Page 1

Museum of Florida His tory

November 15, 2007–June 1, 2008

Seminole People of Florida Survival & Success

Pictured on inside front cover: Woman’s outfit, style of 1900 (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History) Pictured on inside back cover: Wooden dolls, ca. 1934 (Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves) Exhibit concept and text by Lisa Barton Design by Charity Wood Photography by Ray Stanyard and Clint Fountain

Catalogue of the exhibition

Seminole People of Florida: Survival and Success November 15, 2007—June 1, 2008

©2007 Museum of Florida History All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, please contact the Museum of Florida History, 500 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements..........................................................................................5 Foreword..........................................................................................................7 Introduction.....................................................................................................8 Who are the Seminoles?..................................................................................9 The Black Seminoles......................................................................................11 The Seminole Wars (1817–1818) (1835–1842) (1855–1858).......................12 Osceola (ca. 1804–1838)................................................................................14 Organization of Seminole Society.................................................................15 Traditional Languages....................................................................................16 Living in Isolation...........................................................................................17 Life in the Camp............................................................................................18 Trading Posts..................................................................................................20 A Changing Environment...............................................................................22 Traditional Clothing (1880–1930).................................................................23 Traditional Accessories (1880–1930).............................................................28 Norton Collection of Seminole Artifacts.......................................................32 Chickee—A Traditional Seminole Dwelling......................................................33 Tourist Villages...............................................................................................34 Tamiami Trail..................................................................................................36 The Art of Patchwork.....................................................................................37 Reservations...................................................................................................41 Tourism Industry (1930–1970)......................................................................42 Seminole Arts and Crafts...............................................................................44 Dolls, Baskets, and Wood Carvings...............................................................45 New Deal Programs and New Religion..........................................................48 Cattle Ranching..............................................................................................49 A Sovereign Tribe............................................................................................51 Political Divisons Arise...................................................................................53 Economic Development and Success............................................................54 Sovereignty in Action.....................................................................................55 The Green Corn Dance—An Ongoing Tradition.............................................57 Traditions in the Twenty-first Century...........................................................60

Acknowledgments Sponsors

Exhibit photographs

Friends of the Museums of Florida History, Inc. Leon County Tourist Development Council Tallahassee Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

State Archives of Florida and

Florida Museum of Natural History Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Historical Museum of Southern Florida Historical Society of Palm Beach County National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution Seminole/Miccosukee Photographic Archive The Seminole Tribune Special Collections, George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida


of the



F lor ida History

Exhibit Team Lisa Barton June Finnegan Kieran Orr Wanda Richey KC Smith Susan Stratton Lea Ellen Thornton Charity Wood

Other assistance provided by Brian Barton Chip Bloyd Laura Carpio Paul Chamberlain DJ Conner Ken Crawford Jeanette Cypress Murrell Dawson, Ph.D. Bob Deaton Kyle Doney Victor Doss Lisa Dunbar Florida Master Site File Florida Memory Project, State Archives of Florida Florida State University Reservation Clint Fountain Andrew Frank, Ph.D. Louise Gopher Bruce Graetz Greg Hagler Steffany Hagler Katrina Harkness Tom Harrison Michael Jones Danielle Jumper-Frye Joe Knetsch, Ph.D. Blair Limcangco Steve Little Bill Martin Nelson Martin Anne McCudden Donna McHugh Charles Robert McNeil Andrew Myers, III John Papesca Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, University of Florida Seminole Productions Seminole Tribe of Florida Geneva Shore Brian Smith State Library of Florida Bob Stone Will Stoutamire Danny Tommie Sam and Robbie Vickers Laura Young

The Museum of Florida History extends its sincere thanks to all of those who assisted in creating this exhibit.

Exhibit Consultants Tina Osceola Chris Versen, Ph.D. Brent Weisman, Ph.D. Patsy West

Artifact lenders Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Kurt S. Browning, Florida Secretary of State Bradley Cooley and Bradley Cooley, Jr. Denver Museum of Nature & Science Elliott Museum Florida Museum of Natural History Susanne Hunt Stanlo Johns I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves Ted Smallwood Store, Inc. Alan G. Stratton University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Patsy West

Artifact donors Sally Buster Letitia Bond Croft Bernice Daywalt Gale Erdmann Estate of Claude L. DeVane Bruce Graetz Rose Haynes Susanne Hunt Stanlo Johns Ligia Isabel Johnson Mary Green Madigan Charles Robert McNeil Mary Montgomery Norton Museum of Art Jo Parker Phillip Pollock Martha Quinn Sheila Rogers Betsy Stoutamire Deborah S. Stubing 5


The Museum of Florida History proudly presents its newest exhibit, Seminole

People of Florida: Survival and Success. The impetus for creating this exhibit came in 2003, when the Museum acquired a large collection of Seminole artifacts from the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. This collection of sixty-five items greatly enhanced the Museum’s existing collections. When these wonderful artifacts arrived at the Museum, we knew the public had to see them. Although the core of the Museum’s Seminole collections consists of traditional clothing, the Museum wanted to tell a more comprehensive story about the Seminoles. We made the choice to not only preserve and display these beautiful arts and crafts, but also to present some of their cultural traditions and history in an engaging exhibit. It is truly fitting that the exhibit comes during this momentous year for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In 2007, the Tribe celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of its constitution and corporate charter. We congratulate the Seminole Tribe of Florida on this milestone. You will be amazed at the artistry featured in this catalogue and exhibit, created by the Museum staff and volunteers. Thanks to the generosity of several institutional and individual lenders, the public will be able to view some rare and beautiful examples of the Seminoles’ material culture. We wish to acknowledge the generous support of the Friends of the Museums of Florida History, Inc. which helped make the exhibit possible. We hope that you will learn more about the traditions of the Seminole people and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of their role in Florida’s history.

Jeana Brunson, Ph.D. Director, Museum of Florida History



Group of Seminoles at Pine Island in the eastern Everglades, ca. 1880 Around 1900, the Seminoles left Pine Island because of encroaching settlers. (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, 1178-N-2)

The Seminole people of Florida have a remarkable

history of endurance, survival, and adaptation. After a tragic period of warfare and forced deportation, around 200 Seminoles remained in Florida in 1860. Today in Florida there are two sovereign tribes— the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida—whose members are descended from these survivors. The Seminole people operate successfully in today’s world, and they have preserved a number of their traditions. They continue to be an important part of Florida’s diverse cultural landscape.


This exhibition will examine the Seminoles’ unique history, art, and traditions. Specifically, it will focus on the rich material culture that the Seminoles created and sustained during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From isolation in the mid1800s to the establishment of two sovereign tribes that oversee modern, successful businesses, the Seminole people have experienced a remarkable journey.

Who Are the Seminoles?


To understand who the Seminole people are, it is important to know about their “Creek” ancestors. The Creeks were a mix of peoples descended from the prehistoric Mississippian cultures of the Southeast. The Mississippians built tall earthen mounds. The leaders lived on some of the mounds, and other mounds were used for burying the dead. These large farming societies had complex religious beliefs and extensive trade networks. By 1710, the English called the Indians in Georgia and Alabama “Creeks,” despite the fact that they spoke different languages and lived in independent towns. The English further classified them as “Upper Creeks” and “Lower Creeks” based on where they lived.

he Seminoles’ ancestors, known as Creek Indians to the English, originally lived in Alabama and Georgia. During the 1700s, groups of these people settled in Florida. After 1765, Europeans referred to some bands of Indians living in Florida as “Seminolies.” Not until the 1800s was “Seminole” the commonly used term for all Florida Indians.

During the 1700s, and possibly earlier, entire towns of Creek Indians migrated to Florida. Conflict among native peoples, Europeans, and later Americans drove this migration, but the search for new trading partners and hunting land also drew Indians to Florida. Yamassee Indians from the Carolinas and possibly remnants of Florida’s prehistoric native people also mixed with the Creek population in Florida. The Lower Creeks settled in north Florida, and by the 1780s at least nine major towns had been established between the Apalachicola and St. Johns Rivers, and as far south as the Caloosahatchee River. Many Upper Creeks also moved into Florida, settling around the Tampa Bay area, after the 1813–1814 Creek civil war, known as the Red Stick War. Origin of the word “Seminole”

Tallahassee (Little Bird clan), 1901 Tallahassee’s elaborate clothing includes woven garters and embroidered leggings. He wears a woven sash with long drops and a beaded bandolier bag. The sash and bandolier bag seen here were more typically worn in the early-to-mid-1800s. (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, neg. 44,352)


The word “Seminole” originates from the Muskogee word simanó·li, derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, which means “runaway” or “wild” in reference to plants and animals.

Who Are the Seminoles? Therefore, a more fitting interpretation of the word may be “pioneer.” Although most Seminole Tribal members speak English today, two traditional languages still exist: Mikasuki and Muskogee, also referred to as “Creek.”

