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Collage of Seminoles

The Seminoles are an ethnic group of North American Indians . Prior to the ethnic cleansing by the United States , their settlement area was in northern Florida . Today they mostly live in Oklahoma and in southern Florida.

During the 18th century, members of the Creek and Mikasuki, as well as groups of smaller indigenous peoples , immigrated to Florida from what is now the states of Mississippi , Alabama and Georgia . Afro-American slaves who had run away came to them . During this time the ethnogenesis of the Seminoles began.

Most of the Seminoles spoke Maskoki (Mvskoke) . This language is part of the Muskogee language family , which in 1990 was still spoken by 6,000 of the approximately 20,000 Creek and Seminoles. The Mikasuki among them spoke the related Hitchiti-Mikasuki belonging to the same language family , which is still spoken today by around 500 members of the Mikasuki in Florida.

History of the Seminoles up to the Seminole Wars

Early history

Before the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, the area of ​​today's Florida was settled by the indigenous peoples of the Apalachee , Caloosahatchee , Timucua , Ais , Calusa , Jaega , Mayaimi , Tequesta and Tocobaga .

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Indian peoples of Florida were severely decimated by wars with the Spanish conquerors and by diseases brought in by Europeans. The surviving Indians were brought to Cuba by the Spaniards after the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, when Spain had to cede Florida to Great Britain by treaty .

During the first half of the 18th century, English colonists increasingly immigrated to what is now South Carolina and northern Georgia . This led to conflicts with the local Indians. As a result, the Yamasee War broke out between 1715 and 1717 .

On February 12, 1733, James Oglethorpe founded the English province of Georgia between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers . The province was established to protect the province of South Carolina from Spanish attacks. In 1735 the Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to take the newly founded Savannah in 1733 .

In 1736, an agreement was signed between representatives of the Georgia province and Spanish Florida , which provided for a neutral zone between the Altamaha and San Juan rivers . During the Jenkin's War of 1739-1742, the English and Spanish fought each other in Georgia and Florida. The fighting ended with no results.

Origin of the Seminoles

The Seminole people emerged during the second half of the 18th century. The Oconee , who belong to the Hitchiti group, played a major role . At the beginning of the 18th century they settled near Milledgeville in what is now Baldwin County on the banks of the Oconee River, which is named after them . After the Yamasee War, they moved west to the Chattahoochee River in the Creek area . They joined the Creek Confederation.

Differences arose between them and the Creek around 1750. Under their chief Secoffee (Cowkeeper) , large parts of them emigrated to the "neutral zone" in the area of ​​the Alachua prairie . The area turned out to be extremely rich in game. There were also several feral cattle from the former Spanish cattle ranch Rancho de la Chua , from which the name Alachua is derived. The name Alachua became the name for the Oconee who settled in this area.

They built their main settlement, Cuscowilla (Alachua), in a convenient location. There was a lake nearby, to which they gave the same name. The American naturalist William Bartram visited Cuskowilla in 1773, he described a sizable settlement of 30 houses.

In addition to the Oconee, groups of the Mikasuki, who also belong to the Hitchiti language group and members of the Lower Muskogee who were in conflict with the Upper Muskogee, as well as some members of other tribes in the southeast of today's USA , immigrated to the depopulated northern Florida . Especially after the Yamasee War, Yamasee and Yuchi immigrated , who were on the run from the advancing English colonists from what is now South Carolina and Georgia. A few runaway slaves and a few Europeans joined the Indians.

Meaning of the name Seminoles

This newly formed population was called cimarrón by the Spanish from St. Augustine , which means “wild people” or “refugees”. In the Muskogee language, simano-li developed from this , from which the term Seminole is derived. The Seminoles of Florida called themselves ikaniúksalgi , which means "people of the peninsula".

First conflicts between Seminoles and white settlers

The Alachua took a leading role among the tribal groups of the Seminoles. Their chief Cowkeeper was recognized as the Supreme Chief of the Seminoles. All subsequent Supreme Chiefs of the Seminoles came from the Cowkeeper family. He was succeeded by King Payne after Cowkeeper's death in 1783 . At the beginning of the 19th century the settlements and plantations of the white Americans from Georgia reached as far as the border area of ​​Spanish Florida. Many black slaves fled the plantations to the Seminoles. The relationship between the Indians and the slaves was more that of vassals. The African Americans could lead a freer life with the Indians than with the whites. Marriages were common. Their offspring were accepted into the tribe. The Black Seminoles arose from them .

