Addie Billie


This portrait, taken in January 1989, is of Addie Billie, a member of the Seminole tribe of Florida, in old age. As a younger woman, Billie had campaigned to improve the quality of life of the Mikasuki-Seminoles. Today’s Seminoles are the descendants of Native Americans who may have lived for millennia in the southeastern United States. Seminole culture was firmly established in Florida by the 1800s, but it was also threatened by the newly created United States, which desired the removal of Seminole peoples from the territory. The Seminoles resisted forced removal, fighting three wars in the process while also migrating progressively farther south. Although thousands of Seminoles were removed to the West, the remaining population survived in the southernmost portion of the state during an extended period of isolation. It was during this period that they refined and fully adapted their culture to the south Florida environment. By the 1920s, as development and modernization transformed Florida, many Seminoles chose to participate in the Florida tourism industry. Seminole beads, as seen in this photograph, were of glass and a woman’s necklaces might weigh as much as 12lbs (5.45 kgs).

Last updated: September 29, 2014