Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

SOUTHERN LIGHTS: Forced Removal Extinguished Creeks' Fires

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

SOUTHERN LIGHTS: Forced Removal Extinguished Creeks' Fires

Article excerpt

In 1836, Tuscaloosans feasted their eyes on an intriguing sight. Thousands of Creek Indians had drifted into town and camped along the banks of the Black Warrior River.

They were on their way west, courtesy of President Andrew Jackson. He had beaten the Indians at Horseshoe Bend in 1814, taken millions of acres of their land, fought them again in Florida and beaten them one more time, some two decades later, in what came to be called the Second Creek Indian War.

Now he'd had a bellyful. He wanted to get rid of all the Indians.

So through the city's streets traipsed the group of Creeks led by a chief named Opothle Yoholo.

It wasn't the first time that a large Indian group had come to Tuscaloosa, then the state capital. A few months earlier, Creeks led by Chief Eufaula -- Eufaula Harjo -- came through on their way west.

Eufaula asked to speak to the Legislature, then in session. The address he made to the lawmakers was much more eloquent and beautiful than the town's shabby frontier setting.

"In these lands of Alabama, which have belonged to my forefathers," he said, "and where their bones lie buried, I see that the Indian fires are going out. Soon they will be cold. New fires are lighting in the West for us, they say, and we will go there."

Opothle Yoholo and his followers were the next group of removed Creeks to come here.

According to historian Matt Clinton, Opothle Yoholo camped on the spot where the University of Alabama would build an observatory a few years later.

"Of course, the Indians were interesting to the people of the town," Clinton wrote. Mrs. Clement Clay (wife of the governor, who was said to be good friends with the Creek leader) "wrote that all the city turned out to see the Indian youths dash through the streets on their ponies."

Dr. Joshua Foster, a student at the university at the time, saw Indian boys and girls swimming together. They were "not clad in modern bathing suits, but all in their birthday suits, or in undress uniform, paddling like ducks in the creek."

Christopher Haveman of the University of West Alabama, who has written a soon-to-be-published book on the Indian removal, describes Opothle

Yoholo as the most prominent headman in the Creek Nation during the 1830s. …

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