Lessons From Florida’s Seminole Tribe

It’s Earth Day, so naturally, I set out to Clewiston, Florida to discover the wonder of the Seminole Tribe; a community deeply rooted in sustainability and conservation. On this adventure, I uncover the beauty of the Seminole spirit and become inspired by their message for the planet.

I’m sitting in the grass. The scorching sunlight penetrates through the towering Cyprus trees above my head. Here, on the Seminole Reservation, there is an almost contagious sense of peacefulness and oneness with the earth. Or I should say “Mother.” As I navigate through the reservation grounds, I meet the tribe and learn about their perspective on “Mother” Earth and ways for all people to contribute to her preservation.

For Daniel Tommie, the Seminole mindset is not about being an activist or someone who persuades others to live a particular way. But rather, it’s a lifestyle built on conservation and an awareness that our resources are far from infinite. When the Seminoles hunt an animal, they use it in its entirety out of respect. Every move we make affects the creatures around us. Daniel explains:

“Sustainability understands the full circle of life … We have to acknowledge it; we can’t just go and do whatever we please.”

Sam explains that Native American’s are hardcore in their values, but if you dig deep enough, we can all learn something from them. In understanding this set of beliefs, you realize it is not only our right to live in a sustainable land but also that of our children: He elaborates, “We are all living, breathing humans and our land is sacred and was created by a very powerful, spiritual entity.”

A bird soars past the crowd as Sam continues his speech. The audience grows silent as Sam takes a long, uninterrupted glance at the soaring creature above. We, too, turn to admire its majestic nature. Glancing back at Sam, I see the fondness in his eyes; I am filled with admiration as I witness the profound respect he has not just for this bird, but all creatures who cross his path. “This bird,” Sam illustrates, “is just as much a part of this community as we are; it sees a lot, it experiences a lot.”

Witnessing this interaction, I am deeply moved by the oneness that exists between the Seminoles and the world around them. Coexisting is almost too mainstream to describe this animal-to-human kinship. As Southwest Floridians, how often do we have similar interactions with egrets next to our beach towels or geckos on our porches? Keeping these creatures in mind as we journey through life is not only crucial for their existence but also our well-being and that of generations to come.

 

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