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Wolves stalk their prey deliberately, closing in from all sides and staking claim to the land and all its creatures. In the eyes of the Creek Nation, Confederate troops were wolves, stalking the People. In the winter of 1861-62, nine thousand Native Americans in Indian Territory took a chance. Drawing on little else but wits, raw courage, and unshakable faith in the old gods and their aging leader, Opothleyahola, they made a desperate escape from Confederate troops that were closing in. Recounted here from a unique Creek/Muskogee perspective, their dramatic journey seeking Federal protection in Kansas was filled with hazards; their destination, with disillusion and despair. On the trek the fleeing tribes suffered from blizzards, disease, and starvation. The numbers of those who survived natural depredations were further whittled away by constant harassment and desperate pitched battles with rival bands of the Creek Nation led by the Confederate-allied McIntosh family, adjoining Cherokees under Colonel Stand Watie, and Texan Confederate sympathizers. When the band finally straggled into Kansas, two thousand had died or were missing. Even then, their trials were not over: Federal "protection" proved to be hollow and harsh. Along with many others, Old Opothleyahola himself died in one of the bleak Federal camps. Told from the Native American view of the events, never before written, this narrative account relies heavily on Creek oral tradition. Personal interviews with members of the Muskogee Nation have been supplemented with academic research in state, federal, and university archives and in the records of the Museum of the Muskogee Nation in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Not only students ofNative American history but also those interested in the Civil War will find this volume invaluable reading.
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