1999 Has Come And Gone
"There is a time for some things, and a time for all things; a time for great things, and a time for small things."
- Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote.
By Dan McDonald
HOLLYWOOD - Oh, what a year it was for The Seminole Tribe of Florida, a year that saw a century come to a close with a number of large and small events that left a lasting impression.
January: Approximately 30 Tribal members, headed by President Mitchell Cypress braved freezing temperatures to participate in the inaugural parade of Gov. Jeb Bush in Tallahassee. On matters closer to home, the Tribe added 335 more acres to sugar cane production, and added new Black Brangus Bulls to the Tribe's cattle program. Tribal students were also improving as their test scores on language arts and math showed a marked improvement over the same periods from a year before.
February: The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum hosted the first Kissimmee Slough Shoot-out and Rendezvous, a battle re-enactment from the Seminole War period. The Board of Directors approved the use of two locations on the Big Cypress Reservation for the Wetland Reserve Program, while the Council closed the sale on the 1,600-acre Bullhead Ranch Property, the 1,000-acre Sears property and the Chokoloskee property. On Feb. 11 the Tribal Fair opened in Hollywood. The Tribe filed a lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court, Feb. 12, charging the St. Petersburg Times with racism and other violations of ethical, civil and criminal law. (The case is still pending.) The Seminole Tribe of Florida was honored at the 7th Annual First Americans In The Arts awards program when Tribal Chairman James Billie received one of two Outstanding Musical Achievement prizes Feb. 13. On Feb. 20, the Tribe held the 61st Annual Brighton Field Days, the Tribe's longest running cultural event. The Seminole Winds, apartments on the Hollywood Reservation, held an open house Feb. 25. On Feb. 27-28, the Seminole Tribune made history by covering the Tribal sponsored DNA Powwow on the Internet in real time. The event was held at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.
March: New Times selected the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum as the "Best Day Trip," in the issue released March 11. On March 20, the Tribe once again participated in the Smallwood Trading Post Seminole Indian Festival in Chokoloskee. The Third Annual Junior Cypress Cattle Drive was held on March 27 on Big Cypress. Doris Miller, a friend of the Seminoles for years, donated over 600 photographs to the Billy Osceola Library in Brighton. Sadly, columnist Raiford Starke had a slight accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, opening what seems a never-ending stream of torment with an authorized turnpike-towing firm. The Council approved the addition of the new curatorial building for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. Shammy and Marty Tommie became the first Tribal members to become certified aircraft technicians by the Federal Aviation Administration.
April: Big Cypress played host to the Journey to the Glades Festival April 10. The State of Florida sued Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to block a federal order that would legalize gaming on Seminole and Miccosukee reservations on April 12. The Florida Governor's Council on Indian Affairs celebrated its 25th Anniversary on April 14. Twenty-two Brighton students built a Seminole chickee at the Okeechobee High School on April 22. Chairman James Billie and wife Lesley held a wedding reception April 25 at the Big Cypress Rodeo Grounds. The Tribe broke ground April 26 for a new 27,000 square-foot gaming facility on the Brighton Reservation
May: James E. Billie won a record fifth term as Seminole Chairman in the Tribal elections held May 10. Other winners were President Mitchell Cypress, Board members Manuel "Mondo" Tiger, Alex Johns and Elton Carl Baxley. Council members winning election were David Cypress, Max Osceola and Jack Smith Jr. The Swamp Water Café finished an expansion. On May 26 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved tough water quality standards adopted by the Miccosukee Tribe to improve waters on their lands.
June: Tribal leaders, elected in May, were installed into office during the inauguration ceremony on June 7. Also introduced at the inauguration were Joe Dan Osceola, who will serve as the Tribe's first ambassador, and Calixto Garcia-Velez, the Tribe's first 'advisor for foreign affairs in South America.' On June 12, Chief Jim Billie traveled to Tsaile, Ariz., to perform at the Native American Music Festival. On June 14, the Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center opened during a grand celebration. On June 16, leaders of the United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET) honored two founding members, Betty Mae Jumper of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Buffalo Tiger, of the Miccosukees.
