Mayor Boles addresses Seminole Tribe concerns

The St Augustine 450th Commemoration is a celebration of our lengthy history; but, more importantly, it is a celebration of our rich cultural diversity – the many people and cultures that are part of an enduring community called St Augustine.

Yes, there were some painful chapters, and we will commemorate these, but our greatest celebration is who we are as a people and what we have become as a community over 450 years and beyond.

One of the greatest episodes in world history took place right here when New World cultures, the indigenous peoples of this area who had been here for thousands of years, collided with the Old World European cultures attempting to colonize new lands.

Pedro Menendez in 1565 stepped off his ships with 800 colonists including Africans and Hispanics. They were embrace by the Timucuan Indians at the village of Seloy, indigenous peoples who ensured the survival of their European visitors.

Together, these cultures intermingled, becoming the genesis of what we know today as the “American” culture. We respectfully honor all cultures and it is why we created the Commemoration.

The 450th is not a celebration of the demise of any culture, or the misunderstandings and adversities that are inevitable when different cultures interface. It is a celebration of people who have endured for hundreds, and, in the case of the indigenous peoples, thousands of years; making St Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied community in the United States, from prehistoric times on.

We are working with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Seminole Tribe of Florida in exploring ideas on how to best tell the story of St Augustine and ALL people.

In conceptual design is an exhibition entitled, Tapestry: The Cultural Threads of First America, in which the stories and histories of Native Americans, African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are traced through the centuries.

The Native American Gathering and Healing ceremony was one proposed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It was supported by the National Museum of the American Indian with the understanding that the Seminole Tribe would serve as the hosting organization.

The Seminole Tribe has subsequently withdrawn their proposal, for cultural reasons, and we respect this. The National Museum of the American Indian has, as well. This event has been withdrawn from our 450th calendar; out of respect for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Mayor Joseph L. Boles, Jr.

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