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Patsy West's Book Having An Impact

By Vida Volkert

HOLLYWOOD - Patsy West's book The Enduring Seminoles: From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism captivated an enthralled audience at a lunch program sponsored by the Broward County Historical Commission, Jan. 11.

"The audience was absolutely in a trance," said Helen Landers, Broward County Historian about the speech given by West. "They listened to the entertaining tales and watched the attractive photo exhibit with great enthusiasm."

West, who is the director of the Seminole/Miccosukee Photographic Archive in Fort Lauderdale and a contributing history writer to The Seminole Tribune, rewarded the audience with a photo exhibit and a lecture on Seminole history, including some Seminole family tales taken from her recently published book.

Many of the people who attended the presentation knew little about the Seminoles' history, but most of them - at certain points in their lives - knew a Seminole.

"My wife and I came wondering about an old friend of ours," said Ray Farrelo, who is now retired and has been residing in Florida for almost 50 years. "Back in the 60s, this Seminole gentleman was the first to build a two-store building in Cooper City and I believe his name was Earl," Farrelo said, adding that they came hoping to hear something about this Seminole or identify him in the pictures.

Although Farrelo and his wife did not learn about the whereabouts of their Seminole friend, they learned a great deal about Seminole struggles.

"I have been in Florida for 50 years, but only now, after listening to West's presentation, have I have come to realize that Seminoles are natives of Florida," Farrelo said, adding that he thought that Seminoles immigrated to the peninsula from other regions of North America.

West explained that while many tribes did migrate into Florida, they mixed with natives who had lived in what is now Florida for thousands of years. Today, the modern Seminoles trace their lineage back through both lines.

"We think Patsy West is doing a great job in spreading the tales and adventures that Seminole Indians experienced before evolving economically," said Landers, who is also a staff member of Broward Legacy, the Broward County Historical Commission's magazine. Landers said that people enjoy these historical lectures and now they will be able to read about them in West's book.

"The book has been satisfactorily received by the public," West said after the luncheon. "It's been very encouraging, adding that with only a month on the market, the University of South Florida in Tampa has added the book to its history and research program.

"I am very proud of the outcome and glad that this long-term project (to write the book) has become true," West said, adding it took about 20 years to compile all the material for her first book.

The Enduring Seminoles: From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism has been reviewed by many journalists around the State of Florida. Some have called the work 'a magnificent history book,' Tampa Tribune, while others have said 'it lacks poetry.' (John Barry, The Miami Herald, Jan. 17, 1999).

But no matter how the book is reviewed, it is already serving as a valuable tool in helping to spread the word about the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It's clear from the reaction of the audience at the Broward County Historical Society, that regardless of the critics, the legacy of the enduring Seminoles is bound to continue.

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