The history of the Seminoles is as unique and as complex as the diverse groups that integrated to form the tribe itself. The Seminoles derive predominantly from Eastern Muskogean linguistic stock - groups of many small tribes that lived spread across what is now the southeastern United States up to fourteen thousand years before the coming of the Europeans in the 16th century. These tribes - Timucua, Apalachee, Ais, Tekesta, Calusa and Yamasis, just to name a few - lived in permanent settlements along the coastal plains of what is now Georgia, Alabama, and northwestern Florida and survived primarily by growing corn, beans and squash and fishing or hunting for most of their food. They also maintained complex trade routes that reached as far as the Great Lakes and modern-day Texas.
Many factors contributed to the decimation and migration of the aboriginal population that would eventually become known as the Seminole. As early as 1520, many Southeastern Indians were being entered into the European slave trade. Diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza, and even the common cold destroyed populations. Wars with Spain and their other Native allies contributed to the near extinction and movement of many early tribes of Florida. Colonization pressures from the Europeans and later, the Americans, forced the surviving members of these groups to migrate into the Florida panhandle and form new tribal communities.
A number of these tribes referred to themselves as “siminoli,” a derivation of the Spanish word “cimarron”, meaning “separatists” or “broken off.” English-speakers initially referred to this group as “Florida Indians” – even entering into a treaty with the “Florida Tribe of Indians” in the mid-18th Century. The term “Seminole,” an Anglican corruption of the word “seminoli,” began its use in the American lexicon in the late 1700’s. It was applied generically to all of the Native survivors living in the north Florida savannas, which by this time also included groups of migrant Yuchi, Miccosukee and Mascogee (Creek).