By Oscar Carrasquillo Rivera, Maintenance Shift Supervisor


What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a real-world treasure/scavenger hunt that’s happening right now, all around you, anywhere and anytime. It’s very similar to a 160-year-old game called letterboxing; compared to that geocaching has only been active for about 15 years, and has tons of great stories and videos, especially online. There are over 2 million active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide. So of course we are planning on joining the fun. Here at Big Cypress AH-TAH-THI-KI Museum we like adventures, exploring and learning new things, whether it’s from the past, present or future. If you have never played Geocaching before, here is a new adventure that the whole family should definitely try out if you’re feeling adventurous.

Geocaching 101

There was a geocache close by before, but because of some unfortunate reasons it has been deactivated. Due to popular request the Museum is looking into activating one in the very near future for anyone to come and earn them bragging rights.

I myself have seen how competitive some of these families can get. At one time or another I used to see anywhere from 1-2 to sometimes 9-15 people exchanging stories as well as artifacts, notes with small stories, objects, figurines from as far as from the other side of the world. It’s unbelievable how creative and how small but meaningful it may be. In a way Geocaching helps different families and cultures of the world come together.

All you have to do is go to understand the rules, sign up, download the app on your smart phone and start scavenge hunting adventures with your GPS.

It could be hidden in something tiny, camouflage, or something big.


Will you find it….. come on, I’m sure you will.


Although our adventure is easier but still beautiful, here’s a link of an example(s) you may encounter on another adventure:

Epic Adventure, — Wet Surprise (GC1YV80) — Geocache of the Week Video Edition



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Art in the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Village


Greetings!  One of the great things about spending our days at the Museum is that we get to enjoy our wonderful boardwalk for lunchtime walks and peaceful escapes from the fast pace of the office.  If you have never visited the Museum, we hope you come and have this same experience.  While you’re here, it’s worth your while to make the journey to our village, which is at the mid-point of the circular trail.   It is the crown jewel of our boardwalk, nestled in the far southwest corner of the cypress dome. When a visitor starts the boardwalk journey, he or she is met with this sign.


It sits in front of a picturesque banana tree, and it points the way to a “Seminole Camp”. This is our village, but there is nothing on the sign to tell the visitor what experience awaits. As one continues along the mile-long boardwalk through the tranquil trees, this map appears at the halfway point to the village.


Again it beckons with little information, but hopefully provides incentive to the walker, by showing how far he or she has come. Finally, at the entire boardwalk’s halfway point, an arrow points toward the chickees of the village and nearby ceremonial grounds. If you’re lucky, you may witness a totem pole being carved here by a Seminole artist, or even a wild bird show by our resident falconry expert. But it is by carrying on past this point that you reach our village.


Until the boardwalk was recently re-designed, it was possible to fail to notice the winding entrance, shrouded by trees. The entrance beckoned some visitors, but others felt they were intruding and passed it by. For the latter category, many glimpsed the chickees and perhaps the fire, and thought they would invade private homes if they ventured any further. This is a funny conclusion for those of us who work at the Museum, but we have heard it’s true! Hopefully now this mistake cannot be made, as one must pass through the village in order to complete the boardwalk journey. Other feedback from visitors who took advantage of the village entrance, stepping off the boardwalk to admire the setting as well as the artwork they found there, has been equally surprising. Those visitors noticed and sometimes commented on the electric fans, refrigerators, radios, and other evidence of modern life, like the smart phones that some of the employees have there. But why should this be surprising? These items are found anywhere that people today work and spend their time. We think it is because some uninformed visitors expect to step into the past when they enter our village. They see a thatched roof, and perhaps people wearing patchwork, and mistakenly think that those individuals are portraying a historic time period, perhaps as long as 75 years ago, when tourist camps began to flourish in Florida.

