The Seminole Essay

This essay has a total of 2791 words and 12 pages.

The Seminole

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)
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