Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fort  Cooper State Park , Florida and the Seminole Wars 

March 11,2017

Fort  Cooper State Park , Florida and the Seminole Wars:  One time that indigenous people didn't lose

Our morning walk revealed several opportunities for close-up wildlife experience...the Green Heron above, and Alicia, the Alligator below.

A Florida State Park historian gives us the background for the historical recreation event. Which took place in 1836, when another ranting demagogue, Andrew Jackson, occupied the White House.

This man told us all about African American slaves who escaped their shackles and joined with the Seminole. Many migrated to the Bahamas before and after the Seminole wars. Some wound up in the west, especially Oklahoma. You can read a more comprehensive account here.

Major Cooper, and his horse Terminator (name of this horse owned by the actor!), while awaiting the return of General Scott, led his men out of the fort to encounter the Seminole, who were not in the least put off by the American troops. Incidentally, the Seminole had better guns than the soldiers.


One would expect that the Seminole warriors were a tad younger than these gents, but you have to love their enthusiasm, and dress!

That is, until I spotted this colourfully dressed younger man, firing off his musket with gusto. He seemed a smidgeon more, ummm authentic!

The invasive soldiers even had a cannon, which made a loud boom, and scared the birds, The Seminole suffered nary a scratch from all this bluster and muster.

For comparative purposes, here is the authentic Seminole with two of his less authentic colleagues:) I learned a few more things from the man on the right. For example, the Spaniards were known to name the indigenous people they met (prior to making their lives miserable) according to what they understood from the indigenous language being spoken. This practice was continued by the other European invaders. Therefore, when some Europeans traded with indigenous people from the swamps of southeast Florida, they asked the people who they were. The people of the local nation interpreted the gesticulations as “Where are you from” and the answer was “me -ame”, which means something like “over there, that way”. So the Europeans thought they were called Miamis .Heh.

I also learned I had been mispronouncing Seminole. The final “e” is pronounced in a soft “e” kind of way. This is similar to the soft sound that ends Iroquoian words. North American indigenous languages may be more connected than many of us thought in the past.

Afterwards, your joyful blogger sought out a few of the combattants. The one to my right turned out to be a college history professor and the one on my left turned out to be the only real Seminole. His costume seemed to be more realistic, and indeed it was. He told me that the Seminole started to wear turbans with feathers after they saw turbaned Indians (the real ones from India) trading at St. Augustine. That is so cool.

We had a great conversation, learning much from each other. The Seminole have been very politically active in Florida and have managed to maintain their independence and dignity. There are 4500 living in the Everglades, where they decided to go, as this area was inaccessible to the Americans in the 19th century. They still live there. They were never defeated, and never signed a treaty. They do have agreements with the Florida State Government which cover a lot of issues of importance to the Seminole.

He then introduced me to his daughter, one of the youngest Seminole. Note the historically authentic Oreo cookie in her hand:) hehe.

We then visited the Seminole Camp, where we learned a lot about local bush craft.  The woman, pictured here, was especially informative about tools, foods and other resources available in the local wild. This knowledge and ease with the challenging Florida natural environment afforded the Seminole a very large advantage during the 3 Seminole Wars.

I photographed this sign, so that you may read the park's history of the events here. Right click the photo, then choose "open in new tab" from  the drop down menu.  You will see a large, readable version of the  photo. You can also enlarge the photo by zooming in.

Although known primarily as the site of a Seminole War battle, Fort Cooper State Park is also a nature preserve.  As with most state-owned lands in this region, controlled burns are needed to return habitat to its natural state.  The Turkey Oaks (above) often survive one or two burns, as seen above.  This small Oak is one of the species that tends to invade, and is controlled by fire.

We were fortunate this Winter/Spring to see more butterflies than average, including any of the very stunning Zebra Swallowtails, Eurytides Marcellus.

The trail we took turned out to be much longer than expected. Fortune shone upon us when we met a ranger in an ATV along the trail and he drove us back to our car! He was a biologist, so we had a great conversation about some of the more unusual species and events in this park.  He was also the one who told us about the controlled burn in the park.  Florida State Park staff have been so helpful, informative and generous with their time during all of our visits.  If you plan a trip to Florida be sure to visit as many of these gems as possible.