Forming Friendships: Eastern Band Cherokees Visit Big Cypress

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Daniel Tommie

Daniel Tommie (Florida Seminole) addresses EBCI members visiting the hunting camp on Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum grounds. Image courtesy of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

This summer, 83 Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian elders climbed aboard a bus for a trip to Florida. It wasn’t just Disneyworld or the sandy beaches they were heading for. They were on their way to Big Cypress Seminole Reservation.

Karla Rivera, travel manager at Seminole Tribe of Florida, worked with her counterpart at EBCI to develop a cultural exchange visit. Rivera pulled together a committee of individuals from various departments at STOF to host aspects of the visit.

Councilman Mondo Tiger, President Mitchell Cypress, and Big Cypress Board Representative Joe Frank formally welcomed the visiting elders. The EBCI members gifted a Pendelton blanket to Tiger. STOF elders gifted each visiting elder a Seminole-made art piece. Items such as dolls, baskets, beads, carvings, and patchwork were shared.

Seminole singers shared Seminole hymns songs for their guests. In a surprise response, the EBCI visitors got up and sang some of their own hymns in Cherokee. It was an emotional gift.

The delegation visited Billie Swamp Safari for buggy and airboat rides over the Everglades. Billie Walker entertained all with an alligator wrestling show. The day wrapped up with the EBCI members visiting the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. While at the museum, they were able to explore Seminole history and experience even more Seminole culture. The museum’s traditional interpretation coordinator, Daniel Tommie, spoke with the group while showing them a recreated hunting camp, bringing historical Seminole practices to life.

A good time was had by both the EBCI group and all the Seminole participants. When the Eastern Cherokee elders returned to North Carolina. they took a photo of themselves posing with all of the gifts graciously given to them. The Cherokee elders were grateful to receive these gifts of art and time as were the Seminole grateful to provide it.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

EBCI members (left to right): Peggy Kerbow, Naomi McCoy, Alyne Tooni, Berney Clayton, Catherine Sutton, Loretta Crowe, Delores Maney, Joan Standingdeer, Mary Jackson, Bill Wolfe, Hope Pheasant, Justin Lee (staff) Gene Cunningham, Sylvester Crowe, Glenna Cuningham, Lyman Clayton and Willard McCoy. Image courtesy of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

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