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Total population
est. 18,600
Seminole Nation of Oklahoma
Flag of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.PNG

15,572 enrolled
Seminole Tribe of Florida
Flag of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.PNG

4,000 enrolled
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida
Flag of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.svg

400 enrolled
Regions with significant populations
United States
(Oklahoma Oklahoma and Florida Florida)
English, Spanish, Mikasuki, Creek
Protestant, Catholic, Green Corn Ceremony
Related ethnic groups
Miccosukee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Mascogos, Yamasee

The Seminole are a Native American people originally from Florida. Today, they live in Oklahoma and Florida, and comprise three federally recognized tribes: the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, as well as independent groups. The Seminole people emerged in a process of ethnogenesis from various Native American groups who settled in Spanish Florida beginning in the early 1700s, most significantly northern Muscogee Creeks from what is now Georgia and Alabama.[1] The word "Seminole" is derived from the Muscogee word simanó-li, which may itself be derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning "runaway" or "wild one".[2] Seminole culture is largely derived from that of the Creek; the most important ceremony is the Green Corn Dance; other notable traditions include use of the black drink and ritual tobacco. As the Seminole adapted to Florida environs, they developed local traditions, such as the construction of open-air, thatched-roof houses known as chickees.[3] Historically the Seminole spoke Mikasuki and Creek, both Muskogean languages.[4]

Florida had been the home of several indigenous cultures before the arrival of European explorers in the early 1500s. However, the spread of non-native diseases along with conflict with Spanish settlers and English raiders devastated Florida's original native population, and by the early 1700s, much of La Florida was uninhabited apart from towns at St. Augustine and Pensacola. A stream of mainly Creek settlers began moving into the territory at that time to escape conflict with English colonists to the north and established towns mainly in the Florida panhandle. In part due to the arrival of Native Americans from other cultures, the Seminole became increasingly independent of other Creek groups and established their own identity. They developed a thriving trade network by the time of the British and second Spanish periods (roughly 1767–1821).[5] The tribe expanded considerably during this time, and was further supplemented from the late 18th century by free blacks and escaped slaves from British colonies and the early United States who settled near and paid tribute to Seminole towns. The latter became known as Black Seminoles, although they kept many facets of their own Gullah culture.[6]

After the United States achieved independence, settlers in Georgia increased pressure on Seminole lands, and skirmishes near the border led to the First Seminole War (1816–19). The United States purchased Florida from Spain by the Adams-Onis Treaty (1819) and took possession in 1821. The Seminole were moved out of their rich farmland in northern Florida and confined to a large reservation in the interior of the Florida peninsula by the Treaty of Moultrie Creek (1823). Passage of the Indian Removal Act (1830) led to the Treaty of Payne's Landing (1832), which called for the relocation of all Seminoles to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.[6] Some resisted, leading to the Second Seminole War, the bloodiest war against Native Americans in Unites States history. By 1842, however, most Seminoles and Black Seminoles, facing starvation, were removed to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Perhaps fewer than 200 Seminoles remained in Florida after the Third Seminole War (1855–1858), but they fostered a resurgence in traditional customs and a culture of staunch independence.[7]

During the American Civil War, some Seminole bands in Oklahoma allied with the Confederacy while others were divided between supporting the North and South. After the war, the United States government declared void all prior treaties with the Seminoles of Indian Country because of the "disloyalty" of some, and new treaties were signed that reduced the power of tribal councils, provided freedom or tribal membership for Black Seminoles and forced concessions of tribal land for railroads and other development.[8] The much less numerous Seminoles of Florida were offered aid to dissuade them from siding with Union forces operating in the southern part of the state. Though supplies were often not delivered as promised due to wartime shortages, the Seminoles had no desire to enter another war and remained neutral.[9]

Seminoles in Oklahoma and Florida had little official contact until well into the 20th century, but they developed along similar lines as the groups strove to maintain their culture while struggling economically. Most Oklahoma Seminoles lived on tribal lands centered in what is now Seminole County. The implementation of the Dawes Rolls in the late 1890s parceled out tribal lands in preparation for the admission of Oklahoma as a state, reducing most Seminoles to subsistence farming on small individual homesteads. While some tribe members left the territory at the time to seek better opportunities, most stayed on. Today, residents of the reservation are enrolled in the federally recognized Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, while others belong to unorganized groups. The Florida Seminole re-established limited relations with the U.S. government in the early 1900s and were officially granted 5,000 acres (20 km2) of reservation land in south Florida in 1930. Members gradually moved to the land, and they reorganized their government and received federal recognition as the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 1957. The more traditional people living near the Tamiami Trail received federal recognition as the Miccosukee Tribe in 1962.[10]

