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Black Seminole Indians
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The Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts
By Karen Riles
What are Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts? Well, Seminoles were Indians that originally lived in Florida. But they later moved to Texas. And the word "Negro" is just another name for black or African-American people. The Seminole-Negro Indians scouted for the United States Army during the Indian wars of the late 1800s in Texas. The Negroes came into contact with the Seminoles during slavery when some Negro slaves escaped. They hid in the Florida swamps where the Seminoles lived. [Did you know that the word "Seminole" comes from the Spanish word Cimarron , which means runaway?] Even though the two peoples lived separate from each other and had their own chiefs, they became friends and lived happily together. There were some marriages between the two people.
Gopher John was the leader of the Seminole Negroes. He led his people to Oklahoma then across Texas to Old Mexico. In Mexico he was given the name John Caballo or John Horse because he was very good with horses. John became very famous when he joined the Mexican Army to fight against Maximillian's troops. John Horse was so brave that he was made colonel. He became known as El Coronel Juan Caballo. The Mexican Army gave John a silver-mounted saddle with a gold-plated pummel in the shape of a horse's head. He used that saddle when riding his favorite horse American.
John Horse and his people lived on the border of Texas and Mexico. They were waiting to move to the Indian Territory. They lived at the reservation at Ft. Duncan as they waited to move. The Seminoles farmed the land and hunted for game. While there in 1870, the Seminole-Negro men enlisted as scouts for the United States Army. The Seminoles Negroes became very valuable to the frontier army. They understood both English and Spanish and could converse in "Mexican" which was the language spoken in that region. Also, they had lived in the border country for more than twenty years and knew the land and the Indian bands that lived or came to the area. The Seminole Negroes were excellent warriors and experts in frontier combat. The scouts wore clothes that looked like Indian fashion. But later on they were given the usual uniform of army scouts. John Kibbetts was made leader of the scouts, and his men respected and obeyed him. His Seminole name was Sittertastonacky (Chitto Tustenuggee) or snake warrior. He was "very smart and reliable." John Horse never became a scout, but he served instead as advisor to John Kibbetts.
Descendants of Chief John Horse and Sergeant John Kibbetts and their people still live in south Texas near Brackettville. Chief John Horse's grandson, John Jefferson, was a scout with the 10th Cavalry (he was a Buffalo Soldier).
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Copyright by R E. Moore, Karen Riles, and Texarch Associates, 1999, all rights reserved. Graphics may not be used or reproduced without prior permission. Short parts of text may be quoted in school reports. Longer quotes require prior written permission.