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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In Cooperation with the Creek Nation East of the Mississippi
INTERVIEWEE: Mazey Lee Rolin
INTERVIEWER: J. Anthony Paredes
DATE: September 1, 1972
P: Today is September 1, 1972, and I am in the home of Mr. Elbert
Rolin and his wife Mazey. Mazey has been completely blind for
the past twelve years and before that partially blind, only
able to pick out her colors. She says that in figuring out if
somebody was Indian or not, she went by their actions, and I'm
asking her now if she can tell me more specifically what it was
about a person's actions that she went by.
R: Well, the way would be by the way they spoke their language. Some
of them hada different language and some of them spoke like white
people. You know white people, they can put their words together
and in saying like this or this and that's the way I went by them
P: Could you tell me some more about the words you would listen to
in order to tell whether they were Indian or not?
R: Another way that they would speak, were, I don't know really just
how to put it in words. You could tell the sounds of words. Most
people wouldn't call a "word" like we do now, they'd call it a
"woid." Not a "word" but a "woid." And some of them would say
not like "world" like we call a world, but they'd say a "woild."
Kind of goes back in that language.
P: Did you ever hear extra sounds on a word?
R: Well, I don't believe so.
P: How about something like instead of saying "like this", saying
"like-a-this." Is that Indian?
R: Well, I imagine something similar to that, you know. And they
don't say "something", they say "sumpin" all the time, most all
P: In your opinion, didn't even those white folks that lived among the
Indians talk that way?
R: No, the white folks didn't. They could use the word like "world"
and "word" just that way, but they wouldn't.
P: How about colored people? What did you listen for to tell whether
somebody was colored or not?
R: The Indians were similar to the coloreds, but not quite as bad as that.
as that. I could always tell a colored voice from the white
or from the Indians.
P: Besides the way they talked, was there anything else about people
that you would go by?
R: Well, no, I don't believe so, but they were always kind of slow. I
don't think many of them talked very fast, not too awfully fast,
P: Were there any words or names for things that Indians used that
white people didn't?
R: No, I don't believe so; only the nicknames. There are a lot of nick-
names used by the Indian race.
P: Could you tell me as you think of them a bunch of nicknames that
you can remember?
R: The word "Indian", that was another thing they didn't say. They
called it "Injun."
P: The white or the Indian called it "Injun?"
R: The Indian people would always say "Injun," but really the word is
P: Do you remember when you were a child ever hearing any of the old
people talk in the Indian language?
R: No, they never did use the regular Indian language. I don't know if
I could even speak that language 'cause they didn't talk it.
P: You don't remember using any Indian words?
R: No, they didn't; any of them. I think they were kind of getting out of
using that language. They talked more or less like the white people.
Some of the weekdays they would say "Thusde" and not "Thursday." Some
of them always get the names mixed up. It was real funny. When we say
"Tuesday," they'd call "Tchusde" and that always seemed real funny to
me. But I learned that and up until I got big enough to know better, I
always said "Tuisde."
P: Say those two again--the difference between them. Say them real clear.
R: They would say Tuesday like "Tuisde." When I was little we didn't know
that the word was "Tuesday." I believe that's 'bout the only weekday that
I heard them say in that language. But it was real stupid of me, and I
P: How did you learn better?
R: Well, mostly from visiting white people.
P: Did you visit many white people?
R: My momma used to work for white folks, and she washed for them.
Back in those days, there wasn't much money and she'd wash once
a week for people. She had two or three families that she washed
for and that's how she made a little extra money.
P: Where did those families live?
R: Some of them lived less than a mile from where we lived and some
of them about two miles. I imagine just about two miles, they
lived within that range.
P: And you were living where?
R: We were living about eight miles north of here.
P: At what they call Head of Perdido?
R: At Head of Perdido.
P: How old are you, incidentally, so I can get some idea of how long
ago this was?
R: Well, I'll soon have a birthday; I'm 48 now, but I'll soon have a
birthday, and it will be within a week. This all happened when I
was between the ages of eight to fourteen. Then momma was disabled
and couldn't do wash anymore.
P: Through the years, listening to different people talk, have you
noticed any difference between the older and middle aged and
younger Indians in the way they talk?
R: I think the younger race now can talk a lot plainer than old
people used to talk. I think that is because they have gone
out and gotten more education than they used to.
P: You said before that when you were a girl, even the older ones were
getting away from using Indian language. Why was that, do you think?
R: Well, I just don't know why they did, they just don't use it much.
