members participate in a Stomp Dance Sept. 19 during the Tampa
Seminole Cultural Exchange on the Lakeland property.
LAKELAND The highlight of the four-day Tampa Seminole
Cultural Exchange was the all-day and all-night cultural celebration
Sept. 19, as Native teachers from several Tribes braved a rainy
Florida day on the Lakeland property to dance, tell stories, instruct,
eat, play stickball and share the precious culture that connects
them all as Creek Seminole American Indians.
In Lakeland, where the Seminole Tribe of Florida owns 900 acres
just north of Interstate 4 in Polk County, Natives of all ages participated
in a jamboree of unique traditions.
This was all for education and fun, said Seminole
Tribe member Herbert Jim, the Tampa cultural director who organized
the event with Poarch Creek language expert Marcus Briggs and Tampa
Reservation Administrator Richard Henry. My grandmother told
me that when we stop our ceremonies and lose our language, we lose
our connection with the Creator. She was talking about assimilation,
going against our culture, losing it all.
Prominent teachers and tradition carriers at the cultural exchange
included Oklahoma Creeks Sam Proctor, Reuben Proctor, Leon
Bell, Pat Bell, Marilyn Cloud, Ben Yahola, Tawna Little, Nokos-Afvnoke
Cloud, Hemokke Cloud, Patricia Deere, Woxie Deere, Lindsey Little,
Pakpvkuce Little, Kococvmpv Little and Patti Hall. From Florida,
Mohawk Jerome Rockwell (who was raised in Miccosukee), Pete Osceola
Jr. (Miccosukee) and Seminoles Jeanette Cypress and Mary Jene Koenes
Stomp dancers move around a raging fi re that sparks toward
rain clouds Sept. 19 during the Tampa Seminole Cultural Exchange.
The groups activities included a dinner at the Tampa Hard
Rock Fresh Harvest and a day at the Big Cypress Reservation, where
they rode in airboats and swamp buggies, observed traditional alligator
wrestling and enjoyed a talk by Pete Osceola Jr.
The day at the Lakeland property began early with introductions
by Jim, Henry and Briggs. It continued with a demonstration of cultural
traditions by Cypress and Koenes, a discussion on cultural laws
led by Osceola, a Ribbon Dance by Marilyn Cloud and a talk about
food sovereignty by Yahola.
As rain fell, the group gathered beneath a tent to hear Leon
Bell tell stories and further discuss cultural laws. A short break
in the rain sent a dozen young boys and girls out to the stickball
area where Tampa maintenance supervisor Paul Simmons found and replanted
a tall tree pole, skinned except for the bush at the top.
When the girls (who can only use their hands during the game)
began to dominate the boys (who only use sticks), Joel JoJo
Frank Jr. grabbed a couple sticks and began whooping and running
around waving his paddles in the girls faces. When heavy rain
returned, the game merely continued.
After dinner, as night came out and the half-moon lit the dance
area, Rockwell, beneath his big cowboy hat and holding a redbay
twig, began calling and singing as he led the fi rst of more than
four hours of dances some quiet, some wild.
The idea for a cultural exchange was born last year during a
Tampa youth campout sponsored by the Seminole Police Department.
Jim and Bobby Henry decided to put on a Seminole Stomp Dance for
Chairman James Billie was in attendance and watched his
children take part, Jim said. He came to me with the
idea of a cultural exchange with our brothers out west, to see what
they do and show them what we do.
The fi rst time such an event took place, according to Jim,
was in 1987 when medicine man Sonny Billie traveled to Oklahoma
to participate in a Green Corn Dance with Oklahoma Seminoles.
We got the idea to invite here all the ones who were at
that Corn Dance when Sonny went out there, Jim said.
Most, however, had passed away.
So we all sat down and came up with a list of people who
had great knowledge of cultural traditions and were able to talk
about themselves, their Clans, their lineage and what their Tribes
were all about, Jim said. We came up with some very
good teachers. Some had never been on an airplane or traveled very
After a much needed rest, the visitors left for home on Sept.
This was such a great event, said Briggs, who teaches
a language immersion program for Tampa Seminoles. It was magical.