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Seminole woman sculpture installed near Tampa

The “Sovereign” statue, which depicts a Seminole woman in traditional patchwork clothing, is part of the landscape at Riverview’s Pebble Park near the Alafia River, southeast of Tampa. (Courtesy Nicole Milligan)

A bronze sculpture of a Seminole woman, complete with patchwork designed by tribal member Jessica Osceola, was installed April 28 not far from the Alafia River in Riverview’s Pebble Park, about 14 miles southeast of downtown Tampa.

“Sovereign,” a 700-pound, six-foot sculpture that stands on a six-foot tall base, is wearing a traditional patchwork skirt, cape and beads.

The husband-wife team of artists Alan and Nicole Milligan created the sculpture. They reached out to Osceola for her patchwork designs and to the tribe’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum for the text for the plaque.
The three patchwork designs are “The River Alive,” which depicts water and the river; “Trees, Turbans and Treaties,” which honors the tribe’s Council Oak and the documents signed beneath its boughs; and “Grandmother and I,” a tribute to generations of strong Seminole women.

“I’m glad they included the Seminole designs [on the sculpture],” Osceola said. “It was real collaboration and I’m glad Nicole reached out to me. It encourages other artists to do that, too.”

‘Sovereign’ (Courtesy Nicole Milligan)

The installation took most of the day and went off without a hitch, according to Nicole Milligan.

“The sculpture looks like it has always been there,” Milligan said. “It has a presence. It belongs there and sets a welcoming tone to the park. It was so important to us to work with Jessica and the tribe.”

The patchwork on the sculpture was also created in glass on an adjacent plaque that contains a description about the tribe’s history in Elaponke and English. Marcella Billie, assistant director of the museum, worked with tribal elders to translate it into Elaponke. Here’s the text in Elaponke as it appears on the plaque:
Lak Haa chek 1957, Seminole Tribe Ayom ka thot
A ha kon chao lek she la maa she ket to no baa cho mek to wa
Lak haa che en hayo ka len
Yak ne choo be ka e ma ha ke om ma thot
Na Ken Cho Kan Chao Lek Cho Ko Le Cho Mek to wa

In English it reads:
In 1957, the Seminole Tribe created its government and constitution to ensure sustainability and prosperity.
That same year, the U.S. Congress officially recognized the sovereign nation.

Jessica Osceola’s patchwork designs were interpreted in glass by artist Nicole Milligan and is displayed on a plaque near the “Sovereign” statue. (Courtesy Nicole Milligan)
The text in Elaponke as it appears on the plaque. (Courtesy Nicole Milligan)
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