M U S K O G A    The Seminole Indians of Mexico and Texas                    ©2016, Doug Sivad

Alan Emarthla  and  I at  Seminole  Days in
Mekesukey Mission, Oklahoma. Alan was a
graduate  student  at  OSU  and  a  museum
guide at the Seminole Nation Museum, We-
woka, OK. He asked me if I had ever heard
the tale of
Istoko;  I  answered  no,  and  he
proceeded to tell me  the story.  In MY own
words, I relate the folktale to you.

A   S e m i n o l e   I n d i a n   F o l k t a l e


S n a k e   B o y  
Seminole  Nation Mus.

In ancient times, while living on the peninsula, two Seminole brothers hunted together in the swamp, and by sundown, hadn't been successful, when they came upon two large fish laid out on a log, as if to dry.  One brother says he's hungry and suggests they eat the a`lu, while inspecting them thoroughly for signs of spoil. There was none, yet the fish weren't salted for preserving, so whoever owned them, was surely returning for them, soon.  The other brother refuses to bother the fish thinking they belonged to Istoko, who is huge and invisible in the dark and will turn them into a snake. 

He declares that he doesn't believe old tales and picks up the fish.

      "But, they are like shadows in light, and invisible in the dark. How could you run from that which cannot be seen?"

      "Those are just old folk stories," the brother growled back, and walked away gathering wood for the nighttime campfire, and to cook the la lu.

Palm trees, nighttime shadows take on strange shapes in the swamp darkness, as they eerily sway back and forth in the soft, warm, ocean breeze. Loons, bullfrogs, panther screams, and alligator bays echo through gargantuan Cypress trees with their knurly, exposed roots that dip into dark, murky pools of water. The brothers settled around a small fire. One cleaned, skewered, and cooked fish, the other rested nervously, expecting Istoko's return, at any time.

      "Here take a piece. It tastes good," pulling the tender, white, flesh flakes from the comb-like bone with his teeth, "and it's quite filling."

      "No, I refuse to tempt the Ancestors, or offend Istoko. " He finished the fish he was eating, then boldly, snatched up the other, and ate it.

Later, the boys gathered up piles of leaves for beds, near, but at a safe distance from the fire, and after lying, searching the night wide eyed for some time, they fell asleep. When the fire died down, dark swamp shadows closed in around them, absorbing them into the night./font>

Sunrays from a bright, tropical, rising sun streamed through the trees and bathed the two boys' faces, awakening them to find that the young hunter that had eaten the fish was transformed into the soft scales of a snake, up to his knees. He no longer had feet. Although he was startled, his brother lifted him into his arms and ran towards the village, carrying the boy to the Medicine Man. The Medicine Man could help, he was sure. Around palmetto bushes and trees, over hills and boulders, through saw grass above their heads, he fretfully carried his cursed brother. The transformation was increasing.

Ashamed for the family and himself of what his brother had done, the young man lowered his brother into a pool of water, just outside the village, to hide him from the others. Looking down into the muddy pond, he noticed that his brother was scaly up to his waist, and he promised to return as soon as he could with help.

The sun moved higher in the sky, then began to again settle earthward in the western sky. It seemed that the brother would never return with the Medicine Man. Birds in the trees fluttered, excitedly about, taking notice that the boy was scaly up to his armpits. In a panic, the serpentine boy began splashing his tail about in the puddle, widening it. Then, as his body transfigured up to his neck, he lunged forward and began trenching his way deep into the forest with the pond water draining in behind him.

After some time, he reached the center of the peninsula land mass, and began to whirl in spiraling circles, faster, and faster, and faster. Water from his trench drained in filling up the round chasm he'd carved out, until he disappeared in the murky wet. The snake boy was never seen again, but it was known from that time on that the snake boy trenched out the Kissimmee River, and whirled forth Lake Okeechobee.  

*** I hope I didn't mis-tell the story badly.

Thanks Alan!     


S T O R Y    B A C K G R O U N D

Folktales are an old way of remembering the past, teach morals, and oftentimes tells of the underdog out-maneuvering the enemy by any means necessary, using whatever is available.

