A Seminole Saga
Susan A. Miller
To Americans he was "Wild Cat," to Mexicans, "Gato del Monte." But to his own people he was Coacoochee, a warrior and diplomat who led the Seminole resistance to American injustice in their home territory of Florida and through the Spanish borderlands of North America. In the first in-depth study of this dramatic figure, Susan A. Miller, a historian and a Seminole, sorts out discrepancies between American history—where Coacoochee remains in the background—and Seminole tradition—where he stands as a great leader.
Relocated in 1841 to the Indian country in what is now Oklahoma, the Seminoles under Coacoochee resisted colonization. Coacoochee instead led his people to Mexico, along with a community of black fugitives from slavery and another of Kickapoos, where they secured land in exchange for military assistance. Coacoochee's Bones tells the dramatic story of that migration, a story of armed resistance and diplomatic intrigue that ranges across the Indian country, Texas, and Mexico. It also portrays the extraordinary leadership displayed by this man, in order to restore him to his rightful place in history.
“A significant work on several levels. . . . An exceptionally fine example of meticulous research . . . shows a unique understanding of Seminole culture change through time. At the same time, Miller is a solid writer with a keen sense of where to place pertinent questions and how to absorb the reader in the details of historical phenomena. It is an outstanding piece of work.”
—Wicazo SA Review
“A fine work in Seminole history.”
—Chronicles of OklahomaSee all reviews...
“Miller, a full Seminole, raises the level of the indigenous world to the same level as the dominant Anglo world without insult. . . . This is more than the saga of Coacoochee. It is a model for indigenous researchers preserving their histories and their stories. This superb and poignant work contributes considerably to a deeper understanding of the Indians and their relations with the Anglo, Mexican, and Indian worlds and their interrelationships with the United States, Texas, and Mexico.”
—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“There are few historical studies that are as important for their innovative methodology as for their enlightening content. Miller’s Coacoochee’s Bones is a remarkable achievement in both areas. . . . Coacoochee’s saga is an important contribution not only to Native studies, but to the growing historiography on the borderlands.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“Miller’s work does much more than retell the story of a fascinating Seminole leader. It also continues the process of decolonizing Seminole history . . . Filled with previously unknown or misunderstood details about the plight of the Seminoles, Coacoochee’s Bones successfully counters the prevalent myths and judgments that the colonial process created. It deserves the attention of scholars of Florida and of Indian history in general.”
—Florida Historical Quarterly
“In an area notorious for its paucity of scholarship of high quantity, the publication of this groundbreaking and engaging book represents a landmark event in Seminole historiography. .. . On Miller's beautifully written pages, frontier characters come to life, plots thicken, and history unfolds as drama. . . . By placing [Coacoochee] squarely within his indigenous context, she brings new methodology, understanding, and insight to Seminole history.”
“Miller tells the outstanding story of an outstanding leader in an outstanding manner. . . . In the end, Miller’s work is above all a great contribution to the historical literature of the Seminole Indians in particular and of the American Indian in general. It should be read by anyone who wants to know about the travails suffered by the members of an Indian tribe at the hands of the American government, from their own point of view. As Miller herself identifies her work, this is ‘decolonizing’ history at its very best.”
—Great Plains Quarterly
“Miller presents a searing and searching analysis of her peoples past, informed by exhaustive archival research and insights gained from journeys to key historic sites and from hearing and respecting the traditional stories. . . . A powerful and important book by a major indigenous scholar.”
—Peter Iverson, author of We Are Still Here: American Indians in the Twentieth Century
“Miller’s insightful and invaluable study beautifully reconstructs the saga of Coacoochee and Seminole migration into Mexico.”
—Donald Fixico, author of The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century: American Capitalism and Tribal Natural Resource
“If Miller’s book contained nothing but the preface, it would be a significant contribution to the field. It is a declaration of intellectual and scholarly independence if there ever was one.”
—Dan Littlefield, author of Africans and Seminoles: From Removal to EmancipationSee fewer reviews...
A man born to an elite family, Coacoochee used the power of his status in creative ways, and Miller uses his career to explain his leadership in terms of Seminole knowledge and governmental structure, showing that Coacoochee's concept of leadership was linked as closely to spiritual as to political or military imperatives. Her account offers a more nuanced understanding of the Seminole cosmos-particularly the reality governing Coacoochee's awareness of his own tribe's circumstances-and of long-standing borderlands disputes. She draws on Seminole, American, and Mexican sources to help untangle the histories of various emigrant tribes to the borderlands. She also examines the status of Seminoles today in light of the suppression of Coacoochee's story, including modern Seminoles' attempts to recover their lost homeland at El Nacimiento.
By telling Coacoochee's story from a Seminole perspective, Miller presents a work of decolonization, reexamining Seminole history to affirm that people's centrality and sovereignty. Coacoochee's Bones restores a significant historical figure to his rightful place in history and is a work that cannot be ignored by anyone who wishes a fuller understanding of this continent's diverse and storied past.