“The People’s Warrior”
Gary W. Babb
Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
My name is Gary W. Babb, and I usually write Fantasy/SciFi. Other than a short
political parity, this will be the first non-fiction book I have written, but I felt
compelled to get involved, as you will see below. I am NOT a member of the
Muscogee (Creek) Nation and have not a trace of Indian blood ... unfortunately.
No, I am a Es’te-hv’tke (white man); however, my wife (Junie Hawkins) is one of
the actual 1,731 full-blood Creeks remaining. She was born in the Muscogee
(Creek) Nation at Okema, Oklahoma and is of the Alligator Clan and Fishpond
Through my wife and her family my entire adult life has been spent immersed in
the Creek culture, and I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have been
called Es’te-hv’tke (White Man) ... and even worse. Yes, I have learned many
Muscogee words. I have played stickball; danced at stomp-dances; eaten
cutuhaku, safke and fry bread; attended traditional Creek churches and funerals;
and I consider myself as much Creek as most Creek citizens.
My wife and I were raised in Oklahoma, but work required us to move to
southern Florida, then to south Texas and finally San Diego, California. There we
affiliated with the California Creek contingent. While there we first met Principle
Chief A. D. Ellis, Judge Moore and many National Council members. The
California Creek citizens greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet their
distant Muscogee (Creek) Nation representatives.
When we moved back to Muskogee, Oklahoma we made it a point to visit Chief
Ellis at his office in Okmulgee. During that visit the subject came up about my
books and career as a writer, and on a subsequent visit, to my surprise, I
discovered that Chief had recently received a death threat. When I asked why,
Chief calmly said, “It comes with the job. When you work for the people’s
interest and fight corruption, you make enemies.”
After a lengthy and candid discussion I discovered that the Chief’s battles were
continuous and often vicious, and sadly, few tribal members even know there
was a war being waged on their behalf. A.D. Ellis could easily sit back in peace
and enjoy the benefits and respect of being Principle Chief, but he honors the
office of Principle Chief and its responsibilities and elected to fight the battles
for the people. He is truly a silent warrior for the people, the Peoples Warrior.
We discussed the need for a book and the possibility of collaborating in writing
one, but he was not concerned about a biography. His interests seemed more
geared toward letting the Creek citizens know about the corruptions and battles
engaged behind the scene.
Chief said, “It’s not about me. I am term limited and can’t run again, but this is
good in a way, because I don’t have to worry about making enemies and being
re-elected. I will do what I can for the people before I leave office, but I am
worried for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation if the next Chief is a corrupt politician
just interested in himself and won’t look after the people. As it stands, this is
highly likely. I want the Creek citizens to know about the battles, corruption, and
who the troublemakers are so they can choose the future Creek leaders wisely.
Maybe we can accomplish this with this book.”
I am pleased to do my part, but much research has been required. What I
discovered has been sobering, to say the least. I wanted to tell the story in the
Chief’s own words, and luckily, he has documented much in the form of letters to
the citizens and news articles posted in the Muscogee Nation News. There was
also a wealth of information available through Executive Orders; Forensic
Audits; court records, briefs, petitions, transcriptions and rulings.
As the general format, I chose the postings from the Muscogee Nation News as
the source of the chronological time frame of events, followed in later chapters
with supporting information. Sometimes I provide a summary and analysis, but
mostly I follow-up with interview questions to the Chief to better learn the
motivation behind the action in his own words.
Principal Chief A. D. Ellis?
The following is the official biography listed in the Muscogee Nation website:
A.D. Ellis was elected as the Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to a
second four-year term on November 3, 2007.
He served as Second Chief from January 2000 to December 31, 2004. Prior to
that, he served four consecutive two-year terms as a National Council
Representative from the Okmulgee District.
August 2007, he was appointed to serve a three-year term on the Oklahoma
Indian Affairs Commission by Governor Brad Henry. Another special recognition
he received was a personal invitation from President George W. Bush, to visit
the White House, for a second time.
Chief Ellis was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma to Doolie Ellis and Nellie Bruner Ellis
of Concharty, Twin Hills Community. He graduated from Twin Hills in 1953, then
attended Tulsa Business College, later enlisted in the United States Air Force
and then the Oklahoma National Guard. He retired from the International
Teamsters Union in 1989 with thirty-five (35) years of service.