July: Lee Tiger, the Seminole Tribe's tourism consultant, was honored July 6 when the Board of County Commissioners of Broward County presented him with a plaque and proclamation for promoting and supporting tourism for South Florida. The Seminole Tribune won four press awards at the Native American Journalists Association Convention in Seattle, Wash., on July 13. Gregory Osceola, 12, qualified for the Florida Sub-Junior Division Skeet Shooting Competition. On July 18-23, the Tribe hosted the Sixth Annual Wellness Conference at Marco Island.
August: On Aug. 6, Lizina Bowers of Brighton was selected to read a poem in a world-wide poetry competition in Washington, D.C. Chief James Billie appeared on the Crook & Chase show Aug. 10, his first national TV exposure. Suraiya Youngblood and Mercedes Osceola were crowned the 1999-2000 Miss Seminole and Junior Miss Seminole on Aug. 14. The Seminole Aviation Department unveiled the 'crown jewel' of the fleet, a Gulfstream IV-SP corporate jet at the Big Cypress hanger. The Phish concert on Big Cypress was approved by the Tribal Council. Betty Mae Jumper underwent surgery for colon cancer, and continues to rehabilitate. Joe Don Billie earned an airman's certificate to fly helicopters. On Aug. 24, the Board expanded its cattle operation by approving a lease for the Willowbrook Farms of Highlands County. Sally Osceola was presented the Community Service Award for her accomplishments in school and her contributions to the Seminole Tribe.
September: The Seminole Tribe received a $3.15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand housing on reservation land. The Council completed negotiations to build a Casino at Coconut Creek. On Sept. 13, the Tribal offices closed to allow Tribal employees to prepare for Hurricane Floyd. Mercedes Osceola was inducted into the National Honor Society on Sept. 17. On Sept. 26, Tribal member Annie Jimmie turned 100. Greg Maddox, the new Bureau of Indian Affairs superintendent for the Seminole Tribe was introduced to Tribal officials. During the September registration period, the Ahfachkee School set new enrollment records at 138 students.
October: On Oct. 7, Tribal and Coconut Creek city officials broke ground on the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino. Hurricane Irene came Oct. 15, closing the Tribal offices for the second time in just over a month. The Board met Oct. 22 and approved a five-year revocable permit to Seminole Banner Entertainment, Inc., for the use of the Tribal Fairgrounds for sporting and concert events. Rachel Billie signed a modeling contract with Bailey's modeling agency in Orlando. Eckerd College and The Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed to host the second Discover Native America Powwow and American Indian Festival on the school's St. Petersburg campus. Chief Jim Billie won a Native American Music Association award as Debut Artist of the Year, as well as the NAMA Living Legend Award.
November: On Nov. 5, Tribal Ambassador Joe Dan Osceola presented a Seminole jacket to acclaimed actor/director, Sir Richard Attenborough at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival. Mercedes Osceola won the District 7 Cross-Country Track Meet on Nov. 7. The Tribal Council entered into an agreement Nov. 12 with Fairfield Languages to produce a multimedia program to teach the Tribe's Miccosukee language. On Nov. 29, the Tribe hosted a dinner to honor employees who had served 20 years or more.
December: Although the month continues to unfold, some events have already been set. On Dec. 1, the Tribe held a luncheon to honor more employees who had served 20 years or more. Tribal Councilman Max Osceola led a group of 12 Seminole riders in the annual Toys For Tots motorcycle run on Dec. 5.
The rest of the month, the year and the century are unfolding, so we won't know exactly what will transpire. But, there is one thing we can guarantee. The staff of the Seminole Tribune wants to wish each and everyone a safe Holiday Season and a prosperous New Year.
And, we'll see you back here in the year 2000.