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Garters associated with Osceola (Seminole, 1803–1838)
ca. 1835
Wool yarn, glass beads
84 x 7 cm
Dr. George Jackson Fisher Collection

“You have guns and so have we. You have powder and lead, and so have we. You have men and so have we. Your men will fight and so will ours, till the last drop of the Seminole’s blood has moistened the dust of his hunting ground.”
—Osceola, February 2, 1834, statement to Brigadier General Duncan L. Clinch

These leg garters likely belonged to the Seminole leader Osceola. Born in 1804 to Polly Coppinger, a part Muscogee Creek woman, Osceola was the most famous of several Seminole leaders who rose to prominence during the Second Seminole War, from 1835 to 1842. Osceola, whose name means Black Drink Singer, was also strong in medicine and was known for his ability to consume the black drink made from yaupon holly.

Osceola’s great strength as a leader in war was his ability to plan and supervise multiple attacks. He was involved in more than a dozen battles and skirmishes and led Seminole warriors and their Creek and African-American allies against the U.S. Army and Florida militia and volunteers from 1835 until 1837, when illness led him to surrender.

Osceola enjoyed the stature and recognition that he had earned. George Catlin produced two paintings of Osceola. In each of them the war leader wears clothes of Seminole tradition. These finger-woven wool garters, which have beads woven into the pattern, are very similar to the garters Osceola wore in Catlin’s full-length portrait, painted in 1838, shortly before the Seminole leader’s death while he was imprisoned at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. The image became widely known through a lithograph published by Catlin.

Donald L. Fixico (Shawnee/Sac & Fox/Muscogee Creek/Seminole)

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