Chairman Colley Billie: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series
In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
Colley Billie. I’m the current chairman of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.
Can you give us your Native name and its English translation?
My Native name is in Creek, not in Miccosukee. Since I do not speak Creek, I am unable to translate my Native name into English.
Where is your tribe located?
The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida is located in South Florida, in the heart of the Florida Everglades.
Where are the Miccosukee people originally from?
Before white settlement on Indian lands, most of the mid-southeast region of the United States was Miccosukee territory. This area comprised most of what is today Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky.
What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share?
During the Indian removal of the early to mid 1800s, when Indian tribes were being forced to move west into present-day Oklahoma and Kansas, our tribal members sought refuge in the remote Florida Everglades. We went from a dry land environment to subtropical wetland—an area that is mostly water. Although this new land was vastly different from any territory our people had ever encountered, we were able not only to adapt, but also eventually to thrive in this novel environment.
This is a reflection of the versatility and adaptability of the Miccosukee people to thrive in the face of adversity and turn hardship into opportunity.
Today we face another new challenge, and the landscape we must adapt to is of a cultural and ideological nature. Our way of life now is very different than that of our ancestors when they first arrived in the Florida Everglades.
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