The postcard below shows a woman and child in one of these historic villages. In such a village, Seminole men and women would demonstrate customs and crafts for visitors. The woman in the postcard is sewing patchwork using a type of antique hand-cranked sewing machine that was used by many Seminole women at the time. But sewing machines like this were not always available, and at one time, Seminole women sewed only by hand. I wonder if visitors to popular villages such as Musa Isle, in Miami, wondered why sewing machines were featured in that camp, the way they wonder the same thing about relatively modern equipment at our village today. The fact of the matter is that in both cases, the people in the village were contemporary artists using their preferred mediums and tools. Hand cranked sewing machines were common in Seminole camps 75 years ago. But today, electric sewing machines are more commonly used by Seminole textile artists. So why wouldn’t today’s artists use contemporary tools and conveniences?


Historic Postcard in the Museum’s Collection (ATTK Catalog No. 2003.15.233)

We at the Museum would like to revolutionize the way many people think of craftspeople in villages that are open to tourists today. If you enter one of these villages, you are privileged to enter the studios of modern Seminole artists, who constantly design new products in order to keep their art fresh and relevant. Never expect these people to be stuck in the past. It’s easy to imagine why such an artist would use modern tools to produce art quickly, and why they might want a refrigerator, radio, or phone while they work! A tourist camp in the 1940’s and the Museum’s village today have something in common. The craftspeople found therein were and are the modern artists of their time, none of them stuck in the past, portraying people from past decades.


Artist Lena Cypress makes a basket behind a colorful display of her artwork for sale in the village

In the Museum’s village, arrays of colorful beads and textiles are displayed in shady chickees that provide a welcome refuge from the heat for both the visitor and the artist. If you are lucky, you will be able to see and talk to an artist making a piece of jewelry, a doll, or a basket. Although these techniques have been passed down among artists for generations, innovations in style can be seen in many of the pieces. Woodworking is also a common occurrence. Our woodcarver Jeremiah is happy to show off the stages of making a hatchet, or to talk about the chickee he carved them in, because he also built that structure!


Whimsical items throughout the village serve as conversation pieces for visiting children and adults alike. A life-like alligator sits next to a very trusting bird, as often happens with the live versions of these creatures. And a stylish archer takes aim at them from a safe distance. A display of collectibles sits in front of a fire under a chickee. The fire is an essential feature for a village. In ours, it protects nearby people by driving mosquitos and more dangerous animals away!

IMG_5488 IMG_5494 IMG_5498

Now a large welcome sign hangs at the village entrance, and hopefully no visitor will wonder whether they are welcome in the village. On the back, it thanks the visitor in the Mikasuki language for their visit.


Museum Director Paul Backhouse enjoys viewing the new sign during his lunchtime walk

After you leave the village, a well-placed bench gives you an opportunity to rest and look back on the picturesque village, while a nearby sign lets you congratulate yourself by making it more than halfway around the boardwalk. The remaining walk back to the Museum leads you through what is often the swampiest and most wildlife-filled area of the dome.

When you visit the Museum, please take the boardwalk journey not only to experience our village, but also to learn from the signs along the way about animals, plants, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida clan system. Very soon there will be a few more signs that describe the village and ceremonial grounds, so come back often to see what’s new! As always, we welcome feedback from our visitors. So tell us what you think on our Facebook page ( ), or in person when you visit!

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Five Things You May Not Know About The Seminole Tribe of Florida

By Virginia Yarce, Development Assistant

In 2014, I spent five months commuting to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation working with the Florida Seminole Tourism office, and I always found it worth the drive. It seemed like there was something new every day– panoramic cloud formations, encounters with wildlife, even an occasional stunning dark sky, filled with layers of stars as if looking through 3-D glasses. I wondered why more people did not come out just for the drive, to enter a world away that is really only right around the corner, or to stay for a night in the land of the unconquered.

