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.
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.
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.
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!
By Victoria Lincoln, Tribal Archaeology Section Intern
My name is Victoria Lincoln, I am a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) studying Anthropology and History and also am employed with Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). Upon graduating I intend to further my education by attending graduate school focusing solely on archaeology within the Southeast! For the past six months, I have had the pleasure of interning with the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS) within the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). Through this internship, I have gained hands-on experience in the preparation, execution, and documentation of Phase I and II cultural resource surveys.
Before joining the TAS as an intern, I had limited knowledge or experience with pre-excavation strategies. In May 2016, I attended a field school hosted by FGCU. At this field school, students were immersed in Phase III fieldwork and learned the process of an excavation. However, this was done without learning any of the other phases of archaeological investigations (Phase I and Phase II). Although I learned a lot from this field school, I lacked the ability to perform Phase I and Phase II surveys. To prepare for my future career as an archaeologist, I felt I needed to enhance these skills. Surveying land, performing Phase I shovel tests, and setting up Phase II excavation units are essential to professional archaeological fieldwork. The archaeology internship program provided by the TAS allowed me to really dig my heels in and explore the realities of Tribal Archaeology.
This internship was divided into four stages. First, I learned how to conduct desktop analyses, then Phase I and II cultural resource surveys, which made up the majority of the internship. The final two portions of the internship consisted of lab work and report writing. This structure allowed me to quickly immerse myself in skills valued by contract archaeology firms, THPOs, and State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO).
The first month of the internship was dedicated to getting acquainted with Geographic Information System (GIS), a tool used by archaeologists to store, manage, analyze, and interpret spatial and geographic data. Knowledge and experience with GIS is extremely sought after by employers. While working with TAS, I used GIS to create maps of the Areas of Potential Effect for numerous projects. I learned how to create modern aerial maps, historic maps, topographic maps, and elevation maps. In doing so, I gained an appreciation for the background research involved in archaeological investigations. Another important step in desktop analysis is determining the probability of encountering cultural material in an archaeological survey. By working closely with the TAS crew, I began to determine this probability myself and plot to be excavated shovel tests in GIS. Over the course of my six-month internship, I have completed nearly 20 desktop analyses putting me well ahead of my fellow classmates who have never used GIS.
As mentioned previously, field work made up the majority of the internship. This is the step where APEs previously mapped out during the desktop analysis are visited and Phase I shovel tests are excavated. I was taken out with TAS employees to sites on the Brighton and Big Cypress Reservations, where I was able to learn how to maneuver through hammocks and cypress domes. Although this was definitely challenging, it was by far my favorite part of the internship. During Phase I surveys, I excavated holes to a depth of 100 centimeters. I did not encounter any archaeological artifacts during my time with TAS. Nonetheless, I think this phase of the internship provided a valuable means of understanding the preparation, challenges, and documentation involved in archaeological fieldwork, skills that will undoubtedly be useful in gaining future employment as an archaeologist.
As the hot summer days of May came upon the Reservations, I began alternating between lab work and report writing. I became acquainted with the process of cleaning, organizing and documenting cultural resources in the Collections Lab. I had very little experience working in labs prior to this internship. My time in the lab allowed me to gain knowledge in the specific steps taken to ensure cultural materials are handled in an ethical way. Lastly, I learned how to write reports. This was probably one of the less exciting things, but an essential part of any scientific fieldwork. After each cultural resource survey, a report is completed explaining the reason for the fieldwork, the scope of the project, and the results of the survey. Just attending classes at university did not allow me to effectively interpret archaeological investigations. Lab work and report writing allowed me to look at results from the field and confidently communicate findings. This ability will greatly aid me in attaining my future goals.
Overall, this internship was an amazing experience which allowed me to become better acquainted with field work and the steps taken prior to Phase I and Phase II excavations. Throughout this internship, TAS’ perspectives and strategies were shared broadening my archaeological perspective. I have also gained a newfound understanding and respect for the views the Seminole Tribe hold regarding their cultural materials and their history. This internship opportunity allowed me to understand the importance of collaborating with indigenous groups and their representatives on research; they share valuable knowledge of the area and people who lived there. This type of collaboration can help to avoid pitfalls in projects archaeologists face when they attempt to downplay indigenous roles and rights. All in all, this internship allowed for hands-on involvement in the field I wish to work in upon graduating. It allowed me to become confident using the tools I need to complete archaeological surveys. As I come to the end of this internship, I feel much more stable in my pursuit of a career in archaeology.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
It’s a long standing joke within our department that we operate out of a tin can. Our tiny modular building, built as a five year temporary home, still stands nestled between the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and a pristine cypress dome. This little shabby structure looks a bit out of place in such a serene setting, but our office stands as a (not-so) subtle reminder that our Tribal Historic Preservation program can handle just about anything.
It’s been a long journey getting to this point; the establishment of a Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) doesn’t come with a guide book. In fact, it doesn’t come with any instructions at all, so each THPO must carve their own path through this tangled wood of historic preservation. Working within the field of tribal historic preservation is notoriously complex and demanding. THPOs across the United States are charged with the preservation and management of a tribe’s invaluable cultural resources, and must operate within a complex dynamic of state, federal, and reservation law. At the same time, a THPO must also uphold the values and beliefs of the tribe that they serve. As you can imagine, this isn’t often an easy task.
The STOF-THPO is made up of four different sections (Tribal Archaeology, Compliance, Collections and Archaeometry) who all work together to protect the Seminole Tribe’s cultural resources. On a daily basis we conduct archaeological field work, review lengthy field reports, investigate archaeological objects, drink coffee, lead tours, make new and exciting maps, participate in community events, and much more! Every day brings a new challenge that supports the preservation of Seminole cultural heritage.
So how is it done, you might be wondering? The STOF-THPO was officially founded in 2002 by order of Tribal Council. On the eve of the THPO’s 15 year anniversary, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has partnered with University of Florida Press to publish “We Come for Good: Archaeology and Tribal Historic Preservation at the Seminole Tribe of Florida.”
This volume serves as a guide to share the challenges, battles, and victories of the Seminole Tribe’s THPO program. We Come for Good offers a unique tribal based perspective on how a THPO operates, builds internal capacity, and strives every day to become a leader in historic preservation. So if you really want to know how it’s done, then all you have to do is read the book! So please join us in celebrating this monumental achievement. Grab your own copy online, and sit back and enjoy the journey.