Renegade Road

A woman perishes in a collision with an Indian leader's kin. Her family cries coverup.

Near dawn on Wednesday, January 21, Everglades airboat captain Jesse Kennon was jolted awake by the whirring of helicopter blades over his roof. His first thought: That sounds like Rescue One.

The ruddy-skinned, ponytailed patriarch of Coopertown had heard Miami-Dade Fire Rescue choppers many times before. He estimates he's seen 50 serious accidents directly outside his place on Tamiami Trail, where Miami drivers and a narrow two-lane road form a lethal combination.

White-and-chocolate Miccosukee Police cruisers were crowded haphazardly around the accident about 400 feet to the east, their lights flashing but sirens silent. Kennon had seen tribal cops and Florida Highway Patrol work together at the scene of an accident before, he says, "but this was the first time I'd seen only tribal cops working a crash."

Tatiana Furry treated her beagle TJ like a son, says her mom Helene.
Courtesy of the Furry family
Tatiana Furry treated her beagle TJ like a son, says her mom Helene.
Glades airboat captain Jesse Kennon witnessed the aftermath of Tatiana Furry's fatal accident.
C. Stiles
Glades airboat captain Jesse Kennon witnessed the aftermath of Tatiana Furry's fatal accident.

A pair of three-ton vehicles lay crumpled and strewn like spent soda cans on opposite sides of the road. A dark blue Ford Expedition SUV was overturned on the guardrail in the eastbound lane; three of its wheels were in the air, and its fender was ground into the asphalt.

A wrecked silver four-door Nissan Frontier pickup was in the opposite lane. Its torn-away hood, bearing a deep crater on the driver side, exposed the compacted engine. The left front tire rested on a metal rim, and the right wheel was twisted perpendicular to the vehicle. The front window was shattered and sunken. The truck looked as if a giant hand had balled it up.

The Frontier belonged to Tatiana Furry, a 31-year-old Kendall yachtswoman who sometimes made trips to Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, about four miles to the east, to play bingo or poker. For her family, a surreal nightmare was about to begin.

Fourteen hours after the accident, her father Jack was finally informed his daughter had been killed in the collision. She had "fallen asleep" and been "internally decapitated," tribal Det. Russell Barnes told him, adding that, as the first cop on the scene, he had personally checked her vitals. There were "two people in the [other] vehicle," detectives told the Furrys, though they refused to give names.

Four months later, Jack Furry and his family have received no further information from the cops — and have found the account they were given is riddled with inconsistencies and falsehoods.

Other law enforcement agencies have been misled as well. An FHP sergeant who arrived at the scene an hour after the accident was turned away. "We relied on information from the Miccosukee Police Department," Capt. Mark Welch says. "It wasn't until later that we found out it was in fact not within their jurisdiction."

Though the police have refused to release reports or even an official statement concerning the accident, New Times has discovered that the four young Miccosukee men involved in the accident, who all survived, have amassed at least 17 traffic-infraction and nine criminal charges, including driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, and possessing cocaine. At the time of the accident, the Expedition's driver, a grandson of the Miccosukee tribal chairman, was battling a felony charge in court.

"Why did they lie to us about how many people were in the car?" Tatiana's older brother Will demands as he stands in his comfortable Coconut Grove sunroom. "Why won't they give us any information at all on the other vehicle? Why did it take them 14 hours to contact us? I have no choice but to believe that they're hiding something."

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The 500-plus members of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians are descendants of unconquered warriors who, in centuries of fighting, have never retreated from an aggressor.

Close brothers within the Creek Family to the Seminoles, but always defined by their own Mikasuki language, they came from the Carolinas to Florida in the 1700s as mercenaries recruited by the Spanish to guard against British invasion.

In the 1830s, Miccosukees and Seminoles refused to be herded along the Trail of Tears to desolate Midwestern plains. They clung to state soil in the seven-year Florida War, which was among the bloodiest and most expensive Indian battles in American history.

Miccosukees fled into the untamed Everglades wilderness and weathered another American invasion in 1860. They overmatched their opponent in the swamp. "It was a guerrilla warfare battle in the Everglades," says Paul George, historian at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, "and the American government lost its advantage."

