Published on June 2, 2012 by Amy
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma is a federally recognized Seminole tribe based in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. It is the largest of the three federally recognized Seminole organizations, which include the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. Its members are descendants of the majority of the Seminole in Florida in the 1830s, who were forcibly removed to Oklahoma.
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Seminoles remaining in Florida fought against US forces in two periods of war (the Second and Third Seminole wars) and peace was made without their defeat. Today, descendants of those people have formed two federally recognized Seminole tribes in Florida, as well as the federally recognized Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida which separated in the 1960s from one of the Seminole organizations. Other traditional Seminole communities remain unrecognized.
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma operates its own housing authority, three casinos, three tribal smoke shops, three gasoline stations, one truck stop, an alcohol and substance abuse program, a business and corporate regulatory commission, several family services, a food distribution program, a judgment fund program, environmental protection program, and other social service programs. They also issue their own tribal vehicle tags. Their annual economic impact was $81 million in 2010.
The tribe is establishing a Seminole Nation Language Program, to revitalize its language. Traditionally, most of its people spoke Mikasuki, a Muskogean language, before learning English.
The Seminole people originated in Florida in a process of ethnogenesis, as remnant peoples from the region joined together and made a new community. They were members of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy. They are the descendants of Creek Apalache and Apalachicola, and also African-American peoples, who found refuge from European-American encroachment in the swamps of northern Florida in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
The War of 1812 and subsequent warfare caused a great increase in migration of Muscogee Creek people into Seminole lands. The 1823 population of Seminoles was estimated at 5000, but three wars fought by the US government decimated the Seminole population: the First Seminole War of 1817-18, the Second Seminole War of 1835-42, and the Third Seminole War of 1855-58. At the time of the later two wars, most of the tribe had already relocated to Indian Territory, following the signing of the Treaty of Payne’s Landing in 1832. The first Seminoles arrived in Indian Territory in 1832, and by 1842, 3612 Seminoles settled in the American West.
The Seminoles remaining in Florida gained federal recognition and their own reservation in the early 20th century. Since then, two more Seminole and Micosukitribes in Florida have been federally recognized.
The Seminoles in Indian Territory were confined to the Muscogee Creek Reservation and forced to follow their laws. Two bands of Seminoles upset by this situation left for Mexico in 1849, led by John Horse and Wild Cat. Finally in 1856, the United States allowed the Seminole to govern their own reservation, in what is now Seminole County, Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, collective tribal lands were broken up by the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887, by which communal lands were allocated to individual households, after which the US government sold off some of the “surplus”. Under the Curtis Act of 1898, intended to assimilate the Native Americans, the tribal government was dismantled. The tribe was forced to turn over its institutions, such as boys and girls’ academies, as well to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) or state government to operate. The tribe eventually restored its government under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act and regained jurisdiction over its land in 1935. In 1970 the tribal council reorganized again to more closely follow traditional Seminole government structure.