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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Thelma Reid
INTERVIEWER: Lew Barton
DATE: July 2, 1974
B: This is July 2, 1974. I'm Lew Barton. This afternoon I am in
the home of Mr. and Mrs. Gid Richardson, near Hollister, North
Carolina, and with me is a young lady who had kindly consented
to give me an interview. I'm going to ask her her name.
R: Thelma Reid.
B: How old are you, Thelma, or shouldn't I ask a lady her age?
B: You don't mind telling your age, do you?
R: No sir.
B: If you get to be about Mrs. Richardson's age, well, she doesn't
mind telling her age either, how about that? Do you think you'll
still be willing to tell your age at eighty?
R: Yes, sir.
B: Where did you go to school?
R: You mean both years I went?
B: Uh huh.
R: Haliwa Indian School.
B: That was a great school, wasn't it?
R: Yeah, the best.
B: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
R: Eight, other than me. Five sisters and three brothers.
B: And your mother and father are?
R: Mr. and Mrs. Cofield Reid.
B: Did you enjoy going to school when you went?
R: Yes, sir.
B: What things were you interested in? Did you enjoy sports, and
that sort of thing?
R: A little.
B: Have any problems?
R: Work, and I don't know...I like to sing.
B: You like to sing? What kind of music do you like? Do you have
any favorite singers?
R: Folk singing, or gospel.
B: Gospel singers?
B: What are your favorite songs? Which songs do you like? Which
gospel songs do you like especially?
R: I like every.
B: You like all of them?
B: You're not engaged or anything, are you?
R: Definitely not.
B: Don't plan to be soon?
R: No, sir.
B: Thelma Jean, you've got a long time to think about that, haven't you?
R: Yes, sir.
B: How do you feel about discipline in our homes? You know, our Indian
people have their own style of bringing young people up. Do you enjoy
the way you've been brought up?
R: Sometimes yes, but sometimes not.
B: Do you think they're a little strict at times?
R: Yeah. Lots of. times.
B: I understand you're working. Where are you working at?
R: Bethlehem Trading Post.
B: Where is this?
R: Near the highway, and you just go into a cutoff.
B: What do you do?
R: I'm a waitress.
B: How long have you been working there?
R: Since Labor Day of 1973.
B: That means you quit school about sixteen?
R: Yeah, sixteen and a half.
B: You enjoy your work?
R: Yes, sir.
B: Are nany of our young people falling out of school and starting to
work, do you think?
R: Lots of them. Then again, a lot of them stay in school, planning
B: Are they getting discouraged with school, or what do you think?
R: think it's the integration of the schools, and the teachers, and
stuff like that.
B: Do you think Indian students rather go to their own schools?
R: Yes, sir. We had more fun at ours.
B: Do you think they aren't being treated fair, or it's just more
comfortable with your own people, or what?
R: Sometimes they're not treated fair, and then again they're just
comfortable with their own people.
B: Do you think we just have a tendency to hold together, or we prefer
to be together, our people?
R: Yeah, I think we have a tendency to hold together.
B: I want to ask you a question about something I'll bet you don't know
anything at all about, and if you don't fine. But other young people
throughout the country in various parts of the United States are hav-
ing trouble with what is known as "the weed", "pot", things like this.
Do you think this is bothering our young people, or do our young
people have a problem of this sort, or do you think it hasn't reached...?
R: Yes, some of them have a little of the problem, but not that much.
B: Not a big problem?
R: No, not a big one.
B: Do you have anything like the woman's liberation movement in the
country, or has that reached the community here yet?
R: No, I don't think so.
B: Woman's lib, they call it. How do you feel about guys and girls? Do
you think that the woman's liberation movement is a movement which
says that women aren't getting a fair shake in things now, and that
they should be getting better. One little thing they believe in, which
I believe in too, is equal pay for equal work. How do you feel about
R: Yes, I feel that's right. Women get the same as the men, because they
probably do more work, anyway.
