Seminole - Orientation

Identification. The Seminole are an American Indian group in southern Florida. The English name "Seminole" is probably derived from the Creek word corrupted from the Spanish cimarron, which indicates an animal that was once domesticated but was reverted to a feral state. The Creek Indians applied the term to Indians from a number of broken tribal units in the Southeast that coalesced in what is now the state of Florida after they had abandoned their traditional territories. They refer to themselves as "Red People," or "Yatkitisci" in Mikasuki and "Istica-ti" in Muskogee.

Location. Throughout the Southeast, European settlers in the eighteenth century caused massive dislocation among Indian tribes as the newcomers expanded their settlements and agricultural lands. During most of this period, the peninsula of Florida belonged to Spain, and some Indians fled there rather than submit to British and later American efforts to move them off their lands. Forging a political unity, the new arrivals in Florida became known as the Seminole.

Demography. The census data of 1980 indicate about two thousand Seminole in the state of Florida. Seminole also live in Oklahoma. It is believed that at the end of the Third Seminole War in 1856 there were fewer than two hundred Seminole in Florida.

Linguistic Affiliation. Those populations ancestral to the Seminole spoke several mutually nonintelligible languages, but as time passed, two divisions of Muskogean came to predominate: Mikasuki and Muskogee. These two dialects continue to be spoken today, though English is becoming the major language.

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