The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida are a federally recognized Native American tribe in the U.S. state of Florida. They were part of the Seminole nation until the mid-20th century, when they organized as an independent tribe, receiving federal recognition in 1962. The Miccosukee speak the Mikasuki language, a close relative to the Hitchiti language also spoken by many Florida Seminole.
Historically, the Miccosukee trace their origins to the Lower Chiaha, one of the tribes of the Creek Confederacy in present-day Georgia. Under pressure from European encroachment in their territory, they migrated to northern Florida in the early 18th century, where they became part of the developing Seminole nation. By the late 18th century, the British recorded the name Miccosukee or Mikasuki as designating a Hitchiti-speaking group centered around the village of Miccosukee in the Florida Panhandle. Like other Seminole groups, they were displaced during the Seminole Wars (1817–1858), and many migrated or were forced to relocate west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory in 1842, after the Seminole Wars. The Miccosukee chief Ar-pi-uck-i, also known as Sam Jones, proved an effective leader during the Second Seminole War.
In the 1920s and 1930s, many Seminole established communities along the recently constructed Tamiami Trail, a roadway that ran through the Everglades and connected the cities of Tampa and Miami. The Trail Indians, as they were called, generally kept more traditional practices. They were less interested in establishing formal relations with the federal government than those Seminole who started moving to reservations around the same time. When reservation Seminole organized a tribal government, which was recognized as the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Trail Indians felt disfranchised. They established an independent tribal government, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, which received state recognition in 1957 and federal recognition in 1962.
The Miccosukee historically inhabited the upper Tennessee Valley in present-day Georgia, where they were originally part of the Upper Chiaha. Later they split: the Miccosukee (Lower Chiaha) migrated northeast to the Carolinas and the Upper Chiaha, also known as Muscogee, migrated west to northern Alabama. Under continuing encroachment pressure from European-American settlers, many migrated to northern Florida during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Chiaha or Creek formed a major part of the Seminole tribe, which formed in the eighteenth century in Florida through a process of ethnogenesis. More Upper Creek joined them after defeat in the Creek War of 1813-1814. The United States (US) government forced most of the Seminole/Creek from Florida under Indian Removal. Those who remained in Florida fought against US forces during the second and third Seminole Wars. Afterward, they moved into the Everglades to try to evade European-American settlement pressure. During this period, the Miccosukee mixed with the Creek-speaking Seminole, but many maintained their Mikasuki language and identity.
The tribe separated from the Seminole in the 1950s to become the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida; they were recognized by the state of Florida in 1957, and gained federal recognition in 1962. The tribe today occupies several reservations in southern Florida, principally the Miccosukee Indian Reservation.
The etymological roots of the Miccosukee tribal name have been debated for many years. While the origins have not been fully traced or documented, modern scholarship holds that the name originated among the first Spanish colonizers to reach the North Carolina Basin. In one of the few surviving journals of Juan Ponce de León, he records that his men called the natives they encountered there micos sucios. This is likely the earliest recorded version of the name that became “Miccosukee.”