Members of the Miccosukee Tribe gathered in protest this past weekend to rally against drilling by a big oil company near their homes at Big Cypress National Preserve, as well as the threat to endangered wildlife species.
We spoke to an elder tribe member about her fight to keep the future of their land bright. A more than 6-mile hike on land in Big Cypress is sacred to the Miccosukee Tribe. It’s a long way to go, especially loaded down with hiking gear and carrying flags.
Natives fear the land off I-75 near mile marker 63 could become the road to a drilling site.
“This was a place that provided us a refuge, a home,” said Betty Osceola, a Miccosukee elder.
It’s a home where generations of Miccosukee are buried. Osceola says it’s now faces a threat.
Texas-based Burnett Oil Co. filed for permits in January to drill in Big Cypress in 2022.
A spokesperson for Burnett Oil Co. shared in a statement, “We are committed to utilizing the least impactful methods for extracting the private minerals underlying the Big Cypress National Preserve.”
“When you put in more oil, all of this development, you’re trying to divest the indigenous people of their land,” Osceola said. “It’s not for us to abuse nature’s right to exist.”
These protesters worry not only about their history, but also water quality, wildlife and the preserve’s delicate ecosystem.
“We think it would be detrimental to the purpose of the preserve, which is to conserve the hydrology and ecology of that space,” said Jaclyn Lopez, the Florida director for Center for Biological Diversity.
“In our time of need, this land provided us shelter and a place to exist,” Osceola said. “So in her time of need, we have the obligation to protect her.”
Florida Department of environmental Protection is reviewing Burnett Oil’s application.
Meanwhile, protestors with the Miccosukee Tribe said they’ll be watching.
Our partners at Gulfshore Life did an extensive profile of Betty Osceola and her vision for the Everglades in its April sustainability issue.