Tag Archives: Seminole Wars

The Once Florida Black Wolf of the Indian River Lagoon

The black wolf once roamed the shores and surrounding lands of the Indian River Lagoon, becoming extinct in 1883. (Photo public files.)
The Florida wolf or black wolf once roamed the shores and surrounding lands of the Indian River Lagoon and the state of Florida, becoming extinct in 1908. (A photo of a modern, larger, Ontario black wolf,  public files.)

A wolf of the Indian River Lagoon? You’re kidding?

Not too long ago, before 1908, a black wolf known as the “Florida black wolf” was part of the ecosystem of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. One of the best local accounts of this black wolf, can still be found in an historical document  written by a member of the Seminole War party, of Col. Benjamin Pierce, for whom Ft Pierce is named.

Col. Pierce was fighting the Indians in the 1837 Seminole War. According to the Sebastian River Area Historical Society, Col. Pierce and his troops sailed down the Indian River Lagoon on December 31st “in boats filled with baggage, men, and provisions.” Surgeon Mott, of his party, wrote of the journey:

“Nothing occurred to disturb the quiet of the night, except the wolves in the neighboring forest responding with howls as they threatened one another…”

Paining by I.Wesp of Benjamin Pierce and troops sailing down the IRL- (Tales of Sebastian, 1990.)
Paining by I. Wesp of Benjamin Pierce and Seminole War troops sailing down the IRL, 1837. (Tales of Sebastian, 1990.)

This “black wolf subspecies” became extinct in 1908, mostly due to hunting as homesteaders pushed the wolf out of its habitat. It is documented that there was also a more reddish colored “red wolf” that coexisted with the black wolf simultaneously and it went extinct a bit later, in 1921.

These black wolves and red wolves were a related subspecies of the more well known American grey wolf (Canis lupus) and related to today’s Gregory’s Wolf  or Red Wolf that has been recently been reintroduced in North Carolina.

Gregory's Wolf or Red Wolf has been reintroducing into North Carolina and surrounding areas.
Gregory’s Wolf or Red Wolf has been reintroducing into North Carolina and surrounding areas. (Photo public)

For many years, there were intellectual arguments in the scientific community about whether the the black and red Florida wolves were true “wolves” or more closely genetically related to the coyote. Although after years of heated discussion, it was first determined that the black and red wolves were a type of coyote, this was contested and overturned by the  International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature in 1957.

Yes, although they had adapted and taken on a smaller frame than their grey wolf relatives, Florida’s  black and red canines were “wolves.” 

Scientific drawing, 1800s, Florida Black Wolf. I don't quite get the buffalo in the background! But you get the idea!:) (Wikipedia)
Scientific drawing, 1800s, Florida Black Wolf. (Wikipedia)

Hmmm?

The state of Florida still has bears and panthers. Wouldn’t it be amazing  if we still had wolves!

There may always be that element of fear with wolves but there must also be respect, as the wolf is second only to humans in adapting to a changing planet, and of course the extinct black wolf, and the modern grey wolf, are closely related to our very best friends, domesticated dogs.

Just incredible!  The once wild and beautiful creatures of the Indian River Lagoon…..

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Florida Black Wolf: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Black_Wolf)

US Fish and Wildlife Commission/Grey Wolf: (http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/aboutwolves/biologue.htm

Wolf facts: (http://www.defenders.org/gray-wolf/basic-facts)

The Fallout of CEPP/the 4th Seminole War of Florida and the Indian River Lagoon

The delay of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project may end up symbolically being the beginning of Florida's  4th Seminole War.
The delay of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project, may end up symbolically being the beginning of Florida’s 4th Seminole War as people fight for water to move south. (Photos public.)

I really did not want to write about the failure of the Central Everglades Planning Project, CEPP,  as I have been trying to forget about it. The whole thing is so depressing to me.  However, last night, before I went to bed, my husband said,  “Dan thinks you should write about what’s going to happen now that CEPP did not make it into the WRDA bill…” So, I had a long series of nightmares, now it’s morning, and for Dr Daniel Velinsky, I will do the right thing, and try to write this piece.

