Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station Opens at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

By Florida Seminole Tourism

Recently, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum launched a green initiative to do their part in saving the planet. The museum removed the use of paper plates, plastic silverware, and straws, along with paper cups. At the same time, they eliminated toxic cleaning products and changed to LED lighting and automatic flush toilets. In addition, the staff only uses refillable water bottles for daily use.

In taking the next step in “green” pursuit, the museum announced an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station that opened in August in the museum parking lot. The station offers two stalls that provide “domestic charging” for Tesla EV’s. “While geared for overnight charging, it helps visitors who come a long way to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum”, according to Dr. Paul Backhouse, Senior Director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.  Dr. Backhouse also commented “the charging stations are complimentary for all visitors and the reservation community.” It’s clear that the museum continues to make strides and helps do its part to make a better, brighter, more responsible community. Also, it provides an EV charging resource to neighboring communities and those traveling back and forth across South Florida through Alligator Alley. Dr. Backhouse also pointed out, “Everglades visitors can find the charging station on the Plugshare App.” The museum also plans to expand their location listing to be included the Chargepoint App soon.

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Electric Car Outlook

Over the next several decades, the U.S. vehicle fleet will have to changeover largely to zero-emission vehicles if global climate goals are to be met. Electric cars make up only a tiny portion of the automobiles sold worldwide, but that may change quickly, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. By 2040, electric cars could make up over 50% of all passenger car sales worldwide. At the same time, light commercial vehicle sales in the United States, Europe and China could see comparable results.

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Since electric cars are coming close to matching gasoline powered cars in price and they already cost less to operate, electric cars may soon overtake gas powered cars as the more cost-effective choice for consumers. Over the next twenty years, global electric car sales will rise from 2 million last year to 56 million by 2040, BNEF predicts. Conversely, sales of traditional gasoline powered cars would drop in half over the same period.

If this happens, emissions will begin to reduce quickly in the years leading up to 2040, but that will get the planet back to 2018 levels, according to reports. This is the consequence of failing to act sooner. In the meantime, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum will do its part to be a good green neighbor and inspire others in the community to do the same!

ABOUT FLORIDA SEMINOLE TOURISM (FST)

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is a federally recognized Indian Tribe. FST is a top Florida Everglades adventure, learning and camping destination. We share the excitement and wonder of the Florida Everglades to visitors from around the globe. Our award-winning Everglades attractions include Billie Swamp Safari, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and Big Cypress RV Resort & Campground.

 

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Coming to Understand Seminole Alligator Wrestling

By Siobhan Millar, Exhibits Coordinator

When I was about 20, my sister and I did a weekend trip to Naples. At the time she lived in the Hammocks area of Kendall Drive in Miami. The Hammocks were as far south-west as one could live before reaching Krome Ave. Once there, it was bushy and isolated until you hit the Tamiami Trail. Then it was wildness again for miles, at least until you approached the Miccosukee Village. We made a point to stop and visit to look at the baskets, beadwork and, of course, watch the alligator wrestling.  So what does this have to do with the Museum’s Blog? Little did I know then that nearly 30 years later I would be working as an exhibits developer for Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and developing an exhibit on what else, but Alligator Wrestling!

In 1991, alligator wrestling was on the decline from calls of abuse by animal activists. Back then I was, admittedly, clueless about the traditional cultural aspects that played a part in the practice of alligator wrestling. Having to develop an exhibit about alligator wrestling has challenged me in unexpected ways. With help from Jack Chalfant, Marlin Billie, Billy Walker, Clinton and James Holt, and Mike Gentry, I have a fuller understanding of how alligator wrestling affected the lives of Tribal Members.

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Image courtesy of the Seminole Tribune, Brighton Field Days 2017.

The association between the Seminoles and alligator is long lasting, having begun with the hunt and capture of the reptile for survival. In the generations that followed, the hunt and trade of alligator hides with non-Seminole businesses helped Seminoles obtain supplies to sustain the camp. This became a transitioning point for Seminole men as they joined Florida’s emerging tourist industry and entered the alligator at non-Seminole attractions. Eventually, this association would help to support Tribal-run operations, and aid in some part financial independence.

There are also the aspects of respect regarding traditions and the respect for the animal and the dangers that inevitably go along with alligator wrestling. The wrestler’s respect for the alligator is far more apparent to me now than it was before. There have been shifts in attitudes, too. I am grateful for the personal and traditional stories Jack Chalfant, Billy Walker, Clinton and James Holt and Marlin Billie have shared with me. The alligator has helped shape the environment of the Everglades, home to the Seminole and Miccosukee, and provided life in so many ways – for birds, plants, and humans alike. For the Seminoles, alligators fed your families. With quiet unpredictability, the alligator allowed man to match his strength against his own.

