Florida Seminole Tourism

A Better Tomorrow: Today’s Trailblazing Seminole Women Build the Future

Throughout the month of March, we have had the privilege to highlight just a few of the strong, resilient, and powerful Seminole women throughout history. To end our Seminole Women’s History Month feature, Florida Seminole Tourism would like to take the opportunity to highlight a few contemporary Seminole women affecting change. But, this is not an exhaustive list. Throughout Indian Country and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, there are many, many women who are caring for their families, their culture, and changing the course of history. So, we encourage you to lift up and support women and girls as they help shape our collective future for the better.

In our featured image, from left to right, Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie, then-Brighton Board Rep. Helene Buster, Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall and Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers pose by the Council Oak Tree after taking the inauguration June 7, 2021, in Hollywood. At this election, these four Seminole women made history. Prior to this point, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has never had four women serving in positions of leadership at one time; the most it had ever had is two. Photo by Beverly Bidney via the Seminole Tribune.

Holly Tiger, via hollytiger.com

Holly Tiger

One of the most recently elected Seminole women, Holly Tiger is the first female president of Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc. (STOFI), the Tribe’s business arm. Tiger was elected in a special election on August 10, 2023. As president of STOFI, Tiger also serves as the vice-chairwoman of the Tribal Council. Tiger is from Hollywood and has worked to strengthen the Tribe in a number of roles for the last twenty years.

She holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Government from Queens University of Charlotte, and a Law Degree from Nova Southeastern University. Additionally, she has been the Director of Housing, the Tribal Clerk, and a Contract Administrator for the Board of Directors. Tiger also was the Executive Director of the Native Learning Center in Hollywood and was instrumental in its creation. Previously, she also was a special advisor to former President of STOFI Richard Bowers.

On her campaign website, she talks about her wishes for the future of STOFI and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Tiger states “I pledge to serve our people first…. Working together will make us all stronger. Together, we will honor our past, strengthen our present, and build our future.”


Christine McCall in 2022, phot by Damon Scott via the Seminole Tribune

Christine McCall

One of the four Seminole women who made history on June 7, 2021, Christine McCall is the Hollywood Board Representative. At the historic inauguration, McCall spoke about the impact of her installment. She stated, “I am proud to stand here representing a new generation of leadership, and I hope it will inspire more young tribal members to get involved.”

McCall has a long history of achievement and working to help the Seminole Tribe of Florida. As a former Miss Florida Seminole 2005, she volunteers her time now as a stage director for the annual Miss Florida Seminole/Jr. Miss Florida Seminole princess pageant. McCall also competed in Miss Indian World twice. She holds a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Florida State University, as well as an Associates of Science in photography from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Additionally, McCall is passionate about climate resiliency. She became vegan around seven years ago after becoming more educated on the connections between food and climate change. In a Q & A with the Seminole Tribune about climate resiliency, she talked about her dedication to climate resiliency and the future. She says “I’m a question person. Sometimes I annoy people with the amount of questions I ask, but I think that’s the only way you can truly make a good decision. Climate resiliency stems from our own actions. What am I doing to my body? What am I doing to my environment? Hopefully this planet will still be here when my grandkids are here.”


Mariann Billie, left, with her sister Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Aubee Billie at her inauguration in 2021. Photo by Beverly Bidney via the Seminole Tribune.

Mariann Billie

At her inauguration as Big Cypress Councilwoman, Billie honored those who came before her. “We have shown that women are much more than clan lineage, the matriarchy is about strong Seminole women serving in our government and our businesses. I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. I dedicate this to the late Betty Mae Jumper, a woman of true substance who paved the way many, many years ago,” Billie stated.

For many, Billie is one of those strong women leading the way. Sister Aubee Billie, above, stated that “My family is ecstatic today because my sister Mariann is being inducted today as the Big Cypress council representative and I’m very proud of her,” Aubee Billie said. “You’ve not only impacted me but all the younger generation of women who are going to be authoritative figures in the tribe as well.”


2023 PACT Freedom Award Honoree

Mariann Billie was the first woman to represent Big Cypress in her position. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from Nova Southeastern University. She is also a 2023 PACT Freedom Award Honoree. Protect All Children Against Trafficking (PACT), formerly ECPAT-USA, honored Billie because she “has dedicated her life to supporting young people through her work with various tribal programs such as education and human resources.”

