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Learning experiences highlight culture workshop for Seminoles

ORLANDO — The Chairman’s office hosted a cultural workshop event in Orlando Aug. 9 through 11 for Seminoles who live off reservations.

The nonresident gathering took place at the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel and resort.

Tribal families from the Tampa area and beyond met to take part in a daylong series of activities in a large ballroom.

The activities included sewing, beading, doll making, wood and soap carving, and a language class.

Jenny Johns, left, and Laverne Thomas work with Kaison Romero and Drayton Van Houten during a language class at the Orlando event. (Photo by Damon Scott)

“One thing I liked was talking to a man carving wood and soaps,” Aaron Tommie, who is in the advanced career development program in the Executive Director of Operations Office at Tribal headquarters in Hollywood, said.

“He mentioned the importance of patience – a lot of times kids just want to play video games and do things quickly. With this, detail and time is put into it. If you do things quickly it doesn’t always come out right. That resonated with me,” he said.

One of the goals of the cultural workshop in Orlando was to give attendees a chance to create something they could take back to their communities, like this Seminole doll. (Photo Damon Scott)

Tommie said that traditionally when woodcarvings were done; it was a time to talk, like some families do today around the dinner table.

“That was one of the opportunities for the older generations to talk to the younger ones,” he said.

Other participants, both younger and older, were sewing clothes for dolls, doing beadwork and creating sashes.

Darlah Cypress, right, assists Katina King on her project during the workshop in the main ballroom. (Photo Damon Scott)

For a short time in a neighboring ballroom where food was offered throughout the day, Jenny Johns, Brighton’s Community Culture Center manager, was leading a Creek language class for a group of kids.

She and her assistants were teaching the kids the Creek alphabet using songs.

Aaron Tommie, far right, is pictured with Jason Grasshopper, center, and his family at the Tribe’s culture event in Orlando. (Photo Damon Scott)

“The people that were there said they really, really enjoyed it,” Johns said.
She’s worked for the Tribe since 1989 in various positions and has been in her current role for about 10 years.

“We teach the kids the best we can,” Johns said. They offer a Creek language class on Tuesday afternoons at the Brighton Community Culture Center for kids and adults.

Johns said she’s fluent in Creek and Miccosukee.

Mercedes Osceola helps one of the kids with sewing skills. At left, examples of different sashes were on display for participants. (Photo Damon Scott)

Back in the main ballroom, instructors were assisting Tribal members with any questions they had or help they needed.

The goal was for participants to be able to take back something they created or learned back to their respective communities.

The sewing table attracts a lot of attention from young people eager to learn the craft. (Photo Damon Scott)

Blake Osceola, who leads special projects in the Chairman’s office, helped to organize the event.

“Everyone I heard from said they had great time. I heard a lot of adults say it was their first time making a doll or basket. The Culture Department instructors enjoyed the event – a lot of them asked if the Chairman was planning to have another one and had some ideas for the next one,” Osceola said.

The day ended with a raffle. The Chairman’s office gave away sewing machines, Seminole clothing, a one night stay at the Hard Rock in Hollywood or Tampa and more.

Mike Micco carves a bar of soap, a method used to teach young children how to carve safely. (Photo Damon Scott)
Vinson Osceola helps some of the younger Tribal kids with a woodcarving activity. (Photo Damon Scott)
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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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