Shoulder pouch (bandolier bag), ca. 1820–1840 Both Creek and Seminole men commonly wore shoulder pouches of this type, which were popular from the early 1800s to the 1860s. These beaded accessories perhaps were copied from bandolier bags worn by British soldiers to hold ammunition. The strap was worn over the shoulder and across the chest with the pouch at the hip. (Collections of the Anthropology Division of the Florida Museum of Natural History, FLMNH Cat. No. E-603)


The Black Seminoles


lack Seminoles were people of African descent who escaped bondage and formed strong alliances with the Seminole Indians in Florida. The Black Seminoles settled in villages close to Seminole towns, learned their language, and provided meat and crops to the Seminoles in exchange for protection. This relationship alarmed white Americans because they feared it would upset the institution of slavery in the South. When the Americans attempted to remove the Seminoles from Florida, they tried to send most blacks into slavery. Because they too were fighting for their freedom, some blacks fought alongside the Seminoles in the Second Seminole War (1835–1842). In hope of ending the war, U.S. authorities assured the Black Seminoles their freedom if they relocated with their Seminole allies to the Indian Territory. Complex relationships existed between individual Seminoles and Black Seminoles. In some instances, a loose form of masterservant relationship existed, but the rigid control that was typical on plantations was not exercised. Some Black Seminoles, like Abraham and John Cavallo, served as interpreters and advisors to Seminole chiefs, especially during the early years of the Second Seminole War. Not all Black Seminoles went west to the Indian Territory. Some remained in Florida with their Seminole allies; others were sent into slavery; and others fled to the Bahamas and West Indies.

John Cavallo (Gopher John), ca. 1842 John Cavallo was a Black Seminole who served as an interpreter and advisor to the Seminole chiefs during the Second Seminole War. (State Archives of Florida)


The Seminole Wars (1817-1818) (1835-1842) (1855-1858)

As white settlers sought more land in north Florida, conflicts with the Seminoles grew. After attempts to contain the Indians in central Florida, the government offered them money to relocate to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Eventually, the government had to use military force to remove the holdouts. The Seminoles fought back, but most unfortunately were relocated to the West. In fact, by 1860, about 200 Seminoles remained in Florida. These unconquered survivors are the ancestors of the Seminole and Miccosukee people who live in Florida today. The United States fought three wars against the Seminole people of Florida. The Second Seminole War was the most significant of the three and was the most costly Indian war in U.S. history, in terms of money and lives lost. In the first war, the U.S. Army and volunteers under Andrew Jackson, along with Creek allies, destroyed many Seminole towns

in north Florida. As a result, the Seminoles and their black allies moved further south. Government policy supported removing the native peoples to the West. The Second Seminole War was part of that effort. Osceola and other Seminole warriors fought a guerilla war against the larger U.S. forces. It was to fight this common enemy—the U.S. government— that the independent bands of Indians first united as Seminoles. This seven-year war resulted in the removal of most of the Seminoles. Hundreds more Indians were killed in the fighting. Fighting erupted again in 1855 when government agents penetrated the Seminoles’ swampland hideouts. This war, the Third Seminole War, or the Billy Bowlegs War, lasted until 1858, resulting in an additional 240 people being removed to the West. In total, between 4,700 and 6,000 Seminoles were removed. Those evading capture fled to the swamplands of south Florida. These unconquered

Billy Bowlegs (second from right) and His Retinue, 1853 Left to right: Sarparkee Yoholo, Fasatchee Emanthla, John Jumper, Abraham (a Black Seminole), Billy Bowlegs, and Chocote Tustenuggee. The fingerwoven sash Jumper is wearing could be the same one shown on page thirteen. The sash is said to have also been worn by Chief Jumper of the Second Seminole War. The illustration was made from a daguerreotype taken when the group traveled to New York in 1852. (From Illustrated London News, vol. 22, no. 623)


The Seminole Wars (1817-1818) (1835-1842) (1855-1858)

survivors never made a peace treaty with the U.S. government. For the Seminoles, the tumultuous war years understandably created suspicion and distrust of the U.S. government. For the next forty or more years, the Seminoles lived in relative isolation and did their best to avoid outsiders.

Micanopy, a Seminole chief, 1826 Chief Micanopy resisted the removal of the Seminoles and fought against U.S. forces during the Second Seminole War. He was imprisoned with Osceola and was deported to the Indian Territory. (From a color lithograph in the State Archives of Florida)

Fingerwoven sash, ca. 1825–1850 The Seminole leader known as Jumper (Ote Emathla) may have owned this woolen and beaded sash. Sashes such as this one were common men’s accessories in the early 1800s, and sometimes were worn across the chest in addition to a bandolier bag. (Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)


Osceola (ca. 1804–1838)


sceola was an important Seminole warrior and resistance leader during the Second Seminole War (1835–1842). He became a well-known symbol of American Indian resistance to the government’s Indian removal policy. The son of an Upper Creek woman and white man named Powell, Osceola migrated to Florida from his birthplace in Alabama as a boy. The Creek War of 1813–1814 likely drove the family to Florida. His Creek name (asi~ : yaholî) means “Black Drink Singer.” Black Drink refers to the strong tea-like drink that men consumed during the annual Osceola (Image from an 1838 painting by Robert J. religious ceremony. Curtis, State Archives of Florida) Osceola held strong anti-American views and resisted the government’s attempts to relocate the Seminoles. He planned and participated in several military actions against American forces during the early years of the Second Seminole War. However, by early 1837 his power had diminished. After his capture under a flag of truce in October 1837, he spent his last days in prison at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, where he died of tonsillitis in January 1838. While imprisoned, he became a celebrity. Artists painted his portrait and newspapers recounted his brave leadership and personal charisma. This publicity helped shape his heroic legacy. Although some parts of his life are a mystery, Osceola is still remembered as a proud, determined warrior.

Osceola, 2007 The bronze statue depicts the warrior Osceola (ca. 1804–1838) who fought against the Seminoles’ removal from Florida in the Second Seminole War. (Created by Bradley Cooley and Bradley Cooley, Jr.)


Organization of Seminole Society


society is divided into family groups called clans. Traditionally, family life revolved around the clan and the camp where a person lived. Family connections and responsibilities were derived through women, a concept known as “matrilineal” or “through the mother’s line.” Clan membership, which is passed from mother to child, remains an important part of an individual’s identity. It is customary for individuals to choose spouses from a different clan. Today’s Seminole Tribe of Florida includes eight clans: Bear, Panther, Wind, Otter, Snake, Bird, Deer, and Big Towns (sometimes represented by a toad).

Breathmaker favored Panther and gave it the knowledge of medicine. Wind then became Panther’s assistant. Bird was also made a leader. This story helps explain why certain clans take on special roles. This story is only one version of how the clans emerged.

Busk groups Seminole society was also divided into busk groups. Busk groups were those camps of Seminoles who came together for their annual religious ceremony, known as a busk. “Busk” is from the Creek word poskita, meaning “to fast.” Today, the ceremony is known as the Green Corn Dance. Busk groups were formed around a sacred medicine bundle, which is the key element of the Green Corn Dance. Immediately after the Seminole wars, kinship and clan ties were strengthened among the Seminoles, perhaps through the busk. The Creek speakers around Lake Okeechobee formed one busk group, while two busk groups existed among the Mikasuki speakers

Matrilineal camps meant that female members of the camp were related and belonged to the same clan. Therefore, a married daughter remained in her mother’s camp where her husband joined her. A camp might consist of a grandmother, her daughters, and her daughters’ husbands and children. The women of the camp shared chores and child rearing, and women inherited camp property from their mothers. Clan obligations also meant that a married man still had responsibilities to his mother’s camp, like disciplining his sisters’ children.

Before the mid-t wentieth century, the Seminoles did not have centralized political leadership because camps usually operated independently. Therefore, a great deal of power fell to the medicine men, as they were the primary religious leaders. These men were the keepers of the medicine bundles. In keeping with the Seminoles’ creation story, the medicine bundle carrier always belongs to the Panther clan.

Where did the clans come from? According to one Seminole creation story, the Breathmaker made the animals and trapped them on Earth. As trees on the Earth grew, the roots pierced the animals’ enclosure and they were able to escape. The Wind helped Panther emerge first, then Bird flew out. Bear, Deer, Snake, Otter, and the rest of the animals then followed. The 15

Traditional Languages


he traditional languages of the Seminole people of Florida, Mikasuki and Muskogee (Creek), are both from the Muskogean family, but they are not mutually understandable. Neither language was put into written form until the late nineteenth century. Mikasuki is the traditional language of two-thirds of today’s Florida Seminoles. The remaining onethird of the Seminole population today traditionally speaks Creek, and most of these individuals are associated with the Brighton Reservation. In the 1700s, the dominant language of the Indians in Alabama and Georgia was Muskogee, but many Indians spoke Hitchiti, Alabama, and other languages. Mikasuki is a dialect of the now-extinct Hitchiti language. Members of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida speak Mikasuki. Spelled differently, but pronounced the same, “Mikasuki” refers to the language and “Miccosukee” refers to people. The modern-day Miccosukee Tribe adopted this spelling from Lake Miccosukee (near Tallahassee).


