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Tribe’s FSU relationship grows stronger with new center

The center will be located in a home on FSU’s campus. (Courtesy photo)

The Seminole Tribe’s relationship with Florida State University in Tallahassee has increasingly gained a foothold beyond the sports world. In February, the school will open the Native American and Indigenous Studies Center (NAIS), located on campus in a 2,600-square-foot craftsman-style home near the historic Wescott Building and university administration offices. While the center has operated as part of the history department since the summer of 2023, it is the first time it will have its own physical location.

FSU officials and tribal leaders expect the center to achieve several goals. It would serve as a hub for Native American and Indigenous research and artistic practices; encourage educational initiatives and collaborative scholarship; offer curriculum and programming geared toward undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in learning about Native American and Indigenous cultures; and further enrich the university’s relationship with the tribe. 

FSU history professor Andrew Frank, the center’s director, led its creation with consultation from tribal officials. He’s an ethnohistorian who specializes in the history of the Seminole Tribe and Native American tribes in the U.S. South. He previously taught Native American history at Florida Atlantic University.

Andrew Frank (Courtesy photo)

“At FSU, our students all know the Seminole name but many want to know something beyond the iconography,” Frank said. “The [Seminole history] classes are popular, the students come in with a real passion to know something legitimate.”

For years the history department has offered students the class: “The Seminoles and the Southeastern Indians.”

“The new center is in a house, which is great because we want to find a way to create a community with Native American students on campus and for visitors – to find a way to get to know each other,” Frank said.

Frank has collaborated with the tribe on various projects for many years, working especially with staff at the Heritage and Environment Resource Office (HERO), Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) and Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress. He’s worked with museum director Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, the late Willie Johns (a historian and Tribal Court chief justice), HERO senior director Paul Backhouse and THPO director Tina Osceola, among others.

“There’s a way about them that encourages participation and engagement, but also provides a clear sense of how to do it,” Frank said of working with the tribal community. “It’s not my place to descend on the reservations and poke around. I want to come on invitation.”

Osceola and Frank both participated in the FSU/NAIS-hosted “Conference of the American Society for Ethnohistory” last November. Osceola was part of a panel of THPO officials who discussed the role of THPOs, and how researchers and ethnohistorians can engage with tribes. It was the first time the tribe participated in the annual conference.

“We have a very good relationship with Andrew Frank,” Osceola, who has known Frank for more than a decade, said. “Andrew is one of those professors who understands the role of the tribe. To put it really simple, he gets it. That’s not always the case.”

Osceola said Frank has been consulting in earnest with staff at HERO, THPO and the museum on the new center.

“We’ve had an influence on the direction the center takes at the university,” she said.

Osceola said she and others at the tribe are scheduled to attend a strategic planning session about the center in February at FSU.

“We’ve seen positive results when we collaborate with these universities, especially in terms of [repatriation efforts] and research,” she said. “The new center is a turning point for the tribe.”

The center is located at 535 W College Ave. For more, go to

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at