P: Do you remember any of the old people telling stories about the Indian
days long ago?
R: No, I don't think they ever talked about things like that.
P: Would you just talk a little bit about your life and what you've done
in your life and so forth?
R: Well, I didn't go to school when I was a child. We just had a little
old school; all the grades were just in one room. They didn't have
braile there at that time and I doubt very much if anybody knew about
braile, except the school in Talladega. They wanted me to go there,
but momma wouldn't agree, so I didn't have any education. The teacher
helped me learn to count, and I learned to spell just a few words with
ABC blocks. Then, in June in '59 I won a scholarship with the Twen-
tieth Century Club. Before then, I got a hold of a braile alphabet.
I said to myself, by knowing it, I could just go down the lines with
my fingers and learn it because I knew what was supposed to come after
each letter. I learned that alphabet, but that was as far as I could
go "'cause" I didn't have any education. I took the money from the
scholarship and used it to go to Mobile. I visited the home of a
teacher for the blind. She taught me how to read braile, but there
were still a lot of words that I didn't know. I needed a lot of help
in learning how to pronounce words. You have to get the education
like a small child.
P: What was the name of the teacher that taught you ABC's with the blocks?
R: Her name was Miss Bertie Mae Weaver.
P: Was she the one who wanted your mother to send you to Talladega?
R: No. They held school in the Baptist Church for years, but when the
Church left the Indians used it for school. They had all the grades
in there. I am pretty sure they went first through the sixth grade.
Back then, people didn't have any way of getting much education. They
did let one or two of the girls come to Atmore to high school and I
think one of them went through the eighth grade, but I don't think any
of them finished. It was about 1948 before we had any children go to
the white schools. Somehow or another, the Indians got the impression
that the whites didn't want them to go to school. That's why they
didn't have much education back then and it was years before they had
any Indian graduates. I don't know of any that finished high school.
After then, some of the children went on through the grades and graduated
out of the twelfth grade. We've had a few Indians graduate since then.
P: How did you learn to do cooking and household chores being almost com-
pletely blind since the time you were small?
R: It's never been any trouble. In raising my children, I always cooked
and kept the house and then I would even go in the fields and help
P: Were there a lot of women in the community who picked cotton back then?
R: Yes, there was a lot of cotton picking.
P: You mentioned your mother washed clothes and picked cotton, could you
talk about the other ways people made money in those days?
R: When I was eleven years old, I wanted a wagon but my folks were poor.
Momma said if I'd work I could have the wagon. Cotton picking was
about the only thing. I did back then. I couldn't very well hoe, you
know, 'cause I couldn't see that far down.
P: But you could see well enough to pick cotton?
R: Oh, yeah, I could pick cotton. You'd hold low down to it and you could
see pretty good. People picked cotton back some of them days for fifty
cents a hundred. Sometimes they would get seventy-five cents, and some
of them would pay fifty cents and give them their dinner. They didn't
get much for their wages.
P: What about religion back in those days? Did you go to church when you
were a small girl?
R: My mother was a Freewill Baptist. I was small and didn't pay too much
attention, but somehow or another they quit. Dr. Macy and Ms. Macy came,
Episcopal people, so they started a church in a little room. They had
school and church there until they built the church where St. Anna's is
built now. We all went to Sunday School there. I don't believe the
Baptists had Sunday School. If they did, I didn't pay too much attention
to that, "'cause" I was small then. The Episcopal came in, and we went
to Sunday School.
P: It was them who tried to get you some education?
R: Yeah. I didn't think too much about it and I didn't think it was too
important either. But after I grew older, I knew that education was
important, so I started to learn. It's been a great joy for me to learn
and I find you can get great comfort out of it. If you want to do a
thing, you can always do it if you have faith and you try. Since then,
back in 1963, I started going to a Baptist mission. We still go to a
Baptist mission. We have a nice Sunday School class. You can learn
a lot in a small church better than you can a big one.
P: Do you go to a Baptist mission out in Poarch or here?
R: Out in Poarch, because we can get together and discuss the Sunday
School lesson better.
P: And you try to read your Sunday School lesson every week before...
R: Oh yeah, I usually study my Sunday School lessons probably on a Saturday
night and sometime through the week. My little granddaughter told me
the ohter day, "Granny, you take up your books and read thirteen times
a day." I said, "Well, I do that to make up for lost time."
P: When you were a girl, were you able to play with the rest of the children?
R: Yeah, I could play. I could run and play just like the rest of them,
and places that I was used to going, I would just go on.
