British agents first described Cowkeeper's people as Seminoles sometime between 1765 and 1771. The British understood the term as a variation on cimarron,* the same word that the Spanish used for runaway slaves. Loosely translated as "runaway" or "wild," the title identified the Florida Indians as breakaway Creeks. Seminoles have always preferred to think of themselves as "emigrants" or "pioneers," rather than runaways. Today, Seminole tribal historians say that
istÓ siminolÓ is a Muskogee phrase for the "free people," meaning that the Seminoles were never subject to European domination.
Sturtevant "Creek" 105, Wright Creeks 106, Mahon 7, Simmons 54-55, Seminole Tribe "History".
*English speakers did not hold spelling in high esteem in the 1700s, which might
explain the phonetic path from Drake's "Symerons" to Stuart's "Seminolies" two centuries later.