Richard Thornton | Aug 9, 2017 | 5
The Good Lord Willing and If the Creeks Don’t Rise!
Ever wondered where this common American phrase came from?
US Agent to the Southeastern Indians, Benjamin Hawkins, received a letter from President Thomas Jefferson, requesting that he immediately come to Washington, DC to discuss the situation with the Indians in the Southern States. Violence had broken out in the region near the Oconee River in Georgia between white squatters (aka Crackers) and the Creeks, who lived in that region. The Federal Government was pressuring the Creek Confederacy to cede all its land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers in order to end the problem of squatters stealing Creek land there. Don’t you love the logic of government officials when dealing with indigenous peoples?
Hawkins wrote back:
God willing and the Creek don’t rise.
Recently, several cynics from outside the Southeast have decried this explanation as being an “Urban Legend” . . . well, in this case, “Rural Legend.” They quote usage of a similar phrase by late 19th century newspapers in the Northeast that don’t capitalize the word Creeks. They state that Benjamin Hawkins never wrote the sentence. That makes about as much sense as saying that because Kroger Supermarkets in Buffalo, New York don’t sell grits, there is no such thing as grits.
Well actually he did. All of Benjamin Hawkins’ correspondence is preserved by the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. Founded in 1838, it is the nation’s oldest historical society. The organization’s first task, after being formed, was to preserve all the surviving correspondence related to the Creek, Uchee and Cherokee Indians, who had just been deported to the Indian Territory.
Now you know!
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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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