Many Seminole Tribal members speak English today, as well as one or both of the traditional languages. However, very few young adults and children speak Mikasuki or Creek fluently. Elders voice concern that the traditional languages may vanish. The Seminole Tribe has encouraged preservation of the traditional languages by offering language classes to children. The following place names in Florida are of Mikasuki or Muskogee origin: Hialeah Immokalee Apopka Okeechobee Palatka Tallahassee

“High prairie” “My home” “Potato eating place” “Big water” “Ferry crossing” “Abandoned fields”

Living in Isolation

For many years after the Seminole Wars, the

were spread into five separate locations. Three bands of Creek-speaking Seminoles lived around the northern half of Lake Okeechobee. These people came to be known as Cow Creek Seminoles because of their cattle enterprises. The other two groups, the Mikasuki speakers, stayed mostly near the Big Cypress Swamp and southeastern coast. In the Everglades, they made camps on small islands called hammocks. The Mikasuki speakers outnumbered the Muskogee (Creek) speakers. However, MacCauley did not realize that two languages were used by the Seminole people— because everyone spoke Muskogee Clay MacCauley, a researcher with Women using a mortar and pestles, 1877–1895 in his presence. the Smithsonian Institution’s The women are probably grinding corn. The mortar was a tree section hollowed at Bureau of Ethnology, documented the top, and the pestles also were carved the locations of Seminole camps from trees. by Charles Barney Cory, Sr. during the winter of 1880–1881. (Photograph National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian He discovered that the camps Institution, neg. 45,331.) survivors lived mostly undisturbed in dispersed camps in south Florida. The isolated landscape of the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades protected them from outsiders. Because the south Florida swamplands presented a different environment, Seminoles had to learn new ways of living. For example, they adapted the chickee as their primary shelter, used new kinds of plants for food and medicine, and developed a unique style of lightweight clothing while they continued to strengthen their cultural bond through the Green Corn Dance.

Children gathered around the camp fire, with a chickee in the background, ca. 1920–1940 The camp fire was made by using four long logs. The logs also provided a place to sit near the fire. (Courtesy of Special Collections, George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida)


Life in the Camp


aily life was centered in the family camp, and each camp consisted of several open-air houses called chickees. One chickee was used for cooking, and others were used for eating, sleeping, working, and storage. The camp fire was the hub of activity. In traditional Seminole society, the camp belonged to the women, and the eldest woman was in charge. Adults spent much of their time hunting or gathering food, so children helped with daily chores. At night, children listened to the elders tell stories and legends. These stories helped convey cultural values to the younger generation.

Sofkee, a thin soup-like food made from ground corn or other food stuffs, was important in the Seminole diet. Women traditionally ground the corn using a cypress wood mortar and pestle. People used a handmade ladle-like utensil to eat it. Sometimes pieces of meat were added to the sofkee. Women kept a pot of sofkee on the fire throughout the day, so that people could help themselves when hungry.

Woman holding a sofkee spoon by the camp fire, ca. 1940–1950 (Courtesy of Special Collections, George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida)

Sofkee spoon, ca. 1900 Wooden spoons like this one were used to stir and eat sofkee, a souplike food made of ground corn or other foods. Sofkee was a main food of the Seminole people. (From the collections of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)

There were plenty of animals and vegetables for the Seminoles to eat. They survived by hunting deer and other animals, gathering wild foods such as cabbage palmetto and potatoes, and growing such crops as corn, squash, and pumpkins. They also ate gar fish, turtles, manatees, and raised hogs for meat. The main starches in their diet were the roots of the Zamia plant and the smilax vine, which were processed into flour called “coontie.” Woman with grater preparing roots for coontie flour, ca. 1920–1930 (Courtesy of Special Collections, George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida)


Life in the Camp

Seminole Indian village, ca. 1900 The postcard scene depicts a family camp with chickees in the background. (State Archives of Florida)

Woman grinding corn, ca. 1920–1930 She is using a woven palmetto basket as a tray.

(Courtesy of Special Collections, George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida)

Woman using a mortar and pestle, ca. 1939


(From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Trading Posts


he Seminoles successfully traded with the Spanish and British, but trading was disrupted by the Seminole Wars. However, the movement of white settlers into south Florida brought the Seminoles back into a trade economy. Seminoles earned money by supplying animal pelts, hides, and bird plumes. The trading economy thrived from the 1880s to the 1910s.

even learned their languages. Occasionally, white settler families welcomed Seminoles into their homes and helped them seek medical care when necessary. In return, the Seminoles instructed the settlers on uses of native plants. There were even instances of Seminole parents naming their children after friendly whites.

Traders purchased deerskins, egret plumes, alligator hides, otter pelts, raccoon skins, corn, and pumpkins from the Seminoles. Typically, egret plumes and otter pelts brought the most money. In turn, the Seminoles bought cloth, tools, guns, beads, handcranked sewing machines, and food staples such as coffee, grits, and flour. The Seminoles sometimes traveled great distances to reach the trading posts. They often traveled in dugout canoes using long poles to push the boats through the water. Although Seminoles became accustomed to visiting towns, very few whites ventured to Seminole camps deep in the Everglades. Some white traders like Frank Stranahan in Fort Lauderdale, Bill Brown in Big Cypress, and Ted Smallwood in Chokoloskee gained the trust and friendship of the Seminole people. A few traders

Moving Day in the Everglades, ca. 1910–1920 Water routes were very important to the Seminoles’ trade economy, and they used dugout canoes to travel from their camps to trading posts. (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Stranahan Trading Post, 1896 Frank Stranahan traded with Seminoles at his store along the New River in Fort Lauderdale from 1893 to 1906. (Fort Lauderdale Historical Society)


Trading Posts

Seminole family in canoe, ca. 1912 Here a family travels by canoe along the Miami River. (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Ted Smallwood and Charlie Tiger Tail (Wind clan) at Chokoloskee, Florida, 1928 (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles from the Big Cypress area pose with Will Stranahan on the grounds of the Stranahan Trading Post, 1893–1897. (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, 1178-M-6-A)


A Changing Environment

Land reclamation billboard, 1920 The large billboard is clear evidence of the changing South Florida environment that the Seminoles were faced with in the early 1900s. (Historical Museum of Southern Florida)


n the early twentieth century, the Seminoles were forced to adapt to changes beyond their control. The draining of the Everglades, the decline of profitable hunting and trapping, and the South Florida land boom disrupted the Seminoles’ way of life. The movement of tourists and settlers into South Florida led to the displacement of many Seminoles. Legally they were considered squatters because they did not have title to the land on which they lived. In 1906, the state began draining the Everglades to create farmland. As a result, wild game moved further away, making hunting more difficult and canoe travel nearly impossible in some areas. Competition from white hunters, a decrease in the demand for hides, and a ban on selling egret plumes further eroded the Seminoles’ ability to earn money by hunting and trapping.


In response to these changes, many Seminole people found seasonal jobs as agricultural laborers or hunting guides. In addition, some Mikasuki speakers found work with new tourist attractions in Miami. In these exhibition villages, Seminoles were paid to be “on display.” This was the beginning of the Seminoles’ long association with Florida’s tourism industry.

Traditional Clothing (1880-1930)

Making clothing was an important outlet for

creativity and artistic expression. For most of the nineteenth century, Seminoles used printed cloth, or calico, to make clothing. By the early twentieth century, the Seminoles learned new techniques and created new styles that continued to evolve over many decades. The introduction of the hand-cranked sewing machine allowed for faster construction and led to new design elements in Seminole clothing, namely patchwork. Moccasins, ca. 1850–1870 These moccasins, made of buckskin decorated with glass beads, were collected in 1876 in the Big Cypress swamp. Seminole men wore moccasins of this type during the 1800s. Seminoles also used beads to decorate leggings, bandolier bags, garters, and sashes. (Loaned by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

Tom Tiger (Panther clan) and family, 1877–1892 (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, neg. 45,491)


Traditional Clothing (1880–1930)

View of the triangular cape of the man’s long shirt (From the collection of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)

Man’s and woman’s clothing, style of 1890 Sally Osceola made the men’s garments for Captain Hugh Willoughby’s son-in-law in 1906. The long shirt (or coat), plain shirt, buckskin leggings, and moccasins are typical of clothing worn by Seminole men in the late 1800s. However, most Seminole men stopped wearing leggings and moccasins by the 1920s. The woman’s outfit may have been made by Sally Osceola in 1906. The ruffle on the skirt is a typical design feature of the late 1800s. (From the collection of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)


Traditional Clothing (1880–1930) Men’s Clothing Men’s clothing of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was based on European styles. In the nineteenth century, Seminole men typically wore two kinds of shirts—simple cloth “plain shirts” and “long shirts,” which featured ruffles, appliqué decoration, and a triangular cape at the back. Men mostly abandoned the wool leggings, breechcloths, and buckskin moccasins of earlier times because of the hot climate, but occasionally they wore them

until the 1890s. By the early 1900s the typical men’s garment evolved into what is known as a “big shirt.” A big shirt buttoned at the front, had a waistband, and came to the bottom of the calves. Big shirts were constructed of wide bands of cloth often in contrasting colors. Men also enjoyed wearing purchased accessories, such as derby hats, vests, and neckties, along with their traditional clothing. Footwear varied from standard shoes to nothing at all. By the mid-twentieth century, the long shirt had acquired a special significance. Only Indian medicine men wore them. They then became known as doctor’s coats or medicine men’s coats.

