Seminoles and Miccosukees

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Seminoles and Miccosukees

LOCATION: United States (Florida)
POPULATION: 6,000 (enrolled Seminole Nation of Oklahoma) 600 Miccosukees
LANGUAGE: Muskogee; Creek; Miccosuki; English
RELIGION: Traditional religion; Christianity
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 2: Native North Americans


Groups of tribal peoples who lived in southern Alabama and Georgia were called "Creeks" by the British. Around 1740 some of these people moved south to Spanish-held Florida. There in the northern part of the state, they established permanent settlements. These Creek people, once they moved to Florida, were called "Seminoles." The derivative of this name has been attributed both to the Creek simanoli, which means "runaway," and to the Spanish cimmaron, or "wild," like an animal. The first Seminole settlers in Florida were Oconee Creeks who spoke the language known by linguists as Hitchiti or Mikasuki (the people themselves call the language "i.laponki."; they call themselves "i.laponathi."). Other bands of Seminoles came into Florida: Yuchi, Ochise, and Tallahassee.

When the Creeks lost the Red Stick War against the Americans at Horseshoe Bend in 1813–14, there was a great influx of Red Stick Creek refugees who joined the Seminoles in Florida.

From the earliest Spanish records of exploration it is known that southeastern Indians kept slaves as part of their economic system. Slaves were taken as part of the spoils of war. When the British arrived, they wanted the Indians' slaves to work on their plantations in the Carolinas and the West Indies. The Indians began to trade their slaves to the British for trade goods. It was a lucrative market. Soon they were making raids on other groups of Indians for that specific purpose, often wiping out entire Indian towns. The over-slaving of Native American populations in the southeast was one of the reasons that trade in African slavery escalated.

By the late 18th century, African slaves began to escape from the plantations in the American South. They fled to Spanish Florida where the Seminoles had settled. The Africans were welcomed by the Seminoles, who could no longer make slave raids due to European influences and had an economic need for slave workers. Slavery among the Seminoles was not harsh as it had been in the plantation system. The slaves were required to work and give tribute to their masters, but they were treated with respect.

The white masters wanted the runaway slaves back. There was something else that the Seminoles had that the southern plantation owners wanted. Cattle. By the early l9th-century, the Seminoles had massed sizable herds of cattle, based on feral cattle that strayed from the large Spanish haciendas. The Seminole settlements were situated on prime grazing lands near Tallahassee and Mikasuki and south on the Alachua (or Payne's) Prairie near present day Gainesville. Their herds multiplied.

Cattle and slave raids by Georgians and Seminoles over the Georgia/Florida border and into Alachua created the catalyst for war. It was, in fact, Seminole cattle and runaway slaves that provided the impetus for the First Seminole War in Florida in 1818. The War was little more than a series of raids to destroy the Seminole settlements and capture cattle and slaves. But politically it was very important. The unauthorized raid was made into Spanish Florida under the command of Andrew Jackson, who also captured the Spanish capital at Pensacola. Jackson was reprimanded by Washington for his rash actions attacking another country, but he had succeeded in demonstrating the weakness of Spain's hold on Florida. Ultimately, in 1821, Florida was ceded to the United States and Jackson, the greatest enemy of the Seminoles, was appointed Territorial Governor. The Treaty of Ft. Moultrie Creek in 1923 placed the Seminoles on a reservation in the middle of the state. They were not able to have contact with the coasts.

In 1830, under President Jackson, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This Act specified that all Indian tribes east of the Mississippi would be removed to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. This was considered to be for their own good as settlement was encroaching on them. This forced migration is the famous Trail of Tears. In Florida, the Treaty of Payne's Landing was made by the government in 1832. This treaty specified that seven Seminole chiefs would inspect the Indian Territory prior to their leaving Florida and give their consent to emigrate. When the delegation returned to Florida, however, they said that they had been forced into signing the treaty and that it was therefore not valid. The removal date was January 1, 1836. The Seminoles did not want to emigrate and began their patriotic resistance, the Second Seminole War, 1835 to 1842. Best known leaders from this war are Osceola, Alligator, Jumper, Micanopy, Coacoochee, and Sam Jones (Abiaki). Osceola was martyred by the whites, as he was captured in a truce situation and then died in prison. Many other Seminoles were captured and emigrated by ship from Florida to New Orleans. From there they journeyed overland to Indian Territory. From a pre-First Seminole War population of 6,000, only 300–400 remained in southern Florida.

