In the mid-1700s, large groups of Native Americans, primarily from Georgia, began to come into Florida, which was still owned by Spain. Many were displaced from war and were looking for a safe home. They would band together to form a new tribe, known as the Seminole Indian tribe. The Seminoles, meaning “separatists” or “runaways”, gained their name as a result of their decision to leave their other tribes and migrate to Florida. The early Seminole tribe had two main groups: one in the Southern part of the state and the other inhabiting the area near Lake Okeechobee. The tribe would remain in Florida, and continue to grow, including the addition of former slaves into their tribe. As the Seminoles grew in number, they would end up fighting the United States government in the Seminole Wars in an effort to maintain their livelihood and lands in Florida.
One of the most recognizable figures of the Seminole nation is Osceola. Born Billy Powell, Osceola was his name assumed at adulthood. Some pronunciations of the name lend to the meaning the “black drink”, a bitter concoction used in ritual ceremonies. But, the most common interpretation of Osceola means the “Rising Sun”. The Rising Sun, or Osceola was a great warrior who gained popularity and leadership during the Seminole Wars. He served as a war chieftain and led the tribe against the US government. Osceola taught his warriors to fight fairly and to never attack women and children. Unfortunately, the US government did not always give Osceola the courtesy of a fair fight. Osceola was captured under a white flag truce and later died in captivity. Osceola remains one of the most well-known Seminole Indians.
“Osceola Natives”, Osceola County Historical Society’s newest temporary exhibitexplores the history of Florida’s natives, the Seminole Indians, and Osceola, the war chieftain. The exhibit will be on display January 2, 2019 to April 14, 2019, at the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum, and will feature Native American artifacts, as well as original Seminole-made items. The “Osceola Native” Opening Reception will be held on January 9, 2019 from 5:30PM to 7:30PM. Discover the history and lore of some of the first inhabitants of Florida and their role in shaping Osceola County.