Like beads on a string
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 Material Information
Title: Like beads on a string : a culture history of the Seminole Indians in northern peninsular Florida
Physical Description: xvii, 281 leaves : ill.
Language: English
Creator: Weisman, Brent Richards, 1952- ( Dissertant )
Milanich, Jerald T. ( Thesis advisor )
Mahon, John K. ( Reviewer )
Purdy, Barbara A. ( Reviewer )
Mosely, Michael A. ( Reviewer )
Burns, Allan ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1987
Copyright Date: 1987
Subjects / Keywords: Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF
Anthropology thesis, Ph. D.
Seminole Indians
Indians of North America -- Florida
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Abstract: The contemporary Seminole Indians of Florida are a visible and important minority of the state's population. Various observers have commented that Seminole culture is conservative yet flexible in nature. There are anthropological and historical grounds for this observation; the history of the Florida Seminole is the net cultural product of the complex interaction between antecedent cultural patterns set in the late prehistoric Southeast and the historical circumstances of the colonial Southeastern frontier. Seminole culture history can be developed through archaeological, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic means. Previous syntheses of Seminole culture history have stressed the importance of ecological factors in shaping the Seminole culture of the ethnographic present, while indigenous cultural and historical processes have been given relatively little attention. Several elements can be isolated that have influenced the development of Seminole culture. First, the Seminole were heirs to a system of male prestige reckoning and world view rooted in the warrior cults of the late prehistoric Southeast. An emphasis was placed on individual achievement, which in the historic period was expressed through the Seminole's quest for enterprise with colonial traders. Second, the circumstances of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) promoted renewed emphases on clan bonding, ethnic boundaries, and aspects of traditional belief systems that are still present among the modern Seminole. Three culture periods are proposed for Seminole history in the study area, based on the presence of the features described above. The Ancestral Creek Pattern is defined and described as the prototype for Seminole culture of the colonization period (1715-1767). The period of enterprise (1767-1821) is characterized by a decentralization of Seminole society, as individuals engage in commercial opportunities presented them by the British and Spanish. Finally, during the period of revitalization (1821-1841) clan and tribal identities are again stressed and native ceremony and ritual gain in importance in the face of American attempts to remove the Seminole from Florida. Seminole concepts of selfhood are held to be an important factor in their cultural evolution and are discussed with reference to the annual busk ceremony.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1987.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 268-280).
General Note: Vita.
General Note: Typescript.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltuf - AEP9630
oclc - 16414275
System ID: UF00102762:00001


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Copyright 1987


Brent Richards Weisman


It is ironic that when I first became interested in

Southeastern ethnohistory as a young undergraduate at the

University of Florida in the early 1970s, I developed no

interest whatsoever in the Florida Seminole. This despite

authoring several term papers and a departmental honors

thesis in which Creek and Cherokee data were used, and

despite having taken a class or two with the late Charles

H. Fairbanks.

Thinking back on it, there are several reasons why I

neglected the topic with which I have become so intimately

acquainted over the past several years. I, quite wrongly,

perceived the Seminole to be too "new," too "tradition-

less" to be of real anthropological interest. Of course,

ignorance is my only defense with respect to this position.

Second, my tenure as an undergraduate proceeded

somewhat the publication of Fairbanks' (1978) synthesis of

Florida Seminole culture history, a work that would be one

of the last of his long and productive career. In the

early 1970s, Seminole history had the appearance of a

jumble of facts and dates; anthropological perspectives


were conspicuous by their absence. For this reason, the

present study would not have been possible had Fairbanks

not gone before, and, although I never had a working

relationship with Dr. Fairbanks, a debt of gratitude is


I wish I could claim that this study proceeded in a

systematic, deductive fashion, but in fact it did not. The

pattern to my thinking expressed in these pages took shape

in bits and pieces over a period of several years, and like

a piece of Seminole patchwork, required a handy bit of

tailoring to achieve a satisfactory finished product. In

point of fact, this study developed out of the search for a

single archaeological site, known as "Powell's Town," or

the village site occupied by Osceola and his band of

Seminoles during the Second Seminole War.

Early in 1983 Donald Sheppard, Dan Edwards, and

William Goza met with Florida State Museum archaeologist

Jerald T. Milanich to discuss the possibility of some

archaeological reconnaissance on Edwards' "Flying Eagle

Ranch," located southeast of Inverness, Florida, where

Sheppard had located the Osceola site on the basis of

information contained in an 1837 military diary. Edwards

concurred with Sheppard's estimation; Goza, President of

the Wentworth Foundation, was willing to provide initial

funding, and Milanich went in search of a graduate student

to become an assistant on the project.

I had recently returned to graduate study at the

University of Florida, after a long and curious interlude

in the non-academic world. After my first semester in

school, I had failed to attach myself to any ongoing

program, or even commit to an area of study. Would I be

willing to tackle the Osceola site, and possibly parlay it

into a dissertation study? With almost no hesitation I

accepted Milanich's offer, and commenced research in

preparation for the Wentworth-funded expedition in May,

1983. I was somewhat astonished at the throng of reporters

that greeted my first trip to Inverness; not being a native

Floridian it was only later that I was to appreciate the

role of Osceola in local folklore and legend. I must have

managed to deport myself tolerably well despite my

ignorance, because I have enjoyed a positive relationship

with the press throughout our study.

My first perspective on the Seminole study was

ecological in flavor; had it remained so this work would

never have been written, at least in its present form. For

it was with Seminole culture that I became fascinated, and

with the role of history anc ideas in the shaping of the

Native American society that has survived to this day.

This project has, of course, not been strictly an

individual endeavor. Many individuals and institutions

deserve special mention for their roles in its evolution.

First, the original band of conspirators--Sheppard,

Milanich, Goza, and Edwards--deserve either praise or

blame for putting me on the right track. My early

fieldwork in the Inverness area would not have been

possible without the steadfast support of Don Sheppard,

whose friendship I have also come to cherish over these

past several years. Milanich is owed a special debt for

demonstrating rare wisdom in guiding my graduate studies;

his unique ability was in allowing me to make the

appropriate mistakes necessary to encourage my professional

growth. The other members of my doctoral committee--

anthropologists Barbara Purdy, Michael Moseley, and Allan

Burns, and historian John Mahon--deserve credit for helping

the final revision of this manuscript take shape.

The efficiency and productivity of the fieldwork phase

of this project were greatly enhanced by the efforts of the

Withlacoochee River Archaeology Council, a fine group of

avocational archaeologists from the Inverness area first

organized by Sheppard and me to assist in the Powell's Town

search. The Council has collectively braved extremes of

environment, personality, and patience, all in the name of


Funding sources for the project have been diverse. In

roughly chronological order, the following institutions

are to be credited: the Florida State Museum, the Wentworth

Foundation, the Inverness Rotary Club, the Florida State

Museum Associates, the Florida Department of State's

Division of Archives, History and Records Management (now

the Division of Historical Resources), and a benefactor of

Citrus County archaeology who wishes to remain anonymous.

Finally, the production of this manuscript was eased and

improved by my receipt of the 1986 John M. Goggin Memorial

Fellowship, awarded by the Department of Anthropology,

University of Florida.

The eventual completion of the project demanded a

great deal of legwork, which was expedited by the

cooperation of many landowners in the Inverness and Citrus

County area. The Edwards family, Mr. Phil Zellner, and

Lloyd and Shirley Newman deserve special mention. From

1984 through 1986 much of our fieldwork occurred on

property held in the Inverness area by the South Florida

Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Mr. George Preston,

of the South Florida Council, facilitated the conduct of

our project on their property. After Mr. Preston's


retirement, his position was filled by William Ortt, who

has continued to extend the Council's support and

hospitality for our benefit.

Another Scout employee, Mr. Paul Anderson, deserves

recognition for actions above and beyond the call of

duty, and has made integral, "nuts and bolts" contributions

to the success of the project. I thank Paul for his

friendship, his tow chains (used on more than one

occasion), and for inspiring in me a deep respect for the

Withlacoochee woods. Guy Prentice drafted several of the

figures and offered much needed technical advice as to the

production of the others.

Finally, I would like to thank my family and dear

friends, who tolerated what could only have appeared at

times to be sheer nonsense, and who trusted that eventually

some sense would come.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . .

LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . .

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . .

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . .



Approaches to the Seminole Past . .
A Note on Geography . . . . .


The Seminole as Southeastern Indians .
The Ancestral Creek Pattern . . .

III COLONIZATION: 1716-1767 . . . .

A-296--A Colonial Period Seminole
Household . . . . . . .
Colonial Seminole Domestic Economy . .
Colonial Seminole Beliefs and
Ritual . . . . . . ..
Oven Hill--An Early Seminole Town .

IV ENTERPRISE: 1767-1821 . . . . .

Nicholson Grove: A Seminole Site
From the Period of Enterprise .
Further Radiations of the Seminole . .
The Demise of the Alachua Seminole .
Seminole Society at the Close of
the Enterprise Period . . . .


















V REVITALIZATION . . . . . . 128

Ethnoarchaeology of the Seminole
Clan . . . . . . .. .129
Clan Solidarity--The Fort Brooke
Cemetery . . . . . . .. .132
Clan Camp, and Nativism in the
Withlacoochee Cove . . . ... .142
The Prince Diary--A New Source
For Seminole Ethnoarchaeology 147
Anthropology of the Prince
Diary ............. .162
Seminole Ceremony and Ritual in
the Withlacoochee Cove . . 164
"Feu de joie" on the Banks
of the Withlacoochee . . 165
Black Drink on the
Withlacoochee ........ .168
Clan Camps--Seminole Domestic Groups
in the Withlacoochee Cove .. 173

OF POWELL'S TOWN . . . ... .191

Osceola: Biographical Considerations 192
The Nature of Osceola's Leadership .198
The Archaeology of Powell's Town . 203
The 1985 Excavations ...... .207
The 1986 Excavations ...... .211
The Powell's Town Component . .. 217
Powell's Town Artifacts . . 221
Discussion . . . . ... .225



The Seminole Busk: Historical Concerns 232
The Seminole Ballgame--Archaeology
and Ethnohistory . . . . ... 234
The Ballgame Myth . . . . . . 239

AND DIRECTIONS . . . . . .. 249

Tribalism and the Seminole
Archaeological Record . . ... 253
Final Considerations . . . . ... 263

REFERENCES CITED . . . . . . . . 268

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . .. 281


Table Page

1. A comparison of Seminole culture
histories . . . . . . ... .25

2. Important historical events in north
peninsular Florida through 1765 . . 29

3. Attributes of selected Oven Hill
pottery . . . . . . ... .90

4. Trade items and their value in skins . 106

5. Burial group artifacts at the Fort
Brooke cemetery . . . . ... .140

6. Artifacts from Zellner Grove ..... .178

7. Artifacts from Newman's Garden . . .. 183

8. Historic artifacts from Powell's Town . 212

9. Schematic of the ballgame myth . . .. 243




1. Location of the study area . . .

2. Comparison of archaeological and
historic Seminole headressess . .

3. Comparison of Natchez and Seminole
burial customs . . . . .

4. Selected Seminole rimsherds . . .

5. Seminole incised pottery . . . .

6. Enterprise artifacts . . . . .

7. Glass beads from Nicholson Grove . .

8. Nicholson Grove artifacts . . . .

9. Burial groups at the Fort Brooke
cemetery . . . . . . .

10. The Cove of the Withlacoochee . . .

11. Cho-illy Hadjo's Town in the Prince
diary . . . . . . .

12. The Flying Eagle Ranch (8Cil92) midden

13. Aerial view of Newman's Garden
and Zellner . . . . .

14. Seminole rimsherds from Withlacoochee
sites . . . . . .

15. Selected artifacts from Newman and
Zellner . . . . . .

16. Site plan of Newman's Garden . .

17. The Prince diary sketch of Powell's
Town . . . . . . .


S. 27

S. 46

. 56

. 86

S. 88

S. 95

. 111

S. 113

S. 136

S. 144

S. 157

S. 172

S. 176

S. 180


. 184

S. 204


Figure Page

18. Location of Powell's Town . . ... .208

19. Excavation plan of Wild Hog Scrub . .. 214

20. Selected prehistoric artifacts from
Wild Hog Scrub . . . . ... .218

21. The suggested square at Powell's Town . 220

22. Seminole artifacts from Powell's Town . 222


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Brent Richards Weisman

May 1987

Chairman: Jerald T. Milanich
Major Department: Anthropology

The contemporary Seminole Indians of Florida are a

visible and important minority of the state's population.

Various observers have commented that Seminole culture is

conservative yet flexible in nature. There are

anthropological and historical grounds for this

observation; the history of the Florida Seminole is the net

cultural product of the complex interaction between

antecedent cultural patterns set in the late prehistoric


Southeast and the historical circumstances of the colonial

Southeastern frontier. Seminole culture history can be

developed through archaeological, ethnohistoric, and

ethnographic means. Previous syntheses of Seminole culture

history have stressed the importance of ecological factors

in shaping the Seminole culture of the ethnographic

present, while indigenous cultural and historical processes

have been given relatively little attention.