P: What kind of games--what kind of playing did you do back in your
day when you were a little girl?
R: Well, when we was back in going to school, we'd play London Bridges
and Red Rover, and I don't know what all; just games like that.
P: What about when you were just at home, a few of you out playing.
What kind of playing did you do?
R: Get out and build playhouses and play with dolls and things like
P: Did anybody ever have any homemade dolls?
R: Yeah, my momma made me about two.
P: What kind?
R: Theywere just great big old cotton dolls. She cut them out of cloth and
stuffed them with the cotton and she'd embroider their eyes and
P: Do you remember back when you were young if there were any kinds of Indian
foods that the Indian people ate that they don't eat anymore?
R: Well, I don't believe so. I believe they still rely on their beans
and their rice and their tomato gravy.
P: Do you remember a food called dofkee?
R: Well, no, I've never seen any of that, but I used to hear my momma
and granny talk about it.
P: Hunting and fishing, was:that an important source of food?
R: Well, I've seen fishing off and on all my life and people just going
hunting, but it was just ordinary. They didn't have a big thing of
it. Just a few went.
P: Tell me a-little bit abbut what you and your husband have done in
raising your family, what kind of life you have had.
R: We've had a poor life in raising them. Back in '48 my husband had a bad
rupture, and he had to be operated on. We were kind of poor back then.
Sometimes we wouldn't know where the next meal would be coming from, but some-
how or another, they would all get together and would gather us up some food
until he was back able to work again. He worked in the paper industry during
the times we were raising the children.
P: Where were you living?
R: We were living right around Head of Perdido.
P: When you say they would gather up food, who are you talking about?
R: All the people in the community. Sometimes they would just write a grocery
P: Now when you say write a grocery order, what does that mean really?
R: Well, they would just fix the grocery order. Then they would cut it out
and each person would draw out. It didn't cost any of them very much, because
none of them had very much money.
P: Were these just your relatives, or everybody in the community?
M: It was just everybody in the community; most all of them are our relatives,
P: Would this be people from Poarch and Hogfork, too?
M: No, right around Head of Perdido. They would take these grocery orders to
the church and let them draw it out on Sunday after church.
P: The Episcopal Church?
M: They would draw out flour, lard, and maybe some meat, bacor or salt meat.
Each time one drew out food, it was enough to get all the groceries for a
P: Did you all ever do any farming when you were raising your families?
M: No, we never did own a farm. We just always worked on a farm with other
P: Tracy Rolin had mentioned that your husband used to plow with him. Was that
before you were married?
M: No, that was while we were married. That was right along the time he had the
operations. He worked some then and some after then.
P: He was just working for Tracy Rolin?
M: Yeah, and paid day labor.
P: After that what happened?
M: Well, he went back to paper wooding again, and he paper wooded for
different men:. He paper wooded for old man Will McGhee, for Alton
Jackson and sometimes for Johnny Presley.
P: After paper wooding what happened?
M: Well, he had some more operations, and after that the doctors said he
wouldn't be able to do that kind of hard work anymore. After we moved
down here five years ago, he started to work for the city. He worked with
them almost three years and then he had more trouble--the doctor said he had
a congestive heart failure, and he hasn't been able to work since.
P: You said he worked in the yards. What does that mean?
M: He would set out flowers for people and clean yards for people.
P: Here at Atmore?
M: Yeah, and they would pay him. He worked five or six years like that.
P: Let me ask you one more thing. You could tell Indians from those that
weren't Indians. Did you know all of your life, from the time you can first
remember, that you were part Indian or did you learn that at some point in
M: I don't know--it just came automatically; I just knew that I was. A lot of
times the white people just didn't treat the Indians like they should have
been treated. They treated them like colored people.
P: In what ways?
M: Well, they wouldn't let them come in and eat at their table with them. They
just wouldn't ask them in their house.
P: Did the white people ever have names that they would call the Indians?
M: No, I don't believe so, I believe they called them by their usual names.
P: Well, this has been a very interesting interview. I never thought about
the possibility that somebody who couldn't see would be able to tell the
difference between Indians and whites by the way they talked.
M: That's the reason, too, that they didn't have much education. I was
telling you they just didn't want them in the schools or, they got the
idea they didn't want them there.
P: Well, anything else that you would like to say about the past or the
present that I haven't asked you about, right now?
M: Well, not as I can think of. I'll tell you, there are a good many things
which I can't think of right away...
P: Maybe I can come back another time.
M: Well, maybe.
P: I sure appreciate this, thank you.