Title: Interview with James Dukes (August 22, 1973)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007521/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with James Dukes (August 22, 1973)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: August 22, 1973
Spatial Coverage: Creek County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007521
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Creek County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: CRK 46

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DATE: August 22, 1973


INTERVIEWEE: Dr. James Dukes, Veterinarian (D)

P: This is August 22nd, 1973. I'm talking to Dr. James Dukes who is very

interested in helping the Indian community get their schoolhouse back

and I'm to carry on our conversation, )ihat motivated you to get started in

work in the schoolhouse, anyway?

D: Well, I actually believe certain groups in this country have been) ,

treated much worse than others. And if it's any group that has been

mistreated, it's been the Indians an I just think they deserve more -r-cd(y Zfer'cvc

Yjt, than thr getting. I just don't think we can do enough for them, in my


P: Well, have you known Calvin McGee and those people before? '-

D: Yes, I knew Chief McGee before. In fact, he and I were good friends.
-vJo (S ;,- t'r pk r)face w~s
P: Well is/this how you first got started in the school Was 1-threu,,-

Calvin,.or was it an idea that came to you on your own? 7 -
: m .- b 5. P; l Ct .,
D: Well, ae-t4kally m-part Indian myself l suppose I'm part -- c-6c)

"thCat patof my mother.

P: I was curious, just curious as to after you wrote that straight-

forward letter to the IaH _'S paper, if you've gotten any feedback

from the locaX citizens on that f- ,

D: Oh yes, I had calls, people stopfme on the street and it was amazing

the response I got from that letter.

1 -




P: Was it generally positive or negative?
D: Oh yes, I had noAnegatives, no criticism at all.
P: Well, what is the basis, you think, for the idxa'a:. supports 7"'i-- .

D: Well, probably.deep down they think just like I do. It's just the

matter of the fact that nobody's doing anything for them.

P: Do they feel the Indians have been mistreated, too?

D: Oh yes.

P: WellAI've been under the impression, in the past at least, there are

people in Atmore ( who just felt that the Indians were terrible.

D: Well, that isreally not true, they really don't. Deep down they

have enough feeling and I think that you would find any individual, he du--

would admit, it wouldn't take too much part, that the Indians, that they

have been mistreated more than anybody in this country and I think that

something should be done.

P: WellI know that years ago when the Indian children weren't allowed to

go to some of the other smaller schools out there, I mean back in the 30's,

that if they could find lodging in town they could go to the Atmore school.

But I have heard second and third hand information that even so, the Tanann"

in the town of Atmore had a fairly bad reputation about drinking and

fighting and not paying their bills and all those kind of things.

D: Well, some of that is true, but so has it been among a lot of these other

people, and as far as coming to school, I think it's difficult at first.

Chief McGee had to talk to njet i/-OtC that, in fact there's an article

2 -




in this paper here, several years ago. I have a copy of it. Do you have

a copy of it? ereby Chief McGee felt that they weren't getting a fair


P: Well, how long have you lived in Atmore?
-1 wzs fc^Tp
D: Well I was borr here and I've been all over the world, actually, been

in the Navy twice, but my home's really here, between here and r6ar-.C

P: Oh, you're from out-you grew up out in that area?

D: Yes, I was born right across from Parman Hall.

P: From where?

D: Parman Hall, up there just past the _fr__' C_ c_/_ church on the


P: Well as a youngster did you interact with the Indians at all out there?
-rt^ ,,-
D: No, because later we moved to Tfaln and back here and I attended

public school here all my life. B kIr u-3 kcO aO 6 Q -iN .o

P:4 What was the reaction here in Atmore when all of a sudden they started

bringing in all the Indian children to school.
-7 6fdt''k ye~-s --
D: Well it was so gradual until--I don'tAthink there's any de tetabe
d- 'h ay pLt. A
difference in the way people felt. I don't think they objected, most people

at all.

P: It wasn't anything comparable to attitudes when integration started?

D: No, no, h ),nO

P: Well, do you know, apart from their educational problems, do you know
of other ways in which these Indians here specifically been mistreated in the

recent past?

3 -




D: No, not\any specific cases.j-I think'that there has been some.
P: Uh huh, so/you say the Indians have been the most mistreated group

in the country, you're referring to the whole historical...

D: Right, the landAhas been taken from them, they really haven't been

compensated for that.

