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Naples - The Sight – Big Cypress/The Everglades


Although many people refer to this whole area as the Everglades there are several sections and from Naples you are actually entering Big Cypress area (maps from the information area show where each region actually lies).  The information offices are excellent and well worth stopping at to chat about local wildlife, personalities and more.  Most have large boardwalks so you can go for a wander without getting bit by the critters (if you've got your bug spray on!)


If you actually want to see animals this is not a bad time of year as the storms raise the water level and create activity, but you must try to get out at dawn or dusk as the middle of the day is for hiding out from the sun.


Even a short boardwalk wander was too much for me and I ended up back on the road.  If the speed of the road allows it's nice to open up the windows, switch off the air con and get at least the smell of the local area, but as soon as traffic slows it's windows up again.  Be careful with speed though – this is panther country and the biggest danger to panthers (mostly at night) is speeding cars.


You can also get great information here about other state parks including John Pennekamp in the Keys, where I was headed.


I also stopped at the Miccosukee Indian Village along the Tamiami Trail (Tampa – Miami).  What I realised most, from my wonderful moon experience and visiting this village was that the relationship between the "American" community and the different native American tribes of Florida was not what I expected and rather than visiting and understanding I came away from Florida with many more questions.


For years I've been taught that it's politically incorrect to say "Indian" but here the signs say "Indian Village".  When asking questions I got the distinct impression I was asking the wrong ones or making people uncomfortable.  For example when talking about the Seminole Tribe or Miccosukee Tribe, the answer I got is that they are the same but that the Seminole signed a treaty whereas the Miccosukee held out and are described elsewhere as the only sovereign nation in the US, and were recognised by Cuba in 1959.  And that's where it starts to get complicated.


Visiting the Miccosukee Village I learned a little about tribal life, and a little about alligator wrestling, but aside from getting overcome by the heat and having to head into the air conditioned museum, (which made it difficult for me to ask a straight question,) I also felt a little like an outsider at an awkward family gathering, afraid of saying the wrong thing.


There are other ways to get closer to the traditional way of life – for example by staying out in an open sided chickee, which I'd definitely be open to trying next time.  One of the ideas from the Miccosukee Village that has stayed with me is the philosophy of only taking what is needed right now, in particular our guide was talking about cutting down trees, but this philosophy could apply to anything, especially in business and implies a wonderful sense of balance and trust with the universe that I personally aspire to.


Although I did try to research native American healing online before I left, I guess I just thought I'd stop off at a few places along the trail and… it'd be there, as this has worked for me in a lot of other countries.  But I left Florida, still with the feeling that what I saw under the full moon was the most real thing (when of course it may have had nothing to do with tradition and just be people having fun!)


At the end of the day, huge revenues come to the tribes through commercial and tourist activities, which mean that it's easier to find out about airboat rides, casinos and reflexology massages than older, tribal healing traditions, if they still exist?


According to the American Cancer Society "Many Native medicine practices were driven underground or lost because they were banned or illegal in parts of the United States until 1978, when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed. Even now, there are difficulties with ceremonies and rituals on sacred sites. These activities are sometimes forbidden because the land now serves other purposes."


Reading elsewhere, people even talking about shamanic healing could be punished or treated as psychologically unstable (just as many women who didn't conform to social norms have been).  If someone could be incarcerated in a mental hospital and given electric shock treatment just for discussing shamanic rituals, well, you can understand why they're not widely known around here.


It leads me to feel, just as I do when trying to spot wildlife, or see a turtle hatching, that ultimately respecting any creature or person's privacy and not disturbing their wellbeing is as important as my desire to see or learn more.


In this sensitive area I feel it's more important for me tread carefully than to rush in as I normally do when it comes to spas and healing.  I will learn more, but slowly, with great respect.


A great resource I found is this website about Native Voices from the US National Library of Medicine, including the wonderful story of how Navajo healing traditions are now being used to help returning soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder.


From the website it seems that there is a healing of the healing happening now as traditional practices are integrated with other types of medicine and healing in clinics around the country, in particular in Hawaii.  As sad as it is that so much of the native American healing has been lost or hidden it's also worth remembering that the traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage has not only survived but also travelled all the way around the world and been incorporated in massage from the Far East, all the way through Europe and very possibly finding its way to the East Coast of America the long way round.



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