CRK-65A U Bridges
This is August 15, 1974, and I'm interviewing Mr. Eddie Tullis in his
home in Okomas, Florida. Uh, as much as we've talked, Eddie, I never
have gotten around, uh, just getting straight history from you on on
your investment in Indian activities and so forth. Uh, maybe you can
just start out by talking-4et where you grew up and how you, you know,
as a child, got involved in the Indian community and take it on from there.
T: I was born and raised right here. Well, I was born in Mobile,
Alabama, and my mother and father moved me or was living here at
the present place where we live now. I was brought here at two
weeks of age and lived here on this piece of property my entire
P: Excuse me. How old are you, Eddie?
T: Uh, and living this far from the main community and only visiting on
weekends and stuff, I was really never continuously conscious of the
fact that I was an Indian up until my early teens now. And as far as
my interest in the Creek Indian people and and my involvement in the
work of the Creek Indians, it came about in a very unusual way. I made
a trip to Washington, D. C., in early--probably in--somewhere in about
1961 or 1962 as a young republican. I went to Washington as a --to a
national leadership conference of the young republicans, was fascinated
with the city, and the historic part of the city, and shortly after
returning from Washington on that trip, I had the opportunity to
accompany Chief Magee back to Washington or I was asked to help drive
him back to Washington in one of his many trips, and he had just
about exhausted all drivers he had to carry him back and forth,
T: because it was in one of the periods when there was a lot of
negotiation on the lands claim case. And I accompanied Chief
Magee to Washington and there become involved in the process of
going through the archives building and, uh, actually looking at
census records and tracing up stuff that--that they had been doing
for a considerable period of time.
P: But what's the connection there between your trip for the young
Republicans training and this trip?
T: The fact that one--when I got the opportunity to go back to
Washington with him I wanted to go back to Washington more than
anything else, rather than my interest in what he was doing, uh,
I just wanted to go back to the city or--or back to the building
because I did not have the opportunity really to--to see the city
and I--I really been fascinated, but upon going back for that reason,
I become involved in the eensus record searching and all this, and
from there my interest developed in the--in the lands claim case--
P: Uh huh.
T: And--and I developed a more closer relationship with Chief Magee after
this, and--then I come to him back, I believe three different trips.
I believe I made with Chief Magee to Washington. And uh, from there
through my young Republican activities, I also become in the immunity
action program, and uh, there again, that developed into more activities
for the Indians, and then, oh uh, because I was active in the Cmmunity
Action program and all then I was asked to serve on the council. I was
elected to the council there when Mr. Dave Presley got to the age where
he was unable to fulfill his obligation, and, oh uh, they asked me to
serve in his place, and--and I did.
P: Do you think it was your relationship with Chief Magee that got you
P: the nomination to be on the council?
T: Definitely, yes, uh, due to the fact that I was available to help
drive Chief Magee around and stuff like this. The fact that he
done so much and was getting to the age where he had to have help
with it and--and he was looking for young people that had the time
and the, uh, effort or would put forth the effort to do the things
that had to be done because it involved so much of his time.
P: Was it your car that you were using?
T: Quite often, yeah, uh. The first trip I made, we went with someone
else, and that's the thing about Chief Magee, uh, he's had a small
core of har ore supporters, uh, there's people that in--back in
those--in--at that particular time, uh, I think Tom Magee, the first
time I went, Tom Magee provided the automobile but Tom was not able to
go and that's the reason the chief was looking for somebody to drive.
So I drive, I.think Dewey and I went the first trip I ever made, Dewey
and I drove Tom Magee's car to carry the chief back, and oh uh, different
people would give him gas money or, uh, he made the trips if he had to
do it on his own, but lot of times he did have those people that he
could count on. People like his brother Mason, like this. And uh,
so over the period of time, I--I guess you'd say my interest just
developed slowly and continuously until where it--it had become almost
my, uh, entire extracurricular activities. It is slowly moved to the
front of my outside activities.
