Summer Time Fun!

By Alyssa Boge, Education Coordinator

Each summer I think things will start to slow down at the Museum, but just like Florida weather, things seem to heat up!

We ended the spring semester saying goodbye to interns, Elisah and Eyanna. Elisah worked with Eric, our Oral Historian, on a video project while Eyanna worked in our Compliance Office and with our Conservator.

With the end of the school year came the beginning of Ahfachkee School’s summer program and our Lego Project. Throughout the spring we worked on building a scale model of the school, but this summer we took a different tack. Our Tribal Historic Preservation Office preserves places important to the Seminole Tribe with our Tribal Register of Historic Places. These places include Red Barn which served an important role in the Seminole cattle industry and government, the Council Oak where the Seminole Constitution and By-laws were signed in 1957, and camp sites like the Josh Camp for which we recently unveiled a site marker (Find out more here: http://seminoletribune.org/josh-camp-marker-unveiled/). This summer we asked students to create places important to them out of Legos to explore why places matter.

Lego Project Pic
Students work on their scale model of the school

We also worked with kids from our local Boys and Girls Club and Recreation Department to offer our Summer Program. On one day students created their own art inspired by our current exhibit “Elgin Jumper: Portraits and Landscapes.”

Another day kids learned about cattle traditions with Rodeo Trivia. How well do you think you would do? Do you know when the first cattle management program was formed? It was 1937! Do you know who brought cattle to the Seminole? It was the Spanish! And finally, do you know who Cow Keeper was? He was an important Seminole leader with a very large herd of cattle in the 1740s. Kids also got to try roping for themselves and designed their own brands.

Letter Pic
Written in 1774, this is the oldest letter in our collection and records a talk to Cow Keeper. http://semtribe.pastperfectonline.com/archive/3CCD1DAB-6EBD-467F-983E-469125160055

Our Rodeo activities weren’t just reserved for kids though. For our Rodeo Day Discovery Day, visitors learned more with our mobile cattle cart exhibit, got to try roping for themselves, and even got a bit crafty making beaded cow keychains.

Visitors enjoy activities at our Rodeo Days!

Our Discovery Day series continues with our Everglades Day this Saturday, July 22nd! Join us and hear Daniel Tommie talk about his hunting camp from 12-1, try archery, taste swamp cabbage and more. All activities are included in your admission. Our final Discovery Day will be our Art at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Day on September 9th.

This summer we also have activities in Spanish. Our final Spanish Day will be August 13th with tours and crafts from 1-4pm.

We hope to see you out here and enjoy the rest of your summer!

 

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As the Seminole Camp Fire Burns the Seminole Tribe Grows…

by David Higgins, Facilities Manager

CHE HUN TAMO

To the Seminole Tribe of Florida the camp fire is a symbol of life.  It burns continuously, 24/7.  It is a reflection of family, life, and growth to the Seminole people. As the camp fire continues to burn the Seminole people continue to grow; when the Seminole people grow so does the Seminole Tribe.

Fig 1: Seminole Camp Fire in front of the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum

As the Seminole Camp Fire burns the Seminole Tribe grows.  The Seminole Tribe had a vision to build a museum to hold their artifacts and collections.  They wanted a place that would tell their story.  A place that Tribal members and visitors alike could go and learn of their history and the times they endured from stories and visions of their elders and ancestors.  They built the museum on the land which their great leader “Abiaki” roamed, lived, and was buried near.  The first concept rendering of the museum originated around 1989 and depicted many buildings built around the cypress dome.  It had a dirt walkway which connected the buildings to the main building, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

Fig 2: A colored picture of the first concept rendering of the museum and its buildings

Fig 3: The first concept rendering of the museum and its buildings

As the Seminole Camp Fire burns the Seminole Tribe grows.  The main Museum building was built first and located near the spot the original concept showed the building to be.   It opened its doors on August 21st 1997.  The Museum will be celebrating its 20 year anniversary on August 21st 2017.

As the Seminole Camp Fire burns the Seminole Tribe grows.  Soon they built the second building which was the Curatorial Building.  This building opened its doors three years after the Museum and it contains some office space, vaults, and a lab.  Two years after the curatorial building was built, they placed a temporary modular office to house the Tribal Historic Preservation Office and additional museum staff.

