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During

 

Removal greatly disrupted Muscogee lives. They had to abandon their homes, belongings, and ancestors’ graves.

 
 

“The United States government didn’t give them time to harvest their crops.”

 
 

“The ceremonial fires are a way that was given to us by our Lord and Creator…”

 
 

Removal was forced and often violent.

Muscogee Nation Removal, 1827–38

23,000 Muscogees were removed over an 11-year period. 15 different groups travelled the approximately 750 miles over land and water routes, which took an average of three months to complete. Thousands of Muscogees died during removal or soon after they arrived in Indian Territory.

 
 

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Family Removal, 1965, by Jerome Tiger. National Museum of the American Indian, 23/6112.

Family Removal, 1965, by Jerome Tiger. National Museum of the American Indian, 23/6112.

 

Cameras were not invented yet to photograph the Muscogee Removal. Muscogee artist Jerome Tiger’s modern painting shows what removal might have looked like for some Muscogee.

 
 

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Bowl, ca. 1830s. Courtesy John and Della Beaver family, Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Okmulgee.

Bowl, ca. 1830s. Courtesy John and Della Beaver family, Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Okmulgee.

 

According to family tradition, this small pottery bowl was carried during the Muscogee removal from Alabama to Indian Territory almost 190 years ago.

 

Some Muscogees traveled by land, some by water, and others by both routes.

 
 

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Steamship Monmouth, 1998, by Paul Bender. Courtesy of the artist.

Steamship Monmouth, 1998, by Paul Bender. Courtesy of the artist.

 

About 400 Muscogee died when the Monmouth collided with another steamboat on the Mississippi River. One 19th-century newspaper said it was the largest number of people lost in a single steamboat accident up to that time.

 
“Great difficulty in getting them on board the boat, there were such a number sick; many of them died on the wharf before they could get on board.”

—Letter from John G. Reynolds to C. A. Harris, September 2, 1837. Office of Indian Affairs, “Creek Emigration,” R 124.

 
 

“The government didn’t provide the rations or didn’t provide the needed things…”

 

Along the way, the people suffered from harsh weather, lack of food and adequate clothing, illness, and other difficult conditions. Many died and had to be quickly buried along the route.

 
“The season being far advanced and the weather daily becoming more severe, I ordered the party to proceed the following morning. The sufferings of the Indians at this period were intense. With nothing more than a cotton garment thrown over them, their feet bare, they were compelled to encounter cold, sleeting storms and to travel over hard frozen ground.”

—Journal of J. T. Sprague to Harris, April 1, 1837. Office of Indian Affairs, “Creek Emigration.”

 
“Many fell by the wayside, too faint with hunger or too weak to keep up with the rest. . . . Death stalked at all hours, but there was no time for proper burying or ceremonies.”

—Mary Hill Cited in Angie Debo, The Road to Disappearance: A History of the Creek Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941), 104.

Discussion Questions • During Removal

 
  1. How were Muscogee lives disrupted by the removal?
  2. Look at a map of the southeastern region of the United States. Locate the states that the Muscogee had to travel through (Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma). What geographical features might have posed as challenges to the forced removal of the Muscogee?
  3. What conditions made the removal extremely dangerous and deadly at times?