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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interview w/ Benny McGhee
I: This is January 27, 1973, and I'm in the home of Benny McGhee, inter-
viewing Benny McGhee. Benny, how old are you?
I: OK. What I'a like for you to do since I've talked to mainly older people
I'd like for you to just begin remeniscing and talk about what it was like
to grow up as an Indian in Escambia County in the 1940's and '50's when you
grew up. ... First of all, when you were growing' up were you aware of bein'
Indian, or that Indians were any different or treated any different than
M: Well, in the early part of my life I wasn't aware of bein' a Indian. I meant
from the, I guess from the first to the fifth grade I guess I wasn't. In
a way I was. Well, I knew we had an Indian sc hool that the Indians went to
that was the first through the sixth grade. I never was fully aware how
the white people, or Caucausians, or whatever you want to call 'em was
against the different racs?.... against different race.of people until I
got in high school. I know when I first started in high school and guess
it was in ... it must have been in 1950, '50, or 51, no take that back, ...
well, I won't take it back, that was in ... coming' into the ... first time ..
I don't even remember what the year was, but it was in '50 ... in the fifties, I
guess, but when I first went into high school, Escambia County High School
I_\ /I !Cf, how the people was, and I knew ...my dad, my uncle, several
of 'em had to ... be ... stop buses to put us on the bus to go to high
school .Put I guess I was ... too young really to know what, you know, was
the full meaning' of it. After I'd gone up into ninth and tenth grade, ninth
grade guess it was, well, l-'O' people started accepting' us because we
had a ... 'i Cl1vi the chief of the Creek nation at that time
had get a petition against the government 'bout a lot of money that was
s'posed to be paid off and then the whole state I uess /A. o0 I t
1.. .crtc ^. \
.. In't- nn-hirn' -ht at that time. ( ,
I: When you frst went to high school what was ... what was it like with the other
students at the high school --your relationship with them?
M: First in high school, I don't ... I don't know because seventh grade's high
school or not.
I: Well, junior high school.
M: Junior. It was poor relation at the start off with.
I: In what ways? What were some of the things ...?
M: I meant ... I was a dark person, still am. And uh, they couldn't accept.
I meant 'cause I wasn't white, I guess, I mean it was ... poor relation.
Some of the teachers they ... I mean most of the teachers were cordial,
and they was nice to me. But uh, as far as the people, the students,:and
things, uh, I don't guess they had ever been 'round ... a really dark per-
son that A considered a Negro. I mean they had maids, they had
maids, they knew what Negroes was, and they was dark people ... I don't
know what ... what their own opinion of the Indian people was.
I: Before you ame into Atmoore to school, just playing' and stuff, did you
have much interaction with kids other than Indian kids, just out there playing ?
M: No, we didn't. Did not.
I: Did you never have a white playmate before you came to school that you can
M: No, I can't, I don't think ... can remember of a ...
I: When you were real small ...
M: I wouldn't 4- say a full-blood Indian, or a full-blood white, ... I know
they was f- ____ but they was considered Indians ... at that time.
I: Uh, huh. When you were real small how often did you get into the town of
Atmoore? Would you say.
M: Now what age is ...?
I: Before you started the seventh grade, say when you were out in poofCi
growing' up out there. How often did you come to town?
M: Not too often. I won't say that. ... I really can't remember ... how often
we came to townbe honest with you.
I: Did you ever ...didd you go to movies much at all?
M: Yeah, ... used to come in on Saturdays and pay a dime and go in and set in
there all day. Which you can't do now.
I: Other than doin' that back when you were real small, what kind of things did
kids out in"" r ) do for fun?
M: Well, me ... I won't say ... uh, ...I say myself and Houston McGhee, Randall
McGhee, Ray McGhee, Hubert q), we hunted alot. We'd hunt fira 4i iJ.
WCj 4' fv'M slangshot, bow and arrow, which we made, and on a week-end
that was about ...that was the biggest thing--- killing' birds, we used to
chase, ... there used to be three or four birds we used to chase all the
time, a thrasher, jobree and if we ever hit one of 'em, we'd chase
him all day and kill him. And we stayed on the creeks .". reek,
we stayed there I guess every week-end.
M: Campin'. It's ... be north of Atmoore, ... cabin place on up there. We
stayed up there every week-end on the a creek fishing .
I: You mentioned "jolree." Is that a kind of a bird?
M: Yeah, it's a bird.
I;: What's it called again?
M: A joaree. T C.
I: Johree. ct.l/efQ.
I: What does it look like?
M: It's white, ... I mean it's black and it's a blackbird, got a orange neck
on it, kinda look like a robin, but it's not quite as big as a robin. It's
got white tips on each wing.
I: Did y'all kill 'em just to be killing' or did you ever eat 'em?
M: We roasted 'em.
I: Did ya?
M: Yes sir. Build a fire and stuck sticks through 'em. Quite a few times.
I: Did do much fishing' at that time?
M: Yes, sir, we did. We fished up on C _'__CAli.-'C(reek,/catfish and few
fish eels, Raymond real scared of fish eels, catch one of them and/thing
chasing' him all night ...
I: Axhat? A fish eel?
I: Are they good to eat?
M: People say they are. I haven't ever ate one. They say that's one of the
best meats there is, but I never ate one of 'em. You catch alot of 'em on
the river canal-.
I: When you're growing' up, which is not too many years ago, did kids even
at that time have alot of work to do ou1here ...?
M: On the farm they did.