Old crafts and traditions were revived in both Florida in Oklahoma in the mid-20th century as Seminoles began seeking tourism dollars from Americans traveling along the new interstate highway system. In the 1970s, Seminole tribes began to run small bingo games on their reservations to raise revenue, winning court challenges to initiate Indian gaming, which many U.S. tribes have adopted to generate revenues for welfare, education, and development. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has been particularly successful with gambling establishments. It purchased the Hard Rock Café in 2007 and has rebranded or opened several casinos and gaming resorts under that name, including two large resorts on its Tampa and Hollywood reservations that together cost over a billion dollars to construct.[11][12]


The word "Seminole" is almost certainly derived from the Creek word simanó-li, which has been variously translated as "frontiersman", "outcast", "runaway", "separatist", and similar words. More speculatively, the Creek word itself, may be derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning "runaway" or "wild one", historically used for certain Native American groups in Florida.[13] The people who constituted the nucleus of this Florida group either chose to leave their tribe or were banished. At one time, the terms "renegade" and "outcast" were used to describe this status, but the terms have fallen into disuse due to their negative connotations. They identify themselves as yat'siminoli or "free people" because for centuries their ancestors had successfully resisted efforts to subdue or convert them to Roman Catholicism.[14] They signed several treaties with the U.S. government, including the Treaty of Moultrie Creek and the Treaty of Paynes Landing.[citation needed]



Native American refugees from northern wars, such as the Yuchi and Yamasee after the Yamasee War in South Carolina, migrated into Spanish Florida in the early 18th century. More arrived in the second half of the 18th century, as the Lower Creeks, part of the Muscogee people, began to migrate from several of their towns into Florida to evade the dominance of the Upper Creeks and pressure from encroaching colonists from the Province of Carolina.[15] They spoke primarily Hitchiti, of which Mikasuki is a dialect, which is the primary traditional language spoken today by Miccosukee in Florida. Joining them were several bands of Choctaw, many of whom were native to western Florida. Chickasaw cultures had also left Georgia due to conflicts with colonists and their Native American allies.[citation needed] Also fleeing to Florida were African-Americans who had escaped from slavery in the Southern colonies.

The new arrivals moved into virtually uninhabited lands that had once been peopled by several cultures indigenous to Florida, such as the Apalachee, Timucua, Calusa, and others. The native population had been devastated by infectious diseases brought by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and later colonization by European settlers. Later, raids by Carolinan and Native American slavers destroyed the string of Spanish missions across northern Florida, and most of the survivors left for Cuba when the Spanish withdrew after ceding Florida to the British in 1763, following the French and Indian War.

As they established themselves in northern and peninsular Florida throughout the 1700s, the various new arrivals intermingled with each other and with the few remaining indigenous people. In a process of ethnogenesis, they constructed a new culture which they called "Seminole", a derivative of the Mvskoke' (a Creek language) word simano-li, an adaptation of the Spanish cimarrón which means "wild" (in their case, "wild men"), or "runaway" [men].[16] The Seminole were a heterogeneous tribe made up of mostly Lower Creeks from Georgia, who by the time of the Creek Wars (1812–1813) numbered about 4,000 in Florida. At that time, numerous refugees of the Red Sticks migrated south, adding about 2,000 people to the population. They were Creek-speaking Muscogee, and were the ancestors of most of the later Creek-speaking Seminole.[17] In addition, a few hundred escaped African-American slaves (known as the Black Seminole) had settled near the Seminole towns and, to a lesser extent, Native Americans from other tribes, and some white Americans. The unified Seminole spoke two languages: Creek and Mikasuki (mutually intelligible with its dialect Hitchiti),[18] two among the Muskogean languages family. Creek became the dominant language for political and social discourse, so Mikasuki speakers learned it if participating in high-level negotiations. (The Muskogean language group includes Choctaw and Chickasaw, associated with two other major Southeastern tribes.)

