Last week I found a wonderful book at the Swamp Safari, and have just finished it. Second Jumper: Searching for His Bloodline, Treasured Stories of the Seminoles and Chiricahua Apaches by Sigfried R. Second-Jumper. I have not had much spare time, but relaxed to a few chapters each night until I was finished.
[Below: Front cover of the book.]
It is well known that I am interested in the Florida Seminoles. You may not know that I spend two years and six months in the Army at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, which was a fort that was established in 1877 as part of the United States campaign against the Chiricahua Apache. When I finished my time in the Army, I would have stayed in Arizona if I had found a job there. But I returned to Florida instead.
I really enjoyed the beauty of the landscape in Arizona and the Wild West history. While at Huachuca, I read a lot of the Chiricahua Apache history and explored many of the old Apache sites like the Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains, Fort Bowie, or the Chiricahua Mountains. So this book got my interest because it combines two tribes that both interest me.
This story is amazing. I knew about the Chiricahua being held prisoner in Fort Marion in St. Augustine, but the untold story is about those who were secretly shipped off to Cuba as slaves, and written off as having died at the fort. This was in 1886 and 1887 when slavery was long outlawed, so it is obviously an illegal human smuggling operation. We don't know who did it and how it was accomplished, but this is a hidden story from Florida history. We learn that the remnants of indigenous tribes were still alive in Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century, but forced into slave labor and their culture repressed.
Sigfried (Siggy) Second-Jumper tells his family story from prisoners in Fort Marion in St. Augustine in 1886. The children were captured and sold as slaves to Cuba. The family survived, and the grandchildren of those abducted returned to Florida in the 1950s. Siggy grew up in Miami and found a kinship among the Florida Seminoles, who he saw as similar to his Chiricahua Apache ancestors who fought to stay in their homeland and survived. He goes on a curious quest to rediscover his Apache ancestors and become reacquainted with their culture. He is more successful than anyone could have imagined, and finds long-lost relatives on the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico.
Siggy trains horses for the Seminoles and even wrestled alligators. He mentions many Seminoles whom I know, like Victor Billie, Moses Jumper Jr., and Ollie Wareham. And since he dances and sings northern traditional at pow wows, which further opens doors for him to pursue his detective work to find his family history. If the story ended there, I would have been satisfied. But it continues.
Siggy finds his way to the old Apache country, and discovers the beautiful natural southwest, with mountain hideaways with numerous springs and brilliant colored rocks that were the ancestral lands to the Chiricahua. Areas that are still held sacred to the Apache; some of which I have visited and even camped at.
On the first visit to New Mexico, he soon finds his way to the Mescalero Reservation and gets invited to the annual gathering and ceremonies that few outsiders ever see. This is a rare insight into the Apache culture, but testifies to the endurance of the traditions that continue today. Siggy finds himself welcomed into the ceremonial society where he joins in the singing. This incredible story reestablishes his family connection to the Chiricahua where he finds living relatives that are descendants of his great-great grandfather. Incredible enough, even his Apache relatives at Mescalero knew about his ancestor's abduction from St. Augustine and have been waiting for their return.
This is a book written from Siggy's heart. He pours out his soul and welcomes you to his family, where you get to know about his grandparents and his children. You learn about the past 130 years of his family and the Chiricahua Apaches. The reader is drawn to feel that they have become a distant part of the family. He shares his numerous experiences on the trips and discoveries from each trip to the southwest. This is a heartwarming story of a family that was torn apart 125 years ago and finds each other again in the 21st century. This is one book that should bring tears of joy when you hear the story of how this family was forced apart and taken away, but survived and found themselves back together again; learning their family culture and traditions.
And before I forget to mention it: There are photos inside of the Apache prisoners at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, and even a couple of Geronimo (proving that he did visit there from Fort Pickens), which have not been seen in public for 125 years!
[Below: back cover of the book.]