This may upset some of my friends who are participating in the Westville reenactment this weekend, because they might not share my opinion. I was watching a video on Youtube. It was a street performance in Columbus, Georgia, that served as advertisement for an upcoming reenactment in Westville, Georgia. The incident reenacted was their interpretation of the town of Roanoke, Georgia, that was destroyed by Creek Indian warriors in May of 1836. To advertise for this event, some reenactors portraying warriors were running around capturing and scalping other reenactors dressed as men, women, and children. It seems that this event sensationalizes that women are captured, killed, or scalped by Indians.
I also think that the outfits worn by the Creek warriors are incorrect, and belong about 80 years earlier. Apparently the accepted fashion at a lot of reenactments these days is to look like a French & Indian War warrior, and not the Creek people of 1836 who had adopted a lot of the European fabrics and clothing.
So I looked up an eyewitness account of the burning or Roanoke, published in Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours from 1882. It has a very interesting account of the battle. First, it says that only 12 people were killed among the settlers. None of them women. Apparently most people had already left the town a few days before, and many of the militia had gone home. An exception was one woman with a baby, and they escaped.
So there was some killing at Roanoke, but there was no capturing or scalping of women during the 1836 raid as portrayed in the street performance. Portraying this is total falsehood and reinforces stereotypes of something that didn’t happen.
The Creek Indians are portrayed as bloodthirsty savages in this Hollywood-type pageant. Stereotypes, misconceptions, and racial prejudices are reinforced.
For anyone studying this time period, I recommend the book, The Second Creek War by John Ellisor. It is well worth the 500-page read. It was one book that I could not put down.
The attack on Roanoke and the Second Creek War in 1836 was the last, desperate act of people (the Lower Creeks) who had been dispossessed of everything. The Cusseta Treaty of 1832 caused the biggest land fraud in the history of the country, as Creek land was sold several times over by crooked land speculators. To feed the industry of speculators, were Creeks that were hired to impersonate the land owners for the land sales. Also according to the 1832 treaty, Creek land was to be divided among the people by the head of the household. The problem was that Creek land ownership is matriarchal, and Americans did not recognize this difference, and only awarded land allotments to men. Ellisor goes more into detail, and I encourage anyone to read the book.
The Creeks lost their farms and land several times over to land speculators. The land sold and the money went to the people who had conducted the fraudulent sale. People moved onto their land and forced them off. The Creeks faced removal with no money or food to support the journey. Then there were raids by slave hunter and raiders who would take property and livestock from the homes of the Creeks. Creek people had enough, and the war was the last desperate act of people who had lost everything. Instead of reenacting the war, we need to look at the events that led up to it.
If Westville wants to advertise a more accurate reenactment, they need to have settlers chasing around the Creek women and robbing and raping them in a street pageant in downtown Columbus. That would be a more accurate portray of what happened.