Several elements can be isolated that have influenced

the development of Seminole culture. First, the Seminole

were heirs to a system of male prestige reckoning and world

view rooted in the warrior cults of the late prehistoric

Southeast. An emphasis was placed on individual

achievement, which in the historic period was expressed

through the Seminole's quest for enterprise with colonial

traders. Second, the circumstances of the Second Seminole

War (1835-1842) promoted renewed emphases on clan bonding,

ethnic boundaries, and aspects of traditional belief

systems that are still present among the modern Seminole.

Three culture periods are proposed for Seminole

history in the study area, based on the presence of the

features described above. The Ancestral Creek Pattern is

defined and described as the prototype for Seminole

culture of the colonization period (1715-1767). The

period of enterprise (1767-1821) is characterized by a


decentralization of Seminole society, as individuals engage

in commercial opportunities presented them by the British

and Spanish. Finally, during the period of revitalization

(1821-1841) clan and tribal identities are again stressed

and native ceremony and ritual gain in importance in the

face of American attempts to remove the Seminole from

Florida. Seminole concepts of selfhood are held to be an

important factor in their cultural evolution and are

discussed with reference to the annual busk ceremony.



I will begin this narrative by presenting an excerpt

from an article by Barbara Billie, entitled "Miccosukee

Swearing In Ceremonies Held," that appeared in the Seminole

Tribune of December 30, 1985 (Vol. 11, no. 14):

To honor Mr. Billie [the inductee] in a traditional
ceremony of gift presentation and wishing, Seminole
Chief, James E. Billie, dressed in traditional dress of
the long shirt, leggings and turban, poled his dugout
from deep in the Everglades to the Miccosukee Reservation
where, before hundreds of tribal members, employees,
dignitaries and honored guests [were gathered]. Media
from all over the state were on hand to cover the
historical event. Chairman Jim Billie presented the
newly elected Chief with three gifts to demonstrate
"power." The first of the three gifts represents "power"
as used in the "power of the pen." With that, he
presented Chief Billie with a pen. The second gift was
presented in the Miccosukee language. Chairman Billie
chose not to translate to the public, but reported to the
Seminole Tribune that it is the "green power that makes
the world go 'round."

The third and most powerful in the eyes of the head
medicineman, Sonny Billie [the inductee], was a panther
hide. Chief [James] Billie explained that the panther
has powerful medicine in the claws and tail, and is used
for medicine at the Miccosukee-Seminole Green Corn
Dance--the two yearly week-long tribal religious
ceremonies held in Miccosukee.

The two chiefs pledged friendship and unity between the
two tribes.

The drama of the above scene was no doubt enhanced by

James Billie's immediate return back to the swamps via a


And so we are introduced to the enigma that is the

Florida Seminole, the subject of curious ethnographic

comment for over one hundred years. For while qualified

ethnographic accounts of the Seminole are not numerous, in

fact numbering less than half a dozen over the span of this

last century, most accounts in one way or another echo the

same conclusions about the last of the Florida Indians: that

they are among the least acculturated of extant North

American Indian groups, yet they have demonstrated a

propensity for selective, directed culture change, and that

the Seminole ethos has steadfastly revolved around the

dictum that "everyone should be left alone to do what he

wants. Neighbor should not interfere with neighbor, and no

one should tell anyone else what to do" (Garbarino


To further illustrate this latter point pertaining to

the value of individual autonomy in Seminole culture, we

can consider the following oral testimony collected from

the Seminole by Tom King (1978:18):

One man of the Bear Clan and the other man of the Snake
Clan were the first men to get interested in the white
man's ways. They joined the soldiers and they were
learning how to speak English, but the Indians didn't
mind. Everybody nad a right to do what they pleased to
do, so they didn't care. They were just doing what they
wanted to do.

It is my intent in this study to explore the structure

of the Seminole past with an eye on the present, that is,

to produce a partial culture history of the Florida

Seminole wherein those configurations of culture and

individual identity by which the Seminole are known in

recent times are accounted for in historical and

anthropological terms. Most of my interpretations are

based on archaeologically-derived data. Needless to say,

it is an immense and in some cases nigh incredible leap

from the meager material remains to meaningful processual

interpretation. Because it is not my purpose to require of

my readers a leap of faith in accepting the presented

conclusions about the shape and scope of Seminole culture

history, this study is also heavily augmented by

ethnohistorical sources and historical records. This work

is one of historical anthropology or anthropological

history, depending on the reader's preference.

In Chapter II I will begin to discuss the major

historical trends that have been of lasting consequence in

the development of Seminole culture, beginning in the

centuries of the late prehistoric Southeast. The Seminole

are here described as the heirs of an historical trajectory

of societal centripality that was rending apart

hierarchically structured aboriginal chiefdoms well before

the time of initial European contact (mid sixteenth

century). The immediate cultural outcome of the demise of

the elite, or chiefly, sector, and the rise of the

"commoners" was what I term here the "Ancestral Creek

Pattern." This term will be used to pertain to the

historically and archaeologically identifiable

configuration of sociopolitical organization, ideology, and

economic relations associated with the coalescence of

historic Creek Indian groups in the Georgia-Alabama

region in the mid to late sixteenth century. The Ancestral

Creek Pattern provided the foundation stock from which the

dominant attributes of Seminole culture were selected and

nourished. My view of Seminole cultural evolution is

somewhat distinct from the works of other scholars in that

I give considerable weight to the role of internal process

as a precedent for culture change. By internal process I

mean that historical configurations of culture, the

"remembered reality," become for contemporary cultures the

template from which strategies and adaptations to present

needs are shaped, and are as influential in the formation

of what we identify as a "culture" as are technological and

environmental factors. In short, this position is close to

that held by the "historical materialists," for example,

Marquardt (198,:68), who writes that "humans are unlike

other animals in that they alone, of all life forms,

project culture, in the form of conventional


understandings, onto the physical surroundings, and then

act on and interact with this cognized environment".

This thesis will be amplified in Chapter III, where

the colonial Seminole are described as both preserving and

transforming the Ancestral Creek Pattern in their

settlement of the Florida peninsula. During this

pioneering era of its history, Seminole culture was

decidedly Creek in flavor, and some degree of political

allegiance was maintained between these Florida bands and

the Creek Confederacy to the north.

In Chapter IV, covering the period from 1767-1821,

the development of the qualities of selective acculturation

and the emphasis on the freedom of the individual, those

features with which the Seminole are today identified are

discussed in the context of Anglo-American mercantilist

policy and practice. During this period of enterprise the

radiation of Seminole bands throughout the peninsula was

nearly complete, and through various circumstances their

independence from Creek hegemony was effected.

Chapter V, concerned with the years 1821-1841, will

be a discussion of the growth of a nativistic element among

the Seminole at the hands of conservative individuals, who

when faced with the threat and application of American

military force to effect their removal, chose in their

resistance to reaffirm selected aspects of the Ancestral

Creek Pattern. This is why vestiges of ancient beliefs

and practices are alive today among the Florida Seminole.

The Second Seminole War--the conflict that shaped

both the nature of Florida Indian society and Indian -

white relations for years to come--also had the

consequence of stripping away what had remained of the

traditional structure of native sociopolitical

organization. During the war years the maximal unit of

social interaction became the matrilineal clan camp,

described by an ethnographer some fifty years later as

follows (MacCauley 1887:507): "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 [clan]." This is the same form of

social organization noted for the Seminole by ethnographers

of this century (Spoehr 1941; Garbarino 1972). In Chapter

V, archaeological data will be presented from my

excavations of Seminole sites in the region of the

Withlacoochee River to support a reconstruction of a

nativistic, matriclan-based society during this time.

Chapter VI will present a case study in native

leadership during the Second Seminole War by focusing on

the archaeology of "Powell's Town," the village where the

legendary Osceola resided during his reign as war leader of

the Seminole during the early years of the war.

Archaeological and ethnohistoric data will be combined to

yield a picture of Osceola's leadership based on charisma,

tradition, and pragmatism.

Chapter VII will be an exploration of the Seminole

world view, as it is knowable through the ethnohistory of

the Seminole ballgame and its associated myth and ritual.

The intended role of the individual in Seminole society is

presented in dramatic, symbolic form, through the play of

the game, which is, in fact, a model of the Seminole

cosmos. Again it will be argued that notions about the

individual and his role in society have had structural

consequence for the nature of Seminole culture history.

Chapter VIII will conclude the study and suggest some

future directions for the role of archaeology in Seminole

studies. The contribution that archaeology may or may not

make to the current issue of tribalism among the Florida

Indians will be a point considered, as will be concerns

with the emerging anthropological study of Florida's

Seminole blacks.

First however, we must examine what is currently known

of Seminole history and archaeology, and the nature of that


Approaches to the Seminole Past

Current views on the Seminole past have been shaped by

a combination of political motivations, scholarly

attitudes, and no small measure of personal opinion.

Political factors have been, and will continue to be,

perhaps the most influential factor in determining how

Seminole history is researched, and the nature of

interpretations derived from such work. In fact, the

definitive descriptive study of early Seminole ethnohistory

was spawned as the result of a petition filed in 1950 by

certain Seminole individuals against the United States,

under terms provided in the Indian Claims Commission Act.

The Seminole (although not legally recognized as an

incorporated tribe until 1957) sought financial

compensation for their lost Florida lands, based on the

principle of aboriginal possession. They held that their

ancestors had resided in Florida from "time immemorial" and

that tribal lands had been lost under duress, either

through war or fraudulent treaty. The Seminole plaintiffs

claimed that their title to the Florida lands had been

recognized by Spain in the treaty terms of her cession of

Florida to the Americans in 1819, and that through a series

of treaties with the United States, dated September 18,

1823, May 9, 1832, and March 28, 1833 they were dispossessed

of their holdings through at best quasi-legal maneuverings.

The claims made in the suit suggested three avenues of

ethnohistorical research. First, some determination needed

to be made with respect to the Spanish concept of

aboriginal land tenure and their intent with the Americans

regarding Indian rights. Second, the case for Seminole

antiquity in Florida required examination. Finally,

the claim that the Seminole were an organized tribe at the

time of the American acquisition of Florida needed scrutiny

from a culture history standpoint.

Early in 1957 the Indian Claims Section of the United

States Department of Justice entered into a contract with

Charles H. Fairbanks, then an anthropologist at Florida

State University, for the purpose of producing an

ethnohistorical document pertinent to the Florida Seminole

claims. The Fairbanks report, sent to the Department of

Justice in November, 1957 (now available as a stencil

reproduction of Dockets 73, 151, Indian Claims Commission,

or as a book entitled Florida Indians, published in 1974

by Garland Publishing, Inc.) complied with the goals of the

contract at relatively little expense.

Fairbanks traced the origins of what he dubbed the

"proto-Seminole" to the migrations of Oconee Creeks to the

Alachua Savannah (Paynes Prairie) as early as 1738, and of

other bands slightly earlier in the vicinity of Florida's

panhandle. Creek origins and cultural antecedents were

clearly implicated in both cases. Raids conducted by these

groups and others throughout the Florida peninsula

completed the death knell for the native Florida Indians,

already seriously weakened from two centuries of

debilitating culture change resulting from the introduction

of European diseases and lifeways changes associated with

the establishment of the Florida missions. By 1800, in

Fairbanks' view (1974:331), the Florida Seminole were

functioning as an autonomous tribal unit, partly because

their prosperous relations with the British overlords of

Florida made their interaction with the Creek polity to the

north redundant.

The net result of the Fairbanks report was to

highlight the complexity of Seminole ethnohistory and the

extent of the cultural plurality that was to coalesce

eventually into a Seminole polity: thirty or more bands or

towns, two mutually unintelligible languages (Mikasuki and

Muskogee), and unrelated migrations spanning a century or

more. The Indian Claims Commission found for the Seminole,

despite their initial impulse to dismiss the case on the

grounds that the plaintiffs were not representative or

legitimate tribal spokesmen. The reasoning behind the

decision of the Commission is complex, and in addition to

the written report submitted by Fairbanks, it undoubtedly

found itself influenced by the oral testimony provided by

University of Florida anthropologist John M. Goggin,

presenting on the Indians' behalf in 1961 (filed under

Goggin, John M., 1963, "Before the Indian Claims

Commission," P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History,

Gainesville). Goggin's reading of Spanish law suggested

that settled, agrarian-based Indians were accorded land

tenure rights on parity with all other Spanish

subjects, that is, rights to their farms and villages,

while hunting territories could not be claimed (Goggin

1963:5,24). In the Commission's view, Spain had recognized

at least limited Indian rights to Florida lands, while

making no apparent mention of a Seminole "tribe" or

political body. Indeed, it was probably their intent to

have individual Indians or families receive land title or

financial compensation, depending on the circumstance. The

Commission certainly realized that the precise genealogical

work necessary in order to establish links between the

Seminole plaintiffs and the historic Seminole was not, and

never would be feasible. Fairbanks' study had established

that a semblance of a Seminole polity had been in existence

for some twenty years before the Spanish cession of

Florida, and so, in the reasoning of the Commission, some

compensation should be made to the Seminole Tribe of today.

