Osceola was the leader of the Seminole tribe of America that inhabited southeastern regions of the United States. By 1513 when Spain explorers discovered the existence of Florida, there were hundreds of thousands of Seminoles occupying the area. The Seminoles were a population of persons who lived free and detested oppression of any form of power or government. Osceola would later be known as Billy Powell who became a serious point of discussion in both the mid-20th and 21st century. Historians disagree on who might have been the father of the great warrior, when other historians argue that he might have been a son of an English trader, some say that he was born from a Creek Indian who perhaps died immediately after his birth. But Osceola himself vehemently insisted on being of true and pure Indian origin. He presented himself as a real traditional warrior with a feathered hat, a sash, metal gorgers that were crescent-shaped and his influence could be felt over vast terrains of the Native American lands.
Osceola gained fame in Seminole and entire of native America when he refused the Removal Act of the Indians a proposal by the then president of America Mr. Andrew Jackson. Some Indian tribal leaders accepted the act, but Osceola and some other Seminole leaders refused to sign the Act. The second seminal war would arise after that when Osceola ambushed and killed several government agents en route to their land. He would then branded wanted by the federal forces and would be later arrested and imprisoned at Fort Marion in St. Augustine Florida. After his imprisonment, he would later be known and celebrated along as the defender of the Indian Natives and his name used in various occasions and events and named after several towns cities and institutions.
The spread of the Native American culture and way of life impacted profoundly on their tribal and religious leaders affected on existing society. Seminoles triggered study on histories, customs, settlements, politics, religion and political organizations and the history of their legendary tribal leaders and medicine men. Osceola would remain a prime example of such instance, and due to arrest and detention which would later lead to his death, a space for research and analysis of the Indian people and culture created a paramount pinnacle in history. The name of Osceola would appear in significant historical findings on native American inhabitants and their forms of life making it a serious point of discussion.
The process of development of Osceola as a traditional leader took a particular path of a unique gradual event, unlike the other conventional leaders who inherited leadership from those of their lineage. Osceola gained recognition from the unique characters that arose from his talents and individual charisma. By 19th century Osceola had already created Allie relations with other African Seminole groups that helped in aspects of political protection and trade and also spreading his social influence. This linkage with other parts of the world would create his name above other tribal leaders an aspect historians would love to consider when studying his life. Osceola was a significant figure during his time and association with his name would virtually create the similar element of talent and self-confidence. The aspect of using his skills to rise to high ranks of leadership in a native society would highly place his personality as a creative and intelligent leader whose name lived among his people.
Many descendants from Osceola`s lineage carried on his name. Many would still use his surname as a way of preserving his great attributes. The name would be associated with both physical and religious powers. His name would be invoked during the taking of Asi Yahoo or black drink which was made from leaves of a sacred tree. His name would be given as a title after a rite of passage or after a significant ceremony that would involve activities such as purification, and traditional activities and events that would include the use of force. The media would also depict Osceola as a nationalistic figure which through sheer courage was able to resist a government force. He successfully organized resistance against five army generals from the United States. He was able to deal with Indian collaborators and agents who lived among them and created a robust nationalistic figure of no surrender. His actions for his Indian people in the maintenance of the originality, history and their land earned him both the political glamour and religious significance. Although Osceola was never entirely a chief of the Seminole people, due to his power to persuade, he was able to rally many warriors to battle with him, and the loyalty was never in question. Willy Thompson’s task was significant to create good relations with the natives and persuade them to abide by the government acts and respect to treaties. Thompson had known Osceola and established quite good rapport, but Thompson arrested him on the grounds that he insisted his people on tribal grounds against the government policies. He tricked Thompson to release him because he would sign the treaty, but he would later attack Thompson’s fort and murder him with a rifle he had given him earlier as a gift. The principles of selfless leader who would be bribed with nothing but the consent of his people.
The events and controversies leading to his capture, detention, and death would also place Osceola as a prominent figure both in the native and entire American soil. After the murder of around 1500 American soldiers who tried to set punitive measures on Osceola and his men, there was a sense of loss by American generals who resolved to trickery. They called Osceola to a peace treaty under the white flag of truce talks where he was unceremoniously captured and detained. He would later under `natural causes`. The idea to arrest Osceola was unpopular with the larger population and one of the darkest and lowest point in American history. The single individual who was not as armed as a federal army, and whose people’s population was a mere percentage of the American army was able to place such a fierce resistance that the generals would not match his antiques. His name is set high on board of the heroes who would not be cowed by the simple artillery and military equipment but the courage of heart and will.
The removal of his head from his body before burial was an exemplary action by Dr. Weedon who historians claimed preserved it. It was not common then for medical practitioners and professionals to keep specimen that the considered rare. The activities Dr. Weedon would then bring the question of why. There exists an explanation that they wanted to remain with a piece of history of a great man of his time. A legacy that was too big to forget at that particular time of history. His head would then circulate the army and nobility as a souvenir and that it’s alleged that it could have been destroyed by fire in the hands of the last owner. Such actions would interest historians, and his name would be used on several occasions. Before late 20th century, Osceola`s name would be used in many novels, poetry books and named after many historical sites and institutions.
The existence of well-preserved artifacts used by Osceola creates an artificial presence among the population. At the Smithsons National Museum of the American Indian, there is a pair of woven and beaded garters that were worn by Osceola himself. Unlike other great makers of history whose material evidence disappeared with their death, Osceola’s original artifacts are well preserved for viewing a study. This allows for a precise understanding of his ways of life and his appearances allow for modification of his figure of to be used in print and social media. The spread of history enables remembrance of great works and achievements of heroes like Osceola.
The people from his national who disagreed with his policy and ideology would embrace him later for his symbolic capital and figure that would do everything to protect and the sovereignty of his nation and people. His ideas were more than just native as his struggles were projected to the global battle for independence. The struggle also amplified the silent racist struggles of the non-white citizens of America and hence racism as a struggle was globally recognized. While Americans would encourage racial acceptance and cosmopolitanism, the history of the activities leading to rising and death of Osceola would remind the world of the inexactness of ideas. The idea of fighting for racial recognition and independence of the native Indians against the federal American state that was not willing to grant the ethnic recognition and accompanying rights.
Many institutions have derived their names from this great Indian warrior and chief. The Osceola County School of Arts in Kissimmee Florida is one major art school named after him. The Osceola County in Florida also derives its name from this great Indian warrior and chief due to significant historical attachment.
We can do it today.
- Cook, Rosalie. Voices: An Oral History of Midway. Lulu. com, 2015.
- Jackson, Jason Baird. “Seminole Histories of the Calusa: Dance, Narrative, and Historical Consciousness.” Native South 7, no. 1 (2014): 122-142.
- Zwanzig, Cordula. “The Native American Mascot Controversy.” (2013).
- Rasul, Hammad. “Fourth and Long: The Time Is Now for the Washington Redskins to Punt the Name.” U. Md. LJ Race, Religion, Gender& Class 14 (2014): 338.
- Harris, Jason Marc. “Shadows of the Past in the Sunshine State.” Western Folklore 74 (2015).