Thursday, October 27, 2005


October 27, 1837: After helping to lead a large group of Seminoles out of a relocation camp in Tampa Bay, Chief Osceola will be pursued by American forces under General Thomas Jesup. Today, while operating under direct orders of General Jesup, soldiers will invite Osceola to talk under a white flag of truce. When Osceola joins them, he will be taken captive. This will also be reported to have happened, in some sources, on October 21st.

A very interesting website debunking various myths about Osceola is to be found at:

The following is from Indian Health Services website at:

Early in the 18th century, several thousand indigenous people began emigrating southward into a vast and mostly unoccupied territory called Florida. These people came from several groups or tribes whose lives and homelands were being disrupted by American colonization efforts. Many were Muscogee speakers, part of the Creek Confederation living in Indian "towns" across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.

Creek, Hitchiti, Apalachee, Mikasuki, Yamassee, Yuchi, Tequesta, Apalachicola, Choctaw, Oconee joined with the last of the aboriginal Florida Indians, escaped slaves, outlaws and others to seek better lives in the thick virgin forests, wide grass prairies and spring fed rivers of North Florida.

Muscogee speakers had a word for these "renegades" who fled native homelands for Florida soil, a word which sounded like si-mi-no-li and meant "wild" or "runaway". The Spanish also had a similar sounding word which meant the same thing: cimmarones.

A commonalty of purpose--refusal to be dominated by the white man--served to combine these many culturally-similar factions into one group that today is known as the Seminoles.

In those days, the fledgling United States government carried out a policy of extermination and displacement regarding American Indians. U.S. officials were particularly disturbed by the protection and shelter, this organized group of runaways (Seminole) offered to escaped slaves. In addition, the choice lands of interior North Florida were openly coveted by white settlers. Conflicts, skirmishes, ambushes and racial hatred erupted periodically on the new frontier.

When Spain could not control the Seminoles, the U.S. government took occupation of Florida. Legendary Indian fighter General Andrew Jackson spent nearly two decades trying to solve the Seminole Indian "problem". Three aggressive military campaigns-- the undeclared Seminole Wars--and at least four fraudulent treaties, not to mention President Jackson's Indian Removal Act (The Trail of Tears) sought to completely wipe out the Florida Seminoles, in body and spirit. More than 4,000 Seminoles were among those displaced to Oklahoma. Many died along the way. Some were duped and some were taken against their will, others went along willingly, pride beaten down by the intense conflict. Their descendants remain there to this day, organized as the distinct Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

In addition to Jackson, an impressive list of U.S. Generals joined the fight to remove the Seminoles: Edmund Gaines, Zachary Taylor, Duncan Clinch, Winfield Scott, Robert Call, and Alexander Macomb were among the directors of a 40-year-battle to conquer the Seminoles.

Seven of those years--known to history as the Second Seminole War- -frame the most colorful era in modern Florida Indian history. The conflict began on December 28, 1835, when a band of Seminoles ambushed and killed U.S. Major Francis Dade and all but three of his 108 man regiment north of Tampa. It was a shocking defeat, one still studied today by military students.

Striking with surprise and disappearing into terrain unfavorable to conventional military warfare, several hundred Seminoles were able to elude capture by over 40,000 U.S. regulars and volunteers who served in Florida during the seven years of war.

Those years were further illuminated by two legendary Seminole leaders--the famous warrior Osceola and the inspirational medicine man Aripeka (a.k.a. Sam Jones). Elegant in dress, handsome of face, passionate in nature and giant of ego, Osceola masterminded successful battles against five different U.S. generals. Osceola was not a chief with the heritage of a Micanopy of Jumper, but his skill as an orator gave him great influence over Seminole war actions.

Osceola's capture, under a controversial flag of truce offered by General Thomas Jessup, remains today one of the blackest marks in American military history. A larger-than-life character, Osceola is the subject of numerous myths; his 1838 death in a Charleston, S.C. prison was noted on front pages around the world. Though his exploits were not as well publicized, Seminole medicine man Aripeka may have been more important to the internal Seminole war machine than Osceola. Aripeka was a powerful spiritual leader who used his "medicine" to stir Seminole warriors into a frenzy. He is known as the mastermind of several battles, including the 1837 ambush now known as the Battle of Okeechobee.

Many years older than most of the Seminole leadership of that era, wise old Sam Jones was a staunch resistor to removal. He kept the resistance fueled before and after Osceola's period of prominence and, when the fighting had concluded, was the only major Seminole leader to remain in Florida.

By May 10, 1842, when a frustrated President John Tyler ordered the end of military actions against the Seminoles, over $20 million had been spent, 1,500 American soldiers had died and still no formal peace treaty had been signed. Thirteen years later, fighting erupted again when a U.S. Army survey party--seeking the whereabouts of Aripeka and other Seminole groups--was attached by Seminole warriors under the command of colorful Billy Bowlegs.

The eventual capture and deportation of Bowlegs ended aggressions between the Seminoles and the Untied States. Historians estimate there may have been only 100-300 unconquered Seminole men, women and children left all hiding in the swamps and Everglades of South Florida.

The last group of survivors comprised at least two main factions: Muscogee speakers who lived near Lake Okeechobee and those who spoke the linguistically-related Mikasuki tongue and lived to the south. In the remote environs of such uncharted Florida wilderness, the Seminoles remained, isolated from Florida society and the rest of the world until the 20th century.

The descendants of these last few Indian resistors are the members of today's Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, and the (unaffiliated) independent or traditionalist Seminoles. Present day Seminoles are the descendants of Indians who refused to leave Florida when enforcement of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 resulted in the relocation of tribes from east the Mississippi River to Oklahoma. Today they still exhibit strong cultural ties to their past while demonstrating a propensity for entrepreneurship in gaming, cattle, agriculture, tourism, and land management.

The Seminole people are governed by a Tribal Council that includes the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and a representative from each of the Seminole reservations: Hollywood, Brighton, Big Cypress, and Immokalee. All are elected officials, the Chairman and Vice- Chairman each serving a four year term and the representatives two year terms. A Board is responsible for all Tribal business activities and enterprises. A President and Vice-Chairman, who also serves as Chairman for the Council, make up the Board.


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