Georgia slave hunters invaded the Seminole area and demanded the repatriation of the runaway slaves. This led to conflicts with the Indians. When the British-American War broke out in 1812, Indians attacked settlements in Georgia. They were supported by the Spanish governor of Florida. Great Britain and Spain were allied. An attack by the Georgia militia on Seminole land followed, under the command of Colonel Daniel Newnan . King Payne was fatally wounded during the battle on September 28, 1812.

He was succeeded by his younger brother Bolek . The militia withdrew to Georgia. In 1813 there was another battle between the Seminoles and the American militias from Tennessee and Georgia. During this invasion, Cuscowilla was destroyed. The Supreme Chief of the Seminoles then moved his headquarters to a village on the Suwannee River to the west . After the Creek War from 1813 to 1814, many members of the defeated Lower Creek moved to the Seminoles in Florida. The conflicts between the Indians and the white Americans intensified in the following years and culminated in the First Seminole War.

Seminole Wars

First Seminole War (1814-1818)

Former tribal area of ​​the Seminoles and first reservation (1838), their resettlement route and battles with Indian participation in the southeastern United States between 1811 and 1847

The first war came from 1814 to 1818 when General Andrew Jackson marched from Georgia into Florida, then under Spanish rule, to capture runaway black slaves who had fled to the Seminoles. Jackson captured St. Marks and Pensacola in west Florida. The Seminoles were defeated and several of their villages along the Suwannee River were destroyed. In 1821 Florida was handed over to the United States by Spain under the Adams-Onís Treaty signed in 1819 . Andrew Jackson served as the military governor of Florida until the establishment of the Florida Territory in 1822.

There was a wave of white American immigration in northern Florida. The Seminoles were founded in 1823 under their Supreme Chief Micanopy (Micco-Nuppe, Michenopah, Miccanopa, Mico-an-opa; Hitchiti: "Miko" (Chief) and "naba" (above), i.e. "Supreme Chief", this is what it is for the title of Chief of the Seminoles), the successor of Bolek (Bowlegs) , who died in 1821 , was forced to sign the Treaty of Moultrie Creek . The contract stipulated, among other things, that the Seminoles should move to a reservation in the central and southern inland of the Florida peninsula. In 1827 the move to the reservation was completed. In the 1820s and 1830s, many white settlers came to Florida.

The situation of the Seminoles deteriorated more and more, they had to continuously cede land to the white settlers and withdraw into the wilderness of the Everglades. President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 , which stipulated that all Indians east of the Mississippi had to relocate west, including the Florida Seminoles (see Indian Resettlement ). In 1832 the Seminoles were forced to sign the Payne's Landing contract. A significant part of the contract stipulated that the Indians cede their lands in Florida to the Government of the United States and the Indian territory should consider the already resettled Creeks, today's Oklahoma . Many of the Seminole were refugees from the Creek War of 1813-1814. The government did not regard the Seminoles as a separate people, but as part of the Creek Nation, which the Seminoles denied.

Second Seminole War (1835–1842)

Since the Seminoles refused to recognize the Payne's Landing Treaty and to move west, the war with the US Army broke out for the second time in 1835 under the leadership of Micanopy and Osceola (Asi-yahola) (also: Billy Powell). The Seminoles were initially successful because they were able to take advantage of the swamps and natural features in a guerrilla war with surprise attacks against the coastal settlements. In addition, successful leaders of the Red Sticks faction of the Creek , who were defeated in the Creek War of 1836 - such as Jumper (Otee Emathla or Ohta Emahlv) or Opothleyahola (Opothle Yohola, Opothleyoholo, Hu-pui-hilth Yahola or Hopoeitheyohola) joined the Seminoles in their struggle with their experience and warriors. The American army lost several fights due to ignorance and unfamiliarity of the environment and was partially demoralized, which resulted in desertions.

