The Seminole Indians of Florida
by Clay MacCauley
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Smithsonian Institution—Bureau of Ethnology.




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Letter of transmittal 475 Introduction 477

CHAPTER I. Personal characteristics 481 Physical characteristics 481 Physique of the men 481 Physique of the women 482 Clothing 482 Costume of the men 483 Costume of the women 485 Personal adornment 486 Hairdressing 466 Ornamentation of clothing 487 Use of beads 487 Silver disks 488 Ear rings 488 Finger rings 489 Silver vs. gold 489 Crescents 489 Me-le 489 Psychical characteristics 490 Ko-nip-ha-tco 492 Intellectual ability 493

CHAPTER II. Seminole society 495 The Seminole family 495 Courtship 496 Marriage 496 Divorce 498 Childbirth 497 Infancy 497 Childhood 498 Seminole dwellings— I-ful-lo-ha-tco's house 499 Home life 503 Food 504 Camp fire 505 Manner of eating 505 Amusements 506 The Seminole gens 507 Fellowhood 508 The Seminole tribe 508 Tribal organization 508 Seat of government 508 Tribal officers 509 Name of tribe 509

CHAPTER III. Seminole tribal life 510 Industries 510 Agriculture 510 Soil 510 Corn 510 Sugar cane 511 Hunting 512 Fishing 513 Stock raising 513 Koonti 513 Industrial statistics 516 Arts 516 Industrial arts 516 Utensils and implements 516 Weapons 516 Weaving and basket making 517 Uses of the palmetto 517 Mortar and pestle 517 Canoe making 517 Fire making 518 Preparation of skins 518 Ornamental arts 518 Music 519 Religion 519 Mortuary customs 520 Green Corn Dance 522 Use of Medicines 523 General observations 523 Standard of value 523 Divisions of time 524 Numeration 525 Sense of color 525 Education 526 Slavery 526 Health 526

CHAPTER IV. Environment of the Seminole 527 Nature 527 Man 529


Plate XIX. Seminole dwelling 500 Fig. 60. Map of Florida 477 61. Seminole costume 483 62. Key West Billy 484 63. Seminole costume 485 64. Manner of wearing the hair 486 65. Manner of piercing the ear 488 66. Baby cradle or hammock 497 67. Temporary dwelling 502 68. Sugar cane crusher 511 69. Koonti log 514 70. Koonti pestles 514 71. Koonti mash vessel 514 72. Koonti strainer 515 73. Mortar and pestle 517 74. Hide stretcher 518 75. Seminole bier 510 76. Seminole grave 521 77. Green Corn Dance 523


Minneapolis, Minn., June 24,1884.

SIR: During the winter of 1880-'81 I visited Florida, commissioned by you to inquire into the condition and to ascertain the number of the Indians commonly known as the Seminole then in that State. I spent part of the months of January, February, and March in an endeavor to accomplish this purpose. I have the honor to embody the result of my work in the following report.

On account of causes beyond my control the paper does not treat of these Indians as fully as I had intended it should. Owing to the ignorance prevailing even in Florida of the locations of the homes of the Seminole and also to the absence of routes of travel in Southern Florida, much of my time at first was consumed in reaching the Indian country. On arriving there, I found myself obliged to go among the Indians ignorant of their language and without an interpreter able to secure me intelligible interviews with them except in respect to the commonest things. I was compelled, therefore, to rely upon observation and upon very simple, perhaps sometimes misunderstood, speech for what I have here placed on record. But while the report is only a sketch of a subject that would well reward thorough study, it may be found to possess value as a record of facts concerning this little-known remnant of a once powerful people.

I have secured, I think, a correct census of the Florida Seminole by name, sex, age, gens, and place of living. I have endeavored to present a faithful portraiture of their appearance and personal characteristics, and have enlarged upon their manners and customs, as individuals and as a society, as much as the material at my command will allow; but under the disadvantageous circumstances to which allusion has already been made, I have been able to gain little more than a superficial and partial knowledge of their social organization, of the elaboration among them of the system of gentes, of their forms and methods of government, of their tribal traditions and modes of thinking, of their religious beliefs and practices, and of many other things manifesting what is distinctive in the life of a people. For these reasons I submit this report more as a guide for future investigation than as a completed result.

At the beginning of my visit I found but one Seminole with whom I could hold even the semblance of an English conversation. To him I am indebted for a large part of the material here collected. To him, in particular, I owe the extensive Seminole vocabulary now in possession of the Bureau of Ethnology. The knowledge of the Seminole language which I gradually acquired enabled me, in my intercourse with other Indians, to verify and increase the information I had received from him.

In conclusion, I hope that, notwithstanding the unfortunate delays which have occurred in the publication of this report, it will still be found to add something to our knowledge of this Indian tribe not without value to those who make man their peculiar study.

Very respectfully,


Maj. J. W. POWELL,

Director Bureau of Ethnology.

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By Clay MacCauley.


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:

+ -+ - Population. + -+ + Divided according to age and sex. T C o a + -+ -+ -+ -+ -+ -+Resume t m Below Over by a Settlements p 5 5-10 10-15 15-20 20-60 60 sex. l s yrs. yrs. yrs. yrs. yrs. yrs. s + -+ + + + + + + + + + + + + -+ + No. M. F. M. F. M. F. M. F. M. F. M. F. M. F. Tot. + -+ + + + + + + + + + + + + -+ + 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.


Personal Characteristics.

It will be convenient for me to describe the Florida Seminole as they present themselves, first as individuals, and next as members of a society. I know it is impossible to separate, really, the individual as such from the individual as a member of society; nevertheless, there is the man as we see him, having certain characteristics which, we call personal, or his own, whencesoever derived, having a certain physique and certain, distinguishing psychical qualities. As such I will first attempt to describe the Seminole. Then we shall be able the better to look at him as he is in his relations with his fellows: in the family, in the community, or in any of the forms of the social life of his tribe.

Physical Characteristics.

Physique of the Men.

Physically both men and women are remarkable. The men, as a rule, attract attention by their height, fullness and symmetry of development, and the regularity and agreeableness of their features. In muscular power and constitutional ability to endure they excel. While these qualities distinguish, with a few exceptions, the men of the whole tribe, they are particularly characteristic of the two most widely spread of the families of which the tribe is composed. These are the Tiger and Otter clans, which, proud of their lines of descent, have been preserved through a long and tragic past with exceptional freedom from admixture with degrading blood. Today their men might be taken as types of physical excellence. The physique of every Tiger warrior especially I met would furnish proof of this statement. The Tigers are dark, copper-colored fellows, over six feet in height, with limbs in good proportion; their hands and feet well shaped and not very large; their stature erect; their bearing a sign of self-confident power; their movements deliberate, persistent, strong. Their heads are large, and their foreheads full and marked. An almost universal characteristic of the Tiger's face is its squareness, a widened and protruding under-jawbone giving this effect to it. Of other features, I noticed that under a large forehead are deep set, bright, black eyes, small, but expressive of inquiry and vigilance; the nose is slightly aquiline and sensitively formed about the nostrils; the lips are mobile, sensuous, and not very full, disclosing, when they smile, beautiful regular teeth; and the whole face is expressive of the man's sense of having extraordinary ability to endure and to achieve. Two of the warriors permitted me to manipulate the muscles of their bodies. Under my touch these were more like rubber than flesh. Noticeable among all are the large calves of their legs, the size of the tendons of their lower limbs, and the strength of their toes. I attribute this exceptional development to the fact that they are not what we would call "horse Indians" and that they hunt barefoot over their wide domain. The same causes, perhaps, account for the only real deformity I noticed in the Seminole physique, namely, the diminutive toe-nails, and for the heavy, cracked, and seamed skin which covers the soles of their feet. The feet being otherwise well formed, the toes have only narrow shells for nails, these lying sunken across the middles of the tough cushions of flesh, which, protuberant about them, form the toe-tips. But, regarded as a whole, in their physique the Seminole warriors, especially the men of the Tiger and Otter gentes, are admirable. Even among the children this physical superiority is seen. To illustrate, one morning Ko-i-ha-tco's son, Tin-fai-yai-ki, a tall, slender boy, not quite twelve years old, shouldered a heavy "Kentucky" rifle, left our camp, and followed in his father's long footsteps for a day's hunt. After tramping all day, at sunset he reappeared in the camp, carrying slung across his shoulders, in addition to rifle and accouterments, a deer weighing perhaps fifty pounds, a weight he had borne for miles. The same boy, in one day, went with some older friends to his permanent home, 20 miles away, and returned. There are, as I have said, exceptions to this rule of unusual physical size and strength, but these are few; so few that, disregarding them, we may pronounce the Seminole men handsome and exceptionally powerful.

