“By now, the Miccosukee attorney had unearthed the old treaties with Britain and Spain that laid the foundation for the land claims later affirmed at Moulrie Creek in 1823 and the Macomb-Worth Agreement in 1842. Encouraged by “Wallace Madbear” Anderson (the Tuscarora activist celebrated in Edmund Wilson’s Apologies to the Iroquois and now a leader in the Indian Rebirth Movement that had started a few years earlier among the Hopi), the increasingly sophisticated Miccosukee declared themselves a sovereign nation, and in 1958, armed with their treaties, they threatened to bring suit against the United States at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. In 1959, Buffalo Tiger and Howard Osceola, together with other Miccosukee spokesman, met with Mad Bear in Washington, and later that year they accompanied him to Cuba, where on behalf of the Miccosukee Nation they signed a treaty of friendship with Fidel Castro. In response to this disconcerting publicity, promoted by Mad Bear as a goad to “Washington,” the state of Florida in 1960 decided to recognize the Miccosukee after all, and lease them that land in their own name that had been refused to them three years before. In the same period, the U.S. government intensified its efforts to bring these Indians under federal supervision, and before long, Buffalo Tiger had been persuaded that negotiation with the United States was the only real hope for obtaining land. But Ingraham Billie and his group, convinced that Tiger and attorney Morton Silver were compromising the people’s independence, withdrew all support from the General Council, aligning themselves once again with Cory Osceola.
“In early January of 1983, the state of Florida granted Buffalo Tiger’s Miccosukee Tribe its long-sought lease on 189,000 acres of the FCD’s Conservation Area No. 3, together with $975,000 for “economic development.” In the opinion of the Osceola family, the lease contract is a government payoff to a “puppet Indian.” As Homer Osceola told a reporter for the Miami Herald on January 9, 1983, “He’s not doing things the Indian way at all. He can’t live like the old Indians used to live. . . . If the Indian people are going to change, let nature change them not some money-hungry guy telling them what to do. Far as we’re concerned, Florida is not part of the United States in the first place, because we’ve never been conquered. . . . How can the white man give it to us when we already own it?
To this, Buffalo Tiger retorted, “Just because their last name is Osceola, they still think they’re great leaders like Chief Osceola, but they’re wrong. The man died long, long ago. These people better wake up and be like everybody else.” Hearing that he had been criticized for driving a “1983 gold-colored Cadillac,” he said, “It’s only an ’82, but it runs pretty good.”
In recognizing Tiger’s disputed right to speak for all his Miccosukee people, the U.S. government and the state of Florida tried to extinguish all future treaty claims by Florida Indians, and President
Reagan, who signed the agreement into law, promptly received an angry letter protesting the unlawful sale of “our Everglades homeland” by “Mr. Tiger and his fake tribe.” The letter was written on ancient stationary that still carried the name of Buffalo Tiger, who had resigned from the General Council in 1961; it was signed by Homer, Howard, Bill, John, Leroy, and William Osceola, together with a nephew, Rainey Jim.”