Seminoles Add Color To Inauguration
By Michael James
TALLAHASSEE - Approximately 30 members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and their horses braved a wind chill factor that hovered around 12 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, Jan. 5, in order to participate in the inaugural parade of Florida's 43rd governor, John Ellis "Jeb" Bush.
Nobody knows the last time so many Seminoles rode in the capital, but everybody agreed they presented an impressive sight as they made their way in full patch work colors down Monroe Street to the reviewing stand.
Just moments ahead of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Mr. Bush changed his pace from a walk to a jog as he ran the final blocks toward the old Capitol building. As the cheers and clapping subsided after the governor passed, curious onlookers began to speculate about the Seminoles on horseback.
In a town where Seminole means different things to different people - Tallahassee being the home of the Florida State University "Seminoles" - it made for some interesting eavesdropping to listen in on what people had to say.
"They didn't sign a treaty did they?"
"Are we at war?"
"Better hope not because here comes 40 of them on horseback!"
As the riders passed the crowds, resounding applause and cheers filled the air. People of all walks. . .photographers, reporters, and television cameramen paused to behold the beautiful patchwork clothing, the flags, and the people who represented the Seminole Tribe on this historic day.
Tribal President Mitchell Cypress, who headed the delegation, Stanlo Johns, and Paul Bowers led the group toward the Capitol. Members of the Eastern Indian Rodeo Association raised an occasional war whoop as they rode next in line behind Seminole Rodeo Princess Clarissa Bowers who was accompanied by Perrie Whidden and event organizer Michele Thomas.
The numbing cold didn't seem to dampen the spirits or the smiles of the Tribal members present. As they passed the reviewing stand, the master of ceremonies offered an introduction highlighting Tribal Chairman James Edward "Jeb" Billie, and President Cypress.
In a mini history lesson, the announcer told the cheering crowd the Seminoles stand today as the only undefeated Indian tribe in North America and that the government's efforts to subdue them resulted in the most costly wars - at that time - our Nation had fought.
In the moments before the inaugural parade, Jeb Bush took the oath of office. In attendance were his parents, former President George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, his wife Columba and their three children, and Texas governor and brother, George Bush Jr.
U.S. Sen. Bob Graham added a bit of humor and history to the occasion when he remarked about a newspaper editorial that was published over 20 years ago. According to Graham, the article said, "It would be a cold day in hell when anyone from Miami is elected governor."
When Graham, a former Florida governor, was inaugurated it was 27 degrees and snowing in Tallahassee. Jeb Bush was greeted with cold, but no snow.
The event was concluded with a ten minute speech by Bush in which he stressed the importance of "Faith, family, friends. . .these are what's best. We should trust in these more that we trust in government."
Immediately following Bush's address, Rev. Billy Graham closed the ceremony just as he opened it. . .with a prayer.