1. Historical information about the culture

The indigenous Seminole Indians settled in Florida around 10,000 BC and by 1513, 200,000 Seminole ancestors occupied the peninsula at the time the Spanish discovered Florida.  Once the Europeans settled in, disease and warfare followed causing the Seminole population numbers to fall; but before the European conflicts arose, a rich culture and environment dominated the Seminole tribe.
The Seminoles were completely dependent on the land and Everglade ecosystem. A common ancient belief of the tribe is that “if the land dies, so will the Tribe”.  The houses, known as chickee, built by the first Seminoles were framed with logs and covered by palmetto thatch.  The chickees would consist of a main area and a sleeping area, commonly on a second story.
            The Seminoles spoke the languages of Muscogee, also known as Creek, and Miccosukee.  It was common for Seminoles to speak both languages and both are still spoken today within the tribe.  The English language is hard to related to Seminole languages because the Muscogee and Miccosukee sounds and structures of languages are neither present nor used in the English language.  Some popular and recognizable words in Miccosukee are “Immokalee” meaning my camp, “Miami” meaning that place, “Apopka” meaning potato eating place, and “Okeechobee” meaning big water.
Seminole families were divided into mothers’ clans, which were units of extended family members of a mother.  A child born would belong to their mother’s clan.  No co-clan members could marry, and once a male was to marry, he would join his wife’s clan.  The only way for a clan to go extinct was for the last remaining female clan member to pass away.   When it was a time of death, the deceased’s body is left on an open platform for the wilderness to dispose, with four days of mourning to follow.  Clan members would present the body with the deceased’s favorite possessions.  To help avoid death, a “medicine man” would give the sick herbs to drink or bathe.
Arts, crafts, and beadworks were lush in the Seminole culture.  Wild sweetgrass was hand picked in the Everglades and laid out to dry to make strong, handcrafted baskets.  Seminole women would wear 12 pounds worth of beads around her neck for the duration of the day, even while performing rigorous work.  The beaded necklaces were re-beaded every morning.
            Since Florida had a numerous amount of wild fruit, vegetables, and grains, no one had to tend crops and men would focus on strong hunting traditions to easily hunt a variety of animals.  The Everglade waterways were ideal for the hunters to capture prey.  Canoes were used to spear fish and grass was burned, so it would regrow and attract deer to come near the hunters.  Corn was the core crop used for cooking and used along Wild Zamia to make flour.  The Seminoles were strong cooks and had sizable meals for the village to enjoy. The Seminoles would eat when hungry, so a pot of Sofkee was left on a fire throughout the day. To show appreciation to the Creator for the food, the Seminoles performed the Green Corn Dance, which involved hours of stomp dancing and chanting. The traditional environment, livelihood, and traditions were vast in historical Seminole culture.

"Seminole Indians." The History of the Seminole Indians. The American Indian Heritage Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
"Seminole Indians." Tribal Directory. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
"Seminole Tribe of Florida." The Official Home of the Florida Seminole Indians. Seminole Tribe of Florida, n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
Steele, Willard. "SEMINOLE INDIAN HISTORY AND CULTURE." Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Seminole Tribe of Florida, n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.



















