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Miccosukee Indians
In the early 1500's the Creek Nation was composed of two major language groups, Muskogee and Hitchiti. The Hitchiti group was given the name "Mikasuki" which has evolved into "Miccosukee". The Miccosukee Tribe occupied parts of the Carolinas and Georgia until white settlers began arriving in the late 1500's when the Miccosukee began moving inland and southward, settling in north Florida around Tallahassee.

Pressures of colonization in the north, as well as armed conflicts, forced the Miccosukee (and also the Seminoles living in northeast Florida), to move farther and farther south and eventually into the Everglades where they were able to live in relative safety, since battles fought in the swamp usually resulted in Indian victories.

The Indian Removal Act, which resulted in mass removal of Indians to land west of the Mississippi, caused the Miccosukee to move still farther south to escape forced transfer to Oklahoma. Again, hostilities broke out as colonists and the Army burned homes and crops in an effort to discourage the Indians and to acquire the much coveted land. Resistance was bitter and resulted in the Seminole Wars. Some tribes were defeated and forced to resettle on reservations in Oklahoma. The remaining Miccosukee and Seminoles fled into the depths of the Everglades, living on hammocks and subsisting by fishing and hunting. The Miccosukee successfully adapted to and were self-sufficient in their new environment.

photo of Miccosukee thatched roof chickee
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With the establishment of Everglades National Park, the Florida Fresh Water Fish and Game Commission, and various private development projects, more and more land was taken from the Miccosukee by State and Federal legislation. When the boundaries of the Park were expanded northward to their present position, encompassing most of the Indian hammocks, the Miccosukee were forced to move. They faced the options of moving to a newly granted State reservation 50 miles to the north (90 percent under water and without access roads or development of any kind), or living along a 5 1/2 mile strip of park land in the vicinity of their old hammocks on a use permit basis. Choosing the latter, 430 of them live today (1972) in small settlements on a narrow strip along the north boundary of the park, and 175 live along the Tamiami Trail between Miami and Naples.

Only a few Miccosukee families live directly within the south Dade County area. However, the west boundary of the area is near the strip of land where the majority of the Miccosukee Indians live. The problems (human, environmental, natural resources, etc.) within this area have a direct influence on the present and future life of these people.

The Miccosukee Indians are concerned with two major complexly interrelated types of problems. These are the internal or domestic problems, such as education, income, and employment, and external problems related to population growth, industrialization, water availability, water pollution, and land use within the entire region.

Internal Problems

The primary internal problems facing the Miccosukee Indians are unstable and inadequate economic and labor bases, arid poor living and educational conditions. In the move to land along the Tamiami Trail, the Miccosukee Indian people were compelled to surrender their selfsufficiency and to change their economic base to the dollar economy. Recognizing the necessity of mastering this change to survive, the Tribe elected to pursue institutionalized education (absent prior to 1962), vocational instruction and training, and economic development. In order to achieve self-sufficiency again, the Tribe is working closely with County, State, and Federal agencies to bring about improvements in education and development.

Being limited, after relocation, by land-use regulations and the types of activities which they were able to pursue, the Miccosukee Indian people have sought assistance in attaining competence in individual trades and crafts, and in the operation of small tourist-oriented business. They have sought to plan a mixture of these which will provide the Tribe with a sound economic base.

According to the 1973 Community Action Program report, 95 percent of the population is below Federal poverty lines, and the unemployment rate is 35 percent. Approximately 50 percent of eligible students attend elementary school, the low figure being due to the newness of the program as well as problems of language and transportation. Only 7 percent of eligible students attend high school, mainly because of a lack of facilities.

Currently the Tribe operates a restaurant, a gas station, and a grocery store and has plans for additional facilities. Tribal members are employed in the education programs for teaching, cooking, and maintenance activities, in administration and planning, and in construction related to tribal enterprises. Privately, the Miccosukees are engaged in the construction of "chickees" (thatched roof structures with no outside walls), wrestling alligators, managing gift shops, making and selling handcrafted objects, selling frog legs, driving air boats, and selling bait and tackle. Occasionally, they seek employment in Miami, primarily in construction work.

Income for the Tribe is derived from tribal enterprises and from a few small pieces of land for which the Tribe is paid rent. The income is used to support education and development programs, such as a community building currently under construction, and for financial assistance to tribal members.

External Problems

Some of the external problems in southern Dade County are of immediate concern to the Miccosukee Indians as these problems are now affecting or will affect the Miccosukee's way of life. One of the most pressing of these problems is that of increases in the non-Indian population nearby. Population of the census tract that includes the Miccosukee area increased 596 percent in the 1960's. These increases, plus a growing number of tourists, have created problems in the allocation and use of the area's natural resources.

aerial photo of several Miccosukee chickees
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In addition to population increases or urbanization, agriculture, highway construction and industrialization are consuming more and more land each year. All of these developments involve environmental changes, either in term:) of land use or of the pervasive effects of pollution, that will significantly affect the way of life of the Miccosukees. They live in a fragile ecosystem that will not bear much encroachment.

Problems of water quantity and quality are of great concern to the Miccosukee Indians as they depend on the Everglades and its habitat as a source of food and income. The inability to make a living by hunting and fishing is due to over-hunting by non-Indians, destruction brought about by unmanaged recreation, and to alteration of waterflow patterns in the Everglades. With the ever-increasing demands of the urban areas, agriculture and industry on the water supply of the area, the Miccosukee are faced with the detrimental effects not only of a general lowering of the water level but also of pollutants in their water supply, which contributes to a further reduction of game.

Decisions affecting water flow or use on either coast to the north have a pronounced effect on the Miccosukee Indian community.

The effects of social and economic growth in the area can be recognized and controlled through coordinated development taking cognizance of the ecology of the Everglades area. This will involve cooperative planning efforts from the Miccosukee Tribe, Everglades National Park, the South Florida Regional Planning Council, individual home owners along the Tamiami Trail, and The Seminole Tribe of Florida working in conjunction with development agencies, commissions, and research groups.

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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:04 PM(TJE)