While the path the Indian Claims Commission followed to its

eventual decision was circuitous at best and must have

followed the logic of political expediency at the expense

of historical reasoning, the outcome was not without

additional irony. The $16 million award has not of

this writing been forthcoming to the Indians, because the

claim was to be divided between the Florida and Oklahoma

Seminoles (the latter being the descendants of the Florida

Seminole deported West in the 1830s) with no agreement

reached as to the actual disbursement of funds. Goggin

foresaw this eventuality as early as 1957 (see his letter

to Paul Niebell, March 25, 1957, in the Fairbanks

collection in the Ford Library at the Florida State


Although Fairbanks was not the first to conduct

ethnohistorical research on the Seminole in recent decades

(we will take up the works of Capron, 1953, and Sturtevant,

1954 in greater detail in Chapter VII) it is a fair

assessment that the Indian Claims Commission report

heralded the modern era of historical scholarship, and

combined inexorably the aims and goals of anthropology with

those of a more political nature. In later years Fairbanks

was able to complement his ethnohistorical study with an

increasing body of information derived from archaeology,

and was able to synthesize all available data into an

outline of Florida Seminole culture history in which five

phases or periods were described (Fairbanks 1978). It is

in this work, and in a briefer version that appeared as

Chapter Ten in Florida Archaeology (Milanich and Fairbanks

1980) that Fairbanks' anthropological attitudes with regard

to the Seminole were to achieve their greatest clarity. He

framed these works within the bounds of anthropological

theory prevailing at the time, and wrote of the Seminole as

a case study in culture change, with cultural change to new

and diverse natural environments as the central issue.

Secondary emphasis was placed on the roles of changing

socioeconomic factors, ideology, and differential

acculturation in terms of drive mechanisms for the process

of Seminole culture change through its five stages.

The migrant Seminole of Fairbanks' colonization phase

(1716-1763) (Fairbanks 1978:169) occupied a position of

isolation with respect to the social frontiers of both the

Indians of the Creek Confederacy and the European colonial

powers just then vying for control over the human and

natural resources of the Southeast. The Florida Indians

ceased to build the squareground towns to which they had

been accustomed in Creek country because, in Fairbanks'

view, their political needs were slight and the council

function of these centers was not necessary. Trade

relations with the Spanish colonial government quartered in

St. Augustine lagged behind the efficient, serious

mercantilism of the British frontier to the north;

consequently, early Seminole sites in Florida do not display

comparable quantities of trade goods to contemporaneous

Creek sites in Georgia and Alabama. With the demise of the

centralized, and socially unifying, squareground, Seminole

settlements became dispersed and somewhat transitory. This

tendency was exacerbated by the demands of a new way of

life adopted by the colonial Seminole of the Alachua

Savannah--the herding of the free-ranging cattle descended

from Spanish stock of the earlier ranchero days.

The manufacture of "Chattahoochee Brushed" fired clay

pottery (Goggin 1958) remained as a strong link connecting

the colonial Seminole (also termed the "proto-Seminole")

with the Creek tradition, presumably because this was

women's work less affected by the acculturative influences

of the colonial deerskin trade. This view was one

statement of several by Fairbanks with regard to female

conservatism in the aboriginal Southeast (see for example

Fairbanks 1962:51).

Because social pressure from neighboring groups was

distant and seldom, the most important catalyst for

Seminole culture change was in their adaptation to the

peninsular wetlands of Florida so different from what their

Creek experience in the Appalachian piedmont had prepared

them for. In Fairbanks' view, the colonial Seminole could

no longer be Creeks, almost by definition, as they adopted

new strategies for survival in their new land.

The subsequent Separation Phase (1763-1790)

(Fairbanks 1978:171) saw the Florida Indians increasingly

identified as "Seminole" (or various spellings thereof) in

the colonial documents, and corresponded with their

estrangement from the central powers of the Creek

Confederacy. Evidently political centralization was not

revived by the Seminole at this time because the

traditional Creek style squaregrounds still were not

constructed. To Fairbanks, the absence of the squareground

signalled as well the decline and simplification of core

features of Seminole society, politics, and religion. By

1790 Creek spokesmen could no longer represent the Florida

bands in negotiations with the colonists, a situation that

even the powerful Alexander McGillivray could not rectify.

As the Seminole anchored themselves within the tide of

British-established trade networks, the supply of trade

goods increased with the exchange of skins and hides, and

hence the increased visibility of Seminole sites dating to

this period and littered with European-derived items.

Women's roles remained relatively static, according to

Fairbanks, as pottery continued to be produced in the

brushed jar and bowl forms so prevalent among the Creeks.

Social change as the result-of external pressures is

again the the theme cf the next phase, termed by Fairbanks

" Resistance and Removal" and lasting from 1790-1840

(Fairbanks 1978:178). The major historical events of this

period are the retrocession of Florida from British control

back to Spain in 1783, the cession of the territory to the

United States in 1819, and the outbreak of the Second

Seminole War in 1835. The net cultural consequences of

these events for the Florida Indians were that their former

prosperity was somewhat diminished, the legal footing

accorded them by the European colonists became eroded in

the eyes of the Americans, and the experience of the war

years saw their number decreased by some tenfold.

On the face of it, the facts of history tend to

support the view that the combined consequences of these

events for the development of Seminole culture could only

be negative. The Resistance and Removal phase was a time

of open conflict with a more powerful government; trade

networks ceased to exist and the embittered Seminole became

increasingly isolated in their "diffuse groups of farm

homesteads" (Fairbanks 1978:184). Archaeological sites

again shrink to near invisibility, and native religion and

politics were in utmost decline (Fairbanks 1978:182).

Cultural hardships were also experienced in terms of the

ecological constraints forced upon the Seminole as they

sought out the most remote, and virtually uninhabitable,

Florida lands where they could live without interference

from the Americans (Fairbanks 1978:185; Milanich and

Fairbanks 1980:259).

The Withdrawal Phase (1840-1880) saw the emergence of

a new cultural identity for the Florida Seminole, forged

from their cultural adaptations to the subtropical swamps

and wetlands of south Florida. The familiar pole and

thatch chickee emerges as the primary form of residential

construction, the matrilocal clan camp as the residential

locus, and sturdy isolationism as the prevailing ethos

(Fairbanks 1978:187,188). These traits become crystallized

in the last Fairbanks phase, which concludes with the

reservation Seminole of the present.

The works of Charles Fairbanks between the years 1957

and 1980 formed the basis for conventional understandings

of Florida Seminole ethnohistory, for several reasons. He

accepted the Indian Claims work (others had declined) and

from it produced the definitive study of Seminole

ethnohistory inclusive to the year 1823. Fairbanks

maintained strong and lengthy academic positions in

Florida, and was able to interest and direct several

students in the historical archaeology of Florida's

Indians. John Goggin was perhaps more influential in his

lifetime, but his untimely and early death in 1963 left

much of his research in note and manuscript form. Finally,

Fairbanks' culture ecology approach to Seminole

ethnohistory found ready acceptance in the anthropological

mainstream of the 1970s, and has recently enjoyed a minor

revival at the hands of several of his former students (see

for example the work of Dickinson and Wayne 1985).

Fairbanks is remembered today as an outstanding

historical archaeologist, thus it is a curious irony that

his work with Seminole ethnohistory is essentially

ahistorical in perspective. The historical events of the

colonial period are accounted for in great detail, but in

the main the culture history of the Florida Seminole is

reconstructed relatively shorn of its aboriginal

Southeastern roots, as a curious addendum to Southeastern

ethnohistorical studies rather than as the culmination of

the net interaction between indigenous cultural traditions

and the vagaries of historical circumstance. Ultimately,

this perspective would contribute to the crippling lack of

problem orientation in Seminole studies, because the

trajectory of their cultural development was seen to make

sense in the context of Florida while perhaps being

anomalous in the larger case of the Southeast. The

Fairbanks taxonomy of Seminole ethnohistory rested heavily

upon the documentary verification of political events, and

essentially this was the scope of his initial Indian Claims

work. The picture to emerge of the Florida Seminole was

that of a culture disintegrating under the combined weight

of its participation in a non-Indian directed economy and

the inability to control its own destiny. The Seminole had

no history other than that attested to in the colonial

documents simply because there was no other history that

required writing.

A complementary view of Seminole ethnohistory, and one

fuller from a culture history standpoint, is the

perspective provided by the work of William C. Sturtevant.

In a piece appropriately entitled "Creek Into Seminole"

(Sturtevant 1971), he takes the long view of Seminole

culture, embedding it firmly within the Creek tradition and

the aboriginal Southeastern culture pattern. Sturtevant

suggests that the Creek settlement pattern of outlying

homesteads unified via a centralized squareground (known as

talwa) for civic and ceremonial purposes persisted among

the Florida Seminole through the 1820s, in contrast to the

opinion of Fairbanks discussed previously. As the talwas

eventually disintegrated under the pressures of increased

American aggression, Sturtevant suggests that a new form of

social organization, the busk group, emerged; each one

centered on a sacred medicine bundle and the individual

who was entrusted with its fortunes and well-being. Thus,

the central importance of religion and spirituality in the

Southeastern Indian cosmos was kept alive.

Sturtevant places less emphasis on the socioeconomic

effects of cattle herding on the Seminole than does

Fairbanks, and instead recognized that the economic and

political conditions the Seminole found themselves in in

Florida--the skin trade and receiving diplomatic gifts

from the Spanish and British--had precedent in events that

they had experienced in their Creek homeland. In

Sturtevant's view, the major break by the Seminole with

Creek tradition occurs about the time of the First Seminole

War, when Spanish Florida was invaded by the Americans.

After 1818, that which had been Creek now became Seminole,

and in the face of a second, and then third, military

conflict with the United States, a fully Seminole pattern

of dispersed family homesteads and busk group ceremonialism

was to develop.

A third approach to the Seminole past is presented in

the work of Craig and Peebles (1974) entitled

"Ethnoecologic Change Among the Seminoles, 1740-1840."

The authors define Seminole culture in ecological terms,

asserting that the marked characteristic of the Seminole

is their "remarkable ability to accomplish a swift

succession of successful ethnoecologic changes" (Craig and

Peebles 1974:83) as they distributed themselves across the

Florida landscape. Their use of the word "ethnoecologic"

suggests that in their interpretation ethnic definition and

ecological adaptation are inseparable and perhaps mutually

defining. Their reading of the ethnohistorical record as

combined with the then scanty archaeological data (most

notably the Oven Hill site, see Gluckman and Peebles 1974)

suggested to the authors that Seminole culture had

proceeded through four distinct ethnoecological shifts in

the first one hundred years of its history. All four

shifts were, presumably, away from "Creek-ness" and towards


The first shift occurred as the Seminole integrated the

limited raising of stock--cattle, hogs, and horses--with

the mixed farming and hunting economy typical of the

Creeks. Through time the reliance upon stock became

greater as the Seminole participated in the barter and cash

economy afforded by the European desire for skins.

With the looming American presence on the Southeastern

frontier the skin trade declined, and the Seminole took to

a gardening subsistence, growing crops in small family

plots. This was the second shift, and, after 1818, this

way of life was supplemented by a new emphasis on hunting,

foraging, and collecting of coastal shellfish and other

previously unfamiliar food resources. Settlements of this

period, between the years 1818 and 1850, were temporary and

shifting in nature; religion, politics and social

organization were dimunitive. The fourth shift was the

adaptation of the Seminole to the subtropics of south

Florida, where they were to assume the reclusive lifestyle

with which they have been associated in recent times.

The Craig and Peebles approach to Seminole culture

history can perhaps be called a "duress" model of culture

change. The central question of their study is "why were

these Indians able to change their ethnoecology so often

when other tribes failed" (Craig and Peebles 1974:91)? The

answer: they were simply forced to do so upon threat of

cultural extinction. Secondly, the authors credit the

numbers of runaway blacks then living in Florida with

literally saving the lives of the Indians (a view shared by

an early chronicler of the Florida Indian wars, see

Woodburne Potter 1836:45) because they were willing to

share with the Seminole their skills and knowledge of how

to survive in the swampy wilderness. Indeed, a peculiar

kind of vassalage did develop between Indian and negro, and

this was to become a major factor in the outbreak of the

Second Seminole War. However, as we will see in the

following chapters, the Seminole were themselves uniquely

preadapted to Florida living by the full repertoire of the

Creek experience.

The impression gained of Seminole culture from reading

Craig and Peebles is one of a society steadfast in its

ability to survive, yet virtually devoid of social

complexity. It is a culture defined primarily by its

aptitude in adapting to new and varied environments; it is

a culture marked by flexibility. For this reason the

authors are puzzled by the conservative nature of the

contemporary Seminole personality (Craig and Peebles

1974:88). As we will discuss, whatever uniqueness Seminole

culture may have lies not in its ability to change, or in

its ability to stay the same, but in how the combination,

synthesis, and expression of these two processes has

structured the nature of the Seminole past.

