Memorial marks 210th anniversary of crucial battle between Native Americans and United States

ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. — Prayers and songs of remembrance rang out across the lawn where 800 Muscogee warriors, women and children died defending their homeland from American forces in 1814.

Members of the Muscogee Creek Nation returned to Alabama this weekend for a memorial service on the 210th anniversary of Horseshoe Bend. The battle was the bloodiest day of the conflict between Native Americans and American forces and paved the way for the expansion of white settlers in the Southeast and the tribe’s eventual forcible removal from the region.

“We don’t come here to celebrate. We come here to commemorate, to remember the lives and stories of those who fought and to honor their sacrifices,” David Hill, chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation, said during Saturday’s ceremony.

A thousand warriors, along with women and children from six tribal towns, had taken refuge at the site, named after the sharp bend of the Tallapoosa River. They were attacked on March 27, 1814 by a force of 3,000 men led by future US President Andrew Jackson.

“They would fight to the end. The warriors were going to do what they could do to protect the women and children, to protect themselves, to protect our freedom, what we had here,” Hill said.

Leaders of the Muscogee Nation placed a wreath at the battlefield on Saturday. The wreath was red, in honor of the warriors known as Red Sticks. It was decorated with six eagle feathers in recognition of the six tribal towns that had taken refuge there.

Despite signing a treaty with the United States, the Muscogee were eventually forcibly removed from the southeast to Oklahoma via the Trail of Tears. Some of their descendants made the journey back to the land their ancestors called home to attend the memorial ceremony.

“When they heard the wind and the trees and imagined those coming before us, they heard the same things. It awakens something in your DNA,” said Dode Barnett, a member of the Muscogee Nation Tribal Council. Barnett said their story is one of survival.

RaeLynn Butler, the Muscogee Nation’s minister of culture and humanities, has visited the site several times but said it was emotional each time.

“When you hear the language and hear the songs, it’s a feeling that’s just overwhelming. Painful. Even though it is difficult to be here, it is important that we share this history,” Butler said.

The Muscogee Nation has announced plans to try to place a permanent monument at the site.