The Great Seminole Nation of Oklahoma
The Seminole, one of the five civilized tribes, were originally part of the Creek, a loose confederacy of ethnic groups and tribes in southern Georgia, northern Florida and Alabama. During the late 18th century some Lower Creek villages cut ties with their neighbors and moved south into northern Florida where they became known as Seminole, perhaps derived from "cimarron," the Spanish term for runaway.
By the 19th century encroachment on Seminole lands and continuous harassment by Euro-Americans led to the tribe being designated for removal. The Seminole resisted removal during the Seminole Wars (1817-18, 1835-42, and 1855-58) and although they were not conquered, thousands moved west in their aftermaths. The first group of Seminole arrived in Oklahoma in 1836 and by 1839 most had been relocated west. A minority of the Seminole (between 350 and 500) remained in Florida and eventually formed the separate Seminole Nation of Florida in 1957.
After their relocation to Indian Territory the Seminole were initially confined to the Creek Nation where the U.S. allowed them to have some self-governance only if they adhered to the general laws of the Creek. Frustrations with these terms and general conditions in the region led two bands of Seminole under Wild Cat and John Horse to migrate to Mexico in 1849. In 1856, led by Chief John Jumper, the Seminole signed a treaty with the Creek and the U.S. government and established the Seminole Nation.
During the American Civil War of 1861-65, most Seminole sided with the Confederacy and many dissident refugees fled to Kansas. Under the Curtis Act of 1898 the Dawes Commission dissolved the Seminole government and divided its territory among approximately 3,000 enrolled tribe members. Through sale, often by fraudulent means, many Seminole families and individuals lost their land holdings. By 1920 only about 20 percent of the Seminole lands remained in Seminole hands. Of those who retained their property, a few became wealthy following the discovery of the Greater Seminole Oil Field in 1923.
The policy of allotment was repealed by Congress in 1934. By the following year the Seminole had reestablished their government and in 1970 the tribal council was reorganized to adhere to its traditional structure. Many Seminole frequently participate in the stomp dance, green corn ceremonies, traditional feasts and other ancient rituals. The tribe's Seminole Nation Museum documents and interprets the history and culture of its people.