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WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH: How a Seminole Tribe leader is paving the way for other Native women

Posted at 9:52 PM, Mar 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-06 21:52:35-05

CLEWISTON, Fla. — March is Women's History Month and it's the time of year where we have the chance to reflect on the accomplishments of women across history.

It can be a woman doing something that's never been done before or tearing down a barrier so more women have access to opportunities. These women can be a business owner, mom, grandmother, first responder, volunteer, journalist — really anyone. There are all kinds of women in southwest Florida doing things to simply make life better for all of us.

At Fox 4, we're going to tell you about some of those women in the area who are doing just that.

One woman paving the way is Tina Osceola. She's part of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. With this culture, it's a matriarchal society.

Osceola says so many women have gone leaps and bounds for the tribe, and she hopes her decisions will pave the way for other women in the tribe.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is a rich culture with decades worth of history, full of strong women.

"The women are the heartbeat of the tribe," she said.

Osceola is the interim director of operations for the tribe and the director of the tribal historical preservation.

She's also a mother, which has more than one meaning for Native women.

"We mother our community, we mother our tribe, we Mother Earth," she said. "Women in the Seminole Tribe of Florida, we have a really strong history of being part of that very fabric of the creation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a government."

Some of those women are Betty Mae Tiger Jumper and Laura Mae Osceola.

"Those two women — we wouldn't be here today without them," Osceola said. "They made decisions that affect us today."

Jumper introduced new healthcare programs to the tribe in a culture with prior mistrust, especially with vaccines.

"They were uncomfortable conversations to have, but she did it, because she felt that was the right thing to do," Osceola said.

Jumper was also the first chairwoman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

"I think it showed all of us that gender didn't mean anything in terms of limitations," Osceola said.

Laura Mae was the first secretary and treasurer of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

"She represented that when you're in tribal office, it's not just about your family, not just about your clan, it's not about all of that," Tina explained. "It's about everyone in the tribe."

She describes women in the tribe as strong, determined and courageous. Those words she takes with her as Osceola works to make her mark as a strong tribal leader.

"I was part of the slate of new judges for the first tribal court for the Seminole tribe," she said.

Though she has many titles, Osceola doesn't see it as a job, but rather a responsibility for her tribe. Tina says she doesn't see glass ceilings for the women in the tribe.

She does hope the women in it will also one day make history, like Betty, Laura and now Tina.

"I want to see women make decisions that allow other women 50 years from now do things that weren't ever thought of being able to do," Tina said.