History of the Name of Broken Arrow

“There are many legends too numerous to mention, but the truth, while perhaps not as romantic as some of the legends, is certainly just as interesting.

When the white man came to America, the Muskogee (Creek) Indians were located in present-day Alabama and Georgia. They were not a tribe as the word is commonly understood. The Muskogee nation was a confederation of over fifty different tribes, towns, and ethnic groups. Some of the groups has been conquered and absorbed into the Creek civilization, while the others had allied themselves voluntarily for self-defense against other stronger tribes. Most has a similar language and culture, but they were semi-dependent and did not have a strong central government. A geographical, political, and cultural division—Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks---enhanced this diversity.

Unlike the Plains Indians, the Creeks founded permanent towns that were usually along waterways. The towns lacked a strong central government, and there were travel and communication difficulties, so it was natural for these groups to feel a closer affinity to their local town than to the tribe as a whole. They had much stronger local identity than a national one. Indians who lived in Coweta, Georgia were known as Coweta Creeks, and Indians who lived in Broken Arrow, Alabama, were known as Broken Arrow Creeks. When a town became too large for the entire population to gather around the sacred fire in the town square, part of the population would move on and form a new town. These towns were bound together by family, economic, social and religious ties.

The Broken Arrow tribe was a branch of the Muskogees of the Creek Nation, and it received its name before it was removed to Indian Territory. One year some of the Indians of the Muskogee town had made a long journey to a river bottom, where a particular tree suitable for making arrows grew. Because the branches of the trees were broken off rather than cut, the Indians were referred to as the Broken Arrow people. When they returned to the Muskogee camp, the town had grown too large to gather around one campfire, so it seemed natural that those who had been gone so long should be the ones to establish a new Broken Arrow town. When they were removed to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, The Broken Arrow Indians settles in a stretch of county from Catoosa to the White Church. When the “white man’s town” was established, it took the name that had already been used by the Indians.

When the Broken Arrow Creeks of Alabama established their new settlement in Oklahoma, they named it Broken Arrow as well. This settlement appears on an 1888 map with references that it was the westernmost Creek settlement that would be found in the journal of white surveyors.

When Broken Arrow was officially founded in 1902, many of its principal residents were Broken Arrow Creeks. Memories of a prosperous, free and independent life in their old homeland were still fresh in their social conscience. Because of this close connection, the founders of Broken Arrow named the city after the original Creek town in Alabama. W.S. Fears is credited with the officially naming of the city.

To its founders, Broken Arrow meant more than just peace---it meant home.”

The above is from the book Broken Arrow: The First Hundred Years by Steven L. Stapleton.