2. Colonial experience of the culture

The Seminoles were the only Native American tribe to never sign a peace treaty.   The Seminoles helped to fight for the British during the American Revolution which made them enemies to the United States.  After the revolution Florida was given to the Spaniards.  When the United States initially started removing Native Americans from the east coast the Seminoles were in Florida which was still under Spanish control. During the war of 1812 the Seminoles continued to fight for the British. In 1821 the United States gained control of Florida and had to deal with the Seminoles itself.  In 1823 the United States attempted to move the Seminoles to a six million acre reservation in the middle of Florida.  The Seminoles were unhappy with the treaty making them do this so they stalled its implementation.   Some of the Seminoles were on the reservation in 1830 when the Indian removal act was implemented.  This act stated that the Seminoles would have to move west of the Mississippi river.
            The Seminoles refused to move so President Andrew Jackson told them that they would be removed by force.  The Seminole war started in 1835 with the Seminoles fighting against relocation, and the United States fighting to relocate them.  The United States decided that it was spending too much money and wasting too many lives fighting the Seminoles. In the end the Seminoles were given a new reservation in southern Florida on better land, and with better means to trade.  The United States government continued to try and convince and bribe the Seminoles to leave Florida for the next decade.   Then in 1855 the Seminoles attacked militants to avoid their forced removal.  This started another Seminole war.  This war was much shorter.  The result was that many Seminoles agreed to move west, but there was no clear victor.  Some Seminoles were shipped to New Orleans while others remained in Florida.
            The Seminoles split into two groups, those who would remain traditional and those who were willing to adapt to their reservations.  In 1957 the group that accepted the reservation land achieved federal recognition as the Seminole tribe of Florida.  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. 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. 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.
            In 1930 the US government gave the Seminoles 5000 acres of reservation land in Florida.  Most Seminoles did not move there until the 1940s. The Seminoles ended up with much less land than they were first offered because there were fewer of them, and it was later in history so land was more valuable.  There were only about 2000 Seminoles left in Florida after they agreed to leave.  So the reservation is large enough.  The Seminoles also set up a high stakes bingo game which they won the right to run.




3. Contemporary developments or issues

As Native American cultures continue into contemporary times, they must continue to evolve in an attempt to find their place within the modern world.  However, their attempts at modernization must be tempered by a conscious effort to maintain their longstanding cultural heritage.  The Seminole culture, being one of the larger and more autonomous tribal networks in Florida, has been able to more easily maintain its cultural heritage than other tribes.  This leads to a de-emphasis of the cultural heritage programs that are commonly found in Native American tribes with a less realized cultural identity.  Instead, the Seminole is focusing its forward momentum on achieving higher degrees of autonomy from the United States Government and participating in activities that are seen as tenets of mainstream American culture.
            The Seminole’s move towards increased independence began in early 2014, with the internal assessment of the effectiveness of government programs and services.  This assessment focuses on the programs local effects and implications; specifically consulting individuals about how said programs impacted their lives.  Those programs that receive unfavorable reviews are to be either completely done away with or re-legislated.  This process “aims to protect Tribal sovereignty and build strong economies.”  While this may initially appear to be a superficial step towards independence, a formal reassessment of existing governmental institutions is a necessary precursor to improving these programs functions in the future.
            This journey towards increased independence continued throughout 2014 culminating in several important steps in early 2015.  On January 8, 2015, the Seminole Nation “became the 15th of 566 federally recognized Tribes to be approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior for autonomy over tribal leasing agreements on trust lands.”  This is aligns with the recently signed “HEARTH Act” geared towards increased tribal sovereignty and a decreased national government presence in reservations.  In doing so, The Seminole Nation became the 15th Native American tribe to qualify for these benefits, indicating its preeminence amongst contemporary Native American cultures.
            Seminole culture took another important step towards establishing sovereignty via “self-governing and self-determination” in February 2015 when it created its own Tribal Court system.  This system is dedicated to the protection of both the United States Constitution and the Seminole Constitution.  In doing such, the Seminole Nation has taken an additional step towards independence by taking their own civil justice completely into their own hands.  This shows a clear dedication to the modernization of the generally cultural institutions.
            Not only has Seminole culture made strides towards self-governance, they have additionally attempted to be actively involved in facets of the United States Government.  This is most evident in their joining of the American Gaming Association (AGA).  They are the first and only Native American tribe to do so.  By joining the AGA, they are better able to direct the future of recreational gaming, an important industry to the Seminole.  Further perks include an increased access to networking and a far better representation of their interests in Washington DC through lobbying.  Through both their increased sovereignty and their heightened participation in national government, it is clear that the Seminole culture is taking the necessary steps to forge itself into a flourishing modern culture.