Betty Mae Jumper Biography

Betty Mae Jumper

Seminole Indian tribal leader and publisher
Born: 1923
Birthplace: Indiantown, Florida

Born in a small village in the Everglades to a full-blooded Seminole mother and a white father, Betty Mae Tiger grew up in a traditional Seminole community in Florida. With little opportunity for education in the area, Jumper attended an Indian boarding school a thousand miles away in Cherokee, North Carolina. In 1945, she and her cousin, who also attended the school, became the first Florida Seminoles to graduate from high school. She then enrolled in a nursing program at the Kiowa Indian Hospital in Oklahoma. She returned to Florida the following year and worked to improve health care in the Seminole community. There she married Moses Jumper, whom she had met at the boarding school in North Carolina. They had three children. In addition to her public health career, she launched a tribal newsletter called the Seminole News (which later became The Seminole Tribune) in 1950.

The Seminole tribe of Florida received federal recognition in 1957, and Betty Mae Jumper was elected as one of its representatives. She continued to work in tribal government in various capacities, and in 1967 she was elected head of the Tribal Council, the first woman to serve as leader of the Seminoles. She left office in 1971 and became publisher of the Seminole Tribune newspaper. Betty Mae Jumper also collected stories and legends of the Seminole and has lectured widely about Seminole history and culture. She has not only worked in health care, government, and media positions to improve the fortunes of her people, but she has also sought to preserve Seminole culture and educate others about it.