Table 1 provides a summary comparison of chronology

and culture history as interpreted by the different authors

discussed in this chapter. In general, it is agreed that

the early proto-Seminole were essentially Creek migrants

into Florida beginning shortly after 1715. The early moves

were in response either to perceived economic benefit or in

retreat from a hostile and unpredictable frontier.

Proponents of the culture ecology model of Seminole history

(Fairbanks, Craig and Peebles) suggest that the early

Seminole quickly divested themselves of traditional Creek

institutions and lifeways in response to new environmental

challenges. Maximum Seminole acculturation occurred during

the British period in Florida (1763-1783) (Craig and

Peebles 1974:86), and building on this era of prosperity

and good feeling the Seminole possessed something of a

unified polity by or around the year 1800 (Fairbanks

1974:331). All authors are in agreement that the decades

after 1814 were characterized by cultural upheaval,

friction, and resistance, as the interests of the Seminole

and those of the new American proprietors of the Florida

territory came into conflict. This was a period of

cultural disintegration and the decline of native social

institutions. The few Seminole able to survive the wars

and avoid deportation developed a subtropical adaptation in

the remote wetlands of south Florida; here the chickee, the

clan camp, and the hammock garden came to characterize the

reclusive bands of Indian refugees. The foundations of

modern Seminole culture were complete.

A Note on Geography

Archaeological data included in this study will be

derived from sites found within an area bound on the west

by the drainage of the Suwannee River, on the east by the

St. Johns River, on the south by a line extending from

Tampa Bay east to the St. Johns (approximately 28 degrees

north latitude), and on the north by a line east--west

across the peninsula at approximately 30 degrees north

latitude. For the purposes of this study, this area

comprises the north half portion of north peninsula of

Florida (Figure 1). Consequently, the area of the Florida

panhandle and the regions of south Florida including the

Big Cypress and Everglades swamps will not be discussed

from an archaeological perspective in any detail.

Seminole archaeology in the panhandle is sufficiently

unknown and in south Florida sufficiently complicated to

Table 1. A comparison of Seminole culture histories.

Year Fairbanks Craig/Peebles Sturtevant BRW

























hamlet farming









Sources: Fairbanks (1978); Craig and Peebles (1974); Sturtevant

merit separate studies of both areas. A series of reports

are published by the Southeast Archaeological Center

(National Park Service) (see for example Ehrenhard, Taylor,

and Komara 1980) that pertain to Seminole archaeology in

the Big Cypress National Preserve, and it is hoped that

eventually these studies will serve as the basis for

processual studies of Seminole culture history from 1840

until the present time.

The study bounds are selectively arbitrary, and

perhaps best reflect the area in which most Seminole

archaeology has been conducted. Fortunately, previously

known sites and locations excavated in the course of my own

fieldwork together form a chronological continuum from

which inferences can be drawn with respect to the

development of Seminole culture history between the years

1740 and 1840. In this sense, the geographical bounds are

also of cultural significance.

Previous prehistoric archaeology in the north

peninsula has been neatly summarized by Milanich and

Fairbanks (1980:24-26,28-33), who have divided the region

into four prehistoric culture areas. The last aboriginal

occupation in all areas but the central peninsula Gulf

coast is that of the historic Seminole, whose migrations

into the region are reflected in an archaeological

discontinuity with the earlier remains. Important

North Peninsular Florida



* Ft. King

well's Town

* Archaeological Site
a Modern Municipality

" Weeki Wachee

* Nicholson


Figure 1. Location of the study area.


historical and cultural developments in the north peninsula

are summarized in Table 2.

Two of the three major rivers in the province--the

Withlacoochee and the Suwannee--empty into the Gulf of

Mexico, and thus they formed major river routes for the

establishment of important Seminole commerce with Spanish

Cuba. The St. Johns River provided an important locus for

early Seminole trading activities in the peninsula because

it served as the major highway to the interior for British

colonial entrepreneurs; Denys Rolle, James Spalding, and


Much has been made by Fairbanks and others of the

cultural effects on the Creek migrants of the geographical

differences between the well-drained fertile uplands of

Georgia and Alabama and the sandy lowlands of Florida.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the first proto-Seminole

settled the fingers of uplands that do occur in the north

peninsula. South of the Alachua area, the first

settlements were located on what is known as the

Brooksville Ridge, a narrow spine of highland trending

north-northwest from present-day Brooksville (Hernando

County) to the Withlacoochee gap at Dunnellon (Marion

County). Settlements in the Alachua area probably occurred

in the oak-hickory forest uplands (Atlas of Florida

1981:66) extending from the vicinity of present-day

Table 2. Important historical events in north peninsular
Florida through 1765.

1765 Treaty of Picolata, Indians cede territory east
of the St. Johns River to the British.

1740 Cowkeeper assists Ogelthorpe in attack on Spanish
St. Augustine. Beginnings of Alachua Seminole.

1710 Creeks use peninsula for slave raiding and as
hunting ground.

1702 English and Creek raids destroy Florida missions.

1690 Florida missions in decline.

1656 Timucuan rebellion against Spanish missions.

1607- Proliferation of Spanish (Franciscan) missions,
1655 dramatic change in aboriginal lifeways.

1565 Pedro Menedez de Aviles explores the St. Johns
River south to Lake George.

1564 Intertribal warfare among Timucua aided by
Frenchman Laudonniere.

1539 Soto entrada travels overland through heart of
peninsula. Decline of aboriginal populations.

1528 Landing of Panfilo de Narvaez, Tampa Bay.

1000- The development of aboriginal Timucuan chiefdoms.
1528 Alachua Tradition and Safety Harbor
archaeological cultures.

Gainesville to the area of the Santa Fe River. In Chapters

II and III we will examine how Indians living in these

areas were able to preserve their Creek lifeways virtually


In the Alachua Savanna area (known today as Payne's

Prairie) known Seminole sites are shallow, single component

sites in the vicinity of prehistoric Alachua Tradition or

Potano Indian settlements; south of the Withlacoochee

towards Tampa Bay their locations are often near sites

attributed to the late prehistoric Safety Harbor culture

(see Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:23 for prehistoric culture

periods). Seminole sites do not often occur as the upper

components in prehistoric shell or refuse middens

(exceptions will be described), which in the main reflects

the difference in cultural emphasis between the prehistoric

Floridians and the historic Seminole. Seminole sites can

also be distinguished from those of the later American

pioneers because the Seminole did not abandon the

manufacture and use of fired clay pottery until their

ultimate move into the south Florida glades, and sherds of

this brushed pottery will often be found on Seminole sites.

Seminole sites are subject to the same destructive

agents--vandalism, construction, farming--as are all

archaeological sites in Florida. However, because they are

often of low density in archaeological terms, and occur on

or just below the surface, little effort is required to

remove them permanently from the archaeological record.

Hence, the total sample of Seminole archaeological sites is

small, and will likely only increase through the use of the

direct historical approach in areas that have seen little

development. Unfortunately, the time, labor, and money

needed to locate Seminole sites in this manner have perhaps

prohibited greater attention from being paid them.

Consequently, Seminole archaeology in Florida is still in

its infancy. The Seminole themselves have not at present

perceived it to be a priority to investigate their past via

archaeological means, although this may change as tribal

affluence and cultural awareness increase through the

next several decades. Scholars of Seminole studies should

be aware that their research may hold important

implications for future land claims disputes, for issues of

tribal identity, and for how Indian youth in the future may

be educated about their past.

In Chapter II we will begin our consideration of

Seminole culture history by examining the Southeastern

Indian tradition from which it developed.


In large measure the foundations of contemporary

Seminole culture lie in the sum of a combination of

historical forces in the aboriginal Southeast; a cultural

legacy inherited from the Creeks of Georgia and Alabama and

a trajectory of historical process with roots deeper in the

events of the prehistoric Southeast. This chapter will be

a study in both form and process; form in the sense that

traits and beliefs were configured and reconfigured by the

Creeks and then the Seminole into a recognizable whole (or

what is called "culture") and process meaning the flow of

events from which cultural configurations are constructed.

We will see in this chapter that there can be no

anthropology of the Seminole without history, and no

history without anthropology.

Our first consideration will be with processual

concerns, in determining the nature of culture change in

the aboriginal Southeast before the coming of the

Europeans, before the formation of the Creek Confederacy,

back into the developments of the late prehistoric era

known as the "Mississippian."

The Mississippian period in Southeastern archaeology

has been defined in a number of ways; in adaptational terms

wherein Mississippian societies are those practicing flood

plain agriculture adapted to fall line ecotones (B. Smith

1978:481); in more social terms as those societies affluent

enough to require high standards of living (Brain

1978:364), or from a religious perspective in which

Mississippian societies are those that share a core set of

beliefs about the earth, as expressed in the periodic

rebuilding of large, earthen platform mounds (Knight 1981).

Most investigators concur that the temporal bounds of the

Mississippian period are the years A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1600,

that Mississippian life was supported by maize agriculture,

and that societies were organized into chiefdoms (Brown


Regional chiefs presumably resided in civic-ceremonial

centers, organized around a complex of mound and plaza

construction, and here they reaped tribute in the form of

agricultural products from subsidiary chiefs residing in

smaller centers and from families living in small,

scattered farming hamlets. It is the chiefs, or "elites"

that give the Mississippian period its unique flavor, in

the archaeological sense, because it was at their hands

that a rich and esoteric body of iconography was created,

its full sacred meaning carefully guarded and manipulated

by the special few.

The symbolic nexus of elite power centered on the

ancestor shrine (atop a platform mound) which included a

cult figure sculpted in wood or stone and "skull and bone"

motifs presented in a variety of media (Brown

1985:105,108). The ancestor shrine had dual religious and

political meaning because it was here that the chief would

periodically propitiate the spirits of the dead and revered

ancestors, and implore their favorable intercession into

the world of the living. The practice of ancestor worship

in its full form persisted in some areas until the coming

of the Europeans in the early sixteenth century (Garcilaso

de la Vega 1951:438).

In coexistence with the ancestor cult were the warrior

cults and a core of beliefs centered on the importance

of the earth and fertility (Brown 1985:103). These latter

cults were those of the common man. Earth and fertility

and the warrior cults were given expression in calendrical

"rites of intensification" (Chapple and Coon 1942:55) and

in these events, possibly the prototypes of what became

known in the historic period as busk ceremonialism,

serpent, panther, and for the warriors, falcon, symbolism

was used by the participants to express their connection

with the cosmos. These annual or semi-annual ceremonial

events were quite distinct from chiefly ritual, which

centered on the construction of platform mounds (Knight 1981).

The interests of the public and elite sectors in

Mississippian society were not entirely complementary, in

fact the masses were interested in a degree of independence

that was antithetical to the wishes of the elite (Brown

1985:129). Between the years A.D. 1300 and A.D. 1500

ancestor figures of clay, wood, or stone decrease in

frequency in the archaeological record, and after A.D. 1500

rattlesnake and piasa (a composite snake, bird, and panther

figure) images dominate Southeastern iconography (Brown

1985:102). Clearly the elite had loosed its grip upon the

masses, apparently several centuries before the effects of

European diseases would again rock the foundations of

aboriginal life in the Southeast. Indeed, in the long view

the kinds of chiefs that could command the authority to

construct, for example, the mounds at Etowah held sway for

a short period of time. In the broadest of thematic terms,

the direction of aboriginal leadership in the Southeast

appears to be quite in the opposite direction, that is,

away from permanent, inherited positions of centralized


The process of sociopolitical decentralization is

evident in the archaeological record, especially in local

sequences where good chronological controls are available.

One example is at the site of Tukabatchee on the Tallapoosa

River of central Alabama, where the Mississippian period

opens with a settlement attributable to the Shine phase and

containing a nucleated settlement with a single platform

mound (Knight 1985:53). In the succeeding Atasi phase

(A.D. 1600-1715) the area covered by the settlement

increased in size and the mound fell into disuse. In the

Tallapoosa phase (A.D. 1715-1836) domestic occupation

along the riverbank became increasingly dispersed, with

individual sites being separated by approximately 200 m.

During this phase it is likely in the investigator's view

(Knight 1985:118) that individual households were organized

around the courtyard plan noted by Bartram (in Swanton

1946:393) for the historic Creeks.

The social, political, and economic correlates of the

archaeologically determined settlement patterns are as

follows. During the Shine phase, society was hierarchical,

with priest-managers controlling a redistributive, agrarian

economy and skimming for themselves prestige goods (copper,

shell) that served as symbols of rank and exclusion (Knight

1985:173). In the Atasi phase, European goods enter the

domestic scene as an "economics of ostentation" takes hold,

with individuals striving to acquire prestige goods as they

themselves act as free agents in commerce in a world now

peopled with missionaries, merchants, and the colonial

military. Native political authority in the personage of

chiefs is on the wane, as their honored symbols of

exclusion become redundant in the face of a virtual flood

of exotica from European sources (Knight 1985:174-176,179).

