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Community Outreach: Hello Seminole

Spring is in full bloom and the love bugs are beginning to connect with the windshield of my Jeep. This also means that the temperatures are rising and soon summer will be in full swing. Time flies on the Big Cypress Reservation and that is a good indication that I’m enjoying my time here in Seminole Country. The approaching summer also means that the beginning of ceremonial season is near. As the corn dance begins here in Florida, this Muscogee (Creek) boy will make a trip back to Oklahoma for the beginning of our stomp dance season. I’ll have much to share and stories to tell of alligators, humidity, Tribal events, food, and new Seminole aunties teasing me just like my Muscogee Aunties back in Oklahoma. Being a part of a community is important and thankfully my position at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum as the oral history coordinator allows me to spend a lot of time in the community.

Fourth day on the job as oral history coordinator at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Justin Giles holds an alligator subdued by Billy Walker. (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

Community Outreach is a term that I take to heart because I could not imagine being in a predominantly Native place without getting to know folks. I like to see where the good food is, who can cook well, and simply visit with people. While there are certainly some differences here in southern Florida from Oklahoma, the similarities far outweigh any sense of being away from home. Seminole Country is Indian Country and fortunately that is a real comforting feeling. Plus, there are beaches to visit and the Everglades to explore that have been inhabited by indigenous people for numerous millennia. This geography is certainly an important part of the Seminole story told at the museum. It is important to remember that a good number of Tribal Governments across North America now have active museums, cultural centers, or community centers. These institutions share a common goal of telling Native history from the perspective of the Native community, in their own voice. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has always been at the forefront of this endeavor and oversees one of the oldest and nationally accredited Tribal museums in Indian Country.

Justin Giles visits Paul Bowers in his Big Cypress woodshop. (Courtesy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

There is a lot of Seminole history and culture that the museum is tasked to present to our visitors on a daily basis. In order to make sure the Seminole Voice is always present at the museum, community outreach and participation is a must. In this aspect, the occupation of museum staff is more than just a job as we serve the Seminole community. Lucky for me, my job keeps me from being homesick and I’m glad to have some new Seminole aunties tease me. If you see me out and about, feel free to visit and toss me some fry bread and sausage…! Please be sure to contact me anytime if you wish to participate in the Oral History program and become a part of the Seminole Voice we strive to present at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.


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