B: You think they beat the men in some way?
B: Well, you sound like you'd make a pretty good woman's libber. They
believe in other things, too, like they say that a woman's
name should...a woman should not have to put Mrs., you know,
before her name. They want it to be shortened down to Ms.,
which could be an unmarried woman or which could be a married
woman, but you wouldn't know just by seeing her name. How about
this? You think that should be? I believe it's pronounced "Miz"
instead of Mrs. Instead of having Miss and Mrs., you just put
everything, you just put it Ms.
R: I think I'd like Ms. probably.
B: Well, I think you'd make a pretty good woman's libber. We talked
earlier, before we got on tape, I believe, about your Haliwa Queen.
Have you chosen her yet?
R: They've chosen already for 1974.
B: And what was her name, again?
R: Miss Lori Richardson.
B: Did they not have a princess and a queen last year, or was it
just one title? Do you have more than one title?
R: They had just the princess, the formal princess, and the one they
elected for 1974.
B: Do you think many of the folks from here will be going to the Lumbee
R: I'm not sure. I know Mr. Robb and them will be going.
B: How long have you been working?
R: Where at?
B: Where you're working now. Well, how long have you been working,
R: Almost a year.
B: Does it make you feel more independent?
R: Yes, sir.
B: Well that's nice. Are many of the girls working?
0 \ :
R: Well, not at the present time.
B: Among our people back home, some of the women are taking leading
parts, you know, becoming good leaders, really great leaders,
some of them. How about this? How do you feel about this? Are
your women doing any leading? Are they taking leading roles in
the community activities, and things like this?
R: No, I don't think so.
B: How about in church work? Are they very active in church?
R: Yeah. At our church here, there's more women than there is men.
And of course theydo the work here.
B: Well, women do a lot of the work in any church, I think. Well,
they couldn't get along without them, could they?
B: What do you think is the greatest problem that young people have
R: I've not thought about that.
B: Let me ask you if you had the opportunity to change anything at
all about Halifax County, or Warren County...if you had the power
to change anything you wanted to change, what would you change?
R: Anything I wanted?
B: Anything you wanted to change.
R: We'd close the government, to to answer that one.
B: You want to answer it further?
B: Would you rather skip over it?
R: Yeah, I guess so.
B: You can answer if you'd like. I won't play that part back to any-
R: No, I won't answer that.
B: Okay. You told me you weren't engaged. How old do our Indian
women around here usually be when they get married?
R: Some of them fifteen, nineteen, different ages. A lot of the
young girls now are getting married at like sixteen or seventeen,
or something like this.
B: Do you think a young couple getting married stand a good change
of making a happy marriage?
R: It all depends on what they make of their marriage.
B: Who the two people are, and how hard they work at it?
B: It seems to me that in some of the communities people have a tendency
to get married at an early age. This is not necessarily confined to
an Indian community. What other problems do you think young people
have, usually? This could be any young people; not necessarily Indian
girls or Indian boys.
R: I don't really have so many nowadays. I just can't express myself.
B: Well, I'd like you to answer this if you want to. If you don't, it's
OK. How do you think our young people feel about inter-racial dating?
Generally, I'm talking about Indian young people, you know, dating
between Indian and white. Do you think they frown on that, generally,
or is it accepted, or what?
R: I think most of the time it's accepted, if they have a chance.
B: Do you think that kind of dating would run into trouble with parents,
or community leaders on both sides, maybe one side or the other?
R: I don't know.
B: Do you have any hobbies? Anything you like to do to pass the time?
Like riding, or...how do people feel about dancing, for example?
R: I like dancing and music.
B: How about popular songs? Do you think they're getting better?
R: Yeah, some of them.
B: They're pretty good? There's one out right now, I forget what
it's called, you know...
R: "The Streak". Is that what you're talking about?
