What do atlatl throwing, swamp cabbage tasting and crafting have in common? They’re all things that you can do as part of our Seminole Discovery Day series!
Discovery Days are a great time to bring friends and family for a hands-on experience to delve deeper into the Seminole Story. Our first Discovery Day of the year celebrates Florida Archaeology Month with our Archaeology Day on March 10th. Meet actual archaeologists and learn about their quests for uncovering Seminole history. You can discover what makes Tribal archaeology unique and how our archaeologists work with community members.
You can also get your hands dirty. Be inspired by archaeological pottery and pinch your own pots out of clay. Play with Legos and examine artifacts to discover how archaeologists decode the past. You can also try using an atlatl! At-ul-at-ul isn’t just fun to say! Before people used bows and arrows for hunting, they used these spear throwers to help them hunt. The atlatl allowed to them to throw farther and with greater force. Finally we also have a special session just for Tribal Members to learn more about historic camp sites on our Tribal Register of Historic Places.
Our next Discovery Day- Earth Day- on April 21st will highlight the importance of the Everglades to the Seminoles. Explore the Everglades with a tour along our boardwalk and taste swamp cabbage made from sabal palm trees. You can also find out about hunting with Daniel Tommie in his hunting camp and test your archery skills.
For crafty visitors, our Art at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Day on June 28th is a great chance to get creative. Be inspired by our Museum Village Crafters exhibit and art by the Pemayetv Emahakv students from Brighton Reservation on display. Visitors can meet Seminole artists and create their own crafts including beading keychains, coloring in Seminole scenes, and more.
July 28th, our Seminole War Day, offers more information about this important period in Seminole history. Play our Tools of Survival card game to gain a deeper understanding of the Seminole experience and find out more with a special exhibit.
Our final Discovery Day will highlight our upcoming exhibit “We Are Here: Hands & Voices Making Community Happen.” Understanding any government can be a mystery, but this exhibit will highlight different departments, showcasing the role they play in supporting the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Join us September 15th for special activities.
We hope you will join us for these special programs. Seminole Story Days, our first major series of public programs in recent years, began in 2016. The series started as part of an internship project with Eden Jumper, then a senior at the Ahfachkee School, whose marketing designs we still use! We followed it up with our Seminole Summer Fun series the same year. In 2017, we renamed the series Seminole Discovery Days and have continued to add programs under this title. Become part of our new tradition!
Objects, like people, sometimes need to visit the doctor. Museums strive to keep objects in their best health. But some objects, like the Archer who lives in the Village of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, will always require a little more healthcare than others. Because his purpose is to live outdoors, the Archer deals with the wind, rain, and curious kids. The Tribal members who sell and work on their crafts in the Village keep an eye on him. So do the maintenance staff.
Sooner or later, though, the Archer needs a bath or to have a few repairs to keep him looking fit and trim. This is when the object’s doctor comes in, or conservator, if you want to be fancy about it. The conservator will make the diagnosis and often apply the treatment. Sometimes she or he will need help from other specialists to complete the treatment. In this case, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s conservator, Robin Croskery-Howard, made her treatment plan and requested assistance from the Exhibits Fabricator, Nora Pinell-Hernandez. Below Robin and Nora share a little about the process that got the Archer back to his full health.
(Rebecca Fell) Tell us a little about the history of the Archer. Who made him?
(Robin Croskery-Howard) The Archer was created by artist Brad Cooley, who has created several other statues for the Tribe, including the bronze statue in front of the museum.
(RF)Robin, tell us a little about the problem the Archer was having:
(RCH) Like most outdoor sculpture, the Archer began to have a few issues after so many years outside. Over-exposure to water and sun can do a lot of damage. Many of the areas around his hands and the folds in his clothes were cracked and worn. He also had quite a lot of pigment loss to his legs and the top of his head. Other issues included general dirt residue, insect casings, and bird droppings. All of these had to be cleaned off before any other work could begin.
(RF) It sounds like he needed a spa day as well some assistance. Describe how you make your decisions and treatment plans for the Archer? How did you coordinate your care with Nora?
