The Florida Seminoles
Photos and History
The decline of the hide trade followed by the Great Depression forced Seminoles to seek alternative sources of income. Beginning in the 1920s, some Seminole families worked at tourist villages. Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles operated their own tourism-related businesses along the Tamiami Trail.
Postcard of a Seminole alligator wrestler at Musa Isle: Miami (ca. 1940)
Image number: PC1338
Seminoles hunted alligators for centuries. However, alligator wrestling began as a tourist attraction in the 1920s.
Mikasuki Seminole tourist village along Tamiami Trail (ca. 1950)
Image number: PC1311
At first, few Seminoles relocated to reservations established in the 1920s and 1930s. This began to change as the government developed viable employment opportunities on the federal lands. By the late 1930s, cattle, land improvement, health, education, and handicraft programs were in place at the Brighton, Big Cypress, and Dania Reservations.
Children at the Brighton Reservation (ca. 1948)
Image number: JJS0622
Seminole doll made by Mary Billie: Big Cypress Reservation (1980)
Image number: FS80348a
Mary B. Billie has been a dollmaker since she was 17. She learned the skill by watching her mother, who learned it from Mary’s grandmother.
Charlie Micco and grandson Fred Smith: Brighton Reservation (1950)
Image number: C013676
The Seminole Tribe built one of the largest and most successful cattle herds in Florida. Charlie Micco was among the first Seminole cattlemen on the Brighton Reservation.
Missionaries first attempted to convert the Seminoles to Christianity in the late 19th century, but were largely unsuccessful. Many of the Seminoles who moved to federal lands in the 20th century, however, converted to Christianity. The most successful missionary efforts came from the Seminole Baptists from Oklahoma and the Episcopal Church. Many Seminoles today blend traditional religious beliefs with Christianity.
Deaconess Bedell with Mary Osceola Huff and Fanny Stuart (ca. 1940)
Image number: BD071
Deaconess Harriet Bedell operated the Glades Cross Mission in Everglades City for more than 30 years.
Ruby Jumper Billie holding her son Billie L. Cypress (1948)
Image number: BD024
The Seminole Tribe gained federal recognition in 1957. The Miccosukee Tribe gained federal recognition in 1962. Some Florida Indians refused to join either Tribe and stayed independent.
Director Nicholas Ray, left, with actor Cory Osceola during the filming of the movie Wind Across the Everglades (1958)
Image number: JJS0244
Billy Bowlegs III at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs (1960)
Image number: FA3749
Betty Mae Jumper, the first female Chair of the Seminole Tribe of Florida (1967)
Image number: C671293
Lottie Shore weaving beads for Seminole dolls: White Springs (1984)
Image number: FA0650
Addie Billie: Ochopee (1989)
Image number: FS89408
Young people playing stick ball: Big Cypress Reservation (1989)
Image number: FS8950
Governor Charlie Crist discussing the Gaming Compact with Seminole Tribe Councilman Max Osceola Jr. (2009)
Image number: PT11625
In 2010, the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed on the Seminole Gaming Compact. The agreement gave the Seminole Tribe a monopoly over certain types of gaming in exchange for a portion of casino profits.