Were Creek Indians from West Mexico?

Larson goes on to call into question Kelly’s “earth lodge” interpretation of his findings and goes so far as to refute the very existence of earth lodges in the southeast even at Ocmulgee Mounds. Yet the migration legend seems to support Kelly’s interpretation of the data as, indeed, a “mound with a central chamber,” i.e., earth lodge.

There is other evidence, however, that the practice of constructing earth lodges was still in existence at least up until the early 1500s when the first Spanish explorers arrived in the North Carolina region. According to an entry in one of Juan Ponce de Leon’s journals it noted,

“When we arrived on the shores of the Northern islands we encountered an odd group of natives. They lead us to their village where they lived in hollow’d mounds and were fully covered in mud and refuse. My lieutenant, [Diaz de la Torre y Gonzaga-Palacios] exclaimed ‘Son como micos sucios’ (they are like dirty monkeys). From thence forth, until we departed those cold shores, Mico Sucio was the means by which we referred to these happy natives.”[xxx]

This evidence once again completely contradicts Larson’s conclusions that earth lodges never existed in the southeast and should put his theory to rest once and for all.

It should be noted that earth lodges were quite common in the American southwest and Midwest. The Navajo hogan is the most well known of these type structures from the Southwest. Another round building type from the American southwest was the kiva. Although not earth-covered it was a semi-subterranean structure found at Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) sites such as Chaco Canyon[xxxi] which is known to have had trade contacts with west Mexico.  In the Midwest the Arikara, a Caddoan-speaking Pawnee tribe were known for building earth lodges in city clusters featuring up to a thousand such structures.[xxxii]

Interestingly, the Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee appears to have features of both the southwestern kiva and the Midwestern earth lodge. A kiva was constructed with a solid low wall which supported the roof beams and the structure was entered through the roof which was not earth-covered whereas an Arikaran earth lodge was constructed from wood pole walls with the entrance being a narrow, tunnel-like feature and the whole structure covered in earth.  The Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee has the kiva-like low wall supporting the roof beams but with Arikaran-like features such as the tunnel entrance and being completely covered in earth.

Reconstruction of a kiva
Reconstruction of the interior of a kiva. Click the image to view interactive  3D Quicktime VR movies of the Great Kiva. (Courtesy John Kantner)
Pawnee Earth lodge model
Model showing log wall construction of Pawnee earth lodge which is different from solid wall construction of a kiva and Ocmulgee Earth Lodge. But it also features the same type of tunnel-like entrance that the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge had.
Ocmulgee Earth Lodge model
Interior of Ocmulgee Earth Lodge

As stated previously, it is also known that the Ancestral Puebloan people of the American southwest at Chaco Canyon had trade contacts with central Mexico via contacts in western Mexico.[xxxiii] It is also known that the Ancestral Puebloan people of the southwest had trade contacts with the Caddoans and the Spiro Mounds site. The existence of these round structures ( kivas and earth lodges) in the southwest, Midwest, and southeast along the very route suggested by both the artifacts and the migration legend, adds further support for this route. There are also cultural traditions among the Creek Indians that claim they originated out west near the “backbone of the world”[xxxiv] which is what they called the Rocky Mountains therefore this route is definitely a possibility.

Interestingly, the Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee features an elevated platform in the shape of a bird such as an eagle or hawk. When viewed from the entryway of the Earth Lodge this bird form is inverted.

Bird platform in Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee Mounds
Bird-shaped eagle or hawk platform in the Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee Mounds.
Caddoan head pot with bird design engraved around eye
Caddoan head pot showing inverted eagle or hawk form around his eye. Click the image to view a 3D interactive movie of this artifact.

An identical inverted bird form can be seen engraved on the previously mentioned Caddoan head pot. Were these the builders of Ocmulgee? The migration legend mentions that some of the people on the journey lagged behind the main group who first settled at Ocmulgee thus the Caddoans may represent these people.

One more piece of evidence supports the west Mexico-Chaco Canyon-Spiro route. Several Caddoan head pots show a Puebloan solar cross symbol from the American southwest engraved on their forehead suggesting that there was, indeed, a connection with the American southwest.

Caddoan head pot with Puebloan sun symbol
Caddoan head pot showing Puebloan sun symbol from southwest U.S.

The migration legend also clearly makes reference to earthquakes and a volcano. It is rare, though not unheard of, for the southeastern states to experience an earthquake. Thus this piece of data alone does not confirm a western origin. Yet the description of a volcano certainly begs the question as to how a Native American living in Georgia in 1733 could have given such an accurate description of something he could have never possibly seen. It is possible he had heard of a volcano from European colonists but in light of all the other corroborating evidence, the simplest explanation is that it is also an accurate recounting of real historical events.

One final note on the Creek Migration Legend: the legend was recounted to English authorities in 1735 at their newly established colony in Savannah, Georgia by a Creek chief. According to a newspaper account in the London newspaper American Gazetteer, the “speech was curiously written in red and black characters, on the skin of a young buffalo, and translated into English, as soon as delivered in the Indian language….The said skin was set in a frame, and hung up in the Georgia Office, in Westminster.”[xxxv]

It is interesting that the newspaper used the term “characters” and not “pictures” suggesting that the written version of the speech was not simply written in pictographs but in an actual alphabet. We know that Mayan scribes wrote their codices in red and black characters but it is presently not known if Olmecs or the west Mexican cultures did so as well. It is generally not accepted that any Native American groups had a written language but this newspaper account seems to question that idea. Creek tradition also holds that their ancient priests once had a written language reserved for their use alone.[xxxvi]

Gary C. Daniels

Gary C. Daniels is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated television, video and multimedia writer and producer. He has a M.A. degree in Communications from Georgia State University in Atlanta, a B.F.A. degree in TV Production from the Savannah College of Art and Design and an A.A. degree in Art from the College of Coastal Georgia. He has appeared on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel. His History Channel appearance became the highest-rated episode in the network's history. He has a passion for Native American history and art. He is the founder and publisher of LostWorlds.org.

One thought on “Were Creek Indians from West Mexico?

  • July 23, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Very fascinating discourse! Results from my STR ancestry DNA calculator confirm the Mexico/southeast U.S. migration with the the Cora people of Nayarit being directly related to the Creek Indians of Georgia.

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