ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – County officials and Native American tribal leaders gathered Monday at Treaty Park in St. Augustine to mark 200 years since the signing of the Treaty of Moultrie Creek.
The treaty, which was signed in 1823, resulted in the cession of a large swath of tribal lands in Florida and established the state’s first reservation for the Seminole Indians.
Leaders from four Native American Nations affected by the Treaty of Moultrie Creek came together at the site for the first time in two centuries to mark the anniversary with a flag-raising ceremony.
The American flag as it was in 1823, the flag of the Muskogee Tribe and the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma flag were raised together alongside the Florida and St. Johns County government flags.
“If you look around and see how beautiful this place is, you go around to Georgia, Alabama, all the states of our original homeland, we always get the question, ‘I can’t believe you all left. Why did you all leave this beautiful place?’” said David Hill, Principal Chief of Muskogee Creek Nation. “Well, we weren’t asked to leave. We were forcibly removed. ... This is our story.”
Hill said he hopes moments like these help people understand the treaty’s history -- and the impact it’s had years later.
Christian Whitehurst with the St. Johns County Board of Commissioners was one of the many speakers and said sharing this is important.
“I think this is one of those moments where the treaty was signed with the best of intentions. Yet, the treaty was broken. Recognizing that as part of our past helps us be better as we move into our future,” Whitehurst said.
Hill said a goal for him moving forward is to protect sacred burial grounds and to send this powerful message:
“That we’re still here. I mean, we’re still people,” Hill said. “This was the original homelands.”