Working from home in the age of Coronavirus

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Tribal Historic Preservation Office are currently shut down so that we can do our part to #flattenthecurve through #socialdistancing. Those staff members who are able to, are currently working from home #WFH. So, what are they working on and how is it going?

Read below to find out!

Dave Scheidecker, THPO Research Coordinator

What are you working on at home?  I’m conducting historical research for the Ethnography project, meaning I’m doing a deep dive into research on pretty much all of Seminole history. I’m primarily concentrating on the pre-colonial and Spanish colonial periods at the moment, because that’s where we have the least material in our archives.

What are you enjoying about working from home?  Almost everything. Being in a t-shirt and shorts, no commute, being able to blast music while I work, and being able to freely cook for lunch.

What do you miss from the office?  Having people to talk to about work and research in person. I much prefer in person talk over online or phone.

What challenges are you facing?  Self-discipline. I’m working in my room, so every distraction I could want is freely available. Research can get very boring, and the urge to pick up a game controller “just for 5 minutes” is so very strong.

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Dave, when he found he would be working from home.

Victoria Menchaca, Compliance Review Specialist

What are you working on at home?  Fortunately, most of my work involves reviewing project reports and responding via email. So, I am pretty much doing the same things I would normally do just minus any in person meetings.

What are you enjoying about working from home?  Not having to wake up so early, not having to drive so much or so far, being able to cook my meals fresh at home, being able to exercise on my lunch break, being able to let my dogs out whenever they want, being able to dress however I want…lots of things!

What do you miss from the office?  I am more of an introvert, but I do miss some of the social interaction. I also miss my very nice stand up desk and my large monitors! Oh and I miss the boardwalk too!

What challenges are you facing?  Trying to keep my 6 month old cat off my keyboard! And, it is a little lonely =(

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Victoria’s furry friend “helping” her at work

Alyssa Boge, Education Coordinator

 What are you working on at home?  I’m focusing on social media and trying to deliver new opportunities highlighting our resources. I’m also working on projects I haven’t had time to get to.

What are you enjoying about working from home?  No shoes! Sleeping in later. Taking kitty breaks.

What do you miss from the office?  Dave making coffee in the morning… Taking walks on the boardwalk. Chatting with coworkers.

What challenges are you facing?  I’m used to managing groups and having a lot of things that need immediate action. Without the same type of urgency, focusing is a little harder.

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Alyssa’s co-worker asleep on the job

Ellen, Head of Security

What are you working on?  I am fortunate that I am on Campus 4 days a week so I feel somewhat “normal” then.

What are you enjoying about working from home?  I enjoy my time at home because I can get a lot of uninterrupted work done that I usually don’t have the opportunity to sit long enough to do.

What do you miss from the office?  I miss the comradery. I like bouncing ideas off my coworkers and appreciate their input.

What challenges are you facing?  I am able to still keep an eye on the campus through my cameras however it is not the same as being hands on.

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Ellen’s industrious co-worker

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Internship with the Museum and THPO

By Kara DiComo, Intern

While studying anthropology in college I learned a lot about museums. From their overall history, their triumphs and failures, and how they grow and change with time. It was at this time that I first learned about the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum and how it served as a place for the Seminole Tribe to tell their history their way. During this time, I also learned about the Seminole Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) and how they actively work to preserve, document, and promote Seminole history.

I found the Museum and the THPO to be inspirational as I continued on with my studies, and when I finished my undergraduate degree I decided to reach out about an internship. I started interning with the Seminole THPO in late November 2019. At first I mainly worked with the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS) where I assisted a team of archaeology field technicians on a survey project on the Brighton reservation. This consisted of hours out in the field trekking through hammocks of various densities and sizes digging thousands of test pits. It was exhausting work, and I often returned home drained and sore; but all of the work felt more than worth it whenever we pulled fragmented remains of artifacts out of the earth that could lead to something bigger down the line. In December, I ended up moving from fieldwork to lab work, mainly due to a sprained ankle, and began interning with both Museum and THPO Collections. Most of my days spent with Museum Collections consisted of working with historic newspapers and photographs that concern the Seminole Tribe.

Kara DiComo
Kara working with photographs from the Museum’s collection

There truly is nothing like handling old and often fragile pieces of paper that serve as bits and pieces of a whole story, knowing that these papers that were never intended to last for long will continue to be preserved and will thus be accessible to the community for essentially forever. With THPO Collections, I spent a lot of time washing the dirt and grime off of objects that had recently arrived from the field, however I also got to spend some time learning about the housing process for objects such as glass bottles. I even got to put my carving and hot glue skills to the test while creating some custom housing for glass bottles that I had washed the previous week. In addition to Collections, in January I interned with the THPO Archaeometry section and got to learn more about how they use GIS technology to prepare for and assist with field research. This was particularly interesting since my baccalaureate thesis centered in the use of 3D photogrammetry in anthropology.

Overall the experiences I have had interning with the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s THPO and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum have been invaluable and hopefully the skills that I have learned will be put to good use in my future endeavors.

NMAI: A Landmark Institution Working for Indian Country

By Tara Backhouse, Museum Collections Manager

Right here in South Florida, the Ah-Tah-Thi Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation works hard to share the Seminole story and to represent the Tribe’s interests in all our work.  We are able to work with many museums and other institutions in Florida, and we help them tell the Seminole story to all their visitors.  But did you know there’s another museum that strives to do that for all of Indian Country?  It’s the National Museum of the American Indian, commonly known as NMAI, and you may not know that there’s been a connection between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and that institution for over two decades.

