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Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about the Seminole tribe.

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Seminole Tribe

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The Seminole are a Native American Indian people of Florida. The Seminole nation came into existence in the 1700s, and was composed of both Indians from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida including the Creek Nation. Roughly, 3000 Seminoles were forced to move to the west of the Mississippi River. Including the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, they picked up new members including run-away slaves along their way. Approximately 300-500 Seminoles stayed and fought in and around the Everglades of Florida. In a series of wars against the Seminoles in Florida, about 1,500 American soldiers died. No formal peace treaty was ever forced on them and they never surrendered to the U.S. government, hence, the Seminoles of Florida call themselves the "Unconquered People."

Today, they have independence over their tribal lands, and an economy based on tobacco, tourism and gambling. "Seminoles" is also the nickname of the athletic teams of Florida State University. The 3,100 members Seminole Tribe of Florida and the 6,000 members Seminole Nation of Oklahoma have officially approved the relationship.

After the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the native people of Florida were destroyed 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. In the early 18th century, members of the Lower Creek Nation began migrating into Florida to remove themselves from the dominance of the Upper Creeks, and combined with the few remaining native people there, including the Yuchis, Yamasses and a few native leftovers. They went on to be called "Seminole", an offshoot of "Cimarron" which means "Wild men" in Spanish.

Wars

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After the attacks by Spanish settlers on Indian towns, Indians based in Florida began looting Georgia settlements, supposedly at the command of the Spanish. The U.S. Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory to recapture escaped slaves, including the 1817-1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. As American settlement increased after the treaty, pressure grew on the Federal government to remove the Seminole Indian Tribes from their lands in Florida. Many Indian tribes protected runaway black slaves, and the settlers wanted access to Indian lands.

Seminole leader Osceola led the vastly outnumbered resistance during the Second Seminole War. Drawing on a population of about 4,000 Seminole Indians and 800 allied Black Seminoles, the Seminoles gathered at most 1,400 warriors (Andrew Jackson estimated they had only 900) to counter combined U.S. Army and militia forces that ranged from 6,000 troops at the outset to 9,000 at the peak of operation in 1837. He died in jail less than a year later. About 1,500 American soldiers had died, but no formal peace treaty had been forced on the independent Seminole who never surrendered to the U.S. government.

In the United States 2000 Census, 12,431 people reported themselves racially solely as Native Americans with only a Seminole tribal affiliation. An additional 15,000 people identified themselves as Seminoles in combination with some other tribal affiliation or race. The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has about 6,000 enrolled members, who are divided into fourteen bands. Two are called "Freedmen Bands" (also black Seminole) because they count their fall from escaped slaves.

Confirming their control over tribal lands and agreeing to compensation for seized territory, the Seminole Tribe and the Miccosukee Indian Tribe of Florida entered into agreements with the US government in 1957 and 1962, respectively. Since then, the tribes have developed an economy largely based on sales of duty-free tobacco, tourism and gambling. When South Florida tourism boomed in the 1920's, Seminoles capitalized by wrestling alligators for money. In 1979, the Seminoles opened the first casino on Indian land, guiding in what has become a multibillion-dollar industry operated by numerous tribes nationwide.

Black Seminoles

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The Black Seminoles are children of free African Americans and escaped slaves traditionally allied with Seminole Indians in Florida and Oklahoma. Twentieth-century historians popularized the name "Black Seminoles" to describe the community, whose members were known in the nineteenth century as Seminole Negroes, Seminole maroons, or simply the black allies of Seminole Indians.

As early as 1689, African slaves fled from the British American colonies to Spanish Florida seeking freedom. With an announcement from the King of Spain, the black fugitives received liberty in exchange for defending the Spanish settlers at St. Augustine. The Spanish organized the blacks into a band of soldiers; in their settlement at Fort Mose. It was the first legally sanctioned free black town in North America, which was founded in 1738.

 

Books on the Seminole

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Links to other sites on the Seminole

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Seminole Tribe of Florida http://www.seminoletribe.com/
Seminole Tribe History http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/
seminole/seminolehist.htm
Seminole Tribe History and Culture http://www.archaeolink.com/
indian_nations_seminole.htm
Seminole Tribe Genealogy http://www.kindredtrails.com/NATIVE_Seminole.html
Osceola - Seminole Indian Leader http://goodies.freeservers.com/osceola.html
Seminole Tribe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminole_(tribe)
 

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