During the colonial years, the Seminole were on relatively good terms with both the Spanish and the British. In 1784, after the American Revolutionary War, Britain came to a settlement with Spain and transferred East and West Florida to it. The Spanish Empire's decline enabled the Seminole to settle more deeply into Florida. They were led by a dynasty of chiefs of the Alachua chiefdom, founded in eastern Florida in the 18th century by Cowkeeper. Beginning in 1825, Micanopy was the principal chief of the unified Seminole, until his death in 1849, after Removal to Indian Territory.[19] This chiefly dynasty lasted past Removal, when the US forced the majority of Seminole to move from Florida to the Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma) after the Second Seminole War. Micanopy's sister's son, John Jumper, succeeded him in 1849 and, after his death in 1853, his brother Jim Jumper became principal chief. He was in power through the American Civil War, after which the US government began to interfere with tribal government, supporting its own candidate for chief.[19]

Seminole Wars

After attacks by British colonists on Seminole towns in the mid-1700s, they began raiding Georgia settlements, purportedly at the behest of the Spanish. The Seminoles accepted blacks fleeing from slavery in British and later American plantations, angering plantation owners by providing a southern alternative to the Underground Railroad.[20] After the Unites States achieved independence, the U.S. Army and local militia groups made increasingly frequent invasions of Spanish territory to recapture alleged escaped slaves among the Seminole. General Andrew Jackson's 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole became known as the First Seminole War.[21] Though Spain decried the invasion of its territory, the United States effectively controlled the Florida panhandle after the war.

In 1819 the United States and Spain signed the Adams-Onís Treaty,[22] which took effect in 1821. According to its terms, the United States acquired Florida and, in exchange, renounced all claims to Texas. Andrew Jackson was named military governor of Florida. As European-American colonization increased after the treaty, colonists pressured the Federal government to remove Natives from Florida. Slaveholders resented that tribes harbored runaway Black slaves, and more colonists wanted access to desirable lands held by Native Americans. Georgian slaveholders wanted the "maroons" and fugitive slaves living among the Seminoles, known today as Black Seminoles, returned to slavery.[23]

Sign at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park commemorating hundreds of African-American slaves who escaped to freedom in the early 1820s in the Bahamas.
Sign at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park commemorating hundreds of African-American slaves who escaped to freedom in the early 1820s in the Bahamas.

After acquisition by the U.S. of Florida in 1821, many American slaves and Black Seminoles frequently escaped from Cape Florida to the British colony of the Bahamas, settling mostly on Andros Island. Contemporary accounts noted a group of 120 migrating in 1821, and a much larger group of 300 African-American slaves escaping in 1823, picked up by Bahamians in 27 sloops and also by canoes.[24] They developed a village known as Red Bays on Andros.[25] Federal construction and staffing of the Cape Florida Lighthouse in 1825 reduced the number of slave escapes from this site. Cape Florida and Red Bays are sites on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail.

After the independent United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821,[26] white settlers increased political and governmental pressure on the Seminole to move and give up their lands. "The Seminoles were victims of a system that often blatantly favored whites"[27] Under colonists' pressure, the US government made the 1823 Treaty of Camp Moultrie with the Seminole, seizing 24 million acres in northern Florida[28] and offering them a greatly reduced reservation in the Everglades of about 100,000-acre (400 km2).[29] They and the Black Seminoles moved into central and southern Florida. In 1832, the United States government signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing with a few of the Seminole chiefs. They promised lands west of the Mississippi River if the chiefs agreed to leave Florida voluntarily with their people. The Seminoles who remained prepared for war. White colonists continued to press for their removal.

In 1835, the U.S. Army arrived to enforce the treaty. The Seminole leader Osceola led the vastly outnumbered resistance during the Second Seminole War. Drawing on a population of about 4,000 Seminole and 800 allied Black Seminoles, he mustered at most 1,400 warriors (Andrew Jackson estimated they had only 900). They countered combined U.S. Army and militia forces that ranged from 6,000 troops at the outset to 9,000 at the peak of deployment in 1837. To survive, the Seminole allies employed guerrilla tactics with devastating effect against U.S. forces, as they knew how to move within the Everglades and use this area for their protection. Osceola was arrested (in a breach of honor) when he came under a flag of truce to negotiations with the US in 1837. He died in jail less than a year later. He was decapitated, his body buried without his head.

Other war chiefs, such as Halleck Tustenuggee and John Jumper, and the Black Seminoles Abraham and John Horse, continued the Seminole resistance against the army. After a full decade of fighting, the war ended in 1842. Scholars estimate the U.S. government spent about $40,000,000 on the war, at the time a huge sum. An estimated 3,000 Seminole and 800 Black Seminole were forcibly exiled to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi, where they were settled on the Creek reservation. After later skirmishes in the Third Seminole War (1855 -1858), perhaps 200 survivors retreated deep into the Everglades to land unwanted by settlers, where they were left to live.[30][31]

Several treaties seem to bear the mark of representatives of the Seminole tribe,[32] including the Treaty of Moultrie Creek and the Treaty of Payne's Landing. Some claim that the Florida Seminole are the only tribe in America to have never signed a peace treaty with the U.S. Government.[33]