Plain shirt, ca. 1900 The plain shirt was the Seminole man’s basic garment until the introduction of the big shirt around 1905. The center front opening features an appliqué design, which was a technique used prior to patchwork. Captain Hugh Willoughby collected this shirt during one of his journeys to the Everglades.

Tallahassee (Little Bird clan) and two boys, 1882–1886 (State Archives of Florida)

(From the collection of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)


Traditional Clothing (1880-1930)

Women’s Clothing

Women’s outfits, style of late 1800s These women’s garments were made in the early 1950s to represent Seminole women’s clothing of the late 1800s. At that time, calico was the primary material used for clothing and silver brooches were commonly sewn onto blouses. Two of the three examples shown here are missing sleeves. The outfit on the right was made by Jane Tiger Motlow (Otter clan).

The typical outfit for women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries consisted of a short blouse with a ruffle at the collar and a long calico skirt. The length of the blouses varied, but it usually (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History) exposed the woman’s midriff. Blouses often were decorated with silver brooches made from pounded coins. Skirts were constructed of wide bands of cloth and included a ruffle. Over time, the blouse ruffle became longer and eventually formed a cape. Women did not wear shoes. 26

Traditional Clothing (1880-1930)

Turban with beaded fobs, 1906 Sally Osceola made the turban in 1906, and Billy Bowlegs III (Little Black Snake clan) added the egret feather in 1956. Turbans were formed by wrapping shawls or lightweight blankets around the head; however, sometimes the shawls or blankets were wrapped around a cylindrical form first. (From the collection of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)

Long shirt, ca. 1905 Also known as a medicine man’s or doctor’s coat, this type of garment featured appliqué bands, a triangular cape, and a triangular split at the back. The long shirt was worn over the plain shirt. Wearing long shirts became less common after 1905, but medicine men continued to wear them into the mid-twentieth century. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)


Traditional Accessories (1880-1930)

Seminole people used various techniques and

materials to make a variety of accessories that were an important part of their attire. Fingerwoven sashes and garters, embroidered moccasins, beaded belts, and silver jewelry conveyed the creativity of their makers. By 1930, most Seminole artisans had stopped making these accessories, as patchwork and other items for the tourist market became more profitable.

and zigzags, which also were incorporated into the earlier fingerwoven sashes. Seminole women and girls typically wore numerous strands of beaded necklaces. For women, the beaded necklaces were a status symbol. In 1910, anthropologist Alanson Skinner wrote that “around their necks they carry enormous necklaces, weighing often from ten to fifteen pounds, and even more.”

Beaded fob, ca. 1906 This fob is an example of loom beadwork. Beaded fobs occasionally were pinned to turbans or other items of clothing. (From the collection of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)

Fingerwoven accessories and embroidered beadwork were important outlets for artistic expression. These accessories were worn by men, but typically were made by women. Sometimes beads were used in fingerwoven items. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, women sewed beads on shoulder (or bandolier) bags, moccasins, and leggings to make a variety of beautiful designs. Loom beadwork appeared after 1858, and this technique was used to make sashes, belts, and fobs. Popular designs for loom beadwork were diamonds 28

Alice Osceola (Bird clan) and her daughter, Mittie, ca. 1917–1919 An early patchwork design appears on Alice Osceola’s blouse. She is wearing a silver hair pendant and a silver coin necklace. Her blouse also features round brooches. Her daughter also wears beaded necklaces. (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, neg. 45,838-H)

Traditional Accessories (1880-1930)

Beaded belt, ca. 1900–1920 This loom woven belt was made with three beads spaced between the warp threads. Makers of beaded accessories often made diamond patterns in their creations. (From the collection of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)


Traditional Accessories (1880-1930)

George Osceola (Deer clan), Seminole silversmith, at work at Little Tiger’s camp in Big Cypress, 1910 (Courtesy, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, neg. 1501)

Silverwork Men and women wore a variety of silver adornments in the 1700s, including crescent-shaped gorgets that were suspended from cords around the neck. Gorgets were the last vestige of armor, and the British gave them to Indians as gifts. Later, the Seminoles made their own. They continued to wear several other types of silver jewelry well into the 1900s. Seminole craftsmen created this jewelry by heating and flattening silver coins. Two types of silver work included pierced work and bossed work. Pierced work involved cutting a design into a flattened coin with a chisel. The pieces were worn as hair ornaments or suspended from beaded necklaces. Examples of bossed work included circular brooches, hair combs, gorgets, and turban bands. Antler prongs were used to make raised lines or “bosses” in the pieces. The women and girls also wore necklaces strung with dimes and quarters, a trend dating back to the Second Seminole War era. 30

Strand of pendants, ca. 1935 Miami John Tiger (Bird clan) made this jewelry piece of thirteen pierced silver pendants. Silversmiths used chisels to pierce designs in pounded silver coins. Silver jewelry of this type was worn by Seminole women typically until the 1930s. This piece may have been attached to a lower strand of beads or to the wearer’s blouse or cape. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

Traditional Accessories (1880-1930)

Necklace, ca. 1920–1930 Miami John Tiger (Bird clan) made this necklace of silver dimes. The earliest dime dates to 1857. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

Necklace, ca. 1925 Twenty-four liberty head and mercury head silver dimes adorn this beaded necklace.

(Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

Necklace, ca. 1910–1930 Miami John Tiger (Bird clan) used both silver dimes and quarters to make this necklace. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

Silver pendants and brooches, ca. 1920–1930 (above left) Seminole silversmiths made a variety of pendant styles. Scalloped or punched edges were two common features on bossed circular brooches.

Silver pendants, ca. 1900–1930 (left) Designs were often created in the pendants which were worn as hair or clothing ornaments. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

(Collections of the Anthropology Division of the Florida Museum of Natural History, FLMNH Cat. No. E-707, 92817, 92831, 92835, 92850, 92851)


Norton Collection of Seminole Artifacts

Many artifacts in this exhibit are part of the

Museum of Florida History’s Norton Collection. This group of sixty-five Seminole artifacts was transferred to the Museum from the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach in 2003. Ann Norton of Palm Beach County collected most of these items in the mid-1950s. She feared that the Seminoles’ unique artistic traditions would be lost, and she wanted

to see them preserved. She commissioned several pieces of clothing from Seminole seamstress Jane Tiger Motlow (Otter clan). Mrs. Norton asked that some garments be created in the older styles to make a visual record of the past. Mrs. Norton collected not only textiles but also jewelry, silver pendants, baskets, dolls, and even a mortar and pestle.

Jane Tiger Motlow (Otter clan) sewing in a chickee, ca. 1927 Jane Tiger Motlow made some of the Seminole garments shown in this catalogue. (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)


Chickee­—A Traditional Seminole Dwelling

The word “chickee” comes from ciki, the Mikasuki

word for house. To survive in a swampy, hot environment, Seminoles built the chickee for shelter. A typical chickee was an open-sided, wooden post structure with a palmetto-thatched roof and platform about three feet off the ground. Before the Second Seminole War when the Seminoles lived in north and central Florida, they typically lived in enclosed log houses, but they probably also had open-sided structures like the chickee. When they were forced into the Florida swamplands during the Second Seminole War, Seminoles adopted the chickee as their primary shelter. Clan camps consisted of several chickees— one for cooking and others for eating, sleeping, working, and storage. Importantly, one could build a chickee quickly, allowing the Seminoles to relocate hurriedly when necessary. The platforms provided a raised area for sleeping, working, or other activities. Clothing and supplies often were stored in the rafters. Children slept with their mother and father in the same chickee.

Women in a chickee in the Everglades, ca. 1930–1940

(State Archives of Florida)

Although Seminole people do not live in chickees today, many people have them in their yards and use them for outdoor activities. South Florida residents and businesses have adopted chickees for their own purposes, so the structures are in demand. Several Seminole-owned companies today build chickees.

Men building a chickee, ca. 1960

(From a booklet in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Illustration of a typical chickee, 1881 The sketch appeared in Clay MacCauley’s 1887 report on the Seminole Indians.