But the fighting and disease decimated the tribe. Numbers dwindled to roughly a hundred by the turn of the 20th Century. They established trade relations with the white man along the Miami River, but Miccosukees always regarded themselves as a renegade nation, making their own rules and strategic allies. In 1959, a group of six high-ranking tribe members visited Fidel Castro, who recognized them as visiting diplomats and saluted their "perseverance and courage."

The Miccosukees have never entered into a treaty with the United States. But from the federal government's perspective, they share the same shaky sovereign status as all other Native American nations — self-rule with numerous caveats. "Dependent sovereignty" allows them no jurisdiction over non-Indians, and limited power over their own tribe.

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10 comments
evalye
evalye

I am Naive American Indian, I am proud of my heritage and the progress we have made in the dominant "white" world. My father served in two wars fighting for this country. I was raised to respect all mankind, and hold all life as precious, and to be a teacher to those who wanted knowledge about my culture. I try to live by my family examples.

I am appalled at what I have read here. I am thinking what has happened to these people? Is this really happening? Then I remembered, my brother who was considered important and a prominent member of our tribe. He had an alcohol addiction he struggled with over a number of years. He was a successful business man despite the addiction, as he could stay sober for years at a time. His last months were spent drinking and within a four month period, he was stopped for DUI's three times by trbal police. He never went to court, and if he did he was slapped on the hand and let go. The fourth time he killed himself, and another.

I recieved an anonmynous phone call four days after his death from a gentleman describing himself as a police officer, he said," your brother and the other killed would be alive if I had done something, I am sorry". I know this type of thing exists everywhere. In defense of Native people its not just in "Indian Country". As human beings we all fail. We need to address these issues together.

Mike
Mike

I am sorry it is Tiger not Tyler.

Thank you

Mike
Mike

I see that the gangs have infected the natives too....Don't tell me those are native tattoos because they are not..That's a gang tattoo on tyler's neck.

Nestor
Nestor

There are more examples of misconduct by this tribe. In the early 90's it was common practice to purchase vehicles and simply not make payments. They would then drive into the reservation where banks were unable to reposses. On one instance, a tow truck driver, carrying a concelaed weapon permit was arrested after being given access to the reservation. His waepon was in his vehicle. The truck was impounded for about a year. DO NOT SPONSOR THESE PEOPLE'S LACK OF RESPECT. DO NOT VISIT THEIR CASINOS. YOU ARE ON THEIR TURF PLAYING BY THEIR RULES, AND THEY ACT WITH IMPUNITY!!!

Moses
Moses

It is a shame to read about this. Native Indians need to take control of their actions. They need to stop acting like little rich brats. I would suggest everyone to stop going to the Indian Casinos because they take your money, and they get you killed.

I always supported Native Americans because this is their land, and It was taken from there. However, it doesn't mean that they can hurt or do whatever they want. The law should apply to everyone equally. Steven Segal always obey this rule in his movies....Making everyone believe that natives were pasive people, but I guess not..

kat
kat

seriously... grow up (mary tiger). perhaps if you do, the children (judging by your last name) of your tribe would be able to grow up as well?! it is ridiculous for an indian tribe to be so set on not being part of the US when apparently they can't handle their own "territory" on their own anyway? let it be your deal if it was indians you killed on that highway - but it wasn't! it was US citizens. seriously... grow up. i hope that the truth comes out and the tribal police are able to admit what happened with some pride and respect for themselves.

ANA
ANA

TO: MARY TIGER, What they are writing is not lies, it is the truth and by your last name i would say you are probably an indian person. Get a hold on these irresponsible young men and stop hurting other people. I hope they go to Jail. They dont seem to care only about themselves.

ANA
ANA

GREAT STORY, much more information than the Miami Herald.I am shocked with the police records from the occupants of the car with the four indians. No wonder they were not speaking they were trying to cover up as much as possible. All Kent Billie does is get into trouble and the fact he just went to court in april on another incident. Now I see why the indians were hush hush. They tried to make him out as an inicent victim but the truth is he has a record on drinking, drugs and speeding. Shame on you Micossukkee Indians. The state attorneys will get to the bottom of this.

Mary Tiger
Mary Tiger

You should not write anything you don't have both sides of the story. All you are printing is lies. No better than most of the people in charge of this country.

 
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