Where we came from

No Surrender!

By May 10, 1842, when a frustrated President John Tyler ordered the end of military actions against the Seminoles, over $20 million had been spent, 1500 American soldiers had died and still no formal peace treaty had been signed. At that time, it marked the most costly military campaign in the young country's history. And it wasn't over yet. Thirteen years later, a U.S. Army survey party - seeking the whereabouts of Abiaka and other Seminole groups - was attacked by Seminole warriors under the command of the colorful Billy Bowlegs. The nation invested its entire reserve into the apprehension of the ambushers.


The eventual capture and deportation of Bowlegs ended aggressions between the Seminoles and the United States. Unlike their dealings with other Indian tribes, however, the U.S. government could not force a surrender from the Florida Seminoles. Historians estimate there may have been only a few hundred unconquered Seminole men, women and children left - all hiding in the swamps and Everglades of South Florida. No chicanery, no offer of cattle, land, liquor or God, nothing could lure the last few from their perches of ambush deep in the wilderness. The U.S. declared the war ended - though no peace treaty was ever signed - and gave up.


The Florida survivors comprised at least two main factions: Maskoki speakers who lived near Lake Okeechobee and those who spoke the linguistically-related Hitchiti tongue (also called Miccosukee or Seminole) and lived to the south. In the remote environs of such uncharted Florida wilderness, the Seminoles remained, living in small traditional camps of cypress frame/palmetto-thatch chickees, isolated from Florida society and the rest of the world until well into the 20th century . . . long after most tribes had experienced assimilation, religious conversion and cultural annihilation.


The descendants of these last few Indian resistors are the members of today's Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the unaffiliated Independent or Traditional Seminoles.