Figure 1: Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum; Photo Credit: Marty Dawson, Tour Guide

Figure 1: Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum; Photo Credit: Marty Dawson, Tour Guide

Then, when I starting working in the Visitor Services and Development Section at the Museum in January 2015, I again looked forward to what new things I might encounter on the drive to Big Cypress, and what new things I would learn about the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In this short amount of time I have learned that the Seminole story is much more central to Florida’s history than meets the eye, and is certainly no sidebar. There is so much more to the story than a remnant of 300 Seminoles standing their ground through the Wars of Removal in the 19th century to become what is today a thriving community of over 3,000 Tribal members.

So I put together a short list of things I discovered about the Seminole story in my first month at the Museum. Here, then, are five things you may not know about the Seminole Tribe of Florida:

1. There was an alligator clan. When you visit the Big Cypress Reservation, you will pass over the “Eight Clans Bridge”, and on the Museum boardwalk you will find a nice outdoor exhibit of the eight clans: Panther, Bear, Deer, Wind, Bigtown, Bird, Snake, and Otter. After starting at the Museum, however, I was surprised to discover there were many other clans, including Tiger, Bobcat and Alligator. These clans also fought to stay in Florida, but have faded into Florida history as the last matriarch of that clan passed away. The eight clans of today’s Seminole Tribe of Florida are the followers of Sam Jones/Abiaki, the legendary Seminole leader who fiercely protected the remaining Seminoles, taking refuge in the Everglades, where alligators became, instead of a clan, an iconic symbol of Seminole culture.

Figure 2: Fall 2013 AQ featuring Sam Jones/Abiaki

Figure 2: Fall 2013 AQ featuring Sam Jones/Abiaki

2. There is a single person responsible for the Tribe’s presence in Florida today. I knew about Abiaki/Sam Jones, and had visited at least three sculptures honoring his role in Seminole history, including one at the entrance of the Museum. But not until I read the Fall 2013 Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Quarterly (AQ) did I realize his pivotal role in Seminole survival. Abiaki’s name is certain to become more readily recognized in Florida as we continue to celebrate, preserve and interpret Seminole culture and history. While Fort Lauderdale is named after Major William Lauderdale, it was Abiaki’s home in the 1820’s. His clans inhabited the “seven islands” along the Pine Island Ridge, the highest elevation in Broward County, where he defeated Major Lauderdale in battle in 1838. Today the Seminole story is also shared at sites like Long Key Nature Area where Abiaki’s historical lands are recognized.

3. Fort Lauderdale was one of hundreds of military posts built for the Seminole War effort. The United States Congress spent more money during the Seminole Wars than on the Revolutionary War, including building of many forts now familiar to us as city names. These include Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Fort Jupiter, and Fort Pierce to name a few. After 20 years of living in the Fort Lauderdale area I did not associate the name of this city specifically with Seminole history, but their spirit of survival is indelibly linked not only to Fort Lauderdale, but places across the entire peninsula.

4. The Longest War. The three Seminole Wars were the longest, hardest Indian wars in U.S. History. The remaining Seminoles under Sam Jones/Abiaki remained unconquered. What may be surprising is that the Seminole Wars total 13 years of “official” fighting, but the wars were still being waged even during the in-between years. This ranks them among not only the longest Indian wars, but the longest wars in U.S. history altogether, like the Afghan War, which made headlines in 2010 as becoming the “longest war” in U.S. history. Many argued that Vietnam War’s record was not the 10 “official” years, but almost 20 years of U.S. involvement. Along these lines, one understands better the Seminole perspective of the Seminole Wars spanning over 40 years of struggle. What is even more surprising is that during the 2nd Seminole War alone, less than 2,000 Seminole warriors held off over 50,000 U.S. soldiers and volunteer militia for seven years.

5. Cowboys and Indians. No, really – cowboy Indians. Seminoles kept large herds of cattle in Florida before the Seminole Wars, including Chief Ahaya/Cowkeeper in Northern and Central Florida. Ada Tiger in Indiantown owned up to 100 head as late as 1925. The modern Seminole cattle industry started in the 1930’s, and as you drive through the Big Cypress and Brighton Reservations you can enjoy the picturesque prairies dotted with Seminole cattle. The Tribe’s cattle enterprise continues to grow with the purchase of the famous Salacoa breeding herd in northwest Georgia in 2013 and currently ranks number 5 in the United States for Cow & Calf Production with over 13,000 head of cattle.

