white doctors. The cures the latter have brought about are increasing
their prestige among the Indians who now call on them more fre-
The Seminole medicine man is no obstetrician and is never called
to attend an expectant mother. When her hour of labor arrives the
prospective mother, accompanied by a near relative, retires to a pre-
viously prepared tent or shelter, some distance from the camp. Cory
Osceola brought his wife to a hospital in 1929 and that was the first
year an Indian maternity case was admitted to a Miami hospital.
When the baby is four days old it receives its first string of beads.
Should the string break before a year has passed, it is believed that the
baby will lose many friends. To avert such bad luck, the beads are
often restrung during that period.
As a child grows older he receives the customary training in
SEMINOLES, PAST AND PRESENT 33
obedience. He must learn to obey commands immediately and with-
out comment or argument. Unruly youngsters are switched. In
flagrant cases the parent uses a snake's tooth to scratch the stubborn
child's arm, sometimes bringing blood. That these Indians have their
problems in child training and guidance is evident from the many
scarred arms observed in some camps.
The training a child receives is of an intensely practical nature.
As a rule Seminole children are unworried by church or school bells.
A few girls have been sent to out-of-state reservation schools and one
boy attend the Miami Senior High School. Several attempts to estab-
lish schools among them failed, largely because the average Indian
family does not remain long in one place and because many of them
still cling tenaciously to old traditions. "Indian wants to live as he
lived in the old days": in these words Sam Jones, influential medicine
man voiced the attitude of his people.
This viewpoint has helped also to defeat repeated efforts by sev-
eral religious denominations to Christianize the Seminoles. The Bap-
tist and Episcopal missionaries are still in the field, aided by a Creek
Baptist missionary from Oklahoma, but even after years of teaching,
Christian religion is still not established as an institution.
They believe in a Supreme Being, a future existence, and resur-
rection, but whether these beliefs are vestiges of early Spanish in-
fluences or the result of later missionary efforts is difficult to ascertain.
Their legends would indicate that their present religion is a rather con-
fused collection of concepts growing out of a fusion of the beliefs of
the various peoples who combined to form the tribe and the passive
or unintentional adoption of such Christian tenets as appealed to them.
"E-shock-e-toni-isee" (God), according to one version of cre-
ation, scattered seeds in a fertile valley and men sprang from the seeds.
God had a son, "E-shock-e-tom-issee-e-po-chee," who, at one time,
came to live with the Indians in the southern part of Florida and,
carried over their land by three braves, sowed coontie seed that his
people might never be hungry. Coontie (wild cassava) today is
found only in the southern end of the peninsula.
That they have knowledge of the Christian version of creation is
evinced in a story told by a white medicine man, a particular friend
of the Big Cypress group. When this man told how the Great Spirit
took two ribs from the first man and made a woman, a listening In-
dian gravely interrupted him with the words, "One rib."
Fear, the basis of most primitive religions, is embodied in the
Seminole belief and tends to secure conformity to their moral code,
neither to lie, nor steal, nor cheat. When a bad Indian dies his soul
dies with him and there the matter ends. The soul of the good In-
34 MIAMI AND BADE COUNTY
dian goes to talk with God for four days. While it is gone the fam-
ily keeps fires lighted at each end of his grave. After talking with
God, the spirit, "Sue-loo-path-e," of the dead Indian returns to earth,
looks over his home and friends, takes his possessions, and departs.
The spirit is free to return at any time but this privilege is not ac-
corded the spirit of bad Indians.
A somewhat different practice is 6bserved when an Indian meets
a violent death. Chief Jack Tigertail was shot and killed by a white
man early on the morning of March 8, 1922. He was buried by white
men who placed beside his body all his possessions, including his rifle.
Only a brother was present. The family remained in camp for, in
cases of violent death, evil spirits take possession of the body. If near
relatives look upon the remains, these evil spirits escape and enter into
them. By not looking on the dead kinsman, the evil spirits are com-
pelled to remain in the body and are buried with it. To ward off any
stray spirits and bring peace to the tribe, the family keeps a number of
fires burning about the camp for four days.
