During the Florida Travel/Service Learning Experience this past January I was required to keep a journal of my daily activities on the Seminole Nation. Below are some excerpts from my journal entries.
I am completely open-minded and can’t wait to hit the ground running! As far as the service-learning part I am looking forward to their way of teaching. I wonder, is it different from here, our public schools?? Do they follow the same kind of curriculum as we do or as Florida State does? After completing two entirely different ways of teaching styles, techniques, and philosophies I am extremely interested in seeing what is different about being in the Seminole school atmosphere.
The First Day We Visited……….
The Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum, for me, was an inspiring experience. I especially enjoyed learning about the roles of the women in the Seminole tribe. It was interesting to learn that the men were the ones to eat first and how the women are not allowed to sit with the men during any meals (except for when guests are there). I think how different it is in our culture, well in my family anyway. If we eat at my parent’s house my dad is ALWAYS the last person to get his food and sit down at the dinner table. Our culture is taught “ladies first.” I find it interesting that it is very much the complete opposite in the Seminole culture. The museum left me with great knowledge on their clothing, hair styles, rituals, etc. I am intrigued with how marriages are arranged and how the men move in with the women and their children assume the mother’s clan.
At the Billie Swamp Safari I learned about the tribe’s land and how they survived depending on nature to survive. I would have never imagined the many uses that each plant and animal have. I mean I knew that animals were good for their meats and pelts. I did not, however, know that many of the plants prevent different types of cancer, irritable bowels, headaches etc. The medicine man/woman are the only ones who can remove such plants/mosses to make the remedy. Due to a certain way it needs to be removed to produce the medicine. Not only are plants used for remedies and foods but, also for shelter, travel, and many others. The Cypress tree is a tree that the Seminoles used to build their conoes and chickees. It’s interesting how the palmetto leaves of the palmetto trees are used as the roof of the chickees. The leaves are layered and designed in a way to lessen the chances of water leakage. Chickees are used for eating, sleeping, and cooking. The Seminoles design their chickee where the smoke stack does not come out of the top rather the sides. This was to ward off enemies lurking in the ruffage. If the tribe needed to take off from camp because of danger the women would lay a fifth log in the fire pit pointing the direction in which they left. The fire logs are set up in North South East and West directions to help them determine where they were, which direction danger is coming from and which direction they tribe left in.
Now to Service Learning at the School………………………..
Ahfachkee means “happy.” Ahfachkee is of the Mikasuki language
….our first day at the Ahfachkee School and WOW! Just WOW! I must say I am amazed and that much more interested in the Seminole culture. My first impressions were “Oh my goodness!! How will we ever navigate through this school?!” There are so many doors and halls and unknown (to me) rooms… I’m positive that by the end of the week that all will change. We will walk those halls like we belong there.
Everyone we met today welcomed us with open arms and had a philosophy of “what’s mine is yours!” Everything is at our finger tips if we want it. I feel very comfortable working with the teachers that I’m paired with. Each of them are extremely appreciative of my being in their classroom and helping when and where I’m needed. I like the feeling of being needed. For me it makes me feel like part of a team. This morning I mentioned that I love working with 3-4 year olds and although this is a true statement I very much enjoyed working with the 1st grade class.
In Mrs. Grismore’s class I presented our New York power point. The children were very intrigued. Each and every child sat at their desk quietly with their hands folded and listened to me with full of enthusiasm. They asked appropriate questions and added to conversation appropriately. They were amazed with the picture of snow. When I got to the slide about New York’s Indian tribes and the pictures that followed, one of the little girls asked “what is that long thing?” I explained to her that, that’s what the Indians lived in, in New York. I told her that they are called long houses. I compared the long house to their chickee. I told them that these long houses could be built on the ground rather than elevated. All of the children were amazed. I am very pleased how this presentation went. I am glad I had the opportunity to share the power point with the class. The teachers were just as engaged as the children were.
Before We Left Florida we visited other sites owned by the Seminole Nation…..
Comparing the two reservations the most obvious difference is one is rural and the other urban. The Big Cypress being the rural one is huge. They have big yards and a lot of wild life, whether at the Billie Swamp Museum or in the surrounding area. The Big Cypress is in the middle of farming fields. The Hollywood Reservation is the complete opposite (from what we could view). The Hollywood Reservation is a gated community and security is tight. We were able to drive around the parking lot at the Head Quarters and this reminded me of driving around the Seneca County Office Building. There were specific parking spaces for very specific people. I was impressed with the Head Quarters because this is a place where all of their constitutional decisions are made. It’s almost the same feeling I’d feel if I were to be standing in front of the White House. Being in the presence of the Big Oak Tree I felt the same way. I also felt that I should have been on bended knee paying respects to the elders who have met at this very tree making tough decisions. This tree holds a lot of significance to the Seminole tribe. This essentially was their “head quarters.”
The Hard Rock was unbelievably huge! …….knowing what the Seminoles have faced in history made me feel proud for them. To have overcome all that they endured and to as successful as they are is incredible.