He married the former Gail Billings of Morris, Oklahoma. He and his family reside
at this lifelong home on his mother's original allotment on Bixby Road. He and
Gail have five (5) daughters and five (5) sons residing throughout the United
The Principal Chief Ellis is of the Turtle Clan, his tribal town is Locvpoka, and his
church is Concharty Indian Methodist Church.
Brief History of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
The modern Muskogee (Creek) Nation was originally an alliance of over a
hundred various tribes living mostly in Georgia, Alabama and Northern Florida.
They banded together with the largest tribe, the “Ocheese Creek” Indians, and
became what was known as the “Creek Confederacy.”
The Creek Confederacy adopted a single government and all the sub-tribes
eventually became known as Muscogee (Creek) Indians. The only remaining tie
to the previous tribes of the confederation was the affiliation of the original
tribal town and clan, still in common use among Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
In the War of 1812, a portion of the Creek Confederacy fought on the side of the
British against the United States. This sparked a Creek Civil War with Creeks
fighting on both sides. The Creeks opposing the United States were defeated
by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Even though many
Creeks fought on the side of the United States, Andrew Jackson forced the
Creek Confederacy in the treaty to cede 23 million acres, half of Alabama and
part of southern Georgia.
In 1826, many of the tribal towns of the Creek Confederacy, seeing the
inevitable end for the Creek Nation and increasing pressure from settlers and
the U.S. government, voluntarily relocated to Indian Territory.
By 1832, the United States imposed mandatory individual land allotments to all
remaining Muscogee still in Alabama. This ill-devised attempt to assimilate the
Indians into the population resulted in a flood of fraudulent land sales that
deprived the Muscogee of their remaining lands. This sparked the Creeks War
of 1835-36 leading to the forced removal by the U.S. Army of the Muscogee to
Indian Territory in 1836-37. Of the 20,000 Creeks removed from Alabama on the
Trail of Tears, over 3,500 died making the trip.
The Muscogee reunited in Indian Territory in 1840 on their own land deeded to
them by treaty by the American government.
Between 1861-65, the American Civil War again drew the Muscogee people into
the conflict, with Muscogee fighting both for Union and Confederate. After the
war, the reconstruction treaty of 1866 forced the cession of another 3.2 million
acres, approximately half of the Muscogee lands in Indian Territory.
In 1867, the Muscogee people established a written constitution modeled
after the British, creating an Executive Branch consisting of a Principal Chief
and a Second Chief, a Judicial Branch and a Legislative Branch composed of a
House of Kings and a House of Warriors. These legislative houses were
modeled after the Senate and House of Representative, however, functioned as
a single body in a National Council.
A Creek National Capitol was established in 1867 at Okmulgee. The original
Council House was destroyed by fire in 1877 and rebuilt in 1878 by the hands the
citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The new building was constructed
from native stone in the center of Okmulgee and became a source of pride for
the Muscogee Nation.
The rebuilt Council House served as the Capitol of the Muscogee (Creek)
Nation from 1878 to 1907, when Oklahoma became a state. The following year,
1908, against the desires of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the federal
government dissolved the Muscogee (Creek) government and seized
ownership of all buildings and furnishings, which included the Council House.
In 1919, the U.S Department of the Interior sold the Council House and grounds
to the City of Okmulgee, which remains today at the center of the city of
Okmulgee as a historical site and museum.
At the writing of this article, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has recently
purchased this historical Council House, and after a hundred years, restored
this piece of history to the Muscogee citizens.
The systematic dismantling of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation began in 1887,
prior to statehood. Federal requirements for statehood did not allow sovereign
nations to exist within the U.S boundaries, thus triggering the passage of the
Dawes Act and the Dawes Commission in 1887 and finally the Curtis Act in 1898,
forcing compliance. These laws were designed to dismantle the sovereign
Indian Nations, including the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, by dissolving the
National government and courts and seizing their communal lands; which were
then divided into single 160 acre lots and allotted to individual tribal members.
If the land allotment of the Dawes Commission intended to distribute the
communal lands of the Muscogee to its individual members, it failed terribly.
