For the Central Asian paramilitary group, see Red Sticks (Central Asia).
Red Sticks were a traditionalist faction of Muscogee Creek people in the American Southeast in the early 19th century. They led a resistance movement against European-American encroachment and assimilation; tensions culminated in the outbreak of the Creek War in 1813. Initially a civil war among the Creek, the conflict drew in United States state forces while the nation was already engaged in the War of 1812 against the British.
The term “red sticks” was derived from their red-colored war clubs and the ceremonial red sticks used by Creek medicine men. This faction was made up mostly of Creek of the Upper Towns, who supported traditional leadership and culture, including the preservation of communal land for cultivation and hunting. It was a time of increasing pressure on Creek territory by European-American settlers. Creek of the Lower Towns, who were closer to the settlers and had more mixed-race families, had already been forced to make numerous land cessions to the Americans.
2 Fort Mims Massacre
Main article: Creek War
The Red Sticks came primarily from the Upper Towns of the Creek Confederacy and opposed assimilation to the United States culture. The Creek of the Lower Towns, who comprised the majority of population, had adopted more American ways; in addition, they had more intermarriage among their women with European-American traders and settlers, and economic relations with the United States settlers. At the same time, the mixed-race children, such as the chiefs William Weatherford and William McIntosh, were generally raised among the Creek, who commanded their first loyalty.
The Creek had a matrilineal culture, in which a person’s place and status were determined by their maternal clan.
Benjamin Hawkins, first appointed as United States Indian agent in the Southeast and then as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the territory south of the Ohio River, lived among the Creek and Choctaw and knew them well. He commented in letters to President Thomas Jefferson that Creek women were matriarchs and had control of children “when connected with a white man.” Hawkins further observed that even wealthy traders were nearly as “inattentive” to their mixed-race children as “the Indians”. What he did not understand about Creek culture was that the children had a closer relationship with their mother’s eldest