Set in a 60-acre cypress dome on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum of Seminole culture provides an introduction to the tropical outdoors of natural South Florida’s swamps in which the Seminole Tribe has lived for more than a century.
Location: Big Cypress Seminole Reservation
Fees: $9 adult, $6 seniors/students/military, tribal members and children 4 and under free
Open: 9-5 daily, closed holidays
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. A brief movie 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, recounting the use of certain arrows, how women ran the camp, how sofkee was made, and hundreds of other details that paint a picture of the evolution of their culture.
The displays themselves are world-class, with 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. The outdoors is an extension of the museum and a further window into Seminole culture.
Stroll the 1.5-mile boardwalk to see pond apple and pop ash, as well as various orchids and native marsh plants in bloom. The interpretive information along the boardwalk is fascinating, as it provides details about the uses of Florida’s native plants by Florida’s native peoples.
Along the trail, there’s a meeting area used for ceremonial functions, and a group of chickees where Seminole artisans perfect and sell their crafts. Inside the museum, a gift shop sells art, books, and traditional items.