After the land distribution allotments, the commission retained vast amount of
what they called “surplus” land that was opened to white settlers. During the 47
years of the Act’s life, Creek citizens lost about two-thirds of the 1887 treaty land
base. Additionally, Many more of the individual Muscogee land owners were
swindled out of their private land. These were dark days for the Muscogee
The United States Congress did not completely bring about the end of the
Muscogee Nation as they had envisioned. They did succeed in the process of
land allotments and confiscation of the Nation’s assets and brought about the
end of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s sovereignty. It is worth noting that the
Creek statesman Chitto Harjo fought against the allotments and has been
quoted in history and often in movies. He referred to the lies of the white-man's
treaties stating “as long as the waters run it shall last; as long as the grass
grows it shall last.”
Fortunately for the Muscogee people, the dismantling of the Muscogee
government was never fully executed. The Dawes Commission petitioned
Congress to extend the life of the Nations until they could complete their work.
In response, the U.S Congress passed the Five Civilized Tribes Act of 1906,
effectively saving the Muscogee Nation from total extinction by allowing the
Nation’s government to continue on a limited basis for as long as the federal
government deemed necessary. The demoralized and severely weakened
Muscogee Nation government continued its federally controlled and tentative
existence through a series of Principal Chiefs and officers appointed by the
The downward spiral into oblivion for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation began to
change with the passage of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936. Under this
Act Oklahoma Indian Nations that had been subjected to forced land allotment
were allowed to again own land as a Nation. The U.S. government began
purchasing land previously belonging to Indians and putting the land into trust
for the Nations. The Act also included a provision for the reorganization of the
Muscogee (Creek) Nation to re-establish an official sovereign tribal government
and self-determination and to establish their own bylaws. Unfortunately, the
strict legal interpretation of the Curtis Act prevented full application.
The reversal continued with the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the later The Civil
Rights Act of 1964, which changed the way congress viewed the Indian people.
No longer could they discriminate on the grounds of race, which forced
congress to treat the Muscogee Nation as equal under the law.
The Five Tribes Act of 1970 repealed a portion of the 1906 Five Tribes Act
having to do with appointment of the Principle Chief. The new Act allowed for
“popular selection” or free elections for the Principle Chief, and the Creeks
moved quickly to hold their elections. In 1971, after 64 years of federal control,
the Muscogee (Creek) Nation empowered its first freely elected Principle Chief,
Claude A. Cox, since that power had been stripped. The new and motivated
Principle Chief, revitalized National Council and Tribal Court began drafting a
The U.S. Congress, recognizing the plight of Indian education ... calling it “A
National Tragedy - A National Challenge”, passed The Indian Education Act of
1972. This legislation, administrated through BIA and IHS agencies, provided for
early childhood, adult education and cultural and language programs. The Self
Determination and Education Act of 1975 transferred the operation and
management of these programs over to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and
provided for funding through federal grant. Quickly following, The Indian Health
Care Improvement Act of 1976 extended control of the Nation over the health
care of its citizens.
In 1979 The Moscogee (Creek) Nation completed its reorganized and adopted
its new Constitution under the authority of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of
1934, but it wasn’t until 1988 that the Moscogee (Creek) Nation truly became a
The Moscogee Nation was never fully accepted as a sovereign Nation by the
State of Oklahoma and the federal government. Ironically, this was litigated and
won within the U.S federal courts in a landmark case Muscogee (Creek) Nation
v. Donald Hodel, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior. In 1988 the court
affirmed the Nation's sovereign rights to govern itself and maintain a national
court system within the bounds of the Creek "Indian Country”. Additionally, the
federal courts ruled that the State of Oklahoma has no jurisdiction over Creek
Indians within the same boundaries. On the heels of this monumental
Muscogee Nation victory, congress passed The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act
(IGRA) of 1988. This legislation opened the door for the modern Indian Gaming
casinos and provided a major source of revenue for the Nation.
The present day Tribal Mound building and Tribal Headquarters of the
Muscogee (Creek) Nations is located in Okmulgee and houses the Executive
Offices of the Chief, National Council Offices and Judicial Offices. A 100 years
after the dark days of the allotment era, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation people are
again actively engaged in the process of asserting the rights and
responsibilities of a fully sovereign nation.
A.D. Ellis is the forth freely elected Principle Chief to serve the Nation since the
restrictions were removed in 1970. Today, A.D. Ellis administers over a thriving
Muscogee (Creek) Nation and its economic growth including nine casinos, one
of which is a $190 million dollar Las Vegas style casino, eight health clinics, a
$183 million dollar budget, has over 2,400 employees, has tribal facilities and
programs in all eight districts of the Nation, and services a population of over
70,000 Creek citizens.
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