(RCH) When beginning a new treatment, it is always best to consult the latest information regarding a specific material typology or problem. Books are a great resource, as well as colleagues and professionals in related fields. After doing quite a bit of reading, a sponge bath followed by patching seemed to be the best option. I coordinated with Nora in regards to what should be done. I bathed the Archer with a special soap and water. She was able to research the best fiberglass for this sculpture and methods of application. Once clean, she applied the fiberglass and color-matched the areas that needed touchups.
(RF) Did you go back to the artist and request his help?
(RCH) When I first received the request to help the Archer, I was given the artist’s contact information. Unfortunately, by the time I began on the project in earnest (about a month later), the artist had passed away. It is always better when the conservator can have input from the artist in regards to the care of their artwork.
(RF)Nora, describe your process for us:
(Nora Pinell-Hernandez) Typically I work like a mad scientist in my (home) shop, mixing materials and colors to get the result I want. But the Archer is not an experiment – he depicts a Seminole warrior and needs to be treated with the utmost care. My first task was to research resins that would be used to compensate for large cracks on the Archer’s clothing
(RF) Tell us about resin:
(NPH) The resin has to withstand high humidity, be able to fill a hollow area of about 1/4”, sandable, adhere well to other materials, and not cause damage to the original material. We selected Aqua-Resin because it fulfilled all of these requirements but even better – it is a water-based, non-toxic resin. Don’t let the water-solubility fool you – Aqua-Resin is very tough when used with fiberglass and after leaving it out in the swampy environment for over a month it definitely won its place in our tool cart.
(RF) How about when you are mixing up the paint?
(NPH) Before I began work on the Archer, Robin and I tested the material on a small part of the big shirt. I then did another set of experiments using multiple grades of sandpaper to obtain the same smooth surface as the Archer. Next, I had to see how well the new surface took to the second most important aspect – the paint!
I used Gamblin paint which is a high quality acrylic. As a fine artist I have a knack for matching paint – probably from trying to fix all of the scratches on my own paintings (I’m a bit clumsy in my personal studio). Not only did I need to color match, I also needed to get the right sheen. The Archer’s clothing has a semi-gloss finish while the hands and face are less lustrous and the belt is a matte black. The Archer is placed under direct sunlight, making imperfections easier to spot which meant the texture and paint color had to look seamless. I hope that when you visit the Archer you will be unable to distinguish where the cracks used to be.
(RF) What is his purpose in the Museum?
(RCH) The Archer usually stands sentinel in the Village about half-way around our boardwalk. He is an example of what a mid to late 19th century Seminole man who was bow hunting would look like. His bigshirt and kerchief are both solid colored.
(RF) What other considerations did you keep in mind in getting the Archer back to health?
(RCH) We had to remember that the Archer was going back out into the same environment from whence he came. This means that he’ll be exposed to the same stressors, and will likely need an annual checkup next fall to ensure that he’s still in tip-top shape.
(RF) How did Hurricane Irma affect the Archer and his treatment?
(RCH) The Archer weathered Irma quite well, with only minimal damage. However, some of the process had to be repeated, due to the nature of destruction during a hurricane.
Thank you for sharing your insight on this process, Robin and Nora. It sounds like the Archer had quite recuperation under the Curatorial Chickee.
If you would like to see the Archer back in action, take a stroll to our Village grounds. The Village is located at the halfway point of our mile long boardwalk. He is the quiet type, but the ladies and gentleman working in the village will gladly talk with you.
This November there will be a new post-Thanksgiving shopping event- Museum Store Sunday! Museum stores from around the globe – from Belgium to New Zealand and all across the USA – will participate on Sunday, November 26 (the Sunday after Thanksgiving). With a tag line “Be a Patron” this event encourages holiday shoppers to remember their favorite museum stores. Shoppers will not only find quality gifts filled with inspiration and educational value, but through their purchases, will also directly support their favorite museums. Buying gifts at a museum store helps to foster ongoing appreciation and knowledge of art, nature, culture, science, and history of that museum. As a patron your purchase from the museum store helps to sustain the museum’s service to the public. What a wonderful win-win situation!
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Store will be offering a free gift with every purchase on November 26 as well as a chance to win our newest Seminole Doll ornament the Seminole Boy Doll.
