TALLAHASSEE — A flood of Seminole garnet and gold washed Tallahassee streets Nov. 13-14 during Florida State University’s 67th homecoming weekend while an entourage of Seminole Tribe members dressed in brilliant patchwork shared the spotlight.
Hailed among guests of honor at special events and ceremonies that peppered the two-day event, the Seminole Tribe’s royal court and about 20 other Tribe members were received with appreciation and respect.
“The deep relationship between the Tribe and FSU is why I always enjoy coming back to homecoming,” said Panther Clan’s Kyle Doney, an FSU Alumni Association board member who planted Osceola’s flaming spear at the 50-yard line at homecoming for the fourth time since 2005.
Tribal member Justin Motlow, a redshirt freshman wide receiver for FSU, watched from the sideline as quarterback Sean McGuire rallied the team past the North Carolina State Wolfpack for a 34-17 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Doney and Tribal members Tomie Motlow, Norman “Skeeter” Bowers and Moses Jumper Jr. viewed the game from the end zone while others, including Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr., Louise Gopher and Charlotte Burgess, watched from the seventh-level FSU president’s box.
“There’s so much excitement out here for our Tribe and our FSU family that even at 65 years old I feel like getting out there on the field and tackling someone,” Jumper said.
According to FSU’s Communications Department, the Seminole name was adopted by the school in 1947 and the first homecoming princess and chief were crowned in 1948.
During the next several decades, the school’s “mascot” Indian bore no resemblance to a real Seminole warrior.
Osceola and his horse Renegade became revered icons for FSU athletic programs in 1977 with permission from then-Chairman Howard Tommie, who was assured that the great Seminole warrior would be portrayed with honor.
“It’s fantastic that we continue our great relationship with the Seminole Tribe,” said FSU President John Thrasher during a pregame FSU Alumni Association awards breakfast. “We nurture it, honor it and cherish it.”
Wanda Bowers, chairwoman of the Seminole Princess Pageant Committee, said Gloria Wilson was the first Seminole princess to crown the FSU homecoming court during halftime in 1976. Per tradition, the chief’s turban and the princess’s crown are created by tribal hands.
This year, in front of 71,000 fans at the football game, Miss Florida Seminole Destiny Nunez and Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Skyla Osceola crowned homecoming chief Derrick Scott II and homecoming princess Jessica Dueno. Little Miss Seminole Victoria Benard and Little Mr. Seminole Gregory James II completed the pageantry.
Nancy Furr McGovern, 1984’s homecoming princess who marched in the parade with about 25 former chiefs and princesses, said she treasures the school’s Seminole influence.
“My family grew up here and my mother, aunt and grandparents always felt the connection. After my aunt died, I opened her closet and there was a beautiful patchwork jacket – and every stitch was real,” McGovern said.
Jumper, dressed as a Seminole War warrior and riding one of his own horses from Big Cypress Reservation, led the mile-long, 60-unit parade alongside Osceola (FSU student Brendan Carter) on Renegade, and a posse of other horseback riders.
A cavalcade of convertible cars featured dignitaries that included Seminole royalty and the parade grand marshals, FSU men’s basketball head coach Leonard Hamilton and FSU women’s basketball head coach Sue Semrau.
Tribal members, seated in VIP bleachers along the parade route, were among thousands of revelers who cheered on the procession. Nearby, the first Miss Florida Seminole 1957, Connie Gowen, sold handmade beaded jewelry and patchwork vests.
Louise Gopher, who received an honorary doctorate from FSU in 2014 and is the mother of Carla Gopher Rodriguez, the Tribe’s first FSU graduate, joined more than a dozen in the VIP seats.
“I always enjoy coming up to Tallahassee. There’s a lot of very nice people here,” Gopher said.