Seminole Indians, a North American Indian tribe whose language belongs to the Muskhogean language family. The tribe came into being in the 18th century as bands of southern Indians, principally Creeks, moved into the Florida peninsula and assimilated Indians already living there. (The name “Seminole,” given the tribe by the Creek Nation, is Creek for “runaway" or “separatist.”) Living among the Indians were a number of blacks. Some were slaves, purchased from white owners, and others were escaped slaves living as freemen. There was some intermarriage between blacks and the Seminoles.
By 1820 there were some 5,000 Seminoles in northern and central Spanish-held Florida. Like the Creeks, they were town dwellers who lived by farming, hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants. Their houses were thatched, open-sided huts called chikees.
The Seminoles were defeated in three wars (1817–18; 1835–42; 1855–58) with the United States. During the second war the majority were removed to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), where they became one of the Five Civilized Tribes. Several hundred took refuge in the Everglades region, where reservations were later established.
In 1967 the U.S. Court of Claims ruled that the Seminoles were entitled to payment from the federal government for nearly 90 per cent of the land in Florida, which they once held. Payment of $12,347,500 was made in 1970.
Today, most Seminoles live in Oklahoma, mainly outside tribal lands. Other Seminoles reside on or near four reservations in Florida.