Saturday, October 17, 2015

Miccosukee Indians

Never heard of the Miccosukee Indians?  Neither had we until we came across this tourist attraction on the Tamiami Trail in the Florida Everglades.  Originally part of the Seminole tribe, these people were those than remained in the area after the forcible relocation of Indians after the Seminole Wars.  They banded together and were officially recognized by the Federal government in the 1960s.  They are fiercely independent and still practice many of the ways of their ancestors.

This "art" piece greeted us in the parking lot.  A little tacky looking, we weren't sure the entrance fee would be worth it.

Entrance to the village

This attraction is well worth the price of admission, if only for the opportunity to tour the museum on the grounds.  The village itself is a bit Disney-esque, but does educate the visitor about traditional practices, with tribe members cooking, carving and sewing. The Miccosukee are a very closed tribe, preferring to keep their traditions such as song and dance, to themselves.  Rich in history, they do run a casino, but many of the tribe still hunt and fish in the old way, the women do patchwork and make baskets and all pass along these traditions to the youth.

Sample basketry

This structure is called a chickee and is the preferred home for some to this day.  Several of these structures are built within close proximity with each having a separate function such as sleeping, cooking or gathering.  The chickee can withstand hurricane force winds and provides all the protection needed in south Florida.

Traditional patchwork
Each of these samples represent patterns that have meaning to the Miccosuckee.  For example, the orange one is fire; others are crab or turtle or other things that the women use to tell a story.


Unfinished carving

Sample carved goods

A little hokey, we watched the alligator "wrestler."   He made it a point to tell us the alligator wasn't "trained"; rather that it took skill and care to handle the gator.

Alligator "wrestler"

The star of the show

Getting up close and personal

The gator pond contained alligators of all sizes; babies, teenagers, adults and old guys.  Apparently, they live peacefully with turtles because the pond contained several of them as well.

Best friends?

Alligator skull

Sid riding a Florida panther

Me and my live alligator buddy

Like a lot of things we've done on this trip, this unplanned activity was well worth the time spent.  We learned about a proud people who, despite the government's desire to banish them, banded together and are thriving on their own terms.  If you ever find yourself in the Everglades and think there's not much to see, think again and visit this attraction.

Since we had opted for a quiet boat ride, we still had a ride in an airboat on our bucket list.  With a newly found respect for the Miccosuckee people, we decided to give them our business and take a second ride through the Everglades.

View from the airboat

Another view
At first glance, it kind of all looks the same, but there is quite a variety of grasses and flowers.

A Miccosuckee home
A cluster of chickees built on a platform in the middle of the wetlands, this home is still used for gatherings today.  These homesteads are dotted throughout the Everglades.

Can you see the alligator?

The ride in the airboat was fun.  The young man driving did some trick steering on the way back, to give us a little thrill, I guess, and it was interesting to drive straight at a huge clump of grass and clear it without feeling a bump or anything.  So, another bucket list item checked off!

I knew I couldn't leave Florida without trying alligator.  It was okay, but I don't think I'd put it on the menu on a regular basis.  

Gator bites
Tastes like chicken!

We ended up spending 5 days and 4 nights in the Everglades.  We spent time watching the resident alligator and Sid did some fishing in the lake in the campground until the gator would put a stop to it.  He would allow the fishing for a little bit, then would come, Jaws-like, across the lake to wherever Sid was standing.  Funny! I'm still not sure why anyone would choose to live in an area with a climate like the Everglades but I guess it takes all kinds.  Our visit was enjoyable and yours will be, too, if you get a chance to go.

Until next time...

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