Reeder, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, dances the fancy shawl
dance Jan. 10 at the Big Cypress 119th Anniversary Celebration.
Indian OU Tata Roberts, of Taos Pueblo, dances the Indian
two-step with Mitchell Cypress Jan. 10 during Big Cypress
119th Anniversary Celebration festivities. Roberts is a member
of the Central Plains Dancers who attended the event to showcase
different Native American dance styles.
Big Cypress, FL Hundreds of cars and trucks
packed a pasture-turned-parking lot Jan. 10 in Big Cypress where
more than a century ago Seminole ancestors braved wilderness, swampland
and bloody battles for Native American freedom.
The Seminole people were so tough to survive
those times and then to come so far. We have to give the people
a lot of credit, said Fred Douglas, a self-described cowboy
from LaBelle, at the Junior Cypress Rodeo Arena.
About 1,600 people attended the Big Cypress 119th
Anniversary Celebration, hosted by Councilman Mondo Tiger, that
commemorated the Tribes victory against the U.S. Army, subsequent
settlement in Big Cypress and ultimate formation of Big Cypress
According to public records, the Bureau of Indian
Affairs in 1889 purchased 160 acres in Big Cypress in reserve for
the Seminoles. In 1896, more land was added. Big Cypress Reservation
was formally dedicated in 1936 and now consists of 82 square miles.
Seminole and Miccosukee artists displayed and
sold handmade clothing, jewelry, baskets and wood carvings in
chickees amid the festival atmosphere. American barbecue was served
under tents side by side with Native American frybread and sofkee
The Tribal Historic Preservation Office exhibited
a timeline of the Second Seminole War that spanned 1835 to the mid-1840s.
The Third Seminole War began officially in 1855 in Southwest Florida
and ended in 1858 with only a few hundred Seminoles in Big Cypress
and other isolated areas of Florida.
Now the Tribe is 4,000 strong and growing,
Councilman Tiger said. For me, today means so much about what
ancestors did for us to have our freedom, and this gives us a chance
to thank them for never giving up.
Tribal members and outsiders filled bleachers
in the heart of the festival area to watch the Central Plains Dancers
showcase Native American jingle, grass, shawl and eagle dances.
Drummer Al Santos, a Taino/Arawak, kept the beat.
Marty Thurman, a grass dancer from Shawnee, Oklahoma,
told the audience that Native drumbeats are never the hard one-three
beat heard in movies or at football games.
What you hear from real Native drums is
the heartbeat of the Indian people it is not written down;
it is passed from generation to generation. If your heartbeat ever
sounds like the Hollywood movie beat, please see a doctor right
away, Thurman said.
Before the dancers finale, eagle dancer
Tony Wahweotten, of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, led guests
the Indian two-step, a friendship dance in which non-Natives and
Natives stomped first in couples and then holding hands in a circle.
Wahweotten called performing at the anniversary
celebration an honor. Im happy to be a part
of it all and to
show people, and other indigenous people, how we can come together
and put aside differences, he said.
Cowboy boots and hats blended with patchwork
at the cultural event that capped off with a country concert. Western
duo Montgomery Gentry took the stage first. Country rocker Gary
Allan later brought down the house.
Country fans Tim and Marianne Hamilton traveled
from Homestead to celebrate the Seminole anniversary and
attend the concert.
The couple said they admire Native history and
culture. Once, on a motorcycle ride to Sturgis, South Dakota, they
made a side trip to see the Crazy Horse Memorial.
We are both people who respect Native American
people. Its always nice to see culture that is so naturally
spiritual, Marianne Hamilton said.