In 1837, while approaching the army to negotiate a truce, Osceola was captured under the command of Thomas Jesup and taken to Fort Moultrie , South Carolina , where he died of malaria. His fellow tribesmen under the leadership of the Mikasuki war chief Wild Cat (Gato del Monte) (Coacoochee or Cowacoochee), the Mikasuki shaman and old war chief Aripeka (Ar-pi-uck-i, Arpeika, also: Sam Jones), Thlocklo Tustenuggee ( Thlocko, Thlocco, also: Tiger Tail) and the rising war chief Alligator (Halpatter Tustenuggee) as well as the allied Black Seminoles (Black Seminoles) under the bitter war chief Halleck Tustenuggee (Halekupttenuggee, Hallock Tustenuggee; Chief Tustenuggee - "Warrior or Great Warrior" , was a common name for war chiefs) and John Horse (Juan Caballo, John Cowaya, also: Gopher John), who served the Seminole chiefs as translator and negotiator with the US Army, continued the war unabated. The prominent participation of the Black Seminoles in the two Seminole Wars (1817-1818 and 1835-1842) against the US Army, whose leaders were also highly regarded among the Indian Seminoles, led to further escape attempts by black slaves, some of them with blacks Seminoles to the Bahamas fled (and their descendants on this belonging Andros - archipelago there are still living). In addition, with the help of the Black Seminoles, there were several uprisings by black slaves on the plantations in Florida and the flight of slaves to the Seminoles.

In 1840 the American army changed its tactics. They avoided direct contact with the enemy and instead destroyed the Indian supplies for their livelihood. After about six months, more and more Seminoles gave up, whereupon they were deported to the Creek area in the newly defined Indian territory . In 1842 there were only a few hundred Seminoles left in the inaccessible parts of the Everglades.

The American army was no longer interested in continuing the war and withdrew. The Second Seminole War was extremely costly for the United States. In addition to around 1,500 dead soldiers, there were costs of around 20 million US dollars.

Third Seminole War (1855-1858)

Even after the end of the Second Seminole War in 1842, there were attempts to relocate the remaining Indians to the west. But they refused. A military solution to the problem was attempted again during the 1850s.

In 1855 the army again waged a war against the Seminoles that remained in Florida under the leadership of the current Chief Billy Bowlegs (Billy Bolek) (Holata Micco, Halpatter Micco, Halbutta Micco, Halpuda Mikko - "Alligator Chief", also: Chief Alligator) and the war chief Aripeka, in the course of which another 163 tribesmen, including Billy Bowlegs, were deported to Oklahoma. The remaining Seminoles, including Aripeka, were able to maintain their settlements in southern Florida, scattered over the Everglades and isolated from the whites. Today, their descendants consider themselves “the undefeated”. They are the only Indian tribe in North America that was not completely defeated by the white conquerors.

During the Seminole Wars, the majority of the Seminoles were forcibly relocated to Indian territory. As a result of this resettlement, the national community broke up, which led to a different ideological development of the Seminoles in Florida and Oklahoma. The own traditions, customs and ceremonies were retained in both ethnic groups. However, the Seminoles in Oklahoma were exposed to pressure from white Americans on language, culture, religion and way of life early on. As part of the Five Civilized Nations , they tried to adapt to the way of life of the whites. The remaining Seminoles in Florida were able to maintain their traditional way of life as well as their language and culture as a people isolated from white America until the first decades of the 20th century. The Seminoles in Oklahoma and Florida now consider themselves independent nations, each representing their own different interests.

Oklahoma Seminoles

Seminole chief Grizzly Bear

The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has approximately 6,000 enrolled members in 14 tribes. Two of these tribes are formed as freedman bands by descendants of runaway black African slaves, the Black Seminoles , who had associated with the Seminoles. They live there in close proximity to the Creek, which speak the same language.

During the Seminole Wars, over 3800 Seminoles were deported from Florida to the Indian Territory. They were settled on the Creek Reservation and were subject to the Creek laws. For many Seminoles this was unbearable. Two groups, led by Wild Cat (Cocoacoochee) and John Horse , immigrated to Mexico in 1849 . It was not until 1856 that a contract was signed between the Seminoles, the Creek and the US government, which granted the Seminoles their own reservation.

After the Civil War , the Oklahoma Seminole reservation was reduced in size. At the end of the 19th century they were forced to divide their traditional land into individual parcels and give the rest to the United States. This land was opened for settlement by white immigrants in 1889. With the establishment of the state of Oklahoma in 1907, Seminole County was established. The county roughly corresponds in area to the former reservation of the Seminoles in Oklahoma. The main town of the Oklahoma Seminoles is the administrative headquarters of Seminole County Wewoka .

In 1935 tribal government was restored. In 1970, the government was adjusted to more traditional structures. The Oklahoma Seminoles are organized in an elected tribal government. Two members of each of the tribes are members of the council. Among other things, the Seminoles operate several casinos . They also have a program to revitalize their own language. Many Seminoles were Baptists , but both the Florida and Oklahoma groups held on to their traditional Muskogee rites.

