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Tina Osceola, William Cypress jewelry on view at Walt Disney World

A larger view of the “Creating Tradition” display is seen here. (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

BIG CYPRESS — Located in the American pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park, the “Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art” exhibit showcases historical Native artifacts alongside works by contemporary American Indian artists. The exhibit includes a diverse array of objects ranging from traditional baskets and moccasins to modern sneakers and skateboards. Native communities from seven regions across the U.S. are included in the gallery, and the art represents the richness and diversity of Native cultures, both past and present.

While the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has participated in the exhibit since its inception in 2018, staff from the museum’s collections department rotate the objects twice each year to ensure the safety of the exhibited items. This also provides Disney’s visitors with an opportunity to view a variety of Seminole artifacts,

textiles and artwork. The most recent rotation of objects occurred at the beginning March, and it included two beaded necklaces by Tina Osceola and three pairs of silver earrings by William Cypress. Each of these beautiful pieces of jewelry were created within the past few years.

This beaded necklace by Tina Osceola is one of two on display at the exhibit. (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

Made from Swarovski crystals and silver coins, Osceola’s necklaces immediately capture the attention of guests as they walk past the gallery space. Her glittering necklaces offer a unique contrast to the historic strands of beads displayed beside them, which were also included in the recent rotation of objects. The beads, made during the1930s, were originally created to be sold as souvenirs at the former Musa Isle Indian Village in Miami. The beads are well-preserved examples of Seminole beadwork from the early 20th century. Displayed next to Osceola’s necklaces, visitors are able to view this transition from historic beaded jewelry to a more modern interpretation.

The same is true for William Cypress’ elegant silver earrings. Purchased by the museum in 2021, these earrings are some of the newest pieces of jewelry in the collection. Each earring was intricately hand-crafted by Cypress, and the attention to detail can be seen in its exquisite design. Like Osceola’s necklaces, Cypress’ earrings are also displayed next to an object which contrasts with their modernity. An 18th century bronze gorget, worn around the neck, rests beside his 21st century earrings, demonstrating the evolution of metalwork over hundreds of years.

This contrast between the past and the present is what makes “Creating Tradition” such a meaningful experience to the thousands of visitors that Walt Disney World welcomes each day. The exhibit gives guests a chance to learn about and enjoy the history of American Indian art. However, and perhaps more importantly, it also allows visitors the opportunity to explore contemporary Native artists who have continued to create and adapt their traditions in innovative ways. Therefore, showing that art in Native cultures not only continues, but thrives.

“Creating Tradition” is on display at the American Heritage Gallery in Epcot’s American Adventure Pavilion. The jewelry by Osceola and Cypress can be viewed through September 2022. Additionally, those objects and others from the museum’s permanent collection can be viewed at

Laura Dello Russo is registrar at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

William Cypress’ silver earrings are on display now. (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)