For perhaps the first time in more than 100 years, a Seminole dugout canoe was launched on the Wekiva River in central Florida.
Pedro Zepeda, who built the 16-foot craft from a Big Cypress log, was filmed March 12 in the Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka for a scene in the educational documentary “Suwannee Warrior.”
“A crowd gathered around,” Zepeda said. “Right behind us was the canoe launch. People on the boardwalk watched the filming and asked us questions before we put the boat in the water.”
With help from Shamy Tommie, Zepeda began work on the canoe at Okalee Village in Hollywood a few years ago. Since Okalee is now closed, it took Zepeda about a year to track down the canoe. He found it at the outdoor adventure area of Big Cypress and took it to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, where he plans to complete the final details on the canoe and put a finish on the wood to protect it from the elements.
“I wasn’t sure it would float,” Zepeda said. “It’s narrow, only about 21 inches wide. It had a little tippy feeling, but it didn’t sink.”
“Suwannee Warrior” will tell the story of Abraham, a black Seminole, who served as an interpreter for and fought alongside the Tribe during the Seminole Wars. Writer, producer and Broward College history professor Michael McGuigan and director Chris Kilayko are working on a trailer they will use for fundraising so they can complete the documentary.
The scene on the Wekiva River will be used in the trailer and possibly in the documentary as well.