The Third Seminole War was fought 1855–1858. By this time, settlers were moving south into the state. The state's cattle interests were politically important. The Seminoles again had accumulated cattle and were considered to be in the way of progress. Leader Billy Bowlegs was taken on a trip to Washington, Boston, and New York to show him the powerful United States and to persuade him to acquiesce to leave for Indian Territory. He would not. This war was fought mainly in the lower Florida Everglades.

The Third Seminole War ended, like the Second Seminole War, with the United States troops' withdrawal, not with a formal "peace treaty." Thus today's Florida Seminole Tribe and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida consider themselves "unconquered," a fact that every tribal child knows.


About 200 Seminoles were left in Florida after the Third Seminole War. Today, these people constitute nearly 2,500 persons. Reservations were established for them relatively near their post-war centers of population. The reservations are located in Brighton, Big Cypress, Tampa, Ft. Pierce, Immokalee, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, West Palm Beach, and Naples. The Seminole Tribal Headquarters is on the Hollywood Reservation in the city of Hollywood, Florida. This location was the site of the old Florida Seminole Agency in the 1920s. In the 1950s, the newly chartered Seminole Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs were housed in a single building. Recently, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has opened a four-story, modern office building. Tribal members live in subdivisions of modern houses on most reservations. At Brighton and Big Cypress some houses are scattered throughout the hammocks, where they have been built on the families' traditional camp sites. The Miccosukee Tribe (about 500 persons) is headquartered on the Tamiami Trail, 40 miles west of Miami and a large reservation is in the Big Cypress.

After the Third Seminole War, the Florida Seminoles resumed their hunting and trade economy, selling furs, hides, and bird plumes to trading posts located on the rivers that flowed out of the Everglades basin. Their travel was primarily by dugout sailing canoes made of cypress wood. Carts pulled by yokes of oxen were also used by those living in the Big Cypress and around Lake Okeechobee. The Everglades, rivers, coastal ridges, and beaches teemed with wildlife. Gathering activities provided vegetables, the starch "coontie," and medicinal plants.

The Oklahoma Seminoles were placed on a reservation in an environment very different from Florida. They were wards of the government and were no longer able to subsist off the land.

The Florida Seminoles retained their freedom and wanted no contact with the government. Early in the 20th century, the hide market declined, and programs to drain the Everglades for farming began. The Seminoles living around the city of Miami found a new economy in tourism. Over the decades of the 20th-century, these people founded a tourism economy that eventually spread to the whole population, creating the popular alligator wrestling show and an important crafts market. Tourism promoted the wearing of Seminole traditional patchwork clothing, their foremost art form. Cultural tourism continues to be very important to both tribes today, as the tribes explore European tourist markets.


The Seminoles speak languages from the Muskhogean family of Native American languages. There are two unintelligible languages spoken within the Seminole Tribe. All of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and two-thirds of the Seminole Tribe of Florida speak Mikasuki (also called Hitchiti). Those people, however, call their language i.laponki. and themselves i.laponathi. The remaining one-third of the members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida speak Muskogee or Creek. Since today all tribal leaders and most of the population speak English, there is no problem with communication affecting tribal unity.

Many of Florida's place names are derived from Seminole words. For example, Tallahassee (the state's capital) comes from the Muskogee word for "old town," and Okeechobee means "big water" in Mikasuki.


The Seminoles' creation myth involves the Creator instilling powers to the clan animals, the Panther, and all other animals. When the earth was made, he put the animals in a large shell. When the time was right, the shell would open and they would come out. A tree root cracked the shell. The Wind helped make the crack large enough for the Panther to come out first as the Creator had wished. After the Wind, the Bird came out next, then the Bear, Deer, Snake, Frog and Otter. These are the original Seminole clans. The Creator gave them all duties. The Panther, for instance, has the power to heal, so only people of the Panther clan are to make official medicine.

The Seminole clans are Panther, Bird, Otter, Wind, Bear, Deer, Frog and Snake. Big Towns was created long ago when two sisters of Spanish descent were adopted into the tribe.

