Time and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki March On

Time is an amazing thing. It passes from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day… then months give way to years and before you know it more time has passed than any of us care to admit.  Unless of course you are an institution, then it is a badge of honor and a testament to fortitude and progress. Such is the case with the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

On August 21, the Museum commemorated its 15th anniversary with a celebration honoring the tireless efforts and dedication of the numerous visionaries comprised of Tribal leaders, Tribal citizens, Museum staff, Museum members and visitors who have provided the opportunity to live by our very definition… a place to learn, a place to remember.

With the passing of 15 years, one cannot help but reflect on the magnitude of the progress which has so proudly complimented the unwavering commitment of its founding and working luminaries.  It is an outstanding and significant achievement and occasion that warrants an insightful look back and ahead.

In 1987, the Seminole Tribe of Florida began a comprehensive evaluation of its cultural departments. This study, uncovered the need to further collect, preserve, and communicate, the culture and history of the Seminole people. Always committed to nurturing and sharing tribal customs and traditions, the Tribe has given priority to maintaining cultural rituals that involve participation of Tribal elders alongside Seminole youth. The Tribe also has a long history of encouraging Seminole cultural exchanges with non-Seminole people world-wide. The Tribe’s commitment to this ideal led to the commission of a master plan for the design and implementation of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

In the words of Tribal Chairman James E. Billie, who donated his traditional camp in Big Cypress to develop the Museum, “We have lost priceless knowledge of our people because we failed to properly document and store these documents. Therefore, I believe it is time to develop a museum where we can do these things and share our culture with those who wish to know a little about the Seminole.”

With considerable prowess and deft handling, the former Executive Director and Seminole educator Billy Cypress, along with a small core team of Museum commissioners, set about making the project become a reality. Assembling a collection of items that now rivals most historic houses and small Museums, the work to draft into existence a historical and cultural museum that would preserve the vital history and culture of the Unconquered Seminoles had begun.  

Officially chartered in 1989, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum opened its doors to the public on August 21, 1997. The state-of-the-art curatorial building was completed in early 2004. The Museum became accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) on April 21, 2009; becoming the first ever tribally governed museum to be accredited by the AAM.

By most industry standards this timeline is incredible. And if you have ever stepped foot on the Museum campus you would know it and feel it, quite tangibly. The Museum sits on a 66 acre natural cypress dome and is home to more than 60 indigenous everglades flora and fauna. The one-mile raised boardwalk through the cypress dome is a tremendous feat, worthy of the best naturalists, botanists, birders and outdoor enthusiasts.  The interior of the Museum boasts lifelike dioramas with mannequins molded after actual Tribal members for the most realistic representation of Florida Seminole Indians, as opposed to the more stereotypical non-Indian ethnographic stylized work.

This unique perspective, the Seminole perspective, is what dominates and carries forward throughout the experience. The Seminole tell the story their way, and all who listen are enriched.

Behind the scenes at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, is what truly fascinates and delights, for a staffer like me anyhow. The road to accreditation gained serious momentum from 2005-2009, and with it came the enhanced management of the collections, more intense focus on operational matters, development of educational programs, revitalized marketing efforts and careful stewardship overall.  The process of self-assessment was unyielding, unforgiving, and magical. While daunting and rigorous, it was at once invigorating and highly motivational. And it has been a beauteous privilege to be entrusted with carrying out and enacting the vision of the Tribe and its early Museum proponents.

Also entrusted to us at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, is the future of the Museum. As we round out fifteen years we make plans to broaden the baseline of services to our Tribal constituents and the general public. New programs and exhibitions are being developed to enhance the visitor experience and we are working to make more distance learning opportunities available via a newly designed and more accessible website.  We have produced unique Seminole inspired merchandise to help us drive revenue to sustain the Museum and dazzle the public. We collaborate regularly with area partners and industry affiliates in an attempt to favorably impact the greatest number of people and make thoughtful use of opportunities to gain exposure, share our message and fulfill our mission… for the enrichment of all people.

Naturally, we rely heartily on the support of our Members and donors to make this happen. We thank each and every one of you, welcome others of you and hope we can count on your continued support in the minutes, days, months and years ahead.

For time and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki march on…. and no one man or woman is an institution.







Dorian Lange is Development Manager at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum



A Word From Membership

Happy spring!

Here in South Florida, the weather is beautiful.

BAMM (Broward Attractions and Museums Month) Do you live or plan to visit Southeast Florida in June? Make sure to take advantage of BAMM. As a member of Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum or any of the other 16 participating organizations you can visit all during the month of June FREE…What a deal!  Check out www.BAMMinfo.org for additional information.

As part of BAMM we are hosting a Storytelling workshop, featuring Moses Jumper Jr., Seminole historian, re-enactor and poet; Tuesday June 26, 2012 at 11am.  This is free to Museum members and BAMM participants and open to the public.


