How the West was Lost
The Seminole are a Native Americans in the United States people originally of Florida, who now reside primarily there and in Oklahoma. The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of other Native Americans and a small number of escaped slaves. They were composed most significantly of Creek from what is now Georgia, the Florida Panhandle and Alabama, who settled in the southern and central part of the Florida peninsula in the early 18th century.
The word Seminole is a corruption of cimarrÃ³n, a Spanish term for "runaway" or "wild one", historically used for certain Native American groups in Florida. The Indians 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 because of a negative connotation. They thought of themselves as yat'siminoli or "free people," because for centuries their ancestors had resisted the attempts of the Spaniards to conquer and convert them, as well as the attempts of the English to take their lands and use them as military pawns. and were never to adopt a peace treaty with the United States. The Seminole were recognized as a separate tribe from the Miccosukee Creek in 1962.
After an initial period of colonization in Florida, during which they distanced themselves increasingly from other Creek groups, the Seminole established a thriving trade network during the British and second Spanish periods (roughly 1767â€“1821). The tribe expanded considerably during this time, and was further supplemented from the late 18th century with the appearance of the Black Seminoles â€“ free blacks and escaped slaves who settled in communities near Seminole towns, where they paid tribute to the Native Americans in exchange for protection, However, tensions grew between the Seminole and the United States to the north, leading to a series of conflicts known as the Seminole Wars (1818â€“1858). Over the course of the wars most Seminoles were forced to relocate west of the Mississippi River in a process of Indian removal. Perhaps fewer than 200 Seminoles remained in Florida, but those who did fostered a resurgence in traditional customs and a culture of staunch independence.
Historically, Seminoles in Florida have spoken two mutually unintelligible languages, Mikasuki and Creek. In Oklahoma, some Seminoles speak Creek. Both are part of the Muskogean language family. In 2000, Mikasuki was the native language of about 1,600 people and Creek was the native language of about 200 people in Florida, but most Mikasuki speakers are bilingual. English is prevalent today, especially among those under age 50 (the youngest Creek speaker in Florida was born in 1960).
Seminole culture is largely derived from Creek culture. The most important ceremony is the Green Corn Dance, which is celebrated largely as it is among the Creeks; other notable Creek-derived traditions include use of the black drink and ritual smoking of tobacco. As the Seminole adapted to the Florida environment, they developed their own local traditions, such as the construction of open air thatched-roof houses known as chickees.
The Seminole who moved west of the Mississippi largely settled in what is now Oklahoma. Today most are enrolled with the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, while others belong to unorganized groups. The Florida Seminoles reestablished limited relations with the U.S. government in the late 19th century, and eventually received 5,000 acres (20 km2) of reservation land in Florida. However, few Seminole had interest in moving to reservations until the 1940s, when many Seminole Christians relocated to them in order to establish their own churches. Reservation governments were founded, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida received federal recognition in 1957. However, the recognition caused conflict with a group living along the Tamiami Trail, who did not feel appropriately represented; they sought federal recognition as the Miccosukee Tribe, which they received in 1962.