Many Creeks argued that white settlement along the watersheds was a direct threat, because Indians maintained farms and villages along the river bottoms throughout the Mississippi Territory and jealously guarded their lands from encroachment. While a growing number of Creeks stressed that a bigger commitment to farming was the only way to consistently feed their people and maintain civil relations with neighboring whites, many Creek warriors maintained that farming was women’s work, and peaceful relations with frontier whites and other Indian tribes was a poor price to pay for losing their manly heritage. They stubbornly continued to hunt for deer and bear in Alabama forests as late as 1810. These hunting practices brought them into direct confrontation with white settlers and sometimes with each other.
For those U.S. officials charged with keeping peace in the territory, strife among the natives could pose a sticky dilemma. Early in the summer two Indian men named Illetchetubba and Jim killed another tribesman known as Chealebeh for an unknown insult. Gov. David Holmes recognized his tenuous situation, as territorial chief magistrate of a region he did not fully control. Thus he wrote his friend Judge Harry Toulmin on June 5, 1810, that “to punish them under our laws might be attended with unpleasant consequences: I have therefore enclosed to you a Pardon (dated the same day). It will be proper however before they are released, that they should be made sensible that they have been guilty of an infraction of our laws and that in the future such conduct will not be tolerated.” Holmes knew that if he ordered the two men hung, as they deserved under American laws, he risked war with the Creeks for infringing on their sovereignty. Yet he wanted to send a warning to the Creeks: lawlessness and violence on the frontier would no longer be tolerated.