Native American History - Seminole Nation

Seminole Photos - Public Domain Wikimedia Commons

Portraits of Seminole Tribe members of Native Americans


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The History of the Seminole Nation

Native American History - Seminole Nation

Around and about 1778 during the 18th century, the Seminole name was first applied to the people living in the areas of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The Seminoles were related to the Muskogean peoples which included the Native Americans of the Mississippi Valley area.

Our seventh President, Andrew Jackson (of the United States of America) initiated the ethnic cleansing and forced relocation of Native American tribes from the Southeast to west of the Mississippi River during the 1830s. Jackson was the Tennessee army general who defeated the Creek Indians and the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson commanded the First Seminole War in 1817 declared by President James Monroe.

Andrew Jackson was charged with corralling the Seminoles in Spanish held Florida while apprehending runaway slaves and trying to drive the tribe westward toward relocation areas. Jackson decided that the best way to handle these orders was to conquer and possess the whole of Florida and win it for the United States.

The Seminole tribes along with some help from the British and Spain, attacked Jackson's Tennessee volunteers and left their own villages vulnerable. Jackson proceeded to burn their homes and farm land. Jackson captured Pensacola and ousted the Spanish governor. He also executed two British advisers and became known as Sharp Knife to the Seminoles.

In 1832, the Treaty of Payne's Landing removed all of the Seminole's land claims in Florida. The treaty provided for the relocation of the tribe members to be moved to Indian Territory within three years. The government then proceeded to back date the treaty which gave the Indians much less than three years to move.

The Seminoles of Florida refused to sign the treaty and the second, or Great Seminole War began in 1834. The war lasted nearly seven years and thousands of lives were lost. In 1842, the war ended in an agreement that allowed hundreds of members of the Seminole tribe to remain in Florida. This, of course, meant they got all of the swamps! Their descendants are the Seminole Tribe of Florida who now own and operate the Seminole reservation as well as many resorts and casinos in the state.

A Third Seminole War (1856-1858) was fought by the tribe when the U.S. government again tried to evict the Seminoles who were determined to stay put. After spending over $40 million dollars and 40 years on trying to get rid of the Indians, the government finally gave up. More than 3,000 Seminoles had been removed and 1,500 more were killed but they never gave up or signed a peace treaty with the whites.

The Oklahoma Seminoles originated in Florida and then relocated during the wars to join together with the Muscogee Creek Confederacy. This group consists of descendants of the Creek Apalache, Apalachicola, Mikasuki, Seminole and African-American peoples. Their current Seminole reservation is in Seminole County, Oklahoma and was recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1935.

Portraits - Seminole Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Native American Culture - Seminole

Stickball

Stickball is a Native American game played by most of the groups of the southeastern United States. The Creek and related tribes played two versions of this game. The men used sticks like the Choctaw sticks, but the women were allowed to play and did not have to carry sticks and could therefore use their hands and feet. Women were not allowed to be tackled and there were serious penalties for those who did tackle a woman.

The other version of Creek stick ball was more traditional and rough. The rules of the game are traditionally Cherokee style, but the Creeks and Seminoles use the sticks exclusively for handling the balls. The game is played much like LaCrosse.

Hunting, Fishing and Daily Life

Most Native Americans learned to hunt and fish practically before they could walk. Everyone in the communal tribe works together to provide for the community. The men were hunters and warriors, the women farmed, cooked, and raised the children.

Children had toys made of native materials such as crafted dolls made of palmetto leaves, wood carvings and balls.

Arts and crafts were practiced by both men and women. The Seminoles crafted baskets and containers made of the tall grasses of the Everglades. These baskets are still being made today.

Both genders were story tellers, artists and musicians. Either sex could practice medicinal arts.

Chiefs used to always be men, but now women can lead in government and tribal lineage is generally considered to be matriarchal. This means that status comes from the mother's side of the family.