I: Did you live on a farm?
M: I lived on a farm. I lived with L McGhee. We ... we had alot
of work to do: Uh, uh, pickin' cotton; I started off ... that'd yoid do?
Broke land, you planted your crops, you gathered your crops, cotton, corn,
wasn't too much soy beans grown at the early part of my time, we did alot of
truck farmin', least we tried to do alot of truck farmin', --- growing'
vegetables, stuff like that, which was ...we made ... we did real well
on it. But there's alot of work on a farm. We'd milk our Ot) when we
had cows, we done all the milkin', we had four or five cows, I guess,
I: Did you ever go and ...?
I: ... and work for ... in cotton pickin', pickin' cotton to sell some place
else for other people besides your own relatives?
M: Yeah, I did.
I: What was the pay like ... at that time?
M: I think when I first started ... ptckin' cotton, the best I can remember,
I think we was getting' 'bout $1.50 a hundred. $1.25 a hundred. Janet,
shhh! (Dollar and a quarter a hundred, that's a hundred, ... hundredp.7I.- .(K
I:--Did y'all go in groups in a truck somewhere or did you just go off and ...?
F,,;___.. lc---- --'"``"~--- ----- --------------
M: We -.. we ... most of 'em ...and he'd come 'round and if he had a guy with a
... I don't know, I guess he was contracted or something other, get hands to
haul and pick his cotton,and we ...there would be, I guess, ten or fifteen of
us on a truck.
I: Were these crews ever ... ever mixed in the sense that there'd be black,
white, Indian --- all kind of people working' together, or were they pretty
much just Indians together?
M: Well, mostly, ...where we'd work, it was mostly Inidnas, Indians, the wholqg
crew that I worked in would be ... oh, that he picked up, would be Indians.
Like when ...when we'd get to the field now we'd ...there would be some colored
people, some colored people working' there and some white people working too.
But you never did know how much ... we ...but the man that contracted it would
be strictly Indians that picked it up, picked up, all... it'd be nothing' but
Indians that went with him.
I: How old were you the first time you started doin' that kind of work?
M: I guess ... twelve years, ... ten, twelve years old.
I: That owulda been before you started goin' to school at Atmoore?
M: Yeah. Quite a few years.
I: What church did you grow up in?
M: Well, I never have really gone to a church, but ...my mother belonged to a
Holiness church, and uh, I was raised in a Holiness church, I mean I was ... the
church that ... the Holiness was the only one that I had ...ever was affilia-
ted with, and uh, I still go to a Holiness church when I ... when I do go to
church. I ... I don't ... I don't pnr to have one religion--I go to a
Baptist church, a Methodist church, any church I take a notion to go to.
I: When you ... when you were a child, the point I'm getting' around to, was the
church / important part of your social life' )N most people?
M: Yes, yes, church was a great ... was a big deal 'cause we could get out
and have alot of young folks, I guess, we called it young folks uh, service,
'I think ... they, they giv e the young folks something' to do at uh, 'sides
working' I mean, the give 'em a ... a. Christmas plays, they used to have...
there's about ten or twelve churches, I guess, combine together, from here to
MolinO and ooemeer, who's have a young folks service and the one that put on
show, you know they had ... a prize, you know,...
M: ... and it really was something' ... to strive for, ... you .... you really
put out for it. Plays, singin' and ...
I: Well, these were churches from all around here ...
M: All around.
I: ... not just Indian churches.
M: No, they wasn't they wasn't all Indian churhles, uh, it was ...like I said-
it a Holiness church it wasn't ... it wasn't strictly Indian churches but
it a Holiness church, it wasn't ... it wasn't strictly Indian churches, but
churches out to uh, 2 P was .-. they were ... most of the
people that were atendin', attending' 'em was Indian people.
I: One thing I wondered about is back even, say, twenty years or so ago, in the
church, from things like that, sounds like there was no hard feeling's
about Indians or white, or any, everybody just went to church together. Is
that true or were there occasionally problems along those lines?
M: To the best of my knowledge I don't think we ever did have any problems such
as with ... with the white people or Indian, .-. Indians.
I: Was there anything beside the school that there were ever any that you can remember)
that there were ever any problems about along those lines?
M: No, I can't. I ... I don't ... I know you can go to town and uh, we were
treated just as good, ... just as g hF@h he only thing I can remember wasP
in school, it was some conflict, ... to a certain extent, in school, and I
think that as aobut the only thing that ...that I can really remember that
was ... that was ... I don't know what you'd call ... wthshowed the difference
between the races of people.
I: Yeah, yeah. What about with say, the courts or the law or anything like that,
was there ever any problem along those lines?
M: I don't know. I never did have to go to court. Never was ... (t -
I: Did you all ...I thing I haven't ever asked anybody, did y'all have ... when
you were goin' to school out there, was there a truant officer that'd go
around and get kids if they didn't come to school regularly, orjs that left
pretty much up to the individual parents or what?
M: My ...give you the best answer I know of ... I have heard of 'em. But I never
did see one of 'em.
I: But the kids said there were ... there was one, right?
I: Gettin' back ... to school, could you talk about how you first gA into athletics,
and that whole ... whole thing in high school?
I: Go ahead.