The Green Corn Dance is a special ceremony for the Seminoles. It is attended by traditional people. Few Christians attend. It marks the ripening of the corn in late May or early June and is a new year's celebration. The four-day ceremony is a rite of purification, of starting anew. Rites of passage are conducted. Court is held and punishments are meted out. Fires are extinguished, the men take sweat baths and drink medicine, a tea made from native holly. The Black Drink causes them to vomit, cleansing their body. There is a day of fasting and one of feasting. There is dancing and stickball playing, men against women.

At the Corn Dance grounds a medicine man builds a fire out of four logs pointing in the four directions. An ear of ripe corn is placed on top of each log, and dried kindling is laid in the center of the logs. While praying to the Breathmaker (fisaki omici), the bundle carrier (the highest-ranking medicine man) creates a spark and lights the fire. From that fire, the symbol of the Breath Maker, all the other fires in the village are lit. When traveling, a Seminole woman always takes some ashes from her last fire with her. In that way, the corn dance fire is always with her family.

The four directions (north, south, east, and west) and the number four are very important to the Seminoles and play a major part in their traditions and lives. The four medicine colors are white, black, yellow and red.

The Bundlecarrier (the head religious leader), the medicine men and women, elders, and some of the tribal leadership are involved daily in traditional practices and are anxious to support and promote such awareness to the tribe at large.


Since the Seminoles began converting in the latter 1930s, Christian Seminole churches have scheduled revivals at the time of the Corn Dance. Attendance at the native gathering was chastised. In turn, the traditional people did not want the Christians to attend. These chasms have aided in curtailing many traditional ways.


The Green Corn Dance, which marks the beginning of the new year, is the most significant holiday for Traditional Seminoles and Miccosukees. Some families have a major get-together for the celebration of Thanksgiving. This holiday is at the same time of year as the Seminoles' former Hunting Dance, which has become obsolete. Thanksgiving continues the tradition of a fall get-together.

Both Tribes hold Christmas parties. This is especially true for the affluent Seminole Tribe of Florida, who host a huge party at the Broward Convention Center with a leading country and western singer for entertainment.


Traditionally, babies received a name four days after they were born. Modern legal requirements, however, have made the Seminoles conform to name-giving at birth. For the past 40 years or so, especially with many families receiving Christianity, children have been given first and last names at birth. When a baby is four months old, traditional families cut its hair and nails, which are hidden to keep bad luck from the child.

Young boys attend a "Boy's School" at the age of 12 to learn traditional ways in preparation for receiving their man's name at the next Green Corn Dance. They fast, take medicine, and attend school taught by a high-ranking medicine man or bundle carrier. At the four-day Corn Dance, little children are given their second names, marriages and divorces are ratified, widows and widowers are reinstated into the community. Young people, such as the graduates of the Boy's School, receive their adult names that are given by the medicine man. The names are usually those of deceased elders, who in turn had been given names of their deceased elders. These names are seldom used in public, but are used in the families by traditional speakers.

A death in the village was once a very serious stigma. The spirits of the dead were feared, as they might not wish to leave and might try to take one of the living with them. Very important rites followed a death of a clan member. If a person died in a village, the entire village had to be moved. As a result, if a person was known to be deathly ill, a structure was made outside the village area where they would be cared for till death. For the same reason, the birthing house was also placed outside the village.

Marriage in 1900 took place in early to late teens. Divorces were simple in this matrilineal society (where the woman was in charge of the family). The wife or her relatives would place the husband's belongings outside the camp. Today, Seminole couples may or may not choose to marry, and teen pregnancies may or may not result in marriage. With the mother's clan being the most important thing to be passed on to a baby, the father is not as important an entity as he is in many other cultures.


Prior to the First Seminole War (1818) the Seminoles lived in large villages with huge fields, herds of cattle, droves of hogs, and horses. Each village had a mico (chief) and a council of warriors and elders. They elected war chiefs whenever one was necessary. There were medicine men. Because the Seminole make no distinction between the body, soul, and spirit, the medicine man worked to heal all three. He was highly respected in the society. This continues to be true today. Even some Christian burials have the medicine man (or medicine he has prepared) in attendance to assure this rite of passage.

It was common practice for Seminole men to practice polygyny (having two or more wives) in the 19th century. Women were the heads of the family and were responsible for large villages of their clan members. Polygyny was practiced with the consent of the first wife. Most often her sister was taken as the second wife. Doubtless this situation eased some of the burdens of the first wife's position. Polygyny was practiced by some in the Seminole communities well into the 20th century.


