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Seminole

How do you pronounce the word "Seminole"? What does it mean?

It's pronounced "SEH-minn-ole." It comes from a Spanish word meaning "wild."

Where do the Seminoles live?

The Seminoles started out in northern Florida, but when the Americans attacked them, the Seminole tribe retreated further south, into the Everglades. Some Seminole people were forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1800's along with other eastern tribes. Other Seminole people still live in southern Florida today.

What language do the Seminoles speak?

Most Seminole Indians speak English today. Some Seminoles also speak one of the two native Seminole languages: Miccosukee and Creek. If you'd like to know a few easy Seminole words, istonko (pronounced iss-tone-koh) means "hello" in Seminole Creek, and chehuntamo (pronounced chee-hun-tah-moh) means "hello" in Miccosukee.

How do Seminole Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?

They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Seminole children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Seminole kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have palmetto dolls and wooden toys, and teenage Seminole boys liked to play ball games like lacrosse.

Seminole mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Seminole tribe?

Seminole men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Seminole women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, the chief was always a man, but today a Seminole woman can participate in government too.

What were Seminole homes like in the past?

The Seminole people lived in houses called chickees. Seminole chickees were made of wood and plaster, and the roofs were thatched with palmetto fiber. Originally, the Seminoles lived in large villages of chickees arranged around a town square with central buildings in it, like a meeting hall and a sports field.  After moving to the Everglades they began building their houses on wooden stilts that raised the floor two or three feet off the ground. This protected their homes from flooding and swamp animals.

What was Seminole clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?

Seminole men wore breechcloths. Seminole women wore wraparound skirts. Shirts were not necessary in Seminole culture, but men and women both wore poncho-style mantles in cool weather. The Seminoles also wore moccasins on their feet.

The Seminoles didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Seminole men usually shaved their heads except for a single scalplock, and sometimes they would also wear a porcupine roach. Seminole women originally wore their long hair in topknots or buns. The Seminoles wore elaborate tribal tattoos, but rarely painted their faces.  

What was Seminole transportation like in the days before cars?

Seminole Indians made flat dugout canoes from hollowed-out cypress logs. They steered these boats with poles rather than paddles, and sometimes used sails made from palmetto fiber. Over land, the Seminoles used dogs as pack animals.

What was Seminole food like in the days before supermarkets?

The Seminoles were farming people. Seminole women harvested crops of corn, beans, and squash. Seminole men did most of the hunting and fishing, catching game such as deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, turtles, and alligators. Seminole Indian dishes included cornbread, soups, and stews.

What were Seminole weapons and tools like in the past?

Seminole hunters used bows and arrows. Fishermen usually used fishing spears. Seminole warriors fired their bows or fought with tomahawks, but by the time the Seminole tribe had united in the 1700's, they also fought with guns.

What are Seminole arts and crafts like?

The Seminoles are known for their baskets, woodcarvings, beadwork, and patchwork designs.

What kinds of stories do the Seminoles tell?

There are lots of traditional Seminole legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Seminole Indian culture. Here is a story about the origin of the Seminole clans.