2015 Florida Folk Heritage Award Winner
Born in 1945, Lorene Gopher grew up learning Seminole folkways and language in a traditional Seminole camp near Lake Okeechobee. She learned English as a second language by the age of eight, and went on to become one of the first members of the Seminole Tribe to earn a high school diploma. Acknowledged for her strength of character and commitment to the cultural integrity of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, she served as Cultural Consultant and Tradition Advisor for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and the Brighton Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, where she became aware of the growing need to preserve the Florida Creek language. Her passion for Seminole traditions inspired her to design and develop two successful educational programs dedicated to culture and language training. For the past 30 years, Mrs. Gopher was also instrumental in organizing arts and foodways demonstrations for the Seminole Camp at the Florida Folk Festival. With the Creek language nearing extinction, Mrs. Gopher dedicated the last years of her life to painstakingly compiling a Florida Creek Dictionary, which was completed just before her death in August of 2014. Today, we honor her legacy and lifelong advocacy for Seminole language and culture.