Tourist Villages


y 1920, a number of Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles had entered the tourism industry. They looked to tourism to make a living as their incomes from hunting and trapping declined. Two early Miami tourist attractions owed their success to Seminole exhibition villages. Tourists from all over the country visited the exhibition villages to watch the Seminoles prepare food, wrestle alligators, and make souvenirs. Tips from wrestling and the sale of crafts supplemented their weekly wages from the attraction. The Seminoles’ participation in the tourism industry continues today. Coppinger’s Tropical Gardens, located along the Miami River, was familiar to the Seminoles as a temporary camping ground. The owner, Henry Coppinger, Sr., saw an opportunity to use Seminole families to lure tourists to his attraction, so he recruited Jack Tiger Tail’s family to set up camp there in 1918. Because Tiger Tail (Wind clan) spoke

Woman at Ross Allen’s Seminole attraction at Silver Springs, 1957 (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)


English, he soon emerged as the leader among the Seminoles at Coppinger’s. A Seminole entrepreneur named Willie Willie (Bird clan) started another exhibition village and trading post at the Musa Isle Grove around 1919, and it too met with great success. Unfortunately, Willie lost ownership of this site in 1922, but he started another exhibition village in Hialeah. Coppinger’s and Musa Isle competed against one another for many years, each one trying to upstage the other. Many of the same Seminole families returned year after year to the attractions, but their stays were seasonal, from January 1 to April 30. Families returned to their permanent camps in the off-season. The matrilineal organization of the Seminoles camps carried over into the tourist camps. The Seminoles carried on their daily activities as they normally would. They engaged in daily chores and made crafts to sell. Women who made patchwork

Tourist Villages had the opportunity to develop their artistry and creativity, and the souvenir market that they developed provided money for their families in excess of their regular wages.

Alligator Wrestling Seminole men learned about alligator wrestling through Henry Coppinger, Jr.’s alligator wrestling performances at Coppinger’s Tropical Gardens. Seminole men soon realized how much money they could make, and so they began to do it at Willie Willie’s Musa Isle attraction in 1919. Tourists were fascinated by these dangerous performances. News reels in movie theaters all over the country showed footage of wrestling at Musa Isle, and Florida’s Seminoles quickly were linked with alligator wrestling. Just about all Seminolerelated attractions established alligator wrestling as a feature. The tradition of alligator wrestling continues today.

Sam Willie (Bird clan) demonstrates archery at Tropical Hobbyland in Miami, ca. 1950–1960 (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Seminole men hollowing out a log to make a canoe, ca. 1955

(From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Alligator wrestling at Musa Isle Indian Village in Miami, ca. 1940 (State Archives of Florida)

Seminole women and children at Tropical Hobbyland in Miami, ca. 1940–1950 (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)


Tamiami Trail


new highway linking Tampa to Miami (the Tamiami Trail) opened in 1928. This new road cut through the Everglades and destroyed many water routes on which the Seminoles relied. Many tourists traveled along the Tamiami Trail. Already faced with the severe decline of their trading economy, the Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles adapted to the situation by setting up their own family camps and attractions along the highway.

Family camp at Royal Palm Hammock on the Tamiami Trail, ca. 1930–1940 (State Archives of Florida)

In 1936, at least eight Seminole family camps existed along the Trail from Miami to Fort Myers. These camps also doubled as tourist attractions. Admission was usually about fifteen cents, and each location sold dolls, carved canoes, and other items to tourists. The attractions often featured a penned alligator. Later, the groups sold food, including frog legs, and other local items.

Mona Billie (Bird clan) (left) and her sister by the fire at their camp on the Tamiami Trail, ca. 1939 (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

The people who lived along the Tamiami Trail became known as the “Trail Indians.” They were very traditional and not willing to receive government aid. For this reason, they did not move to reservations. Many of these people later became known as Miccosukees when they gained federal recognition as the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida in 1962.

A family camp on the Tamiami Trail, 1946 (State Archives of Florida)


The Art of Patchwork


ithout doubt, the most recognizable form of Seminole art is their colorful patchwork clothing. Mikasuki-speaking Seminole women created this unique art form around 1910 when patchwork bands first appeared on men’s long shirts. By 1920, patchwork designs had appeared. Making patchwork clothing for the tourist market helped many women to earn extra income for their families. Patchwork clothing is an expression of the Seminole people’s creativity. Mikasuki speakers call patchwork taweekaache. Women may have developed the patchwork technique by trying to devise a faster way to make appliqué designs on clothing. To make patchwork designs, different colored pieces of cloth are sewn together to (Left) Transitional shirt, ca. 1935 This style evolved from the big shirt. Since many Seminole men by the 1930s were wearing long pants, the “skirt” part of the garment was designed to tuck into pants. Eventually Seminole seamstresses eliminated the “skirt” and made patchwork jackets. John Goggin collected this garment, made on the Tamiami Trail, in 1938. (Collections of the Anthropology Division of the Florida Museum of Natural History, FLMNH Cat. No. 92781)

(Right) Transitional shirt, ca. 1930–1935 (Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)

make rows. The rows then are cut into smaller pieces, reassembled, and sewn back together. The Muskogee (Creek) speakers concentrated around Lake Okeechobee learned the patchwork technique in the 1930s. In addition to creating a distinctive style of clothing for the Seminoles themselves to wear, patchwork clothing became an important product to sell. Sewing machines allowed women to experiment with many designs, which evolved over time. The designs became smaller and more intricate and more rows of patchwork were used in the making of clothing. The art of patchwork continues today.

Big shirt, style of 1920s The big shirt continued to be worn as late as the 1950s by some traditional Seminole men. This big shirt was made in 1956 on the Brighton Reservation. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)


The Art of Patchwork Jacket, 1954–1955 Dan R. Schwartz of Jacksonville wore this patchwork jacket to a Lions Club International Convention in New Jersey. The Florida Lion’s Club members chose to wear patchwork jackets because of its association with Florida’s Seminole Indians.

Blouse and skirt, ca. 1925 This outfit was made by a daughter of John and Ida Osceola (Otter clan) at Musa Isle. Alan W. Davis, the foreman at Musa Isle, collected it in 1927. It features bands of appliqué on the skirt and blouse, as well as early patchwork designs on the skirt. By the 1920s, ruffles on blouses had lengthened into capes and hid the long sleeves of the blouses. By the 1930s, capes were made without sleeves.

(Collections of the Museum of Florida History)

(Loan courtesy of Patsy West)

Skirt, ca. 1954 The ivory satin skirt, made by Jane Tiger Motlow (Otter clan), features several bands of intricate patchwork.

(Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

Skirts The patchwork skirts shown here range in date from the 1940s to 1970s. (Collections of the Museum of Florida History; white skirt courtesy of Susanne Hunt)

Mary Parker (Snake clan) sews patchwork on the Brighton Reservation, 1941 (State Archives of Florida)


The Art of Patchwork Jacket, ca. 1930–1940 Men wore jackets such as this one with long pants.

(Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)

(Below Left) The big shirt (ca. 1917) features appliqué work along the center front opening, solid-color patchwork bands, and a band of zig-zag appliqué on the skirt. (Below Right) This garment (ca. 1925) includes four bands of patchwork designs. Over time, the width of the patchwork bands on clothing decreased. (Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)

Charlie Cypress (Otter clan), ca. 1930–1949 (State Archives of Florida)


The Art of Patchwork (Left) Cape and skirt, ca. 1954 Jane Tiger Motlow (Otter clan) made this striking ensemble. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

(Right) Cape and skirt, ca. 1935–1945 Over time, patchwork evolved into more intricate designs with three or more colors. Use of rickrack on Seminole clothing became more widespread in the 1930s. (Collections of the Museum of Florida History)

John Osceola’s (Big Towns clan) grandchildren, 1930–1949 (State Archives of Florida)

Child’s shirt, ca. 1953 Ann Norton purchased this patchwork shirt at the Big Cypress Reservation in early 1954. (Norton Collection, Museum of Florida History)

Children’s clothing Left to right: Big shirt, ca. 1927; dress, ca. 1955; big shirt (back view), style of 1930s, ca. 1955. Jane Tiger Motlow (Otter clan) made the dress and pink big shirt in the mid-1950s. (Collections of the Museum of Florida History)