Museum Store In addition to our selection of Seminole patchwork, books, CDs and jewelry, we have just received new retail items…. TRACK earrings in sterling silver including snake, otter, panther, bird, toad, deer (bear tracks pictured at right) from Semaki & Bird, just $19.95.





Mosaic Art Wall – will feature two Seminole artists this summer. The contemporary work of painter Elgin Jumper will be shown June 8 through July 16, and photographer Marty Bowers of Tampa will show July 20 through September 4.

“Three Seminole Scouts” by Noah Billie
From Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki permanent collection 1991.3.1


Richard William Hubbard
From Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki permanent collection 2000.123.1

Reflections Across Time: Seminole PortraitsSeptember 1, 2012 – November 4, 2012

Presented in collaboration with The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University and with pieces from the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art, this exhibit will depict differences between historical interpretations of Seminole warriors by artists of the past with the presentation of these figures by modern Seminole artists.

To enhance your Museum experience we offer free tours on most days, check the calendar on our website for times and days.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum members are always admitted free.  If you would like Museum membership information, please email marybirch-hanson@semtribe.com or call 954.364.5205.

I look forward to seeing you at the Museum. 



Mary Birch-Hanson

Membership Coordinator



It’s time for the 13th Annual American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC).  YOU are invited!

AIAC Art Vendors

We have a full weekend of exciting dance, music, arts and culture lined up.  Martha Redbone, Hank Nelson, Jr.; Cowbone, Billy Walker, alligator wrestler extraordinaire; Ray with the Everglades Critter show are the performance highlights of the weekend.

Hank Nelson, Jr.
Martha Redbone


Forty Native American artisans from 15 different tribes will have journeyed from all over North America to bring their excellent arts and crafts for your delight and purchase.

Our Education division is hosting the Craft Corner.  Children attending AIAC are invited to come over and try their hand at “finger weaving” under the direction of our staff as well as a noted finger weaver.

Craft Corner

Tribal Historic Preservation Office archaeologists will be speaking about their work and demonstrating flint knapping (process of making stone tools) and atlatl usage (a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart-throwing).

The Yellowbird Apache Dancers will perform as well as build a traditional “wikiup” structure, answering your questions about its purpose and place in history.

Of course, we have great food options available.  Everything from Indian tacos, to ribs, to ice cream… we have something delicious just for you.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is the 21st site for the 21st Century on the Everglades Trail.  We will be celebrating the official opening from the AIAC stage on Friday, November 5 at 10:30 am.

Go to American Indian Arts Celebration

for schedule and additional information as well as downloadable 2 for 1 admission passes.

We hope that you will make plans to join the festivities at AIAC, bring a friend and enjoy the Florida Everglades in November.  Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum members are always admitted to the event free, so be sure to stop by the Museum Information tent to inquire about special introductory offers to join the membership at the Museum.

If you would like additional AIAC or Museum membership information, please email marybirch-hanson@semtribe.com or call 954.364.5205.

I look forward to seeing you at AIAC. 

Mary Birch-Hanson

Membership Coordinator

Partnering and Collaboration: Fundamental and Vital

In the resonant words of my mother, “you have to be friendly to have friends.” More than thirty years after first hearing these words, I have never realized a truer sentiment or more valuable skill than playing well with others.  It literally transcends all type sets and scenarios from the academic to the artistic to the entrepeneurial. In the age of cyber space and social networking, the landscape for playful and professional interaction has certainly changed, but the notion still seems to apply. It takes two (at least)… to make a thing go right. And so the premise, platform and fundamental need for partnering and collaboration emerges.

In recent years, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has recognized the value of being a good neighbor and has worked hard to secure working partnerships and lasting relationships in surrounding communities and among industry fellows. In a strained economy, partnering and collaboration are highly coveted commodities. Wise are the entities working together to rise to the challenge of disappearing local, state and federal dollars. Granting agencies, foundations and the ever diminishing coprorate sponsors have all re-emphasized this single most influencing criteria: who or what, apart from your organization, will these funds benefit? 


Joining forces sounds so militaristic and tactical, but this is essentially the order of the day. A meeting of the minds and budgets as it were. In 2006, after learning about a collaborative effort underway in the ever cutting-edge and culturally savvy Miami, our Museum membership coordinator set about organizing and uniting a similar band of cultural outlets within Broward and Boca Raton. The concept: reciprocal admission privileges for members during one entire month, in the hope of boosting appreciation, attendance and membership among all participating organizations. In its first year, Broward Attractions and Museums Month (BAMM) brought twenty one cultural organizations together. In monthly planning meetings, such resources as media contacts, graphic designers, printers and distributors were shared, and contributions in the form of in-kind services were saught and obtained.  BAMM garnered the attention of such community powerhouses as public radio, local media, the CVB, humanities councils, tourism development councils and various city and county officials.