Social control assumes severe forms in marriage regulations. While
an Indian may take a wife from another race, tribal law, rigidly en-
forced by the squaws, prevents an Indian woman from accepting any
but an Indian for a husband. The Indian girl who transgresses the
moral code faces death. Nigger Dick, who lives at Immokalee, is the
son of an Indian mother and a Negro. The squaws killed his mother
when he was two years old. Another Indian girl who had a baby by
a white man was subjected to heartless cruelty by the squaws when she
gave birth to her child. Two white women who were present left the
scene for a few moments and on their return discovered that the
squaws had killed the newborn baby.
Adultery is likewise punishable by death and marriage vows are
therefore rarely broken. Divorces, however, are permitted, but are
extremely rare. In case a couple decides to part the procedure is
simple. The man leaves and the woman becomes again a part of her
mother's family. Any children born of the union belong uncondi-
tionally to the wife. This right is vested in her by reason of the
Seminole custom of reckoning descent through the mother and is
so strongly felt that a man will not touch or fondle his children fol-
lowing a divorce.
Marriage is exogamous, that is, forbidding a man to select a mate
within his own group or clan. According to an old tribal custom it
should be prefaced by an engagement lasting over a period of four
years. During that time the prospective groom must live with the
girl's family. If the young man proves amicable and is well liked they
may be married by the chief at the Green Corn Dance following the
SEMINOLES, PAST AND PRESENT 35
fourth year of their engagement. As a rule, however, the young
couple finds the situation intolerable and elope into the swamps. On
their return they go before the chief who performs an informal cere-
mony. The formal marriage must take place later at the Green Corn
The marriage ceremony is short, its performance requiring but
a few brief words. Tony Tommy and Edna John Osceola, a de-
scendant of Chief Osceola, were married on June 16, 1926, with John
Osceola, uncle of the bride, officiating. Bidding the couple to clasp
their right hands together, he instructed them to "Be good, love each
other and live together." The evening was spent in feasting and
dancing. The next morning the young couple left camp for an in-
definite stay in the Everglades, Indian equivalent to a honeymoon,
Not long afterward, Edna Tommy died in camp on the Miami
River and was buried the same day in Woodlawn Park Cemetery, for
custom decrees that a person dying during the day must be buried
before the sun sets. If death occurs during the night interment must
take place before sunrise.
The morning she died the waters of the Miami River were con-
secrated and the women of the village bathed in the sacred water.
Cooking utensils were cleaned and scoured and nothing was cooked in
them that day.
During the day, bread, canned foods, water, her clothing and
personal trinkets were placed in her coffin at the funeral home. At
the ceremony Tony Tommy, with a blue handkerchief tied over his
head, stood at the head of the grave and handed down his wife's
blankets and cooking utensils. The grave, in accordance with Semi-
nole instructions, was so prepared that the remains might face the
Since the Seminoles began burying their dead in the cemeteries
provided for their use at Dania and Immokalee reservations, some of
the ceremonies have been dropped. Until a few years ago, the In-
dians took their dead to the Everglades. They placed two heavy logs
side by side and lined the space with palmetto fronds on which they
laid the corpse wrapped in a blanket and bound with ropes or saw-
grass. When the possessions were arranged beside the body they laid
a "hog pen" of logs over it for protection from buzzards and animals.
They made medicine and departed to return again after an interval of
four months when they cleaned around the "pen," made more medi-
cine and left, never to visit the spot again.
No women attended these funeral ceremonies. If the deceased
were under five years of age the women took complete charge and the
36 MIAMI AND D A D E COUNTY
men were not permitted to assist. No medicine was made at a child's
funeral but the women returned to clean around the "pen" as did
Many ceremonies of various natures are performed at the Green
Corn Dance, held deep in the Everglades during the month of June.
This dance is the annual "get-together'-' for the Seminoles and is the
only festival in which all groups participate. The locations are de-
termined each year and three dances are arranged on dates that per-
mit any Indian or group of Indians to attend all three, but the priv-
ilege is little used.
