January 30, 2016

2250 UNITED STATES (Alabama) - The Muscogee (Creek)

2250 - Calvin W. McGhee (1903-1970), Chief
of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians

The Muscogee, also known as the Creek, are a Native American people traditionally from the southeastern woodlands, who live primarily in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. They are descendants of the  Mississippian culture peoples, who built earthwork mounds at their regional chiefdoms located throughout the Mississippi River valley and its tributaries. It seems that the early Spanish explorers encountered ancestors of the Muscogee when they visited Mississippian-culture chiefdoms in the mid-16th century.

Throughout the period of contact with Europeans, most of the Muscogee population was concentrated into two geographical areas (Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks). From the beginning there were conflicts between locals and settlers, which continued almost uninterrupted in the following centuries, culminating with bloody wars. Their number decreased permanently because of the infectious diseases, massacres and slavery.

During the American Revolution, the Muscogee sided with the British, but in the War of 1812 and in American Civil War, they fought by both warring parties. They were the first of the "Five Civilized Tribes", considered to be "civilized" under George Washington's plan. However, they didn't give up easily at freedom and at their lands. In 1799, William Augustus Bowles formed the State of Muskogee in Florida, which lasted until 1803. Also the Creek War (1813-1814) was a response to the United States' territorial encroachment.

During the Indian removal of the 1830s, most of the Muscogee Confederacy were forcibly relocated to  Indian Territory. Only in 1836 and 1837 the U.S. Army enforced the removal of more than 20,000 Muscogee. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Kialegee Tribal Town, and Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, all based in Oklahoma, are federally recognized, as are the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.

Muscogee culture has greatly evolved over the centuries, combining mostly European-American influences. However, the Muscogee people continue to preserve chaya and share a vibrant tribal identity through events. The most important social unit was the clan. Clans organized hunts, distributed lands, arranged marriages, and punished lawbreakers. The Muscogee had a matrilineal kinship system, with children considered born into their mother's clan, and inheritance was through the maternal line.

The Poarch Creek Indian Reservation is the home of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (3,074 members), the only federally recognized Indian tribe in the state. Despite their forced removal from Georgia and Alabama in 1836, some Creeks maintained a community around the small town of Poarch. In the 1940s the community began to organize politically, and from 1950 to 1970 tribal leader Calvin W. McGhee (1903-1970) spearheaded a campaign for recognition of Creek land claims in the southeastern states.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the definitives series American Design, about which I wrote here. The second stamp, depicting Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) and Camellia (Camellia japonica L.), the bird and the flower of the state of Alabama, is part of the series State Birds and Flowers, about which I wrote here. The last two stamps are part of series that feature 10 still frames from the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, about which I wrote here.

Muscogee - Wikipedia
Poarch Band of Creek Indians - Official website

Sender: Denise
Sent from Greenvale (New York / United States), on 01.12.2015

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