Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Seminole are a Native American Indian people, originally of Florida. They originated as members of various indian nations including the Creek Nation who were driven out of Georgia, Missippi and Alabama, together with escaped slaves from these states and found refuge in Spanish ruled Florida in the early and mid 18th century, and were conquered and largely exiled by the United States in the early 19th century, after the United States took Florida from Spain.
After the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the indigenous people of Florida were decimated by disease, and it is believed that the few survivors were evacuated by the Spanish to Cuba when Florida fell under British rule in 1763.
The early 18th century, members of the Creek Nation and runaway slaves began migrating into Florida and intermingled with the few remaining indigenous people there. By the late 18th century, they had begun to be named Seminole, a term meaning "runaway". The Seminole were a heterogenous group containing various tribes and speaking Hitchiti and Mikasuki , two different dialects of Native American languages, from the Muskogean family, a language group that also includes Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek.
The Seminole were apparently on good terms with both the Spanish and the British.
After attacks by Spanish settlers on Indian towns, Indians based in Florida began raiding Georgia settlements, purportedly at the behest of the Spanish. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory to recaprture escaped slaves, including the 1817-1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. Following the war, the United States effectively controlled East Florida.
The Adams-Onís Treaty was signed between the United States and Spain in 1819 and took effect in 1821. According to the terms of the treaty, the United States acquired Florida and, in exchange, renounced all claims to Texas. Andrew Jackson was named military governor of Florida.
As American settlement increased after the treaty, pressure grew on the United States government to remove the Indians from their lands in Florida. Many Indian tribes harbored runaway black slaves, and the settlers wanted access to Indian lands. Georgian slaveowners also wanted the black Seminole returned to slavery.
In 1832, the United States government signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing with a few of the Seminole chiefs, promising them lands west of the Mississippi River if they agreed to leave Florida voluntarily. The remaining Seminole prepared for war. White settlers pressured the government to remove all of the Indians, by force if necessary. In 1835, the US Army arrived to enforce the treaty.Osceola (pictured) led the vastly outnumbered resistance during the Second Seminole War. Approximately 4,000 Seminole warriors effectively employed hit-and-run guerrilla tactics with devastating effect against over 200,000 United States Army troops for many years. Osceola was arrested when he came under a flag of truce to negotiations in 1837. He died in jail less than a year later.
The war only ended after a full decade of fighting, in 1842. The US government is estimated to have spent about $20,000,000 on the war, at the time an astronomical sum. Many Indians were forcibly exiled to Creek lands west of the Mississippi; others retreated into the Everglades. In the end, the US government gave up trying to subjugate the Seminole in their Everglades redoubts and left the Seminole in peace. About 1500 American soldiers had died but no formal peace treaty had been forced on the independent Seminole who never surrendered to the U.S. government.
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has about 6000 enrolled members, who are divided into fourteen bands. Two are called "Freedmen Bands" (also black seminole) because they count their descent from escaped slaves. Band membership is matrilineal: children are members of their mother's band. The group is ruled by an elected council, with two members from each band. The capital is at Wewoka, Oklahoma.
The Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida entered into agreements with the US government in 1957 and 1962, respectively, confirming their sovereignty over tribal lands and agreeing to compensation for seized territory. Since then, the tribes have developed an economy based largely on sales of duty free tobacco, tourism and gambling.
See also History of Florida.
- Seminole Tribe of Florida official site
- Seminole Nation of Oklahoma official site
- Hitchiti-Mikasuki Creation Story
- Aponke Resources for the study of Hitchiti and Mikasuki
- History of the Seminole People of Florida by Patricia R. Wickman, Ph.D.
- Seminole Portraits
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