M: I think ... well, it was ...I first went to Atmogre High School, or Escambia
County High SchooL there was v.. Houston McGhee, which is 7_ is / ItjI.'i
tIe Chief he had two brothers ahead of me and him, Curtis McGhee and
Frank McGhee, and uh, they was the one that really had the roughest time
going' into high school. They the ones ...my dad, my uncle and / they put
on ... had to ride the bus alot of times with them. But that ... after they
got accepted in high school they got in a little sports activity, playing'
football, baseball and stuff like that, then I wan't too far behind of 'em.
And I guess they the onethat really opened up the doors.o,
I: Um, huh.
M: ,,,To go to school. And they was ... best I remember was Curtis and Frank, and
there was a girl named Dottie(!l f and, who was the other one? There 40
was a couple4l girls and boys, can't recall first names right now.
But one of 'em is a registered nurse now, and she ... they was the ones
really that had the roughest thing goin' in school. And I got in after they
went in, and they never did finish school, Curtis didn't ... They uh, they
opened the doors for us to come in to do what we had nd ... I was in the ...
had an old teacher when I was in the ... this Indian school up here, Miss ...
Miss Grace L-JII_ never will remember, forget her, she was a terrific
teacher. She was terrific! And I finished school, grammar school, under her.
Went in the seventh gradeA Atmorie, had a coach down there by the name of
oltsen t that time, and I didn't go out for any sports in the seventh,
or eighth grade I don't think, .... finally went out for sports in the ninth
grade. And she was one of the biggest things ... she kept askin' old Coach
Goltsen if I was ...how was I doin', he was ... matter fact, he was my math
teacher at that time too. And she kept on askin' him if I was playing'
any kind of sport, and he was head football coach, and uh, so he kept askin'
me, he come ask'me one time, asked about goin' out for football, at that time
Houston had went out for football, and it was hard to go ... when you went
out for football, because if you didn't have a way home, / ai, )
when we lived ... I guess ten miles outa town then, eight or ten miles outa
town, and you practiced football 'til after dark, and it's hard to get a
way home, 'less you hitchhike, and I walked it quite a few times after I
started playing !
I: You walked all the way out there?
M: Yes, sir. And uh, but anyhow, to make a long story short, Houston and I
got, Houston first went into sports, and followed him I guess, ... just to
give him a companion to walk home, I guess! But I never did think .
But we did, and we made the ... we went out for football and made the team.
vh _( cfi couple of years, a year or two and we'd hitchhike home, after practice,
and we'd ... sometimes our parents -... be down to pick us up, when they
couldn't make it, we'd have to hitchhike home and then later on ...I don't
remember the club or what it was at Atmofre, where they formed some kind of club
there for the boys that played football that didn't have a way home, they called
them and they would come pick you up and they would take you home. Some-
times it worked and sometimes it didn't.hMost the time you called there's no-
body home! You still had to hitchhike hmme.
M: Which we did. We got a ... did that, but we did get quite a few rides home,
sometimes. And uh, went on and they changed coaches ... I played football in
the ninth, eighth, ninth and tenth, eleventh, twelvth grade. Houston
was one of the best quarterbacks,I guess, they've ever had. 'Till he got
hurt. And ... he and I started to quit school, I guess, after we got in ...
... I don't know, we just got fed up with school, we still livin' on a farm
ii A. during spring training' there, we'd have to get up in three o'clock
in the morning come practice football, and then go back and work on that farm
and then go back in the evening it ... you know, it gets old.
Ig: But ... then, I had a coach that names /jm/ Adolph l2l/, and him ...
Houston and I quit school. /) ILv / brought books home, all our
books home, first time / ever brought that many books home / lectff...
And he was out there waiting' on us when we got to the house. We got home, he
was there waiting' on us. "Heard y'all boys quit school." "Yeah, we quit,
we got tired of it." I think I was in the ...in the eleventh grade at that
time. Houston's in enth. Yeah. He was one of ... he was another big man
that" A finish school. He talk, sit there talk with us and finally
got us to go on back into school. And playing' sports.- And one reason I went
back, I loved football.
M: I really did. Thrt's one reason I went back to school was ... just to play
football. 'Course and I'm glad I did and I got a fair education out of it.
"I won't say I got a good education 'cause I took the easiest things that was
in high school thrt I could get by with, which I regret today. But I got a
diploma that says I finished high school and that means alot,
I: When you were in sports in ... or football in high school was there even in a
,L.f joking way, any mention made of the fact that ytll were Indian or you know,
"" bragging about the Indian ballplayers or anything like that?
U: Where's that brush? Where that brush? That little brush.
M: Well, uh, not exactly. I think they enjoyed us playing' football because
... not braggin' or nothing I always joked ... I always ... I was one of the
biggest jokers on the football team, you ever seen. I always kept something'
going ... I always would joke, and make jokes at things, and ... and I
don't know what you call it, but, uh, just ... spirit of it, you know,
I mean, if you could ... if you love football and practice every day
... but if you ain't got something' goin' for you now I mean something' to keep
the other laughing' people, ten guys working' with ya, why, that means you
ain't got nothing I mean you just go out there and practice and practice,
... but I guess ... they kidded me alot. I was all the time running' my mouth
about something' I admit. Carryin' on and old Holmes used to ... he
used to get on me; he accused me alot of goin' dowcrossin' the line, and getting'
drunk aid something' anotherr Cc-I 4 1 but he ... he never could prove it
'cause he never did catch me!! And uh, he caught ... he ... he ... me and
Houston, we went over to Crestview. We used to play Crestview ... so ...
