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Hunting camp adds to Seminole culture at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki

Daniel Tommie tends to the fire in the cooking chickee at the hunting camp he built at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. (Beverly Bidney photo)

BIG CYPRESS A traditional hunting camp is usually temporary and easy to dismantle and move. Daniel Tommie built one last summer that he hopes will remain on permanent display at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress.

“I want to pay tribute, retell and relive our past for visitors to visibly see,” Tommie said. “I take pride in talking to them about our history and philosophy of living.”

The hunting camp, located on the former amphitheater site off the boardwalk behind the museum building, is a work in progress. It consists of a 10-by-15-foot lean-to and a 10-by-10-foot cooking chickee. Embellishments include deer, possum, raccoon, otter, fox and bobcat hides hanging from rope as they would at an actively used camp. The lean-to has a shelf for sleeping and is decorated with turtle shells, a gator skin and antlers.

A management trainee at the museum, Tommie announces his presence at the camp three times each week with the welcoming aroma of fire burning in the chickee. He wants visitors to know that Seminoles are no different from other people.

“We struggled back then and have struggles today,” he said. “Now our struggles are more mental; back then they were more physical. In today’s world, distractions like phones, movies and media are everywhere.”

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki hunting camp wasn’t the only one Tommie built in 2016. In November he built a camp at Fort King in Ocala. In December the site was used in a reenactment of Osceola’s attack on the fort during the Second Seminole War in 1835. While he was building the lean-to, Tommie engaged with Fort King visitors and later volunteered in the reenactment.

Built in 1827, Fort King was used by the U.S. Army as a buffer between the Seminoles and white settlers. By 1835 the Army used it for strategic meetings of generals and officers, like any other military base.

According to the Fort King chronology, Osceola arrived at the fort in June 1835 for peace talks but was put in chains and detained for one night. In December 1835, Osceola and his warriors attacked the fort and killed some soldiers, including the general who chained him.

Osceola’s story isn’t the only one Tommie relates to museum visitors.

“Abiaki deserves all the credit,” Tommie said. “He isn’t mentioned as often as he should be. He moved people out of harm’s way while his troops were fighting. They knew the environment, studied their opponent and used it to their advantage. It was the first time the U.S. government encountered guerilla warfare.”

While speaking to tourists, Tommie gauges their interest and delves deeper into history if he sees they are engaged in the story.

“I get gratification from retelling our history,” he said. “It reminds me that people before me sacrificed and struggled so I can be here.”

 

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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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