The trend towards individual enterprise accelerated during

the Tallapoosa phase, with the coming of a mercantile

economy associated with the deerskin trade. At this time

we see the rise of a new type of native leader, the "medal

chief" (see the many examples portrayed in Fundaburke 1958)

whose ability to lead was based on proven skill in acting

as an "information broker" with the outside world (Knight


If we refer now to the dates for the Creek settlement

of the Florida peninsula (the middle decades of the 1700s)

it is evident that the first proto-Seminole were fully

imbued with an ethos of consumerism, with individuals

striving for symbols of status and prosperity via the

deerskin trade. Even before the advent of the deerskin

trade in the Southeast, the Mississippian warrior cults

also stressed individual achievement, in the taking of

scalps. A warrior who proved himself successful in this

endeavor could become upwardly mobile and eventually

achieve a position of esteem. Thus the Seminole were not

cultural strangers to the concept of reward for

achievement, which in their case became readily adapted to

their dealings with the Europeans. With respect to ti.e

commonly held view that the Seminole became dependent on

trade goods (for example, Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:257)

we must ask, dependent in what way? Southeastern Indian

tradition had already developed the behavioral prototype in

which it was deemed socially favorable to acquire foreign

exotica, and this is most certainly expressed in the'Creek

sequence. Hence the Seminole culture that took shape in

the peninsula of Florida assumed its commercial flavor not

strictly by European design or by an Indian "weakness" for

European baubles but as the historical consequence of

Indian-derived patterns of behavior.

I also suspect that the noted "cultural flexibility"

of the Florida Seminole (demonstrated for example in the

relationships with the Florida blacks) had an important

historical precedent in the formation of the so-called

Creek Confederacy in the last third of the seventeenth

century (M. Smith 1984:190).

The Creek Confederacy was an amalgam of formerly

disparate tribes, depopulated chiefdoms, and

entrepreneurial natives who together formed an united front

in the face of European slaving expeditions and imperialism

(M.Smith 1984:190,192,199). Although the degree to which

the Confederacy actually impacted the daily lives of the

Indians is debatable (Sturtevant 1971:96), its internal

success was dependant on a native-based model of

acculturation in which, for example, towns of different

linguistic affiliation (Muskogee, Hitchiti, Alabama,

Koasati) assumed a lingu franca (Muskogee) to facilitate

inter-tribal communication.

A curious historical example of what might be termed

"internal acculturation" comes, again, from Tukabatchee, a

Muskogee-speaking town of some importance in the

Confederacy. Here, shortly after 1675, a band of refugee

Shawnee Indians from the north were offered asylum by the

Tukabatchee Creek. They settled in the town and formed a

ceremonial alliance with its residents, sealed by gifts

from the Shawnee including calumet (peace) pipes, wampum

belts, and the famous Tukabatchee plates, pieces of sheet

copper interred at the site by prehistoric Indians and

perhaps excavated by the Shawnee during house construction

(Knight 1985:25,26). These gifts were invested with a

special meaning by the people of Tukabatchee and were

incorporated into their busk ceremonialism (Swanton

1928b:575, 1946:185; for related phenomenon see Nunez

1958:14). The Seminole were to act in similar fashion with

respect to other groups in the course of their history, as

will be discussed in Chapters III and V. Their ability to

do so, I suggest, was part of the behavioral baggage

carried by the Creeks on their migrations into Florida.

Tie Seminole as Southeastern Indians

It is clear that vestiges of Southeastern Indian

traditions and customs have survived with the Florida

Seminole. The Seminole of today speak two languages of

some antiquity in the Southeast; Muskogee or "Creek" spoken

on the Brighton Reservation northwest of Lake Okeechobee,

and Mikasuki, spoken on the Big Cypress, Hollywood, and

Tamiami Trail reservations (the latter a reservation of the

Miccosukee Tribe). Both languages belong to the Muskogean

language family, along with Choctaw-Chickasaw, Apalachee,

Alabama, and Koasati (Haas 1971:50). Muskogee remains the

lingua franca of the Florida groups, although English is

becoming increasingly important (Garbarino 1972:31).

Mikasuki speakers use words of Muskogee origin for personal

names and for their curing songs (Sturtevant 1971:113), and

most of the Indian place names in use in Florida are

Muskogee (with several notable survivals from the Timucuan

of the prehistoric Florida Indians, for example the present

day city of Ocala named after the aboriginal province of


The most interesting continuity between the Seminole

and the Southeastern aboriginal tradition is in the

practice of busk ceremonialism, or the so-called Green Corn

Dance of the Seminole (Capron 1953, Sturtevant 1954).

Green Corn ceremonialism, in the Creek area referred to as

the busk, from the Creek (Muskogee) posketa meaning "fast"

(Witthoft 1949:52), was a widespread cultural phenomenon

in the Eastern woodlands associated with agricultural

peoples. The Creek busk was an annual event, typically

lasting four (but sometimes two sets of four, or eight)

days, and was timed to celebrate the ripening of the young,

or "green" corn. The Scotch-Irish trader James Adair

furnished a substantial description of a Creek busk in the

1740s (Witthoft 1949:53; Adair 1986:105); from his

description and others scholars have suggested that similar

ceremonies took place in perhaps grander form in the

Mississippian period temple mound centers (Waring

1968:57,63). In its original form, chiefly,

earth/fertility, and warrior cults all would have played a

role. The kindling of the sacred fire during the busk may

have indeed been prefigured in certain aspects of

prehistoric mound ceremonialism, to judge from the buried

ash lenses at the Citico mound in Tennessee (Thomas

1894:374) and elsewhere.

The lighting of the sacred fire was perhaps the most

ritually charged of all busk events, and involved a great

deal of scrupulous preparation (Witthoft 1949:53,58).

Lighting the new fire and placing it in the hearth

symbolized the triumph of purity over pollution and a sense

of social solidarity. Members of a Creek talwa, or

community, were "people of one fire;" when a group

fissioned from the main, "their fire had been put out"

(Swanton 1928b:235,246).

In the Seminole busk the central position of the

sacred fire is preserved (Sturtevant 1954:47). The four

fuel logs are oriented in the four cardinal directions atop

a circular mantle of clean sand, replicating the well-known

circle and cross motif of the late prehistoric Southern

Cult complex, depicted at that time on shell, copper,

pottery, and cloth (Waring and Holder 1948:3,4,12; Brown

1985:143). The circle and cross motif is most often

interpreted as the cosmic, or world, symbol of the

Southeastern Indians, with the north, south, east, and west

of the cross each holding unique and often contrasting

values in the minds of the Indians (Hudson 1976:122).

Directional symbolism is of pan-hemispheric distribution in

the Americas, which undoubtedly attests to its great

antiquity. Among contemporary Seminole, this symbolism

finds expression as the "four corners of earth (Florida

Folklife Programs 1984).

Partaking of the "black drink" by the Florida Seminole

also indicates their connection to practices of great

antiquity in the Southeast. The use of the black drink

tea, brewed from several species of holly, or Ilex and

other herbs, may date back to the earliest of Southeastern

religious complexes, just after 100 B.C. (Milanich and

Fairbanks 1980:87,88). In the Green Corn ceremony of the

Seminole and elsewhere in the Southeastern busk, its emetic

properties promoted the desired state of purity for those

who drank it.

The black drink also had an important role in Indian

councils; here again it induced a clarity of mind and

fostered a sense of companionship with one's fellows (see

LeMoyne, in Lorant 1946:93, for a particularly graphic

example among the sixteenth century Florida Timucua). The

chief first received the brew, contained in a conch shell

drinking cup, and then it was passed among the men

according to rank. The naturalist William Bartram recorded

a similar use of the black drink among the Talahasochte

Seminole of the Suwannee River in 1774 (Bartram 1955:200):

Our chief [meaning the white trader in the town] with the
rest of the white people in town took their seats
according to order: tobacco and pipes were brought; the
calumet was lighted and smoked, circulating according to
the usual forms and ceremony; and afterwards black drink
conclude the feast. The king conversed, drank cassine
[black drink], and associated familiarly with his people
and with us.

Later accounts indicate the use of the black drink among

the Seminole through the mid 1800s (Young 1934:90; Rowles

1841), and by 1880 it was clearly associated with the

Seminole Green Corn Dance (MacCauley 1887:522). The south

Florida Seminole of recent times no longer used Ilex

species in their black drink, but the "big gathered

medicine" continued to play an important part in the

celebration of the annual busk (Sturtevant 1954:52).

The Mississippian period temple/mound complex, mentioned

previously, is clearly the archetype for the Creek

squareground town and the square constructed by the early

Seminole. The historic Creek and Seminole squaregrounds

contained four buildings or benched cabins grouped around

an open plaza; here the chief and his advisors would sit in

one cabin, warriors in another, visitors, women, etc., in

another, and conduct important community affairs. It is

quite reasonable to suppose that the four fold division of

the squareground evolved from the four partitions or rooms

of the Mississippian temple, as recorded by early European

chroniclers (Waring 1968:54-58).

The panther and snake figure prominently in the

symbolic pantheon of the Seminole, as we might expect with

the rise of earth/fertility cults and the demise of the

elite ancestor cults in late prehistoric times (Brown

1985:126-127). Beaded diamondback designs are prominent

among Seminole motifs ornamenting shoulder pouches (Goggin

1951:2-17) and garters (Piper and Piper 1982:223), while

the contemporary hunting dance is performed in a

configuration representing the movement of a snake. The

symbolic role of the panther among the Seminole has

recently been brought to attention with the 1983 arrest of

Tribal Chairman James Billie for killing an animal,

classified as an endangered species, on the Big Cypress

Reservation. In his defense, Billie cited the ritual and

curative properties ascribed by the Seminole to the

panther, including the use of the claws and tail to

alleviate muscle disease and increase strength and

endurance. Southeastern Indian tradition (Adair 1986:33)

and recent observations among the Seminole (Spoehr 1941:16)

suggest that the medicine men or spiritual leaders were

selected from the Panther clan, and it will be remembered

from page one of the present study that James Billie

presented a panther skin to newly elected Miccosukee Tribal

Chairman and esteemed medicine man Sonny Billie (the meat

was served to a visiting delegation of tribal chiefs at

James Billie's hunting camp in the Big Cypress). The

panther has also figured in Seminole cosmology as part of a

composite underwater monster, the Water-Cougar (Hudson

1976:146), strikingly reminiscent of a class of underwater

monsters described in historic Cherokee tradition and

depicted in Mississippian art.

On the level of individual behavior, a number of

parallels exist between the Seminole and their Southeastern

antecedents. Consider for example the similarities in the

headdress depicted by Bartram (Bartram 1955:184) and worn

by the Seminole "Long Warrior" in 1774 and the

archaeological reconstruction of a headdress excavated at

the late prehistoric site of Cemochechobee in southern

Alabama (Schnell, Knight and Schnell 1981:221) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Comparison of archaeological and historic
Seminole headresses. Top, after Schnell et al. 1981.
Bottom, after Bartram 1955.

The cacique, or chief, of the town of Tascaluca in 1540

when the de Soto expedition reached the site was described

as "full of dignity; he was tall of person, muscular, lean,

and symmetrical" (Gentleman of Elvas 1904:87), while the

White King of the Talahasochte Seminole in 1774 impressed

Bartram with his "lofty and majestic countenance," his

sense of dignity and magnanimity (Bartram 1955:200-201).

These individuals likely thought of themselves in

comparable terms, despite the change in the nature of

chieftancy in the aboriginal Southeast between the years

1540 and 1774.

What has been written above was not intended to

suggest that scholars of Southeastern studies have been

unaware of the relationship between the historic Seminole

and prehistoric aboriginal cultures in the Southeast. With

few notable exceptions, however (Sturtevant 1954, 1971),

culture change and continuity between the prehistoric and

historic eras of the Indian past have not been investigated

with respect to the Seminole. A direct historic approach

through which prehistoric beliefs and practices may become

illuminated by comparison with Seminole materials has not

been applied, nor do the Seminole receive much attention in

the literature other than as tropical curiosities. These

factors are both causes and reflections of the lack of

problem orientation in Seminole studies. For instance,

despite the current interest in the role of depopulation as

an agent of culture change in the postcontact Southeast,

the known depopulation of the Seminole between the years

1835-1855 has been overlooked as a source for modeling

depopulation events and their sociocultural implications.

Similarly, I know of no studies in which the cultural

adaptations of the Seminole to the subtropics of south

Florida and the presumed development of complex aboriginal

social institutions in the same area are compared.

Seminole studies and studies of late prehistoric

Mississippian societies and groups inhabiting the early

historic Southeast have rarely been mutually informative,

despite the many cultural continuities linking the Seminole

with the earlier Indians. The wisdom of MacCauley's

(1887:495) observation on the Seminole has not diminished

over the past century: "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."

The Ancestral Creek Pattern

The archetype for the development of Florida Seminole

culture was contained in the culture pattern exhibited by

the late prehistoric and early historic period Southeastern

Indians. Specifically, they were the bearers of what I

term the Ancestral Creek Pattern, the cognitive blueprint

from which the colonial Seminole constructed their Florida

lifeways. It is important for us to recognize the main

elements of the Ancestral Creek pattern, because in the

eventual transformation of key relationships embodied

within the pattern the Seminole were to create a cultural

identity uniquely their own. We will now consider these

features of the Ancestral Creek Pattern, in the realms of

domestic economy, political organization, ceremony and

ritual, and subsistence.

