Their stern faces stared at me for three years on the office walls of Stuart Middle School, and from the conservative backdrop of First National Bank and Trust Company of Stuart. My mom and dad told me stories at the dinner table about neighbor and artist James Hutchinson and his wife, Joan, living and painting these serious and beautiful people on their reservation, not too far from where we lived. I drove on the school bus and graduated with Kevin Hutchinson, James and Joan’s son; I saw Kevin’s younger brother learn to ride a tricycle. The faces of the Seminole warriors and the faces of the Hutchinsons were an integral part of my childhood and we remain friends today.
The portrait above is of Coacoochee, or Wildcat. Coacoochee was possibly the greatest of Seminole warriors; he was not a formal chief. He rose up as a leader in a time of need during the Second Seminole War. His people loved him; to them, it is said, he had a great sense of humor, of all things–during the worst of times for his people, and yet he taught them how to fight back; how to survive.
Somewhere, I learned that in early times, the Seminoles used to camp and hunt along the North Fork of the St Lucie River making their way south across the Indian River Lagoon to Hutchinson Island to hunt black bears. And once my mother, on the way to Ft Pierce, pulled over the car, and showed me how to find Native Indian pottery artifacts, right along the side of the road, close to the mound by the railroad track.
Often, today, when I drive over the bridges, or along Indian River Drive, I imagine the Seminoles; I imagine that I can see them right there, fishing, cooking, and hunting or even their Ais ancestors. Perhaps a difficult life, but one in harmony with nature, unlike my own people…
Today, I have all four of Mr Hutchinson’s Seminole prints in my office staring at me from all walls. And for me, their spirt is certainly alive.