- Creeks and Southerners: Biculturalism on the Early American Frontier
Self-identification, feelings of imprisonment in a world of opportunities, rearing children that they may not only survive but also prosper: these issues represent [End Page 226] personal and social struggles that many humans face. Frank explores these issues in Creeks and Southerners and sheds new light on the experience and historical significance of living as bicultural and biracial in the eighteenth-and early-nineteenth-century South. He tells compelling stories of death, drama, and violence while never detracting from the scholarly importance of his argument. The book examines not only Creeks themselves but the role they played in a much larger world. Readers will no doubt enjoy the inclusion of and interludes that concern slaves, runaways, women, and others who migrated from a European world and became incorporated into the world of the Creeks. The author ignores neither race nor religion, gender nor age, to produce an engaging, balanced, and informative book on the Georgia-Alabama Indian nation.
Frank argues that biracial Indian children served as "cultural brokers" between two worlds, Indian and Euroamerican, and used family, political, and economic connections to survive and succeed in both. The author adds that bicultural families found numerous opportunities as long as their role as cultural brokers provided for the needs and wants of both societies. When political decisions, cultural practices, and economic endeavors opposed one or both worlds, those families suffered at the mercy of either or both communities. The author devotes equal amount of discussion to the pros and cons of taking advantage of opportunities as bicultural mediators. Frank's arguments span an introduction, seven chapters, and an epilogue, organized by theme rather than chronologically. If a potential reader finds the thematic organization cumbersome or annoying, he or she might be tempted to leave Creeks and Southerners alone. Don't! The thematic structure works by allowing each individual story to speak for itself in context of its theme, each theme relative to a different point in the author's introductory argument.
Creeks and Southerners presents numerous points and intriguing themes. It explores Creek incorporation of outsiders into their indigenous societies and cultures. Europeans intermarried into Creek societies, which rejected outsiders who did not submit to certain cultural standards. European men intermarried into Creek societies, and children of intermarriage would obtain status through matrilineal kinship systems. Fathers gained trust and support, economic and political, by performing cultural rites and submitting to kinship rules of particular communities. Creeks willingly accepted certain outsiders because the introduction of Europeans had disrupted their Indian communities culturally and demographically. Although a few Europeans and Americans gained entrance into Creek communities, most outsiders became captives of war and faced "death, adoption, ransom, or enslavement" (15). Such fates were not all detrimental. Adopted Euroamericans served to transmit information, transport goods, and mediate between two societies. Hence, traders and frontiersmen symbolized advantageous tools for negotiations outside Indian communities. [End Page 227]
A few outsiders found asylum among Indian communities. One community adopted a man named "Smith" who intermarried with a Creek woman. Considered a fugitive by the Alabama government, he engaged in illegal practices and hid in the wilderness with Creek allies. Thomas Hunter, a friend to the Alabama governor, noted that Smith not only found refuge and thieving opportunities within an Indian community but also received protection from about forty Creek warriors who essentially served as eighteenth-century bodyguards. Intermarriage served as Smith's door to opportunity, survival, and protection on the frontier. Creek communities that adopted Europeans or Americans like Smith considered such outsiders as kin. Examples like Smith are important to understanding Frank's views about bicultural identity from a Creek community's point of view. Smith was not Creek by blood but became Creek because he respected Indian culture. His identity was based not on blood lineage but on cultural compromise, such as submitting to his wife's matrilineal kinship systems while keeping particular ties to American social networks. It was also based on how he identified...