The Seminoles are very adaptable people. They have had to alter their housing and general way of life due to forced relocations. When they settled in northern Florida, their permanent villages were large and made up of many families, all with their own compounds—settlements called Tallahassee, Miccosukee, and Cuscowilla. Each family had two houses, a storehouse and a two-story cooking and sleeping house. The houses were built of logs.

After the Second Seminole War (1835–1842), the Seminole population was further south. They then utilized an open-sided house, thatched with palmetto fronds, with a dwelling platform three feet off the ground called a chickee. It appears most probable that the chickee was borrowed from the earlier Indians who lived in south Florida, the Calusa, as they had long utilized this type of structure. Chickees can last years in a sunny location. (Many families build the traditional chickee in their yard as an outside work area or as a garage for their car.) This type of home was well adapted to the Everglades where the climate is hot and humid with periods of heavy rain. They slept on blankets and bedding purchased at the trading post. They made cheesecloth mosquito nets. At night these were unrolled from the ceiling from which they were suspended and were tucked in around their beds. Furniture consisted of work platforms and tables in various locations around the camp. The chickee platforms provided seating during the day when the bedding had been put away.

The Seminoles again grouped in settlements, usually on large islands just within the Everglades interior, until 1900–1920s when subsistence became difficult and whites encroached. The large settlements then broke up, and the families formed nuclear or extended family camps: a man, wife, children, her mother and father, and perhaps an unmarried brother or uncle. They moved to smaller islands deeper in the Everglades. These camps consisted of several chickees for sleeping and working and a central cooking chickee.

In the latter 1930s some Seminole children began to ask to be sent to school. Because there were no schools for Indian children in Florida, they were sent to Indian boarding schools such as the one at Cherokee, North Carolina. When these children returned to Florida, they had become accustomed to flush toilets, hot and cold running water, and showers. They had none of these in their chickees on the reservations where by the 1940s many of them were living. This was the impetus for standard housing. The first houses were small, wood frame houses that were donated to the Seminoles' cause and moved from the towns of Ft. Lauderdale and Pompano Beach to the reservation at Dania. The local women's clubs, chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Friends of the Seminoles contributed time and ingenuity to see this project through. They also set up a revolving fund to loan money to Seminole families so that they could finance and build their first concrete block houses or refurbish the donated houses. Seminoles could not borrow money from a bank as they did not own their own property. It was a new experience for the Seminole women to use electric stoves rather than their open cooking fires. Various architectural designs for reservation housing were attempted over the years to make housing comfortable in the hot climate, but none were better than the chickee. There are modern subdivisions on the reservations today, and many families have air conditioning.


Traditional Seminole society is matrilineal. This means that kinship is carried through the mother. Her children inherit her clan and pass it on to their children. Anyone of that clan (on any reservation in Florida, whether Seminole or Miccosukee tribal members) is considered a "relative." One must never marry a clan member, since it would be considered incest. Thus, one must always know one's clan members. The traditional ways taught that a father has little to do with the up-bringing of his own children. Instead, he had obligations to his sister's children, who were his own clan members. Thus, it was a child's maternal aunts and uncles who educated and disciplined. In the traditional camp, the extended family would have included aunts, uncles, maternal grandparents, and cousins, with the eldest woman as the head of the family. Matrilocal refers to residence. Seminole society has not been matrilocal since the 1960s when subdivision housing became available. Traditionally, married couples would reside with the wife's mother. Today, most communities are not organized around the clan system. Clan is still very important to the Seminole community, however, influencing tribal politics and many other relationships.


As soon as European trade goods became available from colonists, the Indians of the southeast began to obtain them. These goods included items of wearing apparel. The Creeks had most of their trade relationship with the British, who had the finest trade goods. Fine paisley shawls, cotton goods, and wools in blue and red became highly prized and can be seen in engravings of southeastern Indians from the 18th century. From the first writings we find that Seminole clothing was of British cotton. A man's outfit consisted of a knee-length shirt with an open ruffled coat over it, woolen leggings, and one-piece leather moccasins. A turban made of a shawl blanket, trade silver, finger-woven yarn, and bead garters (perhaps a sash with long tassels), and a woolen shot bag woven with beaded designs completed his dress attire. Women wore a short, ruffled blouse and a long skirt. They, too, wore silver trade bracelets and earrings and long strands of necklace beads that were popular everyday attire well into the mid-20th century.

