Published on February 26, 2013 by Amy
Betty Mae Tiger Jumper (April 27, 1923 – January 14, 2011) was the first female chief of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
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Betty Mae Tiger Jumper was born on April 27, 1923, in a Seminole camp near Indiantown, Florida. She grew up in Dania, in Broward County. At night Betty Tiger listened as older members of the tribe told stories passed down from their ancestors. “The stories taught you how to live,” she said. She would later write down these stories to preserve them for future generations. Before she could do that, she had to learn how to read and write. At that time Seminole children were not allowed to attend public schools in Florida. Betty Mae Tiger decided to attend a boarding school for Native Americans. She became the first Seminole to learn to read and write English and then to graduate from high school. She graduated from high school in 1945. Betty Tiger then enrolled in a nursing program at the Kiowa Indian Hospital in Oklahoma. She returned to Florida the following year and worked to improve health care in the Seminole community. There she married Moses Jumper. She also traveled to many Seminole towns to care for members of her tribe. She started a tribal newsletter called the Seminole News, which later became The Seminole Tribune in 1950.
In 1967 Betty Mae Tiger Jumper became the first female chair, or chief, of the Seminole tribe. At that point, the tribe had just $35 in savings, but thanks to her leadership, the tribe had $500,000 when she left office in 1971. She also brought together several tribes to form an organization that runs health and education programs for its members. “I had three goals in my life,” Mrs. Jumper says. “To finish school, to take nurse’s training and come back and work among my people, and to write three books.” She has met those goals and many more.
Betty Mae Tiger Jumper was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994.
She died peacefully in her sleep on the morning of Friday, January 14, 2011.