Fig 4: Temporary office building for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

As the Seminole Camp Fire burns the Seminole Tribe grows.  Although the buildings and their placements from the original concept has changed, the idea to expand the campus still existed within the Seminole Tribe.  The temporary office was not so temporary—it is falling apart and has outlived its useful life.  The outdoor restrooms and maintenance shop are insufficient and falling apart.

Now, twenty years after the Museum opened its doors, other buildings from the original concept are coming to life.  In the next few weeks the Seminole Tribe will begin to build a new Tribal Historic Preservation and Museum office building.  It will contain office space, a vault, and an archaeological lab.  They will build a maintenance shop to give the exhibits department and maintenance team an area to build exhibits, take care of equipment, and allow for ample on-site storage.  They are adding a restroom in the visitor’s parking lot to help with the visitors, groups, and schools groups which visit and tour their museum.

Fig 5, 6, & 7: Concept drawings of the new Tribal Historic Preservation Office

Fig 8: Concept drawing of the rest rooms in the visitor’s parking lot area

As the Seminole Camp Fire burns the Seminole Tribe grows.  The Museum was named the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum which means “a place to learn, a place to remember”.  In August of 2017, the Seminole Tribe of Florida will be celebrating their 60th year anniversary.  The Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum will be celebrating its 20th  anniversary.  The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Museum staff would like to invite you to come and visit their museum.  To learn and remember what the Seminole people and their Tribe has endured, overcome, and accomplished.  To watch the Seminole camp fire burn and watch the Seminole Tribe grow with a vision that started over twenty years ago.  To watch the concept of the museum grow and be fulfilled with the new buildings as they are built.   Come and help us celebrate our 20th anniversary and join us as we walk into the future in our beautiful expanded campus.  Check out the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum’s website http://www.ahtahthiki.com/ , Twitter, and Facebook for more information on our upcoming exhibits, programs, and events!

Sho Na Bish

One Thousand Years in One Bandolier Bag

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.

Retro Logo - 20 years

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.

Carol at Rekindled
Carol Cypress, reviewing her own ‘Rekindled’ oral history

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.

Yat Kitischee

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”.

Weedon Cultural Center 

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.

virtual tour

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.

Pottery Artifact

Weedon Island Pottery Artifact – image from @weedonisland

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.

Accession Meeting
Carol first shares the stories of her beaded bandolier designs on July 16, 2017 with Rebecca Fell, Curator of Exhibits, and Eric Griffis, Oral History Coordinator
Carol's Blue Bandolier Bag
Carol Cypress’ bandolier bag honoring the Weedon culture and people, currently on loan to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum thru November 22, 2017

 

 

What a Wonderful World

By Carrie Dilley, Visitor Services and Development Manager

Let’s face it—unless you live out here on the Big Cypress Reservation, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a bit of a drive.  We are just over an hour from Ft. Lauderdale or Naples, and nearer to an hour and a half from Ft. Myers, Palm Beach, and Miami.  No doubt about it, you need a car to get here.  While many vacationers rely solely on public transportation when visiting Florida, those who have a car often venture out to the Everglades and (we hope!) to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

If you had to guess, how many countries would you think we saw international visitors from in 2016?  Maybe 10?  20?  Would you believe me if I told you that in our fiscal year 2016, we saw visitors from 61 different countries?  And those are just the ones who signed the guest registry!  That’s 1/3 of the countries in the entire world.

map
Country of origin visitation map for 2016

When visitors arrive at the Museum, we ask them to sign the guest registry and provide information about where they are visiting from and how they heard about us.  This information is entered into an Excel spreadsheet by the front of house staff for easy tracking and sorting.  I include the data in my monthly report, and analyze the stats on a quarterly and yearly basis.  This information is critical for providing a snapshot of our audience and helps us create our marketing plan.