B: Yeah, that's a novelty number; it's very funny. I get a bang
out of that. Do you?
R: Yeah, I like it.
B: There goes the streak, or something. No, this song has words in it
like "take away these chains, take away these chains, make me free",
or something. You don't remember that one?
R: No sir.
B: Do you have any favorite group of singers you like besides gospel
R: Yeah, I like our band over at the school.
B: You got a good band over there?
R: Yeah, I think so.
B: Boys and girls participate?
R: The boys are the only ones in the singing group. There's lots of
other people dancing.
B: Do they have classes over there, in sex education, things like this?
R: No, sir.
B: Do they have a hygiene class over there where boys and girls can
ask counselors personal things?
R: Oh, yeah.
B: A guy can ask a guy, and the girls can ask a girl, right?
B: There is this sort of arrangement back home. It works well in
some schools, and some schools, and some schools it doesn't.,
It all depends.
Would people accept that kind of thing at your school, do
you think? If you had something like sex education classes,
or do you think it would be frowned on?
R: Do you mean do we think the parents would object?
B: Yeah, would the parents object? And the school officials? Would
R: I don't think so. I think it would be interesting.
B: To say the least. In some parts of the country it's done pretty
freely, and some other parts of the country it hasn't been practiced,
but do you think it would be valuable? Do you think it would help
R: Yeah, I think it would help them some.
B: How do students feel about going to church usually? Do you think
they like to go to church, take an active part, and so on?
R: Not many of them.
B: How do you feel about it? Do you like to go to church?
B: Do you really enjoy it, or do you just go because you think you
R: I enjoy it when I go, but since I started work, it's very seldom
that I go. But when I do go I enjoy it.
B: How about T.V. and that sort of thing? Drive-in movies?
R: Yeah, I like those.
B: ,Jhat do you plan to do for the rest of the time? You're still
very young. Not too young, but not too old. You're at an acceptable
age, let's say. I don't want to make you feel bad about your age.
Seventeen is a nice age to be. In fact, they've got a song out now.
What do you plan to do? You're still young enough, you know,
to have most of your life to plan what you'd like to do. What do
you think you want to do?
R: Work, and probably stay at home.
B: How about after you get married. Do you plan to go on working?
R: I don't plan to get married.
B: You don't?
R: No, sir.
B: Now that's a little strange. Any particular reason? Not at this
point, you don't plan to., You think your mind might change?
R: Yeah, possibly.
B: You just haven't met the right guy, yet, have you? They tell me
guys are really changing girls' minds, and vice versa. Do you think
R: Yeah, in some cases.
B: These are important things. People do have to plan their lives,
and I'm just wondering if you have any definite plans. You just
going to work until you get married or something, right?
R: Yes sir.
B: Did you find going to school easy?
R: It was hard at times.
B: Were you uncomfortable with the other students, say the white students
and black students, non-Indian students? More comfortable then with
your own group?
R: I think I was more uncomfortable with the teachers than with the
students, because they act different towards the Indian people than
they do the blacks.
B: I wonder why that was?
R: I don't know.
B: You think they're more prejudiced toward the Indian students than
toward the black students, say?
R: Yeah, I guess so.
B: How about P.T.A.? Could you go to our people here who participate
in P.T.A., for example? Do you go out and tell the people the way
you feel to try to iron out the problems?
R: Last time they went out to tell them about it, they almost got in
a big fight. They was planning some kind of a program to help the
Indian people, and the teachers and the staff.members was trying...
I mean, they asked why was it only to help the Indian people? And
they just started a big fuss at the P.T.A. meeting. And then there
was another one we had at the other school, and they were supposed
to go back and finish the fuss out.
B: Was it verbal? Just words, right?
R: Yeah, I think so.
B: Do they feel that, for example, that non-white students should be
given a little extra help, say, to try to make up for the slack
that they've come up behind because they don't feel that they've
had enough help? You know, in many schools they do have programs
like this that help Indian students and all non-white students,
because they say they haven't had the same opportunity, and so
they have extra programs. So I just thought maybe they have some
kind of program up here.
