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This photographic archive was compiled from many Broward County community sources over several decades. It documents personal history, milestones of community life, and items of ethnological interest. 

 

In the aggregate, this collection presents a photographic record of Native Americans, primarily Seminole, in cultural transition in twentieth century South Florida, a period and place marked by profound, accelerated social change. The collection records turning points when Native people began moving away from the seclusion of reservation life and venturing out as participants into the wider world beyond. The images reveal a people incrementally moving from one world to another over the span of several decades.

 

The photographs displayed here were contributed by local residents, tourists, photojournalists, historians, religious missionaries, and Native people offering family photos. Through them, tribal life is seen morphing over time, as old conventions give way to new across all realms: diet, shelter, livelihood, wardrobe.

 

One indicator of social change is attire; in the earliest photographs, in the first decades of the century, the subjects are clothed entirely in Native dress. Indeed, a critical source of tribal income was posing for tourists, as seen in the photos of Shirttail Charlie and other Native people taken in the 1920s.        

Beginning in the 1940s, local groups began to take an interest in the welfare of their Native American neighbors. At about that time, the friendly cross-cultural influence encouraged Native people to greater participation outside the reservations. Examples of this interaction are found in images of the Friends of the Seminoles meeting with community leaders Ivy Stranahan and Reverend Billy Osceola (1945); the Cub Scout Pack sponsored by the Federation of Women’s Clubs (1955); and photographs of a Seminole women’s sewing class, sponsored by the Hollywood Mid-Town Women’s Club (1955).   

 

Towards mid-century, a societal shift across cultures took place, bringing with it a growing awareness between mainstream and tribal communities. As American society at large went through convulsive changes in the 1950s and 1960s, alternately tightening and loosening conformist tendencies, parallels can be observed. In particular, the younger generation was inclined to seek out and experiment with non-traditional ways.

 

Notably, it is from the 1950s onward that Native people are seen wearing modern attire. A time of broad-spectrum social conformity, the 1950s marked an era when some Native Americans felt the pull to emulate their non-Native neighbors and gravitate towards the pleasures, rewards and tribulations of mainstream American life. In hairstyles, clothing and adornment, many Native Americans were induced to adopt the fashion of the day and relinquish the highly distinctive styles of their past.

 

Conversely, a resurgence of ethnic appreciation in the 1960s found many Native and non-Native people embracing traditional Native garb. Counterculture fashion of the late 1960s through the 1980s was heavily influenced by Native American style in clothing and jewelry design. The ensuring decades saw Native people visibly linked to both worlds, honoring and reclaiming their heritage yet clearly embracing the modern sartorial conventions of the outside world. Some individuals expressed their identities with a personal style that proudly expressed modernity and Native tradition with mixed elements, as seen in the adult portraits of Mitchell Cypress and Max Osceola.

 

An example of stylistic transition over time is that of Priscilla Doctor Sayen, shown in 1942 as a toddler in traditional Seminole dress, and again in 1964, at a Seminole Village Celebration, wearing a style similar to traditional dress, sans trademark quilting (a later adaptation). In the latter photo, Sayen is in the midst of other Native women, not part of the pageantry, who have elected to wear entirely in modern, non-Native attire.

 

A highly symbolic image is that of Miccosukee mothers (circa the late 1970s) in modern clothing themselves but holding babies clad in traditional garments. The image is emblematic of tribal determination to hold fast to their heritage and pass it on to future generations. To their great credit, South Florida’s Native Americans have responded and adapted to change without succumbing to it and relinquishing the irreplaceable treasures of tradition and cultural identity. This collection of photographs bears witness to that cultural journey.

 

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The Broward County Libraries Division maintains special collections including but not limited to, documents, photographs, artifacts, artwork and rare books. Materials in these collections may be protected by the U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U. S. C.). The reproduction or downloading materials may be restricted by terms of purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy & publicity rights, licensing and trademarks.

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