Poarch Band of Creek Indians

Tribal History

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians are descendants of a segment of the original Creek Nation, which once covered almost all of Alabama and Georgia. Unlike many southeastern Indian tribes, the Poarch Creeks were not removed from their tribal lands, and have lived together for over 150 years.

In the late 1700's, the Creek Confederacy consisted of Alabama land north of current day Stockton, with the heart of the Creek Nation centralized along the intersection of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers near Montgomery.

In the 1790 Treaty of New York, the Creeks gave the U.S. government permission to use and improve the Indian trail through Alabama to facilitate American settlement following the Louisiana Purchase. After the Treaty, the Creeks were allowed to establish businesses along the Indian trails, to accommodate settlers passing through Indian Territory. This Indian trail was widened and became the Federal Road.

As settlers passing through Indian Territory began to increase, a growing number stopped within the Creek Nation and began settling Indian land. Tensions also increased between Creeks considered "friendly" and those deemed "hostile" towards the U.S. Government. In 1813, a military skirmish at Burnt Corn and the retaliatory attack at Fort Mims resulted in the final battle and defeat of the Creek Nation at Horseshoe Bend. Andrew Jackson took command of Fort Toulouse, renamed it Fort Jackson, and signed the Treat of Fort Jackson in 1814. As a result of the Treaty of Fort Jackson, the Creeks were illegally forced to cede their territory to the United States and were forcibly removed from their land in Alabama.

By 1836, development left little nearby land available for land grants. Those families receiving 1836 land grants moved inland away from the River into the Poarch area near the Head of Perdido (Headapadea) and Huxford area.

The Poarch settlement remained largely ignored and increasingly impoverished following Removal. Indian-only schools and churches developed before the turn of the century and were known from records to have existed as early as 1908. Indians were buried separately from whites in a segregated Indian cemetery, Judson Cemetery, on land donated by a freed slave.

Since the early 1900's, there were some organized efforts to improve the social and economic situation of the Poarch Creeks. The federal government did become involved when it halted the Escambia County Tax Assessor's illegal taxation of the Federal Trust Land in Poarch in 1920. The federal government also instigated litigation to penalize trespassers illegally cutting timber on grant land, and this litigation continued to 1925. Episcopal missionaries began providing assistance in 1929, resulting in the construction of St. Anna's Episcopal Church, which is still standing, and St. John's in the Wilderness church, which is no longer standing. These community churches were used as schools for the Indian children. Old photos show these missionaries performing baptisms in the local swimming hole.

A number of actions were taken by the community in the late 1940's to improve community conditions, including a community boycott of the schools. Escambia County built a small segregated consolidated Indian School in Poarch, to provide Indians a "separate but equal" education, though only through the sixth grade. The community organized a committee which successfully forced local school authorities to provide the bus service which would allow Indian children to attend junior high and high school. Educational opportunities were further improved in 1970 as a result of the Civil Rights movement. In the early 1990's, the Tribe restored the Poarch Consolidated School, which currently houses the Calvin McGhee Cultural Center.

Oral history, church and court records show a variety of clearly recognizable but not formally appointed leaders from at least the 1880's onward until 1950, when more formal leadership was established. The most prominent and widely influential of these leaders was Fred Walker, who was a leader between about 1885 and 1941. The first formal leader in the sense of a single leader with a definite title and a clearly defined role was Calvin McGhee, who was chosen in 1950 and continued to be a charismatic leader until his death in 1970.

Eddie L. Tullis led the Poarch Creek Indians in their petitioning the United States government to recognize a government-to-government relationship. On August 11, 1984, these efforts culminated in the United States Government, Department of Interior, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs acknowledging that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians exists as an "Indian Tribe." The Tribe is the only federally recognized Tribe in the State of Alabama. On November 21, 1984, 231.54 acres of land were taken into trust. On April 12, 1985, 229.54 acres were declared a Reservation.

Currently there are 3,074 members of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, of which over 1,000 live in the vicinity of Poarch, Alabama (eight miles northwest of Atmore, Alabama, in rural Escambia County, and 57 miles east of Mobile). The current Tribal Chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians is Buford L. Rolin.

For more information:
Contact Community Relations
Phone: (251) 368-9136