The Seminole are a Native American people originally from Florida. Today, they live in Oklahoma and Florida, and comprise three federally recognized tribes: the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, as well as independent groups. The Seminole people emerged in a process of ethnogenesis from various Native American groups who settled in Spanish Florida beginning in the early 1700s, most significantly northern Muscogee Creeks from what is now Georgia and Alabama. The word "Seminole" is derived from the Muscogee word simanó-li, which may itself be derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning "runaway" or "wild one". Seminole culture is largely derived from that of the Creek; the most important ceremony is the Green Corn Dance; other notable traditions include use of the black drink and ritual tobacco. As the Seminole adapted to Florida environs, they developed local traditions, such as the construction of open-air, thatched-roof houses known as chickees. Historically the Seminole spoke Mikasuki and Creek, both Muskogean languages.
Florida had been the home of several indigenous cultures before the arrival of European explorers in the early 1500s. However, the spread of non-native diseases along with conflict with Spanish settlers and English raiders devastated Florida's original native population, and by the early 1700s, much of La Florida was uninhabited apart from towns at St. Augustine and Pensacola. A stream of mainly Creek settlers began moving into the territory at that time to escape conflict with English colonists to the north and established towns mainly in the Florida panhandle. In part due to the arrival of Native Americans from other cultures, the Seminole became increasingly independent of other Creek groups and established their own identity. They developed a thriving trade network by the time of the British and second Spanish periods. The tribe expanded considerably during this time, and was further supplemented from the late 18th century by free blacks and escaped slaves from British colonies and the early United States who settled near and paid tribute to Seminole towns. The latter became known as Black Seminoles, although they kept many facets of their own Gullah culture.
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