Celebrate Native American Month in Miami

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By: Jessica Garret Modkins

Native American Heritage Month

November is National Native American Heritage Month and Miami has activities, culture, people and places for you to explore the legacy of indigenous people.

This national, month-long tradition began in 1990 to honor Native Americans. It also serves as a way to preserve the unique culture and history of Native Americans through storytelling, music, festivals, arts, crafts and dance. Greater Miami’s Native American populations include the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida. Miami itself gets its name from a tribe called the Mayaimi, who lived near Lake Okeechobee. Here are ways to explore celebrate Greater Miami’s indigenous culture and heritage all month long.

Miccosukee Indian Village & Museum

The Miccosukee Tribe’s legacy lives on today at the historic Miccosukee Indian Village, located about 30 minutes west of the Florida Turnpike in the Everglades. Here, you can live and breathe their culture, history and lifestyle, which is celebrated 365 days a year. However, since the onset of the pandemic, the village and museum are temporarily closed to visitors. On a brighter note, the gift shop is open and airboat rides are operating within the broader Miccosukee Resort & Gaming complex.

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At the Indian Village Museum, you typically have the opportunity to witness the tribe’s rich and creative culture in an authentic setting. The museum showcases artwork, tribal artifacts, photography and government documents that granted them sovereignty in 1962. The exhibits also highlight the relationship between the Miccosukee and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. A visit to the museum is a wonderful opportunity to get a firsthand view of unique native attire, paintings and cooking utensils, as well as an account of the tribe’s way of life in a documentary film. There’s also work on display by local contemporary artist Stephen Tiger.

The Miccosukee Indian Village is perhaps most well known for its alligator wrestling show, which is an absolute must-see. From the moment the tribesman gets into a pit full of alligators to the instant he overpowers a nine-foot-long alligator, you’ll be amazed – especially when he sticks his hand into the gator’s mouth. You’ll also have an opportunity to learn these skills, but most people opt to take a picture with a baby alligator instead.

    Indian Village & Everglades Airboat Rides

    Another adventure at the Miccosukee Indian Village which you can still experience today, is an airboat ride through the Everglades. It’s a breathtaking and beautiful experience to witness the majesty of this slow-moving river of grass on a high-speed airboat. A guided tour presents the opportunity to spy alligators, crocodiles and wading birds in their natural habitat with a stop at a hammock-style Indian Camp.

    The Tequesta's Miami Circle

    Another fascinating historical site is found in Downtown Miami along the riverfront. Here, what was originally planned to be a luxury condo development became a public park thanks to a Miami-Dade County archeologist, who discovered a 38-foot circle during a routine inspection that was an important place to the Tequesta Indians. Impossible to miss as a parcel of land surrounded by towering high-rises, it’s known as the “Miami Circle”. On most Tuesday nights, a local Native American shaman holds candlelight vigils in honor of her ancestors that welcomes all.

      HistoryMiami

      To gain a true historical perspective of Miami, HistoryMiami’s permanent exhibit, “Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of South Florida,” documents the area’s history from 10,000 years ago to the recent past. Highlights include a section called “First Arrivals: The Archaeology of Southern Florida,” which features artifacts from the Miami Circle and other important sites.

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