The Enduring Seminoles
From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism
Early in this century, the Native Americans known as the Florida Seminoles struggled to survive in an environment altered by the drainage of the Everglades and a dwindling demand for hides. Patsy West describes how they turned to tourism and discovered another marketable commodity -- their own culture.
Ironically, she shows, it was the reticent Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles (who call themselves i: laponathli: ) who developed the tourist market so successfully. By the 1930s virtually all of the Florida India population was engaged in the business. They participated in fairs and expositions in Chicago, New York, and Canada. In large commercial Seminole villages in Miami and Ocala, the antigovernment i: laponathli: sewed brightly colored patchwork, wrestled alligators, and opened their palm-frond chickees to the public, attractions that visitors to the state have enjoyed for much of this century.
Though their exhibition economy originally was condemned by the government, it provided income for families as well as a lasting cultural identity for the people. Today, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida promote their tourist activities to worldwide markets as "cultural heritage and ecotourism".
Illustrated with 30 evocative photographs, West's book supplies an original and colorful social and economic history of an unconquered people. Often told in the words of the many Seminoles whom West interviewed, this book is the only one available on the topic of the cultural tourism activities of an Indian tribe.
192 pp ~ illustrated — ©1998