Seminole Music #244395

di Frances Densmore

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The Seminole of Florida are a Muskhogean tribe originally made up of immigrants who moved down into Florida from the Lower Creek towns on the Chattahoochee River. Their tribal name is derived from a Creek word meaning "separatist" or "runaway," suggesting that they lack the permanent background of the tribes whose music had previously been studied.<br><br>The writer's first trip to the Seminole in Florida was in January 1931, and the Indians observed were from the Big Cypress Swamp group. The second visit, begun in November 1931, continued until March of the following year, the study including both the Cypress Swamp and Cow Creek groups of the tribe. Two exhibition villages near Miami afforded an opportunity to see the native manner of life. These were Musa Isle and Coppinger's Tropical Gardens. The managers of both villages extended their cooperation, and the principal interpreter was Cory Osceola, a grandson of the celebrated chief Robert Osceola. Many songs were recorded, and the work was extended to the Seminole in the vicinity of Dania and to the camps of Seminole along Tamiami Trail, especially the camp of Chestnut Billie and that known as Fifteen Mile Camp. In February 1932, a trip was made to the interior of the Big Cypress Swamp under the escort of W. Stanley Hanson, of Fort Myers; five camps were visited and photographed. Continuing her journey, the writer went to the "Indian Prairie" northwest of Lake Okeechobee and thence south into the cabbage palm country, which is the home of the Cow Creek group. Several camps were visited, and the songs were recorded at Brighton through the courtesy of Mrs. Eliza Fielden, the storekeeper. The return to Miami was by way of Fort Lauderdale, where an ancient Seminole burial ground was photographed.<br><br>A third trip to the Seminole was made in February 1933, in connection with a survey of Indian music in the Gulf States made possible by a grant-in-aid from the National Research Council. Another visit was made to the Cow Creek group, and songs were again recorded at Brighton.<br><br>The only tribal gatherings of the Seminole are the Corn Dance in June and the Hunting Dance in September. The customs of these gatherings differ in the two groups.
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Forgotten Books
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Frances Densmore