Native American History
Alexander McGillivray (1750-1793) was a powerful Creek chief. In 1790, he negotiated the Treaty of New York, winning federal recognition of vast Creek territories in the southeastern United States. McGillivray was only one-quarter Indian—his father was Scottish, his mother was half-French. But in the years following the Revolution, he rose to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful Creek chiefs. He was educated at British schools in Charleston and spoke five languages. As a young man he used his skills and connections to build a thriving commercial empire among the southern tribes. By the time he was thirty, he lived in a large home, owned more than fifty slaves, and was recognized as the Creek power broker by the British, Spanish, and Americans.
Following the American Revolution, McGillivray successfully played American and Spanish interests against one another to win recognition of Creek territorial autonomy in the Southeast. At the Treaty of New York, he made minor concessions on an eastern border to win United States recognition of vast territories to the west. The Creek nation he secured included present day Alabama and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida. When the federal government failed to prevent white settlers from encroaching on Creek lands, as promised in the treaty, McGillivray signed the Treaty of New Orleans with the Spanish, committing the two nations to a collective resistance to American expansion in the Southeast.