Eye-dazzling colors dance in the early morning Florida sunlight. An Indian woman in a long skirt glides through her camp to begin a new day of work in her sewing chickee. Wisps of smoke drift lazily from the cooking fire, where a large black pot simmers. Lush bromeliads hang from cypress trees in pools of dark water. The huge alligator stirs and grunts in his pen.
A scene of days gone by? No. As recent as today. The woman turns on her television set and begins sewing on her large commercial sewing machine. A jumble of bolts of brightly colored cloth, large spools of thread and rickrack surround her. Soon the whir of the machine fills the air. The serenity of her environment stands in sharp contrast to the bustle of the cities nearby. Outsiders, such as the people who live in those cities, are often fascinated by Seminole and Miccosukee patchwork clothing, but they generally know very little about the world of the Indian women who spend long hours at their sewing machines patiently creating those rainbows of design.
Boldly patterned skirts and jackets have now become so synonymous with Seminole and Miccosukee Indians that patchwork fabric is thought by many to be their only art form. Few people realize that some modern artisans also make fine baskets, still prized by collectors. Their ancestors were skilled at fingerweaving, beadwork, and silverwork, in addition to making simple pottery, carved wooden effigies, and canoes--although, sadly, most of those skills have been lost for many generations. They also designed the chickee, an open-sided structure well suited to the muggy southern climate. All of these accomplishments, moreover, were but a