The people - Seminole Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

The Green Corn Dance

The Seminole Green Corn Dance is sacred. Few non-natives have ever even seen this dance. Native Americans use dances to meditate, express grief, tell stories and earn rites of passage.

The Green Corn Dance is much like the Walkabout in Australia or the Vision Quest in other Native American tribes. It is a spiritual dance that involves becoming an adult of the tribe. This dance is held in the Springtime of the year and involves the whole community. The purification ceremonies affect both males and females, but the males have other manhood rituals. Some Seminoles use tribal tattoos to express various accomplishments.

During the time of the Green Corn Dance, tribal matters are attended to and disputes are settled. Clans are recognized and a powwow is held. Native American powwows are a gathering of the clans.

The traditional dances of the Seminoles include stomp dancing. The names for these dances are indicative of what the dance is about. There is the Fire Ant Dance, Crow Dance, Catfish Dance and other dances of a spiritual nature. These dances may last for hours.

At a gathering of tribal nations, or powwow, the Seminoles will perform public versions of their proprietary dances.

Stomp Dancing

Seminole Stomp Dance

Seminole Food

Seminole food was hearty and delicious. They had crops such as corn, beans and squash. Their dishes were primarily soups and stews, but they did bake cornbread.

The main ingredients of any feast was whatever the men had had the good fortune of bringing home from the hunt. The Seminoles hunted deer, wild turkey, rabbits, turtles, alligators and other varmints. Fish of any kind was welcome.

Typical Seminole recipes include Indian Fried Bread and Sofkee made from rice. They also made a dish called Boiled Swamp Cabbage which we know today as hearts of palm.

Seminole women cooking:

Seminole women cooking - public domain - Wikimedia Commons

Seminole Language

The Miccosukee language is the tribal language of the Seminoles in Florida which is also spoken by the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida. The Seminoles are a branch of the Miccosukee Tribe.

On Brighton reservation, some members speak the Creek language. In Oklahoma, the language is a blend of Mikasuki and Muskogean. English is common on all reservations.

Common Seminole Words and Phrases

Seminole Names and Meanings

Seminole women are given a name shortly after their birth and they will carry this name for life. But this name is only used amongst the tribe until the woman has a child. Then Seminole women are known by the honorific,(child's name)plus mother's name. Thereafter, only the woman's parents and elders may call her by her given name.

Seminole men receive one name and many different titles throughout their lives. Childhood names are discarded when they become adults around the ages of 14 or 15. After this time they earn title names according to various ceremonies, battles, elections or skills.

One famous Seminole was given the name of Asén, which is a ceremonial title for a man who drinks the 'black drink', and Yaha-Yahola, which means a wolf and its cry. English speakers pronounced and spelled this name as Oceola after he became a famous Seminole warrior. Oceola was never a chief of the Seminoles, but he was considered a great leader.

Famous Seminoles:

  • Asén Yahahola or Osceola of Florida
  • Billy Bowlegs
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Robert Urich
  • Gabrielle Reece
  • George Zimmerman

The Seminole Reservations

  • Tampa Reservation - 5223 Orient Rd, Tampa, FL 33610, USA Featuring the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino of the Seminoles
  • Big Cypress Reservation, Florida - Big Cypress Indian Reservation, Clewiston, FL, USA Museum, Safaris, Rock Mines, Entertainment complex, RV resort and coming soon, a Swamp Water Cafe!
  • Hollywood Seminole Indian Reservation, Florida - Hollywood Seminole Indian Reservation, Hollywood, FL 33021, USA some of the Seminole Okalee Indian Village where you can see alligator wrestling and the Native American way of life.
  • Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation, Florida - Brighton Indian Reservation, Northeast Glades, FL, USA Large Seminole Casino and Restaurants
  • Seminole Nation Oklahoma Trading Post - U.S. 270 & Hwy 56, Wewoka, OK 74884, USA Area of Oklahoma where the western Seminoles live.
Map of the Seminole area of Florida

If you have comments, suggestions, or information to share about the Seminole, please contact me. Thank you!

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