By Virginia Yarce, Development Assistant
This year we have been celebrating a “year of anniversaries” at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, going back 10, 20, 50, 60 and 200 years, remembering turning points and accomplishments in Seminole history.
How about a memory over 1,000 years old? With the new bandolier bags on display in our ‘Rekindled: Contemporary Southeastern Beadwork’ Exhibit in our West Gallery, there is a design that brings to life memories of another time, another people, discovered out of the sands of time in the waters off Saint Petersburg. This is the type of treasured nugget that history lovers delight in, which is often hidden right in front of us as we take in the beautiful art on display. Only we must go a little deeper, taking the time to listen to the oral histories accompanying the exhibit, or read a blog like this one.
The story starts soon after the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum opened in 1997, when another organization celebrating Native American history in Florida was in the making: the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center located in Old Tampa Bay. Archaeological finds along the coastline revealed the influence of the Weedon Island Culture on other indigenous groups, especially the ceremonial use of uniquely designed pottery.
The Yat Kitischee Project shows the influence of Weedon Island Culture
Opening in November, 2002, the website for the cultural center shares that: “the three-story center was designed with the help of Native Americans and keeps with their traditions. For example, the orientation of the center in the preserve is along the cardinal points of the compass (north, south, east and west) with the entrance facing east. A special curved wall is representative of the remarkable pottery of the early Weeden (alternate spelling) Island people who lived on the island some 1,000 to 1,800 years ago”.
Unique design on the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center
Carol Cypress was on Weedon Island during the ground-breaking ceremony, and later for a cultural exchange after the center opened. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Ahfachkee School here on Big Cypress Reservation also joined other groups at that time to collaborate on the creation of a virtual tour showcasing Weedon artifacts through the eyes of Native American students.
Seminole Tribal members contributed to the Weedon Artifact Virtual Tour
In Carol’s oral history, she recorded how she was inspired by the unique designs created by the Weedon Culture, a people we will only know from the artifacts uncovered from the deep.
While the dotted design work was in clay, Carol imagined it in beadwork, and created a blue bandolier bag inspired by the circular pottery designs. In one of her audio clips (listen here), she tells of how these ancient unknown people are alive today with the Seminole through the honoring of their memory. The untitled blue bandolier bag – blue like the waters where the design was discovered – is a 1,000+ year journey for Museum visitors to discover in the spoken words and fresh design, rekindling more than Seminole art and history.