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Introduction, Seminole Indians of Florida

Native American Nations | Seminole Indians of Florida

                     


Fig. 60. Map of Florida

There were in Florida, October 1, 1880, of the Indians commonly known as Seminole, two hundred and eight. They constituted thirty-seven families, living in twenty-two camps, which were gathered into five widely separated groups or settlements. These settlements, from the most prominent natural features connected with them, I have named, (1) The Big Cypress Swamp settlement; (2) Miami River settlement; (3) Fish Eating Creek settlement; (4) Cow Creek settlement; and (5) Cat Fish Lake settlement. Their locations are, severally: The first, in Monroe County, in what is called the “Devil’s Garden,” on the northwestern edge of the Big Cypress Swamp, from fifteen to twenty miles southwest of Lake Okeechobee; the second, in Dade County, on the Little Miami River, not far from Biscayne Bay, and about ten miles north of the site of what was, during the great Seminole war, Fort Dallas; the third, in Manatee County, on a creek which empties from the west into Lake Okeechobee, probably five miles from its mouth; the fourth, in Brevard County, on a stream running southward, at a point about fifteen miles northeast of the entrance of the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee; and the fifth, on a small lake in Polk County, lying nearly midway between lakes Pierce and Rosalie, towards the headwaters of the Kissimmee River. The settlements are from forty to seventy miles apart, in an otherwise almost uninhabited region, which is in area about sixty by one hundred and eighty miles. The camps of which each settlement is composed lie at distances from one another varying from a half mile to two or more miles. In tabular form the population of the settlements appears as follows:
 

Settlements

C
a
m
p
s
Population

T
o
t
a
l
s

 Divided according to age and sex

Below 5 years 5 to 10 years 10 to 15 years 15 to 20 years 20 to 60 years Over 60 years Résumé by sex
No M F M F M F M F M F M F M F
1. Big Cypress 10 4 5 a2 2 10 4 9 2 15 b15 2 3 42 31 73
2 Miami River 5 5 4 4 4 5 3 7 5 10 13 1 2 32 31 63
3 Fish Eating Creek 4 a1 1 -- 2 a2 -- 3 1 a5 ab10 4 3 15 17 32
4 Cow Creek 1 2 1 -- -- 1 -- -- 1 4 3 -- -- 7 5 12
5 Cat Fish Lake 2 -- 2 3 2 4 1 4 1 a4 ab5 1 1 16 12 28
Totals   12 13 9 10 22 8 23 10 38 46 8 9 112 96 208
  22 25 19 30 33 84 17 208  
 a One Mixed blood

 b One black

Or, for the whole tribe

Males under 10 years of age 21  
Males between 10 and 20 years of age 45  
Males between 20 and 60 years of age 38  
Males over 60 years of age 8  
  --- 112
Females under 10 years of age 23  
Females between 10 and 20 years of age 18  
Females between 20 and 60 years of age 46  
Females over 60 years of age 9  
  --- 96
    ---
    208

In this table it will be noticed that the total population consists of 112 males and 96 females, an excess of males over females of 16. This excess appears in each of the settlements, excepting that of Fish Eating Creek, a fact the more noteworthy, from its relation to the future of the tribe, since polygamous, or certainly duogamous, marriage generally prevails as a tribal custom, at least at the Miami River and the Cat Fish Lake settlements. It will also be observed that between twenty and sixty years of age, or the ordinary range of married life, there are 38 men and 46 women; or, if the women above fifteen years of age are included as wives for the men over twenty years of age, there are 38 men and 56 women. Now, almost all these 56 women are the wives of the 38 men. Notice, however, the manner in which the children of these people are separated in sex. At present there are, under twenty years of age, 66 boys, and, under fifteen years of age, but 31 girls; or, setting aside the 12 boys who are under five years of age, there are, as future possible husbands and wives, 54 boys between five and twenty years of age and 31 girls under fifteen years of age—an excess of 23 boys. For a polygamous society, this excess in the number of the male sex certainly presents a puzzling problem. The statement I had from some cattlemen in mid-Florida I have thus found true, namely, that the Seminole are producing more men than women. What bearing this peculiarity will have upon the future of these Indians can only be guessed at. It is beyond question, however, that the tribe is increasing in numbers, and increasing in the manner above described.

There is no reason why the tribe should not increase, and increase rapidly, if the growth in numbers be not checked by the non-birth of females. The Seminole have not been at war for more than twenty years. Their numbers are not affected by the attacks of wild animals or noxious reptiles. They are not subject to devastating diseases. But once during the last twenty years, as far as I could learn, has anything like an epidemic afflicted them. Besides, at all the settlements except the northernmost, the one at Cat Fish Lake, there is an abundance of food, both animal and vegetable, easily obtained and easily prepared for eating. The climate in which these Indians live is warm and equable throughout the year. They consequently do not need much clothing or shelter. They are not what would be called intemperate, nor are they licentious. The “sprees” in which they indulge when they make their visits to the white man’s settlements are too infrequent to warrant us in classing them as intemperate. Their sexual morality is a matter of common notoriety. The white half-breed does not exist among the Florida Seminole, and nowhere could I learn that the Seminole woman is other than virtuous and modest. The birth of a white half-breed would be followed by the death of the Indian mother at the hands of her own people. The only persons of mixed breed among them are children of Indian fathers by Negresses who have been adopted into the tribe. Thus health, climate, food, and personal habits apparently conduce to an increase in numbers. The only explanation I can suggest of the fact that there are at present but 208 Seminole in Florida is that at the close of the last war which the United States Government waged on these Indians there were by no means so many of them left in the State as is popularly supposed. As it is, there are now but 17 persons of the tribe over sixty years of age, and no unusual mortality has occurred, certainly among the adults, during the last twenty years. Of the 84 persons between twenty and sixty years of age, the larger number are less than forty years old; and under twenty years of age there are 107 persons, or more than half the whole population. The population tables of the Florida Indians present, therefore, some facts upon which it may be interesting to speculate.


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The Seminole Indians of Florida, Clay MacCauley, 1664

Seminole Indians of Florida

 

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