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Sam Tommie shares art, activism at reception

Samuel Tommie with two of his paintings on display through Jan. 6, 2017 at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
Samuel Tommie with two of his paintings on display through Jan. 6, 2017 at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. (Beverly Bidney photo)

Artist, videographer and environmental activist Samuel Tommie celebrated the opening of his “Promised Land” show at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on Sept. 10 surrounded by family and friends.

Three of Tommie’s large acrylic paintings on canvas depicting traditional Seminole life are featured in the Mosaic Gallery and “In Our Creator’s Hands,” a film he made about conserving the environment was screened for guests.

“Today the Seminole community is concerned about the environment,” Tommie said in remarks before the film was shown. “These are the values we’ve had for hundreds of years.”
The film showed scenes of nature found in Big Cypress such as animals, foliage and water. Tommie, the film’s narrator, conveyed a simple message: all life is precious, we’re all sacred and this is where we belong.

Born on a tree island in the Everglades, Tommie left the wilderness at age 5 and moved with his family to the Big Cypress Reservation. He remembers there being a lot more water than there is now.

“The Everglades is a unique place,” he said. “Our warriors were aware of that.”

Lately, Tommie put his art on hold to devote himself to environmental activism. He spoke about the Tribe’s fight with Florida Power & Light against the power plant the utility company wants to build just north of the reservation. He believes it’s important to take a stand together to protect the water, land and air.

Tommie shared the latest news from the Standing Rock Sioux’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as the Tribe’s lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Protection’s new water standards.

“We are asking everyone to stand for life,” he said. “Water is life, water is sacred and all life is connected. It’s like a spider web; if you break a strand, it disturbs the whole web. This is how life is, these are our values.”

Tommie took questions from the audience and a discussion about being an artist ensued.

“I never know what I’ll be doing from day to day,” he said. “Being an artist is rough. There are highs and lows. You have to learn to tolerate yourself.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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