Ruby Tiger Osceola Remembered

Bronze statue of revered Seminole matriarch unveiled Oct. 23
during a private ceremony at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

By Sandra Hale Schulman
News From Indian Country

The Seminoles continue to honor their Tribal Elders. In October they commissioned a statue created by Bradley Cooley and his son to honor the memory of a woman that brought the first Seminole Family to the Seminole Tampa Reservation. It is permanently on display near the South entrance, inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Ruby Tiger Osceola, matriarch of the Seminole Tribe's Tampa reservation, passed away in 2002 at the age of 106 years but her memory will never die.

On Oct. 23 her large family, members of the Seminole Tribal Council, and other VIP guests experienced a moving, private, ceremonial unveiling of a bronze statute to the woman who dedicated her life to her people and Seminole culture. Noted sculptures, Bradley Cooley and Bradley Cooley Jr., who could be known best for their statue of Chief Osceola and Renegade at Florida State University, also attended the unveiling.

Ruby Osceola was born in the Everglades in 1896 because her grandparents were two of the famous "Unconquered" Seminoles - about only 200 people who escaped persecution and relocation by eluding soldiers for decades while all others were killed or captured and relocated to the American West.

Eventually she settled in Bradenton. But when the remains of early Florida Seminoles were found on a construction site in Tampa in 1980, the door opened for a new Seminole reservation. Then-Chief James Billie asked her if she would establish it with her 17 family members off Orient Road, where they built a high stakes bingo hall that grew into the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

"Mrs. Ruby Tiger Osceola was a pioneer and a visionary leader who strove to preserve tribal culture and protect her people. We are honored to dedicate this statue to her remarkable memory, and I am extremely proud that it will be displayed here," said John Fontana, president of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. As the manager who opened the bingo hall that preceded the casino and hotel there today, Fontana knew Mrs. Osceola and said he especially remembers her gentle, warm smile.

The beautiful statue of Ruby Tiger Osceola dressed in traditional garb has her pointing the way for her people with one hand, the other resting on the back of a Florida panther as it stands beside her, with her six daughters, Suzie Osceola, Nancy Frank, Peggy Cubis, Maggie Garcia, Linda O'Henry, and Annie Henry in a forest background.

For the past 25 years, Bradley Cooley, Bradley Cooley Jr., and their team have devoted their artistic abilities to recreating sculptures of the Seminole and Miccosukee people and their legends. Their life-sized statutes can be viewed in public parks, on government grounds, college campuses, in museums and corporations across the state of Florida.