On exhibit in the Kislak Gallery
It is one of the ironies of US history that the person charged with the removal and relocation of the tribes was also the person responsible for creating a monumental record of their lives and customs.
Thomas Loraine M’Kenney was the first superintendent of Indian Affairs, part of the War Department, from 1824 to 1830. In that capacity he saw the traditional lifeways of the North American tribes was threatened and committed his office to making a permanent record before they disappeared. He hired Charles Bird King and other well-known artists to paint visiting tribal representatives as they came to Washington to negotiate treaties and filled the War Department’s gallery with nearly 150 portraits.
After Andrew Jackson’s election to the presidency in 1829, M’Kenney was replaced. Without authorization, he temporarily removed the paintings and commissioned lithographs for a portfolio of hand-colored portraits that would include a text by James Hall of “biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs as a record of vanishing peoples,” Hall based the text on interviews with Indian agents, traders, and soldiers, but not Indians. Tragically, most of King’s 143 Native American portraits were lost in the Smithsonian fire of 1865, but the images are have been preserved in M’Kenney & Hall’s monumental work: Thomas M’Kenney and James Hall. History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Philadelphia: Daniel Rice and James Clark, 1838 – 1844. Three volumes containing 117 hand-colored lithographic portrait plates; In the permanent collection of the Kislak Center, Miami Dade College, Freedom Tower
Originally classified with the Muskogee people [also known as the Creek], the Seminole began to be known under their present name about 1775. “Seminole” is derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning “runaway” or “wild one.” The tribe was originally composed of immigrants from the Lower Muskogee tribal group in Southern Georgia who moved into Florida after the Apalchee and other native tribes in northern Florida were destroyed by a series of British attacks with their Muskogee Indian allies in the early 1700s. In 1763, the surviving Apalachees relocated to Louisiana. Today, 250 to 300 of their descendants still living there are the only documented descendants of any of Florida’s prehistoric native populations. There is no trace of the tribes named in early Spanish chronicles, the Palanches, Eamuses, and Kaloosas. If they ever existed, they are all extinct.
Although Seminole culture is derived from the Muskogee, they developed unique lifeways, such as open-air, thatched-roof houses [chickees], as they became adapted to the Florida environment. However, their important ceremonies like the Green Corn Dance, the ritual use of tobacco, and language continue to link them to the Muskogee.
Under English rule and during the second Spanish period [1767–1821] the tribe developed a large trading network and increased in population by allowing free blacks and escaped slaves to settle on their land. Unlike the whites, the Seminole considered blacks to be human equals and allowed intermarriage. Mixed-race descendants gained influence among tribal councils and several were war chiefs.
After the American Revolution, increasing pressure on Seminole lands from settlers eventually led to a series of Seminole Wars that lasted for more than 40 years [1818–1858]. Under the Treaty of Moultrie , the government seized 24 million acres of Seminole land in northern Florida. The Seminole were removed from their lands and confined to an inland reservation. Further, The Treaty of Payne’s Landing , forcibly relocated the Seminole to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. After the Third Seminole War (1855-1858), only a few hundred Seminole remained in Florida. They re-established relations with the U.S. government in the 1890s and received 5,000 acres of reservation lands in 1930.
Eight Seminole Leaders
Asseola, 1804-1838, usually spelled Osceola, was born in Alabama to a Muskogee mother and a white father. Although never a Tribal Leader, his fierce opposition to removal and skill as a speaker enabled him to become a prominent warrior and the most famous Seminole outside of the tribe. During the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842, he was a leader in the Seminole’s resistance to the US Army efforts to relocate them to a reservation west of the Mississippi River in a territory now known as Oklahoma. In October 1837 Osceola was captured along with several other Seminole leaders under a flag of truce, transported and imprisoned at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston, South Carolina where he died on January 30, 1838. His death and his dishonorable capture caused a public backlash against the war.
Osceola … died on Tuesday night … [he] was suddenly attacked one night with a violent inflammation of the throat which proved quinsy [an abscess] … [the artist] Mr. [George] C.[atlin] found the noble chieftain who could endure every hardship in Florida’s desolate hammocks and who “dared to peril any danger” prostate on his back, unnerved and conquered by disease … In his extreme suffering he had torn off his Angola Turbin [hat] and his black clustering tresses now flowed in disheveled wildness down his nobly formed neck and shoulders and over the lap of the favorite wife on whom his head reposed … [with] an expression of mingled despair and resolute firmness to meet his fate.
A great man of them – greater doubtless because his blood was half-white, though his habits were all Indian, has fallen among them … All who compare the fine portraits of Osceola will be struck with the perfect correspondence of their traits to all that we know of his character and also of the immeasurable distance there is between his physiology and form and that of the mere Florida Indian himself … who are of a darker view and coarser features analogous to the African … while Osceola’s bear the very stamp of high mettled nobility and of commanding genius ….Niles National Register, 17 February 1838 page. 387.
Micanopy, (High Chief) was a wealthy landowner and nearly 40 when he became chief of the Seminole. At first, he was friendly and helpful to the Americans. Following the American purchase of Florida from Spain in 1819 through the Adams–Onís Treaty, and subsequent appointment of Andrew Jackson as territorial governor in 1821, large numbers of American settlers began colonizing northern Florida. Micanopy opposed further American settlement of the region. Treaties were broken and more and more Seminole land became American farms and settlements. The Seminole were driven away from the Florida coast and into the interior wetlands. The 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Muskogee transferred 24 million acres of Seminole land in northern Florida to the US government. When the Seminole were forced to live on a reservation hostilities erupted that eventually evolved into the bloody 2nd Seminole War [1835-1842]. Micanopy was finally captured and sent to the Oklahoma Indian Territory where he died in January of 1849.