Joining the beloved girl doll, the Seminole Boy Doll is also a mouth-blown glass ornament that is hand-painted in the old European tradition. His big shirt is decorated with glittering rick-rack and patchwork and in addition he wears real feathers in his turban as well as a fabric neckerchief around his neck. A collectable item designed exclusively for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, these ornaments are only available for a short time.
Requests for both of our exclusive Girl and Boy Doll ornaments have been tremendous as folks know that these designs change every holiday season.
The doll ornaments have joined our other exclusive ornament – one that has been popular for the past seven years – the Seminole Patchwork ornament. The 2017 Patchwork ornament continues the celebration Seminole Tribe of Florida’s 60th years of federal recognition.
Adapted from the patchwork pattern on a big shirt worn by Tiger Tail, the blue ball is encircled with sparkling golden diamonds (60 years = Diamond Anniversary) and deep red bands.
These are only a few of the treasures that you will find at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Store this holiday season and throughout the year – we have books on Seminole history as well as hand crafted jewelry, clothing that sparkles and changes colors and much, much more.
We here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Store encourage you to make the beautiful drive to the Big Cypress Seminole reservation on Sunday, November 26 to Be a Patron! If you can’t make it to visit us, then please check out your local museum store – you will be richly rewarded!
2017 has been a long year for hurricanes and it is not over yet. Hurricane season ends November 30th but hurricanes have been known to go through December and January of some years. Hurricane Irma definitely affected many people throughout the state of Florida and caused lots of damage and flooding. The Seminole Tribe of Florida and their members where affected in all of the reservations. The Ah-Tah-Thi- Ki Museum is located on the Big Cypress Reservation in Hendry County and was affected by Hurricane Irma. The storm only caused minor damage to some of our buildings and some of our traditional chickees.
The most impacted thing at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum by hurricane Irma was our mile long boardwalk which meanders through our cypress dome forest. We had over 13 large cypress trees fall through and on top of our boardwalk and numerous amounts of smaller trees and branches.
With the hard work and dedication of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum staff and the Tribal Historic Preservation staff we worked to remove all of the debris from the boardwalk. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum maintenance staff went to work on removing the large cypress trees and repairing the boardwalk. It took a little over two weeks of long, hard, hot days and hard work and a little getting wet in the cypress dome but the repairs and removal of the trees was completed.
The Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum’s boardwalk is one of its most popular aspects of the museum and visitors come from all over the country to enjoy the museum and its boardwalk. It was very important to us to get it opened as quickly as possible for our visitors and Tribal members. There are still traces of the large cypress trees that fell from Hurricane Irma and they will slowly decay and help give back nutrients to the rest of the cypress forest. I want to invite you on behalf of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s maintenance staff, the museum staff, THPO staff, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida to come and visit their incredible museum and boardwalk. To walk around their boardwalk and look for yourself, the strength of Hurricane Irma and the incredible force it took to take down 140+ year old trees. Learn more about the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum: check out our website http://www.ahtahthiki.com/ , Twitter, and Facebook.
The purpose of the Fort Shackelford project is to determine the exact location of the fort using historical maps and documents, archaeological investigations, metal detecting, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), and input from the Tribal community. Recording the exact location of Fort Shackelford will allow the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) to help tell the Seminole story and continue to protect and preserve Seminole Heritage.
History of Fort Shackelford
Fort Shackelford was built by the United States Army in February of 1855 on the edge of the Everglades (Eck 2002). The fort was created to serve as an outpost for further exploration of the Everglades during the U.S. Government’s attempt at Indian Removal in the early and mid-1850s. During that time, the U.S. Government offered land to white settlers if they remained armed and available to the U.S Army in the event of any further conflict with the Seminoles.