There has been humbleness and learning from seeing the practice fall into decline with the rise of animal rights and near mishaps. There is now a focus on the educational and for some, like Clinton Holt, the more “holistic” approach of the animal’s wildness. Along the way, the Tribe’s alligator handlers have rolled with the changes. It is with the same resilience applied by their ancestors that the tradition is still alive. I am interested to see where the tradition goes from here.

To find out more, why not come and explore the exhibit Alligator Wrestling: Danger, Entertainment, Tradition; opening on December 16, 2019 at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

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Summertime SWEP (and more)

By Alyssa Boge, Education Coordinator

Before you turn in your papers, do you always go over them to check for mistakes?  If it’s a must, Collections, Compliance, or Archaeology work might be right for you!

This was one of the questions (and one of the answers) on a quiz that Randean Osceola helped create for the UNITY (United National Indian Tribal Youth) conference in Orlando.  The goal was to get tribal students attending the conference to think about possible careers with tribal museums or Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs)—something Randean is very familiar with.  She has been volunteering or interning with us for several years now and has worked in various divisions and sections of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and THPO.  It’s been exciting to see her grow both personally and professionally from then to now.  This summer she gave a talk about Native American Women to teachers at Piper High School in Sunrise, FL, helped edit text about the Tribe’s history for the Seminole Tribe of Florida website, worked on archaeological reports, and helped design a product for the store.

Luckily for us, Randean isn’t the only student who returned to work with us this summer!  Students joined us either by volunteering or through a program called the Student Work Experience Program, or SWEP.  SWEP is administered through the Tribe’s Center for Student Success and Services and facilitates work opportunities during spring break and summer.  The goal is to help students gain professional development experience.

Some students who joined us last summer returned for both the spring and summer program this year like Chandler DeMayo.  One of his big projects this summer was to work on a coloring page that we will use in our next activity booklet.  Print it off, color it in, and send us a pic!

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Chandler’s epic coloring page for our activity book! 

Other students who came this spring, like Aujua Williams and Avery Bowers, also joined us for the summer.  In the picture below, they are looking at a yearbook in the Curatorial Lab.  This summer, they both helped out with our summer camp groups and worked on our teaching collection, among many other things.  For example, Avery worked with the Archaeometry section, too.

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Aujua and Avery examine a yearbook in the Curatorial Lab

Some students who had joined us for SWEP last year or this spring came back to volunteer like Clarice DeMayo, Jalycia Billie-Valdez, and Andrew Bowers.  They were able to help with Collections – organizing and housing photos from the Seminole Tribune, inventorying the collection, helping with cataloging objects, and creating mounts for objects to be used on exhibit. We are always excited when Jalycia helps out—she has such neat handwriting which is perfect for the task at hand!

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Jalycia’s neat handwriting – perfect for Collections work

This year we had a total of seven students join us to volunteer or intern through SWEP!  The last two summers we’ve seen an increase in the number of participants.  While these programs offer students community service hours, work experience, and a chance to delve deeper into their history, we also learn from students.  I always find out something I didn’t know before from Chandler.  Did you know earlier stickball sticks were more like giant spoons?  I didn’t!  Just as we learn from them, we hope they learn from us – beyond the technical know-how of Museum work.  And of course, we hope to see them again!

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Historic Image of Stickball sticks GRP1896.251

These aren’t the only programs we offer.  We also offer internships for local Ahfachkee students and internships and volunteer opportunities for non Tribal members.  You can find out more about those programs here: https://www.ahtahthiki.com/downloads/Intern-and-Volunteer-Program-Guide-6.4.2019.pdf.

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Jack shows Avery and Andrew a site on the Tribal Register of Historic Places during a field trip

 

A Feast of Snakes?

By Brandy Norton, Field Technician

In prehistoric Tree Island middens (old piles of trash), a large amount of animal bones are often found deep within the ground.  At two test units excavated at the North Crescent site on the Brighton Reservation, the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS) has uncovered literally thousands of bones, over 40,000 in fact. The majority of these bones belong to three types of animals: turtles (including softshell, cooter, and snapping turtles), fish (including bowfin, catfish, and garfish), and snakes (including corn, king, eastern diamondback and other rattlesnakes, and water moccasins).

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Water Moccasin (Venomous) also known as a Cottonmouth (photo courtesy of Shawn Keyte)

These bones can often be interpreted as evidence of what prehistoric people ate. This makes sense when you think about how many people consider fish and turtles to be a delicious meal. Based on similar evidence, researchers have long assumed that the only reason for snakes to be present in the midden would be because they, too, were being eaten. However, the Seminoles disagree with these findings. They would never eat snakes because of cultural taboos. Snakes are generally avoided and shouldn’t even be touched. So why are they in the trash with things that are obviously food?

