Seminole - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Field cultivation as in the past was the Seminole mainstay in Florida, with hunting and fishing adding animal proteins, and European crops and animals adding variety to traditional foods. Toward the second half of the nineteenth century, Seminole men occasionally acted as guides for hunters and fishers from the outside, and eventually some found employment as agricultural laborers on farms and plantations around their encampments. Sales of hides, particularly alligator, and plumes from egrets brought money from the fashion industry before World War I, and some men supplied frogs' legs to coastal restaurants. In the twentieth century Seminole found jobs at tourist attractions, and as road building advanced in Florida, some learned to operate heavy machinery. Today they engage in a variety of employments, but agriculture, cattle, and tourist industries remain the significant means of obtaining income.

Industrial Arts and Trade. Aboriginally, the ancestral groups had no metal, but made equipment from wood, stone, bone, hides, clay, and other natural substances. After contact with European traders, metal equipment replaced most of the traditional forms, though some women made baskets well into the twentieth century. Before the turn of the century, Seminole turned to outside traders for tobacco and foodstuffs like coffee and sugar, sometimes paying with currency, sometimes bartering. Today, almost all transactions take place in stores within the money economy. With the advent of woven cloth and the hand-cranked sewing machine in the late nineteenth century, Seminole women developed a distinctive clothing style that is the hallmark of the Florida Seminole even today. The sale of Seminole clothing represents a large part of their tourist trade. Women also make dolls of palmetto fiber, clothe them in their colorful fashions, and sell them to tourists.

Division of Labor. The division of labor traditionally was clear: men hunted, fished, engaged in warfare, and made their equipment. Women raised children, cared for the camp, did the cultivating, and made pottery and baskets. Today the division is blurred. Some women have become cattle owners and a few drive heavy machinery; many men engage in agricultural work or raise cattle. Both sexes freely participate in child rearing and household chores. With higher education, either sex may enter the labor market in a variety of occupations.

Land Tenure. Aboriginally, land was held in clan units or in common as land cultivated under the chief for tribal use. These practices continued where possible when the ancestral Indians were driven into Florida. On the reservations, However, where standard Florida housing was built, the residents of the houses pay for them and are considered owners although the land is in trust. Seminole living off the reservations rent or own properties as any other citizen does. Private personal property is passed on as the owner sees fit.


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Jan 24, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
Thank you for the information! It was very helpful especially since I was doing a paper about the seminole!

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