Physique of the Women.

The women to a large extent share the qualities of the men. Some are proportionally tall and handsome, though, curiously enough, many, perhaps a majority, are rather under than over the average height of women. As a rule, they exhibit great bodily vigor. Large or small, they possess regular and agreeable features, shapely and well developed bodies, and they show themselves capable of long continued and severe physical exertion. Indeed, the only Indian women I have seen with attractive features and forms are among the Seminole. I would even venture to select from among these Indians three persons whom I could, without much fear of contradiction, present as types respectively of a handsome, a pretty, and a comely woman. Among American Indians, I am confident that the Seminole women are of the first rank.


But how is this people clothed? While the clothing of the Seminole is simple and scanty, it is ample for his needs and suitable to the life he leads. The materials of which the clothing is made are now chiefly fabrics manufactured by the white man: calico, cotton cloth, ginghams, and sometimes flannels. They also use some materials prepared by themselves, as deer and other skins. Of ready made articles for wear found in the white trader's store, they buy small woolen shawls, brilliantly colored cotton handkerchiefs, now and then light woolen blankets, and sometimes, lately, though very seldom, shoes.

Costume of the Men.

The costume of the Seminole warrior at home consists of a shirt, a neckerchief, a turban, a breech cloth, and, very rarely, moccasins. On but one Indian in camp did I see more than this; on many, less. The shirt is made of some figured or striped cotton cloth, generally of quiet colors. It hangs from the neck to the knees, the narrow, rolling collar being closely buttoned about the neck, the narrow wristbands of the roomy sleeves buttoned about the wrists. The garment opens in front for a few inches, downward from the collar, and is pocketless. A belt of leather or buckskin usually engirdles the man's waist, and from it are suspended one or more pouches, in which powder, bullets, pocket knife, a piece of flint, a small quantity of paper, and like things for use in hunting are carried. From the belt hang also one or more hunting knives, each nearly 10 inches in length. I questioned one of the Indians about having no pockets in his shirt, pointing out to him the wealth in this respect of the white man's garments, and tried to show him how, on his shirt, as on mine, these convenient receptacles could be placed, and to what straits he was put to carry his pipe, money, and trinkets. He showed little interest in my proposed improvement on his dress.

Having no pockets, the Seminole is obliged to submit to several inconveniences; for instance, he wears his handkerchief about his neck. I have seen as many as six, even eight, handkerchiefs tied around his throat, their knotted ends pendant over his breast; as a rule, they are bright red and yellow things, of whose possession and number he is quite proud. Having no pockets, the Seminole, only here and there, one excepted, carries whatever money he obtains from time to time in a knotted corner of one or more of his handkerchiefs.

The next article of the man's ordinary costume is the turban. This is a remarkable structure and gives to its wearer much of his unique appearance. At present it is made of one or more small shawls. These shawls are generally woolen and copied in figure and color from the plaid of some Scotch clan. They are so folded that they are about 3 inches wide and as long as the diagonal of the fabric. They are then, one or more of them successively, wrapped tightly around the head, the top of the head remaining bare; the last end of the last shawl is tucked skillfully and firmly away, without the use of pins, somewhere in the many folds of the turban. The structure when finished looks like a section of a decorated cylinder crowded down upon the man's head. I examined one of these turbans and found it a rather firm piece of work, made of several shawls wound into seven concentric rings. It was over 20 inches in diameter, the shell of the cylinder being perhaps 7 inches thick and 3 in width. This head-dress, at the southern settlements, is regularly worn in the camps and sometimes on the hunt. While hunting, however, it seems to be the general custom, for the warriors to go bareheaded. At the northern camps, a kerchief bound about the head frequently takes the place of the turban in everyday life, but on dress or festival occasions, at both the northern and the southern settlements, this curious turban is the customary covering for the head of the Seminole brave. Having no pockets in his dress, he has discovered that the folds of his turban may be put to a pocket's uses. Those who use tobacco (I say "those" because the tobacco habit is by no means universal among the red men of Florida) frequently carry their pipes and other articles in their turbans.

When the Seminole warrior makes his rare visits to the white man's settlements, he frequently adds to his scanty camp dress leggins and moccasins.

In the camps I saw but one Indian wearing leggins (Fig. 62); he, however, is in every way a peculiar character among his people, and is objectionably favorable to the white man and the white man's ways. He is called by the white men "Key West Billy," having received this name because he once made a voyage in a canoe out of the Everglades and along the line of keys south of the Florida mainland to Key West, where he remained for some time. The act itself was so extraordinary, and it was so unusual for a Seminole to enter a white man's town and remain there for any length of time, that a commemorative name was bestowed upon him. The materials of which the leggins of the Seminole are usually made is buckskin. I saw, however, one pair of leggins made of a bright red flannel, and ornamented along the outer seams with a blue and white cross striped braid. The moccasins, also, are made of buckskin, of either a yellow or dark red color. They are made to lace high about the lower part of the leg, the lacing running from below the instep upward. As showing what changes are going on among the Seminole, I may mention that a few of them possess shoes, and one is even the owner of a pair of frontier store boots. The blanket is not often worn by the Florida Indians. Occasionally, in their cool weather, a small shawl, of the kind made to do service in the turban, is thrown about the shoulders. Oftener a piece of calico or white cotton cloth, gathered about the neck, becomes the extra protection against mild coolness in their winters.

Costume of the Women.

The costume of the women is hardly more complex than that of the men. It consists, apparently, of but two garments, one of which, for lack of a better English word, I name a short shirt, the other a long skirt. The shirt is cut quite low at the neck and is just long enough to cover the breasts. Its sleeves are buttoned close about the wrists. The garment is otherwise buttonless, being wide enough at the neck for it to be easily put on or taken off over the head. The conservatism of the Seminole Indian is shown in nothing more clearly than in the use, by the women, of this much abbreviated covering for the upper part of their bodies. The women are noticeably modest, yet it does not seem to have occurred to them that by making a slight change in their upper garment they might free themselves from frequent embarrassment. In going about their work they were constantly engaged in what our street boys would call "pulling down their vests." This may have been done because a stranger's eyes were upon them; but I noticed that in rising or in sitting down, or at work, it was a perpetually renewed effort on their part to lengthen by a pull the scanty covering hanging over their breasts. Gathered about the waist is the other garment, the skirt, extending to the feet and often touching the ground. This is usually made of some dark colored calico or gingham. The cord by which the petticoat is fastened is often drawn so tightly about the waist that it gives to that part of the body a rather uncomfortable appearance. This is especially noticeable because the shirt is so short that a space of two or more inches on the body is left uncovered between it and the skirt. I saw no woman wearing moccasins, and I was told that the women never wear them. For head wear the women have nothing, unless the cotton cloth, or small shawl, used about the shoulders in cool weather, and which at times is thrown or drawn over the head, may be called that. (Fig. 63.)

Girls from seven to ten years old are clothed with only a petticoat and boys about the same age wear only a shirt. Younger children are, as a rule, entirely naked. If clothed at anytime, it is only during exceptionally cool weather or when taken by their parents on a journey to the homes of the palefaces.

Personal Adornment.

The love of personal adornment shows itself among the Seminole as among other human beings.

Hair Dressing.

