A place to learn and a place to remember the Seminole story
By Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong
The ancestry of the Seminole Tribe of Florida can be traced back 12,000 years. They were already here when the Spaniards eventually "discovered" Florida in 1513. There were nearly 200,000 Seminole ancestors in hundreds of tribes that were members of the Maskókî linguistic family.
According to the Seminole Tribe today, “Creek, Hitchiti, Apalachee, Mikisúkî, Yamassee, Yuchi, Tequesta, Apalachicola, Choctaw, and Oconee were joined by escaped slaves and others in the pursuit of better lives among the thick virgin forests, wide grass prairies and spring-fed rivers of interior Florida.”
Anyone who wants to experience the real Florida and learn a more complete account of Florida history must understand the history of Native Americans. There is no better place to do that than the Ah Ta Thi Ki Museum in the Florida Everglades.
We visited the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and interviewed Visitor Services and Development Manager Carrie Dilley.
Can you describe the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in one sentence?
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki means “a place to learn, a place to remember” in the Seminole language, and we strive to celebrate, preserve, and interpret Seminole history and culture in a manner to best serve the Seminole community and share the Seminole story with the general public.
Why are Seminole history and culture important parts of Florida and USA history and culture?
The Seminole people have rich cultural and historical ties to the Southeast and Florida, as they have made Big Cypress their home for thousands of years. Their history is Florida history. The Seminoles hold a unique place in American history as they were the only tribe to never sign a formal peace treaty with the United States.
How did the the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum come to be?
The idea of opening a Seminole museum came about in the late 1980s by many Tribal members and employees, but the plans came to fruition in 1997 when we first opened our doors. Visionary leader and Seminole Tribal member Billy Cypress was the first Executive Director of the Museum.
What other attractions are available at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation?
For visitors journeying out to the Big Cypress Reservation, we highly recommend a trip to Billie Swamp Safari! The Safari features Swamp Buggies, airboats, wildlife presentations, and animal exhibits. For visitors who wish to stay the night, the Big Cypress RV Resort offers a variety of sleeping options, including cabins, RV sites, and tent camping spots. Billie Swamp Safari also offers sleeping accommodations.
What special events are available throughout the year?
Every year in early November, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum hosts our annual American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC) on the Museum grounds in the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Enjoy traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, dance and music of the Seminole, Southeastern and other Indian tribes from across the country. Along with the Native American vendors, Special Presentations and Wildlife Shows, admission to the festival includes free parking and entrance to our award winning museum and boardwalk.
We also host a variety of programming throughout the year, as well as special opening receptions for our new exhibits.
There is no better place than the Ah Ta Thi Ki Museum in the Florida Everglades to experience the real Florida, learn a more complete account of Florida history and understand the history of Florida’s indigenous peoples.
For more information, visit http://www.ahtahthiki.com or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki-Seminole-Museum/43650959681
The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is located at 30290 Josie Billie Hwy, Clewiston, Florida.
Article and photos by Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong
Copyright 2017 Sunny Harbor Publishing
Sunny Harbor Publishing, PO Box 560318, Rockledge, FL 32956