History of Seminole Reenacting part 2
Now the early ranks of Seminole reenactors came from two groups: The buckskinners or mountainmen, and the scouts. I myself came from the scouts & OA. Many of us who do this are Florida-raised and had a very early interest by identifying with the Seminoles. The reenactments just became a natural extension of our character. I am starting to get into the why, but that is for another time.
The first event I participated in was at Fort Cooper in April 1986. All the guys there were among the Buckskinners: Swamp Owl, Two Shadows, Red Wolf, Black Crane, or Two Feathers. I think James Billie, Chairman of the Seminole Tribe, was there too as a singer, and entertained us with his jokes.
Seminole reenacting among the scouting group got started within the Order of the Arrow. This service fraternity within the scouts has its own ceremonies to advance within the different levels, but certainly not as complicated as the masons. The OA ceremonies are patterned off of legends of the Lenne-Lanape Tribe, where the OA started in the northeast in 1915. By the 1940s, the OA had spread all over the country, and the ceremonies took more the appearance of typical generic Plains Indian dress with buckskins and feathered bonnets. But a lot of the different OA lodges wanted to look more like their local Native American cultures. The OA lodge out of Miami and southeast Florida has been doing Seminole displays and dances since the 1960s at national OA conferences. Many Florida lodges started to adopt Seminole garb and looks for the ceremonies. By the late 1970s and early 80s, there was a big push to drop the stereotypical Plains styles for local dress of the area.
Around 1981 I met Rick Obermeyer when I was becoming more active in the OA. Rick and several others had started to research the Seminole clothing and history. Rick says that one reason he started to research the Seminoles was because at the time very little was available for research. There was almost no information still in print. At the time Rick was more interested in the Seminole dress of around 1900, because it was the last examples of traditional, before the patchwork really started to appear. In 1982, Rick and Pete Thompson printed a pamphlet on how to make a Seminole plain shirt, circa 1900. The instructions were simple so anyone could learn how to sew one, without any background in sewing.
So Rick, Pete Thompson, David Mott, Michael Brown, and several others started to research Seminole clothing and compile notes. Their search would take them all over the country, to the Denver Art Museum, or the Smithsonian. They photographed collections that were not for view in the general public. About 1991 Rick self-published their notes, a book on how to make “19th Century Seminole Men’s Clothing.” Rick would reprint it for years, until it is now available for everyone on the internet where you can print out all the pages, with updates and notes, at http://www.nativetech.org . I think every reenactor needs to start with Rick’s book to get an understanding of the clothing. Indeed, every reenactor is indebted to his work in creating the book. Few other reenactor time periods and groups have a book that describes how to create an entire outfit between two covers, and how to make every part. After 25 years, Rick still does clothing seminars for the scouts at local and national conferences.
Unlike most other reenactor groups, the Seminole War era reenactors have never been organized, except very loosely. Some of the soldiers formed units, like Company B, 3rd Artillery. But the Seminole reenactors have not been strongly organized. Or I should say, that several early attempts to organize met with disaster and bad feelings.
In 1991, two newsletters started to communicate information between the different reenactors. Kent Lowe and Jim Hensley started the “Fort Florida Dispatch” for the soldiers. David Mott, Michael Brown, and a few others started what we called at the time, “F.I.R.E.S.” which I think meant something like, “Florida Indian ReEnactor Society.” A newsletter was born, called “The Renegader.” The 2nd Seminole War lasted 7 years, and so did both newsletters.