THE MICCOSUKEE TRIBE INFORMATION CENTER
P.O. Box 440021
Miami, Florida 33144
(305) 223-1011 Fax
The story of the Miccosukees has been a story of survival through adaptation. In 1821, when Spain sold Florida to the United States, the Miccosukees were living in settlements near the West Coast of Central Florida. During the Indian Wars of the 1850's they escaped deportation by hiding out in the Everglades. Present tribal members are descendants of some 50 people who eluded capture. There are now about 375 Miccosukee tribal members.
To survive, they had to adapt to living in small groups in temporary camps. Fishing and hunting continued to provide the main staples of their diets. However, they had to learn to harvest the native fruits of the hammocks in addition to the coontie and cabbage palm of higher ground. Corn, which has always played an important role in tribal customs, became very difficult to grow.
In the 1870's, identifiable Miccosukee communities began to reform. Although life was still a struggle, these were good times. Game was abundant and there was a surplus of alligator skins, deer hides and feathers. They traded these goods in town for cloth, tools, guns, salt and coffee. The test to adapt without becoming assimilated persisted throughout the 1900's. Real estate booms changed Miami into an expanding metropolis overnight. Canals drained the land and the Tamiami Trail cut off the natural flow of the Everglades. In addition, the Trail allowed non-Indians access to the fish and game. However, the most significant change came in 1947 when the U.S. Department of Interior established the Everglades National Park, declaring most of the Tribe's ancestral land off-limits.
From an isolated community that was nearly self-reliant, the Miccosukee Indians found themselves thrust into the rush of the 20th century. They now experienced a need for more money, education, and all that goes with the modern way of life. The lands that were once theirs to roam and hunt were eliminated from their use through development. The Tribal Leaders decided that it was now time to seek outside aid to protect themselves for the future.
After years of negotiations, the United States Secretary of Interior approved the Miccosukee Constitution on January 11, 1962. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida had officially attained recognition. In 1971 it took over the administration of all its programs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Tribe's intent in negotiating this matter was clear. It wished to determine its own fate and gradually to develop total independence. They now have complete education, health and public safety departments that they run themselves. These programs incorporate both the traditional Indian way and the non-Indian ways into their system.
In adapting to new ways, the Miccosukee have always managed to retain their own culture. They have kept their language, medicine and clans. Some Miccosukees still prefer to live in chickees instead of modern housing that is available. To renew their identity, they still celebrate the sacred Green Corn Dance each spring.
As an effort to better communications between Indians and non-Indians, the Miccosukee Tribe has developed what we call the Miccosukee Indian Village. The Village is an example of a real family 'camp.' Sleeping chickees and other working chickees surround the cooking chickee with its symbolic star-shaped fire. The camp traditionally belongs to the clan matriarch. Clan membership derives from the mother's side of the family.|
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