The coarse, brilliant, black hair of which they are possessors is taken care of in an odd manner. The men cut all their hair close to the head, except a strip about an inch wide, running over the front of the scalp from temple to temple, and another strip, of about the same width, perpendicular to the former, crossing the crown of the head to the nape of the neck. At each temple a heavy tuft is allowed to hang to the bottom of the lobe of the ear. The long hair of the strip crossing to the neck is generally gathered and braided into two ornamental queues. I did not learn that these Indians are in the habit of plucking the hair from their faces. I noticed, however, that the moustache is commonly worn among them and that a few of them are endowed with a rather bold looking combination of moustache and imperial. As an exception to the uniform style of cutting the hair of the men, I recall the comical appearance of a small negro half breed at the Big Cypress Swamp. His brilliant wool was twisted into many little sharp cones, which stuck out over his head like so many spikes on an ancient battle club. For some reason there seems to be a much greater neglect of the care of the hair, and, indeed, of the whole person, in the northern than in the southern camps.

The women dress their hair more simply than the men. From a line crossing the head from ear to ear the hair is gathered up and bound, just above the neck, into a knot somewhat like that often made by the civilized woman, the Indian woman's hair being wrought more into the shape of a cone, sometimes quite elongated and sharp at the apex. A piece of bright ribbon is commonly used at the end as a finish to the structure. The front hair hangs down over the forehead and along the cheeks in front of the ears, being what we call "banged." The only exception to this style of hair dressing I saw was the manner in which Ci-ha-ne, a negress, had disposed of her long crisp tresses. Hers was a veritable Medusa head. A score or more of dangling, snaky plaits, hanging down over her black face and shoulders gave her a most repulsive appearance. Among the little Indian girls the hair is simply braided into a queue and tied with a ribbon, as we often see the hair upon the heads of our school children.

Ornamentation Of Clothing.

The clothing of both men and women is ordinarily more or less ornamented. Braids and strips of cloth of various colors are used and wrought upon the garments into odd and sometimes quite tasteful shapes. The upper parts of the shirts of the women are usually embroidered with yellow, red, and brown braids. Sometimes as many as five of these braids lie side by side, parallel with the upper edge of the garment or dropping into a sharp angle between the shoulders. Occasionally a very narrow cape, attached, I think, to the shirt, and much ornamented with braids or stripes, hangs just over the shoulders and back. The same kinds of material used for ornamenting the shirt are also used in decorating the skirt above the lower edge of the petticoat. The women embroider along this edge, with their braids and the narrow colored stripes, a border of diamond and square shaped figures, which is often an elaborate decoration to the dress. In like manner many of the shirts of the men are made pleasing to the eye. I saw no ornamentation in curves: it was always in straight lines and angles.

Use Of Beads.

My attention was called to the remarkable use of beads among these Indian women, young and old. It seems to be the ambition of the Seminole squaws to gather about their necks as many strings of beads as can be hung there and as they can carry. They are particular as to the quality of the beads they wear. They are satisfied with nothing meaner than a cut glass bead, about a quarter of an inch or more in length, generally of some shade of blue, and costing (so I was told by a trader at Miami) $1.75 a pound. Sometimes, but not often, one sees beads of an inferior quality worn.

These beads must be burdensome to their wearers. In the Big Cypress Swamp settlement one day, to gratify my curiosity as to how many strings of beads these women can wear, I tried to count those worn by "Young Tiger Tail's" wife, number one, Mo-ki, who had come through the Everglades to visit her relatives. She was the proud wearer of certainly not fewer than two hundred strings of good sized beads. She had six quarts (probably a peck of the beads) gathered about her neck, hanging down her back, down upon her breasts, filling the space under her chin, and covering her neck up to her ears. It was an effort for her to move her head. She, however, was only a little, if any, better off in her possessions than most of the others. Others were about equally burdened. Even girl babies are favored by their proud mammas with a varying quantity of the coveted neck wear. The cumbersome beads are said to be worn by night as well as by day.

Silver Disks.

Conspicuous among the other ornaments worn by women are silver disks, suspended in a curve across the shirt fronts, under and below the beads. As many as ten or more are worn by one woman. These disks are made by men, who may be called "jewelers to the tribe," from silver quarters and half dollars. The pieces of money are pounded quite thin, made concave, pierced with holes, and ornamented by a groove lying just inside the circumference. Large disks made from half dollars may be called "breast shields." They are suspended, one over each breast. Among the disks other ornaments are often suspended. One young woman I noticed gratifying her vanity with not only eight disks made of silver quarters, but also with three polished copper rifle shells, one bright brass thimble, and a buckle hanging among them. Of course the possession of these and like treasures depends upon the ability and desire of one and another to secure them.

Ear Rings.

Ear rings are not generally worn by the Seminole. Those worn are usually made of silver and are of home manufacture. The ears of most of the Indians, however, appear to be pierced, and, as a rule, the ears of the women are pierced many times; for what purpose I did not discover. Along and in the upper edges of the ears of the women from one to ten or more small holes have been made. In most of these holes I noticed bits of palmetto wood, about a fifth of an inch in length and in diameter the size of a large pin. Seemingly they were not placed there to remain only while the puncture was healing. (Fig. 65.)

Piercing the ears excepted, the Florida Indians do not now mutilate their bodies for beauty's sake. They no longer pierce the lips or the nose; nor do they use paint upon their persons, I am told, except at their great annual festival, the Green Corn Dance, and upon the faces of their dead.

Finger Rings.

Nor is the wearing of finger rings more common than that of rings for the ears. The finger rings I saw were all made of silver and showed good workmanship. Most of them were made with large elliptical tablets on them, extending from knuckle to knuckle. These also were home-made.

Silver vs. Gold.

I saw no gold ornaments. Gold, even gold money, does not seem to be considered of much value by the Seminole. He is a monometalist, and his precious metal is silver. I was told by a cattle dealer of an Indian who once gave him a twenty dollar gold piece for $17 in silver, although assured that the gold piece was worth more than the silver, and in my own intercourse with the Seminole I found them to manifest, with few exceptions, a decided preference for silver. I was told that the Seminole are peculiar in wishing to possess nothing that is not genuine of its apparent kind. Traders told me that, so far as the Indians know, they will buy of them only what is the best either of food or of material for wear or ornament.

Crescents, Wristlets, and Belts.

The ornaments worn by the men which are most worthy of attention are crescents, varying in size and value. These are generally about five inches long, an inch in width at the widest part, and of the thickness of ordinary tin. These articles are also made from silver coins and are of home manufacture. They are worn suspended from the neck by cords, in the cusps of the crescents, one below another, at distances apart of perhaps two and a half inches. Silver wristlets are used by the men for their adornment. They are fastened about the wrists by cords or thongs passing through holes in the ends of the metal. Belts, and turbans too, are often ornamented with fanciful devices wrought out of silver. It is not customary for the Indian men to wear these ornaments in everyday camp life. They appear with them on a festival occasion or when they visit some trading post.


A sketch made by Lieutenant Brown, of Saint Francis Barracks, Saint Augustine, Florida, who accompanied me on my trip to the Cat Fish Lake settlement, enables me to show, in gala dress, Me-le, a half breed Seminole, the son of an Indian, Ho-laq-to-mik-ko, by a negress adopted into the tribe when a child.

[Transcriber's Note: The picture described does not appear in the printed text, and is not included in the List of Illustrations.]