R: I don't think so.
B: Do you have anything like in-class segregation like separating
students on the basis of what class they're in, or what scholarly
level they're in, lake an "A" class and a "B" class, or a Bluebird
class and a Redbird class?
R: No, no.
B: We have some of those things back home. I was just wondering how
it was. What do you think we could do, as Indian people, to help
ourselves in our educational program? No, that's asking a big
question. Do you have anything in mind?
R: I think that they should work together to try to get our school
better, you know.
B: Do you think we ever will, though?
R: With enough help from our people, I think we.could get it better,
but they're not really trying.
B: I think I understand what you mean. If all the Indian people in
America were better organized, and would work together, then there'd
be a chance of getting our schools better?
B: Do you think it's going to get better before it gets worse, or
get worse before it gets better, or just maybe...?
R: It will probably get worse before it gets better.
B: Do you think we've had a lot of problems in this part of the country
with bringing about integration?
R: Yeah. A lot of the Indian students have quit, because we lost our
school [The Haliwa Indian School of Halifax and Warren Counties near
Holister near the N.C.-Va. line was established by the Haliwa Indians
originally as a private school, then was supported by the State of
N.C., then was "lost", due to integration.--Lew Barton] and we had
to go to night school where they didn't put the white people in. There
was only one white person in the school.
B: The rest were Indians and black people, huh?
B: We had problems like this, too, back home. As a matter of fact,
we still have some problems back home. But if it were done equally,
you know, if it was as much one as the other, and wasn't out of
balance, do you think there would be any complaints? Or do you
think people would be better able to accept it? I'm just asking
you for an opinion, now.
R: Yeah, I think they would accept it better.
B: In other words, they probably feel like our people feel back home-
that it's unfair the way it is, because the Indian schools have had
the burden of absorbing most of the integration, and left some of
the white schools relatively untouched, you know, in that respect.
* S \ :' / \ ^ '
We have a problem, too, called double voting, and this is some...
but we won't go into that, because it's very technical.
You know, in this country today there is something that older
people talk about, and younger people talkabout it sometimes. It's
called the generation gap--a breakdown in communications between
younger people and older people. Do you think we have a problem
R: Yes, sir.
B: Do you find it difficult to talk to older people?
R: Yes. Not some.
B: Is that right?
R: I've got my pets.
B: What do you think we could do about this? We don't need that, do
* R: No.
B: What could we do to get rid of this generation gap so that we could
sit down and talk together and iron out any problems that we had,
you know? Just talk about it, and be very honest with each other,
and just talk about it? You know what either side could do? Tell
us, for example, what the older generation could do about bridging
the generation gap. Would you like to?
R: I think they should talk to the younger people more than other people,
and try to get things together, you know.
B: In other words, you think if old people would make a greater effort
and show more sincerity and more understanding, and this sort of
thing, it would help?
B: That's good. I think I agree with you. Now, what could you side
do? Can they do anything? I mean, can you think of anything they
R: e-ll....say what you think older people should do.
B: You haven't decided to tell.me what it is you'd like to change?
R: Uh huh.
B: Okay,course, it isn't possible, but some things can be changed,
you know, with enough effort and enough thought and enough dis-
cussions and so on. I think of problems as people problems. Whether
it's problems among older people, younger people; whether it's
problems between races; or whatever the problem, it seems to me
that if we get together and talk, and can understand each other,
and be perfectly honest with each other, that this will help. Do
you think so?
B: I want you to know how very appreciative I am of you giving us this
interview. Is there anything you'd like to say to other young
people? Any advice you'd like to give them, or anything you'd like
to say at all?
B: Well, I want to think you very much. You've been a very charming
interviewee, and I've enjoyed it very much, and thank you so much.
R: Thank you.