Figure 3: Big Cypress Seminole Reservation Cattle Prairie 1

Figure 3: Big Cypress Seminole Reservation Cattle Prairie 1

Figure 4: Big Cypress Seminole Reservation Cattle Prairie 2

Figure 4: Big Cypress Seminole Reservation Cattle Prairie 2

There is always something new happening at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and something new to learn. The boardwalk is renovated; we have new villagers on site making award-winning basketry and other traditional Seminole arts and crafts; the Ahfachkee students have new art on display; we have new birds of prey presentations and new signage in the making. The Museum is vibrant and growing. The best way to stay in touch with new happenings at the Museum is through our Facebook and Twitter sites and through membership at the Museum, so you can visit anytime and enjoy a new and informative AQ publication each quarter. Come by the Museum or give me a call, so I can update you on any new happenings since this blog post, help you plan your next trip to Big Cypress or enroll you in a Museum membership!

Figure 5: Victor Billie Carving a Totem Pole at the Ceremonial Grounds: Photo Credit: Ellen Batchelor, Head of Security

Figure 5: Victor Billie Carving a Totem Pole at the Ceremonial Grounds: Photo Credit: Ellen Batchelor, Head of Security

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Attending the Grand Opening of the New Hollywood Gym

By Tennile Jackson, Collections Assistant

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining fellow Seminole Tribe of Florida staff, and members of the Tribal community, to celebrate the grand opening of the Howard Tiger Recreation Center in Hollywood. Described as a historic day for the Tribe, the inaguration provided attendees with a firsthand look at the gym’s amenities and enlightened many about the history of the Recreation Department.


The new Center was constructed over the past year and was built to replace the original gym established over 40 years ago. The two-story facility features a full size basketball court, fitness center, Boys and Girls Club, and culture department. The Center is also home to the Seminole Sports Hall of Fame collection consisting of several trophies, photographs and plaques honoring Seminole athletes. During the construction of the new gym, the items were temporarily housed at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum for safekeeping. As many may recall, selections from the collection formed a popular exhibit during their stay at the Museum. The items are now back at the gym and currently on display in the Center’s lobby.

The event began with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by a large crowd gathered outside the building eagerly awaiting entry. As we made our way through the doors, many bypassed the lobby and headed straight into the brightly lit gym whose entrance was off to the side. Upon entering, we were greeted by colorful banners, basketball hoops suspended from high ceilings, and a glossy hardwood floor emblazoned with symbols representative of the Tribe.

Members of the Tribal Council and the family of Howard Tiger sat at center court as Moses Jumper Jr. stood between them and acted as the emcee. Throughout the ceremony, many individuals shared sports related stories from their youth while others expressed their gratitude to the Tribal Council who made the construction possible. Several of the speakers also paid tribute to the late Howard Tiger, who established the Tribe’s Recreation Department and mentored a number of the people who took part in the ceremony. The decorated military veteran and gifted athlete was honored with a bronze bust, unveiled at the dedication, to be permanently displayed in the Center’s lobby (pictured above).

The inauguration of this new gym is a testament to the Tribe’s ongoing commitment to serve the Tribal community and impact the lives of future generations.  I was thrilled to be a part of this momentous occasion.


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Where the Wild Things Are!!


Figure 1 Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum pond


     by:  Ellen Batchelor, Head of Security, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

When you think of the Ah-Tha-Thi-Ki Museum, the last thing most people would think of would be wildlife, but the fact is, IF, you time it right, are really quiet, and VERY lucky you just might get a chance to see some. Visitors a couple weeks ago from Germany  actually got to see a panther and a bobcat on the same visit! At first we were thinking someone just had a very active imagination, but when investigating it further, we discovered tracks and then actually saw the bobcat while returning to the museum!

