BIG CYPRESS — Sigfried “Siggy” R. Second-Jumper becomes passionate and emotional when talking about his recent donations to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress. Of course the emotion is about more than the objects; it is about the memories behind them and their connection to the Seminole people.
The museum hosted a reception Nov. 16 to kick off a new Jumper-inspired exhibit that runs through April 4, 2019.
The objects donated from Jumper’s collection include items created by the Storm family —specifically Thomas M. Storm Sr. and his mother Mary Jane Storm.
The collection includes baskets and a shirt by Mary Jane Storm and also a drum set from the former and only known Seminole drum circle — Cypress Prairie — of which Jumper was a member. Thomas Storm Sr. ran the drum circle.
“It is rare that we have so much detail and a such a direct connection to pieces like the drum set, baskets, and shirt that are displayed in this exhibit,” said Rebecca Fell, curator of exhibits at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki.
Jumper has also published a biography that details the history behind the items. He’s Mescalero Apache, federally recognized as the Mescalero Apache Tribe of the Mescalero Apache Reservation located in south-central New Mexico, but grew up in Miami — a retired Miami firefighter of 30 years.
At the reception, Jumper talked about the museum items and his life in Florida. He also signed copies of his book at a luncheon hosted by the museum.
“When I got home from the reception, I began to reminisce about events that have taken place in the past four-plus decades since my initial contact with the Seminoles,” Jumper told The Seminole Tribune.
Jumper said his Seminole journey started in the early 1970s when he was a young boy, meeting a Miccosukee named Buffalo Tiger. Tiger’s village was not far from Jumper’s family home in Miami.
“In time, Buffalo Tiger became my teacher and mentor. He gave me my first airboat ride and through his teachings I learned about the love that the Seminole people have for God, their families, land and culture,” Jumper said.
He said Tiger taught him about Seminole leaders like Osceola and Abiaka, and had a profound impact on his development from a young boy to a man.
“He spoke about the similarities that my Apache ancestors and his had in common,” Jumper said. “His people, the unconquered Seminoles, my people — described as the Tigers of the human race and the last North American tribe to surrender — the captivity of Seminoles and Apaches in St. Augustine, and his trip to Cuba were among the many stories he shared with me.”
That’s when the word “privileged” starts popping into Jumper’s descriptions. He says he felt privileged to be a “lost Apache” among members of his Miccosukee village and wondered how a man such as Tiger had come into his life and offered him so much guidance.
“Buffalo Tiger had awakened my dormant Native roots, and my desire to search for my long lost Apache relatives had begun,” Jumper said.
Jumper’s family moved to Hialeah in 1976 and his visits to the Miccosukee village eventually came to an end with high school, college and careers filling most hours of the day.
But by the mid-1980s, he would move back to Broward County and reconnect with his Native roots by dancing at local powwows. Eventually he’d start meeting Seminole Tribal members from the Hollywood Reservation.
In the mid-1990s, Jumper joined a northern drum group out of Hollywood named Red Bear, led by a Navajo who was married to a Seminole. On his days off from work, he began wrestling alligators at the Seminole Village, located on the Hollywood Reservation. It was there that he met a well-known alligator wrestler named Thomas M. Storm.
“Besides giving me tips on how not to loose my fingers, he asked if I was interested in joining his drum group, which he had named ‘Cypress Prairie,’” Jumper said.
Cypress Prairie was different than Red Bear, as all the singers were Seminoles, except for Jumper.
“And I felt privileged,” Jumper said.
The singers included Thomas M. Storm Sr. as lead singer, Thomas Storm Jr., Jeff Storm, Rain Harrell, William Cypress, William K. Osceola and Jumper. The group was together from 1998 to 2001.
Jumper eventually began breaking in horses at the Big Cypress Reservation for various tribal members like Candy Cypress, Joel Frank, Sam Frank and his daughter Sunshine Frank.
He also became involved with the Seminole cattle program, which consisted of round-ups, branding, vaccinations, purchase and sales.
“In return, I was able to keep my horses on their pastures, and I felt privileged,” he said.
In 1998, encouraged by his Seminole friends, Jumper and his family embarked on a cross-country search for his Chiricahua Apache relatives, who he located living among the Mescalero Apaches in New Mexico.
“Their acknowledgment and welcoming acceptance led me to write [my book],” Jumper said. The book: “Second Jumper: Searching for his Bloodline” was published in 2011.
Jumper said that through his writing, he was able to truly express his gratitude to the Seminole people for making him feel so privileged.
“I am honored to have preserved in my book their stories, word for word, as they would want their grandchildren to hear it,” he said.
Road to Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki
In 2016, while singing at the Mescalero Apache Reservation for the Chiricahua Crown Dancers, an inherited position that Jumper has held for 20 years now, he noticed a woman taking pictures of his group, which is highly forbidden.
“Once done, I approached her and found out she was a German professor with tribal permission to take the pictures. She kindly made a copy of those captured moments, and in return I invited her to visit me in Florida,” Jumper said.
In February 2017, the professor arrived to meet Jumper and he took her to various Seminole reservations, including a first time visit for both of them to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
“During the [museum’s] introductory video, I noticed my old friend Thomas Storm Sr. wrestling an alligator,” Jumper said. “I told her that I had all sorts of items that came to me from Thomas Storm and his mother, Mary Jane Storm.”
The items included a shirt, patchwork jacket, grass baskets (all made by Mary Jane Storm), powwow drum, drumsticks (made by Thomas Storm) and four cassettes with 30-plus songs from Cypress Prairie.
Once back in Germany, the woman would call the museum and inform them of all the items Jumper had in his possession.
In November 2017, all those items found their new home at the museum. In September 2018, Jumper began to work on editing the Cypress Prairie music, which he finished in time for the opening of the new exhibit now on display: “Selections from the Collections featuring the Siggy R. Second-Jumper Donation.”
“To see my items in one room and all the obvious hard work that went into it left me speechless, and I felt privileged,” Jumper said.
“I hope that my exhibit and my book will encourage young Seminoles to perhaps start a new singing group, to be proud of their ancestors accomplishments and to preserve their culture and language,” he said. “I express humble gratitude to my Seminole friends for making me feel so privileged and allowing me to be part of their proud and rich history. Ultimately, I thank God for bestowing upon me so many blessings.”
The museum, which is carrying copies of Jumper’s book as well, is located at 34725 West Boundary Road on the Big Cypress Reservation. For more information, call 877-902-1113 or visit ahtahthiki.com.