Florida Seminoles

After the Seminole Wars, a few hundred Seminoles remained in Florida. They retired to the Everglades swamps. Their settlements were scattered across the Everglades. They lived in their thatched chickees in isolation from white Americans according to their traditional way of life until the early 20th century.

The remaining Seminoles of Florida are still proud today that they were never officially defeated by the whites. From this they derive part of their rights as a sovereign nation. After the invasion of the whites and the increased settlement of the coastal areas of South Florida in the 1920s and 1930s, the cultural pressure on the Seminoles increased. Two groups formed among the Seminoles. The “Seminole Tribe of Florida” developed from one group and the “Miccosukee Tribe of Florida” from the other. The police duties in the tribal reservation are carried out by the Seminole Tribal Police. The Tribal Police are subordinate to the Office of Tribal Justice of the US Department of Justice .

White-Black-Red-Yellow: Flag of the Seminoles and Mikasuki

Both tribes have an identical flag made up of four horizontal stripes in the colors white-black-red-yellow.

Seminole Tribe of Florida

This group accepted the facilities of reservations and was willing to adapt more to the way of life of the whites. In 1957 the US government recognized the tribe. Its headquarters are in Hollywood in Broward County , which is part of the Miami , Florida metropolitan area .

Miccosukee Tribe of Florida

The Mikasuki among the Seminoles tended to stick to the traditional way of life. The "Miccosukee Tribe of Florida" emerged from them. 1957 was recognized by the state of Florida. Internationally they were recognized by Cuba in 1959. In 1962 they were officially recognized by the US government. The inhabitants of a village on the Bahamas island of Andros were recognized as part of the tribe.

Economic development

There are several Seminole reservations in Florida. The Florida Seminoles live from agriculture, fishing, hunting and tourism . Many still live in thatched houses on stilts that are open on the sides ( chickees ) and wear patchwork clothing with various applications.

In 1979, the Seminoles in Florida were the first tribe to establish gambling as a source of income on the territory of their reservation (see Indian casino ) and to build a bingo hall. Following this example, a number of other tribes opened casinos because the reservations are not subject to state tax and gambling laws. At the end of 2006, the Florida Seminoles bought the British restaurant chain Hard Rock Cafe, including the four hotels, two casinos and two concert halls operated under this brand name, as well as over 70,000 decorative items such as instruments and other memorabilia, for 965 million US dollars (about 727 million euros) the history of rock .


In 1971 DEFA shot the film Osceola - The Right Hand of Retribution (original title Osceola ), which depicts the beginning of the Second Seminole War and the historical background. The attempt of the Seminoles to live peacefully with the white Americans, the relationship between Indians and blacks, and the life of Osceola are reproduced on the basis of historical traditions. In the credits it is stated that "this war cost the US $ 20 million and the reputation of 7 generals". The trailer is available on youtube.


After the Seminoles are Seminole County , Florida, Seminole County in Georgia and Seminole County , Oklahoma named.

The Florida State Seminoles are the sports teams of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Use of the Seminoles name and mascot, a student disguised as Osceola , has been approved by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

See also


Web links

Commons : Seminole tribe  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Chronicles of Oklahoma
  2. W. Bartram, p. 189
  3. A. Gatschet, p. 66
  4. D. Thrapp, p. 1123
  5. ^ Homepage of the Florida seminaries
  6. ^ A b Howard Zinn: A People's History of the United States . Harper Perennial, 2005, ISBN 0-06-083865-5 , pp. 145-146.
  7. Billy Bowlegs (Chief Alligator) must not be confused with Chief Old Billy Bowlegs , the war chief of the Creek city of Eufala in Alabama under Chief King Phillip and later war chief of all clans and bands of the Creek Confederation in Alabama; When he fled to Florida with his tribe, he called himself Halpatter Tustenuggee Micco or Chief Alligator and also fought on the side of the Seminole chief of the same name, so he is known as Old Billy Bowlegs.
  8. ^ Photo Exhibit Offers Stunning View of Seminole History . In:, accessed September 13, 2015.
  9. The bingo hall is the location of the song Seminole Bingo by the American rock singer Warren Zevon
  10. Seminole Tribe of Florida buys Hard Rock cafes, hotels, casinos., July 12, 2006. Accessed August 31, 2014.
  12. - NCAA allowing Florida State to use its Seminole mascot. Retrieved September 24, 2019 .