Friday, January 28, 2022

Indian Mound damage contested

Shells mixed with road removal.

Shells mixed with road removal.

Collier County Commissioners received a copy of a formal complaint from Wesley Garcia regarding the bulldozing of an Indian mound on Mamie Street adjacent to the Smallwood store in Chokoloskee:

Contesting the Unauthorized Sale/Destruction of Tribal Property in Chokoloskee, FL, Collier County Parcel Nos.: 26082440002, 26085680005, 26088563006, 26085720004, 26085200003, and 26088585602.

To whom
it may concern:

I am Wesley Garcia, a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and a direct descendant of Jumper, who was present when Osceola refused to sign the Treaty with the United State Government in 1832. I am of the Panther Clan.  My mother, Delores Jumper is the daughter of the Tommie Roberts Jumper, one of the first Seminoles to teach the missionaries to speak Miccosukee.  As a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, I am writing to request immediate and emergency intervention by the State, Federal, or Local Agencies to:

  1. restore adequate access to the property;
  2. preserve any archeological artifacts that remain on the property;
  3. uncap the  artesian wells;  and
  4. return the Chokoloskee property to the Seminole Tribe of Florida (land that was illegally sold to Florida Georgia Grove LLP and Anita Nunez by misdirected tribal leaders that acted without the appropriate tribal and Federal authority).

On my recent travel to Chokoloskee to access the artesian wells in preparation for the upcoming Seminole religious ceremonies, I discovered that the land had been completely destroyed, the Indian mound demolished, and that one of the sacred artesian wells was capped by a concrete block. The fresh water from the two artesian wells on the property is sacred to the tribes of Florida. The site has many archeological remains from the Calusa, Seminole, and Miccosukee Indians. The rich history of the land is tied to the religious and medicinal uses of the water that flows from the two artesian wells located on the property. The events that have taken place on this property are horrendous, and can only be described as another tragic desecration of a sacred Indian site.

The land, referred to as the Smallwoods division in Chokoloskee, has historic, cultural, and religious significance to the people of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Despite the unwillingness of the Seminole tribe to give up their land in the 1800’s, so much has been lost since that time. That is why I strongly CONTEST the sale of the land, the destruction of the land and archeological artifacts, and the capping of the artesian well(s) in Chokoloskee.

The land I am referring to is adjacent to the historic Smallwood’s Store and Trading Post.  For years after the Calusa Indians died off due to foreign disease and war, the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians lived, camped, hunted, traded, fished, and obtained fresh water from this site. Then in 1906, when the Smallwood’s Store and Trading Post opened in Chokoloskee, the Smallwood’s were one of the first contacts that the Seminoles and Miccosukees had with non-tribal civilization. The Seminoles and Miccosukees learned to trust the Smallwoods who traded food and merchandise with them. The Smallwoods co-existed peacefully with the tribes, they did not interfere with the Seminoles and Miccosukees that continued to intermittently camp on the property and obtain water from the artesian wells.

For years since then, many Seminoles take what the non-Indians might call a pilgrimage to the Chokoloskee property. Some of my first memories are of traveling to Chokoloskee to learn where to get the water, to pray, and to reconnect with family members related by blood and by clan. But this time my pilgrimage was to mourn the destruction of this site, to pray that it will be stopped and that the land will be returned to my people.

In 1998, the Seminole Tribe of Florida bought property in Chokoloskee, Florida under the tribal corporations: (1) S.T.O.F. Holdings, LTD; and (2) McInturf Enterprises, Inc. But later in 2004, certain leaders acted in derogation of the Constitution of the Seminole Tribe of Florida that clearly directs tribal council members to “prevent the sale, disposition, lease or encumbrance of tribal lands, interest in lands, or other tribal assets without the consent of the Tribe.” (emphasis added). Tribal members were not given notice of the sale, did not consent of the sale, and were not given the opportunity to object to the sale of the property mentioned above.

In addition, the sale was made without proper Federal authority according to the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, 25 U.S.C. § 177 which  states:

No sale of lands made by any Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians within the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state . . . unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States.

The legal documents recorded at the Collier County Clerk of Court do not reflect that any Federal Agency or Entity authorized the sale of the land or that the sale was made with deference to the law. As an enrolled member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, without prior notice or knowledge of the sale of tribal land, I contest the sale as an unauthorized action, and request with URGENCY your assistance in reclaiming the land for my tribe, and preserving any and all historic artifacts that remain on the land.

Sincerely, Wesley Garcia.

(See Buzz from the Swamp – Excavation on Chokoloskee, for related information)

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