Women and young girls of the l9th and early 20th century were accustomed to wearing as many necklace beads as they could from chest to chin. It was a mark of wealth and popularity. Bead necklaces and bracelets were also birth gifts. Necklace beads were standard suitor and engagement gifts. Women were buried with all of their possessions, including necklace beads.

Seminole women acquired the hand-cranked sewing machine in the latter 1800s. In time, the machine technology changed their hand-sewn garments (described above) that had changed little since the l9th century. The man's main garment, the shirt, began to change around 1900. It became banded with inserted and appliquéd ornamentation forming horizontal stripes. A belt was inserted at the waist. The ruffled coat, however, retained its traditional design even till today. Leggings by this time were of smoked, tanned deer hide. Plaid wool shawls formed their turbans. Moccasins remained the same. The old-style yarn garters and belts were owned by only a few elders, as were the beaded bags. When those men died, the only examples of this work were to be seen in museum collections.

Women continued to wear the blouse and skirt, but by the 1920s the blouse ruffle had become longer, eventually forming a separate ornamental cape over a plain bodice.

Machine-sewn patchwork as it exists today is the Seminole and Miccosukee's premier art form and cultural identifier. It began being made around 1917 by the i.laponathi. This was also the time when these Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles began to reside in the tourist attractions in Miami. Leisure time and the tourist market cannot be overlooked for the blossoming and great evolution of this art form. Until the 1950s, traditional clothing was all that was worn by Seminole and Miccosukee women. The popular Seminole jacket evolved from the aforementioned man's shirt. Today, elders continue to wear their traditional dress, while most people have some patchwork clothing to wear for special occasions.

Seminole and Miccosukee youth dress in clothing bearing popular name brands and rarely wear Seminole attire. Clothing contests at annual festivals such as Seminole Fair promote l9th-century and modern patchwork clothing and offer cash prizes as incentives. Today, machine-sewn patchwork continues its evolution in intricate creations that command high prices.

Seminole men of the 18th and early l9th century wore their hair in bangs in front, shaved on the sides, with two long queues braided down the crown to the back of the head. Women wore their hair in bangs with their long tresses gathered up in a knot on top of the head. The men began to cut their hair in a "bowl-cut" in the last two decades of the l9th century. The women's hairstyles began to change around the 1920s. The bun was loosened and worn under a hairnet held in place with hair pins. The hair then began to be pulled forward and rolled, forming a crown around the face. By the 1940s this style became highly accented by the addition of a "hairboard," a crescent-shaped piece of cardboard over which the hair was fanned, held in place with a hairnet and pinned down. Styles of Seminole women's hair can be seen in the dolls they made over the decades of the 20th century. Many dolls sold today continue to show the popular Seminole "hairboard" of the 1940s.


The cook fire is one of the most important of all Seminole traditions. It was the hub of the camp. Children were taught to respect the fire, which was a focal point of the clan in each camp. Traditionally, Seminoles from different clans were not supposed to eat from foods prepared from the same fire. In a large gathering, separate cooking fires were made.

The Seminoles did not eat three prescribed meals as many Europeans do. Thus, food was kept hot and ready at all times. The staple was (and continues to be in many families) a type of soup called sofki (Creek) or o'they (Mikasuki). Sofki is a cooking term for any food put in water and cooked down so that it can be consumed as a liquid. While corn and grits are the common ingredients for sofki today, meats and even fruits such as guavas were traditionally made into sofki. Sofki was kept on the fire so that anyone who wanted food could stir the kettle with the large sofki spoon and sip about two cups of liquid from it at a time.

The entire family might sit on the eating platform together for an evening or special meal. However, when guests were present, the women and children waited to eat. There were many traditional customs concerning the serving of refreshments and food to guests.

Pumpkin bread

2 cups self-rising flour
½ to 1 cup of sugar (to taste)
Enough canned pumpkin to make a soft dough
Oil for frying

Blend ingredients lightly. Turn onto a floured surface. Knead. Pull off a large piece of dough and knead it with your fingers to form a cake 4 inches in diameter and ¼ to ½ inch wide. Fry in 1 to 2 inches of oil. Turn over when one side gets lightly browned. Lay on paper towels to soak up grease.