P: Well, I'm glad that, because although I'm o doing straight-

forward research I, of course, do have an interest in their continued

betterment. I feel that I just help but add that I'm glad to hear

you say you feel you could drum up a fair amount of support for them

getting their school.

D: 'I'11 say this ew," I'll do everything I can. I think they know that.

P: Well, what would you suggest would be a goodapproach for the Indians

to take in going about getting that school back in the sense that what-

ever they plan as a group to do with it, for them to have in their owner-

ship so to speak, well, actually in their ownership.

D: Have they approached the school board as well as aCf '

P: No, Houston just talked directly withAHarry Ree'er (?) and he said he

was going to present--he made a copy of the proposal that Housta&(?) had Ld,

which I typed up.

D: Well, I suggested they...
Afvo( ltWzwc- 1wovs xc<-fv prc'en-d
P: bel v it wa no1k eed to the school board after that.

D: I suggested either Houston himself or several of his group out there

approach each board member.

4 -




P: Individually?

D: Right

P: What kindAof message do you think they ought to/ ay to these people?

D: Well I'd present it just like I did to Weaveir,) I don't know how

they'd presentit to Weaver, but I wouldn't vary my approach.
Iit- -i c t<
P: What about--thereAcomes a response from one or more of the board
members who don't understand why you want to do that because you are

all are free to use that any time you want to.

D: Well, I jat=iLk-tt should be returned to the Indians. You know
A A be-4iute,- I,
that tract out there I believe is about 18 to 20 acres at one time.

P: The schoolhouse tract?

D: Yes

P: It's still 20 acres.

D: 20 acres. I think that should be returned to the Indians to let
them do just as they please. That's the least we can do, the very least,
h;, (Cr J, Y, i
and let them put what they want on the property -an with no strings

attached at all.

P: I think that's what they want,Athe deed in their hands.

D: ::ciat s what they should get.

P: You know that land was originally purchased by the Episcopal church.

D: Right,

P: And /Che Episcopal church sold it to the State of Alabama for one dollar

for the whole 20 acres and then the county put the school building up there

and Mr. Weaver said yesterday that just a few years ago, the county-or rather

4 -

CRK 46 A



the state deeded over all the school buildings in Escambia County to the--o ie

County Board of Education.

D: Well that--the land in particular, should be deeded back to the
Fvcr- C-m dOC 10 Or
Indians ef--Waeumbala4-) They should be just as good to the

Indians as the Episcopal church was to the county board.

P: Well, when you bought that school in r _oe 4 did you buy that

from the county or the state?

D: We. I wasn't in on that. Some of.the other fellows handled
a 5 ,<,-t O ': 4 wa. fro
that, I've heard she. -silff of the county, although I really don't know.

P: And you say it was $11,000 for the whole school over there?

D: To my understanding.
yJi. -YK04
P: What is the--I know you said you got some feedback from your letter,
J -/, / Aif
but right now, let's say right today/somebody were able to go and take a-- -

quick poll through Atmore, what-do you think-1l et's say amongst the
eTAM Qn1 f',
businessmen--what do you think would be their general attitude on the

presence of the Indians here and the potential of the Indians as an

economic impact for the community?

D: Well I think that they would be considered just like any other group

of people around here--I don't think it would be any---I think that they

are just as helpful as any group we have.
-L4 a) -T
P: What'I had in mind is -- I had talked to a few people and I get the

impression that there are some of the community leaders that are eager

for the Indians to develop some kind of tourist attraction. I was

wondering if you had gotten that impression from any of them?

5 -




D: No I hadn't heard any of them discus t. Why most of them don't know
?F: 0,1Jity d D P 7)
about what the plans areCA
P: In other words, amongst your circle of acquaintances which I'm sure

is pretty wide, there's not much discussion about the Indians as a

possible tourist attraction or any thing?

D: I have heard of none. -t really needs publicity and a lot of it.

As I told Houston not long ago it would be wonderful if the whole world
-Perr. -\J c_'r>s eCxI0 f A- -.
could time-if time would look-for the poor chid f he fae-y -

P: Could you tell me--I know its hard to. specifically put yourself in

a frame of mind you've been in before)but could you tell me what,

specifically or in general motivated you to w,!Qte that letter the first

part of this summer -orwhy did you choose that time and that way?
-T .;s, A,, /
D: I told you one reason that I timed it as I did during the summer

months is if that school would ever be returned to the Indians than that

would be the time rather than to wait 'til they start something other--

start something else happening, then, tooof course this is nothing

new to me, I've discussed this with those people out there for two or

three years.

