Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

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Culture Description

The Seminole are a Native American group that had diverse and complex origin in a mixture of native societies and African slaves. The Seminole developed in Florida but now are divided with the majority living in Oklahoma as the Seminole Nation and the minority living in a few small reservations in Florida. Before the modern era, Seminole subsistence activities were primarily slash and burn horticulture supplemented by hunting, gathering, and the fur trade with non-Seminoles. The basic kinship groups are matrilineal clans named after ancestral totems. In Florida, farming was modified to match the Everglades environment. Principal crops included pumpkins, corn, and beans. In Oklahoma, these same crops were grown, with Seminoles also practicing small-scale commercial agriculture, growing cotton and other cash crops into the twentieth century. Seminoles also work in the oil industry. In Florida, tourism became the center of the Florida Seminole economic adaptation. Recently, all of the Seminole tribal governments established commercial business ventures, including retail, tourism, and gaming operations.


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North America --Eastern Woodlands


United States

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Collection Information

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Seminole collection consists of 38 English language documents dealing with a wide range of subject matter relevant to both the Florida and Oklahoma Seminole population. The time coverage for the collection ranges from the sixteenth century to the 1990s, with a major focus on the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. Since the majority of studies in this collection tend to concentrate on either the Florida Seminoles or those of Oklahoma, comprehensive works dealing with the Seminole "nation" as a whole are sparsely represented. Probably the best of these are: McReynolds, 1957, no. 9; Sturtevant, 1971, no. 16; and probably Fairbanks, 1978, no. 22. Major ethnographic topics in the collection deal with history, religion, socio-political organization, acculturation, and culture change, and women's status. History is well covered in: Fairbanks, 1973, 1978, nos. 3 and 22; Spoehr, 1942, no. 5; Kersey, 1975, no. 7; McReynolds, 1957, no. 9; Sturtevant, 1956, 1971, nos. 15 and 16; Sattler, 1987, 1996, nos. 30 and 42; and Weisman, 1989, no. 48. Religion, particularly in reference to magic and ceremonialism, is discussed in: Howard and Lena, 1984, no. 2; Capron, 1953, 1956, nos. 8 and 36; Hadley, 1935, no. 19; and Buswell, 1979, no. 28. Socio-political organization, culture change and acculturation are topics of discussion in: Spoehr, 1941, 1942, nos. 4 and 5; Garbarino, 1972, no. 6; Hadley, 1935, no. 19; Sattler, 1987, no. 30; and Fairbanks, 1973, no. 3. Information on the status of women in Seminole society is a major topic in Freeman, 1944, no. 37, and Kersey and Bannan, 1995, no. 40.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary was written by Jason Baird Jackson in July 2002. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in July 2002. The Human Relations Area Files would like to thank Jason Baird Jackson of the Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma, in providing additional bibliographical suggestions in the preparation of this file.

Overview by

John Beierle

Collection Indexing Notes

Beadwork -- categories 531, 5311

Black Drink, used in conjunction with the Green Corn Dance --categories 278, 751, 824, and 796 where appropriate

Blacks among the Seminoles, when discussed as separate communities living in the Seminole territory -- category 177; as slaves among the Seminoles -- category 567; as integrated ethnic elements in Seminole society (i. e., through marriage) -- category 563

BUSK -- see Green Corn Dance

Chair of the Tribal Council -- category 643

CHICKEES -- Seminole thatched roof, open sided dwellings -- category 342 commercial camps, as tourist attractions along the Tamiami trail -- categories 543, 177, 439

Cowkeeper -- headman of the Alachua Seminoles -- category 622

Federal recognition of Seminole/Miccosukee tribe -- category 648

Green Corn Dance (BUSK) ceremonies -- categories 796, 535

Medicine Keepers -- categories 793 and /or 756 depending on context

Osceola (Powell) -- war chief or leader -- categories 624, 701

SAPIYA -- certain types of magic stones, colored red, blue, and yellow -- category 789

Seminole "towns" -- category 621

Seminole Indian Association -- category 665

Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. -- the business organization of the tribe -- category 473

TCHOC-KO-THLOC-KO --a club house for men of all the Seminole clans where they sit and talk at the Green Corn Dance ceremonies -- category 345 tribal council -- category 646

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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