Native American Month

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By: Jessica Garret Modkins

National Native American Heritage Month is November and Miami has activities and places for you to explore.

November is the celebration of National Native American Heritage Month. It began in 1990 as a national month to honor Native Americans and to preserve their unique culture and history through storytelling, music, festivals, arts and crafts and native dance. The diverse history of Native Americans is encapsulated in Miami through the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes that date back to Florida to the 1800s. Miami is home to an Indian Reservation called the Miccosukee Reservation.

The legacy of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida lives on today in an area just 30 minutes west of the Florida Turnpike at the Miccosukee Indian Village. This is where you will find their history, culture and lifestyle celebrated 365 days a year. Located in the Florida Everglades, the Miccosukee Indian Village is a jewel. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers an array of activities for you to partake in.

You may visit the Indian Village Museum to witness in an authentic setting, their culturally creative and rich way-of- life, as well as how they have preserved this historic lifestyle. The museum showcases artwork exhibits, tribal artifacts, government documents that gave them sovereignty in 1962, and photographs of tribal members from past generations. This is your opportunity to get a first-hand view of unique native attire & clothing worn by men and women, native colorful paintings, special cooking utensils, and an account of the Tribe’s way of life as shown in a documentary.

The Miccosukee Indian Village also offers a world-renowned alligator wrestling show. If you haven’t seen this in person, then you have to venture out to see it and don’t forget to pull out your phone to capture every exhilarating moment. The show is full throttle excitement. From a tribesman getting into a pit full of alligators to a tribesman powering over a 7 to 9 foot long alligator. The tribesman goes toe to toe with this mammoth which sports a foot long row of teeth.

He is so skilled that he can stick his hand into the gator’s mouth but he doesn’t stop there. He also forces open the gator’s mouth and puts his head in while holding the gator’s jaws open. These are rituals that have been passed down for many generations. There is also an opportunity for guests to learn the skills to mount an alligator. Many pass on this experience but do take a picture with a baby gator.

    The last adventure at the Miccosukee Indian Village is to experience an airboat ride through the historic Everglades. It is a breathtaking and beautiful sight. You will witness nature in the purest form. The vast landscape of the Everglades is a memorable sight. The experienced tour guide will take you on a 30-minute ride with an opportunity to view animals in their natural habitat; alligators, crocodiles and birds. You'll travel at a fairly high speed through the vast "River of Grass" to witness a hammock-style Indian Camp, so hold on to your hat! Before leaving the Village, stop by the gift shop to purchase authentic native souvenirs.

    If you are interested in learning about Native Americans in more of a laid back setting then we’ve got a historical site for you to visit. It has been named the "Miami Circle" and is located in Downtown Miami along the river front. What was once planned for as a luxurious condo location, ended up becoming a public park thanks to a Miami-Dade County archeologist who was doing a normal inspection and discovered a 38-foot circle that was indigenous to the Tequesta Indians. Archaeological evidence suggests the Miami Circle marks the foundation of a large, prehistoric structure, possibly a "Council House", or other ceremonial structure created by native American Tequestas.

      Scientists say that the structure's puzzling ring-shaped array of 30 rectangular basins are more analogous to England's "Stonehenge", once serving as the foundation slots for a ring of 30 upright stones, which stood in the currently surviving geometric bedrock basins. The archeo-astronomical Stonehenge-like device seems to have been built for observing the solstices and equinoxes, as well as for other astronomically-based ceremonial uses. Stop by the site on a Tuesday night to hear a Native American shaman who conducts a candlelight ceremony.

      For the kids, a great learning experience is offered at the Miami Children’s Museum’s Native American Heritage Celebration. Join author Dorothy Downs on Saturday, November 4, 2017, from Noon to 4 p.m. Dorothy will showcase Seminole and Miccosukee Indian’s patchwork. You will have an opportunity to create Navajo Indian inspired patchwork, listen to folktales, create a native shark tooth necklace, and play native inspired games. All of these events present a unique opportunity to enjoy the culture while learning.

      Florida’s Native American Heritage extends throughout the entire state. Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage is a network of sites and organizations across Florida that will help you explore the Native American experience from the first peoples 12,000 years ago to the present. You can learn about archaeological sites, history museums, heritage interpreters, and county, state and national parks that showcase Florida’s long and unique Native American story.

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