Me-le sat for his picture in my room at a hotel in Orlando. He had just come seventy miles from his home, at Cat Fish Lake, to see the white man and a white man's town. He was clothed "in his best," and, moreover, had just purchased and was wearing a pair of store boots in addition to his home-made finery. He was the owner of the one pair of red flannel leggins of which I have spoken. These were not long enough to cover the brown skin of his sturdy thighs. His ornaments were silver crescents, wristlets, a silver studded belt, and a peculiar battlement-like band of silver on the edge of his turban. Notice his uncropped head of luxuriant, curly hair, the only exception I observed to the singular cut of hair peculiar to the Seminole men. Me-le, however, is in many other more important respects an exceptional character. He is not at all in favor with the Seminole of pure blood. "Me-le ho-lo-wa kis" (Me-le is of no account) was the judgment passed upon him to me by some of the Indians. Why? Because he likes the white man and would live the white man's life if he knew how to break away safely from his tribe. He has been progressive enough to build for himself a frame house, inclosed on all sides and entered by a door. More than that, he is not satisfied with the hunting habits and the simple agriculture of his people, nor with their ways of doing other things. He has started an orange grove, and in a short time will have a hundred trees, so he says, bearing fruit. He has bought and uses a sewing machine, and he was intelligent enough, so the report goes, when the machine had been taken to pieces in his presence, to put it together again without mistake. He once called off for me from a newspaper the names of the letters of our alphabet, and legibly wrote his English name, "John Willis Mik-ko." Mik-ko has a restless, inquisitive mind, and deserves the notice and care of those who are interested in the progress of this people. Seeking him one day at Orlando, I found him busily studying the locomotive engine of the little road which had been pushed out into that part of the frontier of Florida's civilized population. Next morning he was at the station to see the train depart, and told me he would like to go with me to Jacksonville. He is the only Florida Seminole, I believe, who had at that time seen a railway.

Psychical Characteristics.

I shall now glance at what may more properly be called the psychical characteristics of the Florida Indians. I have been led to the conclusion that for Indians they have attained a relatively high degree of psychical development. They are an uncivilized, I hardly like to call them a savage, people. They are antagonistic to white men, as a race, and to the white man's culture, but they have characteristics of their own, many of which are commendable. They are decided in their enmity to any representative of the white man's government and to everything which bears upon it the government's mark. To one, however, who is acquainted with recent history this enmity is but natural, and a confessed representative of the government need not be surprised at finding in the Seminole only forbidding and unlovely qualities. But when suspicion is disarmed, one whom they have welcomed to their confidence will find them evincing characteristics which will excite his admiration and esteem. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Seminole, not as a representative of our National Government, but under conditions which induced them to welcome me as a friend. In my intercourse with them, I found them to be not only the brave, self reliant, proud people who have from time to time withstood our nation's armies in defense of their rights, but also a people amiable, affectionate, truthful, and communicative. Nor are they devoid of a sense of humor. With only few exceptions, I found them genial. Indeed, the old chief, Tus-te-nug-ge, a man whose warwhoop and deadly hand, during the last half century, have often been heard and felt among the Florida swamps and prairies, was the only one disposed to sulk in my presence and to repel friendly advances. He called me to him when I entered the camp where he was, and, with great dignity of manner, asked after my business among his people. After listening, through my interpreter, to my answers to his questions, he turned from me and honored me no further. I call the Seminole communicative, because most with whom I spoke were eager to talk, and, as far as they could with the imperfect means at their disposal, to give me the information I sought. "Doctor Na-ki-ta" (Doctor What-is-it) I was playfully named at the Cat Fish Lake settlement; yet the people there were seemingly as ready to try to answer as I was to ask, "What is it?" I said they are truthful. That is their reputation with many of the white men I met, and I have reason to believe that the reputation is under ordinary circumstances well founded. They answered promptly and without equivocation "No" or "Yes" or "I don't know." And they are affectionate to one another, and, so far as I saw, amiable in their domestic and social intercourse. Parental affection is characteristic of their home life, as several illustrative instances I might mention would show. I will mention one. Tael-la-haes-ke is the father of six fine looking boys, ranging in age from four to eighteen years. Seven months before I met him his wife died, and when I was at his camp this strong Indian appeared to have become both mother and father to his children. His solicitous affection seemed continually to follow these boys, watching their movements and caring for their comfort. Especially did he throw a tender care about the little one of his household. I have seen this little fellow clambering, just like many a little paleface, over his father's knees and back, persistently demanding attention but in no way disturbing the father's amiability or serenity, even while the latter was trying to oblige me by answering puzzling questions upon matters connected with his tribe. One night, as Lieutenant Brown and I sat by the campfire at Tael-la-haes-ke's lodge—the larger boys, two Seminole negresses, three pigs, and several dogs, together with Tael-la-haes-ke, forming a picturesque circle in the ashes around the bright light—I heard muffled moans from the little palmetto shelter on my right, under which the three smaller boys were bundled up in cotton cloth on deer skins for the night's sleep. Upon the moans followed immediately the frightened cry of the baby boy, waking out of bad dreams and crying for the mother who could not answer; "Its-ki, Its-ki" (mother, mother) begged the little fellow, struggling from under his covering. At once the big Indian grasped his child, hugged him to his breast, pressed the little head to his cheek, consoling him all the while with caressing words, whose meaning I felt, though I could not have translated them into English, until the boy, wide awake, laughed with his father and us all and was ready to be again rolled up beside his sleeping brothers. I have said also that the Seminole are frank. Formal or hypocritical courtesy does not characterize them. One of my party wished to accompany Ka-tca-la-ni ("Yellow Tiger") on a hunt. He wished to see how the Indian would find, approach, and capture his game. "Me go hunt with you, Tom, to-day?" asked our man. "No," answered Tom, and in his own language continued, "not to-day; to-morrow." To-morrow came, and, with it, Tom to our camp. "You can go to Horse Creek with me; then I hunt alone and you come back," was the Indian's remark as both set out. I afterwards learned that Ka-tca-la-ni was all kindness on the trail to Horse Creek, three miles away, aiding the amateur hunter in his search for game and giving him the first shot at what was started. At Horse Creek, however, Tom stopped, and, turning to his companion, said, "Now you hi-e-pus (go)!" That was frankness indeed, and quite refreshing to us who had not been honored by it. But equally outspoken, without intending offense, I found them always. You could not mistake their meaning, did you understand their words. Diplomacy seems, as yet, to be an unlearned art among them.


Here is another illustration of their frankness. One Indian, Ko-nip-ha-tco ("Billy"), a brother of "Key West Billy," has become so desirous of identifying himself with the white people that in 1879 he came to Capt. F. A. Hendry, at Myers, and asked permission to live with him. Permission was willingly given, and when I went to Florida this "Billy" had been studying our language and ways for more than a year. At that time he was the only Seminole who had separated himself from his people and had cast in his lot with the whites. He had clothed himself in our dress and taken to the bed and table, instead of the ground and kettle, for sleep and food. "Me all same white man," he boastfully told me one day. But I will not here relate the interesting story of "Billy's" previous life or of his adventures in reaching his present proud position. It is sufficient to say that, for the time at least, he had become in the eyes of his people a member of a foreign community. As may be easily guessed, Ko-nip-ha-tco's act was not at all looked upon with favor by the Indians; it was, on the contrary, seriously opposed. Several tribal councils made him the subject of discussion, and once, during the year before I met him, five of his relatives came to Myers and compelled him to return with them for a time to his home at the Big Cypress Swamp. But to my illustration of Seminole frankness: In the autumn of 1880, Mat-te-lo, a prominent Seminole, was at Myers and happened to meet Captain Hendry. While they stood together "Billy" passed. Hardly had the young fellow disappeared when Mat-te-lo said to Captain Hendry, "Bum-by. Indian kill Billy." But an answer came. In this case the answer of the white man was equally frank: "Mat-te-lo, when Indian kill Billy, white man kill Indian, remember." And so the talk ended, the Seminole looking hard at the captain to try to discover whether he had meant what he said.

Intellectual Ability.