Billie was also instrumental in the creation and organization of the Big Cypress Indigenous Arts and Music Festival, which just celebrated its second year in February 2024. Recently, Billie also helped facilitate a one-time auction to dispose of equipment from the closed Billie Swamp Safari. “It started because tribal members wanted to buy some things from Billie Swamp Safari,” said Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie. “I had to make it fair for everyone who wanted stuff. It’s a good turnout and, for me, it’s good entertainment. This is like a family reunion. We don’t see each other that often during the year.”


L-R: Christine McCall, Helene Buster, and Nadine Bowers take oath of office, June 7, 2021. Photo by Beverly Bidney via the Seminole Tribune.

Nadine Bowers

Big Cypress Board Representative Bowers is the first woman to represent Big Cypress in her position. On inauguration day, Bowers noted that this was a long time coming. “We did it.” Bowers shared, “We have many women-owned businesses within our tribe, so it is natural that women should serve on the board of directors. I hope through working together that we can serve as role models for young girls and women who want to pursue a role in a tribal and global business environment.”

Additionally, Bowers has been working for the tribe for many years. She spent almost 12 years working for the Big Cypress Elder Services as its Site Manager. She also worked as part of the Culture Department on Big Cypress.


Helene Buster receiving her award from NICWA in 2015, via the Seminole Tribune

Helene Buster

Re-elected on June 7, 2021 (and serving until 2023), incumbent Brighton Board Rep Helene Buster stated that “It’s been a long time coming. I think the four of us are some very proud, proud women today. Our job is to represent you as our community as our tribe.” Buster is a Registered Nurse, receiving her degree from South Florida Community College in 1997.


Family Services Director

Buster has also long worked for the Seminole community, dedicating her life to their health and well-being. She was the Family Services Director of the Seminole Tribe of Florida since 2005, where she provided “guidance, support, protection, and care for Tribal families” (29 July 2011, Seminole Tribune). Buster was instrumental in the creation of a viable Tribal Court system in 2015. During its creation, she stated that “a Tribal Court is one of the most important things that we are developing…not only for my department, Family Services, with all our dependency cases, but for the sovereignty of our entire Tribe.”

She, among many other Tribal Members, created the Tribal Court Committee in 2005. Buster also created the Children’s Code, which dictates how children’s cases are handled. When it finally came to fruition, Buster stated “Wow, it’s finally here and we are all very, very happy….We’ve been on this since day one. For 10 years. That is forever ago.”

Buster received the National Indian Child Welfare Association’s (NICWA) inaugural Member of the Year Award in 2015. Representative for NICWA Nicole Adams stated that “With an almost unparalleled list of accomplishments and a demonstrated lifelong commitment to service to her community, it is clear that the award is well-deserved,”


Seminoles In Recovery

Dedicated to the health and well-being of the community, Buster started Seminoles In Recovery, which “provides the support mechanism needed for individuals involved in the recovery process to succeed in their goals, and live a happy and prosperous life.” She organized the group with her husband Andy Bowers, a retired Miccosukee Tribal Judge. “The program is practice, not perfection,” said Helene Buster said in 2016. “The battle is never won. You take it one day at a time. It’s true that you won’t ever be cured because addiction is a disease. But like diabetes, you can get it under control. Our medicine is going to meetings.”


Lucy Bowers, left, with Uncle Andrew J. Bowers Jr., center, and brother Marvin Bowers, right. Photo by Amanda Miller via the Seminole Tribune.

Lucy Bowers

Lucy Bowers has spent a lifetime around cattle; one that has served her well and led to her historic installment as parliamentarian on the Executive Board of the Florida Cattlewomen Inc. (FCW) in 2022. Growing up on the Brighton Reservation, Bowers comes from a long line of cowkeepers. “I have lots of fond memories of being in the pastures as a child watching our family work the herd, whether it was marking calves, vaccinating or branding,” Bowers recalls. Today, she and her brother Marvin Bowers help her uncle, former Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr., maintain the family herd.

Additionally, Bowers was essential in reestablishing Florida Seminole Cattlewomen Inc. in 2018. “I plan to use this organization to promote the beef industry locally and share what it is we do right here within the Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc.,” Bowers shared with the Seminole Tribune. “I am also encouraging our membership to seek opportunities to get involved on the state and national levels, as networking is a valuable tool to bring our story of the Seminole Tribe’s cattle operation to light.”

Bowers is the first Tribal member from the Seminole Tribe of Florida to serve on the FWC executive board. This board post is a four-year commitment and will culminate in Bowers serving as president in 2026. Right now, Bowers serves as Treasurer. On social media, Bowers shared her excitement for the post, continuing “I did not expect a ‘seat at the table’ but I am absolutely honored that Florida Cattlewomen have asked a shy Florida Seminole girl to step up and assist with leading their mission. Yes, your girl has been installed onto the FCW Executive Board as Parliamentarian!”


