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Resolution from PECS 7th graders passes Tribal Council

Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School seventh graders in their classroom after appearing virtually before Tribal Council on April 14. In alphabetical order, the students are Joleyne Nunez, Sally Osceola, Hannah Platt, Brody Riley, Kiera Snell, Ila Trueblood, Harmany Urbina and Timothy Urbina. (Courtesy photo)

Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School seventh graders received a first-hand civics lesson on the workings of Seminole government April 14 when they presented a resolution to the Tribal Council.

The students’ resolution, which passed, calls for November to be deemed Indigenous Peoples Month in Florida and establish a statewide Native American arts and writing contest for students. The students started a petition for the school to celebrate Native American Heritage Month and for the Florida Department of Education to start a Native American art and writing contest.

The students and their teacher, Amy Carr, attended the Council meeting online where Carr explained the process to Council.

“The students asked Gov. [Ron] DeSantis to partner with them in creating the Native American Heritage Month [and] writing and art contest for schools across the state to hopefully bridge cultural divides, build up tolerance for differences in race and to celebrate the rich and valuable culture that has survived in Florida for thousands of years,” Carr said.

The state has previously created such contests for Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month, so the students took it upon themselves to ask for one honoring Native American heritage, Carr explained.

The students were moved by an article about Tribal Historic Preservation Office director Tina Osceola’s fight to bring ancestral remains of Seminoles home from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

“That article struck a chord with my students,” Carr said. “They began to wonder why their ancestors were being treated so poorly, how could they help and how could they prevent this type of thing from happening in the future.”

With help from Carr and PECS teacher Suraiya Smith, the students made a video message that would reach further than just their classrooms. They created the petition to raise awareness and sent emails to the governor, the lieutenant governor and the tribe’s Heritage and Environment Resources Office.

“Members of HERO met with students virtually and assisted in the writing of the resolution,” Carr said. “We’re so proud of their desire to promote this awareness, this change and this longing to keep their language and culture alive.”

Carr introduced students Brody Riley, Harmany Urbina, Joleyne Nunez, Ila Trueblood, Hannah Platt, Timothy Urbina, Kiera Snell and Sally Osceola, who read the resolution into the record. A motion to pass the resolution was made by Brighton Councilman Larry Howard and seconded by Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie. The motion passed unanimously.

“Thank you children,” said Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. “We appreciate your fortitude in bringing the resolution forward to recognize something that has been amiss in some of these areas.”

“It’s an honor to have our kids speak up for themselves and present the resolution,” added Councilman Howard. “You guys are well spoken and you spoke loud and clear. We commend you for the good hard work you are doing. Continue to speak loud from the heart and keep striving for the best.”

Councilwoman Billie also addressed the students. “I’m proud of you all. Keep speaking up because you are our future leaders. I encourage you all to use your voice.”

The next goal for the students is a trip to Tallahassee to present the resolution to the governor. A date has not been set, but they are hoping for early June.

The resolution, “Designation of Indigenous Peoples Month and Establishment of a Native American Arts and Writing Contest,” reads in part:

WHEREAS, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School (Our Way School) aspires to protect and promote the rights and way of life of Indigenous People, while respecting the land resources, hunted and fished for the survival and sustainability of their people; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous traditional knowledge is unrecognized and left out of the federal decision-making process, and Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School (Our Way School) recognizes the fact that Indigenous People possess the capacity to create our arts and maintain language and customs while facing enormous adversities and oppression, with integrity; and

WHEREAS, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School acknowledges the Indigenous People’s courage to evolve during times of uncertainty and contribute to society in many areas such as technology, arts, and science to solidify their cultural identity; and

WHEREAS, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School desires to increase the recognition of Indigenous People as well as the knowledge and acceptance of Indigenous People statewide; and

WHEREAS, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School urges the Tribal Council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to declare November as Indigenous People’s Month and to establish a Native American Arts and Writing Contest and recommends that the Tribal Council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida request a Proclamation from the Governor of the State of Florida to declare same; and

WHEREAS, the Tribal Council is otherwise fully advised.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that the Tribal Council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida hereby proclaims the month of November as Indigenous People’s Month and hereby establishes a Native American Arts and Writing Contest and will formally request that the Governor of the State of Florida proclaim same.

With a unanimous vote, the Council adopted the resolution.

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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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