The natural setting of Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki within the Big Cypress Swamp purposely melds with its mission.
The surrounding cypress dome provides context for Seminole life within South Florida’s swamps, where the tribe has lived for more than a century.
Although the bulk of the exhibits are under cover in the airy museum, a walk on the boardwalk behind it yields a feel for the landscape.
Interpretation along the boardwalk highlights how the Seminole align their lives as a part of the natural world around them.
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Length: 1 mile loop
Address: 34725 West Boundary Rd, Clewiston
Fees: $10 adult. $7.50 children over 5, student with ID, military, and 55+. $30 family. Free for children under 4 and tribal members with ID.
Restroom: Inside the museum
Land manager: Seminole Tribe of Florida
Open 9-5, closed holidays. Entry to boardwalk closes at 4. No pets.
From Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) between US 27 and Naples, take exit 49, Snake Rd. Follow this narrow road 18 miles from the Miccosukee Reservation into the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. Make a left onto West Boundary Rd. The parking area is on the right, with the museum across the road.
About the Museum
According to tribal history, ancestors of the Seminoles first crossed paths with European culture in 1510, when a Spanish slave ship landed in South Florida.
The movie “We Seminole” introduces you to Seminole culture and life, both ancient and modern, setting the stage for browsing the 5,000-square-foot exhibit hall.
Interpretive information is provided by tribal members through audio recountings.
The use of certain arrows, how women ran the camp, how sofkee was made, and hundreds of other details paint a picture of the evolution of their culture.
The displays show extreme attention to detail, such as the waterway scene with its ripples and details of what’s under the water.
An exhibit on the Green Corn Dance illuminates the religious beliefs and practices of the Seminole Tribe. Each exhibit contains objects of historic importance.
A temporary exhibit on Osceola, for instance, included his deerskin coat from 1835 worn by the warrior during the signing of the Lake Monroe Treaty.
Walk the cypress dome boardwalk to experience an extension of the museum outdoors, a further window into Seminole culture.
Interpretive markers along the mile-long boardwalk provide specific details about the use of the native plants pointed out by Florida’s native peoples.
Walking clockwise along the path as it jogs through the cypress, you approach the Clan Pavilion within a quarter mile.
Each of its panels provides an illustrated background on the eight Seminole clans and their animals.
A quarter mile later is the Ceremonial Grounds, a re-creation of a traditional meeting ground on high ground within the swamp.
Chickees are used for meetings are centered around a stickball court, the game described in the museum in the Green Corn Dance exhibit.
Continue along the boardwalk to reach another small encampment, the Seminole Village.
It is meant to represent the roadside tourist camps and roadside attraction villages found across Florida through the 1960s.
Here, you may find Seminole artisans at work on patchwork, beading, or basketweaving. Stop and ask questions. Some of their wares may be for sale.
The understory of the swamp becomes more dense on the next leg of the boardwalk as the lower canopy descends.
Orchids and bromeliads sprout from pop ash branches. Pond apple dangles its globular fruits.
A raccoon or otter may splash through the shallows, where floating water spangles mask the movement of alligators.
A final display on high ground is the Hunting Camp, a temporary encampment used by hunters ranging through Big Cypress tracking deer and other game.
The loop ends at the picnic area behind the museum. Exit through the interior, peeking into the gift shop on the way out. They sell art, books, and traditional items.
See our photos from Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki
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