The federal government began purchasing land

for the Seminole people in the 1890s, although there were no incentives for the people to relocate to these “reservations.” The land was not particularly desirable, and the people distrusted the government’s intentions. For several decades, the government made numerous attempts to move the Seminoles onto reservations, but the efforts largely failed. In the late 1930s, significant numbers of Seminoles finally moved onto reservations. Today, there are six Seminole reservations in Florida. They are Big Cypress, Brighton, Hollywood (formerly Dania), Immokalee, Fort Pierce, and Tampa. Living on the reservation was quite different from living in camps because federal housing policies were at odds with the way Seminoles lived. In an effort to encourage modernity and cleanliness, the government built small concrete block homes. Seminole people had to adjust to living in these dwellings that were designed for nuclear families— a mother, father, and their children. The houses were built close together, whereas their camps had been spaced apart to allow extended families more privacy. One of the first reservations to be established was in Hendry County in 1911. The government designated more than 26,000 acres for the Big Cypress Reservation. Because so few Seminoles moved there, it was deactivated in 1926. However, it reopened in 1937 with fourteen residents and added more the following year. Today, Big Cypress covers 52,000 acres and is the largest reservation of the Seminole Tribe. It is located about forty-five miles south of Clewiston. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and the Billie Swamp Safari are two educational and entertaining attractions located in Big Cypress. The Brighton Reservation encompasses almost 36,000 acres and is located northwest of Lake Okeechobee. This reservation was established in 1938, and Seminoles living nearby moved onto it 41

during the following decades. Brighton differs from the other reservations in that Muskogee (Creek) is the traditional language spoken there. Brighton is also the center of the Tribe’s cattle ranching operations. In 1911, the government claimed 360 acres in Broward County for the Seminole people. The Hollywood Reservation (formerly Dania) was then settled in 1926. The federal government’s Seminole Agency headquarters opened there in 1927. Today, the Hollywood Reservation is located in a major urban center with the headquarters for the Seminole Tribe of Florida located on the Reservation as well. There is also the Okalee Village, a branch of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and a Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Immokalee Reservation consists of 600 acres and is located northeast of Naples. Its land was placed in federal trust in 1979, and in 1994 a casino opened there. The Fort Pierce Reservation in St. Lucie County consists of fifty acres put in trust in 1995. The first group of homes was completed in September 2005. The Tampa Reservation, established in 1982, consists of just thirty-nine acres. It is located off Interstate 4 in an urban area. The Tampa Reservation is also home to a Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. For the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, the reservations are Alligator Alley, Krome Avenue, and Tamiami Trail. Miccosukee Tribal headquarters is located on the Tamiami Trail Reservation, which is forty miles west of Miami. Alligator Alley and Krome Avenue are non-residential reservations.

Tourism Industry (1930—1970)


ttractions featuring Seminole people remained a large part of the South Florida tourist scene for many years. In the 1930s and 1940s, the majority of Mikasuki and Muskogee (Creek) speakers spent some time in an exhibition village. By the 1950s, the established attractions started to decline because the Miccosukees had opened their own exhibition villages to tourists along the Tamiami Trail. Most Seminoles stayed at the attractions during the winter season, but they were free to leave at any time. Of course they were still engaged in other jobs such as harvesting crops and serving as hunting guides. At the attractions, women made clothing, dolls, baskets, and other items to sell to the tourists while the men carved cypress wood into various items to sell, hunted game, and even wrestled alligators. One of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions, Silver Springs, opened an Indian Village in the mid-1930s. Charlie Cypress (Otter clan) spent many seasons employed there. Charlie Cypress was an excellent

Children play in a dugout canoe at Silver Springs, ca. 1940

canoe maker and wood carver. He kept to the old traditions, including wearing the big shirt. A Seminole tourist village also was located on Pass-AGrille Key near St. Petersburg in the 1930s. Tropical Hobbyland in Miami and Aquaglades in Fort Lauderdale also employed Seminole people. The oldest Seminole village attractions finally closed in the 1960s—Musa Isle in 1964 and Tropical Paradise (formerly Coppinger’s) in 1969. However, to show how acceptable Seminole tourism had become by the 1960s, the Seminole Okalee Village was built for the new Tribe by the government on the Hollywood Reservation and still operates today. Over time, government workers, missionaries, and others judged the exhibition villages to be demeaning and damaging to native culture. These people encouraged the Seminoles to focus on selling arts and crafts and to work in other types of jobs. However, many Seminole people had fond memories of their days in the villages. It provided a steady income and allowed them to carry on their normal activities.

(From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)


Tourism Industry (1930—1970)

Two women pose at the Aquaglades tourist attraction in Fort Lauderdale, ca. 1957

(From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Jimmy Tiger (Bird clan) and his family at his tourist village on the Tamiami Trail, ca. 1960–1970 The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida bought the attraction in the 1970s. (From a postcard in the collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Seminole Village at Silver Springs, ca. 1940 (State Archives of Florida)


Seminole Arts & Crafts

Artistic creativity and output flourished in the

1930s and beyond. Patchwork styles continued to develop as women experimented with new designs. The tourists’ demand for authentic Seminole creations remained high. Deaconess Harriet M. Bedell, an Episcopal missionary, encouraged Seminole artisans to focus more on their crafts so they would not need to be “on display” in the attractions. They began producing higher-quality dolls, baskets, wooden home accessories, and other items for the tourist market. The sale of these items helped bring in much-needed income. Government workers and Christian missionaries attempted to influence the Seminole people, especially in the areas of work. Bedell’s Glade Cross Mission was a center for Seminole arts and crafts for the people living at Big Cypress. Money that trickled down to the Seminoles from New Deal programs further encouraged the production of arts and crafts. Edith Boehmer, a trusted friend of the Seminoles, helped establish the Seminole

A crafts display at the Florida Folk Festival, 1983 (State Archives of Florida)

Crafts Guild at Brighton Reservation in 1940. Both Deaconess Bedell and Mrs. Boehmer arranged craft sales through mail orders. Sales were so strong that Mrs. Boehmer expanded her program to include arts and crafts from Big Cypress. The sale of arts and crafts continued to be a reliable source of income for the Seminole Tribe. In 1960, Seminole Okalee Village and Arts and Crafts Center opened on the Hollywood Reservation. Today, there are numerous Tribal events where traditional arts and crafts are promoted. Women at Glade Cross Mission display sweetgrass baskets they made, 1933–1939 (Courtesy, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, neg. 37201)


Dolls, Baskets & Wood Carvings

Seminoles adapted their creative skills for use in

the tourist economy and at the same time preserved and promoted their culture. Women made female and male dolls to reflect their own style of dress. Although women had been making baskets for many years, they adopted new styles to meet the demands of the tourists. As traditional canoe makers and chickee builders, men used their skills with carving for the tourist market as well. All of these crafts were made with materials from their own local environments.

Dolls During the nineteenth century, Seminole children played with simple dolls made of sticks and rags, but carved wooden dolls appeared in the early 1900s. These continued to be made until the 1940s. Dolls became commercialized around 1918 when the Seminoles recognized that dolls could be sold to tourists. Palmetto fiber commonly was used to construct the dolls, which were then dressed in patchwork clothes. Male dolls were more complicated to make, so they were made less often, and also clothed in patchwork big shirts. Women started making man-on-horseback dolls in the 1940s. The idea for the manon-horseback doll may have come from Deaconess Bedell’s Glade Cross Mission, and it may be linked to the Seminoles’ reentry into the cattle ranching business around that time. Wooden dolls, ca. 1934 This pair of dolls is a fine example of wooden dolls made for the tourist market. Artisans generally stopped making wooden dolls after the 1940s. An inscription on the female doll indicates that Miss Edith Beach was its owner and that it attended a convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1934.

(Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)


Man-on-horseback doll, ca. 1990 This is a contemporary version of the man-on-horseback style made by Maggie Osceola (Bird clan). (Courtesy of the Seminole Tribe of Florida Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Acc. No. 1996.46.1)

Palmetto doll, ca. 1940 Male palmetto fiber dolls were less common than female dolls because they were more timeconsuming to make. (Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)

Dolls, Baskets & Wood Carvings

Wooden plaque, 1939 Robert Billie (Wind clan) carved and painted the plaque, which was presented to Bishop John D. Wing as a Christmas gift. This is one example of the variety of wood crafts made for the tourist market. (Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)

Man-on-horseback doll, ca. 1940 This type of doll was associated with the craft program at Glade Cross Mission. Constructed primarily of palmetto fiber, the man-on-horseback doll represents the Seminole people’s re-entry into the cattle business. (Collection of I.S.K. Reeves V and Sara W. Reeves)

Palmetto dolls, ca. 1940–1950s Palmetto fiber became the primary material used to make dolls by the 1940s, but its earliest use dates to around 1918. (Collections of the Museum of Florida History)


Dolls, Baskets & Wood Carvings Baskets Seminole women traditionally made palmettowoven baskets for sifting corn and for storing things. In the 1930s, they began to make sweetgrass baskets for the tourist market. These baskets usually had a lid, and sometimes they featured a doll head in the center part of the lid.

Wood Carvings Wood work was the domain of men. Men’s primary responsibilities were the building of chickees and dugout canoes for travel, and they learned construction methods from their fathers, uncles, or other male relatives. Men routinely carved sofkee spoons and made mortars and pestles for everyday use. Encouraged by Deaconess Bedell, in the 1930s men were carving wooden objects for the tourist market, including miniature dugout canoes, animal figures, bowls, and plates. In exhibition villages, men also made spears, knives, and small drums to sell to tourists. Often they painted these items with “Indian” symbols from western tribes to make the crafts seem “more generically Indian” for the tourist trade.