While a few white men have witnessed some of these dances, it is
doubtful if they have gained an accurate or complete knowledge of
their meaning. In the early part of the century young Indians were
initiated as warriors in one of the ceremonies known as the "In-sha-
pit." The young buck's legs were cut with switches until the blood
flowed and he was acknowledged as a warrior if he betrayed no sign
At this festival the Indians also pass judgment on those who
transgress tribal laws. Some years ago a prominent Seminole killed a
squaw in a drunken brawl. Following the crime he was placed in
custody of a fellow tribesman since the Seminoles have no jails or
officers of the law. Later, he accompanied his custodian to the Green
Corn Dance knowing full well that a death penalty awaited him. The
night before the trial his stoicism deserted him and, apart from his
fellows, he lay through the long hours of darkness, groaning and roll-
ing on the ground.
Meanwhile the Indian agent, old, partly deaf, and half blind, was
hurrying along the arduous trail to the camp. He appeared before the
solemn council and pleaded for the life of the murderer. The man
awaiting judgment had been of great help to their tribe in the past
and if spared, would be a credit to them in the future. The agent won
a suspended sentence for the prisoner who was, nevertheless, placed
under probation for life. If, thereafter, he was found in any disturb-
ance, even though it be started by others, he was subject to immediate
execution. He lives today still under the shadow of this perpetual
sentence. He is an influential man in his tribe, friendly with white
men, and leads an exemplary life.
At the Green Corn Dance, which is likewise a feast for sorrow-
ing, rejoicing, and purifying, men who are guilty of minor offenses
are reinstated. The offenders are confined in a closed tent where a
large stone rests on a roaring fire. The "Black Drink," an herb con-
coction prepared by the chief medicine man, is poured over the hot
SEMINOLES, PAST AND PRESENT 37
stone and the entrance to the tent is sealed. Later, the inmates are re-
leased and permitted to join the festivities.
The Indians, during these ceremonies, permit no white men to
approach, to take pictures of, or to speak with the medicine man or
members of his council. The medicine man sits near the sacred fire
and from time to time takes herbs from a leather pouch dropping
them in a kettle to make the potion which the braves drink and also
use to lave their faces and feet.
It is said that the "Black Drink" is brewed from a mixture of
star grass, slippery elm and palmetto leaves, and used by head men in
preparation for important conclaves. The beverage is supposed to
cleanse the system and bring wisdom and clearness to the mind.
At sundown the men and women gather about the fire and be-
gin to chant, dancing in single file around the blaze. The women used
to wear pebble-filled gourds tied just below their knees for this dance
but they have now adopted tin cans filled with beans or pebbles. Their
songs are a rhythmic monotone. They seem to have forgotten both
their war songs and dances.
Minnie Moore Willson, a writer on Indian life, mentions a ritual,
similar to the national festival of the Aztecs, during which the old
fires are permitted to die. When the last spark is burnt out a new fire,
the Sacred Fire, is kindled by means of a flint and the fire is pre-
sented from one tribe to another as a token of friendship.
According to an old Seminole legend there was once a time, long
ago, when only one tribe knew the secret of fire. This tribe guarded
its knowledge closely. Even at the Green Corn Dance, braves
from neighboring tribes were not allowed to approach the flames.
One year a large rabbit came to the Green Corn Dance and asked
to join the dance. The elders of the tribe were suspicious and would
have refused his request but the younger Indians, intrigud by the
rabbit's charm and persuasiveness, over-ruled their objections. So the
rabbit joined the celebrations and he danced and sang so well he soon
became the leader.
As he circled the fire he extended first one paw and then the
other toward the flames. The older men muttered at his temerity
but the young men laughed at his capers. Suddenly the rabbit seized
a brand from the blaze. Before the startled Indians realized his
intentions, he broke through the crowd and raced into the forest.
He ran with such speed that pursuit was useless.
The wise men held a council and it was decided that they must
bring rains to extinguish the fire stolen by the rabbit. The medicine
man went to the spring guarded by the snake. For four mornings
ha made medicine, charming the snake and troubling the waters of
38 MIAMI AND D A D E COUNTY
the spring. Then the rain came. It overtook and drenched the rabbit
deep in the forest and the fire he carried was put out.
The rabbit appeared again at the Green Corn Dance held the
following year. Again he persuaded the Indians to let him join the
dance. After hours of fun-making and laughter he again seized a
burning brand from the fire and escaped into the forest. Once more
the medicine man made magic. The rain overtook the rabbit and
quenched the stolen fire.
