Big Warrior was a Creek chief who was born probably at Tuckabatchee and about 1760. No facts have been preserved of his early life. His marriage to the deserted or discarded wife of Efa Hadjo, must have taken place about 1785, as Tuckenea, his oldest son by her, was a man of affairs in 1810. Big Warrior was not of full Muscogee blood, but was a descendant of a Plankashaw Indian, and he made no little boast of this northern Indian blood.
His first recorded appearance in public life was at the treaty of Coleraine in June 1796; his next appearance at the treaty of Fort Wilkinson in June 1802. Thirteen days after this treaty, but on the treaty ground, Efa Hadjo, the speaker and first chief of the nation, abdicated his office to Micco Hopoie, and the place of the national council was transferred from Tuckabatchee to the Hickory Ground.
From the lack of records, it cannot be stated in what year Big Warrior became Speaker of the Upper Creeks. It may have been in 1812, on the death of Efa Hadjo. On his attaining this office it seems that Tuckabatchee again became the national capital.
In 1810, or thereabouts, a Scotchman from Pensacola came to Tuckabatchee and spent some time with Big Warrior, with whom he had many talks through a negro interpreter belonging to the Tuckabatchee chief. The topics of these conversations were never revealed, except that during his visit the Scotchman asked William Weatherford, who was then in Tuckabatchee, how many warriors the Creek nation could raise.
Soon after the departure of the Scotchman, Tuskenea, Big Warrior’s son, with a party went north and visited the Shawnees and some other tribes. He returned in the summer of 1811. In the fall of this year, Tecumseh at the head of a band of Shawnees came to Tuckabatchee. It is possible that the visit of the Scotchman to Tuckabatchee, and the visit of Tuskenea to the north, may have had some connection with the coming of Tecumseh.
Soon after the Shawnees arrived at Tuckabatchee, the notable council took place, about which much has been written, some fact and some fiction. During his stay in the Creek nation, Tecumseh made several efforts to detach Big Warrior from his friendly attitude towards the United States.
Some of Big Warrior’s contemporaries have represented him at the time of the outbreak of the Creek War, and even during its continuance, as being at heart unfriendly to the American government, and only adhered to it from a fear of the consequences, should he take the opposite side. This view was adopted by Pickett, the historian, but it does not seem to be borne out by a close study of Big Warrior’s actions during those troubled times. The peace party among the Upper Creeks were greatly in the minority.
There were twenty-nine Upper Creek towns and villages that belonged to the war party and only five to the peace party. Notwithstanding this preponderating majority, Big Warrior, who, at this time was certainly the Speaker of the Upper Creeks, did all in his power to induce the hostile chiefs to come over to the side of the Federal Government.
He sent a special messenger to the Alabamas, who were the most implacably hostile of all the Upper Creeks. But all of Big Warrior’s efforts towards the pacification of the hostile element were of no avail from their point of view since he had been mainly instrumental in the execution of Little Warrior and his party for the murders committed by them in February 1813, near the mouth of Ohio.
For using in this matter his executive authority, which was directed agreeably to the requirements of the treaty of Coleraine, Big Warrior, along with six other chiefs, was formally condemned to death by a council of the war party. By midsummer of 1813, this party had become so dangerous, that Big Warrior built for himself and followers a fort at Tuckabatchee, which he filled with supplies. Here he was besieged a number of days by the Red Sticks until two hundred warriors from Coweta came to his relief, and carried Big Warrior and all his people safe to Coweta, which became the great place of refuge for the friendly Creeks.
Big Warrior from the very beginning of the Creek troubles until his arrival at Coweta certainly conducted himself as a brave and honorable chief. Without fear or favor, he cooperated in the execution of Little Warrior’s party and did his whole duty in attempting to pacify the large hostile element of his people.
Lastly, we see him with his few faithful followers in their fort at Tuckabatchee, besieged by their enraged countrymen, bravely holding the fort for weeks, with the full knowledge that should the fort fall no mercy would be extended to its inmates. A consideration of all these facts show that historians have been unjust to the memory of Big Warrior. While he continued loyal to the Americans during the war, so far as the records show, he does not figure in any of the battles. Perhaps he was serving his people better by remaining with them at Coweta. Pickett represents him as being present at Weatherford’s surrender.
Four months later, as Speaker of the Upper Creeks, he was one of the signers at Fort Jackson. Before signing the treaty Big Warrior made an address to General Jackson, in which, in the name of the Creek Nation, he tendered donations of land to him, to Colonel Hawkins, the Creek agent, and to George Mayfield and Alexander Cornells, Creek interpreters. Big Warrior was also a signer of the treaties of the Creek Agency, January 22, 1818, and of the treaty of Indian Spring. January 8, 1821.
Big Warrior died in 1824 in Washington D. C. while in attendance there with a delegation of his people. General Woodward describes Big Warrior as the largest man that he had ever seen among the Creeks and as spotted as a leopard. The name of only two of his children, both sons, Tuskenea and Yargee, have been preserved.
As an incident in the career of Big Warrior, may be cited,—his conversation in 1822, with the Missionary, Rev. Lee Compere, in which, in giving the traditional history of the Creeks, he stated that in remote times they “had even whipped the Indians then living in the territory of South Carolina and wrested much of their country from them.”
Modern philological research has confirmed this tradition of Big Warrior as being true history; for the local names of the parts of South Carolina, traversed by the Del Pardo expedition of 1567. and recorded by its historians are significant in the Muscogee tongue, showing a Muscogee occupancy of these parts. Hence, apart from being a wise Creek counsellor. Big Warrior should be accorded some reputation as a man thoroughly and patriotically conversant with the traditional history of his people.
- Pickett’s History of Alabama (Owen’s Edition, 1900), pp. 80, 514, 518, 520, 593, 599, 618, 621; Woodward’s Reminiscences of the Greek or Muscogee Indian (1859), pp. 36, 37, 44, 94, 95, 96, 110, 116;
- American Indian Affairs, vol. I, pp. 837-845, 848, 849, 851;
- American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. 1, pp. 755, 762;
- American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i, p. 699;
- Brewer’s Alabama ( ), p. 17, footnote.
- Died, on the 8th inst. at Washington City, Big Warrior, principal chief of the Creek nation. He was a man of great talents as a savage warrior—a person of immense bodily powers, and it has been said of him that he was endowed with a mind as colossal as his body. Although he possessed not the advantages of education, or even of understanding but little of the English language, yet he has done much towards improving the condition of his people, and had great influence over them. During the late Indian wars, he had been uniformly friendly to the whites and fought for them in many battles.— (From Niles’ Register, March 19, 1825.)
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