November is the Native American month across America. This is the time that Native American people gather to celebrate and remember their heritage. Only a few people today actually realize the true history and plight of these people. The general public visualizes the Native Americans as the picture painted by the movies and television of the western Plains Indian, living in tee-pees, migrating to food sources and struggling to survive in their environment. In reality, there were literally millions of Native Americans living in the South-eastern United States for centuries before the first settlers came to their land. The area we now know as Pace and Floridatown are prime examples of such areas. The Native Americans who lived here were primarily Creek Indian Tribes. They lived in log homes, called long houses, and developed or cultivated large tracts of land. They raised maize (corn) and other vegetables for their families. They were blessed with vast supplies of fish and game from the nearby waters and forests. They formed very intricate levels of social governmental systems of living, and had their own forms of art music and recreation.
As the European settlers began to come to the South-eastern part of North America, they “discovered” this paradise and took word back to their settlements. As early as 1564, the French and other groups sent Missionaries into this area with some degree of success. About this time in history, the Native Americans got their first taste of a people who wished to take everything from them… and who would, to this day, dig up their very graves for the value of what they contained. It was the British who first succeeded in colonizing the South-east and gained control over the South-eastern Indians. For many years that followed, the Europeans progressively took the land, possessions and their way of life from the Indian people. In doing so, many were killed, but the most disastrous killer of Native Americans was the diseases brought by the Europeans. The Indians had literally no immunity to the plague of measles, typhus, tuberculosis, chickenpox, and influenza. The biggest killer was smallpox. This disease alone killed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Native Americans in the South-east.
The final assault against the South-eastern Indians came in the 1830’s. Seldom in modem history has one people’s aggression against another been so unforgiving, so relentless, and marked with such terrible results. In one political and economic crunch, the Europeans took a large portion of the continent along with all its natural resources. In doing so, they all but destroyed forever a civilization and its culture. All but those later known as the Seminoles were killed or moved from their lands to what is now known as Oklahoma in the infamous “Trail of Tears” march. A few survivors of our area escaped and hid among the sympathetic whites. This is where we Native Americans of the area found our heritage, usually on the maternal side of the family. Even those moved to the area known as Oklahoma continued to be victims of the greed of the Europeans. When they were originally placed there, they were given the entire state known as Oklahoma. But after the Civil War, whites from the north saw the opportunity to grab even more land from the Indians. With the building of rail-roads and the influx of the whites, today the descendants of those tribes hold only tiny pieces of corporately owned land in Oklahoma. Descendants of the original tribes across the South-east who escaped the removal and survived in their areas usually do not know of their Native American heritage. Until a few years ago, many who did were still afraid to let it be known publicly.
In 1990, The Santa Rosa County Creek Indian Tribe. Inc. was formed by descendants of those Creeks that lived for centuries in our local areas. The driving purpose of this Tribe is to revive the knowledge that Native Americans are still proud of their heritage, to educate the people by teaching about our culture, our language and our history. This area is rich in history of Native Americans. Through a grant to The Historical Committee of the Pace Area Chamber of Commerce, Inc., Dr. John Phillips of The Archaeological Department of The University of West Florida completed a “dig” at Floridatown Park which confirmed The Native Americans lived on the location as long as six thousand years ago. The Santa Rosa County Creek Tribe Indian, Inc. presently has over 1000 current members. It is said that if those people in our area with the ancestors living here in the 1800’s would only do their paperwork, this number could possibly be much larger. Chief Tom Nichols, Vice Chief Lloyd Hinote and the members of the Tribal Council urge each of you to inquire about your heritage and about becoming a member.
Credits: The South-East Indians
The University of Tennessee Press
Written By: Loyd Hinote (1938 – 2016)