"This is our Land. We do not need an Indian Agent! Osceola looked across the table directly into the eyes of Wiley Thompson, the Indian Agent, who was threatening him with Force unless he agreed to leave Florida. Osceola continued, "You Have Guns. So have We. Your Men will Fight. So will Ours, Till the Last Drop of Our Blood Moistens the Earth."
To the Seminoles, confined to the Reservation, the Indian Agent had become the warden of the prison into which they had been incarcerated. Here for the past eleven years, they had been abused, humiliated, exploited, and starved.
The U.S. Congress had adopted the British concept of a Government paid Indian Agent as a frontier diplomat. However, he was placed in the War Department, not the State Department. From the beginning, Indians were associated with War.
The Agent was to live among the Indians, try to make them allies against foreign nations, and groom them for some form of future productive American citizenship. Ancillary duties included: (1) Resolving Indian-Settler disputes, (2) Teaching Indians how to read, write, and farm, and (3) Distributing Treaty Annuities including food, tools, materials, supplies, and payments.
Gad Humphreys, the first U.S. Indian Agent for the Seminoles, located the Agency (1825) in what is now the City of Ocala near the intersection of Maricamp Road and SE 30th Avenue. Here Seminoles were already farming the soils growing corn, beans, turnips, and squash. This location was still being farmed in the 1960's as part of the 'County Farm' complex where County prisoners grew their own food. The Agency complex would have looked similar to Benjamin Hawkins Creek Indian Agency in Georgia depicted in the painting.
A sketch of the Agency's main building is shown below. The 3,844 square foot building was the home and office of the Agent. It was the largest structure in the interior of Florida and was built large to impress the Seminoles with the might of the U.S. Government. They burned it to the ground in 1836.
The job of the Indian Agent was difficult enough, but in Florida it was an impossible job. Here the Agent was consumed with ownership claims of Blacks. No other Indian Agent in the U.S. had to deal with such a contentious problem.
In 1830, after 8 years as Agent, Gad Humphreys was fired because he had sided too often with the Seminoles and Blacks against what he considered falsified claims by Settlers for the Seminole's Blacks. The last two Agents, John Phagan and Wiley Thompson, realized that conflicts between the Whites and the Seminoles over Black ownership could never be resolved peacefully. Accordingly, they stood behind President Jackson's Indian Removal policy as the most humane solution for both the Seminoles and what remained of the Free Blacks.
Unfortunately, by now the Seminoles were tired of the ever changing and adversarial Government policies toward them. The Government had broken the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, Falsely Interpreted the Treaty of Payne's Landing, and Forced them to sign the Treaty at Fort Gibson. They could no longer trust the U.S. Government. In fact, the Seminoles now believed that the sole intention of the Whites was to kill all of them so all the Blacks could be re-enslaved.
The Indian Agent became symbolic of all the broken treaties, the arrogance, and the injustices inflicted on them by the 'Crackers' and their Government. There was about to be a Prison break-out and it would be a bloody affair.