Figure 2 Florida Panther

Figure 2
Florida panther


Figure 3 Florida bobcat

Figure 3
Florida bobcat

On most mornings it is not unusual to see several squirrels, a variety of birds, alligators and raccoons, while hearing the frogs, crickets, cicadas and birds but ,we have occasionally been able to spot, bear, deer, hogs, fox, opossums and turkeys. Rey Becerra, our resident animal expert, is available to answer any questions visitors might have about local wildlife. We have 2 hawks in residence. Ellen a Red shoulder hawk that was found on the boardwalk, as a very young bird, and then there is the Red tailed hawk Sable , we also have a crow, Charlie. They are all part of the animal presentations given here on campus from time to time, along with several turtles, various snakes (venomous and non-venomous) and various other “critters”.

Figur 4 Red shoulder hawk, Ellen

Figure 4
Red Shoulder hawk, Ellen


Figure 5 Red Wing hawk, Sable

Figure 5
Red Tail hawk, Sable

We also have a resident alligator we call Sally.  Each year, she hatches a couple dozen baby gators who “hang around” until she hatches babies again.  They then move to the other pond or to other areas of water on our campus.  (Museum staff refers to them as the 1-year-olds, or the 2-year-olds, etc.)

Figure 6 Florida alligator, Sally

Figure 6
Florida alligator, Sally

Another big attraction at the museum each year is the arrival of hummingbirds. They arrive in late April and stay until mid to late July. It is quite a treat to see them zooming around in front of the museum and in the cypress dome. They “dive bomb” each other while feeding from the fire plants that are planted around the museum campus. Visitors and employees alike seem to be fascinated with their activities. There are over 300 species of hummingbirds, but only a few breed in the United States. A few hundred however, travel into the states as part of their migration. We feel so lucky to part of their route.

Figure 7 Red Throated hummingbird

Figure 7
Ruby Throated hummingbird

Let’s not forget that there are other kinds of wildlife! The flora of the Ah-Tah- Thi-Ki Museum is spectacular. The beautiful and lush ferns that take over the floor of the cypress dome at different times of the year are quite a sight as you wind your way around the twists and turns of the raised boardwalk. Parts of the dome stay wet for a few months out of the year making the plant life more lush and full than usual. You can find many species of ferns in the confines of the acres that make up the rear portion of the museum’s boardwalk. There are also guava, fig, plum, Custer apples, bananas, and grapes that grow in the area.You will also find several varieties of orchids.

Figure 8 Some of many ferns at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum boarwalk

Figure 8
Some of many ferns at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum boardwalk

There are also many trees and plants that are used by the Seminoles for medicine. Both modern and traditional medicines are used today. Signage along the boardwalk tells about some of the more commonly used plants, while also informing the visitor of the local wildlife that inhabits the area.

Figure 9 The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum's boardwalk

Figure 9
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s boardwalk

Our winding boardwalk is just a little over a mile long. It is open to visitors year round, except when we have to close it due to lightening, or the occasional emergency repair. It winds through a cypress dome located directly behind the museum and was once home to Chairman James Billie’s camp. The twists and turns are themselves interesting enough, however, you add the element of not knowing exactly WHAT is around the next curve, making it a new experience every time! Most of my mornings start out with a trip around the boardwalk, and I must say it is a grand way to start the day. You can find me there on hot, cold, even rainy days. I keep waiting to turn the corner and get the photo of my life!

Figure 10 Florida wild iris

Figure 10
Florida wild iris

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The Tribal Archaeology Section and Historic Camps

By Karen Brunso

Hello from the people you see carrying backpacks and wearing boots that go up to our knees, or as we are known around here the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS). One of the many tasks we undertake in the TAS is documenting and recording historic Seminole camps, which are an important part of Seminole history and culture. Camp research is an essential way in which the TAS works with the Tribal community in documenting and preserving the past.

What is a camp?

