Creek Indian Houses Described
Mr. Caleb Swan, who visited the Creek Indians of Georgia in 1790, found the people living in small houses or cabins, but in clusters, each cluster being occupied by a part of a gens or clan. He remarks that "the smallest of their towns have from ten to forty houses, and some of the largest from fifty to two hundred, that are tolerably compact. These houses stand in clusters of four, five, six, seven, and eight together…. Each cluster of houses contains a clan or family of relations who eat and live in common." [Footnote: Schoolcraft's Hist. Cond. and Pros. of Indian Tribes, vol. v. 262.]
Here the fact of several families uniting on the principle of kin, living in a cluster of houses, and practicing communism, is expressly stated.
James Adair, writing still earlier of the southern Indians of the United States generally, remarks in a passage before quoted, as follows: "I have observed, with much inward satisfaction, the community of goods that prevailed among them…. And though they do not keep one promiscuous common stock, yet it is to the very same effect, for every one has his own family or tribe, and when any one is speaking either of the individuals or habitations of his own tribe, he says, 'He is of my house,' or, 'It is my house.'" [Footnote: History of the American Indians, p. 17.]
It is singular that this industrious investigator did not notice, what is now known to be the fact, that all these tribes were organized in gentes and phratries. It would have rendered his observations upon their usages and customs more definite. Elsewhere he remarks further that "formerly the Indian law obliged every town to work together in one body, in sewing or planting their crops, though their fields were divided by proper marks, and their harvest is gathered separately. The Cherokees and Muscogees [Creeks] still observe that old custom, which is very necessary for such idle people." [Footnote: ib., p. 430.]
They cultivated, like the Iroquois, three kinds of maize, an "early variety," the "hominy corn," and the "bread corn," also beans, squashes, pumpkins, and tobacco. [Footnote: History of the American Indians, p. 430] Chestnuts, a tuberous root something like the potato but gathered in the marshes, berries, fish, and game, entered into their subsistence. Like the Iroquois, they made unleavened bread of maize flour, which was boiled in earthen vessels, in the form of cakes, about six inches in diameter and an inch thick. [Footnote: ib. pp. 406, 408.] Among the tribes of the plains, who subsist almost exclusively upon animal food, their usages in the hunt indicate the same tendency to communism in food. The Blackfeet, during the buffalo hunt, follow the herds on horseback in large parties, composed of men, women, and children. When the active pursuit of the herd commences, the hunters leave the dead animals in the track of the chase to be appropriated by the first persons who come up behind. This method of distribution is continued until all are supplied. All the Indian tribes who hunt upon the plains, with the exception of the half-blood Crees, observe the same custom of making a common stock of the capture. It tended to equalize, at the outset, the means of subsistence obtained. They cut the beef into strings, and either dried it in the air or in the smoke of a fire. Some of the tribes made a part of the capture into pemmican, which consists of dried and pulverized meat mixed with melted buffalo fat, which is baled in the hide of the animal.