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Who are the Seminole Indians?

By Summer Banks
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Seminole Indians are a tribe of Native American people originally from Florida. They are a relatively newly-formed tribe, developed from the intermingling of escaped African-American slaves, Creek Indians from the state of Georgia, and Muscogees. The tribe's name is derived from the Mvskoke’ language, and literally means runaway or wild men. Two languages were spoken by native Seminole Indians — Creek and Miskasuki.

In 1830, The Indian Removal Act of Andrew Jackson moved the majority of Seminole Indians out of Florida, and to the coast of the Mississippi River. The Treaty of Payne’s Landing promised Seminoles who moved out of Florida power over lands in Oklahoma. Around 500 Indians stayed in Florida and defended their people and lands against government attack.

The Seminole Wars were waged on the Floridian sect of Seminole Indians, but were unsuccessful at removing these tribes from the state. During the Second Seminole War, it is estimated that 1,500 American soldiers were killed. The Third Seminole War was fought between 1855 and 1858, and when a cease-fire was finally called, an estimated 100 to 200 Seminoles remained in Florida. The Second Seminole War is often referred to simply as The Seminole War because it lasted longer than the other two. After the wars, Seminole tribes took on the nickname, Unconquered People.

As of 2010, about 33,000 people are registered with the Seminole Tribe. Approximately 15,000 are registered with the Seminole Nation of Florida and 18,000 with the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. After the Seminole Wars, Florida tribes took sovereignty over tribal lands. Tobacco, tourism, and gambling are main sources of employment and income for Florida Seminole Indians.

The Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma is broken into 14 bands. Two bands are called Freedman Bands or Black Seminoles. Some Black Seminoles have genealogical roots in slavery. Escaped slaves who took part in the foundation of the Seminole tribe were legally freed from slavery after the Civil War.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida broke into two sects after the Third Seminole War. The Miccosukee Tribe of Seminole Indians chose a traditional way of life and did not move onto established reservations. The Seminole Tribe of Florida chose reservation life in lieu of traditional living.

Today, the Seminole tribe is part of Florida culture. Florida State University (FSU) athletic teams use the Seminole name and logo as their mascot. Legal proceedings attempted to force FSU to change the mascot because its use was deemed offensive, but Seminole tribes of Florida and Oklahoma agreed FSU had permission to use the logo and name.

UnitedStatesNow is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anglica86 — On May 20, 2012

Good to know about the history of Indian Native Americans. If they are in Florida, then what about the black Africans? One more thing: Indian Native Americans have some connection with the Indians living in India.

By WaterHopper — On Nov 05, 2010

@dega2010:

Many years ago, the general dress for the Seminoles was typical Indian dress. The men wore breechcloths and the women wore wraparound skirts. They wore moccasins for shoes. At one point, the Seminoles adapted some European costume into their style. The men would wear colorful tunics and the women wore full patchwork skirts.

By wesley91 — On Nov 05, 2010

@dega2010: A long time ago, the Seminole Indians lived in houses that were called chickees. They were made of plaster and wood. The roofs were thatched with palmetto fiber. They used to live in large villages full of chickees which were arranged around a town square. As the Seminoles moved south towards the Everglades, they began building their homes on wooden stilts. Today, the Seminoles live in modern homes just like everyone else.

By dega2010 — On Nov 05, 2010

How did the Seminole Indians live and dress back in the day?

By calabama71 — On Nov 05, 2010

@boathugger: Most of the Seminole Indians do speak English. However, there are still some Seminoles that speak one of their two native languages, Creek and Miccosukee. Those two languages are related, but yet different. An example of both are: “istonko” (pronounced iss-tone-koh) means “hello” in Creek, and “chehuntamo” (pronounced chee-hun-tah-moh) means “hello” in Miccosukee.

By BoatHugger — On Nov 05, 2010

Do all of the Seminole people speak English?

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