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Seminole DAPL flag signed by Samuel Osceola family

BIG CYPRESS — Sometimes a flag is much more than just a flag; it can commemorate a place in time important to
those who bore witness to it. Such is the case with a Seminole flag which flew over the Standing Rock Reservation during the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest.

The family of the late Samuel Osceola Sr. gathered Oct. 23 to honor his memory and sign the flag he viewed during his time at the protest in 2016.

Samuel Osceola Sr. was one of the tribal members who traveled to the Standing Rock reservation to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He drove palettes of water to the North Dakota demonstration site.

Martha Tommie also protested, along with thousands of other Native Americans from hundreds of tribes, against the
construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River, the tribe’s main source of water in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Tommie brought the Seminole flag to the protest and held it high when she helped to block a bulldozer. She donated that flag to the Tribal Historic Preservation Office during the opening ceremony of its Major Billy L. Cypress building in 2019.

The flag was the backdrop during the memorial for Samuel Osceola Sr., who passed away in July. His siblings Joe Osceola Jr., William Osceola, Janice Osceola, Beverly Alumbaugh and nephew Ricky Joe Alumbaugh attended the signing ceremony at a chickee behind the THPO building in Big Cypress.

After signing the flag with Samuel Osceola Sr.’s name, his family raised their fists in solidarity. From left are Martha Tommie, Janice Osceola, (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“This flag has been on our wall since the building opened,” said Paul Backhouse, Heritage & Environmental Resource Office Senior Director and THPO Officer. “It inspires us and is a powerful symbol of your sovereignty. Martha, you are a hero to me in what you have done to stand up and advocate for the rights of your people.”

Tommie wanted the flag to be signed by or for all those tribal members who were at Standing Rock. Joe Osceola Jr. signed the flag for himself and Samuel.

“We all need water,” Tommie said. “Sometimes it takes a lot to get people involved. I want to leave a legacy of Seminoles fighting for our water.”

Joe Osceola Jr. also protested at Standing Rock. He stayed a few days, marched with American Indian Movement founder Dennis Banks and attended some pow wows at the protest site.

Tommie opened the memorial ceremony with a look back at the DAPL protest.

“We shared so many stories up there,” she said. “Samuel was a great man, he had a lot of laughter and was real. Joe, it was a blessing to stand with you at Standing Rock and a blessing to go support Indigenous people and protect the water.”

Memories of Samuel Osceola Sr., and the laughter they provoked, were shared by his family during the ceremony.

“Sam was my younger brother,” said Joe Osceola Jr. “Growing up we had our own age groups to hang out with. I didn’t get close to Sam until later in life. He was a loving man, he loved his kids and grandchildren. I was sad to see him go.”

William Osceola was glad his younger brother was being honored.

“He was more like a friend,” William said. “We talked a lot about the Dolphins, politics, anything. I miss those conversations. He was a great brother and into helping Native Americans. He said if we show up, that helps.”

The Osceola siblings grew up in Hollywood, but moved to Big Cypress when their parents opened a grocery store there.

“This was our backyard. We lived right here,” Janice Osceola said about the THPO location. “Samuel helped me with my cattle. We always help each other out, as family should. I thank God for all my brothers and sisters. Our parents taught us well, taught us how to work hard. If you show your children how to work, they will help you when you get older.”

The consensus was clear: Samuel Osceola was a smart, loving, caring, sincere man who is greatly missed by his family.

Martha Tommie watches as Joe Osceola Jr. signs the flag which flew over the Dakota Access Pipeline
protest in 2016. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
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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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