Thursday, January 29, 2015


The Seminoles gave this museum its name as a way of describing the purpose of the building, which is a place to learn and to remember.  Before entering the museum we first walked past the statue of Sam Jones.  He was a great warrior as well as a powerful spiritual leader of his people.  A museum brochure asserts that without him there might not be Seminoles living in Florida today.  He participated in three Seminole wars against the U.S. military in the 1800s.
The statue is sheltered by a chickee, which were at one time the dwellings of the Seminoles, made of cypress and palmetto.  These thatched huts can still be found around the reservation, however now they are generally used as picnic shelters or sheds for outdoor equipment.  Below is another picture of a chickee found in the Seminole village which was built for the museum.  In this section of the museum Seminole artisans create and sell bead work, basketry, woodwork and patchwork clothing designs.
Seminole means "wild people", and given their history it is easy to understand that connotation.  After the military wars many Seminoles were transported west to Oklahoma.  About 300 managed to stay behind, hiding out in the swamps of southern Florida.  Their story speaks of their success not only in just surviving, and but also to their ingenuity in forging their own destiny.  Trading posts made it possible for them to trade furs in exchange for food, tools and cloth.  In 1870 the owner of one store (William Brown) and his wife taught them to read and write.  They also introduced them to the sewing machine, which helped the tribe in  producing their colorful patchwork clothing.  They learned fast to market the tourist trade selling those clothes, and other craft items, as well demonstrating alligator wrestling.  The tribe had a knack for working with cattle, in 1936 they were given a small scrawny herd.  Today the Seminoles are one of the largest beef producers in the nation.  In 2007 they purchased Hard Rock International, the only tribe to own a corporation.  The few hundred "wild' Indians who refused to surrender now number more than 2,400 people, most of them living on one of the tribe's six Florida reservations  There is a lot more to their story, more than I have space for in this posting.  In addition to their history, the museum offers many exhibits pertaining to the Seminoles' traditions and customs.
The mannequin pictured above is wearing patchwork clothes.  This is what Seminoles would have worn in 1890, with the advent of the sewing machine.  Their earlier dress was not as elaborate.  Information available at this exhibit stressed that this dress was not just for ceremonies, but also for everyday use.  The model is grating the root of a wild coontie plant.  Once the root is broken down, the pulp is washed and dried to produce a type of flour.  It is a rather long process, and, if not done properly, can produce a poisonous substance.  Needless to say, the Seminole today finds it simpler to purchase commercial flour!
We are back in a swamp again!  After touring the museum we went outside and took a boardwalk through a swamp.   Here many of the plants and trees have signs posted near them identifying them, as well as providing information as to how the Seminole once use the botanical product- whether for building material, food, or medicinally.  Pictured above is a serpent fern, tea was made of the root stalk of the plant to treat mental disorders.  We are now familiar with some of the trees and plants of southern Florida, but are still coming across many that are new to us.  Same could be said for the Native Americans of our country, there is certainly a lot that we never knew about their history and struggles to survive as a unique people!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Schramm family,
    Wonderful job on a very interesting and colorful blog!
    My wife and I are starting a new non-profit organization called “Tree of Life."
    We are creating our website now and were looking for a beautiful tree to stand for the “Tree of Life,” and were especially thinking that a pomegranate tree would be appropriate, since pomegranate trees symbolize fruitfulness. We looked all over the internet and the best one we found was yours, posted here:
    We were wondering if it’d be possible to use that picture on our website. I believe my wife posted a few times asking you for permission, but we didn’t get an answer yet. Since we’re a non-profit organization and not using the picture for commercial purposes, we understand that its use probably falls within “fair use.” So we were advised just to use it for now, but to let you know again. If you would like for us not to use it, just email us at arielandshayla (AT), and we will take it down. If, however, you are OK with us using it, please write us there as well so we can know for sure. In fact, we will await your approval before using it in anything other than a website, where we can take it down immediately (such as brochures, etc.).
    Please let us know. Thank you,
    Ariel and Shayla