The Apalachicola River Community of Indians
Apalachicola River Community Indian Tribal Organization (ARCITO)
Tribal Chairman S. Pony Hill ; Vice Chairman H. Scott Sewell
councilpersons Teresa Moon, Niki Moon, Heather Fair
Tribal Projects Office 22429 NW Ray Kever Rd Bristol FL 32321
our book "The Indians of North Florida" is available on Amazon.com, as well as our titles "Strangers in their own land: the state recognized tribes of SC", "Belles of the Creek nation", and "The Cherokee Paradox"
ARCITO Mission Statement: building stronger communities together through reciprocity.
ARCITO's mission is to continuously assess the needs of Indian people and others in our tribal service area, work to improve the quality of life, develop and/or obtain resources to fill the gap in the ongoing provision of social, health, economic, housing, education, job development and training services to meet the needs of our client population. ARCITO is committed to providing a range of valuable services that assist disadvantaged Indian people. The organization works in conjunction with a number of governmental organizations to provide services and improve social and economic conditions in area Indian communities.
Why was ARCITO started?
ARCITO was formally incorporated in 2003 to increase the economic, social, legal, and health services available to the local tribal community in the Apalachicola River valley, one of the poorest areas in the state of Florida. In 1996 ARCITO initiated the Annual Indian Community Conference, which has grown into an important event for panhandle Native Americans and acts as a liaison between them and local and state government and service organizations.
One of the counties within the ARCITO service area has the highest percentage in the state of Native American resident according to the most recent federal census data, as well as being a county among the lowest with per capita income. Surrounding counties have similar narratives, and the central panhandle still remains primarily agricultural and rural in nature. ARCITO has striven to bring in more opportunities consistently. Community surveys note that children in the area?s community are not getting adequate nutrition or health care and the local families are struggling.
We want to give our communities a hands up and not a handout? said ARCITO Tribal Chairman S. Pony Hill. Future plans include teaching the local Indian community self-sustainability, with classes on beekeeping, fishing and hydroponic gardening in the works. Plans also include expanding the project beyond the current tribal service area to other small communities in the panhandle.
Formally established in 2003 as a 501c3, the Apalachicola River Community of Indians Tribal Organization (ARCITO) was created to provide services for the Florida panhandle area Indian communities. With the main economic development office located in Panama City Florida, ARCITO has worked aggressively to improve services for members of the Apalachicola River Community of Indians. The Board of Directors for ARCITO has for many years served as the governing body of the Apalachicola River Community of Indians. The Staff and Board members of ARCITO have extensive experience in human services, governmental services, operations of grant funded programs, and general Indian affairs. The Board of Directors has connections to grassroots Florida panhandle Indian communities as well as local, state, and federal governmental offices.
ARCITO is committed to providing a range of valuable services that assist disadvantaged Indian people. The organization works in conjunction with a number of governmental organizations to provide services and improve social and economic conditions in area Indian communities.
ARCITO is widely recognized by the Apalachicola River Community of Indians, the federal government, the State of Florida, other states, foundations, funding entities, and other Indian Tribes and urban Indian organizations as an organization that serves Florida panhandle Indian people.
ARCITO exercises a broad range of governmental powers. At the heart of federal recognition efforts was ARCITO's authority to strengthen the Tribe's position by demonstrating that it had a coherent, continuous, and effective government structure through the performance of the four basic governmental functions: (1) promoting the health and welfare of tribal members; (2) identifying membership; (3) representing the Tribe before other governments and organizations; and (4) resolving disputes which fall within the tribal government's purview.
In the early 2000's, ARCITO established the Apalachicola River Community of Indians tribal rolls, sponsored, developed and promoted the Tribe's official petition for federal acknowledgment, represented the Tribe before many other governments (federal, state, local and tribal), and provided for the social, cultural, health, economic, and educational welfare of the tribes people.
ARCITO's mission is to continuously assess the needs of Indian people and others in our tribal service area, work to improve the quality of life, develop and/or obtain resources to fill the gap in the ongoing provision of social, health, economic, housing, education, job development and training services to meet the needs of our client population.
The ARCITO Board of Directors continue to support the sovereignty, traditions, culture and values of the Apalachicola River Community of Indians. ARCITO continues to seek public input and support for the programs, services, and activities that it provides. ARCITO is the main sponsor for the Annual Indian Community Conference (serving the community since 1996), and other Indian cultural events in the area.