The remaining Seminoles in Florida adapted to their wetland environment while keeping many traditional customs and building a culture of staunch independence.[7] During the American Civil War, the Confederate government of Florida offered aid to keep the Seminole from fighting on the side of the Union. The Florida House of Representatives established a Committee on Indian Affairs in 1862 but, aside from appointing a representative to negotiate with the Seminole tribe, failed to follow its promises of aid. The lack of aid, along with the growing number of Federal troops and pro-unionists in the state, led the Seminole to remain officially neutral throughout the war.[34] In July of 1864, Secretary of War James A. Seddon received word that a man by the name of A. McBride had raised a company of sixty-five Seminole Indians who had volunteered to fight for the Confederacy. McBride claimed to have an understanding of Florida because of the time he spent their fighting during the Seminole wars. McBride's company never materialized but the letter shows how the Confederacy attempted to employ the Seminole against the Union.[35]

The 1868 Florida Constitution, developed by the Reconstruction legislature, gave the Seminole one seat in the house and one seat in the senate of the state legislature. The Seminole never filled the positions, and the provision was removed in Florida's post-Reconstruction constitution established in 1885. The Florida Seminole re-established limited relations with the U.S. government in the early 20th century and received 5,000 acres (20 km2) of reservation lands in 1930. Few Seminole moved to reservations until the 1940s; they reorganized their government and received federal recognition in 1957 as the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The more traditional people near the Tamiami Trail received federal recognition as the Miccosukee Tribe in 1962.[10]

The Oklahoma and Florida Seminole filed land claim suits in the 1950s, which were combined in the government's settlement of 1976. The tribes and Traditionals took until 1990 to negotiate an agreement as to division of the settlement, a judgment trust against which members can draw for education and other benefits. The Florida Seminole founded a high-stakes bingo game on their reservation in the late 1970s, winning court challenges to initiate Indian Gaming, which many tribes have adopted to generate revenues for welfare, education and development.

Political and social organization

The Seminole were organized around itálwa, the basis of their social, political and ritual systems, and roughly equivalent to towns or bands in English. Membership was matrilineal but males held the leading political and social positions. Each itálwa had civil, military and religious leaders; they were self-governing throughout the nineteenth century, but would cooperate for mutual defense. The itálwa continued to be the basis of Seminole society in the West into the 21st century.[36]


Historically, the various groups of Seminole spoke two mutually unintelligible Muskogean languages: Mikasuki (and its dialect, Hitchiti) and Creek. Mikasuki is now restricted to Florida, where it was the native language of 1,600 people as of 2000. The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma is working to revive the use of Creek, which was the dominant language of politics and social discourse, among its people.[4]

Creek is spoken by some Oklahoma Seminole and about 200 older Florida Seminole (the youngest native speaker was born in 1960). Today English is the predominant language among both Oklahoma and Florida Seminole, particularly the younger generations. Most Mikasuki speakers are bilingual.[4]


The Seminole use Cirsium horridulum to make blowgun darts.[37]



Seminole woman painted by George Catlin 1834
Seminole woman painted by George Catlin 1834

During the Seminole Wars, the Seminole people began to separate due to the conflict and differences in ideology. The Seminole population had also been growing significantly, though it was diminished by the wars.[38] With the division of the Seminole population between Oklahoma and Florida, some traditions such as powwow trails and ceremonies were maintained among them. In general, the cultures grew apart and had little contact for a century. The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, described below, are federally recognized, independent nations that operate in their own spheres.[39]


Seminole tribes generally follow Christianity, both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, and their traditional Native religion, which is expressed through the stomp dance and the Green Corn Ceremony held at their ceremonial grounds. Indigenous peoples have practiced Green Corn rituals for centuries. Contemporary southeastern Native American tribes, such as the Seminole and Muscogee Creek, still practice these ceremonies. As converted Christian Seminoles established their own churches, they incorporated their traditions and beliefs into a syncretic indigenous-Western practice.[40] One example is, Seminole hymns sung in the indigenous (Muscogee) language, inclusive of key Muscogee language terms (for example, the Muscogee term "mekko" or chief conflates with "Jesus") and the practice of a song leader (an indigenous song practice) are common.[41]

In the 1950s, federal projects in Florida encouraged the tribe's reorganization. They created organizations within tribal governance to promote modernization. As Christian pastors began preaching on reservations, Green Corn Ceremony attendance decreased. This created tension between religiously traditional Seminole and those who began adopting Christianity. In the 1960s and 1970s, some tribal members on reservations, such as the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida, viewed organized Christianity as a threat to their traditions.

