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Betty Osceola Speaks at the Museum of the Everglades

Everglades City

Miccosukee Environmental Educator Betty Osceola spoke at Museum of the Everglades as part of their Wilderness Wednesdays series on April 10th.

The popular series usually features talks about local flora & fauna by ranger staff at the Big Cypress National Preserve, but as the museum extended the schedule into April, Ms. Osceola graciously agreed to be one of the season’s final speakers.

A recent recipient of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Defender of the Everglades Award, Betty Osceola’s voice has become a powerful force in the struggle to preserve, protect, and ultimately heal the Everglades. Her Wilderness Wednesdays appearance was no exception.

The talk had no pre-determined topic, and at the beginning Ms. Osceola informed those in attendance that she hoped what followed would be more of a conversation than a lecture. It was exactly that.

Betty Osceola Speaks at the Museum of the Everglades

Among the many topics discussed was the recent proposal by the National Park Service to assign a “Wilderness Area” designation to large portions of the Big Cypress National Preserve. The Miccosukee Reservation sits squarely at the center of the Preserve and, with no exception for the region’s indigenous people, the initiative would dramatically restrict the traditional use guaranteed to the Tribe by the Preserve’s enabling legislation passed in 1974.

Ms. Osceola explained that the designation would not only curtail their continuing stewardship of the region that includes removal of invasive species like the Burmese Python, but also cut off access to areas that have traditionally been used for religious ceremonies like the annual Green Corn Dance.

Betty Osceola was also the initial catalyst for the museum’s current exhibit: WE ARE STILL HERE – The Continuing Story of the Miccosukee Tribe”. She suggested the possibility to Museum Manager Thomas Lockyear and arranged for him to meet with the Tribal Secretary, William “Popeye” Osceola, with whom he collaborated to create the exhibit sharing the Tribe’s unique history. The exhibit will remain on display through May 11th.

The Wilderness Wednesdays talk lasted almost 90 minutes, with Ms. Osceola fielding questions and providing thoughtful responses to an enthusiastic audience that included local residents and drew visitors from both coasts – including one guest who drove from St. Petersburg.

Betty Osceola Speaks at the Museum of the Everglades

Thomas Lockyear commented “I’m incredibly grateful that Betty agreed to speak at the Museum on such short notice – and for the opportunity she facilitated for us to collaborate with the Tribe and include more indigenous history in the stories we share. I’m very much looking forward to working together again.”

The weekly Wilderness Wednesdays series will resume next January, while the monthly Third Thursday history lectures will continue throughout the year.

2024-04-22T13:41:17-04:00April 27, 2024|Community|

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