Annual Indian Community Conference (ARCITO-AICC) Information
ARCITO?s Annual Indian Community Conference (ARCITO-AICC), began in 1996, is a free open to the public event which focuses on gathering information on the needs of the Native American population as well as surrounding communities and devising, implementing, and executing responses to these.
This annual one-day (8 hour) event has been serving the tribal and public needs for over two decades. It includes a light lunch and evening meal free of charge as well as multiple booths and presentations with representatives of area organizations, political leaders, and community stakeholders
Elder health and nutrition, at-risk youth needs, educational opportunities, and basic life skills are addressed, among other issues. The ARCITO service area in the central Florida panhandle is one of the most in-need regions in the state, as well as having the smallest population size.
How do the proposed activities bring about positive change?
Knowing the challenges is the first step in addressing them. At ARCITO?s Annual Indian Community Conference (ARCITO-AICC), the year?s needs are quantified and subsequent initiatives, programs, and activities strive to provide solutions. The several counties in the Tribal Services Area (TSA) are some of the poorest and most rural in Florida, with consistent areas of unaddressed need in many areas. Past ARCITO programs of food distribution, medical equipment supply, partnerships with county and state agencies, and youth educational initiatives have seen measurable positive outcomes over the last 20 years.
below is Jim Scott with the Copeland girls, 1930 Scott Town, Jackson County Fl
above: Sandy Scott, Beasley Bullard, and the Porter girls Scott Town, Jackson County Florida 1940
below: Green Corn Dance at Blountstown 1994
With desegregation and the end of prejudiced Jim Crow race laws, most Indians in north Florida were able to secure a place in the newly emerging southern social scene. But once again, the imposition of OUTSIDER?S definition of community members identity caused the same individuals who often had to fight the mulatto label growing up to have to now fight being considered White since as a tribal group the Indian people never had a reservation in Florida.
above: Raymond Kever, lifelong resident of Woods Community
In the 1970?s, the emergence of the "instant-Indian" fad occurred in response to the Indian Claims Commissions award of a few hundred dollars in reparation for millions of acres seized illegally from the Creek Nation during their removal to the west in 1832. The idea of "Indian money" led to tens of thousands of southerners with a small amount of Indian blood and who had lived as White through the dark century of Jim Crowism to suddenly become reborn ?Creek Indians?. Meanwhile, many of the families of the panhandle's settlement Indians continued the daily struggles of life as Indian people in a white/negro southern social paradigm. Often refered to as'Dominickers, Redbones', and other perjoratives by the dominant White population, the schools for the communities were funded as Colored, though only the Indian children attended. There was little improvement in the standard of living for many of the fuller blood families such as the Scott, Porter, Copeland, Jacobs, Oxendine, and Hill families until the 1970's and access to more opportunity.
below: Indoor Stomp Dance in Blountstown hosted by
Kunfuskee Ceremonial Grounds in 2004
Only recently has our ongoing research revealed the full extent of the intensity of social struggle on the legal, social, and political scenes by the communities leaders, elders, and past generations. Our research over the last 20 years has revealed much of our little-known history, that of a the distinct American Indian people who have refused to be absorbed by the larger mainstream populations and who remain a unique and vibrant people today, the "People of One Fire".
below: the location of Calhoun county Florida, and Blountstown where many of the Indian families are from addressed in the "Our History" part of this site.
The excerpts below are from the historic record about the Indians of north Florida, to document some of the racial realities our ancestors faced in the centuries of struggle in the Jim Crow South.
?The free negroes in this county are mixed-blood, almost white and are intermarried with a low class of whites ? Have no trade, occupation or profession they live in a settlement or Town of their own their personal property consists of Cattle & Hogs, They make no produce except corn & peas & very little of that, They are a lazy Indolent & worthless race.?
-1860 Federal Census of Calhoun County narrative concerning Scott?s Ferry
?There are men who would knife us out of having our own school
saying that we are negroe. You know our character that we are
of white and Indian blood??
-Scotts Ferry School Trustee Dave Martin to Calhoun County Clerk of Court-1938
?Some of the forefathers claim there was no negro blood, but there was Indian blood. This, we are unable to substantiate by any official records.?
-JD Milton, Superintendent of Jackson County Schools in correspondence upon interviewing Tom Scott of Scott Town as to the community?s origins-1942
below: the people of Scott Town, in front of Mulberry grove Community's Scott Church, which was also the community schoolhouse during the segregation era. For more on Scott Town and Scotts Ferry see the "Our History" section of this website.
The People of Scott Town Community 1950
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