Crestview played on Thrusday night and Houston and myself and Frank and Curtis
.. we was goin' over there and watch them play that Thursday night 'cause
I think we played 'em in about two weeks from then. We were stopped at a
little beer joint over there, goin' on the way over there, Curtis and Frank
was gonna buy some beer, and old Holmes he was goin' over there scouting' at
the same time. And he happened to stop at the same beer joint! And ... but
he didn't catch us drinking' nothing' so he always accused us of it. But he
he never did kick us off the team 'cause he knowed we ... in a way we ...we
was the life of the dang team, we carried it. ... We ... not saying' carried
the team, but we put alot of spirit into the team.
I: Realistically do you think that you're excellence and you're success in foot-
ball helped the cause of the Indians at all or was that just incidental?
M: Well, it might ... personally I think ...I ... I would say that u)
I think it gave a little recognition you know to the ...to the school, which
we have ...had several great ballplayers that have finished there. -ike "'-
Catnt \ n ^ it gave 'em a little bit more to the school board
and recognitiontin from the ... to accept the Indians, I mean in a more
fashionable way What I meanA that is givin' 'em a better chance, and
providing' ways for 'em to get home and stuff like that, llr w t,
a- J ot-l. -fu. I think it really ... I think it's
helped 'em quite a bit.ilt itt,
I: Given the fact that prior to your time that people out there just didn't
have any opportunity to get any education, was there any strain between the
older generation and the younger ones that were coming' up getting' an
education,that they were getting' too smart for their britches or anything like
M: No, I don't think there was. I think the older generation really ...really
appreciated ... I ... I ... personally ... I know my daddy, he ... he never
did have any education to amount to anything. My mother never did But I
think they really ... really enjoyed ... I think it really gave 'em a
thrill to see the younger people ... .
I: When you were playing sports, did you get a big turnout from the Indian
community for ballgames or as spectators?
M: Yeah. We did. And I want to say this from the ... from the ... own rela-
tives, ...I was ... I mean not ...really what I mean ... directly close-kin
people, what I'm talking we.didn't get ... it wasn't that many from them, but
there was alot of the Indian people ...the younger ... some of the younger
people who was fixin' to go to high school and was coming' up, we really did,
we got a good turnout. Really good turnout.
I: Did y'all ever ... when you were in grade school did they have any sports thei"--
Did you learn to play football and stuff there?
M: Uh, we played uh, we played a little football. I remember in grade school.
Played little softball in grade school. But it was.nothin', no compari
to after you went to high ... into junior school or high school. I only
did this because this one ... supervised ... it was just ... got out there
and ... we had learned a little bit about football ...readin' books and things
and people tellin' but uh, it wasn't ...just a bunch of kids out there
playing throwing' the ball, and kickin' the ball, and that's about ____
I: Did y'all ever have ... like a coach or anything ... PE teacher or
M: No. No. No.
I: The thing I'd like to ask you to reminisce about is tell me about when you
used to go to Washington and do research .
M: That was work.
I: How'd you get started in that and what was your job when you went up there?
M: Well, that's ... that'd take ya back qiite a bit. Uh, I was in high school p
at the time. That's when I was ... I mentioned earlier about when Chief.tells
me he's this rttlagainst the government. Says it's gonna give us alot
of money and get some money, that's when everybody became an Indian.
M: I can't ...I don't ... I don't exactly remember the first year we went up there.
But my ...I lived with Chief at that time. I ... I lived with him
I guess eighteen years. And uh, my biggest part of it after I got up there
was to drive. I drove quite a bit up there; whole lot of driving .
I: How many trips id you yourself 4_t 1 /
M: I ... I don't even remember rk ey 'i: .
I: But it was alot.of em?
M: It was quite a few. It was ... I would say I went up there fifteen times.
I: And the purpose of these trips was what?
M: To.... work on ... everybody said work on Indian money, let's put it that way.
Well, it was to get records to show that they were Indians and that they was
entitled to this grant of the ... that th .vc -I brought against the
government. L I might be oversteppin' or understeppin', ya know,
whatever you want to say, really nobody meant ... I don't know whether they
knew they was really ... they had always been taught that they was an Indian.
I: Um, huh.
M: And ... but nobody really could tell ya,well, whether your ancestors came
from or who really was the old ... how they originally came about Indians,
and this was the biggest job worth doin', was goin' to Washington at the
Archives up there on Pennsylvania Avenue to try to trace back these records
and see exactly how they tied back in and become an Indian; and who the
leaders was an were their forefathers and great-grandfathers and so forth
I: Well, everybody knew they were Indian before they started all that, or they'd
been told they were Indian.
M: They had been told. They had been told they had been Indians all their life.
It I wonder how people would have tried to explain the fact that well, some of
the older people are really dark, you know, but they have straight black hair
and all that.
M: Straight black hair I __
I: I wonder how they explained that other than they had just say they were In-
dian. That was the only explanation that could be or ...?
M: Well, can I ask you a question?
M: I ... I'm an Indian. Now you see how dark I am. And I got a red-headed son.
Now how do you explain that?
I: You got some Caucausian ancestry some place .n I I. it, /
M: Well, ... that's what I'm talking' about. People ... they get ... they ... they
have been taught that all their lives because they was in that mixture.
But you ... I've seen white people that's claimed to be white people that's
darker than I am.
I: Ur, huh.
M: But if ... I meant if ... you, you gotta trace it back; and ... and uh, learn
your family tree back to ... exactly to ...
