Fort Lauderdale Artists Seek To Protect The History Of The Seminole Tribe Of South Florida

Jan 7, 2019

Documentary films, paintings, and clay sculptures are some of the art pieces that pay homage to the Seminole Tribe of South Florida’s rich history at a new exhibition in Fort Lauderdale.

The tribe’s history in South Florida spans as far back as the early 1500s. The new exhibit, “Seminole Art Scenes from the Frontlines,” highlights artwork from the region’s contemporary Seminole artists. Erica Deitz, a painter, and Samuel Tommie, a filmmaker, painter and environmental activist, want to protect the traditions, history and heritage of their tribe through their art. Deitz and Tommie joined Sundial.

The exhibit is on display at History Fort Lauderdale until Jan. 28.

WLRN: Erica, through your painting you connect to your [Seminole] roots and tradition.

DEITZ: I feel it gives the viewer a snapshot into our traditions, our culture but it also helps us to keep that alive within the generations that are here now and the next generation.

With your work specifically what is the tradition or what is it about the history of the Seminole tribe that you want to protect for future generations?

As for my piece it's called "Clan Mother" and it's depicting how we pass on our clans through the mother's side. That's a tradition that's carried on and that's part of us. But to also teach to the youth and that's how our traditions are handed down.

Samuel, you're a painter and a filmmaker. Tell us about some of your work -- especially that examines key environmental fights that are close to your heart in the Seminole Community.

TOMMIE: There's a five-minute short film called "In Our Creator's Hands." That one is a personal journey that I did by just walking through the pristine areas of the reservation. It took two weeks just to go out there and experience and collect my thoughts. I also thought about what would happen to the environment, the water and to the animals as I was thinking about the Florida Power Plant.

Florida Power Light came to the Seminole Reservation back in 2016 and we had a community meeting ... at that time the Florida Power Light officials talked about building one of the largest power plants in the country and they would put it four miles north of my reservation, which would be approximately 30 miles south of Lake Okeechobee. They wanted to of course drill into the aquifer water and that would just drastically change the environment.

As we look at the history of Native American groups, they had so much taken away and so much is lost. You're confident that that land won't be lost to a power plant. Do you think that you'll be able to protect against it?

The land itself is very sacred for us. Everything ... on this planet is very sacred. It's part of creation. It's what the creator have done and it has to be loved. You either are going to love all the creations or are you going to destroy that. Not only do we have to protect [the] environment. It is our youth, it is our children's future and they need to have it.