Seminole Maroon Spiritual Remembrance Launches 400th year Commemoration
in South Florida
The 181st Anniversary Annual Seminole Maroon Spiritual Remembrance of the two 1838 Battles of the Loxahatchee will be held on Sunday, January 20, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Battlefield site in Riverbend Park, 9060 W. Indiantown Road, in Jupiter, FL, during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
The Commemoration derives much inspiration from Dr. King’s teachings on social justice and the wisdom of nonviolence, even as it honors the memory of the fallen on all sides at a consecrated site of the Seminole War period, a conflict which U. S. General Thomas Jesup dubbed “A Negro War.”
A Special Year
This 2019 Remembrance, consequently, gains much added significance as it becomes the South Florida launch of the quadricentennial commemoration of the 1619 arrival of the first 20 captive Africans in a British-claimed North American settlement at Point Comfort, Virginia.
In tribute to this fateful arrival, a “400 Years of African American History Commission” Federal Commission has been created by Congress and signed into law.
Much like the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976, this 400th year observance provides a catalyst for revisiting and increasing knowledge of collective American history, before, during, and since the unique lifetimes of those 20 and more first arrivals.
This compelling theme will continue throughout the year with a host of events and activities, including a two-day Battlefield Reenactment the following weekend, on January 25 (Education Day) and 26.
A Popular Event
Now in its twenty-first year, the 2019 Remembrance, presented by the Florida Black Historical Research Project, Inc. (FBHRP, a 501[c] non-profit organization), prominently includes vital cultural and spiritual perspectives from both Native and African American traditions, among others, in a program of prayers, performances, speakers, open-mic interactive “Village Talk,” along with historical exhibits, and guided battlefield tours.
The annual event was co-founded in 1996 by the late Seminole Maroon descendant, historian and activist Isa Hamm Bryant, historian Richard Procyk and archaeological researcher Steve Carr and others.
The diligence of this founding cadre resulted in bringing a more accurate version of the story to life, with presentations and exhibits.
Trail of Tears Descendants
The diverse program is further highlighted by representatives of Oklahoma descendants of Trail of Tears survivors, returning to their Ancestral Homeland of Florida.
Dr. Anthony Dixon, a specialist in Seminole history and professor of history at Bethune-Cookman College, is slated to provide a brief overview.
A most popular and revered feature of the annual gathering is the traditional Native American blessing ceremony, conducted by Miami-based Carib tribal Queen Mrs. Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez, which combines healing, cleansing, and guidance, not only opening the way for the rest of the multicultural spiritual program but also for the new year.
Two Pivotal Battles
Once known as “Palm Beach County’s forgotten war,” the Battles of the Loxahatchee have gained increasing local, statewide, and even national awareness thanks in large part to the Annual Remembrance of conflicts on January 15 and January 24, 1838, generally referred to as the Second Seminole War.
During these two encounters, the Native and African American Seminole survivors of the Christmas Day, 1837 Battle of Okeechobee, who had regrouped at a settlement along the Loxahatchee River, were engaged in armed conflict by combined U.S. forces and Tennessee Volunteers.
The two Battles of the Loxahatchee are regarded as a critical turning point in the four-decades-long assault on freedom known as the three Seminole Wars, and the legacy of this conflict lives on in communities of descendants of Trail of Tears survivors residing today in Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico, and Underground Railroad escapees’ descendants in the Bahamas and Cuba.
In the first of these encounters, known as Powell’s Battle, Native and African American Seminoles, keenly aware of troop movements, ambushed and defeated a Naval Expeditionary Force led by Lieutenant Levin Powell, which had been sent to search them out.
Lured Under Flag of Truce
Learning of this development from the survivors, General Jesup commanded a force of 1,500 men against approximately 300 Seminoles in the second encounter, known as Jesup’s Battle, which led to the vastly outnumbered Seminoles fleeing into the Everglades, from which many would be lured weeks later to Fort Jupiter under a white flag of truce.
The truce was not honored by Jesup as the Seminole families were deported on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma Territory or, in several cases, turned over to “slave catchers,” as one of the major motives for the “Seminole Wars” was to capture alleged “runaway slaves” who had found freedom in Spanish Florida.
These freedom-seekers joined or were and being joined by Native Tribal members escaping from European settler encroachment in the English-claimed states to the north of the peninsula.
Diversity of Maroon Communities
In fact, much of the Seminole population, like Maroon communities of self-liberators from enslavement elsewhere in the hemisphere and their Native allies, had been settled in Florida for generations, with thriving farms and herds.
These communities also welcomed new recruits and established Underground Railroad escape routes to freedom beyond Florida, much to the frustration of slaveholders and General Andrew Jackson whose scheme for “Indian Removal” of all Indigenous nations east of the Mississippi River led to these military incursions into Spanish territory and to the fledgling United States’ first foreign war.
Free and Open to the Public
This program is an FBHRP joint project with Palm Beach County Parks Department and the Loxahatchee Battlefield Preservationists organization.
Admission to the Spiritual Remembrance Ceremony is free and open to the public. For further information, please visit the FBHRPINC.org website or call 305-772-7714 or 305-904-7620.