The Seminole are a Native American people who developed in Florida in the 18th century. Today, they live in Oklahoma and Florida, and comprise three federally recognized tribes: the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, as well as independent groups.
The Seminoles are Native American people originally from Florida. Ancestors of the Seminoles have lived in what is now the Southeastern United States for at least 12,000 years. The indigenous population of the Florida peninsula was estimated at 200,000 before the 1500s.
The Seminole Indians who lived in Florida just prior to removal had mixed origins, including a severed branch of Lower Creeks from the Chattahoochee River and runaway black slaves from the nearby plantations of white settlers.
A chickee was a house built on stilts usually about three or four feet above the ground. The Seminole Indians lived in Chickees because of the swampy conditions that existed in the Everglades of Florida where many Seminole lived. The Seminole built their homes on higher ground in the swampland.
The ancestors of today’s Seminole people migrated to Florida in the 1700s and early 1800s. These Indians came primarily from Alabama and Georgia, and although they were simply known as “Creeks” to the British, they spoke different languages and lived in independent towns.
The Seminole people originally lived in log cabins in North Florida, but when they were forced to move to the swampy lands of Southern Florida they lived in homes called chickees. A chickee had a raised floor, a thatched roof supported by wooden posts, and open sides.
The Seminoles generally welcomed those newcomers. Their economy emphasized hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods such as nuts and berries; they also grew corn (maize), beans, squash, melons, and other produce on high ground within the wetlands.
Some Seminoles took refuge in the swamps and Everglades, challenging areas where whites couldn’t find them. By 1843, the remaining Seminoles were told they could settle on an informal reservation in Florida.
Seminoles are all members of a clan, and there are eight today: Panther, Bear, Deer, Wind, Bigtown/Toad, Bird, Snake, and Otter. Other clans have gone extinct, including the Alligator clan. Children inherit their clan through their mothers and husbands traditionally go to live in the camp of his new wife’s clan.
The indigenous Indians immediately to the north of Florida were given names such as Creek, Mikasuki, Yamassee, Yuchi, Oconee, Guale, Eufala, etc.
The ancestors of the Seminoles living in Alabama and Georgia lived in Wattle and Daub Houses. These homes were built using a frame of poles and beams covered with wattle and daub mud. The walls were then covered by cane mats and a thatched grass roof. The early Seminole in Florida lived in stilt houses called chickees.
The Seminole people lived in houses called chickees. Seminole chickees were made of wood and plaster, and the roofs were thatched with palmetto fiber. They also began building their houses on wooden stilts that raised the floor two or three feet off the ground.
Before the turn of the century, Seminole turned to outside traders for tobacco and foodstuffs like coffee and sugar, sometimes paying with currency, sometimes bartering. Today, almost all transactions take place in stores within the money economy.
The Seminoles are said to believe that life spins in a circle, beginning in the east, then north, west and south. The bands of color in the flag symbolize those points of the compass: yellow for east, red for north, black for west, and white for south.
Today, the members of the Seminole tribe speak one or both of two languages: Maskókî and Mikisúkî. These are the only two left from among the dozens of dialects that were spoken by their ancestors here in the Southeast. Maskókî, erroneously called “Creek” by English speakers, is the core language.
Most removed as a result of the Treaty of Payne’s Landing (1832). The first group of migrants, under the leadership of Chief Holahte Emathla, arrived in present Oklahoma in 1836. By 1839 most of the Seminole had been relocated west.