For the Creeks, the smallest meaningful unit of social

interaction was the nuclear family, and this was also the

minimal residential group. Women of several families who

were linked together through matrilineage resided close by

with their families and formed a small community known as

huti (Swanton 1928b:170-171). The huti controlled

important functions of domestic economy, for example the

ownership and stewardship of land and buildings,

distribution of foodstuffs, and child rearing (Knight

1985:119). The everyday axis of the Creek world revolved

around family and huti.

Each domestic compound (the residence of a nuclear

family) consisted of buildings organized around a

squareground; in essence the domestic counterpart of the

public squaregrounds described earlier. Striking

archaeological evidence for household squaregrounds comes

from excavations at the Tallapoosa phase (A.D. 1750-1800)

Tukabatchee site in central Alabama (Knight 1985:109,

117,118) where the patterns of recovered artifacts

suggest the presence of special purpose buildings and a

sexual division of labor. Women were skilled in the fiber

arts, the crafts of pottery and basket making, and in

activities associated with agricultural production (Swanton

1928b:384). Some farming took place on family plots

(Swanton 1928b:443) evidently allocated by the huti, and in

a community or town field presided over by the town chief,

or mico (Swanton 1928b:443,278). Important produce

included the famous "American trilogy" of corn, beans, and

squash, as well as pumpkins, potatoes, and later,

introduced crops such as watermelons and peaches (M. Smith

1984:172-175). Animal husbandry probably developed after

1770 amongst the Creek (Fairbanks 1962:54,55; M.Smith

1984:171; Knight 1985:120,121), by which time the Florida

Seminole were also herding cattle on the Alachua Savannah

and elsewhere.

Men were ostensibly occupied hunting and warring,

endeavors which would confer upon them societal status if

they were successful. Aboriginal warfare was not primarily

imperialistic in motive or result, but was advanced in the

hopes of taking scalps. Strings of scalps were trophies

that indicated a warrior's prowess and enabled him to climb

in prestige in the eyes of the other men (Swanton 1928b:424).

The main game target was the white-tailed deer

(although of course many other species were taken), and the

skins of these animals were to figure prominently in the

European trade that was to develop by the late 1600s.

Hunting and warring were activities that took men far from

home for extended periods of time (see Weisman and Milanich

1975, for limited review). Creek hunters traveled the

Florida peninsula in search of game, with the likely result

that they became familiar with the territory as far south

as the present day Everglades (these activities are

mentioned in the records of the British Colonial Office,

see letter from Governor Grant to Board of Trade, January

1772; see Swanton 1946:263 for related activities

elsewhere). During these absences the women were on their

own, to the degree that Swanton was able to elicit oral

testimony in this century (Swanton 1928b:384) to the effect

that "in ancient times men and women were almost like two

distinct peoples." However, the fundamental relationship

for both men and women in Creek society was with the

nuclear family.

Independent huti were organized into a larger

community known as talwa, the civic center of which was the

squareground town (Sturtevant 1971:93). Members of a talwa

were considered to be "people of one fire" (Swanton

1928b:246), thus the talwa was the fundamental unit of

shared community ritual and political authority. The

unifying influence of the talwa became increasingly

important in the face of Eurocolonial imperialism, and it

is likely that the strength of this institution facilitated

the eventual development of the Creek Confederacy.

Talwa leadership was in the hands of a chief, who was

selected more on the basis of his clan affiliation than on

strict principles of hereditary descent. At council

meetings and busk festivities the chief and his henihas or

advisors generally sat in the western cabin at the

squareground, facing east. The cabin to the south was

generally occupied by the warriors, who had at their head

the tastanagi, or war leader, and whose authority existed

in complement to the civic and peacetime duties of the town


The number of Creek matriclans contained in the talwa

were divided into moieties, based on the primary red/white

symbolism common throughout the Southeast. White clans

were associated with the sun, prosperity, and "society"

(hence the mico and henihas were from white clans);

opposed to them were the red clans associated with death,

warfare, and "nature" (see Knight 1981, for a fuller

discussion of red/white symbolism and the nature/society

dichotomy). The tastanagis were selected from the red

clans. Talwas as well followed the red/white division,

with the red towns pitted against the white in war or more

often the "little brother" of war, the aboriginal ballgame

(Hudson 1976:408).

The red/white affiliations of towns was not to survive

among the Florida Seminole because it was often families,

not towns, that migrated, but the dynamic tension created

by the moiety system on the talwa level was to have

important consequences for the early development of

Seminole society in Florida. In fact, as we will see in

Chapter III, the so-called "Indian troubles" that

occasionally plagued the colonial authorities had their

cause in the eventual disintegration of the native system

of moiety.

Above the level of the talwa there existed for a time

an entity known as the Creek Nation or the Creek

Confederacy. In my estimation, the history of the

Confederacy is inseparable from the biographies of a few

key individuals like the "Emperor" Brim and Alexander

McGillivray. Anthropological perspectives on the

Confederacy suggest that it was a response by depopulated

aboriginal chiefdoms to external pressures brought about by

the development of the slave and deerskin trades in the

Southeast, after c. 1670 (M.Smith 1984:192). The colonial

authorities understood the workings of the Creek

Confederacy (indeed it was similar to contemporary

Anglo-American systems of government), but they

mistakenly assumed it to be a model of native self

government that also pertained among the Florida bands.

Although for a time, especially under the leadership of

McGillivray (1783-1794), some semblance of a Creek "nation"

did exist, his power was never consolidated over the

Florida Indians, nor were they inclined to follow his

example. Cowkeeper, chief of the Alachua band of Seminole,

emerges from the documents as being particularly obstinate

in this regard; his disdain of the Spanish was matched by

his display of Spanish scalps, while his relations with the

British authorities were calculated and somewhat aloof (see

Covington 1961:39). It is clear that the situation did not

improve in the next century; indeed the Indian Claims case

of recent years stemmed in part from the fact that common

representation was lacking among the mid nineteenth century


The Ancestral Creek Pattern included a body of

religious beliefs that were to find expression among the

historic Seminole. Core beliefs centered around the

concepts of purity and balance (Hudson 1976:336). There

were a number of ways an individual could become unclean,

for instance by handling or being in proximity to the dead,

and by stepping outside of the normal social order. Ritual

steps were then taken to restore the desired state of

purity; on a large scale this was the central principle of

the busk ceremonialism, while on a daily basis practices

such as ritual bathing were maintained. Purity to the

Indians primarily meant the adherence to a rigid folk

taxonomy in which animals, humans and human actions, and

inanimate objects were placed into categories not intended

to mix. The Seminole busk and mortuary practices will be

described in more detail in later chapters, and there it will

be clear that the Seminole too were concerned with avoiding

conditions of impurity. The account provided by MacCauley

(1887:521,522) of a Seminole funeral in 1881 indicates that

even by this relatively late date the Seminole adhered to

standards of ritual propriety when dealing with the dead

(fires were also kept burning nearby to prevent "evil

birds" from fouling the corpse), and the vestiges of

earlier Southeastern Indian burial practices are in

evidence (Figure 3).

Turning now to considerations of subsistence, we will

remember from Chapter I that several authors defined

Seminole culture on the basis of new subsistence strategies

adopted by them in the course of their colonization of the

Florida peninsula. The points have been made that the

role of animal husbandry and the utilization of aquatic and

marine habitats necessitated cultural adaptations on the

part of the Seminole, adaptations upon which their ethnic

identity was to become based.

Figure 3. Comparison of Natchez (top, c.1750s, after
Hudson 1976:333) and Seminole (bottom, c.1870s,
after MacCauley 1887:520) burial customs.

It is clear, however, that Creek subsistence

strategies included more than just an emphasis on flood

plain agriculture and fall line resources. Creek pottery

has been found at the Stallings Island site on the Savannah

River in Georgia, suggesting their use of the site to

procure riverine resources (Fairbanks 1942:227).

Archaeology at Atasi Phase (A.D. 1600 -1715) house sites in

central Alabama demonstrates that a wide range of plant and

animal species were utilized, including freshwater

mollusks, several species of turtle, fish, squirrel,

raccoon, oppossum, white-tailed deer, hickory nuts, and

wild fruits (Knight 1985:78-81). In the subsequent

Tallapoosa phase (A.D. 1715-1837), contemporaneous with the

Seminole settlement of Florida, the interest in collecting

wild foods does not appear to diminish (Knight 1985:151-

153). At the site of Nuyaka, in central Alabama, the

excavation of trash pits attributable to the historic

Creeks (c. A.D. 1777-1813) (Dickens 1979:171) has yielded

remains that indicate a similar broad spectrum of resource

exploitation, including bird, fish, reptile, and at least

four species of wild plants. In fact, in the words of an

earlier excavator at the same site, the historic Creeks

"wtre using a more varied range of environmental resources

than they had during the prehistoric period" (Fairbanks


Documents are also useful in reconstructing the less

widely known features of the Ancestral Creek subsistence

complex. Bartram reports the use of a fire-hardened

harpoon for spearing fish in Georgia (in Swanton 1946:338).

Fish were also taken with the aid of plant poisons

introduced into the water (Swanton 1946:341-343).

It is clear that the adaptive complex carried by the

Creeks into Florida contained all the variability necessary

to cope with the range of environmental challenges

presented in their new homeland. Adaptations to the

ecological conditions of Florida could have been

accomplished without major shifts in Creek lifeways or

social institutions; in fact, animal husbandry did not hold

for these early colonists the major importance it would

assume in the next century. Bartram's description of beef

consumption among the Seminole in the 1770s suggests that

this meat was eaten primarily at special feasts, and then

from animals culled from the herd of the chief. The

husbandry of cattle at this time does not suggest an

involvement serious enough to cause correlated changes in

settlement patterns, or ultimately, social organization

(Fairbanks 1978:169,175).

From a comparative perspective, cattle pastoralism is

of itself insufficient cause of either dispersed settlement

patterning or social divisiveness, as examples drawn from

Africa illustrate (Evans-Pritchard 1940:63-65; Hodder

1982). In the Creek case, cattle become important in the

domestic economy after the turn of the nineteenth century,

without dramatic ramifications in the social sphere (Knight

1985:181). Finally, while Bartram (1955:167) does remark

that the well proportioned steers of the Alachua Savannah

rivaled the finest of the American colonists in

Pennsylvania, there are no indications that the Seminole

ranged their cattle over large expanses of territory. In

considering the idea that cattle pastoralism as a male

activity promoted a schism between men and women because

women could not accumulate goods on par with the men, two

arguments need mention. First, cattle husbandry was

successful among the Seminole (and Creek) to the degree

that cows were able to replace, or supplement, deer in the

skin trade. Cattle ownership was eventually to promote the

recognition of wealth differences among men, the "haves

and the have-nots," a situation that exists among the

cattle-owning Seminole of this century (King 1978).

Second, and as we will discuss in Chapter III, Seminole

women were not to be outdone, and they developed a number

of goods and services with which they could acquire for

themselves those items they desired.

The seasonal subsistence round that was the lifebeat

of the Creeks--fall and winter hunting and foraging for

the men, spring and summer gardening for the

women--provided for the Seminole all the precedent that

was needed for strategies of adaptation to the Florida

environments. The developments that took shape in Seminole

culture were not the result of a society pitted against new

environments and unfamiliar resources, but because

economic, political, and social conditions in the Florida

colony fostered the full expression of a process of self

adaptation begun by the Southeastern Indians some five

hundred years before. In Florida, individuals were

permitted to chart for themselves the course of their own

destiny, a course that was in many cases to involve the

vigorous, and shrewd, pursuit of enterprise on the part of

the Indians.


In this chapter we will consider the colonial Seminole

in light of their cultural relationship to the Ancestral

Creek Pattern. Our primary concern will be with the years

between 1716 and 1767, although it is not my intention to

conflate, beyond necessity, these dates with cultural

reality. The beginning date is convenient because it

corresponds to the Pena expeditions among the lower Creeks

through which they became interested in settling the

Florida lands (Boyd 1941; Goggin 1963:41; Fairbanks 1978).

The ending date serves as an appropriate opening for the

subject of the next chapter, the period of enterprise; here

we will see the Seminole climb to the height of their

prosperity during the British rule of Florida. In the most

general of terms, Euro-Creek relations before 1767 were

characterized by ceremonial gift exchange between the two

parties, while after this date these transactions became

decidedly more commercial in nature.

In the strictest of ethaohistoric usage, it is

incorrect to speak of the Florida Indians of this period as

"Seminole." The first recorded use of this term evidently

appears in field notes accompanying the surveyor DeBrahm's

map of Florida in 1765 (Goggin 1963:53); his "Seminolskees"

is used apparently as a generic term applied to any Indians

he encountered in the peninsula during his mapping

expedition for the colonial British government. The term

"Seminole" appears with some regularity with reference to

the Florida Indians in traveler accounts (Bartram

1955:110,206,214) and colonial records of the second

Spanish administration in Florida (Zespedes to Galvez, Aug.

