Regardless of where I go in Naples, if I give someone my name, Tina Osceola, I am usually asked a number of questions or a variation of: “Are you from the Osceola Tribe?” “Oh wow, like the county?” “Does that mean you’re an Indian?” “How are you related to the “Real” Osceola?” “Oh, you’re Seminole, what do you think of FSU?” That is of course, if they recognize the name at all. Throughout my 53 years roaming this small section of planet Earth, I have learned to use the questions as my foot in the door to an educational opportunity. I figure that if people are curious enough to ask, they must want to learn.
“Oh wow, like the county?” My response most always begins with, “No, not exactly.” I let people know that the county named Osceola is for a leader during the Seminole Wars. He was captured under a flag of truce and taken to Fort Marion in St. Augustine and eventually transferred to Fort Moultrie in South Carolina, where he died. Post mortem, Osceola’s head was removed by his doctor and eventually lost. Osceola is buried outside Charleston, South Carolina without his head and a small portion of his finger. The short answer is that the name “Osceola” is actually a proper name and the name of the Tribe is Seminole.
“Does that mean you’re an Indian?” No, neither my mother or father’s family is from Southeast Asia. I am an enrolled member of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe named the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 required Tribes to conform to standardized forms of government in an effort to be “officially recognized” as Tribes.
If they failed to meet the requirements, the federal government would then terminate their status under yet another act of Congress, the Indian Termination Act of 1953. More than a hundred tribes and bands were terminated between 1953 and 1970, when President Nixon brought an end to the era with the Self-Determination Act of 1970. Most of us identify ourselves by our tribal affiliation, rather than “Indian.”
“How are you related to the “Real” Osceola?” My great-grandfather, Robert Osceola, was interviewed frequently by journalists, both local and national. He would tell people that he was a direct descendant. The one thing I have learned from reading historical interviews from the late 19th and early 20th centuries is that my family had linked the booming tourism industry with their own financial survival. So, I am left asking myself whether my great-grandfather actually knew that they were related or he told people that he was because it would generate more revenue for the family. So we were raised being told we were direct descendants, we don’t really know. “Oh, you’re Seminole, what do you think of FSU?” Well, this question normally comes to me from FSU graduates who are looking for validation that they are one of “us,” or from a Gator or UM fan, drooling at the thought of their arch nemesis/rival team could come under attack.
First of all, the Seminole Tribe of Florida passed a resolution allowing FSU to use the name as their mascot. Secondly, I don’t really watch sports, so I get nothing out of team sports talk. But lastly and probably most important, is the fact that my opinion on native mascots has changed over the years. Where I used to not see the harm in them, I am now of the opinion that it is time for them to go. I know this is a deeply controversial issue and not one for this column.
Regardless of why someone asks me a question, I have taken it on as my life’s mission to explain and/or educate the best that I possibly can. Oftentimes, especially when it comes to Federal Indian Policy and the Rule of Law, my answers will more than likely put a person to sleep… similar to an induced coma. I have discovered that during these short conversations, I learn a lot about other people too. I learn more about a person and society when discussing what they don’t know, rather than what we do. It also furthers my commitment to sharing my stories in print and when we bump into each other. I am a proud Seminole woman living in Naples, Florida