When the Indians gathered for the Green Corn Dance on the
third year the rabbit renewed his efforts to secure the fire but though
he succeeded in stealing it the medicine man brought the rain for the
third time and the rabbit's work went for naught.
The rabbit, however, was persistent. He came to the dance the
fourth year and once more persuaded the tribe to let him join the
dance. As before, the cunning rabbit made off with a stick from
thi fire. For the fourth time, the medicine man caused the rains
to come. The rabbit, by this time, had become wiser. He knew
the rain would destroy the fire he had stolen. When the first drops
began to fall he ran to a coral reef and held the fire under a sheltering
rock. When the rains ended he continued his journey and carried
the fire back to his tribe.
Such are the stories told and retold, year by year, at the "Green
Corn Dance." Ancient rites and traditions, things that make a people
into a community, are fostered at this ceremony. Seminole laws are
embraced in their simple moral codes, and the group assembling at
the 1 "Green Corn places" is the judicial and executive body.
Theoretically, the Seminoles are subject to all state and Federal
laws but the application is general and enforced only if the crime
implicates a person outside the tribe. In a recent murder case involv-
ing two Indians, the local court conducted a perfunctory hearing
and turned the offender back to the tribe for judgment.
While the Indians appear thoroughly capable of handling
internal affairs, they are not a unified people and stand in need of a
recognized leader. The Big Cypress group maintains an independent
attitude and apparently resents the growing intimacy between the
East Coast Indians and the whites. On one occasion, they openly
denounced an overture which an eastern group made to the Federal
Tony Tommy, educated with white children at Fort Lauderdale,
addressed the following communication, dated December 10, 1926,
to President Coolidge:
"It is the sincere and earnest wish of the 300 members of the
Seminole Indian nation in the State of Florida to end the truce
SEMINOLES, PAST AND PRESENT 39
made for them by Chief Osceola with the United States Govern-
ment, in the year 1817, and to become citizens of the United
States of America by severing allegiance to the job and to take
such legal and necessary steps as will remove all legal restric-
tions which have heretofore prevented them from enjoying all
the rights and privileges accorded other nations and peoples.
"In councils with the people of my various tribes, I as or-
dained chief of the Seminole Indian people in all Florida, have
been authorized to take such steps as I deem advisable to bring
about a more amicable relationship with the United States Gov-
"I, therefore, beseech you as President of the United States of
America to listen to my appeal and give me advice and council
regarding what steps are necessary to bring about the desired
Nuck-Suc-Ha-Chee, a resident of the lower Everglades branded
Tony Tommy a fake and labelled his peace gesture a publicity stunt.
Indignant, he dispatched Josie Billy to Fort Myers to say that when
Federal cooperation was wanted the Indian council would take formal
action and make announcements through the proper channel, the
This resentment against intrusion in their affairs is very much
alive today. A group of big Cypress Indians refused invitations to
the dedication of a new school building completed on the Brighton
Reservation in November, 1938, though a majority of the Indians
on this reservation favored the school for their children and cooper-
ated to the extent of aiding in its construction.
The first school for Indians on the East Coast was built at Dania
and opened in January 1927. It was closed much of the time for
lack of attendance. Another school built at Miami remains unused
for the same reason.
Since the Florida Seminole Agency, later moved to Dania, was
established east of Fort Myers in 1892 for the "support, civilization,
and instruction of the Seminole Indians in Florida," but little prog-
ress has been made. At their camps and villages, the Indian com-
mercializes his handiwork, his sports, his traditions, and even his very
family. Yet, though his premises are open and unguarded, his
attitude of philosophical and stoical indifference is as unimpression-
able as the silence of the never-ending swamps that stretch away to
the gray horizon.
HISTORY OF MIAMI AND DADE COUNTY
* 'HE first white settlement in Dade County was on the site of
what is now the city of Miami. It was the Jesuit Mission of
Tequesta, established by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1567, and
consisted of a block-house that sheltered about 30 soldiers and Brother
Villareal, a Jesuit lay brother, who was delegated to instruct the
Indians in the Christian faith.