It’s interesting to note that our visitors do not necessary line up with the State of Florida’s international visitors on the whole.  Our top ten list is very Europe-heavy and includes the following countries: Germany (23%), Canada (14%), the UK (6%), Finland (5%), France (5%), Denmark (4%), Sweden (4%), Netherlands (3%), Switzerland (3%), and Norway (3%).  Our overall Latin American audience makes up only about 5% of our total international visitation.  Compared to the Florida as a whole (see below), we notice quite a large difference.

visit-florida-info

Over the past few years, the Retail Division has been working with a translation company to offer our museum guide in various languages.  We now have the printed Museum Guide in English, Spanish, German, and French.  In 2017, we will be translating the guide into Swedish, Finnish, and Danish.  Our international visitors are a key part of our audience and we want to make sure they gain the most out of their experience here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

The next time you think that an hour seems too far to get out and explore the areas around you, think about the visitors from the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and New Zealand to name a few who came out to visit us in 2016.

As we always say, the drive is part of the journey.  And once you get going, it might just be the most peaceful hour drive in all of Florida.

 

The Most Interesting Things Aren’t Really Things

By Dave Scheidecker, THPO Field Technician

One of the questions I often get asked as an archaeologist is “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve found?”  It seems simple and straightforward, yet it’s always an odd question to try and answer. What’s interesting to most people and what’s interesting to an archaeologist often aren’t the same things.

Think of the first scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark (And if you haven’t seen it, go see it right now. I’ll wait). Indiana Jones sneaks into ancient ruins, deftly avoiding poison darts, spring loaded spikes that activate at the touch of sunlight, and the world’s largest bowling ball, to make it out with a priceless golden idol that was worth all the risk.

image-1
There is nothing you can possess which i cannot take away… because unlike you i sought permission and worked with the local community.

But is it? Really, when you get down to it, it’s a statue made out of a shiny rock. Statues are nice, we can learn from them.  You can see the art style of the people who made it. What it represents could be something very important to the people who had it. Or it could mean they liked cats. But now think about that temple the statue was in. This is a temple that, among other things, has solar and pressure-plate activated booby traps. Ones that still work after centuries without maintenance! That beats out most warrantees you’ll get now. Think of what could be learned by studying that temple… if the team could survive.

For an archaeologist, the artifacts found can be individually remarkable, but the real importance is what they tell us about the site they were found in. All of the things we find and all of the data we collect are tied together. Context is everything. This is one of the reasons archaeology goes so much slower in the field than it does in the movies.

image-2

Of course, we don’t deal with ancient spike traps much in regular archaeology.  Not just because few traps keep working long after the culture that built them has gone, but because the best information we get can come from the least glamorous places. The best information about how people really lived comes from the garbage. Yep, that’s right. We get far more information from their tossed out leftovers than we do from that statue. The true treasure trove is when you find the garbage pit. Bones of what people ate, broken dinnerware, tossed out tools… the pieces of life from all around the site are collected in one spot. The trash.

image-3
That’s right.  Wall-E is a better archaeologist that Indiana Jones.

All of these individual items, every artifact, is part of a larger context: the site itself. And not just the item itself, but how it was found. Where was it? How far underground? What was it near?  An arrowhead taken from a sight is a curiosity. An arrowhead found within a site is a piece of a puzzle, one that tells the story of the place and the people who lived there when it’s put together. And that is the real goal of archaeology, to preserve the legacy of the people.

The most interesting things most archaeologist find aren’t artifacts… they’re sites. Not every site that is important is easy to spot, and not every place is important to the same people. In ancient Greece scholars once put together a list of incredible sites that people should visit. The Pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Statue of Zeus, the Temple of Artemis,  the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria… the Seven Wonders of the World.

image-4
And so the Ancient Greeks invented the Travelogue…

Of all these ancient sites, only the Pyramids remain. The rest were lost through the ages, fallen into ruin, destroyed, or lost to memory (If you can know Halicarnassus without help from Wikipedia, then you know your history!). If this happened to such well known places, think of all the other places lost through the years. And not every site has such obvious importance to the people who don’t use it. Many sacred places with long and rich histories might seem like simple wilderness to those who don’t know. With the amount of construction and development going on in the world today, ancient sites and sacred spaces are constantly at risk of being bulldozed.

One of the most important jobs archaeologists have is preservation. We work to identify sites that are culturally and historically significant. We ensure that they’re not destroyed when we can, or that the knowledge is preserved if we can’t. Sometimes the most interesting thing found is a place that’s important to people, has a story, and is important to them. And that’s not a thing. But it is the best part of the job.