Welcome back to our Decades of Seminole Tourism series! Over this series, we have traced the triumphs and struggles of Seminole tourism over the decades. We’ve traveled from the first forays into tourist camps to the monumental successes of the casino industry. Last month, we looked at the 2000s. The Seminole Tribe rocked its way through Y2K, starting with a Phish concert on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian reservation. This week, we are looking at the changes to Seminole tourism during the 2010s as we inch closer to Seminole Tourism today. Additionally, we will focus on one of the major triumphs of the decade, the crowning of the first Seminole Miss Indian World, and how the Seminole princesses work to create a better future for the Seminole Tribe and Indigenous communities.


In our featured image this week, Cheyenne Kippenberger joins the Tribal Council to celebrate her win as the first Seminole to be crowned Miss Indian World in 2019. Left to Right, you can see Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Miss Indian World 2019 Cheyenne Kippenberger, Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. and President Mitchell Cypress. 




During the 2010s, Seminole gaming continued to grow and expand. This decade fully solidified the power of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. They also diversified their business holdings, making themselves more resilient. An example from this decade included buying majority interest in a citrus processing plan. In turn, they expanded their partnership with WG Roe & Sons. On the expansion, then-president of Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc. Tony Sanchez stated that “The Tribe is growing and diversifying its business interests by partnering with local Florida, family companies to strengthen the people and agriculture of Florida” (23 July 2014, South Florida Sun Sentinel). Although most of the revenue came from casino gambling, it is very apparent the Tribe could see that diversifying their business interests was an important step to take, especially after the recession of the previous decade.


But, they did not shy away from tourism! If anything, the Seminole Tribe of Florida further leaned into tourism following the 2008 recession. Seminole tourism had been the bread-and-butter of the last century; why not now? But, to stay relevant, Seminole tourism pivoted hard with the times. The old ways of billboard advertising were out, and social media was in. Former Director of Florida Seminole Tourism Brian Zepeda quipped that “Instead of $70,000 on a billboard, we spend it on Facebook. We do Groupon now, we do all kinds of things” (25 April 2011, Miami Herald).


Billie Swamp Safari was even the focus of Swamp Men, a Nat Geo reality show. The 2010s had lofty goals. They operated with the direct intention of pivoting with the times to continue drawing visitors to the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole tourism. This would turn out to be incredibly savvy, as the world would soon change forever with the Covid-19 pandemic.




At the end of the decade, the Seminole Tribe was able to celebrate a huge milestone. For the first time ever, a Seminole Tribe of Florida Tribal Member won Miss Indian World. Cheyenne Kippenberger, who is from the Hollywood reservation, became the 36th Miss Indian World on April 27th, 2019. The Gathering of Nations has hosted the pageant annually since 1984. It is the largest Native American pow-wow in the world. In a Seminole Tribune article reporting on her win, Kippenberger stated “I’m so proud to be Seminole and to have my community behind me in support. I promise to hold this title proudly and represent my people and all Indigenous People honorably.” Below, you can see an image of Kippenberger during her talent portion of the pageant. She is in the middle of a traditional Seminole hair demonstration and is wearing Seminole patchwork as part of her regalia.



Gideon Canice

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