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Two test units from the North Crescent excavations

In order to understand some reasons why snakes might be there, we had to do some research. This included analyzing the evidence of burning and cutmarks on the bones. Burn marks on the bones could indicate the animal was cooked. The presence of cutmarks could be evidence of butchering the animal.

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Water Snake (Non-Venomous) (photo courtesy of Shawn Keyte)

What did we find?

There was consistently less burning on snake bones than on turtle and fish bones. Only 5% of snake bones were burned, compared to 7% of fish bones and 24% of turtle bones. The difference between burning on snakes and fish bones is not large, and the fact that there is any burning at all needs to be explained. This is where talking to Tribal members, such as Quenton Cypress, comes in handy. Quenton noted that snakes were unwelcome in camps and often killed so they could not return. Venomous snakes would be thrown into the fire because people would not have wanted to accidentally step on one and inject themselves with venom.

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Eastern Diamondback Vertebrae (Venomous; left: not burned, right: burned) (photos courtesy of Samantha Wade)

Overall, only 3% of the snake bones had cutmarks, whereas 24% of deer (another undisputed food source) had cutmarks. Quenton suggested that cutmarks would not necessarily be present because snakes would have been knocked on the head before being thrown into the fire. This would be especially important for venomous snakes as mentioned above. Since we only recovered snake vertebrae (back bones) and no skulls, it is difficult to prove or disprove that theory.

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Calcined Water Moccasin Vertebra (Photo courtesy of Samantha Wade)

No cutmarks were found on venomous snakes at any point in time. Non-venomous snakes, however, did have cutmarks. This doesn’t necessarily mean they were butchered though because the cuts could be from killing the snake.

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Example of a Cutmark on a Cow Middle Phalange (photo courtesy of Samantha Wade)

As you can see, there isn’t an easy answer as to why snakes are commonly found in middens. However, using interviews with Tribal members, like Quenton, is one of the most important aspects that differentiates tribal archaeology from archaeology in general.  In the academic world, it is easy to make assumptions based on the European perspective and these are not always entirely correct. That is why it is so important to understand the past with the aid of oral histories in order to see the full picture.

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Pygmy Rattlesnake (Venomous) (Photo courtesy of Shawn Keyte)

 

Conservators – The Original Photoshop

By Rebecca Fell, Curator of Exhibits

The main purposes of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum are to tell the Seminole story and to care for the objects of the Seminole people. There are many formally prescribed ways the staff does these things at the Museum. Further, the team sees itself as a resource to the community. Sometimes that means using these technical skills in less formal ways.

Robin Croskery-Howard is the Conservator for the Museum. She likes to say her job is “Objects Doctor.” She makes sure the healthy objects stay healthy by monitoring the conditions in which they are stored and displayed. She also provides treatments to objects when they are brought in “unhealthy” or due to old age which makes them susceptible to developing problems while in the Museum’s care. These treatments are usually preventative in nature, but sometimes she needs to be proactive and fix something that has broken.

As a result, Robin is able to share a great number of tips with Tribal community members on how to care for their most precious items. Attending events such as the Senior Center lunches, she shares information on how to safely store these items, how to make lasting repairs, and who might also be able to repair the items in question. Sometimes, when her schedule allows and her skill sets are best suited, she is able to step in and make the repair herself.

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Pictured here is Robin making repairs to a physical photograph. The photograph of cattleman Junior Cypress (who the Junior Cypress Rodeo and Entertainment Complex in Big Cypress is named after) had heat sealed to the glass of the frame. This happens frequently to photos when they have been in their frames too long, sometimes too close to a lamp or window. Robin had to carefully separate the image from the glass, and gently pull away the sealed portion from the image. Loss of emulsion, the top layer/ image part of a photo, is almost always inevitable. But here Robin was able to pull the lost piece away from the glass afterwards and perform a procedure called bridging. Using a very expensive Japanese tissue paper and creating a special kind of glue, she creates a piece of backing to stabilize the detached piece and affix it back to the original image. By using these very particular materials she not only fixes the image but ensures that it will stay intact for as long as the photograph exists.

Next Robin will still need to scan the image to make a few adjustments in Photoshop. You might ask, “well, why doesn’t she just do that in the first place?” Photoshop is great tool that can provide pristine copies and even ‘fix’ images through the use of filters. But, it only ever makes copies; the original will still need repairing. In some cases, this is fine. People are okay with getting a good copy instead of holding onto the original photograph. However, the staff knew the community member wanted to keep the original as well as have copies to share with others.