Carved animals, ca. 1920–1960 These carved animals are examples of wood crafts that men made to sell to tourists. (Collections of the Anthropology Division of the Florida Museum of Natural History, FLMNH Cat. No. E-995, E-996, E-999)

Handbag, ca. 1965–1970 Patchwork and basketry elements are combined to make this handbag. The bag features a palmetto fiber and coiled sweetgrass base. Making crafts for the tourist market remained an important activity for Seminoles and Miccosukees in the 1960s and 1970s. (Collections of the Museum of Florida History)

Sweetgrass basket, ca. 1995 Beginning in the 1930s, sweetgrass baskets were commonly made to sell to tourists. The lid features a doll head, wearing a popular women’s hairstyle of the 1940s.

(Collections of the Museum of Florida History)


New Deal Programs & New Religion

T he 1930s and 1940s were a time of great

change for the Seminole people. Employment programs began, reservations took shape and people slowly started to settle on them, cattle ranching was introduced, and schools were established. In addition, some Seminoles converted to Christianity, which at first created tensions within the community. In response to the Great Depression of the 1930s, the federal government put in place a recovery plan called the New Deal. One of the successful New Deal programs directly aimed at American Indians was the Indian Emergency Conservation Work (IECW) program. This program provided jobs, health care, and housing for young men. Seminole men in the program worked in a variety of land and infrastructure improvement jobs on the Dania, Big Cypress, and Brighton Reservations. The program also provided incentives for moving to the reservations, although many Seminoles, especially Mikasuki speakers living near Big Cypress and the Tamiami Trail, continued to resist moving onto them. In 1937, the IECW was renamed Civilian Conservation Corps–Indian Division (CCC-ID). The program ended in 1942 because of World War II. Prior to the 1930s, Seminole parents strongly resisted sending their children to school. However, the government tried to make the Seminoles see the value of an academic education. With CCC-ID funds, a school for Seminole children was built on the Brighton Reservation and dedicated in 1938. William and Edith Boehmer were instrumental in school operations and taught there for sixteen years. A day school at Big Cypress opened in 1940, closed five years later, but opened again in the 1950s. Parents became more agreeable to sending their children to school around this time, but it took many more years before Seminole children were accepted in Florida’s public schools. Christian missionaries attempted to instill new religious values among the Seminoles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For

the most part, these efforts failed. In the 1930s and 1940s, Baptist missionaries, who were also Creekspeaking Indians from Oklahoma, focused their efforts on those Seminoles living on reservations. The missionaries had success in converting a number of them to Christianity, despite opposition from traditional Seminoles. However, as more people converted and as Christianity was integrated with traditional practices, tensions between the Christian Seminoles and traditionalists diminished. Some of the early leaders of the Seminole Tribe were practicing Baptists. Since the 1930s, Baptist churches have expanded to become the largest Christian denomination among the Seminoles.

Josie Billie (Panther clan), ca. 1950 Josie Billie, a respected medicine man, became a Christian in the mid-1940s. He became a licensed Southern Baptist preacher at sixty years of age. (State Archives of Florida)


Cattle Ranching

Herding cattle on the Brighton Reservation, 1950 (State Archives of Florida)


he Seminole people have raised cattle for more than 250 years, but large-scale cattle ownership declined after the Second Seminole War. New Deal programs, however, helped the Seminoles return to successful, large-scale cattle ranching. The cattle program started in 1936 at what would become the Brighton Reservation. Today, Seminole cattle operations have achieved great success. In fact, in 2007, the Tribe ranked seventh nationally for annual production of calves. The Seminole people are very proud of their long and successful association with cattle ranching.

Seminole cattleman Charlie Micco (Panther clan) and his grandson Fred Smith (Bird clan) at Brighton Reservation, 1950 Charlie Micco was one of the first Seminole cattle trustees. (State Archives of Florida)


Cattle Ranching The band of Seminoles that lived in Paynes Prairie (near present-day Gainesville) herded cattle in the mid-1700s. The cattle were descended from animals brought to Florida by the Spanish. In the First Seminole War (1817–1818) and even before, whites stole cattle and horses from the Seminoles, and the Seminoles raided the settlers. Even after the turmoil of the Second Seminole War, the survivors persisted in raising cattle, though on a smaller scale. Conflicts with white settlers over grazing pastures and property lines during the early twentieth century were common. By 1930, Seminole ownership of cattle had temporarily ended. The Seminoles reentered the cattle business during the Great Depression. In 1936, the government purchased cattle for the Seminoles to provide jobs and income for the future. After a few years, the government was reimbursed. Cattle ranching continues to be successful at Brighton Reservation, and cattle were introduced at Big Cypress


reservation in 1946. Today, the Seminole Tribe owns approximately 14,000 head of cattle, and for ten years has used video conferencing to sell its beef calves. Individual Seminole Tribal members also own herds. The Seminole Tribe sponsors rodeos and field days on the reservations to showcase its thriving cattle industry and proud traditions. The Junior Cypress Cattle Drive and the Bill Osceola Memorial Rodeo take place on the Big Cypress Reservation each year. In fact, Seminole leaders working to organize the Tribe in the mid-1950s staged a rodeo to raise money to send a delegation to Washington D.C. Big Cypress cattlemen, ca. 1945 Left to right: Frank Billie (Wind clan), Frank J. Billie, Morgan Smith, Willie Frank (Wind clan), Josie Billie (Panther clan), Jimmy Cypress, Charlie Osceola, Junior Cypress, Johnny Cypress (Panther clan), and Little Fewell. (Photograph by William D. Boehmer, courtesy of Seminole/ Miccosukee Photographic Archive)

A Sovereign Tribe

The Seminole Tribe of Florida celebrated its 50


anniversary in August 2007. Achieving federal recognition in 1957 as a sovereign tribe was an important first step on the way to independence and self-government. The Seminole Tribe has come a long way since its formation. It has become one of the most successful American Indian tribes in the country. The Tribe has approximately 3,200 members. Historically, the legal issues concerning sovereignty for American Indian tribes date to the early years of the United States. The U.S. Constitution recognized Indian tribes as sovereign entities, but it took further legal opinions to interpret what that meant.

Three early nineteenth-century Supreme Court opinions known as the “Marshall Trilogy,” because they were penned by Chief Justice John Marshall, broadly outlined Indian law. These opinions affirmed that Indian tribes held limited sovereignty within their tribal territory, but also defined them as “domestic, dependent nations.” Unfortunately, the U.S. government attacked the sovereignty of Indian tribes throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and further legal battles have been fought over the extent to which Indian tribes possess sovereignty. In the early 1950s, the U.S. Congress threatened to terminate federal services to some tribes, including

Members of the Constitution and Charter Committee, 1957 These men were instrumental in the formation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Left to right: Rex Quinn, L. Mike Osceola (Bird clan), Frank Billie (Wind clan), Jackie Willie, Bill Osceola (Bird clan), John Henry Gopher (Bird clan), Billy Osceola (Bird clan), and Jimmie O. Osceola (Panther clan). (Photograph by William D. Boehmer, courtesy of Seminole/Miccosukee Photographic Archive)


A Sovereign Tribe the Florida Seminoles. Traditionally the most influential individuals were medicine men, but no one leader had the authority to speak for all. The Seminoles felt the need to organize to protect their interests. Billy Osceola (Bird clan) was elected to be the first Tribal chairman. Frank Billie (Wind clan) served as president of the Board of Directors.

Tribal Organization The Tribe has a constitution, bylaws, and a corporate charter. An elected five-member Tribal Council governs the Tribe. It consists of the chairman, vice chairman and one representative from the Big Cypress, Hollywood, and Brighton Reservations. The Council administers gaming, the Seminole Police Department, and other services and programs. The Tribal headquarters building is located on the Hollywood reservation. Another important governing body within the Tribe is the Board of Directors. This group of five voting members oversees the federally chartered corporation, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., and it directs the economic development of the Tribe. Projects such as the Tribal Fair and Rodeo, Big Cypress Trading Post, Seminole Sugarcane, citrus groves, cattle ranching, and other enterprises come under the Board’s oversight. The chairman of the Tribal Council serves as the vice president of the Board of Directors, and the Board’s president also acts as the Council’s vice chairman. Above, Betty Mae Jumper (Snake clan), ca. 1967 Jumper served as the Chairman of the Seminole Tribal Council from 1967 to 1971. (State Archives of Florida)

Left to right, Joe Dan Osceola (Panther clan), President of the Board of Directors of the Seminole Tribe; Buffalo Tiger (Bird clan), founding Chairman of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida; and Fred Smith (Bird clan), Secretary-Treasurer of the Seminole Tribe and later President of the Board of Directors, ca. 1970 (Courtesy of Special Collections, George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida)


Political Divisons Arise


erious divisions between Seminoles living on reservations and those who did not surfaced in 1950. The conflict concerned a lawsuit filed on behalf of all Florida Seminoles against the U.S. government. The non-reservation group felt that the others lacked the authority to speak for them, and they wanted rights to land, not money. The non-reservation group then organized to become the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida in 1962. Miccosukee Tribal members speak only one traditional language, Mikasuki. There are approximately 650 members of the Miccosukee Tribe. The Miccosukees are culturally similar to the Seminoles; the division is primarily political. Generally more traditional, the Miccosukees have a residential reservation on the Tamiami Trail. Like the Seminole Tribe, the Miccosukee Tribe enjoys sovereign status, elects its leaders, operates education programs, and administers several businesses.


