Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


april 21, 2001 - Issue 34



Students Honor Tribes That Lived on Site


 by Deborah Alberto of the Tampa Tribune

Many tears were shed by American Indians who lost land to the white man.

But deceased members of the Seminole and Creek tribes who once occupied territory near the Peace River in Fort Meade may be smiling down on a group of students at Fort Meade Middle Senior High School who are honoring the tribes' memory with a memorial they designed.

Led by journalism teacher Jackie Burch, student council members and some journalism students plan to dedicate the stone monument at 9:30 a.m. April 30.

Burch said the village that will be honored was located "from the football field all the way down to the river.''

The students got the idea when local historian Canter Brown paid the class a visit. In 1991, Brown authored "Florida's Peace River Frontier,'' a book chronicling the history of Fort Meade and surrounding areas.

He told the students about Talakchopco, the Indian village that was once located on the school's site. Talakchopco means the place where long peas are eaten. Brown said the site is so important the river took on a name that sounds similar to "peas'' - the Peace River.

"The town [of Fort Meade] was dominant because it was the best place to cross Peace River,'' Brown said.

His documented research begins around the middle to late 1700s when the Seminoles arrived. "The Seminoles were a little different'' than other tribes that once hunted the land, he said. "They brought their women and children along, so instead of a camp, they needed a town.''

The Seminoles set up their living quarters and sold supplies to Indians headed south. That lasted until the early 1800s when a series of wars disrupted the Seminoles and they moved on, Brown said.

After the first Seminole war in 1818, a group of Creek Indians from Alabama moved to the site and built 800 log houses. The tribe was led by Peter McQueen, whose nephew, then named Billy Powell, emerged in the 1830s as Osceola - the most famous of Seminole Indians.

The Seminoles separated from the Creek Confederacy in the 18th century and migrated to Florida.

Brown said many of the Seminoles came back to the area around 1822 but couldn't return to the territory then occupied by the Creeks. They set up about three miles southeast of the school - another site on the Peace River. "These Seminoles were cattle people,'' Brown said. "The wealthiest of the cattle empire was a woman named Buckra, and her son came to be known as Billy Bowlegs. That creek is still named for her son.''

When the Indian Removal Act of 1829 was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson, Brown said the resistance to those plans was born out of Talakchopco, and it resulted in the nation's longest Indian war and the greatest slave uprising. Many free blacks and slaves joined the Indians in the war, he said.

The log cabins were burned to the ground by Army volunteers, but "there are still Creeks and Seminoles in the area today,'' Brown said. "They never surrendered.''

Brown is proud that the students decided to take on the memorial project. "Most people don't know that the region played such a significant role in state and even national history,'' he said. Brown estimates that two-thirds of Florida's Indian population at the time lived in the Talakchopco village.

The monument, which will stand about 6 1/2 feet, will have an etching depicting the village with the log cabins and the river in the background. Words etched on the monument will summarize the story of the Creeks and Seminoles that once lived there.

Grant money is being used for the monument and Dejay Memorials in Plant City agreed to work with the students to give them a price they could afford.

Shannon Harris, a senior at Fort Meade, said "this is such a small town, you would never think something that outrageous started here.''

Creek History


Muscogee History


History of the Florida Indians




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