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‘Victory for our people, for our ancestors’ as Alachua County purchases disputed Micanopy land

From left, Robert Rosa (Taino), Micanopy activist Aaron Weber, Shawn Updagrave (Cherokee) and Martha Tommie (Seminole) celebrate the victory at the Micanopy Native American Preserve on March 28, 2022. (Courtesy photo)

A land dispute has been unfolding during the past two years in Micanopy where a developer planned to build a Dollar General store near the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve. The land is about 12 miles south of Gainesville and near the site of a key battle of the Seminole Wars and a Native American burial ground.


On March 22, opponents of the proposed development earned a victory when the Alachua County Commission approved the county’s purchase of the parcel along with an adjacent one during a commission meeting. Plans for the land are not finalized yet, but activists hope to protect its history and possibly have the land added to the preserve.


Native Americans, including Martha Tommie from the Seminole Tribe, fought to prevent the construction.
“It’s an honor to stand up here for my tribe, to be a voice to protect the land,” Tommie told the commission. “I will go back and tell my people this is very important because if it wasn’t for our ancestors, we wouldn’t be here today. We have to acknowledge that; they deserve our respect and honor.”

Martha Tommie speaks to attendees at the Board of County Commissioners of Alachua County meeting March 22, 2022, after the board approved the purchase of land from a developer who wanted to build a Dollar General store. (Courtesy photo)


In response to Tommie’s comments, commission chair Marihelen Wheeler said she encourages more participation from Native Americans in the area.


“We will be looking for more interaction, so we need you up here for the education,” Wheeler said at the meeting. “This is something we are focused on and we need your help.”

Activist Robert Rosa, a member of the central Florida division of the American Indian Movement and the Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA), worked for two years to get the land protected. At the meeting he said the county could set an example for how government should work with the Native community.


“The town wants to work with us and the Seminole Tribe to put a proper memorial there and preserve the area,” Rosa (Taino) told the Tribune.

Robert Rosa, left, and Martha Tommie celebrate the Board of County Commissioners of Alachua County’s decision March 22, 2022, to purchase the disputed land to keep from being developed. (Courtesy photo)


Rosa posted the news on the FIA Facebook page.


“To our incredible surprise the Alachua County Commission today ended the two-year struggle to protect the Micanopy Battlefield site [and] any burials there as well as its environmental status by agreeing to buy not only the parcel we were concerned about but an adjacent parcel to ensure the site is not developed.”


The Seminole Wars were fought on land that now includes the town, whose official seal contains the image of Seminole Chief Micanopy. The tribe’s ancestors fought, perished and were laid to rest there.


The next step for the parcels is for the county to meet with the Micanopy town commission to decide what to do with the land.


“When we got the victory, I just cried,” Tommie said. “This is a victory for our people, for our ancestors.”

Martha Tommie reads an informational sign about Seminole heritage in Micanopy in the Native American Heritage Preserve on March 28, 2022. The sign is near the site that will not become a Dollar General store. (Courtesy photo)
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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 beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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