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Meeting Florida's Seminoles Through Rediscovered Photos

Sun, April 7, 2013 7:20pm

Story by NPR Staff




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The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The widow of Tigertail, a leader during the Second Seminole War.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation in Florida has a new exhibit that gives patrons a rare glimpse into the past.

Taken by photographer Julian Dimock during a 1910 expedition across the undrained and untamed landscape of tropical wetlands and cypress hammocks of southern Florida, the photos show everyday activities and portraits of the Seminole people he encountered.

At the time, Florida was the final frontier for settlers and explorers — there were no roads to take through the alligator-, snake- and mosquito-infested wetlands. Dimock and his party waded and canoed their way for miles through the back country. They hoped to photograph Seminole subjects who, only 50 years earlier, had been fighting a guerrilla war against the U.S. government — and had never surrendered.

In addition to the topological challenges, Dimock also had to lug heavy photography equipment, including a big box camera and glass lantern slides for negatives. Anytime he wanted a shot, he had to hop out of the dugout canoe and set up. Then he had to get his glass slides all the way back to New York in one piece.

Dimock's photos sat in storage at the American Museum of Natural History for nearly a century before they were rediscovered. Now, descendents may finally see the faces of their Seminole ancestors, and view their everyday lives.

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