A Seminole Warrior Cloaked in Defiance

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2012-04-21 16:31Z by Steven

A Seminole Warrior Cloaked in Defiance

Smithsonian Magazine
October 2010

Owen Edwards

A pair of woven, beaded garters reflects the spirit of Seminole warrior Osceola

Infinity of nations,” a new permanent exhibition encompassing nearly 700 works of indigenous art from North, Central and South America, opens October 23 at the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The objects include a pair of woven, beaded garters worn by Billy Powell of the Florida Seminole tribe.
Billy Powell is hardly a household name. But his Seminole designation—Osceola—resonates in the annals of Native American history and the nation’s folklore. Celebrated by writers, studied by scholars, he was a charismatic war leader who staunchly resisted the uprooting of the Seminoles by the U.S. government; the garters testify to his sartorial style.
Born in Tallassee, Alabama, in 1804, Powell (hereafter Osceola) was of mixed blood. His father is thought to have been an English trader named William Powell, though his­torian Patricia R. Wickman, author of Osceola’s Legacy, believes he may have been a Creek Indian who died soon after Osceola was born. His mother was part Muscogee and part Caucasian. At some point, likely around 1814, when he and his mother moved to Florida to live among Creeks and Seminoles, Osceola began to insist he was a pure-blood Indian.
“He identified himself as an Indian,” says Cécile Ganteaume, an NMAI curator and organizer of the “Infinity of Nations” exhibition…

…“He was a bit flamboyant,” says historian Donald L. Fixico of Arizona State University, who is working on a book about Osceola. “Someone in his situation—a man of mixed blood living among pure-blood Seminoles—would have to try hard to prove himself as a leader and a warrior. He wanted to draw attention to himself by dressing in a finer way.”…

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