MILTON — The 28th annual Santa Rosa Creek Tribe Intertribal Pow Wow will take place at the Creek Indian Tribal Grounds, 4750 Willard Norris Road from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 17-18. But while visitors may be looking forward to the dancing, food and Native American crafts, Vice Chief Dan Helms remembers the "devestating" history of his ancestors in America.

The Pow Wow is free along with parking. It is the major fundraiser of the year for the non-profit group featuring Native American dancing, drumming, singing, and Native American food like Indian fry bread and roasted corn.

However, there is a serious side to this event. Helms said that a lot of the Creek Indian culture and traditions are forgotten. It all started with the 1830 Indian Removal Act, an act passed by the United States government that made it illegal for any Indian to live east of the Mississippi River, which passed by five votes in Congress, Helms said.

"It was devastating to the Indian people," Helms said.

This was the start of the Trail of Tears, the long march the Native American people made to places like Oklahoma, to where the federal government relocated them.

Not all Indians were compliant. Many went underground, or they tried to pass as other races. Most of them lived in the rural areas and would escape to the swamps when they suspected government workers were looking for Indians.

That started the death of many of these Indian tribes' culture and traditions. The Indian Removal Act not only moved tribes, but also forbade them from speaking their native language, or performing any of their ceremonies, Helms said. So, many Indians were forced and shamed into compliance that they would not talk about their heritage or culture even to their extended family. Helms experienced this personally with his grandmother, a Creek Indian. When he would ask her for information, she would tell him they were Black Cheek or Black Irish. These were made up words Indian people used to deflect the question.

Helms said the real purpose of the Pow Wow and the Santa Rosa County Native American Cultural Center (in the final steps of construction) is to educate and pass on what they have recovered of the Creek Indian culture, language, customs and traditions. Helms said the tribe has 3,000 artifacts for the new center and a genealogy room. It took Helms three years to search his genealogy about 10 years ago, but with their archives and a genealogist to help it only takes three weeks.

The center will serve to bring some of the Creek culture, language and traditions back to its decedents and act as an events facility.

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