- Charlotte Heth
Native American group of the Muskogean confederacy. They lived in towns along major river courses in Alabama and Georgia (hence the name “Creek”) from as early as 1000 to the 1830s. In the 2010s most were living in Oklahoma, with other groups in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Knowledge of the history of Creek music incorporates accounts given in the 18th century by soldiers, travelers, and traders and later by missionaries, ethnographers, and informants.
Music of the Creek people includes songs for public ceremonies and celebrations (both seasonal and cyclical), social dances, and animal dances, and music associated with games, prayers to the Creator, affective magic, and curing. Because missionaries made little impact on the Creeks until comparatively late (the 1840s) the singing of Christian hymns is less pervasive in Creek culture than among some other Southeastern tribes.
The ceremonial season begins in the spring with night-time stomp and social dances. These are held at the square grounds, variously called stomp grounds, ceremonial grounds, or tribal towns. These “towns” are reconstructed versions of those that existed in the Southeast before the forced removal of the Indians to Indian territory in the 1830s. Ceremonial activities include, besides dancing, the practicing of dances, taking medicine, the renewal of the clan arbors around the square, playing ball, and feasting. As time for the midsummer Green Corn Ceremony, or Busk, draws closer, activities increase, culminating when the astronomers determine the two most important days for the start of the ceremony. The Green Corn Ceremony is the highlight of the year, with participants showing respect and thanksgiving to the deities for the ripe corn and the earth’s goodness. Its major dances—the Feather, Ribbon, and Buffalo—occur, along with renewal and purification ceremonies, during daylight hours. Although in the past the ceremony took two weeks, it has recently been held as close to a weekend as possible so that everyone may attend. The dances take place, for the most part, in the center of the square ground around a sacred fire that has logs oriented to the four cardinal directions; the sacred number four and multiples of it control most of the ceremonial activities, including the music and dance. The ceremony is directed from the chief’s arbor, or bed, on the west, but the songleaders usually sit in the south arbor; the north and east arbors, when all four are present, also contain seating, usually for males and arranged by clan. Almost every movement of the dancers, singers, medicine men, fire-keepers, and others is counterclockwise around the fire, the ball-game pole, or the square ground....