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How the Creek Migration Legend led to formation of the Methodist Church – Part Two

Mikko Tamachichi returned to Georgia and initiated a remarkably positive chapter in the history of relations between Native Americans and Europeans. His descriptions of the honesty of James Oglethorpe and the hospitality of the people in England spurred the Creek leadership to rethink their hostility and distrust toward all Englishmen. This change in attitude resulted in a dramatic “coming together” between the leadership of the Creek Confederacy and the people of Savannah just before the Creek Green Corn festival in 1735.

Very few people realize that had not the fascinating minutes of that “coming together” meeting been sent to London and then publicized, the history of the United States, perhaps the world, would have probably been very different. The names John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield would have been left out of the history books. Also, it was the Methodist Church that led the fight against slavery in the British Empire and demanded better lives for England’s working poor.

The Creek Migration Legends Series

Act IV: Upon returning to Georgia, Tamachichi makes a triumphant journey to his homeland on the Ocmulgee River. Since being banished by Emperor Brim in 1717, this is the first time that he has been able to visit there. When Emperor Brim died in 1733, Chikili, the former War King of Palachicola was elected High King . . . thus opening the door for Tamachichi to reconcile with his people.

Tamachichi tells the people that the leaders in Savannah are different than those in South Carolina. “Squire” Oglethorpe genuinely likes and respects the Creeks and Uchees. A year later High King Chikili would tell an audience in Savannah that he never grew tired of hearing the stories by Tamachichi of his adventures in England. This statement was included in the original Migration Legend.

In the spring of 1735, the leaders of the Upper and Lower Creeks send word to James Oglethorpe that they would like to visit Savannah and meet with its leaders.  The leaders of Savannah had already signed treaties and purchased land from several small Native provinces near the coast, but they had not met the leaders of the Creek Confederacy, whose army could have easily swatted the village of Savannah into the river.

The delegation, led by Chikili himself, arrives two weeks before the Summer Solstice, which is the Creek New Year or Green Corn Festival.  Chikili brings with him a buffalo calf velum, on which is painted in the Apalache writing system, the Migration Legend of the Kaushete (Cusseta) People, who were the last branch of the Creek Confederacy to arrive in the Southeast. The writing system consists of abstract red and black characters, as were used in Post Classic Itza Maya script. The characters on the velum were probably in a dialect of the Itsate language, that was spoken by divisions of the Creek Confederacy, such as the Kaushete and Apalache, not Muskogee.

The members of the Creek National Council first met privately with James Edward Oglethorpe, Supervising Trustee in Savannah. While Chikili reads the vellum in his language, Kvsapvnakesa (Mary Musgrove) translates his words into English. Thomas Christie, Colonial Secretary, writes down her words into the minutes of the meeting.

On June 7, 1735 Chikili gives a speech to the civilian leaders of the Georgia Colony, in which he again reads the vellum while Mary Musgrove translates. He closes his speech with assurances of friendship between the Creek People and the Province of Georgia. It is made very clear in Chikili’s last remark that the Creeks are a monotheistic and spiritual people.  He closes with these words:

I am well aware that there is One, who has made us all. Some people have more knowledge, while others are great and strong, but in the end of our lives, all must become dirt again.”

James Oglethorpe quickly realizes that he had witnessed something remarkable. An indigenous people of North America had a writing system before the arrival of Europeans and also, an ancient history. He wrote a letter to King George II, stating that the Creeks were very different than indigenous peoples encountered elsewhere in North America. They were literate. He stated that the Indians in the Province of Georgia were obviously the descendants of a great civilization and equally intelligent and sensitive to things as Englishmen. They should be treated by the British Crown as equals in all matters.

Oglethorpe then instructs Thomas Christie to write a cover letter to his minutes of the meeting and dispatch the buffalo vellum along with the minutes on the next available ship leaving for London. Christie writes the cover letter on July 6, 1735, so presumably a ship left soon after.

The opening paragraph of Thomas Christie’s cover letter to Archbishop Wake responds to Wake’s earlier inquiry about the availability of funds to support missionary work among the indigenous peoples of Georgia. It was in the documents lost for 280 years that were discovered on April 28, 2015. He states:

“I was honored to receive your letter, dated October 15, 1734. I shall be proud to serve your Lordship. If I can in any way contribute toward the promoting the Christian religion, I will be one of the happiest men in the world. The endowment, assigned to the Church of England, is improving daily and increasing in value. It is hoped that the legacy from my will with other contributions will be sufficient to hire a missionary for the Province of Georgia. I take this opportunity of enclosing to your Lordship a curious Indian speech, which I think that your Lordship will find interesting and beg leave for to present myself, as always.”

Thomas Christie
July 6, 1735

1734-Savannah

This is Savannah in 1734. It would have changed very little in 1735, when the Creek Indian delegation arrived to sign a treaty of friendship with James Oglethorpe.

Act V: The buffalo velum and English translation of the velum creat quite a stir, when they arrive in London in late August. Great Britain now had a colony with indigenous inhabitants, culturally on par with those of the Spanish colonies. Furthermore, while in London, Tamachichi had confirmed the stories told on old French maps that there was an abundance of gold, copper and iron ores in the Appalachian Mountains. Excerpts of Chikili’s speech and the Creek Migration Legend were published in London newspapers, most notably, the American Gazetteer.

Upon reading the cover letter from Thomas Christie, Archbishop Wake immediately authorizes the hiring of one or more Anglican clergymen to work as missionaries to the Indians in Georgia under the auspices of the Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Founded in 1701, this organization was later labeled by Thomas Jefferson as “the Jesuits of Protestantism.” However, up to that time it had primarily worked with African slaves in the Caribbean Basin or rural Anglican congregations in North America. It was this organization that introduced the standardized white clapboard church with a single steeple that now has become synonymous with Protestant churches throughout North America.

After reading the letters from Oglethorpe and Christie, Archbishop Wake concludes that it was appropriate for the missionaries in Georgia to establish separate church congregations among the Indians. Although the concept of a Protestant mission station, infirmary and school inside Indian territory was commonplace within a century, it was a radical concept at the time.

There was a group of young firebrands in the Anglican clergy, recently graduated from Oxford, who seemed ideal candidates for being shipped to the New World.  This group of “hotheads,” known as The Holy Club, was led by George Whitefield, while he was at Oxford. Their idealism didn’t quite mesh with the staid, aristocratic churches in most parts of England. Very few working class Englishmen were active members in Anglican parishes.  Anglican churches lacked the egalitarianism of Presbyterian churches in Scotland and Ulster.

The Wesley Brothers, John and Charles, are recommended to the archbishop as ideal candidates for the mission to Georgia. Their father was an Anglican priest. They had been members of the Holy Club, and hailed from the same part of England as James Oglethorpe.

John and Charles Wesley agree to be assigned to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in mid-September 1735. They depart England for the New World on October 6, 1735.

In Part Three, you will read how, beginning with the Wesley brothers’ voyage to America, nothing would go as planned. Wesley had stated that “he planned to save his soul by converting the savages.” He would ultimately learn that the indigenous peoples in Georgia were neither savages nor pagans, but worshiped the same God as him. Ironically, his closest friends and religious allies would become the Czechoslovakian members of a commune on the outskirts of Savannah. Today they would be called Marxists. His worst enemies would become the parishioners, who he was supposed to be serving.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

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