Seminole, Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Muskogean branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They separated (their name means "separatist") from the Creek in the early 18th cent. and settled in the former territory of the Apalachee in Florida. They gradually grew in strength, absorbing many runaway black slaves and some members of the Apalachee tribe. While still under Spanish rule, the Seminole became involved in several major confrontations with the United States, particularly in the War of 1812 and again in 1817–18. In the retaliatory expedition of 1817–18, Gen. Andrew Jackson invaded Florida with more than 3,000 men to punish the Seminole. By the Treaty of Paynes Landing (1832), the Seminole were bound to move W of the Mississippi River within three years. Most Seminole, led by Osceola, refused to go and prepared themselves for resistance.
In 1835 began the Seminole War, which proved to be the most costly of the Indian wars in which the United States engaged. Lasting for nearly eight years, it cost the lives of thousands of Seminole and 1,500 U.S. soldiers, as well as at least $30 million. Finally defeated in 1842, the Seminole consented to move to Oklahoma, where they became one of the Five Civilized Tribes. A few Seminole remained isolated in the Everglades. In 1990 there were about 15,500 Seminole in the United States, mostly in Florida and Oklahoma.
See J. K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War (1967); J. H. Howard, Oklahoma Seminoles (1984); M. S. Garbarino, The Seminole (1988).