In Her Own Words: Remarkable Women in 20th-Century Florida

Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, 1923-2011

"I am deeply grateful for the education I have received and I want sincerely to use it in the interest of my people."

— Betty Mae Tiger Jumper [1]

Betty Mae Tiger Jumper was a nurse, storyteller and the first chairwoman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. She grew up at the Hollywood Reservation north of Miami, and at a young age recognized the value of a good education. She was not allowed to attend schools in South Florida because of racial segregation, so at the age of 14 she moved to North Carolina to attend Cherokee Indian Boarding School. When she graduated in 1945, Jumper was one of the first two Seminole Indians to earn a high school diploma.

Jumper then enrolled at the Kiowa Teaching Hospital in Oklahoma, eventually earning a certificate in nursing and field training. She returned to Florida and worked as a nurse, first at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and then as a traveling nurse providing healthcare services to the Seminole community. She also served as a translator for Seminole patients receiving treatment from white doctors.

In 1967, Jumper was elected chairwoman of the Seminole Tribe. She focused on improving the financial situation of the tribe and providing better educational opportunities and healthcare to Seminole youth. She was appointed to the National Council on Indian Opportunity in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. After her term as chairwoman ended in 1971, she became editor of the Seminole Tribune newspaper and director of the Seminole Communications Department.

Letter from Betty Mae Jumper to Claude Kirk, 1968

Letter from Betty Mae Tiger Jumper to Florida Governor Claude Kirk requesting a reduced rate for the tribe to use the Alligator Alley toll road, September 18, 1968.

Letter with Three Resolutions from Joe Dan Osceola to Sam H. Brewer Jr., 1970

Resolution approved by Betty Mae Tiger Jumper requesting assistance from the Florida Legislature to ensure the history of the Seminole Tribe "be written accurately and completely," April 27, 1970.

More from Florida Memory
At the Archives
  • Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, Florida Folklife Archive, Florida Folk Heritage Award Winners' Files, 1985-2001, Series S1603, Box 4, Folder 3, State Archives of Florida.
  • Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, Florida Folklife Archive, Publicity Photographs and Files for the Florida Folk Festivals, 1954-1992, Series S1578, Box 2, Folder 16, State Archives of Florida.
  • Governor Kirk Correspondence, 1967-1971, Series S923, Box 54, State Archives of Florida.
  • Seminole Tribe and Florida Folk Festival Promotional Video Recordings, ca. 1990s, Collection N2016-6, Box 1, Folder 6, State Archives of Florida.
  • Video and Audio Recordings of Florida Folklife Events, Programs, and Television Broadcasts, 1948-1995, Series 1615, Box 7, State Archives of Florida.
  1. ^“Betty Mae Tiger Jumper and Patsy West, A Seminole Legend: The Life of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001), 137.