Huge tree serves as ceremonial meeting place
By David Fleshler
To the south is one of the tribe's casinos, formerly the high-stakes bingo hall that opened the way to Indian gambling businesses in the United States. A nearby tax-free tobacco store does brisk drive-up business. And across Stirling Road looms the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's neon guitar sign.
The tree, called the Council Oak Tree, has just been nominated by the tribe for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, a program run by the National Park Service to recognize places that played important roles in the nation's history. After starting out as a shady spot for tribal meetings when no buildings were available, the tree became the ceremonial location for the installation of new leaders and for the announcement of deals that confirmed the tribe as a player in international gambling and entertainment.
"The Council Oak Tree reflects the Seminole Tribe of Florida's growth over the years and stands as a symbol of strength and stability," states the tribe's application to the National Park Service. "…The tree has been the site of many of the Seminole Tribe of Florida's milestones in recent years as well, such as the 25th Anniversary celebration for the birthplace of Indian gaming in 2004, the Seminole Tribe of Florida's 50th Anniversary celebration in 2007, and the signing of the Seminole Gaming Compact with the state of Florida in 2010. The Council Oak tree contains great significance for the Seminole Tribe of Florida for both its physical presence and for the events that have occurred there."