© 2024 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

EcoHeroes: Chief Dan "Sky Horse" Helms on the true history of the Creek Native Americans

Environmental and indigenous rights activist Chief Dan "Sky Horse" Helms of the Santa Rosa Creek Muskogee Tribe discusses the true history of Creek Native Americans, what it means to shoulder the responsibility of Chief and serve his tribe, and building a relationship with mother Earth and with one another.


So often the American education system falls short in portraying the true history of our nation, which was built on the oppression, subjugation and genocide of Native Americans. Chief Dan "Sky Horse" Helms of the Santa Rosa Creek tribe has made it a mission in his life is to shine light upon our real history and educate the community outside of the oversimplified and sanitized versions presented in our public schools, without proper understanding of what really happened, we can't hope for any true type of reconciliation.

On the white washing of history in our textbooks

History is written by the victors. Where Native Americans come into the picture, uh it's been oversimplified as to what happened.

There was a textbook that I saw, an excerpt that was out of Texas, and it said as the sum total of the Native American history for fourth graders was that the natives "welcomed the Europeans and they saw that the Europeans needed a place to live. So the Indians gave them their land to move west." We're going to go with not!

So rather than trying to tell the truth of the history it has been oversimplified and whitewashed, just terribly so. That's one of our missions for our folks is to get the truth back out there. A lot of the discrimination and oppression and all the things that were negatively done towards the native people, one of the main tools that they used to do that was education. So we figure what better way to fight those misconceptions, and out and out lies, but with the same tool, which is education!

So we are striving to re educate, or in some cases just educate, because there was never anything there to start with, but to educate people to what really happened to the people. It was not simplistic. It was very complicated, and a lot of um different factors were involved. So every time people try to simplify what happened, they totally miss it.

On the Doctrine of Discovery and the corporate sponsorship of European immigration to the Americas

I feel sometimes disheartened. I don't really ever think I felt angry, but I feel very disheartened at times. I tried to go back and find out where this uh all started well, it started with the doctrine of discovery. That was when the Pope and the royalty in Europe came up with this Doctrine of Discovery that said any lands that were discovered anywhere, if there was not someone on those lands who was already a subject of the Catholic Church or of any of the Kings or Queens or rulers, if they were not already a subject, then them being there did not count. And whoever discovered it, obviously being a subject of some of those folks, had the right to claim that land.

So it started right there. The whitewash is that it was all about religious freedom well, not so much! Because all of the people who were sponsored to come over here were sponsored by corporations, and their total goal was to exploit the resources, the natural resources in this country. They had already trashed Europe and they were running out of timber.

I would love to be able to go back and see what our forests actually looked like then we don't even know because there was so much, especially in our area, that was just clear cut. So we've got what grew back. We don't have the old growth, the huge, huge trees.

Even in the Declaration of Independence, it talks about the merciless savages. We're the only minority that is actually named in the Declaration of Independence. It talks about the danger of the merciless savages who were sided with England, which is not even truth. But, the first line that they take is to demonize and dehumanize whatever they're going against. They began to immediately try to displace the Natives Americans and move them away from the lands that they wanted.

Chief Justice John Marshall, who was one of the first Supreme Court justices and the land speculator, made some rulings uh against the Native American people that they couldn't own land. Well, native American people didn't have the concept of owning land anyway. I mean how do you own your mother? You don't.