatchee were
ethnically, very different folks. The Kialegee were related to the
Alabamu's and Itsate Creeks, while Tuckabatchee was a mixture of Shawnee
and Upper Creeks. The Kialegee in Broken Arrow apparently shifted from
speaking Itsate to speaking Muscogee-Creek, since they were in the
Muskogee heartland. This is not known for certain, however.
Villages of Auchenauhatchee and Hatchachupee
Oklahoma history books state that these two villages
"spun off" Kialegee Tribal Town. This is absolutely incorrect. Both
French and English maps of the 1720s show them to be Alabamu Indian
villages located west of Fort Toulouse. Wetumka was another Alabamu town
located west of Fort Toulouse. Auchenauhatchee, Hatchachupee and Wetumka
can be clearly seen on the 1725 George Hunter map of the Southern
The town of Tuckabachee didn't exist at that time. It would be founded
in the late 1760's by Shawnee after France had abandoned North America.
The Shawnee in eastern Ohio had so enraged the people of Virginia in
their attacks on France's behalf, that they could no longer stay in the
Midwest. The Creeks offered the Shawnee sanctuary in lands that had
formerly belonged to the Alabamu (French allies.) Apparently,
Auchenauhatchee, Hatchachupee and Wetumka elected to join the Creek
Confederacy, rather than accompany the Alabamu to Louisiana.
In a matter of a few years, Tuckabachee absorbed Creek culture and rose
to prominence. Apparently, Broken Arrow, Auchenauhatchee, Hatchachupee
and Wetumka subordinated themselves to Tuckabachee because of its
military power. However, Wetumka, Auchenauhatchee and Hatchachupee were
originally Alabama Indian towns that were much older than Tuckabatchee.
In 1832 the Creek Nation sold all of its territory to the United States.
Creek citizens were given an option to take allotments and become
citizens of Alabama, rather than relocating to the Indian Territory. In
many areas, this turned out to be a disaster. Kialeke Creeks living
around Broken Arrow, AL almost immediately lost their allotments to
white land speculators. The whites would gather up a group of vigilantes
and drive Creek families off their legally owned lands. Some were
murdered. The survivors fled to their kin living in neighboring Lee
County, AL, Wetumka or Tuckabachee.
In 1836, the Second Creek War ended the hope of most Creeks, living in
Alabama to stay in their homeland. The United States Army forced all
Creeks living in areas where there had been fighting to relocate to the
new Creek Nation in the Indian Territory.
The Kialeke living around Wetumka joined with the small Alabama villages
of Auchenauhatchee and Hatchachupee to go on the Trail of Tears to the
Indian Territory. There is a reason for this. Although the Kialeke in
the state of Alabama had become "Muskogeanized" they were not originally
Muskogee Creeks. It is possible that many of the people in the Kialegee
villages still spoke Itsate or Alabama as their first language.
A considerable number of Kialegee Creeks, who had been part of the
Majority Creek Faction during the Redstick War were allowed to remain in
Alabama. Few, if any of their descendants can be found in the vicinity
of Broken Arrow Creek in Phenix City, but are in Russell, Lee, Macon,
Bullock and Barbour Counties, AL. Of course, through the years members
of these families have spread all over the United States, especially in
the late 20th century.
The Kialegee Creeks in Oklahoma
When the refugees of Kialegee, Auchenauhatchee and
Hatchachupee arrived in the Indian Territory, they initially settled
around present day Henryetta, OK. A dance ground and stickball field was
constructed. The favorite stickball opponents of the Kialegee were their
friends at the Alabama-Quassarte tribal town.
During the American Civil War, a third of the population of the Creek
Nation died. The war was particularly hard on those Creeks who sided
with the Union. They starved to death or died of disease in
concentration camps established by the Union Army in Kansas for
The allotment program of the late 1890s and early 1900s permanently
disrupted the social cohesiveness of the Creek People. A sizable
percentage of Creeks refused to sign the Dawes Rolls, because they
suspected that it would result in their land being taken away . . . and
they were right. However, the descendants of these non-signers now
cannot normally be enrolled with the Muscogee Creek Nation or the
Kialegee Tribal Town.
For those readers not familiar with Native American history . . . the
Federal government "gave" each Creek household 160 acres of Creek land
and took possession of their former property. The excess property was
given or sold to homesteaders. It was quite common for Creek families to
be assigned lots long distances from their traditional community. This
was an intentional act of the Federal government designed to destroy
cultural traditions. Unscrupulous attorneys and real estate speculators
obtained power of attorney, or even guardianship of Creek families, who
couldn't speak English, then stole their allotment.
The allotments dispersed members of the Kialegee Creeks across much of
the former area of the Creek Nation. Kialegee families were somewhat
concentrated in the Wetumka and Broken Arrow areas, but many lost
contact with the tribal town because of the distances between them and
their tribal relatives. As a result the tribal town's elders "put their
ceremonial grounds to sleep" in 1912. Today, the tribal town has very
little real estate that it can call its own.
Undoubtedly, during the past 200 years there has been much intermarriage
between true Muskogees and the other branches of the Creeks, who
composed the Creek Confederacy. However, the original ethnic differences
between the Kialegee and Muskogees might explain why the Kialegee always
wished to maintain a separate identity. That desire continues among this
relatively small tribal town today. It is still looking for a home.