At the end of the Seminole Wars in 1858, only about 200 Seminoles remained in Florida. The Seminoles rebuilt their communities. They became part of the economic and cultural development of the Florida frontier. Beginning in the 1920s, some Seminole families worked at tourist villages. Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles operated their own tourism-related businesses along the Tamiami Trail.
At first, few Seminoles relocated to the reservations established in the 1920s and 1930s. This began to change as the government developed employment opportunities on the federal lands. By the late 1930s, cattle, land improvement, health, education, and handicraft programs were in place.
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.
These photographs show examples of Seminole clothing, food, housing, family, and work.
Clothing: Seminole clothing changed over time as they acquired new materials (brightly colored cloth) and technology (sewing machines). Seminoles made traditional clothing and also borrowed from styles they saw in American settlements.
Food: Seminoles ate a variety of plants and animals that exist in South Florida, including deer, alligator, manatee, bear, turkey, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Seminoles captured or gathered most of their food until the late 1800s/early 1900s when they started visiting frontier trading posts.
Housing: Seminoles generally lived in thatched-roof structures called chickees. Most chickees had palm-thatch roofing, but some used cypress bark or metal. Most chickees had open sides, but some were enclosed with wood logs or palm-thatching. Some Seminoles live in chickees today, but most moved into concrete block or frame construction homes beginning in the 1960s. Many Seminoles build chickees near their homes for outdoor cooking and recreation.
Family: Seminoles lived in extended family camps dominated by matriarchs. All women in a Seminole camp shared the same clan and a man moved to his wife’s camp when they married. Some Seminole families maintain their matrilineal traditions today, but others have adopted a patrilineal pattern common among other ethnic groups in the United States.
Work: Seminoles farmed, hunted, worked in tourism, and on government programs. Tourism and government jobs came about in the period after 1920.
The purpose of this primary source set is to introduce students to Seminole culture from frontier times to the 20th century.
Students should write brief journal responses to the photographs based on what is interesting to them. Teachers may prompt students with questions like: What is the most interesting thing you learned from the photographs?