Who Are the Seminole

The Seminole emerged as an ethnic group descending from various Native American groups. These Native Americans were the first people who came to Florida, thousands of years before it was called by that name.

They were part of a large culture and trade network that spread across North America, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, now known as the Mississippian Culture.

When the Spanish arrived in Florida they called the Native Americans the Miccosukee people, the Muscogee people and the Calusa. Over time, these groups of Indians were joined by the survivors of many other groups including the Creeks, Apalachee, Timucua, Tia, and Yuchee. This created a diverse culture that was often baffling to American observers and gave the tribe a wide range of skills and strengths.

When the Spanish learned they could not control the Indians, they started calling them cimarrones, the Spanish word for runaways or wild ones. These Florida Indians heard this word as shiminolie and called themselves yat’siminoli, which they took as a point of pride, considering themselves free people, rather than runaways. In the 1770s, the English heard the term for the first time and wrote it down as Siminolies — today’s Seminoles.

The Seminole in Florida were divided by the Seminole Wars into two Seminole groups. This included the Seminole Tribe – those who remained in Florida – and the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma – those who had been forcibly relocated to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.


The Seminole Tribe (in Florida) continued to include a mix of Indians from different cultures, including the Miccosukees, the Traditionalists and the Creeks among others. Although the government insisted on treating them as a unified people, there were cultural differences that divided the Seminole Tribe. It wasn’t until the mid-20th Century that they were officially separated into two distinct tribes – the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida (originally the Miccosukee Seminole Tribe).

All three are Federally recognized Native American tribes.

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