I: Amongst the Indians now there's ... I've noticed of course that among the
Indian people today there are people who are just as white as can be, and blue-
eyed, and blond hair, but there're other people like say, Uncle Isaac who's
really dark, a real dark person, obviously an Indian. Has there ever been
any that you can recall, any joking or teasing among the Indians themselves
about those that are light and those that are dark?
M: Amongst ... amongst alot n. dian people ...younger people, I j-,
I've heard a little bit of jokin' 'bout uh, some of 'em was really dark
black, they call 'em black, you know, and the other I.ut as a ... as a whole,
not much, not much.
I: What's the feeling' about ...nowadays, not so much relatives out there but
people who've just sort of well, in connection with this claim against the
government, who didn't look Indian at all, who showed up-elaimin' to bheIlndian.
What was the feeling' about that?
M: We had to sign. e1t,
I: You did?
M: We had to sign 'cause it was open, I mean it was a public...it was a public
opening, I mean a signing. You had to sign in people as a ... what color
you was, I mean / had to sign 'em up, I m eayou didn't have to do the work,
you _f 7_> 1_, I think at that time though the ... the registerin'
people was ... was a dollar--to register the whole family uther you one,
or whether you ad ten, you know.
I: And then the responsibility was on him to prove that it really was an Indian?
M' It ... it was on them that signed up unless they had ... they ... they
want ... contacted uh, might want to contact with .1I' Ik; C I Ci y)' t
and he never did charge people too much ... to try to prove that they was
Indian or whether they was not.
I: Well, do you ever recall whether there was ever any colored people that ever
showed up trying' to sign up for Indian money?
M: Not at the time I was living' withCUncle iea) I don't think ... I ... I can't
remember if there was or not. I don't believe there were. But I have
heard in the last three or four years, I mean ... 'bout last two years ever
since ... well, I went to Illinois and I had heard that they was several
colored people that come out and try to sign up for 'em. Now I just ...
hear so I don't ... I don't ... I don't know ... I won't say it for a fact.
But I had heard of it.
I: Hmmm, I wonder if that was true. Whether some of 'em got a check or not.
M: I don't .. I don't think that. I think -Al '' ; he was ... he was a
great man. I think ... he had ... he ... he was ... the man had a know-
ledge; I mean he ... he wasn't ... he wasn't very educated to a cert--, I
mean, in book, in school.
M: Sam finished fur grades9 one to the twelvth grade. But he had a great know-
ledge about human beinS. He could nearly tell ... he was a ... he could tell
whether a man ... he says I came from so-and-so 'cause he had done quite a
bit of research work, you see. He knew ... he knew people. He knew people.
I: Talk about him a little bit and-what you think he was trying' ...what he's
up to and all.that. What he was trying' to do.
M: He ... like I said, I lived iwth ... he was a father to me because I lived
...well, actually, I lived with him more than I did my own father. He
wasn't trying' to get personal recognition for hisself, he was trying' to get
recognition for the Indian people as a whole; as their own individual ...
I meant ... as ... as a race, as a race of people.
I: Why was he trying to do that, do you thin;4?
M: Well, I odn't know ... I won't ... like I say ... you know that the community
... you ... you got a Negro community, and a white community, and Indian
community, and he had been taught all his life that he wasan Indian ever
since he'd been knee-high, I guess. And he had seen the discrimination
of .. the way the Indian people had been ... kinda pushed back/
I: Um, huh. )
M: Durin' his time of oesTT up in his childhood, too. How they got along
with people. And he was tr--, he ... like I aid, he ... he didn't have much
in schoolin', but he read. He ... he ... he could read, he read alot
c z 0 g Indian people 'cause he was one, he'd been taught that he
was all .. all his life. And he was I guess after he got up he had .. he
had a nice farm, he had ... it had been kinda ... handed down from ... to
a certain extent, I. guess. There was, I guess, there was thirteen of 'em, I
believe it was, bothers and sisters. And uh, he was a leader; he was the
leader among hisself, uh, his brothers and sisters. And he knew more how to
go about doin' things, ... and people accepted him as a chief because he
could ... he could talk with people. He didn't have to raise his voice, I
6 hsAtII Ci h iI 4L vo)cS
mean he was ... .aall man, __ and he'd get mad some-
times, but he was ... he could talk. And uh, I ... when ...this claim got
started, I ... I .. think he ... like I said, I don't think he did it for per-
sonal ... personal, personal reasons, I know he didn't. He just ... like I
said before, he just wanted to get the ... the recognition of the Creek
Indians which had kinda been ignored for the ... twenty or thirty years in a
way through this part of the n try. He just wanted to get the Creek/ation
back as a\nation, and as a race of people ... to stand together and ... and
accomplish something another .
I: Do you think he ever had any ideas that someday eventually in the future
seeing' complete integration of the Indians with the white people or?
I: Is that what he was after do you think?
M: Yes, sir. In my opinion I believe he did.
I: Yet he did things like putting' on war bonnets and all of that which sorta
makes him stand apart from S9 "'
M: Yeah, but if you look at it ... it makes people respect you too.
M: They give you ... it gives ... I say respect you, it gives you a... a... a...
a little authority I guess. I meant .. then again it does make people res-
pect you and that you goin' back to your ___ and ... and ...know'that
your an Indian; it's like you and I--- if you know what I am, and me and you
can get along pretty good together, but if I ... if I'm a big pretender, and
I tell you something today and do opposite tomorrow, you know what I am. But
he wasn't a man like that, and when he put his ... his dressing' on and he went
... he told you something he'd do it.