Osceola speaking in February 2020 about the THPO’s efforts to get remains returned from NMNH, via stofthpo.com

Tina Marie Osceola

Tina Marie Osceola wears many hats, all of them in service to her community and furthering Seminole tribal sovereignty. Currently the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), as well as the Director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), Osceola is also the Acting Executive Director of Operations of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

She holds a Bachelors in Political Science from Rollins College, as well as a Master’s in Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University. Former Director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Osceola also served the Tribe as an associate Tribal Judge in the first Tribal Court. A mother and grandmother, Osceola is a life-long resident of Naples with her family. Osceola is also an artist, creating intricate beadwork and coin necklaces that have been featured previously in the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and even Disney World.

No More Stolen Ancestors

She has also been instrumental in the THPO’s No More Stolen Ancestors campaign, which seeks the return of Seminole ancestral remains from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Led by the THPO’s Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Committee, the campaign raises awareness across Indian Country and beyond about the fight to return these ancestors. “This is going to help all of Indian Country,” Osceola said in 2020.  “What we did for Indian gaming, we can do for repatriation. Other tribes are ready to back up the Seminole Tribe and take it to the next level. We are sitting in a powerful position in a pivotal time.”

Tribal Sovereignty

Osceola became Director of the THPO in 2022. In a Seminole Tribune article about her appointment, she stated that “THPO is really the champion of tribal sovereignty, And that is due, in part, to the incredible amount of interface between our office and federal and state agencies.” She continued, “That’s our foot in the door when it comes to these large projects that occur with the Army Corps, Everglades restoration and national parks that are in ancestral boundaries, It’s important for tribes to fully exercise their rights and responsibilities. It really is our mission.”

Recently, the effects of stepping through those doors has been seen in Seminole involvement with Everglades Restoration. In February 2024 Osceola and Curtis Osceola (Miccosukee) were among a panel discussing Western Everglades Restoration (WEP). “Last year, what I asked all of you to do was to put Native voices at the center of Everglades restoration. And you did that,” said Curtis Osceola. “And I wanted to say thank you all for hearing us out, and for listening to our message, and for empowering us to lead the charge on Everglades restoration.”

Tina Marie Osceola called it a “milestone,” continuing that “We have to take a step back and understand this is about legacy,” she said. “What we do with the state today will matter in 100 years when none of us will be here.”


Amy Johns J.D., via semtribe.com

Amy Johns J.D.

Chief Justice Amy Johns was installed as chief justice of the appellate court on November 19, 2021. Prior to this, she had been the interim chief justice after the tragic loss of Willie Johns in 2020. Johns has been involved with the court since its inception in 2015, when she was installed as an associate justice.

Raised on the Brighton Reservation, Johns graduated Okeechobee High School before leaving to attend Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. She holds a Bachelor’s in Social Work and a Master’s in Public Administration from ASU. Johns also earned her law degree from the University of Montana Missoula. Additionally, Johns completed an advanced Indian Law program through the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I was always interested in the creation and implementation of the Tribal Court,” Johns said after her installment as chief justice in 2021. “I’m very invested and committed to the tribe.”

The court represents a huge step forward in tribal sovereignty and agency. Judges and Justices in the court are responsible for “resolving civil disputes through the Tribal Court’s two branches – a trial court where judges try new cases and an appellate court where the justices hear appeals on prior rulings.” After her installment as chief justice, Johns voiced her wishes for the Tribal Court to grow, such as taking on dependency cases and setting up a “healing to wellness” court. “The hope is to eventually take those cases on completely by ourselves,” Johns explained. During the pandemic, Johns also reaffirmed that the Tribal Court was working hard for the Seminole tribe. “We are here; we are open,” Johns said. “We’re a source that’s here for you.”


Also interested in other installments from this series? Check our previous posts on Ada Tiger, Lorene Bowers Gopher, Laura Mae Osceola, and Susie Jim Billie.


Author Bio

Originally from Washington state, Deanna Butler received her BA in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Washington in 2014. Deanna moved to Florida in 2016. Soon, she began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Deanna was the THPO’s Archaeological Collections Assistant from 2017-2021. While at the THPO, Deanna worked to preserve, support, and process the Tribe’s archaeological collection. She often wrote the popular Artifact of the Month series and worked on many community and educational outreach programs. She lives in Lakeland, FL with her husband, two sons, and dog.

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