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Students visit Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

 BIG CYPRESS — Ahfachkee and Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School students took a trip to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on Sept. 7 to reinforce the importance of learning about their Seminole culture.

Organized by Elizabeth Lowman, oral history educator for the Museum, the event gave Tribal students an opportunity to view exhibits and to listen to guest speakers Willie Johns, Moses Jumper Jr., Elgin Jumper and Museum curator of exhibits John Moga.

“We felt like it was important to extend the opportunity for them to enjoy the exhibits as Tribal students,” Lowman said. “I’m hoping first and foremost that the kids are inspired to learn about their history and (are) inspired to paint.”

Moses Jumper Jr. kicked off the culture event by reading two poems he wrote about Osceola and his perception of the legendary leader. Jumper spoke about the importance of the students learning about their past.

“I encourage you to read up on your history and learn about what makes you who you are,” he told them.

Tribal historian Johns also encouraged the students to learn about their heritage, challenging them to find elders on their respective reservations who can answer their questions. Elgin Jumper then spoke about the importance of art and creating Seminole-inspired pieces.

“It’s a way for us to keep Seminole imagery alive,” he said, encouraging any student interested in art to start pursuing it now. “Today, Seminole art is appreciated all over the world.”

Students then toured the “Reflections across Time: Seminole Portraits” exhibit – presented in collaboration with The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University – and asked the guest speakers any questions they had. The exhibit featured paintings by both Tribal artists, including Tribal members Noah Billie and Elgin Jumper, and non-Tribal artists, such as George Catlin and Thomas McKenney.

“We want to show how Tribal and non-Tribals view the same images and represent them,” Moga said. “They are comparing and contrasting history and seeing how non-Tribals represented images in the past and how Seminoles paint those images today.”

The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 4, includes portraits of Osceola and other Seminole warriors that showed students a glimpse of Seminole war history and art history. Paintings done by Catlin and McKenney date back to the 1800s, while paintings done by Billie and Jumper were completed in the 1990s and 2000s.

“My favorite part was seeing the art because it shows our culture,” said Shae Pierce, an eighth-grader at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School. “I learned that we need to learn our culture.”

Lowman said the event tied in well with the Museum’s mission to preserve Seminole history and educate the public about the lifestyle and traditions of the Seminole people. Students walked away with a better understanding of their Seminole art and culture.

“We came to learn about our culture,” said Trevor Thomas, an eighth-grader at the Charter School. “It’s important to learn these things so we can pass it on to our grandkids so our history never dies.”

Thomas said he especially enjoyed the “Corn Dance” exhibit because he has attended the Seminole tradition for as long as he could remember.

After students toured the galleries, they stepped outside onto the boardwalk and learned about medicine plants and their traditional uses. The event capped off with a picnic for lunch.

“The kids were engaged and excited and asked a lot of questions,” Lowman said. “It’s great for kids to see people who are accomplished. Seminole artists have strong inspiration and drive.”

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