Micanopy (c. 1780 – December 1848 or January 1849), also known as Micco-Nuppe, Michenopah, Miccanopa, and Mico-an-opa, and Sint-chakkee ("pond frequenter", as he was known prior to being selected as chief), was the leading chief of the Seminole during the Second Seminole War.
Little is known of his early life other than that Micanopy was born near present-day St. Augustine, Florida, sometime around 1780. He succeeded Bolek as hereditary principal chief of the Seminole following the latter's death in 1819. The people had a matrilineal kinship system: property and position were passed through the maternal line. Nearly 40 when he became chief, Micanopy soon began acquiring large amounts of land and cattle. As was common practice among elite Seminole, he hired more than 100 fugitive slaves to work his estates during the early nineteenth century. He encouraged intermarriage between the Seminole and blacks. This had been the Seminole tradition since they considered blacks to be human equals, unlike the view by whites at the time. Some of their mixed-race descendants gained influence as an elite among tribal councils (including several war chiefs).
Following the American purchase of Florida from Spain in 1819 through the Adams–Onís Treaty, and the subsequent appointment of Andrew Jackson as territorial governor in 1821, large numbers of American settlers began colonizing northern Florida during the next decade. Micanopy opposed further American settlement of the region. As conflicts arose more frequently between the Seminole and settlers, the Seminole were driven away from the Florida coast and into the extensive wetlands of the interior. By the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823, the Americans seized 24 million acres of Seminole land in northern Florida. The Seminole moved to central and southern territory.
Slaveholders from Florida and neighboring states demanded that the Seminole capture and return slaves who had taken refuge with them. American development of large cotton plantations in Florida resulted in planters buying more slaves as workers, and some continued to escape the harsh regime. Pressure continued against the tribe, and Americans pressed for removal following passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. A group of Seminole chiefs eventually agreed to the Treaty of Payne's Landing in 1832; on May 9, 1832, they ceded more Seminole lands in exchange for a reservation in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
While working to negotiate a peaceful resolution between the Seminole and local authorities, Micanopy refused to sign the treaty. He joined younger chiefs, such as Osceola, Alligator, and Wild Cat (a nephew of his), in opposing the treaty. They began to organize resistance among the Seminole warriors. Following Osceola's murder of US Indian agent General Wiley Thompson, in December 1835 Micanopy (with Osceola) attacked US forces under Major Francis Langhorne Dade and General Duncan Lamont Clinch. Only three soldiers survived what the Americans called Dade's Massacre. Repeated demands were made by settlers for US military action against the Seminole, and the Second Seminole War began.
The Seminole had early success, but the elderly Micanopy became convinced of the futility of war as he realized the large number of American soldiers who could be sent against the Seminole. He surrendered in June 1837 and began negotiating to move his tribe to the Indian Territory, but he was kidnapped by Osceola. In December 1838, Micanopy was captured by General Thomas S. Jesup's forces while under a flag of truce, when he had already agreed to sign a peace treaty. This breach of honor by the US was considered an outrage by much of the public, increasing their sympathy toward the Seminole.
Imprisoned at Charlestown, South Carolina, Micanopy was eventually released and sent with around 200 other Seminole to Indian Territory. They were initially put under Creek Nation authority, although the people had long been independent.
Although Micanopy attempted to reestablish the Seminole as independent, he never regained his previous power. In 1845, he was one of the signatories of a treaty with the US, which gave the Seminole of western Florida semi-independence from the Creek Nation in Indian Territory. The treaty provided for full Seminole independence to be granted in 1855. Micanopy died at Fort Gibson on January 2, 1849.
As the Seminole had a matrilineal kinship system, his sister's son, Jim Jumper, succeeded Micanopy as principal chief. The Seminole gradually re-established their italwa and traditional organizations in Indian Territory. Jim Jumper was succeeded after his death four years later by his brother, John Jumper, who led the tribe until after the American Civil War. At that time, the United States required tribes that supported the Confederacy to make new treaties, providing for emancipation of all slaves and granting those who wanted to stay with the Seminole equal rights as citizens.
Legacy and honors
- Kevin Mulroy (September 2003). Freedom on the Border: The Seminole Maroons in Florida, the Indian Territory, Coahuila, and Texas. Texas Tech University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-89672-516-4.
- Edwin C. McReynolds (1957). The Seminoles. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 260. ISBN 978-0-8061-1255-8.
- Simpson, J. Clarence (1956). Mark F. Boyd (ed.). Florida Place-Names of Indian Derivation. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Geological Survey.
- Hatch, Thom (2012). Osceola and the Great Seminole War. New York: St. Martin’s Press. pp. 30–35.
- Hatch, Thom (2012). Osceola and the Great Seminole War. New York: St. Martin’s Press. p. 184.
- Frisaro, Freida Ratliff (Feb 21, 1988). "Indian heritage runs deep throughout Central Florida". Ocala Star-Banner. p. 63. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
- Johansen, Bruce E. and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.
- Markowitz, Harvey., ed., Magill's Choice American Indian Biographies, California: Salem Press Inc., 1999.
- Sattler, Richard A. "The Seminole in the West", Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast, Vol. 14, ed. William Sturtevant, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2004