If you visit the museum, you will know how important camps were to the Seminole Tribe. Camps were, as Alexander Spoehr wrote in 1941, the center of everyday life for the Seminoles. These camps would be located within the hammocks and pine flats of South Florida. The camps were mostly based on a matrilineal kinship system, or a person’s clan was determined by their mother’s side of the family. Camps were comprised of members from the same clan along with a few members of different clans that were married to camp members.

     How does the TAS know where a camp was located?

Camps are recorded in multiple ways. Many times Tribal members tell us the location of camps in order to allow for their preservation. Camps are also recorded when the TAS uncovers artifacts that might point to the existence of a camp at that location. The TAS’s best resource to explain the artifacts is to ask the Tribal community about the artifacts found and if they are associated with a camp.

What happens after a camp is located?

After locating a camp, the TAS begins to gather information about the camp and the Tribal members who lived in it. Surviving camp members are interviewed to help provide more personalized details about each individual camp. The interviews bring the camp and its occupants to life. Camps transform into places where people lived, worked, played, and learned. Camp members map out the camp layout explaining the unique makeup of each camp. Interviews also bring the camp members to life showing their personality and character so that one can almost feel these people leap up from the photographs. Tribal members also help us identify people in photos, locations of photos, and correct any mislabeling of photographs that may exist.

THPO employees interviewing Onnie Osceola at the site of her house situated on the same location as the camp she lived in.

THPO employees interviewing Onnie Osceola at the site of her house situated on the same location as the camp she lived in.

In order to further document the camp, the TAS will go out and survey each camp. The methods we use are shovel testing (digging a hole one meter into the ground to determine the presence or absence of artifacts), pedestrian survey (walking an area to see what is on the ground surface), and metal detection. The TAS may use all or one of the methods mentioned, depending on each camp’s unique circumstances.

Hand drawn map of the Little Charlie Micco Camp by his son Billie Micco.

Hand drawn map of the Little Charlie Micco Camp by his son Billie Micco.

    What happens to each camp after the TAS researches, surveys, and records it?

The Tribal community decides what to do with each camp. Sometimes the camp is preserved so that Tribal children can learn about this important chapter in tribal history. Other times the area will be developed. The Tribal community will decide how the land should be used and who can build on it. It is through the entire process of researching camps that the TAS is able to work with the Tribal community in order to document and preserve these camps for future generations

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By Van Samuels, Outreach Specialist

Yes, Outreach is “growing” in more ways than one can imagine.  We’re growing in personnel, as we welcome Seminole Tribal member, Jake Osceola, to the Outreach team.  Outreach is literally growing, as well.  No, not in body mass index or age! (Although some would agree with that last sentence)  Outreach is growing a garden—a Seminole garden to be exact.


Enhancing the visitor experience has been one of the many on-going endeavors of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.  This continued goal is evident within the interactive areas of the museum galleries and with the exciting exhibits that are forthcoming.  The Outreach staff has also been instrumental in working towards the mission of enhancing the visitor experience with the renovation and improvements at the museum amphitheater to ultimately provide cultural, educational, and informational Storytelling/Wildlife presentations (which are already underway).

The latest of the Outreach projects is currently under construction—the establishment of a Seminole garden.  Historically speaking, gardens were an essential element to survival in the Seminole camps throughout the Everglades, providing the sustenance of life, vegetables and fruits.

The proposed location of the garden is the area next to the replica ceremonial grounds, right before you arrive at the Living Village alongside the boardwalk.  Let’s take a look……

Approaching the Living Village, visitors will see the hint of some sort of development in the brush… what could it possibly be?






The following are images of the ongoing construction currently underway

Jake and Rei discussing log placement and garden structure….





van 10


Van “appearing” to supervise..……..from a safe elevated boardwalk distance






This project is still in the developmental stages and will be completed in the near future. However, further information and images of the garden will be forthcoming as the garden begins to take shape and vegetables eventually grow, so stay tuned OR simply make plans to visit the Big Cypress Seminole reservation and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum to behold our progress. SHONABISH!


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