The Seminole


The Seminole Essay, Research Paper

The Seminole

“As the United States is a nation made up of people from many nations, so the

Seminole is a tribe made up of Indians from many tribes.”? (Garbarino 13)? The

Seminole are the indigenous people living in southeastern America.? They lived

in what is now Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and

Mississippi.? The Seminole had a Muskogean language of the Hokan-Siouan stock.?

(Bookshelf)? The Indian tribes found in the southeast were the Creek, Choctaw,

Chickasaw, Cherokee, Yuchi, Yamassee, Apalachicola, Timucua, and Calusa.? The

southeastern Indians were described by the Spanish as being tall with

complexions ranging from olive, to brownish.? The Indians in the mountainous

regions were described as having lighter complexions, and those in the sunnier

regions as brown.? (Garbarino 13)

The Seminole were originally part of the Creek, but they began to migrate from

Southern Georgia to Northern Florida in the later half of the eighteenth

century.? The Seminole fled there because Spain owned Florida, and they hoped

they would be free.? They shared the land with another group of Indians, the

Apalachee and the Timucua, who spoke the Mikasuki Language.? (Seminole Indians

290)? By about the year 1775, they began to be known by the name Seminole, which

is derived from the Creek word simanoli, meaning “separatist,” or “runaway”.?

The name, Seminole, could also originate from the Spanish word cimarron, meaning

“wild.”? Also joining the migrants were Indian and Negro slaves, who fled from

the power struggles between the Americans and the Indians.? (Seminole 626)

The Indians who moved to Florida all had similar ways of life.? After their

migration, they kept many of the qualities of their original culture. Their

natural environment affected every aspect of their culture and life.? The

environment determined what food they ate, what clothing they could wear, the

houses that they could build, and how to live in them.? The environment even

influenced the language and rituals.? Due to this involvement with Nature, they

revered all of Nature.? (Garbarino 13)

The landscape in which the Seminole lived was composed of fertile valleys, thick

woods, and low mountains.? The largest and most powerful tribes took the

desirable locations, the fertile valleys.? The small tribes settled in the woods

and mountains.? (Garbarino 14)? The environment influenced the types of food the

people could find the most.? It allowed maize, beans, and squash to grow

plentifully.? Although these plants grow plentifully, the Seminoles lived more

by hunting and gathering.? It was easier to hunt and fish because the woodlands

and rivers were filled with an abundance of game.? The Indians also gathered

founds that were found in the environment, like berries, nuts, tubers, and

seeds.? (Seminole 626)

The jobs of gathering and growing plants were doled out to the women.? They also

had to prepare and cook the food that the men obtained.?? Most of the time, they

baked boiled, or broiled the food.? The women also preserved the food that they

collect, such as plums and persimmons.? (Garbarino 17)? The men usually helped

where there was heavy and intensive work to be do be done, like clearing land

and harvesting, but the men’s main jobs were to hunt, fish, and battle.?

(Seminole Indians 290)? The men hunted animals for their hides in addition to

their meats.? The most hunted for animals were:? deer, squirrels, rabbits,

raccoons, bears, turkeys, ducks, and geese.? The Indians also ate alligator meat,

turtle meat, shellfish, and fresh and salt-water fish.? (Garbarino 15)

The Indians lived in villages that ranged in size from 20 to 100 houses and in

population from 100 to more than one thousand.? The homes were most likely to be

built around a square or town plaza.? The central area of the square was left

for ceremonial purposes.? The chief’s house, a meeting hall, storage building,

and often the home of an important medicine man or religious leader surrounded

the square.? Around these buildings, the townspeople made their homes.?

(Garbarino 20)

Early Seminoles used to build log cabins, but later on they began to live in

basic shelters with thatched roofs that were supported by poles.? These homes

were called chickees.? They had a chickee for summer, winter, and for a woman

who is going to have a baby.? The huts had raised platforms and the roof was

thatched with palmetto leaves.? (Lepthien 7, 24-25)? Most of the towns with

these chickees were stockaded or palisaded.? That means they were surrounded

with logs that formed a protective fence.? This fence had usually had one or two

openings, which allowed passage in and out.? The men reinforced the walls with

crossbeams and daubed clay or mud over the open spaces.? (Garbarino 20-21)

All of the Indians of the Southeast belonged to clans.? People were a member of

the clan that their mother belonged.? Clan? membership was just as important as

the village you lived in.? Clans were usually ranked within tribes, making some

clans higher in status than others.? Since a boy was not part of his father’s

clan, it was the maternal uncle’s job to instruct him in hunting and warfare.?