By the 1980s, Seminole communities were concerned about loss of language and tradition. Many tribal members began to revive the observance of traditional Green Corn Dance ceremonies, and some moved away from Christianity observance. By 2000 religious tension between Green Corn Dance attendees and Christians (particularly Baptists) decreased. Some Seminole families participate in both religions; these practitioners have developed a Christianity that has absorbed some tribal traditions.[42]

Land claims

In 1946 the Department of Interior established the Indian Claims Commission, to consider compensation for tribes that claimed their lands were seized by the federal government during times of conflict. Tribes seeking settlements had to file claims by August 1961, and both the Oklahoma and Florida Seminoles did so.[28] After combining their claims, the Commission awarded the Seminole a total of $16 million on April 1976. It had established that, at the time of the 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the Seminole exclusively occupied and used 24 million acres in Florida, which they ceded under the treaty.[28] Assuming that most blacks in Florida were escaped slaves, the United States did not recognize the Black Seminoles as legally members of the tribe, nor as free in Florida under Spanish rule. Although the Black Seminoles also owned or controlled land that was seized in this cession, they were not acknowledged in the treaty.

In 1976 the groups struggled on allocation of funds among the Oklahoma and Florida tribes. Based on early 20th-century population records, at which time most of the people were full-blood, the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma was to receive three-quarters of the judgment and the Florida peoples one-quarter. The Miccosukee and allied Traditionals filed suit against the settlement in 1976 to refuse the money; they did not want to give up their claim for return of lands in Florida.[28]

The federal government put the settlement in trust until the court cases could be decided. The Oklahoma and Florida tribes entered negotiations, which was their first sustained contact in the more than a century since removal. In 1990 the settlement was awarded: three-quarters to the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma and one-quarter to the Seminole of Florida, including the Miccosukee. By that time the total settlement was worth $40 million.[43] The tribes have set up judgment trusts, which fund programs to benefit their people, such as education and health.

As a result of the Second Seminole War (1835–1842) about 3,800 Seminole and Black Seminoles were forcibly removed to Indian Territory (the modern state of Oklahoma).[44] During the American Civil War, the members and leaders split over their loyalties, with John Chupco refusing to sign a treaty with the Confederacy. From 1861–1866, he led as chief of the Seminole who supported the Union and fought in the Indian Brigade.

The split among the Seminole lasted until 1872. After the war, the United States government negotiated only with the loyal Seminole, requiring the tribe to make a new peace treaty to cover those who allied with the Confederacy, to emancipate the slaves, and to extend tribal citizenship to those freedmen who chose to stay in Seminole territory.

The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma now has about 16,000 enrolled members, who are divided into a total of fourteen bands; for the Seminole members, these are similar to tribal clans. The Seminole have a society based on a matrilineal kinship system of descent and inheritance: children are born into their mother's band and derive their status from her people. To the end of the nineteenth century, they spoke mostly Mikasuki and Creek.

Two of the fourteen are "Freedmen Bands," composed of members descended from Black Seminoles, who were legally freed by the US and tribal nations after the Civil War. They have a tradition of extended patriarchal families in close communities. While the elite interacted with the Seminole, most of the Freedmen were involved most closely with other Freedmen. They maintained their own culture, religion and social relationships. At the turn of the 20th century, they still spoke mostly Afro-Seminole Creole, a language developed in Florida related to other African-based Creole languages.

The Nation is ruled by an elected council, with two members from each of the fourteen bands, including the Freedmen's bands. The capital is at Wewoka, Oklahoma.

The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has had tribal citizenship disputes related to the Seminole Freedmen, both in terms of their sharing in a judgment trust awarded in settlement of a land claim suit, and their membership in the Nation.[44]

Florida Seminole

Seminole family of tribal elder, Cypress Tiger, at their camp near Kendall, Florida, 1916. Photo taken by botanist, John Kunkel Small
Seminole family of tribal elder, Cypress Tiger, at their camp near Kendall, Florida, 1916. Photo taken by botanist, John Kunkel Small

The remaining few hundred Seminoles survived in the Florida swamplands, avoiding removal. They lived in the Everglades, to isolate themselves from European-Americans. Seminoles continued their distinctive life, such as "clan-based matrilocal residence in scattered thatched-roof chickee camps."[44] Today, the Florida Seminole proudly note the fact that their ancestors were never conquered.[45]

In the 20th century before World War II, the Seminole in Florida divided into two groups; those who were more traditional and those willing to adapt to the reservations. Those who accepted reservation lands and made adaptations achieved federal recognition in 1957 as the Seminole Tribe of Florida.[38]

Many of those who had kept to traditional ways and spoke the Mikasuki language organized as the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, gaining state recognition in 1957 and federal recognition in 1962. (See also Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, below.) With federal recognition, they gained reservation lands and worked out a separate arrangement with the state for control of extensive wetlands. Other Seminoles not affiliated with either of the federally recognized groups are known as Traditional or Independent Seminoles,[38] known formally as the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal People.[46]

At the time the tribes were recognized, in 1957 and 1962, respectively, they entered into agreements with the US government confirming their sovereignty over tribal lands.

