Happy Ending?


Coeehajo
Seminole Chief in1837
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Ask people about Native Americans and they can usually recognize tribes like the Apaches and Sioux, or warriors like Cochise, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, or Crazy Horse. However, other than placing them within the State of Florida, most Americans know little about the great Seminole culture.

Seminoles descend from the Creek Nation, but their early history is not well understood. At the start of the sixteenth century, the Spanish attempted to get a stronger foothold in the New World by setting up missions to convert the indigenous populations. In Florida and Georgia, the Spanish were able to convince some members of the various Creek tribes to enter the missions. It was from this small group that the Seminole Nation arose in Florida.

By 1760, the main Creek Nation of seven tribes in Alabama and Georgia grew to about 25,000, and the Seminoles in Florida to about 1200 in number. By 1823, the Seminole population increased to 5000 and the Seminoles had become cattlemen.  However, the white settlers’ desire for more land and cattle was a recipe for disaster.

Although the Seminoles had distanced themselves from the majority in the Creek Nation, the U.S. government did not seem to differentiate between the Seminole cattlemen and the Creeks in general. The resulting series of long wars against the Creeks decimated the Indian populations.

Most of the surviving Seminoles were relocated to the Southwest. In the end, just a few hundred Seminoles were left in the Florida territory, and those populations split. Half were resigned to live as hunters, guides, or objects of tourist curiosity on reservations. The other half isolated themselves from European-Americans by relocating to the swamplands of Florida.

Today, Seminole populations have grown and the tribes are thriving economically in the multibillion-dollar casino gaming industry.

Happy ending? You tell me.

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Comments

  1. Well, my answer is NO...They may have them fooled into thinking they will profit from the casinos.. but let's face it... the casinos are built by those w/money and those that will of course profit in them... Wonder what the percentages are that both sides get???? Bet it ain't fair.

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  2. KBF: I have not researched that aspect yet, but the historical trend appears to agree with your assessment.

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  3. I don't think there is any question in any person's mind that the Native Americans lost. Period. There wasn't a single treaty signed that wasn't broken on the White Man's Side of the Deal.

    No doubt Osceola is rolling over in his grave and weeping.

    As to the casinos... I think there is some irony there. One of the ways that the White Man infiltrated the Indians and "broke" them was with gambling and alcohol. Of course, white man's diseases killed off entire tribes (but that is another story). I think anyone who sticks in a casino long enough knows that the odds are with the House. In other words, as my dad always said, "If you like to play for the sake of playing, only take what you are willing to LOSE."

    So, it is pretty much an unwritten law that Indians do not gamble in the casinos (because it is a losing proposition). So, the money they are taking is White Man's Money. That does seem only fair. Liquor them up and take their money. You can't go back in time and change things, but you can use the very "weapons" that brought you to this place to make your tribe rich again. Irony at its best.

    It's how the Jews would have done it. (That is admiration, not criticism.)

    I amend my previous statement. Osceola would hate this world. But he would understand that there all kinds of ways of fighting back.

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  4. Robin: Did you know that Osceola was captured under a flag of truce? He honored the white flag and was immediately arrested. He died in jail.

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  5. Fanático_Um: I would have to agree. I also agree with Robin. The casinos are quite ironic.

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  6. While I cringe at the idea that all things that 'the white man' did are inherently wrong and easily criticized, I do find it hard to see how the native people were treated as anything near fair.
    I do still remember well what the reservations near me looked like when I was very young and they were awful and scary places.
    So seeing the natives now with their very successful casinos, retail stores, banks, etc. does make it seem as if they are certainly better off and I am more than happy to do my business there and support them.
    It always depends on at which point in history we actually experience something I suppose.
    It is hard to say whether native people would have done everything so much different over time as the population ballooned and the needs of people changed so rapidly.
    I guess I am saying that while I don't like the idea of one group coming in and changing everything for another, I wonder how truly different any one cultural group really is from any other in the end. And I do believe people do better to each other when we bother to learn from one another so I hope that in time there is less wanting to eviscerate other cultures and more choosing to emulate the best parts of all cultures.

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  7. Jasmine: I do understand. I have visited several reservations out West. They seem to be nothing more than wasteland places for the residents to drink free government beer.