The mother cared for the girls that she has.? Even though a child did not belong

to the father’s clan, the father was responsible for the support of his children

and they usually had a warm relationship.? (Seminole Indians 290)? A person must

marry someone outside the clan because it formed an alliance between clans.? It

was not forbidden to marry into the father’s clan, but it was unusual.? Men of

very high status usually married two wives, if he could provide more than one

wife could manage.? The first wife was usually happy to have them and all the

wives lived in different houses.? Divorce was just a matter of separation.? If a

woman wanted a divorce, she would leave a bundle of his belongings outside and

he left to go to his mother’s house.? (Garbarino 23)

Spain claimed a new land that Juan Ponce de Leon had named Florida.? Ponce De

Leon named the land Florida because of the festival that was going on in Spain

at that time, Pascua Florida.? Spain had claimed the land from the southernmost

tip of Florida to the Chesapeake Bay and to the Mississippi River.? Juan Ponce

de Leon tried establish a settlement along the coast of Florida, but all he did

was bother the Indians in the area.? As a result of the skirmish between the

Indians and the Spaniards, he was wounded very badly.? He died a little while

later at his base in Cuba.? (Garbarino 33)

In the ensuing 50 years, many others reinforced Spain’s claim to Florida.? None

of the adventurers tried to settle, so they did not take any land away from the

Indians, but they built little forts and supply depots.? They were not many

conflicts between the Spanish and the Indians, except when the Spanish held

Indians captive and used them for forced labor and guides.? (Garbarino 33)

As a result of the contact with the Spanish, some Indians contracted diseases

like fatal pneumonia and smallpox.? Some Indians did not even have to be in

contact with the Spanish to get the diseases.? If the Indians were in contact

with other Indians who had the germs, they could also get the disease.? The

Indians could not fight against this enemy, so the Indians were rapidly reduced.?

(Lepthien 5-6)

The French also tried to establish a colony in Florida in 1564, but they failed

because the Spanish captured the settlement the following and extinguished the

belief that France had claims in Florida.? One year later, the Spanish found the

first Spanish and the first permanent European settlement in the southeast.? It

was named St. Augustine.? The English were also interested in the Southeast.?

Sir Francis Drake commanded an English force against St. Augustine in 1586, but

his forces failed to penetrate the Spanish fortress; however, the English

established the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia just north of Florida and the

Spanish always worried about the inevitable expansion of English territory

southward.? (Garbarino 34)

There soon began a rivalry between the Spanish and the English.? The Indians

either chose the English or the Spanish.? Some Indians joined the English and

killed other Indians.? A few that were not captured, killed, enslaved, or died

by disease fled to the Spanish West Indies.? (Lepthien 13)? After this time

there was massive and reigning confusion.? Indian tribes killed other Indians.?

The English trying to get rid of the Indians played one tribe off for another

and caused more chaos.? As a result, many tribes were reduced in size, and many

people were homeless and hopeless.? (Garbarino 36)

Soon afterward, the English presence in America grew, and colonists began to

settle on Indian land.? In 1715, the settlers and the Yamassee tribe began to

fight.? The Yamassee were badly defeated, and they moved into Northern Florida,

where there was no competition for land.? The state of Georgia worked as a

buffer between the Spanish and the English.? (Garbarino 37)? Many African slaves

and Indians lived in the buffer zone and were not bothered.? The Indians

accepted the blacks in their tribes and they even inter-married.? Then, the

English established the colony of Georgia, so the area could no longer be an

area for runaways.? All of the people fled to Florida, where the Europeans

mispronounce their names.? The Europeans called them Seminoles when the word is

really simanoli.? In 1763, Britain forced Spain to trade Florida for Cuba.?

(Garbarino 39)

In 1783, Florida became Spanish after Great Britain lost the Revolutionary War.?

The period of peace and prosperity was now over for the Seminoles.? The American

settlers were soon attracted to the fertile land that the Seminole owned.? Some

of them even trespassed and set up farms.? (Lepthien 16)? The Indians warned

them that they would be attacked if they did not leave.? The Americans did not

comply with the Seminole, so they raided the American Homesteads.? Also, at this

time, the plantation owners whose slaves had become Seminoles, demanded their

slaves back, and they sent slave-catchers to the Seminole lands.? (Garbarino 39)

The War of 1812 also affected the Seminole because some were with the United

States, and some were with Great Britain.? As a result of continuing skirmishes

between the United States and the Seminole, the United States declared war on

the Florida Indians in 1817.? They claimed that their mission was to recapture

slaves, but the soldiers illegally went into Florida, and since the Spanish

control in Florida was weak, U.S. continued to raid into Spanish territory.? The

Seminole villages were burned, livestock captured, and food was destroyed or

confiscated.? The fighting between the Seminole and the United States was later

known to be the First Seminole War.? It was fought from 1817-1818.? (Seminole

626)? The Seminole fought bravely.? Billy Bowlegs led the Seminole.? The United

States Army was led by Andrew Jackson, who later became President.? Many Indians

were killed in the fighting, and those that survived, retreated into the marsh.?