Foke-Luste-Hajo (Black Craggy Clay) is described as a brave and high-minded man of more than ordinary abilities. He was principal war chief of the Seminoles but was superseded in that post by Holato Mico, the Blue King, because it was felt he was too friendly with the government.
“He was one of the chiefs who assisted at the council of Payne’s Landing , and assented to the celebrated treaty of which the results have been so disastrous to the country, and so ruinous to the Seminoles; and he was one of the seven who were appointed to visit and explore the country offered to his people for their future residence … Having examined and approved the country, the delegation proceeded to ratify the treaty of Payne’s Landing, at Fort Gibson, on the 28th of March, 1833. This was one of the several fatal mistakes committed in the course of this unfortunate negotiation; for the chiefs were only deputed to examine the country, and should have reported the result of their inquiries to a council of the nation, who alone were competent to ratify the treaty.”From: Thomas M’Kenney and James Hall. History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Philadelphia: Daniel Rice and James Clark, 1838 – 1844.
Yaha-Hajo (Mad Wolf) was the second principal war chief of the Seminole nation. He wavered between the pro-American faction and Micanopy, who fought against selling any land to the United States. He finally joined Micanopy and was killed by a Dragoon patrol on the banks of the Oklawaha River.
On the 29th of March, 1836, as the main body of the American troops in Florida was about to encamp … two fires were discovered, … Colonel Butler’s command was detached in search of the enemy… four Indians were discovered and pursued by the advanced guard … one of a band of volunteers … dashed forward and charged upon one of the Indians, who … halted and faced his opponent. When but a few steps apart, both parties leveled their guns at each other; the General fired first, wounded his adversary in the neck, and, dropping the gun, drew a pistol. Advancing on the Indian, he placed the pistol at his breast, and drew the trigger, but the weapon missed fire. The Indian brought his rifle to his shoulder and shot the General in the hip; at the same moment the brave savage received a fatal wound from another hand, fell on his knees, attempted to load his rifle in that position, and died, resisting to the last gasp with the obstinacy which always marks the death of the Indian warrior … The warrior who was slain in the manner just described, was Yaha Hajo”From: Thomas M’Kenney and James Hall. History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Philadelphia: Daniel Rice and James Clark, 1838 – 1844.
Itcho-Tustinnuggee (Deer Warrior) was a member of a delegation that visited Washington, D.C. in 1825-1826 to re-acquire lands taken from them by the United States after its purchase of Florida in 1819. The Seminoles were adamant in their intention to remain in Florida. Emathala, one of the delegation, ended negotiations with a famous declaration: “Our navel strings were first cut in Florida, and the blood from them sank into the earth and made the country dear to us.”
Charles Bird King painted his portrait during this visit. Of particular note in his attire are the trade silver earrings and finger-woven bandolier that may be connected to an unseen bag. The significance of his gesture is unknownDavis, Hilda. The History of Seminole Clothing and Its Multi‐Colored Designs. American Anthropoligist 57, 1955 https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1955.57.5.02a00040
Julcee Mathla fought American troops in the Everglades for several years and outlasted four generals. In the winter of 1842, General W. J. Worth recommended to the War Department that the several hundred remaining Seminoles be allowed to stay in Florida and not be removed to the Indian Territory.
Chittee-Yoholo (The Snake That Makes a Noise) was a superb guerilla fighter who attacked numerous outposts and settlements. He eventually surrendered to the army garrison at St. Augustine and agreed to migrate to Arkansas.
With the recognition of growing prowess, one individual at successive periods of life may have borne various designations. This is illustrated by an example given by McKenney and Hall, who relate that the principal chief of the Mikasukies in 1835, Holata Mico, had been successively known as: a) Chittee – Yoholo (portrait above), b) Chewasti Amathla; c) Holata Tustennuggee Hadjo (Crazy Blue Warrior); d) Holata Tustennuggee (Blue Warrior).Boyd, Mark H.Florida The Seminole War: Its background and onset. Historical Quarterly Volume XXX July, 1951-April, 1952, page 8 http://ucf.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/ucf%3A22342/datastream/OBJ/view/The_Florida_historical_quarterly.pdf
Nea-Math-La was born in to the Muskogee tribe and was a leader of the Red Stick Muskogee. His name, in the Hitchiti language, means “fat next to warrior,” “fat” being a reference to great courage. He was considered a man of eloquence and influence among the Seminoles.
Neamathla, who has been one of the most distinguished of the Seminoles, and was at one time their head man, or principal chief, … At what time he emigrated to Florida, or by what gradations he rose to authority, we are not well informed … Mr. Duval, governor of Florida … describes him as a man of uncommon abilities, of great influence with his nation, and as one of the most eloquent men he ever heard … “and ought to be induced to remove with his people … to the land appropriated to them west of Arkansas;” but in the summer of that year it was found that, instead of promoting that desirable measure, he was exerting his influence-to defeat it and Governor Duval deposed him from the chieftaincy.From: Thomas M’Kenney and James Hall. History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Philadelphia: Daniel Rice and James Clark, 1838 – 1844.