I: Um, huh. So it ... it was wantin' to have equal opportunity and all for
M: Equal opportunity ...
I: But at the same time to recognize as ...
M: As an Indian person. As ... as ... as a Indian, as the Creek Mtion.
I: Do you think he was trying' to get sme of the Indian people to know who'i
they were, that they hadn't ...
M: For recognition I think he was.
M: Well, you're-Ts on the council yourself. What do you see as bein' the
... future where particularly now that the money has come from the land claim?
What lies in the future for ... for Indian work in south Alabama?
M: Well, I ... there's not but one thing to ... move farther. Farther ahead.
I: What direction you think that will ..?
M: Well, I think we can ... I think if ... like y said... on the council, which
is a non-org--, I mean, non-profit organization, but if we can' get
more people in school, anpp -L 'try to get 'em more scholarships,
try to work together and give 'em a better education. More ... get more in
trade schools and stuff like that, and just to be an Indian ... uh, American.
Just to be an American; And I think if we can accomplish this, we have done
quite a bit. Just to keep the people movin' ahead and goin- along with
society, and movin' ahead, and I think, I think that would be one of the big-
gest ... I think that was one of his dreams.
I: Um, huh.
M: Not to ... not to live the old program, I'd like ... I'd like to go back and
reminisce the old times, but you can't live the old times. I meant, you can't
live.Aw Llike you ... it's gonna be a hundred years ago. You gotta move
and progress moves. And if you don't move, you gonna get run over.
M: And I think ... he saw that. I think that is one ...he knew if could
aLG CC 7?*""to get one thing started, and ... which he was he was a great
politician in a way, he never did run for na office or nothing but politicians
have, come and asked him to carry the Indian votes rhich he had. You ... you
you ... probably asked uh, jillionfof people..,
I: Um, huh.
M: But I think he ... he saw that---to get into people to move ahead and establish
themselves as an Indian, as a race of people, as an American. And move as
I: Yeah. C;,Vc 1Ct
M: And I think that's what he ... his dream was.V Just ... just not be a ...a
laborer, or jnSt some dumb Indian like you always have but move and get an
education and move with ... as the world moves.
I: You say, "like some dumb Indian," is that an expression you've heard in your
M: Yeah, I've had heard that.
M: Maybe it's in songs and alot of things, but I have heard the expression "dumb
I: Yeah. I remember one time I asked you if when you were in the service you'd
ever been called "chief," and you said, "yeah, that and alot worse." What are
some of the worse things ...?
M: Yeah, I have; I've been called quite a few names.
I: Because you were an Indian or ?
M: No, I ... I don't that ... not really, uh, I think alot of people ... alot of
it was just in jokin' ways, I don't think it was ... didn't intentionally...
that just uh, because I was an Indian, Ii't think it was meant that way.
I: Do you think that there are many Indians who go around like with a chip on
their shoulder because they're Indian? Is that a characteristic of Indian
people around here or not?
M: Not to my knowledge it wasn't.
I: Um, huh.
M: Not to my knowledge it wasn't. I know I don't ... as an Indian myself I don't
... I mean ... I ... I ... I ... I got my own wS ...
...................... A/,D D^ z- X 10^ C-
CRK 36A p s,
M: Uh, I don't think ... havin' a chip ; on your shoulder ... that's just like
sayin' you're mad against the whole world. You're not gonna accomplish any-
thing like that there, I don't ... I mean ...one ... one person ain't gonna
be a ... he can't do anything, he ain't gonna accomplish anything. I think
you might have a ... a grudge against another person, and %V@Vyou ...
I: As a person.
M: As a person himself, I mean, ...I mean, ...as another individual, but I mean
that's different that ... that's a fight, I think, but as far as carrying' a
chip on his shoulder against, holding' against .what the white people didt
b I I meant you really can't ...you really can't ... I can't ... I
can't hold it against 'em. I meant maybe that was their way of ... of
survivin' and maybe that was my way of losin', you know what I mean?
M: But uh, CTyou can ... I read the Bible quite a bit and uh, I won't
say quite a bit but ... I heard people preach ...preach, speak-about it. Uh,
they say, well, have so many different nominations of churches. Okay,
yeah, so many different denominations of Indians, uh, races of Indians or
white people, Mexican, Negro, ... I think that ... I think you not gonna
... because ... this, that(they goes into it) and you go ... and ...and
that s one gonna take ya up to see the Great White Spirit, I mean that's the
same way, I mean, you just can't go about it ... and uh, fight the whole world
because you know, you d2l be one way.
I: So you ... you feel like that ...just fight what you read in the papers Y about
Indians in other parts of the Iuntry. The Indians around here have not been
very prone to have a chip on their shoulder about things have happened?
M: No, I don't ... I don't ... I ... I speaking' strictly for myself.
I: Yeah, yeah.
M: And uh, I really don't. I like ... I meant ...I don't know whethetyou're
CRK 36A 22
referring' to some of the things that the Indians been doin' ...
M: Well, I don't condemn them either. I mean uh, ...
I: Like the ones that occupied the BIA building?
M Yeah, well, I don't ... I don't condone them for it or condemn them for it.
Maybe they had a little legitimate reason in do it, I mean uh, I have a ... a
well, ... I don't know exactly which ... which side it was ... which one it
was, but they had been sent out, way, 'lot of 'em had sent out on ... I
never been on a reservation.
I: Yeah, yeah.
