Become an honorary gator wrestler!

By Alyssa Boge

What does it take to be a gator wrestler?

Alligator wrestling is no easy feat! It takes dedication and training. In order to wrestle, Seminoles first have to ask permission of the Snake Clan. They need to learn about the traditions. They need to learn about alligators and how to wrestle them while staying safe.

 In our new exhibit “Alligator Wrestling: Danger. Entertainment. Tradition.” you can discover what it takes. You can even become an honorary gator wrestler!

Christine Rizzi and Tori Warenik became our first honorary gator wrestlers!

Until the exhibit ends in November, any guest, no matter their age, can earn their badge. All you have to do is ask at the front for your missions. Just as gator wrestlers have a lot to learn, you’ll have your own knowledge to gain and tasks to accomplish.

Test your gator knowledge and find out what makes alligators dangerous. Listen to experienced alligator wrestlers about their experiences and hear the ‘Legend of the Alligator and the Eagle’. See if you can open a gator’s jaws and touch a gator’s teeth. Find out how alligator wrestling all began. Discover the different wrestling moves like the Florida Smile and the Face Off and try them out yourself (on our gator dummy).

You can do this program on your own or with a group. We welcome scout groups and field trips and will work with you to add this activity to your programs.

When all the activities are completed, a tour guide will review your packet or materials and you’ll say our gator wrestler pledge. Then you will receive your honorary badge sticker or button. The design features Alligator Wrestler, Billy Walker, when he was younger and his daughter Shylah. Below you can see them posing with the image in the exhibit!

Billy and Shylah pose next to the exhibit graphic that was inspired by them.

Come out and give it a try!

Ringing in the New Year!

 

 

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Setting a New Year’s resolution is a popular practice for many people.  When the clock chimes twelve on January 1st, it’s a chance for a fresh start and an opportunity to begin the New Year on the right foot with the best of intentions guiding you forward.

Doing a quick internet search reveals some of the top resolutions people set in the New Year:

  1. Get fit
  2. Travel to new places
  3. Reduce stress
  4. Learn something new
  5. Spend more time with family

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with new goals and forming new habits.  Try taking advantage of opportunities that can help you check off several of your new resolutions at once– I guarantee it will make you feel happy and productive.

I’d also recommend spending time researching unique and off the beaten path activities to make your year unforgettable.  Here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum we not only offer a memorable, one of a kind experience, but can help you work towards some of those 2018 resolutions!

Healthy Habits

Our mile long boardwalk offers  visitors a chance to stretch their legs and get in their steps, all while taking in the beautiful scenes of a cypress dome environment. The boardwalk is a continuous loop so feel free to make as many laps as you’d like.

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Explore New Places

We are a perfect day trip for locals and out of state visitors alike.  A little over an hour from major city hubs like Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Fort Myers, a visit to the Museum will feel like a mini getaway from the hustle and bustle.  Don’t forget to stop down the street at Billie Swamp Safari to wrap up your visit with some Seminole fry bread and a buggy ride.

Limit Stress

Walking our boardwalk is not only great exercise but can be a special retreat for visitors to relax and unwind.  Several rest stops along the boardwalk encourage you to sit and stay awhile.  Spend a few minutes taking in the different animal sounds and the breeze rustling through the tree canopy.

Enjoy a self-guided and self-paced tour of the Museum galleries and make sure to bring a picnic lunch to eat under a traditional chickee (adjacent to the visitor parking lot).  Don’t forget to stop and take in a peaceful moment by the crackling fire in front of the Museum as you leave.

Learn New Things

We may be biased, but we think there is no better place to learn then at a museum!  The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum strives to foster an understanding and appreciation of Seminole history and culture.  We are excited for you to learn about the Seminole Tribe of Florida through collections, exhibits, oral histories, programs, tours and more.

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Quality Family Time

If you’re like me, making time for family is important, but it can sometimes prove difficult to pry ourselves away from the everyday responsibilities.  Planning activities or outings together can be a great way to get everyone excited and out of the house for some fun.  We know your valuable family time will be well spent at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

Whatever your goals and resolutions may be for 2018, we wish you all a prosperous and joyful New Year and hope to see you soon!

 

Have you searched our Online Collections yet?

by Mary Beth Rosebrough, Research Coordinator

Cataloging is a major activity here in the Collections Division of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. We do it almost all day, every day.  Cataloging means we record in our database, PastPerfect, all the information we have on the item in hand.  Who donated that newspaper clipping? Oh, it was William Boehmer of Brighton Reservation fame!  Did anything else come with it? Yes, as a matter of fact, it came with some black and white photos.  Right – all noted in the record. Recording the information keeps our accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums current and makes those materials available for research.  To access this blog page you clicked on a button at the top of our web page. But did you know you can access much of our collection from our website?  You can! – if you go to the dropdown menu under the Collections tab (right under the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki  logo), click on Online Collections, and then scroll down the page to “Online Collections connection”.   I’ve made it easy for you today:  our “Online Collections” search page is here:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=ks

Because of the diligent work done daily you have access to a large percentage of our collection and can research or “visit” our collection from your favorite comfy chair.  I hope you are sitting in it right now with your laptop and perusing a bit.  Try searching “patchwork” and you will get over 1300 hits.

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That ought to keep you or any student, maybe a homeschooled high schooler? – busy for most of the afternoon.  Not only are you able to view a very good scan of the object BUT you can also read the information that accompanies it in the database – the description, the size and what it is made of.  Have a look:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=8016704B-A69E-40F5-8054-560520439956;type=101

Interested in document research? How about this historic newspaper dated August 18, 1921?

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http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=CDC46080-403A-4171-8D54-221031109362;type=301

Not only can you read the synopsis to determine the article is about a scouting expedition for the building of the Tamiami Trial, but you can actually read the clipping itself.  Great, right?  And you find out it was part of a notebook belonging to Francis Frost White, a BIA employee in Dania (Hollywood) in the 1930s and 40s. Our collections assistant, Tennile Jackson, very carefully took apart that notebook, page by painstaking page, wearing purple latex gloves, and cataloged each one, recording all the important details.

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And so, because of that attention to detail, we deduce that Francis can provide us with some interesting history. We can use Francis Frost White as our search term and find what else she collected.  Let’s try it and see what comes up:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=keyword;keyword=francis frost white;dtype=d;subset=300

What we get is 145 hits providing an interesting walk through time and the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Now you try it!  What are you interested in – guns, the War, beadwork, bandolier bags, baskets, dolls?   All are major holdings that can be searched and researched.  When you put in your search term, look to the right and see the different modules available:  All content (for searching all the modules), Objects (artifacts, not paper), Library (books, journals, and periodicals), Archives (paper documents), Photos, and People.  To refine your search check the most applicable one(s) so you aren’t having to wade through pages of items that don’t suit your purpose.

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I hope you have enjoyed our walk through the online collections on the Museum’s website.  And hopefully you will enjoy the collection from the convenience of your own home – in preparation for your visit to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki  Museum!  Our exhibits highlight collection pieces to tell the story of the Seminole Tribe of Florida you won’t find in history books.  This month we have an exquisite exhibit, Struggle for Survival, on Seminole removal and survival in the Everglades being installed in the Museum.  It tells a story that has not been told before in this way.  Come and see how our Exhibits team has used our collection to tell the Seminole side of the constant conflict of the 1800s and learn the real story of the Unconquered!

 

Geocaching

By Oscar Carrasquillo Rivera, Maintenance Shift Supervisor

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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 https://www.geocaching.com 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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.
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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 ( https://tinyurl.com/mvtc583 ), or in person when you visit!