The Seminole Indian Tribe is a Native American tribe that has its origins in Florida, and later spread to Oklahoma. The tribe is made up of various indigenous peoples, including Creek, Miccosukee, and Hitchiti tribes who came together in the 18th century.
The name “Seminole” is derived from the Spanish word “cimarrón,” which means “wild” or “runaway.” The name was given to the tribe because many of its members were runaway slaves and Native Americans who had fled from the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida to the swamps of Florida to avoid European colonization and enslavement.
In the early 19th century, the United States government began a series of forced removal policies, known as the Indian Removal Act, to remove the Seminoles and other southeastern tribes from their ancestral lands and move them to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.
This process was called the Seminole Wars, which were three conflicts (1817-1818, 1835-1842, 1855-1858) that the US government fought against the Seminole people. The Seminoles fiercely resisted the removal, and the wars were costly and bloody for both sides.
After the end of the Third Seminole War in 1858, most of the remaining Seminoles were forcibly removed to Indian Territory. However, a small group of Seminoles managed to evade capture and remained in Florida, where they still live today.
These Seminoles were able to maintain their culture and traditions, and they are recognized as a sovereign nation by the United States government. They are known for their distinctive patchwork clothing, traditional Seminole dolls, and for the Green Corn Dance, an annual ceremony that celebrates the coming of the new corn.
Today, the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida is the largest tribe in Florida and the fifth largest in the United States, with over 5,000 enrolled members. The tribe operates several businesses, including casinos, and it owns several reservations throughout the state of Florida. They also have a strong cultural heritage program, and they promote their culture, language and art through the Seminole Tribe of Florida Cultural Heritage and Education program.
The Green Corn Dance Ceremony
The Green Corn Dance, also known as the Busk or Big Time, is an annual ceremony of the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida, as well as other Muscogee Creek tribes. The ceremony is traditionally held in the summer, usually in June or July, to celebrate the first harvest of the new corn.
The Green Corn Dance is considered one of the most important ceremonies of the Seminole people and it has a deep spiritual and cultural significance to the tribe.
The Green Corn Dance typically lasts for four days and it is open to all members of the tribe, including men, women, and children. The ceremony usually takes place on a Seminole reservation, and it is led by the tribe’s spiritual leaders.
During the ceremony, participants take part in dancing, singing, and traditional rituals, such as purification by fire, as well as fasting and praying. The Green Corn Dance is also a time for community members to come together, to renew family ties, and to make important announcements or agreements.
One of the key elements of the Green Corn Dance is the “Green Corn Dance Ground,” which is a specially prepared area where the ceremony takes place. It is typically circular in shape and surrounded by a fence made of palmetto fronds.
In the center of the ground, there is a fire pit where the sacred fire is kept burning throughout the ceremony. The Green Corn Dance Ground is considered a sacred space and is used only for the ceremony and other spiritual activities.
The Green Corn Dance also features traditional Seminole foods, such as hominy, fried bread, and wild game. The food is prepared and shared among the community members as part of the ceremony’s tradition.
The Green Corn Dance is not only an important religious ceremony but also a celebration of community and the natural world, it is a time to give thanks for the abundance of the new corn and the blessings of the Creator.
The Origin of the Green Corn Dance Among the Seminole People
The Green Corn Dance itself grows out of a fascinating Seminole myth. At the center of the tale is a character known as The Corn Lady.
Once upon a time, a young boy mysteriously went missing in a close-knit community. In the depths of the swamp, an elderly lady found this lost boy and decided to raise him as her own. Their home in the swamp was humble and secluded, with their main source of sustenance being corn sofkee, a traditional dish they enjoyed together.
As the boy grew older and entered his teenage years, curiosity began to creep into his mind. He wondered where exactly the old lady managed to find corn in their remote environment. One day, he decided to pretend he was asleep and covertly followed her as she went about her daily routine.
To his astonishment, he discovered that by rubbing her legs together vigorously, she could create corn kernels out of thin air. Upon noticing that she had been followed, the elderly woman revealed her secret to him along with another crucial piece of information – she told him how she found him as a child and where his long-lost family could be located.
With a mix of excitement and trepidation, the teenager embarked on an arduous two-day journey back to his birth village. When he finally arrived at his destination, he received an overwhelmingly warm welcome from his family and fellow villagers.
Intrigued by his story, many people from the village expressed interest in visiting the place where he had grown up. They set off on another journey back to the swamp but found nothing there besides an abundance of corn growing wildly all around them. Eager not to let this seemingly magical gift go to waste, they gathered as much corn as they could carry before returning home.
Grateful for this newfound bounty and its incredible origin story, the villagers decided to honor it through a yearly ceremony – thus began the tradition of holding Green Corn Dances among Seminole people to celebrate both their unique history as well as the essential gift of corn that had become an integral part of their lives.