Traditional Arts at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

Pedro Zepeda

I am Pedro Zepeda and I am the Traditional Arts Coordinator here at the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum. I am also a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. I am very proud to be working for the museum preserving the traditional arts of our people. My duties as Traditional Arts Coordinator are three-fold. First, I spend much of my time here at the museum doing demonstrations for the general public such as wood carving, beadwork, and basket weaving. Secondly, I give presentations to civic groups and other public venues on Seminole traditional arts. Lastly, and I feel most importantly, is holding classes and teaching other tribal members how to create these traditional arts. I teach many of the classes I facilitate, but often time I will use other Seminole artists who are highly skilled in one or more particular arts.

Pedro Zepeda teaching a class

Most recently I finished a one-on-one class with William Cypress, who now resides on the Big Cypress Reservation. He learned how to craft stickball sticks for our traditional game of stickball, from collecting the green wood, to bending the hoops of the sticks. He said that enjoyed the experience, and always had an idea of how the sticks are carved, but learned a lot from making them first hand. Other classes on sweet grass baskets and moccasins have also proved to be successful.

There has been a small but influential Seminole Renaissance among the tribe. Tribal members have taken an interest in both contemporary and traditional arts. Recent Seminole artists have had their arts displayed in various fine art galleries across South Florida. The growth of native art is exciting and slowly becoming more popular and collectible as art and not just a native craft. Many wonderful art works have also been produced mixing traditional and contemporary materials and ideas.

Although some of the traditional arts have change little over time, many others have. Seminoles have always been an adaptive people changing as needed with the times, and the Seminoles are no exception to that today. Even 150 years ago Seminole were using European metal tools to create canoes and stickball sticks. So today it is no surprise to see Seminoles using chainsaws and plastic clamps alongside hatchets and drawknives. I have always liked to say that we are modern by tradition, and so it remains today.

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1 thought on “Traditional Arts at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum”

  1. Hi Pedro,
    I had lunch with Dr Carol Damian, Director of the Frost Museum, today and we talked about the upcoming exhibition. I looked at the Ah Ta Thi Ki Website. And saw the museum is archiving video documentaries. I produced one for WLRN that is not listed: Patterns of Power. It is about patchwork and I I have DVD if you would like it.
    Nice to read about your work at the museum and with William Cypress.
    Dorothy Downs
    Art of the Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Indians

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