Seminole Tribe of Florida

Seminole patchwork shawl made by Susie Cypress from Big Cypress Indian Reservation, ca. 1980s
Seminole patchwork shawl made by Susie Cypress from Big Cypress Indian Reservation, ca. 1980s

The Seminole worked hard to adapt, but they were highly affected by the rapidly changing American environment. Natural disasters magnified changes from the governmental drainage project of the Everglades. Residential, agricultural and business development changed the "natural, social, political, and economic environment" of the Seminole.[39] In the 1930s, the Seminole slowly began to move onto federally designated reservation lands within the region. The US government had purchased lands and put them in trust for Seminole use.[47] Initially, few Seminoles had any interest in moving to the reservation land or in establishing more formal relations with the government. Some feared that if they moved onto reservations, they would be forced to move to Oklahoma. Others accepted the move in hopes of stability, jobs promised by the Indian New Deal, or as new converts to Christianity.[48]

Seminoles' Thanksgiving meal mid-1950s
Seminoles' Thanksgiving meal mid-1950s

Beginning in the 1940s, however, more Seminoles began to move to the reservations. A major catalyst for this was the conversion of many Seminole to Christianity, following missionary effort spearheaded by the Creek Baptist evangelist Stanley Smith. For the new converts, relocating to the reservations afforded them the opportunity to establish their own churches, where they adapted traditions to incorporate into their style of Christianity.[49] Reservation Seminoles began forming tribal governments and forming ties with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[49] In 1957 the nation reorganized and established formal relations with the US government as the Seminole Tribe of Florida.[39] The Seminole Tribe of Florida is headquartered in Hollywood, Florida. They control several reservations: Big Cypress, Brighton Reservation, Fort Pierce Reservation, Hollywood Reservation, Immokalee Reservation, and Tampa Reservation.[50]

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida

A traditional group who became known as the Trail Indians moved their camps closer to the Tamiami Trail connecting Tampa and Miami, where they could sell crafts to travelers. They felt disfranchised by the move of the Seminole to reservations, who they felt were adapting too many European-American ways. Their differences were exacerbated in 1950 when some reservation Seminoles filed a land claim suit against the federal government for seizure of lands in the 19th century, an action not supported by the Trail Indians.[10]

Following federal recognition of the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 1957, the Trail Indians decided to organize a separate government. They sought recognition as the Miccosukee Tribe, as they spoke the Mikasuki language. They received federal recognition in 1962, and received their own reservation lands, collectively known as the Miccosukee Indian Reservation.[10] The Miccosukee Tribe set up a 333-acre (1.35 km2) reservation on the northern border of Everglades National Park, about 45 miles (72 km) west of Miami.[29]


In the United States 2000 Census, 12,431 people self-reported as Seminole American. An additional 15,000 people identified as Seminole in combination with some other tribal affiliation or race.[51]

A Seminole spearing a garfish from a dugout, Florida, 1930

The Seminole in Florida have been engaged in stock raising since the mid-1930s, when they received cattle from western Native Americans. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) hoped that the cattle raising would teach Seminoles to become citizens by adapting to agricultural settlements. The BIA also hoped that this program would lead to Seminole self-sufficiency. Cattle owners realized that by using their cattle as equity, they could engage in "new capital-intensive pursuits", such as housing.[52]

Since then, the two Florida tribes have developed economies based chiefly on sales of duty-free tobacco, heritage and resort tourism, and gambling. On December 7, 2006, the Seminole Tribe of Florida purchased the Hard Rock Cafe chain of restaurants. They had previously licensed it for several of their casinos.[53]

From beginnings in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the Seminole Tribe of Florida today owns "one of the largest cattle operations in Florida, and the 12th largest in the nation.[citation needed]

Seminole clipper ship card
Seminole clipper ship card

Florida experienced a population boom in the early 20th century when the Flagler railroad to Miami was completed. The state became a growing destination for tourists and many resort towns were developed.[44] In the years that followed, many Seminoles worked in the cultural tourism trade. By the 1920s, many Seminoles were involved in service jobs. In addition, they were able to market their culture [54] by selling traditional craft products (made mostly by women) and by exhibitions of traditional skills, such as wrestling alligators (by men). Some of the crafts included woodcarving, basket weaving, beadworking, patchworking, and palmetto-doll making. These crafts are still practiced today.[39]

Fewer Seminole rely on crafts for income because gaming has become so lucrative.[39] The Miccosukee Tribe earns revenue by owning and operating a casino, resort, a golf club, several museum attractions, and the "Indian Village". At the "Indian Village", Miccosukee demonstrate traditional, pre-contact lifestyles to educate people about their culture.