In range of intellectual power and mental processes the Florida Indians, when compared with the intellectual abilities and operations of the cultivated American, are quite limited. But if the Seminole are to be judged by comparison with other American aborigines, I believe they easily enter the first class. They seem to be mentally active. When the full expression of any of my questions failed, a substantive or two, an adverb, and a little pantomime generally sufficed to convey the meaning to my hearers. In their intercourse with one another, they are, as a rule, voluble, vivacious, showing the possession of relatively active brains and mental fertility. Certainly, most of the Seminole I met cannot justly be called either stupid or intellectually sluggish, and I observed that, when invited to think of matters with which they are not familiar or which are beyond the verge of the domain which their intellectual faculties have mastered, they nevertheless bravely endeavored to satisfy me before they were willing to acknowledge themselves powerless. They would not at once answer a misunderstood or unintelligible question, but would return inquiry upon inquiry, before the decided "I don't know" was uttered. Those with whom I particularly dealt were exceptionally patient under the strains to which I put their minds. Ko-nip-ha-tco, by no means a brilliant member of his tribe, is much to be commended for his patient, persistent, intellectual industry. I kept the young fellow busy for about a fortnight, from half-past eight in the morning until five in the afternoon, with but an hour and a half's intermission at noon. Occupying our time with inquiries not very interesting to him, about the language and life of his people, I could see how much I wearied him. Often I found by his answers that his brain was, to a degree, paralyzed by the long continued tension to which it was subjected. But he held on bravely through the severe heat of an attic room at Myers. Despite the insects, myriads of which took a great interest in us and our surroundings, despite the persistent invitation of the near woods to him to leave "Doctor Na-ki-ta" and to tramp off in them on a deer hunt (for "Billy" is a lover of the woods and a bold and successful hunter), he held on courageously. The only sign of weakening he made was on one day, about noon, when, after many, to me, vexatious failures to draw from him certain translations into his own language of phrases containing verbs illustrating variations of mood, time, number, &c., he said to me: "Doctor, how long you want me to tell you Indian language?" "Why?" I replied, "are you tired, Billy?" "No," he answered, "a littly. Me think me tell you all. Me don't know English language. Bum-by you come, next winter, me tell you all. Me go school. Me learn. Me go hunt deer to-mollow." I was afraid of losing my hold upon him, for time was precious. "Billy," I said, "you go now. You hunt to-day. I need you just three days more and then you can hunt all the time. To-morrow come, and I will ask you easier questions." After only a moment's hesitation, "Me no go, Doctor; me stay," was his courageous decision.


Seminole Society.

As I now direct attention to the Florida Seminole in their relations with one another, I shall first treat of that relationship which lies at the foundation of society, marriage or its equivalent, the result of which is a body of people more or less remotely connected with one another and designated by the term "kindred." This is shown either in the narrow limits of what may be named the family or in the larger bounds of what is called the clan or gens. I attempted to get full insight into the system of relationships in which Seminole kinship is embodied, and, while my efforts were not followed by an altogether satisfactory result, I saw enough to enable me to say that the Seminole relationships are essentially those of what we may call their "mother tribe," the Creek. The Florida Seminole are a people containing, to some extent, the posterity of tribes diverse from the Creek in language and in social and political organization; but so strong has the Creek influence been in their development that the Creek language, Creek customs, and Creek regulations have been the guiding forces in their history, forces by which, in fact, the characteristics of the other peoples have yielded, have been practically obliterated.

I have made a careful comparison of the terms of Seminole relationship I obtained with those of the Creek Indians, embodied in Dr. L. H. Morgan's Consanguinity and Affinity of the American Indians, and I find that, as far as I was able to go, they are the same, allowing for the natural differences of pronunciation of the two peoples. The only seeming difference of relationships lies in the names applied to some of the lineal descendants, descriptive instead of classificatory names being used.

I have said, "as far as I was able to go." I found, for example, that beyond the second collateral line among consanguineous kindred my interpreter would answer my question only by some such answer as "I don't know" or "No kin," and that, beyond the first collateral line of kindred by marriage, except for a very few relationships, I could obtain no answer.

The Seminole Family.

The family consists of the husband, one or more wives, and their children. I do not know what limit tribal law places to the number of wives the Florida Indian may have, but certainly he may possess two. There are several Seminole families in which duogamy exists.


I learned the following facts concerning the formation of a family: A young warrior, at the age of twenty or less, sees an Indian maiden of about sixteen years, and by a natural impulse desires to make her his wife. What follows? He calls his immediate relatives to a council and tells them of his wish. If the damsel is not a member of the lover's own gens and if no other impediment stands in the way of the proposed alliance, they select, from their own number, some who, at an appropriate time, go to the maiden's kindred and tell them that they desire the maid to receive their kinsman as her husband. The girl's relatives then consider the question. If they decide in favor of the union, they interrogate the prospective bride as to her disposition towards the young man. If she also is willing, news of the double consent is conveyed through the relatives, on both sides, to the prospective husband. From that moment there is a gentle excitement in both households. The female relatives of the young man take to the house of the betrothed's mother a blanket or a large piece of cotton cloth and a bed canopy—in other words, the furnishing of a new bed. Thereupon there is returned thence to the young man a wedding costume, consisting of a newly made shirt.


Arrangements for the marriage being thus completed, the marriage takes place by the very informal ceremony of the going of the bridegroom, at sunset of an appointed day, to the home of his mother-in-law, where he is received by his bride. From that time he is her husband. The next day, husband and wife appear together in the camp, and are thenceforth recognized as a wedded pair. After the marriage, through what is the equivalent of the white man's honeymoon, and often for a much longer period, the new couple remain at the home of the mother-in-law. It is the man and not the woman among these Indians who leaves father and mother and cleaves unto the mate. After a time, especially as the family increases, the wedded pair build one or more houses for independent housekeeping, either at the camp of the wife's mother or elsewhere, excepting among the husband's relatives.


The home may continue until death breaks it up. Sometimes, however, it occurs that most hopeful matrimonial beginnings, among the Florida Seminole, as elsewhere, end in disappointment and ruin. How divorce is accomplished I could not learn. I pressed the question upon Ko-nip-ha-tco, but his answer was, "Me don't know; Indian no tell me much." All the light I obtained upon the subject comes from Billy's first reply, "He left her." In fact, desertion seems to be the only ceremony accompanying a divorce. The husband, no longer satisfied with his wife, leaves her; she returns to her family, and the matter is ended. There is no embarrassment growing out of problems respecting the woman's future support, the division of property, or the adjustment of claims for the possession of the children. The independent self-support of every adult, healthy Indian, female as well as male, and the gentile relationship, which is more wide reaching and authoritative than that of marriage, have already disposed of these questions, which are usually so perplexing for the white man. So far as personal maintenance is concerned, a woman is, as a rule, just as well off without a husband as with one. What is hers, in the shape of property, remains her own whether she is married or not. In fact, marriage among these Indians seems to be but the natural mating of the sexes, to cease at the option of either of the interested parties. Although I do not know that the wife may lawfully desert her husband, as well as the husband his wife, from some facts learned I think it probable that she may.


According to information received a prospective mother, as the hour of her confinement approaches, selects a place for the birth of her child not far from the main house of the family, and there, with some friends, builds a small lodge, covering the top and sides of the structure generally with the large leaves of the cabbage palmetto. To this secluded place the woman, with some elderly female relatives, goes at the time the child is to be born, and there, in a sitting posture, her hands grasping a strong stick driven into the ground before her, she is delivered of her babe, which is received and cared for by her companions. Rarely is the Indian mother's labor difficult or followed by a prolonged sickness. Usually she returns to her home with her little one within four days after its birth.


The baby, well into the world, learns very quickly that he is to make his own way through it as best he may. His mother is prompt to nourish him and solicitous in her care for him if he falls ill, but, as far as possible, she goes her own way and leaves the little fellow to go his. From the first she gives her child the perfectly free use of his body and, within a limited area, of the camp ground. She does not bundle him into a motionless thing or bind him helplessly on a board; on the contrary, she does not trouble her child even with clothing. The Florida Indian baby, when very young, spends his time, naked, in a hammock, or on a deer skin, or on the warm earth. (Fig. 66.)

The Seminole mother, I was informed, is not in the habit of soothing her baby with song. Nevertheless, sometimes one may hear her or an old grandam crooning a monotonous refrain as she crouches on the ground beside the swinging hammock of a baby. I heard one of these refrains, and, as nearly as I could catch it, it ran thus:

No-wut-tca, No-wut-tca.

The hammock was swung in time with the song. The singing was slow in movement and nasal in quality. The last note was unmusical and uttered quite staccato.

