Today, the story of Florida's Seminole Indians is told as well as painstakingly exhibited in an amazing setting at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in Clewiston, Fla. Arrive here, and step back in time. What's more, it's ideal for kids, too! They may just not want to leave.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is certainly known for its award-winning Blue Wave beaches, well-preserved parks, world-class hotels, fine dining restaurants, boutique shopping, fascinating museums and a lifestyle people leave home for. Guests who arrive naturally indulge in all of these amazing options, and why not? But while it may be a bit of a drive northwest of Fort Lauderdale, about an hour-and-a-half, the trip to Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki will be as memorable as time spent at these other area attractions.
A statue outside Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum — Photo courtesy of Dale Mack
Long before any settlers started on their quest to live in this part of South Florida, it was inhabited by the Seminole Indians. Being one of the first peoples in Florida, they endured adversity in this sometimes harsh wilderness with great strength, overcame great odds and made this their home.
These people are distinguished by numerous fascinating traditions, such as alligator wresting, big shirts and turbans for men, women's glass bed necklaces, bright patchwork clothing designs, thatched chickees dwellings, the traditional Seminole dwellings of cypress and palmetto and dug-out cypress canoes.
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Florida — Photo courtesy of Dale Mack
Once on site, start by walking through the museums and enjoying the amazing exhibits and collections on display. Here, learn their spiritual Green Corn Ceremony and Catfish Dance, their lively stickball game, silversmithing, weddings and other aspects of their 1890s culture.
What's more, modern technology eases visitors back in time with a multi-touch Microsoft Surface touch table. Interact with this digital content from the museum's collection. Also, get ready to view the museum's thousands of artifacts that cover 300 years of Seminole history and their living culture.
Follow the trail for interesting sights — Photo courtesy of Dale Mack
Once through, take the wheelchair-accessible, mile-long boardwalk. This living exhibit provides on an impressive and memorable tour, with information panels explaining plants that were used for good, medicine, shelter and tools. These plants and trees are identified in English as well as Mikasuki and Creek, the two Seminole languages. Bring your binoculars, and enjoy a swamp expedition under a breathtaking 66-acre dome of cypress trees on the reservation.
Next, stop at the Clan pavilion to learn about the eight Seminole clans, named Panther, Bear, Deer, Wind, Bigtown, Bird, Snake and Otter. These grounds include authentic chickees, which are available to explore. Also here, especially for boating enthusiasts, is an exhibit to learn how Seminole canoes are carved. Stop at the Living Village, which depicts Seminole life at the turn of the century.
What an amazing difference between the life of these natives and today's world! Both educational and entertaining, this is a must-visit for the entire family.