In the latter 1930s there were no public schools open to Seminoles Indians in Florida, so the first Seminole students who requested a formal education attended Indian Boarding School at Cherokee, North Carolina. These students became the first Seminole high school graduates. These early graduates held a number of the first official tribal positions after 1957 when the Seminole Tribe of Florida was formally organized.

Both tribes comply with state regulations concerning mandatory public school education. The Seminole Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs operate Ah-Fach-Kee School on the isolated Big Cypress Reservation. Originally kindergarten through eighth grade, the school has recently added a high school program. The BIA provided the first educational endeavors on the Brighton Reservation (1938) and in Big Cypress (1943) and instituted the first Head Start programs. Since 1972, the Seminole Tribe has been contracting for the Tribe's educational services. The Tribe's Ah-Fach-Kee School on the Big Cypress Reservation offers programs in Seminole history, culture, and language as part of the curriculum. Other students on that isolated reservation and on the Brighton Reservation are bused to schools in distant towns. Children living on reservations that are near cities attend county public schools. The Tribe has an active high school equivalency program. Annually, more tribal members are seeking higher education and obtaining degrees.

The Miccosukee Tribe has been operating its own bi-lingual elementary school since the early 1960s.


Traditional songs are in the form of lullabies, songs that are sung in the telling of stories, and medicine songs used when preparing medicine or doctoring. Other songs are sung for specific dances during the Green Corn Dance.

Of the modern-day music, the Seminoles and Miccosukees tend towards country and western music. The Seminole Tribe hosts bluegrass festivals and hires top country stars to perform at the annual Tribal Christmas party.

Traditional dancing takes place ceremonially at the Green Corn Dance. The dancers form a single line (some dances use couples) following a dance boss. The dance boss follows the lead of the medicine man who keeps time with a rattle while singing. The men in the line repeat his phrases. These dances are representational of an animal: Catfish, Lightning Bug, Black Bird, etc. Some of these dances can often be seen in performance at Seminole Fair in February.

Three publications have been written by members of the Seminole Tribe. Former chairwoman Betty Nae Jumper published …And With the Wagon Came God (1985), discussing early Christian contact with the Seminoles. Also from Jumper, Legends of the Seminoles (1994) is a collection of folktales with color illustrations. Moses Jumper, Sr. has published a book of poetry.


Following the Seminole Wars of the l9th century, the Seminoles resumed their trade in Everglades products—furs, hides, bird plumage, beeswax, honey, etc. They sold to trading posts set up by settlers on the rivers flowing out of the Everglades. This market began to decline early in the 20th century. They then developed a relationship with tourism through non-Indian operated tourist attractions, specifically in Miami and Silver Springs. By the 1930s this was the major economy. Families lived "on exhibition" during the months of the tourist season made and sold crafts to the tourists.

This economy continues to be lucrative for Seminole families. Today, "cultural tourism" is an industry that is being heavily promoted by both the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes. The two major Seminole attractions are Kissimmee Billie Swamp Safari and the Ah-Tha-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress. The museum also has branch facilities in Hollywood and Tampa. Okalee Indian Village is operated by the tribe in Hollywood. The Miccosukee Culture Center is operated by that tribe on the Tamiami Trail 40 miles west of Miami.

For decades, the Seminole Tribe struggled to create a notable cattle industry. They have succeeded and are known throughout the country as producers of fine calves. In the 1970s the Tribe pioneered the concept of tax-free cigarette shops on sovereign reservation land. High-stakes bingo followed. These enterprises have made the long impoverished Seminole Tribe wealthy. Much of the proceeds goes into better education and health care for tribal members. Importantly, with this new financial independence, the tribe has been able to take charge of its business interests. They are able to support political candidates who can offer them assistance and can hire lobbyists to protect their prized reservation lands from harm. Yet, the tribe does not view these lucrative enterprises as permanent situations. They know that a high court ruling could take them away. They would then fall back on revenues from cattle production (19th largest in the nation), citrus (the world's number one producer of lemons), and tourism. Tribal members receive monthly dividends from gaming revenues.


Before the Second Seminole War (1835), "stick ball," a game similar to lacrosse, was played by southeastern Indians as a man's war game, town against town. Deaths were not uncommon. The post-war version of this game is played ceremonially at the annual Green Corn Dance, men against women. The men use two stick ball racquets, the women use only their hands. The object was to throw the ball and hit the ball pole above a mark and score.

