In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved the designation of the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. Whether or not you are a descendent of a Native American tribe, you can still participate in the celebration of their history and culture. The Tampa area has plenty of things to do if you like going out, and plenty of books to read and movies to watch if you like staying in.
Weedon Island Preserve Cultural & Natural History Center
1800 Weedon Drive N.E.
St. Petersburg, FL 33702
The Weedon Island Preserve was designed by “anthropologists, historians and Native Americans” to preserve the nature and history of the area. The Cultural and Natural History Center is built with classrooms and exhibits featuring art, historical information and artifacts from native peoples such as the Timucuans and Manasotas. This 3,000-acre region also includes a four-mile canoe trail, three-mile hiking trail, fishing pier and waterfront picnic sites to enjoy the beauty of Florida’s natural marine habitats. In addition, the paved trails and boardwalk are fully handicap accessible. Wrap up your visit with an incredible view from the three-story observation deck.
De Soto National Memorial
8300 De Soto Memorial Highway
Bradenton, FL 34209
De Soto National Memorial is named for Hernando de Soto, a Spanish conquistador who journeyed to what is now the Tampa Bay area in search of gold. Upon his arrival, he entered into partnerships with other Spanish conquistadors and succeeded in conquering the native tribes. He eventually made a decent fortune by ranching horses and selling Indian slaves. This experience reveals the effects that European settlement had on Native American culture. In addition to the museum exhibits, De Soto National Memorial also features a theater, a nature trail, a picnic area and opportunities for fishing, boating and bird watching.
Tampa Bay History Center
801 Old Water St.
Tampa, FL 33602
The Tampa Bay History Center is three floors high and goes back through 12,000 years of human habitation in the Tampa Bay area. The first floor contains several exhibits related to Native American history in Florida, including the Florida’s First People exhibit and the Seminole and Miccosukee Story exhibit. Visitors can view both original and replica artifacts from pre-European contact including tools, weapons, pottery, clothing, patchwork, jewelry and more. Guests can also enjoy Coacoochee’s Story, a multi-sensory theater experience.
216 S. Armenia Ave.
Tampa, FL 33609
If you can’t make it to one of the Bay Area’s history centers, there is a vast array of books available about Native American history and culture. Inkwood Books is Tampa’s only local independent book store for new books and features a section specifically for books about Florida’s history. Some highly rated titles include “Precious Bones” by Mika Ashley-Hollinger, “The Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes of Southern Florida” by Patsy West and “Unconquered People: Florida’s Seminole and Miccosukee Indians” by Brent Richards Weisman. To get kids involved, try recommending “The Talking Earth” by Jean Craighead George or “The Circle of Life: the Miccosukee Indian Way” by Nancy Henderson and Jane Dewey.
Movies to Watch
There are dozens of films to choose from about Native American history and culture. Many of these films are fictional, such as “Last of the Mohicans,” “The Seachers,” “Drum Beat” and “Black Robe.” If you are more interested in non-fiction, there are numerous documentaries available, such as “After the Mayflower,” “Before Columbus,” “Bones of Contention” and “Choctaw Code Talkers.” If you want to include your children and make a family night of it, consider “Whale Rider,” “The Indian in the Cupboard,” “Man of the House” or “Pocahontas.” To make it extra special, cook up a snack on some Navajo fry bread (also called bannock) or Cherokee yam cakes.
Amanda Mole has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil and cooking since she was tall enough to reach the stove. She believes that food provides more than just vital nutrients: it is an irreplaceable part of countless cultural and social activities. As a Tampa Bay resident for the past 21 years, she is well acquainted with the incredibly diverse range of restaurants, bars, and food festivals that the area has to offer. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.