"In 1979, the Seminoles opened the first casino on Indian land, ushering in what has become a multibillion-dollar industry operated by numerous tribes nationwide."[55] This casino was the first tribally operated bingo hall in North America. Since its establishment, gaming has become an important source of revenue for tribal governments. Tribal gaming has provided secure employment, and the revenues have supported higher education, health insurance, services for the elderly, and personal income.[56] In more recent years, income from the gaming industry has funded major economic projects such as sugarcane fields, citrus groves, cattle, ecotourism, and commercial agriculture.[57]

The Seminole are reflected in numerous Florida place names:

There is also a Seminole County in Oklahoma, and a Seminole County in the southwest corner of Georgia (separated from Florida by Lake Seminole).

See also


  1. ^ Mahon, pp. 183–187.
  2. ^ Mahon, p. 183.
  3. ^ Mahon, pp. 183–184; 201–202.
  4. ^ a b c Sturtevant, William C., Jessica R. Cattelino (2004). "Florida Seminole and Miccosukee" (PDF). In Raymond D. Fogelson (ed.). Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 14. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 429–449. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  5. ^ Mahon, pp. 187–189.
  6. ^ a b Mahon, pp. 190–191.
  7. ^ a b Mahon, pp. 201–202.
  8. ^ "Reconstruction Treaties: The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture". Oklahoma Historical Society.
  9. ^ Taylor, Robert A. (1991). "Unforgotten Threat: Florida Seminoles in the Civil War". The Florida Historical Quarterly. 69 (3): 300–314. ISSN 0015-4113. JSTOR 30147523. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d Mahon, pp. 203–204.
  11. ^ Herrera, Chabeli (27 May 2016). "How the Seminole Tribe came to rock the Hard Rock empire". The Miami Herald.
  12. ^ Cridlin, Jay (October 1, 2019). "We went inside Seminole Hard Rock's $720 million Tampa expansion". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  13. ^ Mahon, p. 183
  14. ^ "History" Archived April 29, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Seminole Tribe website
  15. ^ Hawkins, Philip Colin (June 2011). "The Textual Archaeology of Seminole Colonization". Florida Anthropologist. 64 (2): 107–113.
  16. ^ "Definition of Seminole". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  17. ^ Sturtevant and Cattelino (2004), p.432
  18. ^ Hardy, Heather & Janine Scancarelli. (2005). Native Languages of the Southeastern United States, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, pp. 69-70
  19. ^ a b Sattler (2004), p. 461
  20. ^ Hatch, Thom (2012). Osceola and the Great Seminole War. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 34–70.
  21. ^ Hatch, Thom (2012). Osceola and the Great Seminole War. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 100.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2001-03-03. Retrieved 2003-02-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Hatch, Thom (2012). Osceola and the Great Seminole War. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 106–110.
  24. ^ "Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park" Archived July 18, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Network to Freedom, National Park Service, 2010, accessed 10 April 2013
  25. ^ Howard, Rosalyn. (2006) "The 'Wild Indians' of Andros Island: Black Seminole Legacy in the Bahamas", Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 275–298. Abstract on-line at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-05. Retrieved 2013-04-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  26. ^
  27. ^ Hatch, Thom (2012). Osceola and the Great Seminole War. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 68.
  28. ^ a b c d Bill Drummond, "Indian Land Claims Unsettled 150 Years After Jackson Wars", LA Times/Washington Post News Service, printed in Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 20 October 1978, accessed 13 April 2013
  29. ^ a b "Concerning the Miccosukee Tribe's Ongoing Negotiations with the National Park Service Regarding the Special Use Permit Area". Resources Committee, US House of Representatives. September 25, 1997. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  30. ^ Covington, James W. 1993. The Seminoles of Florida, Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1196-5. pp. 145–6.
  31. ^ Garbarino, Merwyn S. 1989 The Seminole, p. 55.
  32. ^ Hatch, Thom (2012). Osceola and the Great Seminole War. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 261–275.
  33. ^ "No Surrender" Archived October 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Seminole Tribe website
  34. ^ Taylor, R. A. (1991). Unforgotten Threat: Florida Seminoles in the Civil War. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 69(3), 300–314., 304
  35. ^ Taylor, R. A. (1991). Unforgotten Threat: Florida Seminoles in the Civil War. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 69(3), 300–314., 311
  36. ^ Sattler (2004), p. 459
  37. ^ Sturtevant, William, 1954, The Mikasuki Seminole: Medical Beliefs and Practices, Yale University, PhD Thesis, page 507
  38. ^ a b c "Seminole History". Seminole Tribe of Florida. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  39. ^ a b c d e Cattelino, p. 41.
  40. ^ Clark, pp. 750, 752.
  41. ^ Taborn, pp. 27, 74.
  42. ^ Cattelino, pp. 64–65.
  43. ^ Sturtevant, pp. 454-455
  44. ^ a b c d Cattelino, p. 23.
  45. ^ Carl Waldman (2009). Atlas of the North American Indian (3, illustrated ed.). Facts on File. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-8160-6858-6. Retrieved April 24, 2014. Seminole conquered.
  46. ^ "Bobby C. Billie takes on National Park Service • the Seminole Tribune". 22 November 2011.
  47. ^ Cattelino, p. 130.
  48. ^ Cattelino, p. 142.
  49. ^ a b Mahon, p. 203.
  50. ^ Atlas of the North American Indian, 3rd ed. New York: Checkmark Books, 2009. Print.
  51. ^ US Census.
  52. ^ Cattelino, pp. 32 and 34.
  53. ^ "Seminoles to buy Hard Rock chain". Market Watch. December 7, 2006. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  54. ^ Cattelino, p. 40.
  55. ^ Robert Andrew Powell (August 24, 2005). "Florida State Can Keep Its Seminoles". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  56. ^ Cattelino. Ibid p. 9.
  57. ^ Cattelino. Ibid p. 113.