P: With the Indians?

D: Oh yes. And it had to come out sometime and that was it.

P: Well, did this come as just an inspiration to you a couple or three

years ago to start working with them on doing that?

D: Yes,Ait did. I suppose this integration started my thinking a lot

6 -




I 'IV A,2~S
along that line about how they've had--well, anybody, anybody--has had

to be/bussed or moved to a place rather than some place that's really

a freedom of choice. Zl It's not freedom of choice, it's for the birds

to me. E1j ,C, rV as] b f$P)C&1C P, D:; P, l c l/ hJ0 7Md elrg Ic' O -
(oi Ovzy 7 r;:Q-TvS4- ss+ -t- r,'cA,+
rLt. l VU Did you go to the Thanksgiving thing last year orfvas'
T .', r .s 0od $scs a dC A 'a h,,',.^lL l. -
D: No, no I- --ess in nd the

last affair we had out there I didn't get to go. No, I don't at times,

I don't have time to do th- things I want to do.

P: Apart from getting the school back, in your own opinion, what --heheter-LA'*f

the Indians would think of this themselves but what would you think would

be a good thing or several good things to do to as you say get the focus

of the world focused on / Ft.-/ for a while. What kindlof things

do you think they ought to be doing?

D: Well, eof y mentioned to Houston, really what I would do, I

would do it a little bit differently. I would almost get ithe streets

with this thing. As I told Houston, I/would paint me a sign out there

and put it.A if not on the school property on the edge of the school

property. My boy and I both are sign painters and I would remind the
-K{f, mi.4s ,-RrsTrly, Pcrcl' Y4,^A
whole world tsuport the Indian school/ and g&S-we want it back--we
LA1> ,tI,/ o
want it back. FurthermoreI I would/cite a history frem all the school/
u/w -,.A ,v'1 /
from the time that school was started until it was taken away from those

folks. Whether it would require several papers or not, and sign a
petition and every congressman and everybody in the United States/might

7 -




have some influence would get a copy of it, Che Creek Indians should get,iLi, -4Jw

-thei-r property back and they should be able to do as they like and they

should also be furnished teachers. It is my understanding they are

furnished out west, why not in /__a'-r_ all the time?

P: They're not federally recognized as Indians, for one thing.

D: Well of course, many of those...

P: They don't have reservation status, in other words or federal status.

D: Out here.

P: Right. I P6cr7
V,4f4rf wr ed
D: Well, I understand that. It's very impeefattt. It's not too late.

They were here first.

P: AIf you were to be in charge, say, of circulating such a petition in
JCtIJC( b-c
Atmore, realistically, what would you estimate the number of signatures

that you could get, given the fact that you had several people helping you

circulate amongst em,the. Idia.A

D: Well, first I would get the petition from the Indians. Th) tohwl/c- --

P: Yes, le.s say there was another petition to get support from the local


D: I would say ... b a r' c iy4J

P: What percentage of the white community of Atmore do you think you

could get.

D: I would say 90 percent

P: Ninety percent

D: -oNinety prccn or better.

8 -




P: Would there, amongst the whites, would there be any fear that this

could set a precedent for other kinds of things?

D: Some, yes. But if it were presented properly and if they searched

their conscience, they'd go along with it, no question.

P: In rough outline, what would you say would be a proper presentation

to make it clear this was the specific case for the Indians?

D: Well, it'd be more or less educational. You might have to start two

or three weeks ahead of time and put stuff to the people so that people
Ae i-f- t4 J
would become awar/and become educated because it would/be hard to present

it to so many individuals. If necessary, put out hand bills.

P:/ Yo were talking about the need for publicity and this is something

that kind of struck me immediately after I had been here last summer

for a month or two is that suddenly I, who had come in from the outside,

was an expert on the Indians amongst all kinds of people in the
community and I was kind of surprised thatwthere were a lot of things

that I had found out that they didn't know. Is that a correct impression

on my part or is there more knowledge about the Indians t their history /-i. /-4arA

then I assumed there to be amongst the whites?

