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The Seminole Tribe

Native American Nations | Seminole Indians of Florida


Tribal Organization

The Florida Seminole, considered as a tribe, have a very imperfect organization. The complete tribal society of the past was much broken up through wars with the United States. These wars having ended in the transfer of nearly the whole of the population to the Indian Territory, the few Indians remaining in Florida were consequently left in a comparatively disorganized condition. There is, however, among these Indians a simple form of government, to which the inhabitants of at least the three southern settlements submit. The people of Cat Fish Lake and Cow Creek settlements live in a large measure independent of or without civil connection with the others. Tcup-ko calls his people “Tallahassee Indians.” He says that they are not “the same” as the Fish Eating Creek, Big Cypress, and Miami people. I learned, moreover, that the ceremony of the Green Corn Dance may take place at the three last named settlements and not at those of the north. The “Tallahassee Indians” go to Fish Eating Creek if they desire to take part in the festival.

Seat Of Government

So far as there is a common seat of government, it is located at Fish Eating Creek, where reside the head chief and big medicine man of the Seminole, Tûs-ta-nûg-ge, and his brother, Hos-pa-ta-ki, also a medicine man. These two are called the Tus-ta-nûg-ul-ki, or “great heroes” of the tribe. At this settlement, annually, a council, composed of minor chiefs from the various settlements, meets and passes upon the affairs of the tribe.

Tribal Officers

What the official organization of the tribe is I do not know. My respondent could not tell me. I learned, in addition to what I have just written, only that there are several Indians with official titles, living at each of the settlements, except at the one on Cat Fish Lake. These were classified as follows:

Settlements Chief and
medicine man
War chiefs Little chiefs Medicine men
Big Cypress Swamp   2 2 1
Miami River   1   1
Fish Eating Creek 1     1
Cow Creek       2
Total 1 3 2 5

Name Of Tribe

I made several efforts to discover the tribal name by which these Indians now designate themselves. The name Seminole they reject. In their own language it means “a wanderer,” and, when used as a term of reproach, “a coward.” Ko-nip-ha-tco said, “Me no Sem-ai-no-le; Seminole cow, Seminole deer, Seminole rabbit; me no Seminole. Indians gone Arkansas Seminole.” He meant that timidity and flight from danger are “Seminole” qualities, and that the Indians who had gone west at the bidding of the Government were the true renegades. This same Indian informed me that the people south of the Caloosahatchie River, at Miami and the Big Cypress Swamp call themselves “Kän-yuk-sa Is-ti-tca-ti,” i.e., “Kän-yuk-sa red men.” Kän-yuk-sa is their word for what we know as Florida. It is composed of I-kan-a, “ground,” and I-yuk-sa, “point” or “tip,” i.e., point of ground, or peninsula. At the northern camps the name appropriate to the people there, they say, is “Tallahassee Indians.”

Seminole Tribal Life

We may now look at the life of the Seminole in its broader relations to the tribal organization. Some light has already been thrown on this subject by the preceding descriptions of the personal characteristics and social relations of these Indians. But there are other matters to be considered, as, for example, industries, arts, religion, and the like.

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

The Seminole Indians of Florida, Clay MacCauley, 1664

Seminole Indians of Florida


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