    I believe that to fully appreciate the history of the settlement of this nation, we would have to go back at least 300 years before Columbus to trace the motives of the Europeans who landed here. While we cannot blame the white man for all the evils, it appears the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    We can also look at our present history and see how it is changing once again. I would guess that 300 years from now, the USA will not resemble what it is today. We might be living the plight of the American Indian all over again.

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  8. Same here about hugely profitable casinos on the reservations in Oregon. Success? By what and whose standards? I don't know. But blooming where you're planted. Yes.

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  9. One of my favorite authors is Lucia St. Clair Robson. She wrote several historical fiction works based on different Indian tribes. For years she worked as a librarian, so her ability to research was fantastic. Her book LIGHT A DISTANT FIRE was based on the Seminole Tribe. So, yes, I did know that about Osceola. All of her books cannot help but break your heart just a little piece at a time. And still you can't see it going down any differently. The philosophy of the White Man versus of the philosophy of the Indian ran in complete counterpoint to one another. I am not sure that they ever could have met. It was like an orange trying to have a conversation with a blade of grass. Seriously.

    And what you said about us now being in the position of the Indian (from the perspective of the future). Now that is irony. Karma. Never mess with it. It will always have its way with you.

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  10. Oh, I meant to leave a link to Lucia St. Clair Robson's website:

    http://www.luciastclairrobson.com/Books.htm

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  11. So we're paying for the land now. Isn't it about time? Our ancestors--well, the ancestors of The Daughters of The American Revolution--were thieves who kept taking and taking from folks who helped them survive the wilderness. Yes, happy ending.

    As for the evils of gambling, let's talk to the Mafia about that.

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  12. Galen: Ordinarily, I like the subjective argument. However, the history makes me feel uneasy at the thought of "changing" a culture, even if it becomes lucrative hundreds of years later.

    Robin: I will check her out.

    Linda: I was never a big believer in paying for the sins of my ancestors. I have enough of my own to deal with. As for casino gambling, I fail to see the evil. From an historical/philosophical perspective, money cannot replace the destruction of a culture, in my opinion. I should post something on Social Darwinism. What would the reaction be?

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  13. There is so much sadness in all of the Native American history.
    Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

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  14. Miriam: I wonder if we ever learn anything.

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  15. KB: Yes. And a common one, I'm afraid.

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  16. I didn't know any of this I admit so appreciate the chance to read it here and hopefully learn a little bit more about the Seminole tribe.

    My feeling is that no, it is not a happy ending. I'm sure so many factors play into this though that it isn't black and white in many people's eyes.

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  17. Colleen: I agree. It is never one-sided, and never feel responsible for the misdeeds of those who came before us. However, History allows us to learn from the past, so I do feel good about opening up historical records for discussion. We all learn.

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  18. Interesting post. Sadly our Native Americans lost overall.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

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  19. I'm avoiding the happy ending question - but I am so intrigued by this history lesson. I always thought the Seminole were from Oklahoma. So now I feel I need to go look and see if they were relocated to Oklahoma, or if they just passed through, or if that was some random association I made in my childhood that had nothing to do with truth.
    Interesting - in Nebraska we stopped at a wonderful in Lincoln and they offered a condensed history of the state- beginning with the Native American Nations. Admittedly my point of view is as a European American descendant, but I thought they did a rather good job of maintaining a neutral view point/showing more than one point of view, of all the peoples who contribute to the history of present day Nebraska. Including their conflicts over land, and how these were settled, and who was forced to leave and why.
    I would ask, is a separate Nation Identity required for a "happy ending?" Can those who were invaded assimilate into the culture and still maintain their identity and history? Or if a person is a successful business person/ teacher/ lawyer (as I believe many persons who can trace their ancestory to native nations are) have they given up their identity and become "white?"
    (and yes I know that opens a whole other kettle of fish including why is it being "white" to be successful in today's America - but in my town that is what people say)

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  20. TCasteel: I tend to agree. I don't think money can replace the destruction of a culture.

    CailinMarie: You are quite right. The forced relocation of the Seminole Nation to Oklahoma took more than twenty years.

    Assimilation is usually voluntary, and history is the recordation of the cultural evolution over time. I cannot answer all your questions, but there is little doubt the Seminole culture was "altered."

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  21. I do love visiting you here. I always learn something new! Fascinating post and fascinating responses to it!

    C x

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  22. Carol: Thank you. Your new site looks great also.

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