I could not keep quiet about this. The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper in Tallahassee had a small article in the May 14th edition about the origin of the word Miccosukee / Mikasuki.
In Florida, we know about the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, numbering less than a thousand individuals. (My neighbors down here.) The Miccosukee people are mostly from upper Creek towns like Yufala or Hitchiti towns, who speak a variation of the Hitchiti language from the Muskhogean language group, which today is the Miccosukee language. Some Miccosukee claim to also be descendants of a Calusa remnant who remained in Florida. (And contrary to popular belief, there were a few who survived.) The Calusa spoke a Tunica or Natchez language.
There is also Lake Miccosukee and the small community of Miccosukee to the west of the lake in Leon County between Tallahassee and Monticello. Before 1818, Miccosukee Town on Lake Miccosukee had about 3,000 people until it was burned by General Andrew Jackson in the First Seminole War, but the place name was kept after the Indians had been driven out.
Tallahassee Democrat writer Gerald Ensley published an article on May 14th about the origin of the word Miccosukee. His fault is that he uses second and third hand sources, and not what the people themselves say. He should have asked the Miccosukees themselves, or the Seminoles who speak the Seminole-Miccosukee language. And don't ask the Creeks, because that is a different language.
First Ensley looks at a possibility from nika-suki meaning hog eaters, which is a translation that Swanton wrote about, but rejected further down on the same page, saying the mekko-use goes very far back in historical record. Or micco-sucaw meaning hog king. Even if he is trying to use a Muskogee Creek definition, he is still wrong with Muskogee words. But my Seminole and Miccosukee friends love eating hog--they probably think that Creator tricked the Jews and Moslems from not eating hogs and saved them all for the Indians. (Although hogs were introduced by the Spanish.) If the article had just had the incorrect Muskogee definitions, I would have ignored it from there.
But the outrage is when the article says that Miccosukee could have come from the Spanish colonizers who called "mud and refuse-covered" native people, micos sucios, or, "dirty monkeys." That is a racist comment if I ever heard one, and should not have even been entertained. Calling them "refuse-covered" is obviously racist. (Reminds me of the line from the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" where the peasants conclude that it is King Arthur because, "He hasn't got shit all over him.") And a lot of tribes around the world would paint themselves or put clay on their skin to protect from the sun. As opposed to the Europeans, who applied toxic, lead-based make-up.
Using google translator, English into Spanish, dirty monkeys becomes, monos sucios. And micos also comes out as monkeys. But I have never heard that remark in any of the historical documents that I have read. I don't know where Ensley got that one from. The closest thing I ever read was when a British sailor in 1819 wrote about Indians trading in St. Augustine as, "…sitting upon their haunches, as monkeys." And goes on to make further racist and derogatory remarks about the Indians, but does not use the Spanish term of, “dirty monkeys.” The Brits have a sad history of racism against native indigenous people which is commonly known. But it makes no sense that the Miccosukee would name themselves from a derogatory Spanish term.
I have previously discussed the meaning of the word Miccosukee with one of the Seminole tribal members. Their explanation is that the name is from Micco—meaning king or chief, and Suggee or Sukkee (the g and the k are interchangeable in the language) meaning, "sound of your voice." So the interpretation of Miccosukee/Mikasuki can be "the king's voice" or "the king's speech." For the language, words are not specific and describe generalities or categories, so sukkee can be voice, breath, sound of your breath, or whatever the listener interprets as a similar category.
So I wanted to set the record straight, because I don't think that my letter will be published in the Tallahassee newspaper. The article had no reason to even entertain the idea that Miccosukee is similar to the Spanish words for, "dirty monkeys."
Last week when I was up in Tallahassee area, I drove by the community of Miccosukee. Below are some pictures of some historic churches. The Miccosukee Methodist Church, built in 1876. South of that is the Indian Springs Baptist Church built in 1854, with graves in front dating to the 1830s or 1840s.
Miccosukee Village historical marker.
Miccosukee Methodist Church, built in 1876.
Indian Springs Baptist Church south of Miccosukee, built in 1854.