Sunday, March 20, 2016

Indian Biographie: Arpeika: Seminole

Arpeika (Sam Jones) is known as the only Seminole leader to not be removed from Florida.  He was a medicine man, and he and his people stayed in Florida.  The story is told in the Orlando Sentinal:
The U.S. Army captured and banished from Florida the resistance leader Osceola, the defiant young chief Coacoochee and nearly all of the Seminoles.
But not the medicine man Arpeika, the last of the major Seminole leaders to avoid capture.
Besides eluding the Army, Arpeika infuriated U.S. Army Gen. Thomas Jesup by joining Osceola to liberate (some historians say coerce) 700 Seminoles from a camp near Fort Brooke (Tampa) where the general had steamers ready to haul them to the Mississippi River and Western reservations.
The general, realizing he had been tricked, ordered officers to seize Osceola and others.
Soldiers arrested Osceola when he came to a truce meeting carrying a white flag - actually plumes of white crane feathers. Coacoochee, known to the Army as Wildcat, was captured by the same trickery.
Osceola accepted his fate. Arpeika did not.
After Coacoochee escaped from the old Spanish fort at St. Augustine and told Arpeika how he had been captured, the medicine man never again risked attending talks with the Army or federal agents, writes Michael Gannon in The New History of Florida.
Arpeika, known to the military as Sam Jones, rallied Seminole resistance.
Arpeika, Coacoochee and another leader called Alligator led the Seminoles who fought the Army to a draw at Lake Okeechobee in the largest single battle of the Seminole wars.
Osceola, whose popularity was spread by exaggerated - and sometimes fabricated - newspaper accounts, thrived in the spotlight. George Catlin, one of many artists who painted Osceola, displayed his portrait in New York and the galleries of Europe.
By contrast, the Florida State Archives does not have a single likeness of Arpeika.
Historians haven't even agreed on a spelling. Recently written history books include these alternative spellings: Arbiaka, Arbieka or Abica.
``Arpeika'' is the spelling used by Gannon.
The man behind the name, however it is spelled, never sought personal recognition.  
Billy L. Cypress writes in Perspectives on Arbiaka (Sam Jones), ``There were a number of leaders like Osceola who were better known by the Europeans, but Arbiaka played just as great a role in keeping the Seminole people together and surviving through war times to peace times.''
``Jones,'' writes West, a historian for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, ``was a powerful religious leader and his career ... far eclipsed Osceola.''
She adds, ``There would be no Seminoles and Miccosukees left in Florida were it not for the strength and determination of this one individual.''
He preferred a role in the background. Cypress writes that Arpeika escaped the notice of officers.
``A leader such as Arbiaka could do his work without their knowledge and awareness,'' Cypress writes.
Gannon writes that not even Coacoochee, coerced into helping the Army, could persuade Arpeika to surrender.
An August 1850 edition of a St. Augustine newspaper set a $1,000 bounty for dead warriors and a $500 reward for the capture of Seminole women and children. Some Seminoles also accepted government offers of cash to accept resettlement.
``Sam Jones never came in,'' Gannon writes. ``He died in Florida at an estimated age of 111.''  The book American Indian Biographies estimates his age at death as being 100; 1760-1860.

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