These Indians were of the Calusa nation. They were cruel,
shrewd, and rapacious. They were known to offer human sacrifices.
They murdered most of the priests, explorers and adventurers who
came among them or who were so unfortunate as to be shipwrecked
on their coast. Early writers never definitely established a reason for
their bloodthirsty attitude. According to Fontanedo they often
killed their white captives, not out of fear or anger, but out of sheer
annoyance. The savages might ask the whites to dance or sing and
the captives could not obey because they did not understand the
Indians who thereupon put them to death.
Such were the Tequestas and other tribes of south Florida. The
site of the Jesuit Mission at the mouth of the Miami River has not
been definitely located. Its brief history is but a line or two in the
annals of the early Jesuit Fathers. The Tequesta mission was aban-
doned and it was not until 1743 that another attempt was made to
Christianize the natives in this area.
Father F. X. Alegre in his History of the Company of Jesus,
writing of the inhabitants of the keys, says that they had "inherited
a reverent regard for the early Jesuit Fathers from their Calusa and
Tequesta ancestors." At any rate the Jesuits established a second
mission, San Ignacio, somewhere in the vicinity of Coconut Grove.
The Fathers mention their meeting with the Miamias, and this is
the first instance in which the name is associated with a people.
Two priests, Fathers Alana and Monaca, worked with the soldiers
to build a shelter of logs, mortar, and coral stone. Father Alana
then went to Cuba to ask the governor, Gomez y Horcasitas, for
additional soldiers. The request was not granted and sometime later
this second mission was deserted.
Spain and England, in 1748, concluded a treaty designed to keep
peace between their respective colonies in the New World but in
1759 Spain joined France in the French and Indian War. Three
years later, Havana and Cuba fell to English arms. Spain regarded
Cuba with more interest than Florida and therefore, when peace was
made, succeeded in trading the English out of their possession, offer-
ing them the Territory of Florida. Thus, under the Treaty of Paris,
1763, Florida passed to the English having been under Spanish rule
for nearly two centuries.
In 1774 Governor Patrick Tonyn was in charge of the govern-
ment of East Florida, King George III having divided his prize into
an East and West Florida in 1763, the year in which the last of the
Calusas were transported from Dade County to Cuba. Tonyn's name
is of interest because it is said to be affixed to the first land grant
made in this area.
After the Revolutionary War, Florida remained an English pos-
session but was shortly afterward traded back to Spain again, England
receiving in return the Bahamas. During the English regime many
loyal subjects of the King, and others, had been led to settle in Florida.
It is probable that most of them might have retained their holdings
but to do so they would have to swear allegiance to the Spanish King.
The English Crown generously offered to reimburse subjects who
held Florida lands and preferred to lose them rather than become
subjects of Spain.
One of these was John Augustus Ernest who described his
property as follows:
"Sheweth that your Memoralist now is, and has been
"a Resident in London upwards of twenty years; and
"at the late cession of East Florida to Spain was
"in possession of twenty thousand Acres of Land, in
"Pine, Marsh & Savannahs, situated on Gulph Sandwich,
"bound by Rock-Bridge River North; by a fresh Water
"River, South, by Biscayne Sound East; & by vacant
"Land West; distant from St. Augustine in said pro-
"vince of East Florida about two hundred and Ninety
"That the said twenty thousand Acres of Land were
"given and granted to the Memoralist, and to his
"Heirs for ever, by the King & Council, and by Patent
"under the hand and Seal of Governor Tonyn, dated East
"Florida, 27th. December 1774 "
Ernest never saw his land in Dade County. During the period
of English occupation, however, there was another, one Frankie
Lewis, who evidently had no great concern about his political or
42 MIAMI AND D A D E COUNTY
governmental ties. In 1796 Lewis obtained from the Spanish Crown,
a grant of 640 acres located "south of the New River, near Cape
This marked the beginning of a mild real estate boom in what
is now Dade County. In 1805 his Spanish Majesty granted 175 acres
of land on Key Biscayne to Mary Ann Davis and another of 640
acres, "south of the Miami River, near Cape Florida" to Polly Lewis.
John Eagan likewise secured 640 acres, "south of the Miami River,