There are times, to be sure, when the Seminole mother carries her baby. He is not always left to his pleasure on the ground or in a hammock. When there is no little sister or old grandmother to look after the helpless creature and the mother is forced to go to any distance from her house or lodge, she takes him with her. This she does, usually, by setting him astride one of her hips and holding him there. If she wishes to have both her arms free, however, she puts the baby into the center of a piece of cotton cloth, ties opposite corners of the cloth together, and slings her burden over her shoulders and upon her back, where, with his brown legs astride his mother's hips, the infant rides, generally with much satisfaction. I remember seeing, one day, one jolly little fellow, lolling and rollicking on his mother's back, kicking her and tugging away at the strings of beads which hung temptingly between her shoulders, while the mother, hand-free, bore on one shoulder a log, which, a moment afterwards, still keeping her baby on her back as she did so, she chopped into small wood for the camp fire.


But just as soon as the Seminole baby has gained sufficient strength to toddle he learns that the more he can do for himself and the more he can contribute to the general domestic welfare the better he will get along in life. No small amount of the labor in a Seminole household is done by children, even as young as four years of age. They can stir the soup while it is boiling; they can aid in kneading the dough for bread; they can wash the "Koonti" root, and even pound it; they can watch and replenish the fire; they contribute in this and many other small ways to the necessary work of the home. I am not to be understood, of course, as saying that the little Seminole's life is one of severe labor. He has plenty of time for games and play of all kinds, and of these I shall hereafter speak. Yet, as soon as he is able to play, he finds that with his play he must mix work in considerable measure.

Seminole Dwellings—I-Ful-Lo-Ha-Tco's House.

Now that we have seen the Seminole family formed, let us look at its home. The Florida Indians are not nomads. They have fixed habitations: settlements in well defined districts, permanent camps, houses or wigwams which, remain from year to year the abiding places of their families, and gardens and fields which for indefinite periods are used by the same owners. There are times during the year when parties gather into temporary camps for a few weeks. Now perhaps they gather upon some rich Koonti ground, that they may dig an extra quantity of this root and make flour from it; now, that they may have a sirup making festival, they go to some fertile sugar cane hammock; or again, that they may have a hunt, they camp where a certain kind of game has been discovered in abundance. And they all, as a rule, go to a central point, once a year and share there their great feast, the Green Corn Dance. Besides, as I was told, these Indians are frequent visitors to one another, acting in turn as guests and hosts for a few days at a time. But it is the fact, nevertheless, that for much the greater part of the year the Seminole families are at their homes, occupying houses, surrounded by many comforts and living a life of routine industry.

As one Seminole home is, with but few unimportant differences, like nearly all the others, we can get a good idea of what it is by describing here the first one I visited, that of I-ful-lo-ha-tco, or "Charlie Osceola," in the "Bad Country," on the edge of the Big Cypress Swamp.

When my guide pointed out to me the locality where "Charlie" lives, I could see nothing but a wide saw-grass marsh surrounding a small island. The island seemed covered with a dense growth of palmetto and other trees and tangled shrubbery, with a few banana plants rising among them. No sign of human habitation was visible. This invisibility of a Seminole's house from the vicinity may be taken as a marked characteristic of his home. If possible, he hides his house, placing it on an island and in a jungle. As we neared the hammock we found that approach to it was difficult. On horseback there was no trouble in getting through the water and the annoying saw-grass, but I found it difficult to reach the island with my vehicle, which was loaded with our provisions and myself. On the shore of "Charlie's" island is a piece of rich land of probably two acres in extent. At length I landed, and soon, to my surprise, entered a small, neat clearing, around which were built three houses, excellent of their kind, and one insignificant structure. Beyond these, well fenced with palmetto logs, lay a small garden. No one of the entire household—father, mother, and child—was at home. Where they had gone we did not learn until later. We found them next day at a sirup making at "Old Tommy's" field, six miles away. Having, in the absence of the owner, a free range of the camp, I busied myself in noting what had been left in it and what were its peculiarities. Among the first things I picked up was a "cow's horn."

This, my guide informed me, was used in calling from camp to camp. Mounting a pile of logs, "Billy" tried with it to summon "Charlie," thinking he might be somewhere near. Meanwhile I continued my search. I noticed some terrapin shells lying on a platform in one of the houses, the breast shell pierced with two holes. "Wear them at Green Corn Dance," said "Billy." I caught sight of some dressed buckskins lying on a rafter of a house, and an old fashioned rifle, with powder horn and shot flask. I also saw a hoe; a deep iron pot; a mortar, made from a live oak (?) log, probably fifteen inches in diameter and twenty-four in height, and beside it a pestle, made from mastic wood, perhaps four feet and a half in length.

A bag of corn hung from a rafter, and near it a sack of clothing, which I did not examine. A skirt, gayly ornamented, hung there also. There were several basketware sieves, evidently home made, and various bottles lying around the place. I did not search among the things laid away on the rafters under the roof. A sow, with several pigs, lay contentedly under the platform of one of the houses. And near by, in the saw-grass, was moored a cypress "dug-out," about fifteen feet long, pointed at bow and stern.

Dwellings throughout the Seminole district are practically uniform in construction. With but slight variations, the accompanying sketch of I-ful-lo-ha-tco's main dwelling shows what style of architecture prevails in the Florida Everglades. (Pl. XIX.)

This house is approximately 16 by 9 feet in ground measurement, made almost altogether, if not wholly, of materials taken from the palmetto tree. It is actually but a platform elevated about three feet from the ground and covered with a palmetto thatched roof, the roof being not more than 12 feet above the ground at the ridge pole, or 7 at the eaves. Eight upright palmetto logs, unsplit and undressed, support the roof. Many rafters sustain the palmetto thatching. The platform is composed of split palmetto logs lying transversely, flat sides up, upon beams which extend the length of the building and are lashed to the uprights by palmetto ropes, thongs, or trader's ropes. This platform is peculiar, in that it fills the interior of the building like a floor and serves to furnish the family with a dry sitting or lying down place when, as often happens, the whole region is under water. The thatching of the roof is quite a work of art: inside, the regularity and compactness of the laying of the leaves display much skill and taste on the part of the builder; outside—with the outer layers there seems to have been less care taken than with those within—the mass of leaves of which the roof is composed is held in place and made firm by heavy logs, which, bound together in pairs, are laid upon it astride the ridge. The covering is, I was informed, water tight and durable and will resist even a violent wind. Only hurricanes can tear it off, and these are so infrequent in Southern Florida that no attempt is made to provide against them.

The Seminole's house is open on all sides and without rooms. It is, in fact, only a covered platform. The single equivalent for a room in it is the space above the joists which are extended across the building at the lower edges of the roof. In this are placed surplus food and general household effects out of use from time to time. Household utensils are usually suspended from the uprights of the building and from pronged sticks driven into the ground near by at convenient places.

From this description the Seminole's house may seem a poor kind of structure to use as a dwelling; yet if we take into account the climate of Southern Florida nothing more would seem to be necessary. A shelter from the hot sun and the frequent rains and a dry floor above the damp or water covered ground are sufficient for the Florida Indian's needs.

I-ful-lo-ha-tco's three houses are placed at three corners of an oblong clearing, which is perhaps 40 by 30 feet. At the fourth corner is the entrance into the garden, which is in shape an ellipse, the longer diameter being about 25 feet. The three houses are alike, with the exception that in one of them the elevated platform is only half the size of those of the others. This difference seems to have been made on account of the camp fire. The fire usually burns in the space around which the buildings stand. During the wet season, however, it is moved into the sheltered floor in the building having the half platform. At Tus-ko-na's camp, where several families are gathered, I noticed one building without the interior platform. This was probably the wet weather kitchen.

To all appearance there is no privacy in these open houses. The only means by which it seems to be secured is by suspending, over where one sleeps, a canopy of thin cotton cloth or calico, made square or oblong in shape, and nearly three feet in height. This serves a double use, as a private room and as a protection against gnats and mosquitoes.