The striking National Museum of the American Indian sits prominently among other Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC (ATTK Catalog No. xxxx)

Although NMAI opened the doors of its newest Washington DC facility in 2004, it has a much longer history.  Its first facility in New York City became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1989.  Coincidentally, this was also when the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum was chartered and began building its collection.  At the time the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki opened in 1997, we had an extensive working relationship with NMAI.  The Tribe consulted with their professionals about how to build the world-class facility we now have on Big Cypress.  And when it came time to build our permanent exhibits, NMAI loaned us pieces from their collection in order to help us tell the Seminole story.

Early 20th Century silver jewelry borrowed from NMAI is on display in our exhibit about traditional Seminole camp life.



A silversmith can be seen working with a silver above the display of an early 20th century silverworker’s kit, also on loan from NMAI’s collection.

When they opened in Washington, DC, many tribes were very excited.  People from the Seminole Tribe joined others at the opening ceremonies to lead a procession on the National Mall to show their support.  The Seminole Tribe had a strong presence that included the Seminole Color Guard and Tribal government officials.

Helene Buster and Michelle Thomas carried the banner that led the Seminole contingent of the procession celebrating NMAI’s opening in 2004.  The Seminole color guard follows closely behind.


Connie Whidden and Michelle Thomas smile in a colorful crowd during the 2004 opening.  The Washington Monument can be seen behind them.

If you go to NMAI, you might be surprised that the Seminole Tribe is only represented in a small way.  Remember that NMAI has the responsibility of advocating for all the indigenous people represented in their collection.  That’s a big job.  Come to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki for a total Seminole focus.  Go to NMAI to broaden your horizons and see the connections that spring to life when you do that.

One of the most important ways that NMAI fights for native rights is in the area of repatriation.  Museums had long collected the remains of Native people without permission from their Tribes and in violation of their cultural traditions for caring for those who have passed on. Native peoples wanted and are still fighting for all Museums to return the remains of their people. Responding to outrage over the state of national repatriation efforts, the National Museum of the American Indian Act was enacted in 1989.  Under this law, the National Museum of the American Indian was established along with protocols for repatriating ancestors who had been wrongfully taken.  NMAI has led repatriation efforts within the Smithsonian Institution and has returned over 5000 ancestors to their homes, getting them out of the hands of the non-native institutions that have allowed research and other culturally insensitive treatment of those remains for many years.

But repatriation is a work in progress and many Seminole ancestors have still not been returned home.  NMAI does a great job with repatriation, but all the museums within the Smithsonian Institution are managed differently.  This is why the Seminole Tribe’s Museum and Tribal Historic Preservation Office have initiated the #NoMoreStolenAncestors campaign.  Join us in our fight to advocate for the return of Seminole ancestors at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  Our work and your voice will not only help to address historic and current offenses to the Seminole Tribe but also those committed against our fellow tribes across Indian country.  Thank you for your support!

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!

10 Reasons to Visit the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki in 2020


We hope that a visit to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is on your list of things to do during 2020.  For those looking for a special place to enjoy with family and friends, take in history and culture, or experience the beauty of the Everglades, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki is the perfect destination.  There is so much to do and learn at the Museum and hope you will make your way to Big Cypress!

1) Experience Seminole history and culture
There is no better place to learn about and experience the history and culture of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  For 22 years, the Tribe has been sharing their history and stories with visitors from around the world.

2) Alligator Wrestling: Danger. Entertainment. Tradition
Our newest exhibit explores the deep roots of the Seminole’s relationship to alligators. Discover how alligator wrestling took hold and how it helps preserve culture and tradition today.  On exhibit through December 2020. AW Title

3) Great Florida Birding Trail
Did you know that the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s Boardwalk is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail?  65 species of birds have been identified within the cypress dome behind the Museum.  Let us know which birds you see on your next visit!

4) Unique merchandise
Our Museum Store offers unique and exclusive merchandise in every price range. We promote Seminole and Native American artisans and makers.  Stop by on your next visit or visit is online at

 5) Special Programs and Events
Be on the lookout for family friendly programming throughout the year. This winter, we will be continuing our popular Boardwalk After Hours tour and each November you can count on the fun-filled 2 day American Indian Arts Celebration event.  All upcoming programs and events can be found on our website or our social media

6) #BeautifulBoardwalk
Our mile long boardwalk takes you around a natural cypress dome. There is a chance you may be able to see some incredible Florida wildlife including bobcats, panthers, snakes, and alligators.  The dome transforms itself from season to season and you’ll no doubt enjoy experiencing this unique ecosystem firsthand.


7) Research Opportunities
Interested in learning more about who the Seminole Tribe of Florida is? The Museum serves as a center of research for Seminole culture and Native American history in the Southeastern United States.  Take advantage of this resource by making an appointment today with our Research Coordinator by calling (877) 902-1113 x12252.

8) 2020 Lecture Series
We are looking forward to our 2020 Lecture Series.  Join us on February 21st at our community center To-Pee-Kee-Ke Yak-Ne (just down the street from the Museum) as we welcome our first lecturer of 2020, Tina Marie Osceola.  Ms. Osceola is an enrolled member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and an active participant in Native American politics.  Details will be available on our website.

9) Everglades Destination
Did you know that the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is just one of many attractions on the Big Cypress Reservation?  Check out Billie Swamp Safari and the Big Cypress RV Resort and Campground for more information on all Big Cypress has to offer!

Airboat rides available at Billie Swamp Safari

10) The Perfect Escape from the Hustle and Bustle
Whether you are visiting from near or far, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum can be an escape from the hectic day-to-day.  An hour outside of Fort Lauderdale and Naples, the Museum offers a place to unwind and take in true Florida history, culture, and beauty. 


 We hope that your next visit out to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum will be memorable.  If we can help you plan your visit, please contact us at 863-902-1113 and we’ll be happy to assist.

Sally in front pond