Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South

Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South

Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South

Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South

Synopsis

In Creek Paths and Federal Roads, Angela Pulley Hudson offers a new understanding of the development of the American South by examining travel within and between southeastern Indian nations and the southern states, from the founding of the United States until the forced removal of southeastern Indians in the 1830s.

During the early national period, Hudson explains, settlers and slaves made their way along Indian trading paths and federal post roads, deep into the heart of the Creek Indians' world. Hudson focuses particularly on the creation and mapping of boundaries between Creek Indian lands and the states that grew up around them; the development of roads, canals, and other internal improvements within these territories; and the ways that Indians, settlers, and slaves understood, contested, and collaborated on these boundaries and transit networks.

While she chronicles the experiences of these travelers--Native, newcomer, free, and enslaved--who encountered one another on the roads of Creek country, Hudson also places indigenous perspectives squarely at the center of southern history, shedding new light on the contingent emergence of the American South.

Excerpt

Just as there are no places without the bodies that sustain
and vivify them, so there are no lived bodies without the places
they inhabit and traverse
. —Edward S. Casey, 1996

In a 1774 talk to British Indian agent John Stuart, a party of Upper Creek leaders observed: “When a path is new made it does not at once become a great path.” The path in question was a new north-south trading route between Upper Creek towns on the Tallapoosa River and the port of Pensacola. They assured Stuart that this “new made” path would not supplant the “old path,” an east-west route that had connected them to traders in Carolina for decades. The Creeks had long pursued a policy of neutrality and openness that allowed them to maintain diplomatic and commercial relations with the British, the French, and the Spanish who competed for their attention from the east, west, and south, respectively. By keeping old paths clear and periodically permitting new ones, the Creeks could remain in communication with traders and officials in each direction and pursue the most favorable terms of trade. After the Revolutionary War, however, Creek leaders sought new ways to maintain their autonomy in the absence of competing imperial interests. Defining their boundaries and controlling access to their lands was of paramount importance if peace and good trade were to prevail. While opening new paths was often a project begun by outsiders seeking access to the interior South, making them great—or not—was up to the Creeks.

Not surprisingly, territory and mobility were primary concerns for the Creeks in the early national period. Creek men and women routinely traveled to pursue game, to keep one another informed of local news, to perform important religious and ceremonial rites, to visit clan members, and to en-

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