Lesson Plans

Early National

Seminole Resistance to the Indian Removal Act
Author: Mary Karimi
School: North Bethesda Middle
Grade Level: 8th
Time Estimated: 2 Days (90 minute periods)

Enduring Understanding

After years of Andrew Jackson fighting Native Americans in Spanish Florida in the early 1800’s, acquiring their lands little by little for white settlers, the United States secured Florida from Spain in 1819. Andrew Jackson negotiated many treaties, which would exchange Indian land in Florida for land west of the Mississippi, with different Native American tribes (Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees and Seminoles), but never with the whole tribe or with all the chiefs. Therefore, many of the treaties were disputed. Few Indians actually voluntarily gave up land and migrated west. More refused to leave and tried to buy time by pretending to negotiate, while some tribes turned to active resistance. One of these tribes was the Seminole.

From 1817 to 1819 the Seminole struggled to protect their land. This is referred to as the First Seminole War. During this time many runaway slaves had found safe haven in the Seminole mangrove wetlands and fought along side the Seminole Indians. This further angered whites against the Seminoles.

With the Indian Removal Act of 1830, there was a renewed determination to end the Seminole entrenchment and move them to western lands. Andrew Jackson called for the removal of all Seminoles to western lands and the re enslavement of all blacks living with the Seminoles. A few chiefs were intimidated into signing a treaty which other chiefs agreed was not legitimate and the majority of Seminoles fought against removal. Thus began the Second Seminole War, which was a series of bloody attacks by both sides from 1835 to 1842. During this war, fugitive slaves again fought and by this time they had adopted much of the Seminole culture and intermingled so that descendents are called the Black Seminole. They fought together against white encroachment and the US army. It was a violent war. For example, on December 25th, 1835 Seminole attacked plantations owned by whites and on December 28th, a group of 300 Seminole massacred Major Francis Dade and 105 U.S. troops on their way to Fort King. Apparently, 50 Black Seminole horsemen were among the 300. On the same day a key Seminole leader, Osceola killed an important Indian Agent named Wiley Thompson. Then just three days later, Osceola led 250 Seminole warriors against 750 soldiers and defeated them forcing the army to abandon key forts.

Although attempts were made to come to agreement to end the conflict and provide safe passage out of Florida to Indian territory in the west and freedom to all Black Seminoles , white plantation owners refused to compromise and were determined to get fugitive slaves who were among the Seminole returned. In 1937, under a false flag of truce, Osceola was captured along with other prominent resistance leaders and held in prison. Some leaders eventually escaped, but Osceola died in prison of malaria.

The Seminole continued to fight the United States for another four years. Heat, malaria, mosquitoes, alligators, venomous snakes, and difficult terrain added to the misery of all involved. The Second Seminole War finally ended in August 1842. The Seminole estimate 2,000 tribal members died during the lengthy war. The U.S. Army captured and deported another 4,420, among them, nearly 500 Black Seminole. The U.S. army lost 1,500 soldiers, and the war cost the United States $20 million. Billy Bowlegs, led the Seminole in the Third Seminole War (1855-1858). At the war's end, the remaining 100-200 Seminole hid in Florida's "River of Grass," the Everglades. Small groups survived on alligator, beans, and small stands of corn. These unconquered people are the ancestors of the present Seminole Nation of Florida. In the end, most of the Seminoles moved to the new territory. The few who remained had to defend themselves in the Third Seminole War (1855-58), when the U.S. military attempted to drive them out. Finally, the United States paid the remaining Seminoles to move west.

The following website from PBS has an excellent summary of the Indian Removal and Seminole: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2959.html (PBS Resource Bank – Indian Removal).


Students will be able to compare Cherokee experience with Seminole experience under the Indian Removal Act and make inferences about different points of view of the Second Seminole War using primary documents, assuming a role of historical figure in the war and by role playing an interview with Harper’s Weekly Reporter.


Unit 8.3: Geographic and Economic Change Shape the Nation, 1815–1850
Lesson 3.4: The Trail of Tears: Democracy for Whom?


Useful websites:


After students have completed the Unit on the Cherokee, they will be very familiar with Jackson and the Indian Removal Act.

Day One

  • The Seminole will be introduced through United Streaming video segment and short background paragraph.
  • Primary sources including quotes and visuals for each role will be distributed to students.
  • Roles to choose from:
    • Andrew Jackson, Osceola, Billy Bowlegs, Army regular - Amos Bisbee, General Thomas S. Jesup, Whte female settler - Jane Murray Sheldon, slave and interpreter to Osceola and Billy Bowlegs - Ben Bruno
  • Packets for each role will include portrait, Seat of War Map, selected pictures or quotes and list of useful websites.
  • Students will work in pairs of like roles to analyze sources using the graphic organizers for a visual source and the graphic organizers for a textual source
  • After analyzing sources, students will receive the Interview Questions handout to write answers to from the point of view of the role the student is taking based on the primary documents selected. (Homework) The questions on the handout are:
    • Who are you?
    • What is your role in the Second Seminole War?
    • What is your opinion about the war?
    • How would you like to see the war end?

Day Two

  • Students of like roles will practice their role in small groups using their prepared answers
  • Harper’s Weekly Reporters will prepare additional questions
  • Then students will break into groups (2-3 groups depending on how many students are in the class) where each role is represented in the group and the reporter will begin interviews.
  • While listening to interviews, students will make a list of inferences about each participant’s point of view


Students will use inferences from interviews and information from primary documents and websites to write a well developed paragraph to answer the essential questions:

Why did the Seminole fight where the Cherokee didn't?
Were the Seminole defeated?

Download Assessment Question and Rubric

References: Web

http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Indian.html access to primary document – Indian Removal Act pp. 114 and 115.