Bending Their Way Onward: Creek Indian Removal in Documents

Bending Their Way Onward: Creek Indian Removal in Documents

Bending Their Way Onward: Creek Indian Removal in Documents

Bending Their Way Onward: Creek Indian Removal in Documents


Between 1827 and 1837 approximately twenty-three thousand Creek Indians were transported across the Mississippi River, exiting their homeland under extreme duress and complex pressures. During the physically and emotionally exhausting journey, hundreds of Creeks died, dozens were born, and almost no one escaped without emotional scars caused by leaving the land of their ancestors.

Bending Their Way Onward is an extensive collection of letters and journals describing the travels of the Creeks as they moved from Alabama to present-day Oklahoma. This volume includes documents related to the "voluntary" emigrations that took place beginning in 1827 as well as the official conductor journals and other materials documenting the forced removals of 1836 and the coerced relocations of 1836 and 1837.

This volume also provides a comprehensive list of muster rolls from the voluntary emigrations that show the names of Creek families and the number of slaves who moved west. The rolls include many prominent Indian countrymen (such as white men married to Creek women) and Creeks of mixed parentage. Additional biographical data for these Creek families is included whenever possible. Bending Their Way Onward is the most exhaustive collection to date of previously unpublished documents related to this pivotal historical event.


On 15 January 1837 Captain John Stuart of the 7th U.S. Infantry sat down at his desk at Fort Coffee to write to General Roger Jones, the adjutant general of the United States Army. the purpose of the letter, as Stuart quickly revealed, was to “communicate a few facts, in relation to the Emigrating Creeks.” As an officer of the government, Stuart felt duty bound to report that many of the thousands of Creeks who had passed through Arkansas had fallen far behind the vanguard of their party and, having subsequently been unable to receive their food rations, had resorted to “killing a Hog” or “taking a few Baskets of Corn,” from the white inhabitants. But Stuart was not writing to excoriate the Creeks; in fact, he was notifying officials that white Arkansans were likely to swindle the federal government out of money by claiming damages far in excess of what they had actually lost. Indeed, Stuart noted that there was little actual theft involved and that if whites had done the same it would “Scarcely be thought worthy of Speaking of, but those People being Indians,” he predicted that locals would “make a terrible Outcry” and turn claims “of not more than a few hundred Dollars” into “the amount of many Thousands of Dollars.” Then, clearly affected by what was taking place not far from his desk, Stuart noted:

The condition of the Creeks yet on the road to Fort Gibson, is most
terrible, It is said that they are Strewed along the road for a great dis
tance, I know not how far, many of them are almost naked, and are
without Shoes—The Snow for five days, has been from 4 to 8 Inches
deep—and during the first and second days of the Storm, Women and
children were Seen bending their way Onward, with most Piteous and

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