Dr Well, really, a lot of these people don't know too much about the

L-h 1Ii .ldi
P: /Are they just not interacted with them throughout the years or what?

DP'4hey really haven't thought, ( many of these people don't have--

they think they don't have to think. That it's just here, period.

9 -




P: Is that part of the attitude that lies behind industrial develop-

ment and that sort of thing in the community?

D: Could be.

P: this summer, and for the first time, I've been hearing quite a few

people saying or compare Atmore to _e_ _1 1oti R _l_ and wonder why
1 and
Atmore doesn't have more of these small, non-polluting industries/things

coming in.

D: Well, you know the bigger the town, the poorer the town, in my


P: You'd just as soon see Atmore stay a lot like it is?

D: Right. Many would say that I'm not for progress, that'sAnot true.

NXXXEf.fi[XXIaKgXX2? I would like for everybody to live well but the
.rt-c.J c*. Ctr'r\1 c!F-
bigger the town, if you were- t draw a graph, the bigger the town the
worse the town/in a lot of respects.

P: Speaking of that kind of thing and back to the Indians, from your
O-frcn Ve rr-CCrl n Cy, ^C, C Cr(\
earlier days here, growing up and then as a man in this area, what kinds
1a i vl "r -
of economics and standard of living changes have you seen among the

Indians in 'C_____ ?

D: Well I believe they have progressed about in comparison with the

other people in living outside of Atmore. I think in conveniences and

their standard of living has increased comparably to some other groups

around here but not as much as I'd like for it.
P: Since we are talking, let me try out an idea on you4 Many of the

10 -




things that the old people tell me about the former way of life out there

strike me as being just sort of general, southern, rural, way of life.

D: Right.

P: But I also get the impression that some of th aspects of that way

of life, like living in log cabins with split xp shingle roofs and all

of that held on for maybe a decade or more longer with the Indians than

it did on the average with the surrounding population. I wonder if there

was any, in your view, -f there was any tendency for the Indians, until

recently, to be maybe ten, fifteen years behind the times compared to ay

white rural folks in Escambia County?

D:A I think you're right. Much of that had to do with lost of those
the whites hae the acreage
people didn't have the land, any acreage in this area and ha4 control.
A -
and if the IndiansA should they have had the same amount of property,

which they should have had all along, then I don't think they would have

been behind but that was one of the main reasons. They really didn't

have anything to work with.
ON.,,- Cr, ( ot -. P
P:A I know some people who are not yet 35 who were born in log cabins

in the Indian community. Would you imagine there have been any white

people in this part of Escambia County that are less than 35 years of

age who were born in log cabins?

D: I don't know. I wouldn't know the number. We have some, I'm sure.

P: Well you think its primarily the problem of tenant farming and those

kind of things that held them back?

D: Right.

11 -




P: Have you ever, r ---.Irland -?3?) were doing more farming and live-

stock keeping. Did you ever work for any of them as a veterinarian --

have you ever called out there to help them out\ r -

D: Oh yes, I've made numbers and numbers of calls/out there both for

livestock and the dogs. I treatldogs for many of those people.

P: How are they about paying their bills to you.

D: They d as well as anybody else.

P: P6 they?

D: Oh yes, I've had-really never had any difficulty, maybe one or two,

then you would expect that.

P: Were there any say,,oh, in the 1950's, maybe into the '60's, were
there any Indians out there that/felt like had a, anything close to

a sizeable livestock collection, cattle and hogs and things? Or have

they always been sma l-time operators?

D: Most of them are small-time operators. I don't know of anybody, any

Indians that have any cattle--livestock of anyA size.

P: Just guessing, what would you say would be the largest number of

head of hogs that any of those Indians had out there at any one time?

D:1I really don't know, but I'd say 40 or 50 probably.

P: How long ago would that have been if they had that many?

D: Oh, that would be several years ago, I don't know of any of them out
/I. hg )* ,, a ,
there now that have any/ta amount r,1' i

P: Well a lot of them that .he, well, not a lot, a few that ad some but

not to amount to anything and just maybe one or two at a time.

12 -




D: Right.

P: Well, I just wanted to talk with you and see what your attitudes

were on all of this and get your feelings..a how much support you

could tir up, etrt getting the school back.

D: I think we've stirred up plenty of support. Ce o0 --


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