Fort Shackelford likely would have consisted of a 12 foot by 12 foot block house for the officers, and a 40 foot by 40 foot stockade type area for the enlisted soldiers and their tents (Ellis 2016). The fort was built in a wetland and occupied by U.S. soldiers during the dry season for about four months, until the rainy season arrived and flooded the area. In June 1855, the fort was abandoned with the hopes of returning during the next dry season. In December of 1855, U.S. Army Lt. George Hartsuff was tasked with assessing Fort Shackelford to determine if the fort was in good enough condition to once again house troops. Hartsuff and a small contingent of men headed for Big Cypress only to find the fort had been burned down by the Seminoles. On their return trip to Fort Myers, Hartsuff and his men were reportedly ambushed by a group of Seminoles led by Billy Bowlegs (Eck 2002). Hartsuff returned to Fort Myers and reported the attack, which ultimately renewed hostilities between the U.S. and the Seminoles. Since then, the exact location of the fort has been shrouded in mystery
In the early 1940s, government surveyor D. Graham Copeland placed several concrete markers around Southwest Florida marking historic sites. One such marker was placed by one of Copeland’s colleagues in what was thought to be the location of Fort Shackelford; but since Copeland did not place the marker himself, it is uncertain if the marker was placed in the right location (Hanson nd). Adding to the confusion, information from the Tribal Community indicates that after the marker was placed, it was moved to hide the Fort’s location from treasure hunters. Additionally, the area where the marker may have been moved to may have been “salted” to try and prevent any further looting by treasure hunters or those looking to take advantage of the Seminoles. “Salting” is basically the act of someone placing an item or items in an area where treasure hunters might frequent in hopes of tricking them into thinking they found something of value. It is uncertain if the marker was actually moved from its original location, but the idea that it “may or may not” have been moved has proven to be just as effective as actually moving the marker.
Archaeology of the Fort
Since Fort Shackelford has proven to be an elusive site, the THPO undertook archival, architectural, and archaeological research over the past year to determine if any evidence of the fort remains. Various historical maps provide a general vicinity of where the fort might be located, but with the lack of technology available in the 1850s it is almost certain that the maps are inaccurate. So where do we start? The Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS) began the investigation around the Copeland marker on the Big Cypress Reservation. Metal detection, shovel testing (systematic digging of holes in an area), and phase II excavations (placement of a 1 meter by meter hole), conducted by the TAS have all yielded several metallic items, many of which were too corroded to identify. The TAS did however locate around 12-15 square nails near the marker that date to the time period of the fort’s construction (mid 1850’s). In addition, 3 musket balls or ball shot were located approximately 100 meters (328 feet) to the west of the Copeland marker. Musket balls can be very tough to identify and are currently being re-evaluated at the THPO Curatorial building to determine whether or not they are historic or modern. The square nails provide hope that the TAS is looking in the right area, but one would expect to find more than 12-15 square nails at the site of a fort. Also, there has been a large amount of charcoal discovered during shovel testing and phase II excavations, which supports the claim that the fort was burned down.
Adding to the difficulty of locating a fort in a swamp that was burned 150+ years ago is the fact that the area surrounding the Copeland marker has been farmed at least since 1968. This is apparent by the lack of irrigation canals in the 1948 aerial photograph (bottom left), and the irrigation canals seen in the 1968 aerial photograph (bottom right). According to a Tribal member, watermelon farming occurred in the fields around the Copeland marker, and this would have included the plowing of the fields. The plowing or disking needed for watermelon farming would have gone to a depth of approximately 24 inches. This would likely cause any remains of the fort to be scattered throughout the field.
Historically, Fort Shackelford represents part of the Seminole’s struggle to survive during the U.S. Government’s attempts at Indian removal, as well as the role the fort played late in the Seminole War Era. Recording the actual location, memorializing it, and presenting our findings to the Tribal Community are all part of protecting and preserving Seminole heritage. The TAS will continue to search for more nails and more charcoal in hopes of finding a large amount of both in a small area to try and locate the exact location of Fort Shackelford.
Eck, Christopher R., 2002 South Florida’s Prelude to War: Army Correspondence Concerning Miami, Fort Dallas, and the Everglades Prior to the Outbreak of the Third Seminole War, 1850-1855. Tequesta. Historical Museum of Southern Florida.
Ellis, G. (2016). Gulf Archaeology Research Institute. (S. Keyte, Interviewer) Ocala, Florida.
Hanson, W. Stanley, N.D. Letter from D. Graham Copeland to W. Stanley Hanson, June 19, 1941.
Scott, H. L. 1814-1886. (1861). Military dictionary: comprising technical definitions; information on raising and keeping troops; actual service, including makeshifts and improved matériel; and law, government, regulation, and administration relating to land forces. London: Trübner and Co..