16, 1784, in Lockey 1945:254), and the Spanish derivation

of the term from "cimarrone," meaning wild or runaway

(Fairbanks 1978:171; Sturtevant 1971:105), suggests that it

may have been in limited use in the colony during the first

Spanish period, prior to 1763.

The term "proto Seminole" has appeared in the

ethnohistoric literature as an accurate designation for the

early bands of Creek migrants in Florida While the term

is well taken, I find its usage cumbersome and possibly

misleading, and will not follow it in the remainder of this

work. As an interesting aside, the term "Seminole" has

come into common use only of late by the Florida Indians

themselves, and this for reasons of political expediency

with respect to organizing and incorporating a legally

designated tribe. Indians who did not wish to join the

Seminole Tribe, Inc., after its formation in 1957, later

organized the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, and were granted

Federal reservation lands adjoining the Tamiami Trail,

north of Everglades National Park in present-day Dade

County (see King 1978, for related discussion).

The tribal identities and paths of migration of the

early Seminole (Creek) bands were the subject of Fairbanks'

detailed ethnohistorical report before the Indian Claims

Commission (Fairbanks 1974). This work stands as the

definitive study of the relationships between the Indian

pioneers of Florida and the European colonial authorities,

and of the eventual coalesence by 1800 of the disparate

bands into what Fairbanks termed (1978:331) the "Seminole

nation." However, as was discussed before, little

attention was paid in this report (and perhaps not

improperly, given the terms of the contract) to the

cultural repertoire of the Seminole Indians, especially in

terms of how native beliefs, customs, and practices served

to influence the development of Seminole culture history.

These will be our concerns in the present chapter.

Until such time as key colonial period Seminole

villages, for example the town of Alachua (Latchaway) and

the Lake Miccosukee settlements, are located and excavated,

the main lines of cultural reconstruction must be developed

from documentary sources. Two archaeological sites

important to our discussion are the locations of Oven Hill

(8Dil5), on and in the Suwannee River, and A-296, on the

eastern margin of Payne's Prairie east of present-day

Gainesville. Important documents include the "humble

petition" of the Englishman Denys Rolle, the journals and

narratives of John and William Bartram, and records of the

British Colonial Office. The combined data of archaeology

and the historical record indicate a remarkable continuity

between the Seminole and the Ancestral Creek Pattern, and

suggest as well the beginnings of significant changes.

There is some indication that the vestiges of the old

town moiety system were still alive with the very early

Seminole. We discussed how in the Creek area "red" towns

were pitted against "white" in the ballgame, and that the

related activity of inter-town raiding and warfare were

means by which young men could prove their prowess and

courage and rise among the ranks of the warriors. In the

unsettled conditions of the colonial frontier, groups of

men on the move also found themselves to be in the best

position for gaining information about conditions in the

world at large; information which was conveyed to the mico

and other talwa members in the squareground upon their

return. Raiding and the ball play along moiety lines were

sanctioned activities through which men could gain in

prestige, either through acts of bravery or simply by

gathering useful information. The desire for prestige was

so strong among Southeastern aboriginal males that should

there be a breakdown in the sanctioned means for its

achievement, we might expect alternative behaviors to develop.

The implications of this above scenario for the nature

of Euro-Indian relations in Florida can be illustrated

with reference to the account of Denys Rolle (1977), a

prospective colonial entrepreneur, who in 1764 set out from

the St. Johns River near present Palatka on an overland

journey to St. Marks (southeast of Tallahassee) to examine

land granted him there by British colonial governor James

Grant. Rolle passed through two Indians towns on his route

west; the first he called Latchaway (Rolle 1977:48),

presumably the "ancient Alachua town" of the later Bartram

account (Bartram 1955:169); the second was on the west

bank of the "little Savannah" (Suwannee) River and was

inhabited by the "Savannah Indians" (Rolle 1977:50, 52).

These towns appear to have been the principal locations of

the Seminole in the north peninsula at that time.

After crossing the Suwannee, Rolle parlayed briefly

with the "White King" of the town, but he had failed to

meet with the headmen at Latchaway because they were out on

a hunt. On his return trip, Rolle found that men of the

Suwannee settlement had gone to Latchaway, for "some

diversion of the ball" (Rolle 1977:52). This activity was

directed by the White King. Rolle also remarked, in a

rather judgemental tone, that the combined group of Indians

had consumed some eighteen casks of rum (up to 1800

gallons) in less than two weeks (Rolle 1977:52). Despite

the suggestion that the males of these two important

Seminole towns were still linked together by means of

ritual play and festivity, the Suwannee Seminole were led

by their White King, not his red, or war clan, counterpart,

as we would expect based on Creek tradition. The clan

moiety system within the towns was in the process of

collapse, and perhaps in the case of the Suwannee Indians,

was only in de facto existence. This disintegration loosed

numbers of prestige hungry young men from the grip of

social sanction, and already on the Florida frontier there

had appeared the troublesome "roving bands of Indians"

(Goggin 1963:5) whose transgressions of colonial law ranged

from murder (Grant to Board of Trade, Aug. 5, 1766) to

horse stealing, plunder, and raiding (Bartram

1955:75,214,216). In Bartam's words, these "predatory

bands" (Bartram 1955:214) were composed of young men of

"singular elegance, richly ornamented with silver plates,

chains, and after the Seminole mode, with waving plumes of

feathers on their crests" (Bartram 1955:206). Clearly,

these young men were dressed up with some place to go, that

is, out to test their skills in the world of opportunity

provided by the colonial frontier. That they no longer

felt bound to the system created by clan or town moieties

is certain, and by the late 1760s we can assume that the

system was no longer meeting Indian needs of prestige.

The process of moiety disintegration had been underway

in the Alachua area for some time when Bartram traveled to

the Seminole settlements there in 1774 (Bartram's

observations on the Florida Indians, although made in 1774,

are also useful for understanding the colonial Seminole),

and his accounts of the Cowkeeper and the Long Warrior

provide us with an interesting analog, on the individual

level, of what might be termed the "red" and "white"

personalities of the time. The rather regal Cowkeeper, by

birth an Oconee Creek and the founder of the Alachua band

of Seminole, was attended to by Yamassee (Indians from

Georgia) slaves who looked upon him with emotions of fear

and esteem, because although "his eyes were lively and full

of fire," "his countenance [was] manly and placid" (Bartram

1955:164). Cowkeeper's dress was simple, his deportment

calm, and he altogether conveyed the ideal image of a

traditional Creek town chief, or mico.

The Long Warrior, described in the documents as

Cowkeeper's associate or "second" (his red counterpart),

presents a contrasting glimpse into Seminole behavior of

the time. When the Long Warrior and his trading party of

forty men were refused credit by the trader M'Latchee (as

indeed M'Latchee was bound to do by colonial law), Long

Warrior threatened upon the trader a bolt of lightning

sufficient to turn his store into "dust and ashes,"

demonstrating his reputed ability to commune with

"powerful and invisible beings or spirits" (Bartram

1955:215). The portrait Bartram drew of Long Warrior (see

the 1955 edition of his Travels) and the vivid description

he provided of the Seminole costume of the era serve to

illustrate a further point about the social processes the

Seminole were then experiencing. In an atmosphere of

wildly fluctuating partisanship, on a frontier increasingly

peopled with half-breeds and cunning entrepreneurs, the

grand and gaudy Seminole costume (plumes, silver gorgets

and the like) served to immediately call out their ethnic

affiliation, and indeed, marks of individual personality

and achievement.

The traditional clan moiety system was in shambles and

in its wake new trends in native leadership were emerging;

yet other aspects of the Ancestral Creek Pattern proved

more enduring. The traditional talwa plan of settlement

was transported in full by the migrant Creeks, and

replicated by the Seminole across the Florida landscape.

Rolle was entertained by the White King and the Suwannee

Seminole in a squareground-like area where they were

seated upon "their couches of repose," taking the black

drink as they do "when they have a mind to talk" (Rolle


When Bartram visited Cowkeeper's Cuscowilla, south of

the present-day Paynes Prairie near Micanopy, a public

assembly took place there in the "public square or

councilhouse" (Bartram 1955:167), where residents gathered

from their domestic squareground compounds, each of "two

houses nearly the same size, about thirty feet in length,

and about the same in height" (Bartram 1955:168).

Likewise, the town of Talahoschte, founded by the White

King and his followers on the east bank of the Suwannee

sometime after Rolle's visit, consisted of a squareground

where (Bartram 1955:200):

the king, war chief, and several ancient chiefs and
warriors were seated in royal cabins, the rest of the
headmen and warriors, old and young, sat on cabins on the
right hand of the king's [to the south] cabin's on the
left, and on the same elevation are always assigned for
white people, Indians of other towns, and such of their
own people as choose.

Evidently the Talahoschte squareground consisted of three

cabins around a central plaza. Seating for the king,

war chief, and advisors faced east; other important males

sat to the right and faced north, while visitors and others

sat facing south.

A variation in squareground construction is presented

by a Seminole village founded on the St. Johns near

present Palatka between the years 1767-1774 (and as far

as I know nameless in the documents) which perhaps harked

back to a time when Southeastern squaregrounds were

entirely roofed over (Waring 1968:55), being (Bartram


a grand, airy pavilion in the center of the village. It
was four square; a range of pillars or posts on each side
supporting a canopy composed of Palmetto leaves, woven or
thatched together, which shaded a level platform in the
center, that was ascended to from each side by two steps
or flights, each almost twelve inches high, and seven or
eight feet in breadth, all covered with carpets,
curiously woven, of split canes dyed of various colors.

By 1774, the towns of Cuscowilla, Talahoschte, and the

Palatka town were clearly the formal nuclei of

sociopolitical integration; important events were presented

and arbitrated here as had been done in the Creek centers;

no sign of the so-called dispersed or diffuse pattern of

settlement (Fairbanks 1978:175) is indicated. Given the

growing complexity of Euro-Indian relations to which

colonial documents attest, it is to be expected that the

Indians would maintain some formal means wherein

information could be processed in regular, socially

meaningful ways. Hence the squareground did not decline in

importance among the Florida Indians simply because their

relationship with the Creek Confederacy became more remote

(see again Fairbanks 1978:175 for countering opinion).

Further indications of the talwa system among the

Seminole are presented by the existence of family

homesteads and the localized residential communities known

in the Creek area as huti. Bartram (1955:163) encountered

three or four Indian habitations near a prehistoric mound

on his approach to Cuscowilla from the east, and just north

of the Alachua Savannah he also passed through another

small village, containing four or five habitations. Its

residents had left their dwellings and well-stocked corn

cribs behind, and were encamped in tents on a hunting trip

by the banks of a stream some miles to the north (Bartram

1955:180,181). Based on Bartram's account, the Cuscowilla

settlement pattern can be reconstructed to include the

squareground town itself, with thirty or more habitations,

and at least two outlying settlements, each containing up

to five households (it is clear from Bartram's description

of Cuscowilla that his use of the word "habitations" refers

not to dwellings but to what he recognized as households).

A-296--A Colonial Period Seminole Household

It is ironic that the town center of Cuscowilla has

not yielded to archaeological discovery, while the remains

of its seemingly less visible satellite communities have

come to light (Mykel 1962). The site of A-296 (State of

Florida archaeological site file number) is of special

interest because it may represent a portion of the hamlet

noted by Bartram north of Cuscowilla on the northern margin

of the savanna (Bartram 1955: 180,181). According to

Bartram, the site was located on a sandy ridge, as is the

site of A-296 ( Sears 1959:25; Mykel 1962); the "large

creek of excellent water" (Bartram 1955:181) where its

people were then camping is probably the Santa Fe River.

Sears'(1959) excavations at A-296 delimited a midden

stain 6 m in diameter and six post hole features and

recovered 679 sherds, 1 projectile point, two fragments of

a trade pipestem, and several unidentifiable iron

fragments. Most of the sherds are the type Chattahoochee

Brushed, first defined by Bullen (1950) on the basis of

Alabama collections, and now assumed to be a cultural

marker of the distribution and presence of Creek peoples

throughout the Southeast (M. Smith 1984:197). Rimsherds

are plain, and notched or "angled" on the top of the rim.

The notched rims bear a strong resemblance to sherds

recovered by Goggin at the Indian trading house of

Spalding's Lower Store (Lewis 1969), established in the

early 1770s. Further similarities in the paste, or clay

composition, of the sherds, as well as other attributes

suggest strong affinities between the Seminole components

of both sites.

The presumed structure that once stood at the site is

of indefinite function. Remembering Bartram's account,

corncribs were standing in the hamlet, and this type of

construction may have relied upon the posthole pattern

noted by Sears. If such a structure collapsed to the

north, as is indicated by the plan of the holes (Sears

1959:25,26), its spilled contents (corn or other produce)

could have produced the midden stain. If this is in fact

what happened, then the southern row of posts may have

been beyond the limits of Sears' excavation. The excavator

suggests that the structure was temporary in nature, but a

look at known temporary buildings of the Seminole (MaCauley

1887:502; Sturtevant 1962:77) indicates they use fewer

posts than are present at A-296.