M: And I don't know what livin' on a reservation would be.
I: You never visited any in the Wisconsin area?
M: Yeah, I ... I have visited them and talked with them, but I mean, not a person
... their liveT ya know, I mean, they could come off the reservation and go
get drunk and do anything they wanted, but I meant ... I never been on a ...
where they had to stay right on that reservation and not come off. Maybe
these Indians up there did have# a legitimate reason in doings j
I: Um, huh.
M: I don't know, I never talked with any of 'em, but I don't c--, condone 'em
and I don't uh, uh, go along with 'em, I think they could ... there's a better
way of ... of doin' anything, and uh, and uh, demonstration that, I don't
believe in demonstration myself. I ... I don't see where it accomplishes
I: In your travels around the country and so forth have you met Indians from
other parts of the country at all?
M: Yeah, I meant ... not ... I won't say from other countries.
I: I mean from other parts of this country.
M: I met some Indians in Oklahoma, I was stationed in Fort Sills, Oklahoma
for six months, and I went to Wisconsinand I met some of the Indians on a ...
the tg OI"Jetribe up in kO ', Wisconsin.
I: Did you feel like you had anything in common with them because you were both
Indian or not?
M: Well, we was dark! Well, I ... I don't know what you mean ...I ... I mean ...
in common ... you could uh, ...well, I wasn't on the reservation then. The
(Ayrmc~i Indian up $ in Oi Wisconsin and I met some of the ... the
guys on there, drankin' quite a few beers with 'em. ... Just stayin' with
'em, I guess, I mean, it makes ya feel good to ... just to ... know you're
an Indian, to me it is and ... and youAwith another Indian, I don't know ,
it's like, I guess, two white buddies get together, and you just have a good
I: Yeah. Yeah.
M: And I can have a good .FiL '.Z,
I: Did they accept you as an Indian?
I: Didn't bother them that you had a Southern accent? Or anything like that.
M: No. Well, they ... they don't speak Yankee neither too much!
I: Turn to another subject for just a minute. Is ... seem to me that sometime
_6_ i c
or another you or somebody else has .si', made a few statements about the
Indians around here--as if they're a little bit different in their ways of
thinking' about things, and doin' things and ... and one of the things I've
heard say is that seems to be a little jealousy amongst Indians, not wantin'
each other to get ahead. Is that true or not?
M: Yeah, I'd have to .. have to agree wholeheartedly with that. Uh ... and I think
this comes from the intermarriage with the white people! I really doo We
have uh, in this Atmolre area, Escambia County area,/three communities--
4 ,vA Pc r Ae; ,o H have had uh in our eyes, ther .. in
l ptYiuPr"Uo IHafttfuth j And we have had uh, in our eyes, they .. in
1zd fr t h )
my thirty-four years ... there has been quite a few white missionaries,
or preachers and things, that's been through these three communities. We
have used to be the Holiness church,-but the only church out through, well,
besides, I take that back ,besides the Episcopalian and uh, ...the -f_ M
church up there. I don't remember what exactly what the number?
M: Is that a Baptist?
I : Yes. t a D d
M: That up in at that time. And I think out of these three communities
... used to be when I was a kid, these three communities worked together
... they did; you would have a hog killing' one day here and this community,
these people come over and help you and have a hog killing' some place else
and used to have dinners, church, at houses and churches, and at the church,
but now I think it's ... I think the church, I don't ... now I'm not knocking'
he church or nothing but I think the churches have played a big role in
... in making' .;. you might say I'm ... I'm gonna sound like a eggaeed or
something, but I think the churches have made a big role in ... in ... for the
last five or ten years, five years in the Indian people through this community.
I think that because there's somany different preachers that have been coming'
in and tellin' one thing, and some of 'em i611 believe i_'_ and some i-t
don't believe in Jt and you got two or three different denominations, you
got ... we didn't have any Mennonites, and now there's got a couple of Bap-
tists, we got three or four different variations of the Holiness Church, Epis-
copal Church, I think it has played a big part in ... in ... in ...and
knockin' the people ... I ... persuadin' the people.
M: And ...bein' against each other, but then you have to go back to common
sense, tooo I mean fiMMe common sense plays a big part in anything,
I don't care what you're goin' into. But uhVthen common sense will lead di
astray, I mean, if you believe in this thing, this particular thing, why,
you believe Vi in it, and I think that's one of the things that we have
had alot of conflict in. Just because of it. I know ...right there in
""*rc and there they ... sisters and brothers next door, one of
'em, one of 'em's a pastor and one of 'em goes to one church and one goes
to another church, I mean, but it's still Holiness Church, but you know what
I mean, I think ... that ... it's because ....I don't know, if it's ..
-aybe ... we -g** want it to be ... I don't know.
I: Well, you know with all that goin' on, I wondered what do you think ... how's
it gonna be possible with that goin' on, to realize the dream of Calvin
McGhee which you said, of havin' the Indians stand together as a race, if
that's goin' on?
M: Well, that is a good question. I believe he left enough when he died it might
take may be a year, maybe take ,five years, for it to soak into some of the
heads of the ... the older people or the younger people, how ... exactly what
Lr- i Ce
he wanted. And I believe in time they will realize the dream that he had.LD/M C-t
I do believe it, I ... I ... like I said, some of 'em might die, alot of
'em is gonna die, but I think in ... in ... in the next ... with the council
that we got, and still pullin' together and ... and then ... and start tellin'
'em to try to carry on, I think in time they will accept it. Maybe ...I ...
well, I'm V not ... I'm not gonna say ... the cIrch, you know, when the church
is ... the T^__ ... I meant, 4 this church that church, but as a ... as
a ...as a ... person, I think in ...in the next four or five years that they
will start accepting' and work together, which I do believe.
