Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve Santa Rosa County residents’ quality of life.

MILTON — The Santa Rosa County Creek Indian Tribe Inc. teaches the community about Native Americans' culture via educational programs, traditional events and a Native American Cultural Center, according to Vice Chief Dan Helms.

The organization — located at 4358 Willard Norris Road in Milton — was founded in 1990 by descendants of Creeks that lived in our local area. The tribe currently has more than 1,300 members and donates thousands of hours a year teaching and making presentations in the community.

“Our tribe is sought out by schools, cultural festivals, historical organizations, military installations, history fairs, county fairs and city events,” Helms said. “Community organizations such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, Kiwanis Club and the Lions Club request us for speaking engagements.”

Their tribal grounds consist of approximately 95 acres and will soon be home to a Native American Cultural Center, almost three decades in the making. The cultural center was made possible by two IMPACT 100 grants the tribe received totaling $210,700; it will break ground on Aug. 1.

“The grants are making the dream of a Native American Cultural Center a reality,” Helms said. “The central feature of the center will be an artifact museum that will feature more than 3,000 Native American artifacts to be displayed to the public.”

According to Helms, the cultural center will house two prized artifacts: a peace pipe used in the signing of a treaty between the head of the Crow Nation and the head of U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, and some of the ashes and embers descended from a fire that burned in the Cherokee town of Tahlequah more than 1,000 years ago. 

The facility will include a multi-purpose room that will provide space for seminars and performances, as well as musical demonstrations and educational presentations, according to Helms.

The center will house a genealogy resource center, which will contain books, documents and other information in which the corporation has gained over the years, assisting the public in researching and documenting their Native American ancestry.

“The goal of the Native American Cultural Center is to increase awareness of the culture of Native Americans and particularly the Creek people,” Helms said. “The public, especially the children, will have a greater appreciation and understanding of the Creek people and their connection with the natural world. They will experience new knowledge through immersion and hands on demonstrations not available anywhere else in our area.

“The completion of the Native American Cultural Center will allow us to embark on our mission to bring knowledge of the culture of the Native American Indians to the children, the community and the world.”