Andrew Jackson’s victory caused the Spanish to sign a treaty with the U.S.

setting up Florida for sale.? On February 22, 1821, Florida became a part of the

United States of America.? (Garbarino 40-41)

On September 6, 1823, near St. Augustine, 70 Seminole chiefs met with Florida

governor William P. DuVal to discuss the removal of the Seminole.? Most of the

Seminole Chiefs agreed to the Indians move to a reservation further south.? The

Seminole gave the U.S. 30 million acres of fertile farmland, and the U.S. gave

them 5 million acres of land that was unfit for cultivation.? The Seminoles took

a year to move, and when they go there, they were soon afflicted by widespread

hunger.? They grew more and more discontented with their present situation.

By the year 1830, the Seminole’s old land was already settled, and the

homesteaders were looking for more.? The Federal Government was planning to

remove all Eastern Indians to the west of Mississippi.? President Andrew Jackson

was given the authority to relocate the Eastern Indian Tribes.? In 1832, some

Seminole decided that they could fight no more, so they moved, but the two most

powerful leaders, Micanopy and King Philip, refused to leave.? They believed

that they had rearranged their lives so much that they were going to stay.?

Seven Seminole leaders went to check out the reservation that they were going to

be put on, and there, the leaders signed the Treaty of Fort Gibson, in which

they agreed to move.? When the leaders returned to Florida, they said that they

were tricked into signing the treaty, and they refused to leave.? (Garbarino 45-


The Seminole were given until January 1, 1836 to move by.? One month before the

deadline, Seminole warriors began to raid against U.S. troops stationed in

Florida, thus began the Second Seminole War.? (Garbarino 46)? This was one of

the most costly U.S. versus Indian wars.? This war lasted for seven years.?

Their brave leader, Osceola, led the Seminole.? The warriors hid the families in

the Everglades, and they used guerrilla warfare.? This war cost the U.S.

Government between 40 Million Dollars and 60 Million Dollars.? Almost 2000 men

died for the United States and the death total was uncounted for the Seminole.?

(Seminole War 626)? The Seminole Warriors began to terrorized the settlers in

the area.? The burned and pillaged the homes of the wealthy plantation owners.?

The Seminole destroyed 16 plantations in one month.? Osceola was completely

against the raiding of these homes.? He did not want to hurt any women or

children.? Osceola taught the Indians how to use ambush and withdrawal to

surprise the enemy.? (Garbarino 52)

The U.S. Army now had a new General.? General Thomas S. Jesup took command of

the 10,000 men in Florida.? He attacked the Seminole villages, ruined their

crops, captured their cattle and horses, and took their women and children

hostage.? All of these combined lowered much of the Indian’s enthusiasm for

battle.? On October 23, 1837, near St. Augustine, Osceola and several of his

warriors, met with one of Jesup’s officers to release King Philip.? The Indians

carried a white flag and tried to call a truce, but they were captured and

imprisoned.? Later the same year, a delegation of 11 Seminole chiefs, met with

General Jesup with a white flag of truce.? They were also captured.? The

prisoners were moved to another prison, and soon afterward, Osceola died.?

Instead of lowering the morale of the Seminole, the death of their war chief

inspired them to fight on.? (Garbarino 52)

Soon the war began to end because enthusiasm was low and the might and numbers

of the U.S. Army intimidated the Indians.? There was no treaty to end the war;

the war just began to stop, and then it completely stopped.? No one came to give

them a treaty because no one wanted to go into the Everglades to acknowledge the

signing of a treaty.? (Garbarino 54)? Problems began to mount in 1855, when

surveyors went to map the Everglades, and then they took away the ripest crops

that the Chief, Billy Bowlegs, had, and then they burned the rest of their

crops.? The Indians then attacked them, and wounded several of them.? Over the

next three years, there were little skirmishes, but there was little bloodshed.?

In 1858, 163 Seminole moved west of the Mississippi.? Only a few remained in the

Everglades, and those that remained, moved deeper into the Everglades.? After

that, they were left alone.? (Garbarino 54-55)

Today, many Seminole live on small farms in Oklahoma.? They were among the Five

Civilized Tribes that include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Choctaw.? The

Seminole that remained in Florida make a living by hunting, fishing, farming,

raising cattle, or working in tourism.? (Seminole Indians 291)

“For more than 200 years the Seminole have survived as a tribe by adapting to

change without giving up their traditional ways entirely.? The preservation of

their customs has helped the Seminole maintain a strong sense of identity as a

distinct and proud people.”" (Garbarino 102)

Works Cited

Garbarino, Merwyn S.? The Seminole.? New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989.

Lepthien, Emilie U.? The Seminole.? Chicago: Childrens Press, 1985.

“Seminole.”? Encyclopedia Britannica.? 1993 ed.

“Seminole.”? Microsoft Bookshelf.? CD-ROM.? 1994 ed.

“Seminole Indians.”? The World Book Encyclopedia.? 1992 ed.

“Seminole Wars.”? Encyclopedia Britannica.? 1993 ed.


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