The Seminole are a Native American Indian people, originally of Florida. They originated as members of the Creeks tribe who emigrated into Florida in the early and mid 18th century, and were conquered and largely exiled by the United States in the early 19th century, after the United States took Florida from Spain.
After the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the indigineous people of Florida were decimated by disease, and it is believed that the few survivors were evacuated by the Spanish to Cuba when Florida fell under British rule in 1763.
The early 18th century, members of the Creek tribe began migrating into Florida and intermingled with the few remaining indigenous people there. By the late 18th century, they had begun to be named Seminole, a term meaning runaway. The Seminole were a heterogenous group containing various tribes and speaking to different dialects, Muskogee and Hitichiti. In addition, the Seminole also contained a large number of runaway slaves from Georgia, who were protected and intermarried into the Seminole. The Seminole were apparent on good terms with both the Spanish and the British.
In 1784, the treaty ending the American Revolutionary War returned all of Florida to Spanish control. However, Spain was in a very weakened state, and the Seminole settled deeper into Florida.
After attacks by Spanish settlers on Indian towns, Indians based in Florida began raiding Georgia settlements, purportedly at the behest of the Spanish. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817-1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. Following the war, the United States effectively controlled East Florida.
The Adams-Onís Treaty was signed between the United States and Spain in 1819 and took effect in 1821. According to the terms of the treaty, the United States acquired Florida and, in exchange, renounced all claims to Texas. Andrew Jackson was named military governor of Florida.
As American settlement increased after the treaty, pressure grew on the United States government to remove the Indians from their lands in Florida. Many Indian tribes harbored runaway black slave, and the settlers wanted access to Indian lands.
In 1832, the United States government signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing with a few of the Seminole chiefs, promising them lands west of the Mississippi River if they agreed to leave Florida voluntarily. The remaining Seminole prepared for war. White settlers pressured the government to remove all of the Indians, by force if necessary. In 1835, the US Army arrived to enforce the treaty.
Seminole chief Osceola led the vastly outnumbered resistance during the Second Seminole War. Approximately 4,000 Indian warriors effectively employed hit-and-run guerrilla tactics with devastating effect against over 200,000 United States Army troops for many years. Osceola was arrested when he came under a flag of truce to negotiations in 1837. He died in jail a less than a year later.
The war only ended after a full decade of fighting, in 1842. The US government is estimated to have spent about $20,000,000 on the war, at the time an astronomical sum. Many Indians were forcibly exiled to Creek tribe lands west of the Mississippi; others retreated into the Everglades.
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has about 6000 enrolled members, who are divided into fourteen bands. Two are called "Freedmen Bands" (also black seminole) because they count their descent from escaped slaves who took refuge with the Seminole. Band membership is matrilineal: children are members of their mother's band. The group is ruled by an elected council, with two members from each band. The capital is at Wewoka, Oklahoma.
Seminole names are common in Florida, with one county named after them, and another named after Osceola. They are also the emblem of Florida State University.