But while I-ful-lo-ha-tco's house is a fair example of the kind of dwelling in use throughout the tribe, I may not pass unnoticed some innovations which have lately been made upon the general style. There are, I understand, five inclosed houses, which were built and are owned by Florida Indians. Four of these are covered with split cypress planks or slabs; one is constructed of logs.

Progressive "Key West Billy" has gone further than any other one, excepting perhaps Me-le, in the white man's ways of house building. He has erected for his family, which consists of one wife and three children, a cypress board house, and furnished it with doors and windows, partitions, floors, and ceiling. In the house are one upper and one or two lower rooms. Outside, he has a stairway to the upper floor, and from the upper floor a balcony. He possesses also an elevated bed, a trunk for his clothing, and a straw hat.

Besides the permanent home for the Seminole family, there is also the lodge which it occupies when for any cause it temporarily leaves the house. The lodges, or the temporary structures which the Seminole make when "camping out," are, of course, much simpler and less comfortable than their houses. I had the privilege of visiting two "camping" parties—one of forty-eight Indians, at Tak-o-si-mac-la's cane field, on the edge of the Big Cypress Swamp; the other of twenty-two persons, at a Koonti ground, on Horse Creek, not far from the site of what was, long ago, Fort Davenport.

I found great difficulty in reaching the "camp" at the sugar cane field. I was obliged to leave my conveyance some distance from the island on which the cane field was located. When we arrived at the shore of the saw-grass marsh no outward sign indicated the presence of fifty Indians so close at hand; but suddenly three turbaned Seminole emerged from the marsh, as we stood there. Learning from our guide our business, they cordially offered to conduct us through the water and saw-grass to the camp. The wading was annoying and, to me, difficult; but at length we secured dry footing in the jungle on the island, and after a tortuous way through the tangled vegetation, which walled in the camp from the prairie, we entered the large clearing and the collection of lodges where the Indians were. These lodges, placed very close together and seemingly without order, were almost all made of white cotton cloths, which were each stretched over ridge poles and tied to four corner posts. The lodges were in shape like the fly of a wall tent, simply a sheet stretched for a cover.

At a Koonti ground on Horse Creek I met the Cat Fish Lake Indians. They had been forced to leave their homes to secure an extra supply of Koonti flour, because, as I understood the woman who told me, some animals had eaten all their sweet potatoes. The lodges of this party differed from those of the southern Indians in being covered above and around with palmetto leaves and in being shaped some like wall tents and others like single-roofed sheds. The accompanying sketch shows what kind of a shelter Tael-la-haes-ke had made for himself fit Horse Creek. (Fig. 67.)

Adjoining each of these lodges was a platform, breast high. These were made of small poles or sticks covered with, the leaves of the palmetto. Upon and under these, food, clothing, and household utensils, generally, were kept; and between the rafters of the lodges and the roofs, also, many articles, especially those for personal use and adornment, were stored.

Home Life.

Having now seen the formation of the Seminole family and taken a glance at the dwellings, permanent and temporary, which it occupies, we are prepared to look at its household life. I was surprised by the industry and comparative prosperity and, further, by the cheerfulness and mutual confidence, intimacy, and affection of these Indians in their family intercourse.

The Seminole family is industrious. All its members work who are able to do so, men as well as women. The former are not only hunters, fishermen, and herders, but agriculturists also. The women not only care for their children and look after the preparation of food and the general welfare of the home, but are, besides, laborers in the fields. In the Seminole family, both, husband and wife are land proprietors and cultivators. Moreover, as we have seen, all children able to labor contribute their little to the household prosperity. From these various domestic characteristics, an industrious family life almost necessarily follows. The disesteem in which Tus-ko-na, a notorious loafer at the Big Cypress Swamp, is held by the other Indians shows that laziness is not countenanced among the Seminole.

But let me not be misunderstood here. By a Seminole's industry I do not mean the persistent and rapid labor of the white man of a northern community. The Indian is not capable of this, nor is he compelled to imitate it. I mean only that, in describing him, it is but just for me to say that he is a worker and not a loafer.

As a result of the domestic industry it would be expected that we should find comparative prosperity prevailing among all Seminole families; and this is the fact. Much of the Indian's labor is wasted through his ignorance of the ways by which it might be economized. He has no labor saving or labor multiplying machines. There is but little differentiation of function in either family or tribe. Each worker does all kinds of work. Men give themselves to the hunt, women to the house, and both to the field. But men may be found sometimes at the cooking pot or toasting stick and women may be seen taking care of cattle and horses. Men bring home deer and turkeys, &c.; women spend days in fishing. Both men and women are tailors, shoemakers, flour makers, cane crushers and sirup boilers, wood hewers and bearers, and water carriers. There are but few domestic functions which may be said to belong exclusively, on the one hand, to men, or, on the other, to women.

Out of the diversified domestic industry, as I have said, comes comparative prosperity. The home is all that the Seminole family needs or desires for its comfort. There is enough clothing, or the means to get it, for every one. Ordinarily more than a sufficient quantity of clothes is possessed by each member of a family. No one lacks money or the material with which to obtain that which money purchases. Nor need any ever hunger, since the fields and nature offer them food in abundance. The families of the northern camps are not as well provided for by bountiful nature as those south of the Caloosahatchie River. Yet, though at my visit to the Cat Fish Lake Indians in midwinter the sweet potatoes were all gone, a good hunting ground and fertile fields of Koonti were near at hand for Tcup-ko's people to visit and use to their profit.


Read the bill of fare from which the Florida Indians may select, and compare with that the scanty supplies within reach of the North Carolina Cherokee or the Lake Superior Chippewa. Here is a list of their meats: Of flesh, at any time venison, often opossum, sometimes rabbit and squirrel, occasionally bear, and a land terrapin, called the "gopher," and pork whenever they wish it. Of wild fowl, duck, quail, and turkey in abundance. Of home reared fowl, chickens, more than they are willing to use. Of fish, they can catch myriads of the many kinds which teem in the inland waters of Florida, especially of the large bass, called "trout" by the whites of the State, while on the seashore they can get many forms of edible marine life, especially turtles and oysters. Equally well off are these Indians in respect to grains, vegetables, roots, and fruits. They grow maize in considerable quantity, and from it make hominy and flour, and all the rice they need they gather from the swamps. Their vegetables are chiefly sweet potatoes, large and much praised melons and pumpkins, and, if I may classify it with vegetables, the tender new growth of the tree called the cabbage palmetto. Among roots, there is the great dependence of these Indians, the abounding Koonti; also the wild potato, a small tuber found in black swamp land, and peanuts in great quantities. Of fruits, the Seminole family may supply itself with bananas, oranges (sour and sweet), limes, lemons, guavas, pineapples, grapes (black and red), cocoa nuts, cocoa plums, sea grapes, and wild plums. And with even this enumeration the bill of fare is not exhausted. The Seminole, living in a perennial summer, is never at a loss when he seeks something, and something good, to eat. I have omitted from the above list honey and the sugar cane juice and sirup, nor have I referred to the purchases the Indians now and then make from the white man, of salt pork, wheat flour, coffee, and salt, and of the various canned delicacies, whose attractive labels catch their eyes.

These Indians are not, of course, particularly provident. I was told, however, that they are beginning to be ambitious to increase their little herds of horses and cattle and their numbers of chickens and swine.

Camp Fire.

Entering the more interior, the intimate home life of the Seminole, one observes that the center about which it gathers is the camp fire. This is never large except on a cool night, but it is of unceasing interest to the household. It is the place where the food is prepared, and where, by day, it is always preparing. It is the place where the social intercourse of the family, and of the family with their friends, is enjoyed. There the story is told; by its side toilets are made and household duties are performed, not necessarily on account of the warmth the fire gives, for it is often so small that its heat is almost imperceptible, but because of its central position in the household economy. This fire is somewhat singularly constructed; the logs used for it are of considerable length, and are laid, with some regularity, around a center, like the radii of a circle. These logs are pushed directly inward as the inner ends are consumed. The outer ends of the logs make excellent seats; sometimes they serve as pillows, especially for old men and women wishing to take afternoon, naps.

