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Seminoles advocate activism, actualization at FIU indigenous celebration

Samuel Tommie speaks about true democracy and its relationship to indigenous peoples at FIU on April 15. (Grace Ducanis photo)

MIAMI — Florida International University’s fourth annual indigenous celebration on April 15 attracted about 60 people who listened to Seminole, Miccosukee, Quechua, Carib and Ainu representatives share their opinions and art.

The celebration, which was co-sponsored by FIU’s Global Indigenous Forum and Global Indigenous Group, opened with a blessing ceremony, facilitated by Carib Katherine Hummingbird Ramirez. The event continued with an afternoon of interactive and educational workshops and concluded with an evening of music, dance and storytelling. The majority of the sessions and performances were from members of indigenous groups, including many Seminoles.

Dennis Wiedman, director of the Global Indigenous Forum at FIU, said that the purpose of the event is to create spaces on FIU’s campus for indigenous voices to be heard. He said that in his 32 years working for FIU, he realized that although the university is very international, there weren’t enough indigenous voices on campus.

“Most of the events and the programs and the research and the scholarship [at FIU] deals with the colonizers of the world,” he explained.

Katherine Hummingbird Ramirez opens FIU’s fourth annual indigenous celebration with a traditional indigenous ceremony. (Grace Ducanis photo)

The theme of this year’s indigenous celebration was Planting Seeds for Seven Generations: Working as One for the Future. “Planting seeds for seven generations” is an expression originating with Native Americans about the impact that one’s actions can have on generations to come, according to the event’s press release.

Seminole Tribe member Samuel Tommie emphasized democracy and peace during his afternoon session, saying that democracy was the way of life for indigenous peoples before European colonization.

“[Democracy] is something that you carry within your heart, that you carry within your mind, that you walk each day knowing what democracy is,” he said. “This is true democracy, and there’s no such thing as democracy on this continent anymore.”

Tommie said that he tried to keep his talk organic and that he wanted to address a topic he didn’t feel like anyone else was addressing.

“Democracy is a big concern of mine, and it’s also a Native American heritage,” he explained. “I wanted to remind ourselves that a true democracy is… a human right.”

According to Tommie, the FIU celebration connects like-minded people who fight for the environment and social issues.

“This is an environment where hope stays alive,” he said.

Tommie’s brother, Daniel Tommie, also gave a workshop, speaking on the importance of self-discovery and self-actualization. According to Daniel Tommie, self-actualization means knowing who you are and being content.

“Everything starts with one’s self,” he said. “Before you can [connect] with your family, your community, to people, to the human race, it’s got to start with you.”

Miccosukee citizen Lee Tiger said the celebration helps indigenous peoples connect with and learn about each other. Tiger performed at the event along with Seminole Tribe member Ted Nelson, singing a number of original songs.

“When [Nelson] and I do things together, it’s even more powerful: our spirit, our medicine, to share our gift of music and talent and words and expressions and feelings that we have in our music and our creations,” Tiger explained. “[I want to] inspire some of the younger Seminole and Miccosukee children.”

Carolina Castoreno, a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and master of ceremonies for the celebration, said that the purpose of the event is to celebrate the achievements of Native American culture and to discover how to become more politically active concerning indigenous issues.

Evelyn Mila, 23-year-old college student, called the event “divine.”

“I’m getting a lot of information about cultures that I previously had no idea of, and especially cultures that are right here, down the street,” she said.

“I have to look for similarities,” Daniel Tommie said during his session. “What do I have in common with my fellow human beings? It’s not about me. What can I do to help? All I am is one grain of sand that holds the human race together, and that takes self-actualization. It takes a lot of work.”


Grace Ducanis
Grace Ducanis is a freelance writer in the South Florida area. In addition to her contributions to The Seminole Tribune, she has written for PetMio and The Current, Nova Southeastern University's weekly newspaper. She graduated from Nova Southeastern University in 2017 with bachelor's degrees in Communication and English.

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