  • Adams, Mikaëla M., "Savage Foes, Noble Warriors, and Frail Remnants: Florida Seminoles in the White Imagination, 1865–1934," Florida Historical Quarterly, 87 (Winter 2009), 404–35.
  • Cattelino, Jessica R. High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8223-4227-4
  • Clark, C. Blue. "Native Christianity Since 1800." Sturtevant, William C., general editor and Raymond D. Fogelson, volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast. Volume 14. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2004. ISBN 0-16-072300-0.
  • Hatch, Thom. Osceola and the Great Seminole War:St. Martin's Press. New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-312-35591-3
  • Hawkins, Philip Colin. Creek Schism: Seminole Genesis Revisited. M.A. thesis, Department of History, University of South Florida, Tampa, 2009. LINK TO PDF
  • Hawkins, Philip Colin. "The Textual Archaeology of Seminole Colonization." Florida Anthropologist 64 (June 2011), 107–113.
  • Mahon, John K.; Brent R. Weisman (1996). "Florida's Seminole and Miccosukee Peoples". In Gannon, Michael (Ed.). The New History of Florida, pp. 183–206. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1415-8.

Further reading

  • Frank, Andrew K. "Taking the State Out: Seminoles and Creeks in Late Eighteenth-Century Florida." Florida Historical Quarterly 84.1 (2005): 10-27.
  • Hudson, Charles (1976). The Southeastern Indians, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  • Lancaster, Jane F. Removal Aftershock: The Seminoles' Struggles to Survive in the West, 1836-1866 (1995).
  • McReynolds, Edwin C. (1957). The Seminoles, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Mulroy, Kevin. Freedom on the Border (1993).
  • Schultz, Jack M. The Seminole Baptist Churches of Oklahoma: Maintaining a Traditional Community (2000).
  • Porter, Kenneth. The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People (1996)
  • Sattler, Richard A. "Cowboys and Indians: Creek and Seminole Stock Raising, 1700–1900." American Indian Culture and Research Journal 22.3 (1998): 79-99.
  • Sturtevant, William C. (1971). "Creek into Seminole." In North American Indians in Historical Perspective, edited by Eleanor B. Leacock and Nancy O. Lurie, 92–128. New York: Random House.
  • Taborn, Karen. Momis Komet: ("We Will Endure") The Indigenization of Christian Hymn Singing by Creek and Seminole Indians. M.A. thesis, Department of Ethnomusicology, Hunter College, the City University of New York, 2006. [1]
  • Twyman, Bruce Edward. The Black Seminole Legacy and North American Politics, 1693-1845 (Howard University Press, 1999).
  • West, Patsy. The Enduring Seminoles: From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism (1998)

Primary sources

  • Sturtevant, William C. (1987). A Seminole Source Book, New York: Garland Publishing.

External links

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