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What are Alabama Indians?

By Laura Evans
Updated May 17, 2024
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The original Alabama Indians include the Alabama tribe, the Cherokee tribe, and the Choctaw tribes. Other Alabama Indians are the Koasati tribe, the Muskogee Creek tribe, the Choctaw tribe, and the Chicksaw tribe. During the 1800s, most of these Native Americans were relocated to Indian reservations in Texas and Oklahoma. Today, only one federally recognized Native American tribe has a reservation in Alabama, the Poarch Creek Indians, who are Muskogee. Among the other Native American tribes who continue to have a presence today in Alabama are the Cherokees and Choctaws.

Much less is known about Alabama Indians in prehistory than Native Americans who lived during and after the European discovery of the Americas. Prehistory in Alabama is divided into four stages, the Paleoindian stage, the Archaic stage, the Woodland stage and the Mississippian stage. Archeologists who have studied artifacts that have survived through the ages have developed theories about the peoples who inhabited Alabama during prehistory.

Paleoindians, who were descendants of those who migrated from Asia to North America, lived in Alabama about 11,000 years ago and were nomadic hunters and gatherers living in small groups. The Paleoindians evolved into Archaic Indians — A people who, while less nomadic than the Paleoindians, still moved seasonally to follow food sources. Woodland Indians, who emerged about 3,500 years ago, were increasingly dependent on cultivated food and built conical mounds. By the Mississippian stage, theses mounds were flat topped. In addition, Mississippians developed societies that were headed by chiefs.

The contact period, or the period during which Native Americans in Alabama became aware of Europeans, lasted for a little more than 200 years, from roughly 1500 to 1750. Until the early 1800s, the majority of the people living in Alabama were Alabama Indians. In 1814, United States General Andrew Jackson defeated the Red Sticks, a faction of the Creeks, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, forcing the Creeks to cede about 40,000 square miles (103,600 square kilometers). Settlers started moving into Alabama, hoping to grow cotton. By 1839, virtually all of the Alabama Indians had been forced to leave Alabama and resettle in Indian Territory.

Today's Poarch Creek Indian band are descendants of Muskogee Creeks who were allowed to stay in Alabama after other Alabama Indians were forced to leave. Their reservation was established in 1984. The Parch Creek Indian Reservation is located about 57 miles (about 92 kilometers) from Mobile, Alabama.

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