Beds and bedding are of far less account to the Seminole family than the camp fire. The bed is often only the place where one chooses to lie. It is generally, however, chosen under the sheltering roof on the elevated platform, or, when made in the lodge, on palmetto leaves. It is pillowless, and has covering or not, as the sleeper may wish. If a cover is used, it is, as a rule, only a thin blanket or a sheet of cotton cloth, besides, during most of the year, the canopy or mosquito bar.

Manner Of Eating.

Next in importance to the camp fire in the life of the Seminole household naturally comes the eating of what is prepared there. There is nothing very formal in that. The Indians do not set a table or lay dishes and arrange chairs. A good sized kettle, containing stewed meat and vegetables, is the center around which, the family gathers for its meal. This, placed in some convenient spot on the ground near the fire, is surrounded by more or fewer of the members of the household in a sitting posture. If all that they have to eat at that time is contained in the kettle, each, extracts, with his fingers or his knife, a piece of meat or a bone with meat on it, and, holding it in one hand, eats, while with the other hand each, in turn, supplies himself, by means of a great wooden spoon, from the porridge in the pot.

The Seminole, however, though observing meal times with some regularity, eats just as his appetite invites. If it happens that he has a side of venison roasting before the fire, he will cut from it at any time during the day and, with the piece of meat in one hand and a bit of Koonti or of different bread in the other, satisfy his appetite. Not seldom, too, he rises during the night and breaks his sleep by eating a piece of the roasting meat. The kettle and big spoon stand always ready for those who at any moment may hunger. There is little to be said about eating in a Seminole household, therefore, except that when its members eat together they make a kettle the center of their group and that much of their eating is done without reference to one another.


But one sees the family at home, not only working and sleeping and eating, but also engaged in amusing itself. Especially among the children, various sports are indulged in. I took some trouble to learn what amusements the little Seminole had invented or received. I obtained a list of them which might as well be that of the white man's as of the Indian's child. The Seminole has a doll, i.e., a bundle of rags, a stick with a bit of cloth wrapped about it, or something that serves just as well as this. The children build little houses for their dolls and name them "camps." Boys take their bows and arrows and go into the bushes and kill small birds, and on returning say they have been "turkey-hunting." Children sit around a small piece of land and, sticking blades of grass into the ground, name it a "corn field." They have the game of "hide and seek." They use the dancing rope, manufacture a "see-saw," play "leap frog," and build a "merry-go-round." Carrying a small stick, they say they carry a rifle. I noticed some children at play one day sitting near a dried deer skin, which lay before them stiff and resonant. They had taken from the earth small tubers about an inch in diameter found on the roots of a kind of grass and called "deer-food." Through them they had thrust sharp sticks of the thickness of a match and twice as long, making what we would call "teetotums." These, by a quick twirl between the palms of the hands, were set to spinning on the deer skin. The four children were keeping a dozen or more of these things going. The sport they called "a dance."

I need only add that the relations among the various members of the Indian family in Florida are, as a rule, so well adjusted and observed that home life goes on without discord. The father is beyond question master in his home. To the mother belongs a peculiar domestic importance from her connection with her gens, but both she and her children seek first to know and to do the will of the actual lord of the household. The father is the master without being a tyrant; the mother is a subject without being a slave; the children have not yet learned self-assertion in opposition to their parents: consequently, there is no constraint in family intercourse. The Seminole household is cheerful, its members are mutually confiding, and, in the Indian's way, intimate and affectionate.

The Seminole Gens.

Of this larger body of kindred, existing, as I could see, in very distinct form among the Seminole, I gained but little definite knowledge. What few facts I secured are here placed on record.

After I was enabled to make my inquiry understood, I sought to learn from my respondent the name of the gens to which each Indian whose name I had received belonged. As the result, I found that the two hundred and eight Seminole now in Florida are divided into the following gentes and in the following numbers:

1. Wind gens 21 2. Tiger gens 58 3. Otter gens 39 4. Bird gens 41 5. Deer gens 18 6. Snake gens 15 7. Bear gens 4 8. Wolf gens 1 9. Alligator gens 1 Unknown gentes 10 —- Total 208

I endeavored, also, to learn the name the Indians use for gens or clan, and was told that it is "Po-ha-po-hum-ko-sin;" the best translation I can give of the name is "Those of one camp or house."

Examining my table to find whether or not the word as translated describes the fact, I notice that, with but one exception, which may not, after all, prove to be an exception, each of the twenty-two camps into which the thirty-seven Seminole families are divided is a camp in which all the persons but the husbands are members of one gens. The camp at Miami is an apparent exception. There Little Tiger, a rather important personage, lives with a number of unmarried relatives. A Wolf has married one of Little Tiger's sisters and lives in the camp, as properly he should. Lately Tiger himself has married an Otter, but, instead of leaving his relatives and going to the camp of his wife's kindred, his wife has taken up her home with his people.

At the Big Cypress Swamp I tried to discover the comparative rank or dignity of the various clans. In reply, I was told by one of the Wind clan that they are graded in the following order. At the northernmost camp, however, another order appears to have been established.

Big Cypress camp.

1. The Wind. 2. The Tiger. 3. The Otter. 4. The Bird. 5. The Deer. 6. The Snake. 7. The Bear. 8. The Wolf.

Northernmost camp.

1. The Tiger. 2. The Wind. 3. The Otter. 4. The Bird. 5. The Bear. 6. The Deer. 7. The Buffalo. 8. The Snake. 9. The Alligator. 10. The Horned Owl.

This second order was given to me by one of the Bird gens and by one who calls himself distinctively a "Tallahassee" Indian. The Buffalo and the Horned Owl clans seem now to be extinct in Florida, and I am not altogether sure that the Alligator clan also has not disappeared.

The gens is "a group of relatives tracing a common lineage to some remote ancestor. This lineage is traced by some tribes through the mother and by others through the father." "The gens is the grand unit of social organization, and for many purposes is the basis of governmental organization." To the gens belong also certain rights and duties.

Of the characteristics of the gentes of the Florida Seminole, I know only that a man may not marry a woman of his own clan, that the children belong exclusively to the mother, and that by birth they are members of her own gens. So far as duogamy prevails now among the Florida Indians, I observed that both the wives, in every case, were members of one gens. I understand also that there are certain games in which men selected from gentes as such are the contesting participants.


In this connection I may say that if I was understood in my inquiries the Seminole have also the institution of "Fellowhood" among them. Major Powell thus describes this institution: "Two young men agree to be life friends, 'more than brothers,' confiding without reserve each in the other and protecting each the other from all harm."

The Seminole Tribe.

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, Tus-ta-nug-ge, and his brother, Hos-pa-ta-ki, also a medicine man. These two are called the Tus-ta-nug-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 War Little Medicine men. medicine man. chiefs chiefs - - 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 "Kaen-yuk-sa Is-ti-tca-ti," i.e., "Kaen-yuk-sa red men." Kaen-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.



Prominent among the industries is agriculture. The Florida Indians have brought one hundred or more acres of excellent land under a rude sort of cultivation. To each family belong, by right of use and agreement with other Indians, fields of from one to four acres in extent. The only agricultural implement they have is the single bladed hoe common on the southern plantation. However, nothing more than this is required.

Soil.— The ground they select is generally in the interiors of the rich, hammocks which abound in the swamps and prairies of Southern Florida. There, with a soil unsurpassed in fertility and needing only to be cleared of trees, vines, underbrush, &c., one has but to plant corn, sweet potatoes, melons, or any thing else suited to the climate, and keep weeds from the growing vegetation, that he may gather a manifold return. The soil is wholly without gravel, stones, or rocks. It is soft, black, and very fertile. To what extent the Indians carry agriculture I do not know. I am under the impression, however, that they do not attempt to grow enough to provide much against the future. But, as they have no season in the year wholly unproductive and for which they must make special provision, their improvidence is not followed by serious consequences.

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