Groundbreaking was held Tuesday morning near Milton, for construction of a Native American cultural center that’s due to be opened later this year.
Chief Blue Eyes, tribal leader Tom Nichols, and Dan Helms, an officer with the Santa Rosa County Creeks greeted the audience in both Creek and English on a warm, sunny morning at the construction site on Willard Norris Road.
“We started the tribe in 1990 with three members; today we have over 1,200, I believe,” said Blue Eyes. “We hoped and prayed and worked our tails off to get what we’ve got today.”
The 4,000 square foot center will house various items from native cultures in fulfilling one of its missions: halting the loss of Native American culture and artifacts, and promoting education.
“We’re so glad to have you here to see the support the community if offering to the tribe,” said Helms. “It’s just amazing.”
IMPACT 100 provided two grants to pay for infrastructure and construction of the facility. IMPACT President Mari Asmar says helping out such projects benefits both them and the recipient.
“These type of high-impact grants are the ones that make our members join year after year,” Asmar said. “By preserving the history of all the generations that came before you; in order to educate the generations that shall come after you, is a noble cause that the women of IMPACT 100 are very proud to be a part of.”
The two grants awarded to the Santa Rosa Creeks, says Asmar, are a testament to the tribe’s strength.
“Thousands of people will visit these tribal grounds – families, school children,” said Asmar. “And your story will be told over and over in perpetuity.”
For Larry Holt, the Chairman of the Tribal Council, it’s the culmination of efforts such as going out and giving presentations and hosting events for both children and adults aimed at keeping native culture alive.
“Because it is a wonderful culture; the Creek Nation and the Native Americans all across this nation,” Holt told the audience. “This is a great day because we’re embarking on having our own land [and] our own buildings, where the Native American can walk again, and know it’s their land – that they don’t have to leave it.”
When completed, the cultural center will also be home to a genealogy resource center, along with space for hosting educational presentations. The Creeks also hope the center will become a major destination for school field trips.
Construction of the Native American Cultural Center is on a fast track, scheduled to be completed by late November -- in time for the Santa Rosa tribe’s 27th annual powwow, held the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“This is not a hobby that we have,” said Dan Helms. “This is our heritage and this is our mission to preserve that heritage.”