First some history.

It is well documented that Florida’s three Seminole Wars were the longest, bloodiest, and most costly of all the Indian wars fought by the United States, fought on and off between 1814 and 1858.  In the end, no treaty was signed and the few hundred remaining native peoples hid in their well known Everglades swamp to resurrect themselves as today’s Seminole,  Miccosukee, and unaffiliated Independent Seminole Tribes.

300px-Seminole_War_in_Everglades

They never surrendered and today their successful 1980s/1990s law suit against the Federal Government and the State of Florida requiring the polluting of Everglades Agricultural Area run off water onto their lands, to be reduced from sometimes over 300 to 10 parts per billion/phosphorus, in my opinion, is a key reason, along with its tartiness and other issues, why CEPP was not included in the Water Resources Development Act, WRDA, bill by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

I can hear the D.C. ACOE  now: “Even if we had the designated land, the mass of water could not be sent south—it’s too dirty. We need so much more land to clean it.  So we’ll build all this structure but we won’t be able to send but a dribble of water south…Florida has to lessen the water quality requirements or …”

Well first of all, I say “kudos” to the Seminole  and Miccosucci for holding the state responsible for cleaning up its water, even if it is an”impossible” number to achieve under present circumstances. I’d say in the karma department, “we had it coming.”

So now what do we do? Well in my opinion a type of war is going to start, and I liken the people of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon to the “Fourth Indian War Warriors.” We will not surrender.

The failure of CEPP to pass will historically be the beginning of this war. And like the Indians of the 1880s, we were indirectly lied to, and part of it was our fault for believing what we were told, knowing the facts of history.

We all watched and participated along with the South Florida Water Management District and the Jacksonville Army Corp of Engineers for three years, putting full concentration of resources and creativity– forcing dedicated staff from both agencies to produce a document, CEPP,  that the US Army Corp of Engineers more than likely knew, would never make it. So now,  “they” want us to continue rallying for another two years for next WRDA bill. “Oh sorry maybe it will be seven years….”

I don’t think so.

Guess what? The people are tired of waiting. They put their money on the state and federal governments’ horse, and our horse wasn’t  even allowed to run.

Do you feel the chain pulling and digging into your neck? I do.

This tactic is not new, and honestly I think it is simply part of a dysfunctional federal and state government. Let’s look back.

In the 1990s governor Lawton Childs had the state halt the famous water quality law suit and actually “laid down his sword” in a courtroom-how courageous, but look where we are now; in the mid 2000s Charlie Christ’s “Sugar Land Deal” was downsized due to the Economic Crisis of 2008 and other politics; before that, Jeb Bush started the “Acceler8 Program to quickly complete eight of over 60 Central Everglades Restoration Plan’s (CERP) projects. The SFWMD, functioning under the governor, worked diligently like they did recently for CEPP–the eight projects  were not completed; and since 2011/12, under the Rick Scott administration, the entire focus was on CEPP, which also would have bundled  some of the CERP projects to begin “moving faster” and to “move the water south.” After years of laser like dedication, for now, the project is “dead.”

Florida has water quality and quantity issues brewing like a hurricane, and our Indian River Lagoon area will be the eye in November of 2014, as former governor Charlie Christ runs against Governor Rick Scott. The race would have been messy anyway, but now it is going to be war as the different sides  configure how to “send the water south” with out CEPP.  Start thinking about how you want to send the water south or stored, and “never, never, never give up.”

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History Florida WQ Law Suit:(http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/fl/08_14_8_epa_losing_water_quality_cases.pdf)

Seminole Tribe: (http://www.semtribe.com)

Miccosukee Tribe: (http://www.miccosukeetribe.com)

 

 

“The Seminole Spirit of the Indian River Lagoon”

Coacoochee or Wildcat, by James Hutchinson 1976
Coacoochee or Wildcat, by James Hutchinson, 1976

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.