Alligator wrestling for the enjoyment of spectators was created in the tourist attractions by a non-Indian, early in the 20th century and soon became popular with young Seminole men. For many decades, alligator wrestling has been a very respected occupation within the Seminole and Miccosukee tribal communities. It is considered a cultural activity. Alligator wrestling is performed at most tribal festivals and attractions and continues to be a crowd thriller.

The Seminole Tribe's Recreation Department is very active in sponsoring team sports. There are full facility gyms on all major reservations. Members of the Seminole Tribe also belong to bowling, basketball and softball leagues. The Tribe sponsors national and circuit rodeos during the year and sends tribal members to compete in such competitions as the Indian National Finals Rodeo.


Like most families in the United States, the Seminoles and Miccosukees have the advantages of cable TV, computers, and the Internet. There is a great difference in the generational mindset.


Many Seminole women (and a few men) make machine-sewn patchwork. Since the early 1900s, this form of artistic expression has identified these Native Americans. Patchwork was originally made in simple and large designs. Over the decades it was refined and is today made extremely complex. This colorful art form is used as decorative ornamentation in the women's traditional skirts and men's jackets. It is accented by rows of tiny rickrack to enhance the designs.

The oldest commercial craft is doll making. The women make dolls out of the fiber of the palmetto (also used in basket making). Dolls are dressed in traditional Seminole garb. Seminole and Miccosukee men carve souvenirs, miniature canoes, and Everglades animals, as well as popular tomahawks and lances for the tourist trade. The commercial sale of crafts has been a major household industry for most of the 20th century. Many Seminole and Miccosukee families sell crafts (they also buy from other Seminole and Miccosukee craftsmen and women) at seasonal and weekend fairs.


Generation gaps are problematic, but they are typical to all cultures. However, the Seminoles have had to learn elements of someone else's culture. Problems arise in learning how to deal with situations outside one's cultural upbringing. As an example, the traditional decision-making process should result in a total consensus of agreement, not just a majority. Christianity and other European-influenced ideals first replaced the traditional Seminole ideology at the tribal decision-making level.

Aggression is not a traditional attribute of Seminole culture; in fact, people who showed aggressive or ambitious tendencies would have been considered atypical and "crazy" to a traditional Seminole or Miccosukee. In the old days, such a person could have been ordered killed for "deviant" behavior. Today, tribal leaders must be able to function aggressively in order to uphold and protect tribal rights.

All tribal members are in some way participants in the non-traditional system today. Yet, traditional cultural patterns often remain. For instance, a parent may not demand that children study their lessons, or may not encourage them to excel in school, as involvement in others' affairs and the stimulation of ambition is not traditional behavior.

Thus, there are inherent social conflicts continuing to plague tribal members as they move forward in the 21st century. However, both the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes have been fortified by new economic windfalls such as gaming, that provide these formally impoverished tribes with the means to continue in their upward swing, paying for those services that will aid them in their future endeavors. In looking back over their tumultuous history, they celebrate the fact that they have survived and are prospering.


Traditional Seminole society was organized around principles of matrilineal descent and matrilocal residency. However, under the influences of state legal codes in Oklahoma and Florida, matrilineality and matrilocality have almost entirely disappeared. In spite of the importance of women in the reckoning of descent and in the establishment of residency after marriage, gender relations in traditional Seminole society were markedly asymmetrical.

Women were responsible for cultivating the fields and preparing the food that was harvested. Women did not hunt nor did they fish. Men were responsible for those subsistence activities.

Women were excluded from political activities in traditional Seminole society. Furthermore, women were not allowed to take active roles in public rituals, such as the Green Corn ceremony. Women were responsible for food preparations and other behind the scenes activities for public rituals.

Divorce in traditional Seminole society could be initiated by either a husband or a wife. If a man initiated a divorce, he became immediately free, while a woman had to remain married until the next Green Corn ceremony. Upon the death of her husband, a woman would enter into a period of mourning and seclusion that lasted for four years. During that time the woman was held to the strict adultery punishments of Seminole society. Those punishments for women included beatings, hair cropping, and cutting off of pieces of the ears and nose. Punishment for men who committed adultery was much less severe.


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—revised by J. Williams