Broward County’s Historic Islands: Pine Island, Long Key (Sam Jones’ Seven Islands), Big City Island,
and Snake Warrior’s Island.
By Patsy West, Director
Seminole/Miccosukee Archive, Fort Lauderdale
Here in Broward County, we are most fortunate to have valuable, historic green spaces. Some of these sites represent the earliest and most important sites in the County. And, because our county has seen some of the most aggressive development in southern Florida, we are doubly fortunate that these spaces were preserved before they were bulldozed into oblivion in the
name of “Progress” and financial opportunity.
It is hard to believe (since the eastern Everglades was drained in 1906) that these sites were REAL ISLANDS in the once watery Everglades. And, in our flat landscape, Pine Island, at 29 feet above sea level, remains the highest point in Broward County! The other islands have lesser altitude, but it was their elevation and location near the river outlets to the beaches that appealed to the earliest inhabitants in southern Florida. Even then, as in real estate today, it was “Location, Location, Location!”
Paleo Indians, Tequesta Indians, and by the 19th century, the Mikasuki speaking “Seminoles” have resided on these islands. The earliest documented account of Pine Island’s settlement as a Mikasuki-speaking Seminole habitation is 1828. The island was doubtless settled much earlier under the Mikasuki war leader Abiaki or Sam Jones, a determined resistance leader of the Panther clan and the future Chief of all of the Florida Indians during the Second and Third Seminole Wars (1835-1842; 1855-1858). Jones’ warrior and emissary was Chitto Tustenuggee. These two leaders were the historic, famous residents of the Pine Island Complex and Snake Warrior’s Island.
It was a great coincidence that I completed my initial ethno-historical research on the Pine Island Complex in 1988, just before the southern section of the property at Pine Island was slated for development. That research aided in the islands’ purchase and preservation in 1990. Broward County Parks and Recreation, the Trust for Public Lands, the State’s Conservation and Recreational Lands (CARL) funding, and lobbying in Tallahassee with representation from the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes, provided cultural and financial support to acquire the site.
In 1995 the Seminole Tribe of Florida erected a statue of their patriot Sam Jones leading a woman to safety on Pine Island at Tree Tops Park. The pioneer Mikasuki residents who built and settled on these islands brought with them their cultural “Creek Town System” that anthropologists thought was extinct