I: One time we were just talking' and you said something' about;"the Indian move-
ment"--is this what you .had in mind?
M: Yeah yeah, yeah, that's what ... that's what I had in mind. And I think
that's ... a few more ... well, I ain't uh, ...thing like we had at Thanks-
givin', and uh, Fourth of July, we got more ... we got some of ... more
of ..churchfwants people to start coming' and I think they're starting' to
realize that we are trying and ... and if we can get four or five, maybe
three o four scholarships or something after we get together, and for the
kids in school, I think they'llistart realizin' what we're trying' to do.
I: You think ...?
M: O-2 an ^ WC
I: This past Thanksgivin' were there more of the people that before hadn't
gone to those things?
M: Yeah, I do, yes, I do, yes, sir. Sure do.
I: I understand that some of the people feel like it's wrong to wear feathers
and do dances and all that kind of thing.
M: Well, most of the Holiness Church do believe it's a sin, I don't know ...that
... they believe ... that's the way they've been taught I guess and uh, like
re, ;,,j' a 10;-
I elS* there d;~t of been ... alot of ... half-assed preachers, good
preachers and stuff like that there. They've been through and taught and uh,
they don't believe in dancin', they don't believe in lot of stuff, but uh ...
I: Would you think that the Indian costume and dance ... is that really an impor-
tant thing in the Indin movement, do you think that's necessary to ... to
do that at this time?
M: Uh, to a certain extent.
I: Um, huh-
M: Now what I mean about that there ... it is a ... a ... it's a ... it's a
recogn--, it gives he recognition, it gives the younger people, and some of
the old people that ... I guess maybe, Ithetywd forgotten, that ...
how the Indians look, how they dress, back at that time, and how they had to
CRK 36A 27 0
go back, provide a livin' for h younger g-t, and smme of the dances that if
lot of the dancin' you gotta understand what ... I mean... you gotta know what
it is to get the understandin' about it, and alot of things, I think, I think,
I think, it's a way of showing' some of the people -X how the
Indians had to survive in the world. And I think it ... it ... it's a ..omen
to show 'em if they survived at that time, then they ... and keep it up,
they can have, do have a change, a movin' right along, and like I said, as the
world turns, you gtta turn with it, and move right along, but that is the
dancin' and something' another is just for festivities in a ... in a way, but
it gives a ... reminiscent of how they used to do it, or how they had to
survive and ... and what they had to do, and how they dressed and things
like this here.
I: Yeah. Things like Thanksgivin' also let people know that Indians are not just
in history, ...
M: They're still alive#
I: They're still alive!
I: Yeah, yeah. Let me ask you one more thing then. How do you / about ...
in the modern year, well, not the modern year, just recent years, there seems
like more and more Indians have married outside of the Indian race, how do
you feel about that, you yourself, now, married an Indian.
M: Well, uh, you have to ... ask yourself ... why do you marry? If you love
somebody you marry 'em.
I: Um, huh.
M: If it's a black person, uh, uh, ...
I: You ... yousayin' you think it might be just a natural thing that they have
gotten together more?
M: Yes, ... after, well, for the last twenty years or thirty years, there's been
alot of interming--, you know, intermingle, in ... in marriage and stuff, you
CRK 36A 28
know what I mean, 'cause ever since ... why, hell, since I've been ...
sincere C_-)} there's been intermarriagin' you know.
I: Yeah, yeah.
M: And uh, ...
I: But even about two hundred years ago ...there was some intermarriage.
M: It's a ... it's a ... today uh, the people, the Indian people ...is ...
it's movin' up, I mean, you know, in a way, they just ...they just ... right...
right in with the rest of society people; I mean, not ...they ... they right
I: Um, huh.
M: And uh, uh, and ...this marriage, it's just like a ... well, boy meets a girl
in high school ...
M: White or black or ... I.. I ... I can't kn"i'6 ... I couldn't knock, I
couldn't knock a ... Indian boy marryin' a colored girl, I mean ... love
is love, ... I mean that's what you say you marry somebody for, I mean I don't
knock it. I ... I ... I'm not gonna stand for it, I might/approve it ...
M: But that's ... that's life.
M: And ... and ... and it takes every walk of life of people to make the world
I: Do you think that if this continues and ... this is just kind of a academic
question, I want to get your opinion on. Do you think there will come a time
maybe not in our lifetime when there won't be anymore separate races of
people, they'll all be the same?
M: You know, I've ... thought of that ... a million times and I thought about the
denomination of church if ... if there ever be a time when there just be one
I: Um, huh.
M: And ... and I think 'cordin'to the ... the Bible, it's gonna be one church,
and I think 'cordin' to history theregonna be, I won't say race of people,
there's gonna be one ... one class of people, let's put it that way, I won't
say race, there gonna be one class of people.
I: One class, in what sense do you mean?
M: I meant it might be colored, white, but they gonna be all considered one
class of persons.
I: Uh, huh.
M: I don't think that the race or ... anything will hwae anything to do with it.
I: Nobody will pay any attention.
M: ... pay any attention to it. To my ... to my best knowledge I that's
the way it-shea be ...
...... END OF TAPE