Actor Hawkwood Kenny portrays a Seminole Indian chief as he explains how the Seminoles lived back in the 1800s.
DUNEDIN – It was a perfect day to learn about and enjoy history.
March 8 was sunny and crisp with the temperature hitting 70 degrees in the early morning when the History Comes Alive event began at the Dunedin Cemetery. It was a perfect day to stroll through the cemetery and stop at one of several displays where actors portraying people from long ago, took visitors in a trip back in time.
Near the beginning of the tour was a Seminole Indian encampment where Hawkwood Kenny of Seffner, a man with Cherokee heritage, played the role of a Seminole Indian chief. He explained how animals were trapped and killed for food and their hides and he explained the deal the Seminoles made with the U.S. government back in the 1800s.
“They gave us guns so we could hunt more efficiently,” he said. “In exchange we agreed to move to Indian land, south of Gainesville. We stayed away from the coast where the white man lived.”
But there were skirmishes, many of them. Often it became a tit-for-tat situation.
“If in a battle the white man killed my wife for example,” said Kenny. “Then we would raid their village and perhaps kill all the men and take the women and children back with us. We treated them well, they became our wives.”
After listening to Kenny, visitors Richard and Pauline Lebert of Windsor, Ontario, were impressed.
“It was great, it was a real eye-opener into history,” said Pauline. “It is all really good. There should be more people here.”
“It showed us how tough things were back then,” said Richard. “They were cruel, hard days. We’ll definitely come back next year and bring some people with us.”
Nearby, Sean Janusheski of Lakeland was portraying an artilleryman who fought in the 2nd Seminole War in Florida from 1835 to 1842. He explained how the Spanish left Florida in 1821 and the U.S, forces moved in. Up until that time Florida, which was not part of the United States, was a haven for runaway slaves. The Spanish had no issue with their being black people among them. But when the Americans took over one of their first tasks was to round up the slaves and return them to their owners.
Janusheski said explaining history like that to people is why he takes part in the event.
“I enjoy talking to people and showing them history,” he said.
Stewart Ellis of Westport, Mass., was one of those interested in what he heard from Janusheski.
“We’ve been to Gettysburg and have seen things like this,” he said. “This is beautiful, the displays are excellent. You certainly learn a lot.”
Canadian Coline MacDonald of Ottawa was quietly strolling the grounds trying to take everything in. She was moved by what she saw and heard.
“It certainly makes you re-think your history,” she said. “With all the interest in genealogy these days it makes you realize how things have changed and how spread out we all are these days. This leaves you longing to know more.”
This year’s event was the 7th annual, and it honored Zack Shannon, 21, a Dunedin High graduate who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Shannon is buried in the cemetery where history came alive.