When Ancient Kemite and Malian Africans sailed across the Ethiopian Sea (Atlantic Ocean) to the "land of the setting sun", some of these Africans were stranded, unable to return home, while others preferred to stay. Centuries later, most of the Malians returned to West Africa, establishing trade with the western Nations. The Muskogee Nation called the Africans warriors "sittee- tustanugee", (chitto or sittee = Snake; tustanugee = Warriors). These Natives said that Black warriors were like a snake because they would attempt to avoid a fight, but if they were cornered, like a snake, they were "fast and deadly". The Snake Warriors were friends and allies to most Natives, yet dire enemies to others.

There were no ista lusti (ista = Human; lusti = Black) women in the land of the ista cata (Red = cata; Humans = ista). In most instances, the Black men took Native women as wives to establish families. Yet there were those who would snatch ista cata women and children at night ("large men who were invisible in the dark", in the tale), called "ista-ko".                  

Two Headers line up the dancers
for  a  daytime  Stomp  Dance  at
Mekusekey Mission, OK

The ceremonial Stomp Dances of the southeastern US nations move in serpentine, single-file lines, with a Dance Leader, "heading up" the line's snaking direction around the dance ground pole The dance Header will often lead with the "Buzzard Dance" step which is one of the routines akin to West Africa.

By 1800 there had evolved five distinctly different factions of Blacks in the southeastern U.S.   Through agreements, most were moved west and labeled as Freedman to protect them from enslavement when they were off the reservation.  They were:
    1)  the free Blacks who were often businessmen or frontiersmen,

     2) slaves who served masters in ways from field and household chores to scouts for the military,
     3) Ista-lusti (Ista=Human + lusti=Black) escaped slaves living among the Indians,
     4)  Black Indian, a Black who was an Indian by "blood" and nationality, and

     5)  Cimarone; Maroons, pre-Columbian free Africans living in the American hinterlands 

Once they were in the west with the Red Indians, the relationships between them all seemed to fall apart.

In Indian Territory all tribes and nations living in Florida were listed as Seminole. Back east most had moved in with larger families or smaller tribes united to combine necessities, one being protection from invading Spaniards then later Britons and Americans. Several families were Christianized and took on the invaders' culture. During Removal all were forced to move. Below is a breakdown of the families noted as "Seminoles" who left Florida for Indian Territory.


Nations and Tribes  of  American  Florida   African  Seminole  People

Cimarone & Istalusti

MALI home of Mande (Bambara  .  Dialonke  .  Dyula  .  Malinke  .  Mandinka  .  Mende  .  Soninke  .  Susu)  .  Fulani/Peul  .  Voltaic  .  Songhay  .  Tuareg  .  Moor  .  Cromante  .  Ashanti  .  Temne  .  Mende  .  Limba  .  Fula  .  Kono  .  Krio  .  Kuranko  .  Loko  .  Yalunka  .  Kissi  .  Vai  .   Kru  .  Sherbro  . 
List compiled from MAROON  SOCIETIES by Richard Price / PRECOLONIAL BLACK AFRICA by Cheikh Anta Diop / AFRICAN PRESENCE IN EARLY AMERICA by Ivan Van Sertima, et al  


American  Florida   Gente en Dios (Indian) Seminole  People

Fifty (50) major and large nations and tribes, plus 155 smaller families.

The history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 by Shipp, Barnard,  Philadelphia : Collins, printer, 1881   
Swanton, John R.
The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

Acuera . Aguacaleyquen . Ais . Alabama . Amacano . Amacapira . Apalachee . Apalachicola . Calusa . Caparaz . Chatot . Chiaha . Chilucan . Chine . Creeks . Agna Dulce . Qacoroy . Caparaca .  Chimaucayo . Cicale . Colucuchia .  Cowetas . Disnica . Elanogue . Malaca . Mogote .  Nocoroco . Perqumaland . Pia .  Sabobche . Tomeo . Tuoura . Yaocay .  Guacata . Guale . Hitchiti . Icafui . Jeaga . Koasati .  Macapiras/ Amacapiras  .  Mikasuki  .  Mocogo/Mucogo  .  Muklasa  .  Muskogee  . Ocale/Etocale  .  Oçita . Pohoy .  Oconee  . Osochi  . Pawokti  . Pensacola . Pohoy/ Pooy/Posoy . Potano .  Saturiwa  .  Sawokli  .  Surruque  .  Tacatacuru . Tawasa . Tekesta/Tequesta . Tocobaga . Ucita . Utina/Timucua . Yamasee . Yuchi . Yufera  .  Yui . Yustaga .

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