The unique confluence of culture and circumstance which would become today's Seminole Tribe of Florida can be traced back at least 12,000 years, say researchers. There is ample evidence that the Seminole people of today are cultural descendants of Native Americans who were living in the southeastern United States at least that long ago. By the time the Spaniards "discovered" Florida (1513), this large territory held, perhaps, 200,000 Seminole ancestors in hundreds of tribes, all members of the Maskókî linguistic family.
The first Europeans brought with them new diseases (measles, smallpox, the common cold) that killed thousands of these indigenous people. Competition for land and resources by the warring Spanish, English, and French brought further death and displacement to the natives of the region.
The Spaniards called some of these indigenous Florida people cimarrones, or free people, because they would not allow themselves to be dominated by the Europeans. The word was taken into the Maskókî language and, by the mid 1800s, U.S. citizens referred to all Florida people as "Seminoles."
Survivors of that devastating European intrusion amalgamated in the area that is now known as Florida. Early in the 18th century, the lives and homelands of many more indigenous peoples were similarly disruped, this time by American colonization efforts. Many were Maskókî speakers, from Indian towns across Georgia and Alabama.
Creek, Hitchiti, Apalachee, Mikisúkî, Yamassee, Yuchi, Tequesta, Apalachicola, Choctaw, and Oconee were joined by escaped slaves and others in the pursuit of better lives among the thick virgin forests, wide grass prairies and spring-fed rivers of interior Florida. They shared an instinct for survival and a commonalty of purpose: refusal to be dominated by the white man.