Prayers and songs of remembrance carried across the grassy field where more than 800 Muscogee warriors, women and children perished in 1814 while defending their homeland from United States forces.

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 single bloodiest day of conflict for Native Americans with U.S. troops and paved the way for white settler expansion in the Southeast and the tribe’s eventual forced 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 honor their sacrifice,” David Hill, principal chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation, said at the Saturday ceremony.


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

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

Leaders of the Muscogee Nation on Saturday placed a wreath on the battle site. The wreath was made of red flowers, in honor of the warriors who were 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 U.S., the Muscogee were eventually forcibly removed from the Southeast to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. Some of their descendants made the journey back to the land their ancestors called home to attend the remembrance ceremony.

“Hearing the wind and the trees and imagining those that came before us, they heard those same things. It wakes something up in your DNA,” said Dode Barnett, a member of the Muscogee Nation Tribal Council.

RaeLynn Butler, the Muscogee Nation’s secretary of culture and humanities, has visited the site multiple times but said it is emotional each time.

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

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

At sunset, luminaries were placed on the field to remember the Muscogee people who lost their lives there. A song was sung in the Mvskoke language. The names of the tribal towns were read out over the site along with shouts of “Mvto,” meaning thank you.

Hill became emotional watching his young grandson frolic and play in the nearby woods. He could envision the children doing the same 210 years ago and then the fighting that followed as the warriors made their final stand, he said.

But Hill and others said the story is ultimately one of strength and survival.

“Our tribal towns remain. Our culture remains. Our people remain. Our blood remains. And our ideas remain,” Jonodev Chaudhuri, the Muscogee Nation ambassador to the United States, said.

The “sacrifices and the loss of life of those 857 have provided light and life for us,” Chaudhuri said.

“The battles we fight today, to protect our culture, and protect our way of life, protect our sovereignty is a direct through line to the lessons that were given to us by these brave, brave folks who lost their lives here protecting what is most dear to us,” Chaudhuri said.