BAMM 2010 has concluded and remains of vital interest to those who work to make it happen annually. Hours devoted by staff dedicated to the concept and compelled to move forward at the desperate urging of history, art and culture centers countywide. While a local initiative, it should be a national one, gaining recognition with each successive and successful year. If more cultural institutions united to address the dilemma facing them, big and small, known and unknown, appreciation would give rise to visitation, donation and preservation. Who, having seen a tiny beaded moccasin so deftly and intricately crafted and dating back to the early 1800s, or having read an excerpt from a letter written in 1774 before this great nation’s independence, could not be moved to give the smallest farthing?? The battle cry is clear: we must unite to further the effect and affect of our unique cultural experiences on widespread audiences. We must broaden the baseline of services, extend our reach beyond the norm, we simply must think outside the box… a tried but true turn of phrase.

Collaboration has many forms. Object loans are in essence collaboration; shared membership societies, established cultural networks, email list serves, library access, research programs, literacy programs, educational programming, artist collectives and enhanced online media are all potential avenues for partnering and collaboration. In recent years, Federal grantors such as the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Scenic Byways Program have revamped competitive grant proposal eligibility to require some measure of partnering and collaboration at the onset.  And rightfully so, for operating in silos minimizes impact and sets us apart. Distinguishing ourselves from each other is not the same as setting ourselves apart. We need the distinction, and we need each other.

Over the last four years, the Museum has been working closely with such robust and active organizations as the American Association of Museums (AAM); Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (ATALM); Florida Association of Museums (FAM); American Association for State and Local History (AASLH); American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) to name a few. Each dedicated to identifying, sharing and enhancing resources. Individuals across varied disciplines have been reaching out to one another to exchange ideas, share experiences, lend expertise, cross promote and jointly strategize ways to work together to reach more people, ignite more interest, and better utilize resources. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is pleased and proud to be among these vital ongoing efforts, garnering recognition, respect and support from esteemed colleagues, enthusiastic visitors and generous patrons nationwide.

Of course we have no greater partners, collaborators and benefactors at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum than the Seminole Tribe of Florida, its Council and its members. The Tribe and its constituents have placed historic and cultural preservation at the forefront of most of their individual or collective endeavors locally, nationally and globally.  They have been good neighbors, trusting partners and generous donors. The Tribe itself has long been living true to the words and sentiments echoed herein, “you have to be friendly to have friends.”


Written by Dorian Lange.  Dorian Lange is the Development Officer for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

Museum Happenings From Membership

Dear Friends,

Here it is the middle of August, school is starting and the Museum is busy.  This summer we have welcomed guests from 46 states, 29 countries and 71 Florida cities.  We enjoy the time our guests spend with us; we offer FREE guided tours of the Museum at 2:15 pm most weekday afternoons, so make plans to join us when you are in the area.

The exhibits team is preparing to install our newest exhibit: From Surviving to Thriving, an Everglades Economy, opening on October 30, 2010.  We are offering a Behind the Scenes Tour in conjunction with the October 30 exhibit opening (reservations are required.)  In February 2011, Tools of War opens.  Join us as we explore the changing technology of weaponry and how these advancements shaped the Seminole Wars.  Museum members will be receiving their exhibit opening invitations soon.

As you may be aware, we have a geocache site on our Museum grounds.  We see that many Girl and Boy Scout troops, as well as small groups of friends take time to explore the Everglades using the GPS function on their smart phones.

We are now part of the Everglades Trail, the 21st site for the 21st century.  We will be officially launching our participation in the Everglades Trail with a media event during the opening day of our 13th Annual American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC) on Friday November 5. We will share more information as it becomes available.  Follow the Everglades Trail to explore the natural wonders of this international treasure.  From Florida Bay north to the headwaters in Central Florida, you will find sites that provide accessible opportunities for you to enjoy the beautiful public lands of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.  This subtropical region is a remarkable ecosystem with unique plants and wildlife – more than 4 million acres of public lands vital not only for nature but for the water supply for South Florida.

We are planning for our 13th American Indian Arts Celebration; November 5-7, 2010 on our Museum grounds on the Big Cypress Reservation.  This year featuring performances by Martha Redbone, Hank Nelson Jr. and Seminole Star Search winners.  There will be live Alligator wrestling and Critter Shows daily and Native American Artists offering their excellent work for those who love beautiful arts and crafts.  You can see a photo gallery of the AIAC event here.

Van Samuels singing the National Anthem at AIAC 2008

We have many great Museum Membership benefits, including FREE admission to the Museum, and the great events we host as well as some terrific reciprocal programs.  You can find membership information at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum membership.  You can also email me at marybirch-hanson@semtribe.com.

Hope to see you at the Museum soon.