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In Their Own Words

February 16, 1797

Letter on Creek Women

While Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins was more accepting of Indian culture and rights than most whites, he had difficulties with the accepted role of women in Creek society – as evidenced by his response to an elderly Indian woman’s offer of her widowed daughter to him:

“…This woman and most of these Creek women, being in the habit of assuming and exercising absolute rule, such as it was, over their children, and not attending to the advice of their white husbands, and taking part with them when they found it necessary to oppose any unjust pretentions to their families, I determined to address a note to the old woman, and to read it to her and daughter, in the Creek tongue. I wrote her this note: ‘You have offered me your daughter. I take it kind of you. Your daughter looks well, is of a good family, and has some fine children, which I shant be pleased with. The ways of the white people differ much from those of the red people. We make companions of our women, the Indians make slaves of theirs. The white men govern their families and provide cloathing and food for them; the red men take little care of theirs, and the mothers have sole direction of the children. You know I am the principal agent of the four nations. I do not yet know whether I shall take one of my red women for a bedfellow or not, but if I do, if it is for a single night, and she has a child, I shall expect it will be mine, that I may cloathe it and bring it up as I please. If I take a woman who has sons or daughters, I shall look upon them as my own children. The wife must consent that I shall cloathe them, feed them and bring them up as I please, and no one of her family shall oppose my doing so. The red women should always be proud of their white husbands, should always take part with them and obey them, should make the children obey them, and they will be obedient to their parents, and make a happy family. The woman I take must beside all this be kind, cleanly and good natured, and at all times pleasing and agreeable when in company with me or with those who visit at my house. She must promise me this; her mother must promise it to me, and all her family.’ When I read this note, the old woman was much pleased with the first part of it, assented to it and acquiesced, but when I read the latter part, she remained silent, and could not be prevailed on to acquiesce in the condition proposed. She would not consent that the women and children should be under the direction of the father, and the negotiation ended there.”

Source: Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, Vol. IX, Letters of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1806 (Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1916), pp. 83-85.