SEMINOLE — Joe Dan Osceola, the youngest president in the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, died June 9 after a fall at home. He was 82.
Osceola, who also served as the first president of the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc., was a well-known figure in the city of Seminole.
He attended Seminole’s early Pow Wow festivals, which took place before the city was even formed in 1970, as a guest of honor.
“He was here for our first Pow Wow and always appreciated the fact that our city was named after their tribe,” said Mayor Leslie Waters at the June 11 Seminole City Council meeting. “So that was always a great connection.”
In 1969, Osceola led the Pow Wow Parade and presented a talk on “The Seminole Nation, Its History, Culture and Current Problems.”
During this period, he also carved and gifted a ladle to the volunteer fire department at the time. This ladle is on display at the Seminole Historical Society Museum in Seminole City Park.
Bob Grant, a member of the volunteer fire department who was in charge of the Pow Wow Parade, said Osceola also brought several jackets made by his mother that he gifted to several local leaders involved with the event. Grant donated his jacket to the museum.
Grant said that Osceola’s presence at the Pow Wow “gave the city of Seminole some credibility.”
He added, “I suppose you could say that Joe Dan was here and that gave tacit approval by his being here.”
Though Grant was busy running the parade, he did get to know Osceola a bit throughout the festivities, he said.
“He was an interesting guy,” he said. “He was very educated, very smart and a good chief for the nation.”
Pete Gallagher, a St. Petersburg resident who worked for the Seminole Tribe for many years, said Osceola “was a really, really good guy.”
“He was handsome and had good manners, and all around was a really good guy,” Gallagher said. “He was well known all over the city of Fort Lauderdale, Broward County and Dade County. He was the main Seminole to show up as a spokesperson at meetings and events.”
Gallagher acknowledged Osceola’s role in the city of Seminole’s history. He said many in the city mistakenly refer to him as “chief.”
“He’s never been a chief though,” he said.
Osceola served as president and vice chair of the Seminole Tribe of Florida from 1967-1971. In recent years, he served as ambassador for the tribe, Gallagher said.