End of the War

By the end of the war, over 3,000 Seminole had been relocated from their homeland in Florida to Oklahoma, either by coercion or force. No one really knows how many died in combat or from injury and disease.


When Billy Bowlegs and his followers were taken away from Florida, it was the final act of Indian Removal east of the Mississippi. Fewer than two hundred Seminole remained in Florida. They were led by Abiaka – Old Sam Jones – who had been the firmest opponent of removal since the war began. He led his people into the deep wetlands of Florida. There they survived and became ancestors of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida Indians.


The Seminole taken to Oklahoma arrived with almost nothing to their names. There they were situated on lands with which they were unfamiliar. The government had promised them a land of their own; but instead they found themselves on the reservation of the Creek Indians – the same people who had previously allied with the United States Army against them.


Many Black Seminole, who agreed to relocate under the promise they would be recognized as Tribal members and afforded certain protections, instead found that the Creek subscribed to the same philosophies of slavery they had fought to escape in Florida. Some of them left Oklahoma, following Coacoochee and John Horse to Mexico where they were granted lands along the border. Others campaigned for independence in Oklahoma and became the ancestors of today’s Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.


The end of the war was the beginning of the rest of the story in the deep South, and Florida in particular. Ultimately, the wild and untamed Florida would be in parts dredged, drained, filled, and transformed for development. The nation’s goals of occupying Florida and capitalizing on her resources were realized, but at a significant cost to others. Cultural practices of the Seminole were threatened as their lifestyles were adapted to changing environments and assimilation to their new neighbors, the white settlers.


Along with their brothers and sisters in the rest of the South, African Americans in Florida continued to suffer through emancipation, terror lynchings, the Civil Rights Era, and Jim Crow laws that served to institutionalize economic, educational, and social disadvantages for African Americans and other people of color living in the South.


This has left the country with a traumatic legacy of wounds that are slow to heal.

 


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