FORT LAUDERDALE — On Nov. 19, Everett Osceola, cultural ambassador for the Seminole Tribe and alligator wrestler, was the guest speaker at the Stranahan House in Fort Lauderdale for the organization’s monthly “History Happy Hour.”
He gave a presentation on the history of alligator wrestling.
Though alligator wrestling is a staple in the tourism sector of the Tribe, it did not start out that way.
Osceola explained that during the Seminole Wars, Seminoles were pushed down into the Everglades, and they still needed their encampment, medicine and their way of life.
“The only thing that was available for us to eat was alligators,” Osceola said. “We also use alligators for weapons and armory.”
Seminoles used the rugged backs of alligators – known as scutes – on their arms and legs and even their chest as a way of armor and protection. They used the jaw line as a war glove and as a weapon. The other parts of the alligator were used for meat and medicine.
To use the alligator for purpose of food, medicine and weapon the Seminoles hunted and captured the alligators, but never killed them on site because by the time they would get to the campsite the meat would have spoiled.
As roadways started being built in the area of the Everglades, passerby would see the Seminoles “wrestling” with the alligators they captured, and mistook it for a show.
“When they saw it as entertainment, they actually started throwing money at the Seminoles,” Osceola said.
The Seminoles started taking visitors to the encampment for shows and used the money as a source of revenue to purchase supplies, food, materials and anything else they needed.
As time went on, alligator wrestling in the Tribe became more organized and better promoted to attract tourists.