Two important observations about the material culture

of the site are that trade goods are few in number, and ,

modes of lip and rim treatment on the pottery are of limited

variability. Trade activities, such as they were, were

centered in the squaregrounds, and were more the concern of

people living there. Some trading did occur between the

mobile "flying camps" of the Seminole (Bartram 1955:110)

and colonial traders, but it is not known if such groups

normally resided in the squaregrounds or in hamlets. I

suggest however that there was increasing social distance

between the more far-flung members of a Seminole talwa and

the residents of its squareground, exacerbated by

differences in wealth accumulation between the two groups,

and with the eventual outcome that the talwa system would

pull apart along these lines.

Pottery sherds recovered from A-296 indicate seven to

nine vessels present at the site, including both bowls and

jars. Jars had rims either "lip-notched" or plain, while

notching just below the lip appears only on the bowl. Both

vessel forms included brushed and plain surface treatments.

The limited repertoire of rim decoration suggested to Sears

(1959:29) that rim styles of Seminole pottery may prove to

correlate with some unit of cultural reality; knowing what

we know of antecedent Creek social organization it is

likely that this unit is the huti, or the community formed

by a group of related women. In this view, these women

would manufacture pottery with a rim style (or styles)

unique to their clan affiliation; pottery would be a

decorative marker of clan membership. Thus we would not

expect to find many different styles of rim decoration

present on sherds from the same Seminole site

(which is in fact the case, as we will see in Chapter V).

In the case of the lip-notched sherds from A-296, the

only other Florida occurrence of this style is at

Spalding's Lower Store, mentioned previously. It is from

the huti of the colonial Seminole that the more familiar

matrilocal clan camps of the ethnographic present

(MacCauley 1887; Spoehr 1941) were to develop.

Colonial Seminole Domestic Economy

Archaeology at A-296 only provides us with a partial

picture of Seminole domestic economy of the colonial

period, and again we must refer to the narratives of Rolle

and Bartram. Their observations suggest that the

conceptual axis of the Ancestral Creek Pattern--the

separation of male and female activities and duties--was

still very much an organizing principle of early Seminole

life. Males were often absent from their villages hunting,

trading, or in pursuit of recreation (Rolle 1977:48,52,53;

Bartram 1955:95,214,251). Herding cattle and other

activities that could be accomplished from horseback were

also rapidly figuring in the reckoning of male prestige, as

horses became an important wealth (and status) item (which

is no doubt why saddles figured prominently, and

expensively, on the early English gift lists; see Grant to

Board of Trade, Jan. 13, 1766). Men of the Alachua band

did, however, assist in some agricultural duties: clearing

fields to be planted, and at night patrolling the corn to

frighten away marauding animals (Bartram 1955:170).

Women were often observed tending fields, less often

"modestly showing their faces" from the dooryard (Bartram

1955:181), and perhaps were engaged in a number of duties

not often observed by the early chroniclers. This is not

to imply that Seminole women of the era were merely

cultural bystanders, or lacked the desire to bring about a

perceived betterment of their lives. As early as 1764 the

Englishman Rolle (1977:12) was visited by Seminole women

in canoes bearing him gifts, and it was probably these

women that a decade later transported canoe loads of

oranges, watermelons, and other produce to Spalding's Lower

Store (Bartram 1955:251). Further, with the increased

presence of Anglo traders on the Florida frontier, certain

women were not long in loosing their charms among them,

especially if gain could be had by them or their families.

For their part, the traders often appear to have been

desirous of such unions, because they would promote

needed alliances between themselves and the Indians.

However, the consequences of these alliances were not

always positive, as Bartram recounts in a woeful tale of a

trader who got more, or less, than he had bargained for

(Bartram 1955:110):

He is at this time unhappy in his connections with his
beautiful savage. It is but a few years since he came
here, I think from North Carolina, a stout genteel well-
bred man, active, and of a heroic and amiable
disposition; and by his industry, honesty, and engaging
manners, had gained the affections of the Indians, and
soon made a little fortune by traffic with the Seminoles;
when unfortunately meeting with this little charmer, they
were married in the Indian manner. He loves her
sincerely, as she possesses every perfection in her
person to render a man happy. Her features are
beautiful, and manners engaging. Innocence, modesty, and
love, appear to a stranger in every action and movement;
and these powerful graces she has so artfully played upon
her beguiled and vanquished lover, and unhappy slave, as
to have already drained him of all his possessions, which
she dishonestly distributes amongst her savage relations.
He is now poor, emaciated, and half distracted, often
threatening to shoot her, and afterwards put an end to
his own life.

Gender-prescribed roles continued to be important

among the Seminole as among the Creek (hence Rolle,

1977:12, comments on his surprise when several warriors

brought their wives with then to dine at his table), while

the other important orientation for Seminole socioeconomic

life was provided by the nuclear family. I have already

made the suggestion that Seminole hamlets of the period

were in essence Creek huti, or neighboring households of

clan-related women, and that the huti formed an essential

unit of land tenure and labor. However, it appears that

trade activities, perhaps initially mediated in the

squareground through the office of the chief, were to

eventually be conducted by nuclear families, essentially

acting as their own agents.

Bartram (1955:205) recalled meeting a Talahoschte man,

with his wife and children, on the trail leading a string

of fine packhorses laden with barbequed meat, hides, and

honey. On another occasion, he visited the "White Captain"

and his family in their encampment near the store of a St.

Johns River trader (Bartram 1955:110). Ten years earlier

along the St. Johns the Indian Philoki, with his wife and

two sons, repeatedly visited the traders Rolle and

Spalding, seeking their favor (Rolle 1977:30). Even the

venerated Alachua chief Cowkeeper preferred to travel with

his family and retinue to St. Augustine to meet privately

with Governor Grant, while shunning the formal Anglo-

Indian congress at Picolata in October 1765.

The British, however, preferred not to treat with

individual Indians, and in several instances Governor Grant

became alarmed at the closeness developing between Spalding

and Philoki (Grant to Rolle, March 21,1764, in Rolle

1977:20). Grant correctly perceived the dangers to his

colony of an uncontrolled frontier, governed only by the

desires of entrepreneurs to line their pockets.

Consequently his trading policy contained the stipulation

that each Indian town would be within the territory of only

one licensed trader, to prevent competition and

factionalism. Among the traders, however, competition

was keen to secure rights to new and uncapturedd" towns;

among the Indians, incentive was provided to found new

towns via a fissioning process. The implications of this

process for Seminole culture history will be further

explored in Chapter IV.

Colonial Seminole Beliefs and Ritual

The documentary record allows only a fleeting glimpse

of Seminole belief systems during their colonial period,

but one substantial enough, I think, to temper the

suggestion that Seminole religion was diminutive compared

to what had gone before (Fairbanks 1978:174).

The black drink continued to be of sacramental

importance, as did smoking tobacco in the calumet, or

ceremonial pipe of peace (Bartram 1955:200). Busk

ceremonies are not described in detail (see however mention

by Grant, in Covington 1962:46), but the practices of the

residents of Cuscowilla with respect to scrupulous village

cleanliness and trash disposal suggest some concern with

the annual purity rites (Bartram 1955:169). The Seminole

concern for purity is also demonstrated by the observation

that they kindled new fires in the squareground to herald

special events (Bartram 1955:200), preserving the ancient

Southeastern association between fire and renewal. The

ballgame mentioned earlier between the Alachua and Suwannee

Seminole (Rolle 1977:52) occurred in May 1764; the twelve

day visit by the Suwannee Indians to Alachua for the

occasion suggests that additional ceremonies may have been


An occurrence in the Indian town of Alachua

(Latchaway) in 1764 indicates the far-reaching effects that

the purity/pollution dichotomy held for everyday Seminole

life. In a drunken rage, Neatohowki, a nephew of

Cowkeeper, grabbed a glass bottle (allegedly obtained from

Spalding) and quite literally knocked out the brains of

another Indian. Neatohowki dragged his victim a short

distance into the woods, where he lay unburied because the

Indians were "much afraid of the spirits of these victims

sacrificed to their passions" (Rolle 1977:48). The

villagers would not handle the corpse, and soon moved their

houses some distance away from where it lay.

The Seminole world was one inhabited by a panoply of

powerful, but invisible, spirits. Men like the Long

Warrior (Bartram 1955:215) commanded respect because of

their ability to communicate with the spirits and summon

them up on the individual's behalf. The white man's God

was made more palatable to the Indian soul by describing

him as the one "who thundered" (Rolle 1977:13). A

precarious balance between good and evil existed in the

Indian world; bringing harm to certain creatures like the

rattlesnake was forbidden because such an action might

incite its fellows to seek revenge (Bartram 1955:220). In

the "sympathetic" perspective of the Indians, an individual

that interacted with powerful forces himself became more

powerful, sometimes dangerously so. Thus when the

naturalist William Bartram killed a large rattlesnake that

had crawled into the Indian camp, they desired to bleed him

to restore his former mild nature, and were alarmed when he

refused their treatment (Bartram 1955:218,219).

The Seminole invested their everyday behaviors with

ritual or religious dimensions that were foreign to the

European experience; what was secular business to the

European colonists for the Indians at times held religious

or sacred meaning. One such instance occurred at the

Congress of Picolata, a meeting between the British and the

Indians held on the banks of the St. Johns between

November 15 and November 18, 1765.

During the Fall of 1765 Governor Grant summoned

the headmenn and warriors" (Grant to Board of Trade, Dec.

9, 1765) of the Upper and Lower Creek towns (the latter

including for his purposes the Florida Seminole) to a

congress in the hopes of gaining from them boundary

concessions with respect to lands east of the St. Johns.

Further, Grant hoped to demonstrate the benevolence and

good will of his new colonial administration by

distributing presents should things go well and the Indians

accept his terms (the goods were conveniently stored just

offshore on the East Florida Schooner until such an outcome

was assured). On hand for the occasion were some fifty

Indians (excepting Cowkeeper, who, as mentioned, waited

until the following month to pay Grant a personal visit)

and the naturalist John Bartram accompanied by his son

William, who was to travel again to Florida ten years later

and write his famed narrative. The following account of

the Picolata Congress is reconstructed from John Bartram's

observations, entitled "Remarks on Ye Congress Held in a

Pavilion" (J. Bartram 1942:51).

At the pavilion grounds the Indians assembled in two

columns, facing at some distance Governor Grant and the

Indian Superintendant John Stuart, seated inside

the building. Six Indians in one of the columns carried in

column, a chief carried the calumet pipe hung with eagle

feathers, and another carried a rattle box. These two

individuals, probably Captain Aleck of a red Yuchi town and

Tallachea of the white "Ockmulgies" (see Fairbanks

1974:149-152) were accompanied by an interpreter. Both

columns advanced towards the pavilion in a timed, halting

step, occasionally dancing, singing, and shouting. Within

twenty paces of the pavilion, the procession halted for

about five minutes, and suddenly, the two chiefs carrying

the pipe and rattle broke from the ranks and danced rapidly

alone towards the English. The faces of Grant and Stuart

were stroked with the eagle feathers from the calumet, and

then the chief returned to the waiting columns of Indians.

After speaking briefly with them, he returned to the

pavilion, shook hands with the English, and presented them

with the skins. The calumet pipe was lighted and smoked by

Grant, Stuart, and the two chiefs, and the ceremony was


The result of the proceedings was that the Indians

acquiesced to the boundary terms and presents were

distributed. The gifts included quantities of beads,

ammunition, kettles, items of cheap hardware, and several

saddles. Indian concerns for propriety had been met; their

war and peace leaders had been met by men of similar

position among the English. Further, the Indian portion of

the ceremony had served native purposes well because it

took the English presence and defined it in their own

terms. For example, the faces of Grant and Stuart were

stroked with an eagle feather, a practice reminiscent of

the Creek naming ceremony wherein a boy would don a feather

on his head and become like a man (Swanton 1928b:571). The

combined presence of the symbolic calumet (Hall 1977:502)

and eagle feathers (Hudson 1976:163) further indicated the

Indians' desire for peace and for establishing a world in

which some semblance of their own order prevailed. The

Picolata account and other narratives of the period suggest

that at this time the Indians were willing to accommodate

the Europeans into their cosmos, whose order was based on

dichotomies of purity, balance, and similarity. For a

time, the white man found himself on the favorable hand of

the native taxonomy.

Oven Hill An Early Seminole Town

Referring again to the talwa system of the colonial

Seminole, we will remember that the site of A-296 was

interpreted as the remains of an outlying family homestead,

whose nucleus was the town of Cuscowilla. Previous to the

founding of Cuscowilla in the early 1770s, the main

Seminole towns in the area were Alachua or Latchaway, the

mother town of Cuscowilla on the border of the Alachua

savanna, and the town of the White King on the west bank of

the Suwannee. This town was visited in May 1764 by Denys

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