Economic Development & Success


he Seminole Tribe’s current financial success did not happen overnight. The Tribe’s leaders worked hard to bring in needed revenue. For many years, the Tribe as a corporation earned a small amount of money. However, in 1979, the economic situation started to change with the opening of a high-stakes bingo hall on the Hollywood Reservation. Its success opened the door to further gaming operations. Today, the casinos have created a thriving economy that benefits all Seminole Tribal members. The Tribe’s financial success is related to its sovereignty, which means in part that it is able to function as its own political and governmental authority. The Tribe’s most visible moneymaker has been its bingo parlors and casinos. The Hollywood Reservation’s high-stakes bingo hall was the country’s first American Indian gaming facility. Today, both the Hollywood and Tampa reservations boast a Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. In 2007, the Seminole Tribe of Florida purchased Hard Rock International, the first acquisition of a major international corporation by an American Indian group, for $965 million. Hard Rock International consists of 124 Hard Rock Cafés around the world and seven hotels and casinos.

Seminole Tribe of Florida headquarters building, 1995 The headquarters is located on the Hollywood Reservation. (State Archives of Florida)

The Seminole Tribe is also involved in ecotourism, cattle ranching, agriculture, and other ventures. Its businesses employ several thousand people. The financial gains of the last decade have allowed the Tribe to fund many vital programs for its people, including cultural education, health care, elder care, and others. The Seminole Tribe has achieved its goal of being self-sufficient and no longer needs to rely on the federal government for money.

Seminole Tribal members at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square, New York City, 2006 The Seminole Tribe finalized its purchase of Hard Rock International in 2007. (Photograph by Felix DoBosz, courtesy of the Seminole Tribune)


In 1997, Laura Mae Osceola (Panther clan), a Seminole elder who was involved in the formation of the Seminole Tribe in 1957, gave an interview in which she looked back on her dreams for the Seminole Tribe. She stated, “We said that one day we would be self-sufficient and we were determined to see economic development for our people. . . . I wanted to see a proud Tribe and an industrious Tribe, one that was independent and self-sufficient.”

Sovereignty in Action


ncome from gaming and other successful businesses has allowed the Seminole Tribe to make greater use of its sovereignty. Sovereignty gives the Tribe authority to make decisions about many matters that affect its people. For example, today the Tribe administers its own programs and services, whereas twenty years ago the federal government managed them. Health care, cultural education, historic preservation, and housing are a few areas that benefit from tribal sovereignty. Cultural education is one way that the Tribe is trying to preserve its languages and traditions. Students girls learn to make fry bread, 2007 who attend Ahfachkee (“Happy”) Two The Seminole Tribe sponsors many cultural activities for young Tribal members. School on the Big Cypress Reservation (Photograph by Judy Weeks, courtesy of the Seminole Tribune) participate in cultural education activities. Students learn to tend gardens, play stickball, and make traditional crafts. Reservation and serves kindergarten through fifth The Seminole Tribe’s first charter school, Pemayetv grade students. Students learn the Muskogee, Emahakv, meaning “Our Way School,” opened in or Creek, language there. The Tribe sponsors a August 2007. The school is located on the Brighton Rodeo, Tribal Fair, Brighton Field Days, and other events to encourage interest in traditional ways and strengthen community bonds. The Tribe also offers language classes to all ages. Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum (“A Place to Learn”) on the Big Cypress Reservation preserves and presents the history of the Seminole people. The Seminole Tribe administers several departments on its reservations. It manages its water resources, builds roads, undertakes law enforcement, conducts historic preservation in compliance with federal laws, and secures electricity and sewage lines on its lands. The Seminole Housing Department grants leases for home sites on and off the reservations.

Bertha Tapia stands outside the Immokalee Medical Clinic, 2006 Quality health care for its members is a priority of the Seminole Tribe. (Photograph by Judy Weeks, courtesy of the Seminole Tribune)


Sovereignty in Action With this agency in control of housing, the people are able to live with or close by their extended families. Furthermore, the homes are more spread out, emulating the patterns of camp life from earlier times. The Family Services Department offers basic educational programs.

The Seminole Tribe pays close attention to the health of its members. The Tribe operates health care clinics, ambulance service, and health education programs that cater to the specific needs of the people. Health workers are sensitive to traditional healing practices.

Women compete in a traditional clothing contest at the Seminole Tribal Fair, 2003 (Courtesy of the Seminole Tribune)


The Green Corn Dance—An Ongoing Tradition

Four women stand beside the goal post for the stickball game at the Green Corn Dance near Big Cypress, 1877–1892 (National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, neg. 45,331D)

The Green Corn Dance is an important four-day

religious ceremony. It is a time for spiritual renewal, purification, and importantly, reconnecting with the sacred medicine bundle. According to traditional beliefs, the Breathmaker gave powerful objects to the people for their well-being. These items are kept in the medicine bundle. The Green Corn Dance usually occurs in June when the corn is ready for harvest. The Green Corn Dance originated from the religious practices of the prehistoric tribes of the


lower Southeast. The bundle carrier is entrusted to protect the medicine bundle throughout the year, so he plays an important role in the Green Corn Dance. Dancing is an important part of the ceremonies, and many of the dances mimic the movement of animals. Few non-Indians have observed the Green Corn Dance activities.

The Green Corn Dance—An Ongoing Tradition On the first day, men gather wood, people play stickball, and dance around the fire. On the second day, there is a feast, and feathers are gathered for the feather dance. Again stickball is played. On the third day, men fast and consume “black drink.� Black drink consists of a mixture of boiled plant leaves that causes vomiting, considered necessary for purification of the body. The council meeting of elders and court is also held on the third day; teenage boys receive their Indian names as well. During the evening of the third day, the bundle carrier unwraps the medicine bundle and displays its contents. At midnight, the Green Corn Dance occurs. On the fourth day, the men are scratched to release bad blood, and then they take sweat baths. Finally, the bundle carrier puts the medicine bundle away. Upon his return, the men eat the green corn and other foods prepared by the women.

Stickball game The ball game is a significant part of the Green Corn Dance. The game dates back at least 1,000 years when it was played by the Mississippian culture. Today stickball is played men against women. Male players use wooden rackets to hurl a ball, traditionally made of deer hide, against a pole (a tall tree trunk). Women use their hands to throw the ball. The team with the most hits upon the pole wins. The game results in physical contact as the players try to throw one another off balance. Anthropologists speculate that in modern times the game perhaps is meant to provide a counterbalance to the overall solemn nature of the Green Corn Dance.

Stickball rackets and ball, ca. 1900 These items were used to play stickball, a ceremonial game associated with the Green Corn Dance. Although both men and women participated in the game, only men used the rackets. Women used their hands to throw the ball. The rackets are cypress, and the ball is made of leather. (From the collection of the Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida)


Miami John Tiger (Bird clan) with stickball rackets, 1910

(National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, neg. 55,308)

The Green Corn Dance—An Ongoing Tradition

Ceremonial sash, 1988–1989 Lottie Shore (Bird clan) made this beaded sash to represent the types of sashes worn at the Green Corn Dance. Long woven drops with yarn tassels were typical elements of sashes and belts. (Collections of the Museum of Florida History)


Traditions in the Twenty-first Century


he Seminole people of Florida have had a unique experience. They have adapted to every circumstance that was beyond their control, managing to survive and thrive, without forgetting their cultural identity and proud heritage. They have adapted to the modern world, but have not forgotten their past. The Seminoles are a diverse people. Some are more traditional than others; many have converted to Christianity while still holding traditional beliefs. Some of the elders worry that the old ways, traditions, and values are disappearing. But the Seminoles must be commended for trying to instill their traditional values into today’s youth. It may be a challenge to preserve cultural traditions in these modern times, but as the Seminoles have shown in the past, they have adapted to challenging situations with success.


Seminole People of Florida: Survival & Success

Museum of Florida History

Museum of Florida History R.A. Gray Building 500 South Bronough Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399 850-245-6400

Charlie Crist, Governor Kurt S. Browning, Secretary of State Florida Department of State Office of Cultural, Historical & Information Programs

Profile for Charity Myers

Seminole People of Florida Exhibition Catalog  

Created for the Museum of Florida History

Seminole People of Florida Exhibition Catalog  

Created for the Museum of Florida History