Evidence suggests that the first Floridians lived here 12,000 years ago, and today, you and your family can find dozens of ways to celebrate Florida’s Native American heritage. Here are just a few ways to spend the day (or even the night) discovering the lasting legacy of Florida’s original natives.
Miccosukee Indian Village, Miami
This is as real as it gets, the home of the Miccosukee Tribe in the heart of the Everglades, and you’re invited to share their rich culture firsthand. Visit the Miccosukee Museum, watch a film on the tribe’s history, then step outside and live it. Wander chickee huts and observe masters of woodworking, beading and sewing. For heart-pounding action, watch as the men demonstrate the traditional techniques used for capturing alligators.
Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, Clewiston
Explore the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and see how the Seminole Tribe of Florida survived in the unforgiving environment of the Everglades. Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki means “place to learn,” and this living museum fits the bill. Watch films, explore authentic exhibits, learn from the tribal elders and see an extensive collection of authentic crafts, patchwork clothing and more.
True adventurers can extend their visit with a stay in a traditional chickee hut at Billie Swamp Safari. Relish the rustic comfort as you listen to the sounds of the wild. There’s no running water or electricity, only you and up to 10 brave friends under the stars in the Everglades. Relax around the campfire with a Seminole storyteller, or take a guided stargazing tour and nighttime swamp buggy ride. Daytime visitors will also experience unforgettable adventures with airboat and swamp buggy rides, the Bird of Prey show and the chance to hold an alligator. Stop in the Swamp Water Café and taste local specialties like gator nuggets, frog legs, catfish, fry bread and Indian tacos.
Mission San Luis, Tallahassee
History comes alive at this re-created community where Apalachee Indians and Spanish settlers once coexisted. Learn about this fascinating time through costumed interpreters as you explore the lush grounds at your leisure to see where the inhabitants lived and how they farmed. You can even pay a visit to the tribal council house. This is also an important archaeological site, and you can view the ongoing findings in their gallery.
Mound Key Archaeological State Park, Estero
Rising more than 30 feet above the water, miles from shore, ancient shell mounds transform the landscape of Estero Bay. Made of bones, shells and pottery pieces, this is believed to have been the ceremonial center of the Calusa Indians. Access to the site is by boat only, but the journey is well worth it. Trails lead to the center of the mound, with natural vistas and intriguing exhibits along the way.