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Red Barn, Glades County, Florida

National American Indian Heritage Month
November, 2010

[photo] Red Barn
Seminole Indian cowboy Charlie Micco and grandson on horseback in a cattle ranch:
Brighton Reservation, Florida." Ca. 1950. Photo is part of the Florida Photographic Collection.

The Red Barn has been a landmark for the Seminoles on the Brighton Reservation in Glades County, Florida, since around 1941.  The barn stands proudly as a reminder of the days when the cattle industry brought a newfound source of income, democracy and independence to the tribe. The Red Barn stands as an important example of agricultural architecture associated with the formative years of the modern Seminole cattle industry.  It also stands as a reminder of the Civilian Conservation Corps Indian Division (CCC-ID), a federal program that existed as part of President Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was historically associated with Native Americans.

Cattle were first introduced to Florida by Spanish settlers in the 1500s. Creek Indians and other tribes of the Creek Confederacy (predecessors of the Seminoles from Georgia and Alabama) moved south into Florida in the mid-1700s, and followers of the Oconee Creek Ahaya, or Cowkeeper, settled along Alachua.  The Creeks had previous experience with raising cattle prior to moving south, and once in Florida they obtained herds from the Spanish colonists to continue cattle ranching in the new territory. The Florida Seminoles had a tumultuous relationship with white settlers throughout the 19th century, with conflicts over cattle and pasturage largely responsible.  In the early 1800s, settlers began raiding the Indian herds. In 1813, Colonel John Williams invaded Seminole villages and seized several hundred head of horses and cattle.  Again in 1817, Andrew Jackson led a massive cattle and slave raid into Seminole settlements, sparking the first of three Seminole wars. In 1821, Florida became a United States territory. The government sought to move the Indians onto reservations, but this was resisted. President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to put increased pressure on the Seminoles to move to new reservation land west of the Mississippi. The Second Seminole War and Third Seminole Wars (which began in 1855) followed and by the early 20th century cattle ranching had nearly disappeared from the Seminole economy.

[graphic] photo
Red Barn
Photo by Carrie Purkerson, courtesy of theFlorida State Historic Preservation Office

The Brighton Seminole Reservation opened June 13, 1935, as a 2,500-acre rural plot of land. The modern Seminole cattle industry began about seven months later when the United States government shipped 700 Hereford cattle to the Brighton Reservation from the Apache Reservation in Oklahoma.  It should have taken mere days for the cattle to reach Brighton, but instead it took an entire month.  By the time the cattle finally made it to the reservation, only 200 of the 700 head survived. The modern Seminole cattle industry got off to a shaky start, but U.S. government representatives held steadfast to the belief that cattle could bring income and self-sufficiency to the tribe. Roy Nash, Special Commissioner for the Office of Indian Affairs, and Dr. James L. Glenn, a Christian minister appointed Seminole Indian Agent in 1931, both believed that cattle could make the tribe economically independent, but it was Fred Montsdeoca, Florida Agriculture Extension Agent, who ultimately helped the tribe gain self-sufficiency. He worked specifically with those Indians who had previous experience with cattle-Frank Shore, Charlie Micco, Naha Tiger, and Willie Gopher.  By 1938, the Brighton reservation had grown to over 35000 acres, with ample grazing pasture.  That same year, the Seminoles showed their healthy Hereford cattle at the Florida State fair in Tampa.

[photo] Red Barn
Photo by Carrie Purkerson, courtesy of theFlorida State Historic Preservation Office

The cattle program eventually changed from a federally-funded program to a self-sufficient Tribal program. The Brighton Agricultural and Livestock Enterprise formed in 1945, and both cattle trustees and tribal trustees were elected under the new system. Seminoles on the nearby Big Cypress reservation followed the model set up at Brighton by acquiring their own herds of cattle and electing their own cattle trustees in 1945. The Tribe currently owns one of the largest cattle operations in Florida, and the 12th largest in the nation.  On March 10, 2008, the Tribe launched its own brand of beef. Seminole Beef is currently served at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino restaurant in Hollywood, Florida, but the Tribe ultimately plans to market the beef to Indian casinos, restaurants, hotels, military bases, and supermarkets throughout the country.
The exact date of construction of the Red Barn remains unknown.  While some members of the tribe believe the barn was built in the late 1930s, it does not appear on a 1940 aerial photograph of the Brighton Reservation. The Red Barn plan was issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was likely constructed between August of 1941, and June of 1942.  The Red Barn housed the horses for cattle ranching until the 1960s, but it was more than just a horse barn-it was the center of community activity for the Brighton Reservation---it had been the site of many formal and informal activities over the years, including tribal meetings and family reunions. The Red Barn, a common setting for reservation and cattle enterprise meetings, was the context in which the earliest Seminole tribal government developed. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 24, 2008, the Red Barn measures 30’ long on the east and west sides, and 64’ on the north and south elevations and has a front-gables metal roof that covers the barn’s central bay, while shed roofs cover the top of the north and south bays.

Full documentation on the Red Barn

American Indian Heritage Month




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