P: Were you instrumental in any way in getting Chief Magee on the
Board of Directors of Little River2ommunity Action.
T: Yes, I was, uh, as you know, when the community action programs were
first set up. They would set up a political end of it, a poor end of
it, and then a, uh, the elected officials. And I was asked to serve
T: first on the Little River. I did not serve on the Little River
Board at first. I served on a--a citizen's committee to pick the
people from the poor. And they done it that a way first. And as--
in this way, I did help get him, and he was well recognized not only
in the fact that he was a representative of the poor, which were the
Indians, but also the political end, because all politicians knew of
P: Uh huh.
T: See, so, uh, he first served as part of the political organization or
he--a uh, not uh, the citizen's organization, the Civitan club, you
know, had a representative and /J(5TK Club and all. And Calvin
first served as one of those. I-
P: That was on a committee rather than the Board of Directors?
T: Right, yeah. And then he become--got on the Board of Directors as a
representative of one of those organizations as a nonprofit organiza-
tion. The Indians throughout Alabama formed an organization, I can't
repeat the name of it right now, but it was about an Indian political
P: Was that Kilroy?
T: Yeah, that's it. And from that, he was appointed to the Board as a
political appointee and then was elected as a representative of the
P: I see... You were on that committee because of your Yung republican
T: Right, because the political activities in the area, see. Then I
was not associated with the Board of Directors of Little River until
after Calvin's death, uh, and then--when--after Chief Magee died, the
council had to elect a new member-or was asked to elect a new member
to serve on the Board of Directors, and at that time I was elected to
T: replace him on the Little River oard of directors. Since that
time I was then elevated to the .Executive.eommittee of the B6ard
of directors, and that's the position I hold now in that.
P: How big is the-E'xecutiveeommittee?
T: Six men. There's two from--well, right now it'll be changed now,
but, you know, we were a three county area. The Board of Directors
was a 59-member Board of Directors, and then the Executive Committee
was a--was two individuals from each county--so there's two from
Monroe, two from Baldwin, two from Escambia. Now that Monroe County
has left the Little River, it's just a four-man committee.now.
P: How big is the Board of Directors?
T: We had--it was in the three county--it was 59 members. Now, let's
see, uh, Monroe County was 16, so 16 from the 59 will leave 43
members from Baldwin and Escambia Counties, the way it'll be now, yeah.
P: Was Calvin Magee ever on the Executive Committee?
T: No, he was, uh, just a member of the Board of Directors.
P: Uh, what year was it that he was first on the political committee
end of it?
T: When were the Cap Agencies--
P: The jate~ r Yegislation was in 1964.
T: Okay. The first year he was elected to the-that part of it, and
then was elected as a representative of the following year. It
was first set up where board members served one year. Then it was
changed to allow board members to serve two-year terms.
P: Uh huh.
T: And--and then when it was two-year terms, it was put in that the
limitation on it was you could only serve a total of six years.
P: Uh huh.
T: And uh, but now they've changed that where it is a continuous
thing, especially the representative of the poor. If you are
re-elected then you can serve continuously on it.
P: See if I got this right then. He started--Calvin Magee started
out like yourself, on the political committee, as a representative
T: Right. Yes.
P: And he served in that capacity for a year?
T: One term, I believe.
P: And then from there he was elected by the Creek people as a
representative of the poor?
P: So that'd be about 1965 or 1966?
T: Right in there somewhere, yeah, and he served until his death.
When did he die? 70, in 1970, and he served until then.
P: And what year was it that you were--uh placed on the council, the
T: "66? Now I can look and find out, but I'm pretty sure it was '66
P: Were you the youngest person on the council at that time or was--
T: No, Buford is younger than I am. Buford is one year younger than
I am. And Buford was on the council, I'd say six months, but I'm
not really sure on that. But he was on the council a short while
before I was.
P: Other than the two of you and Buford's sister, Leola, were there
ever any people of this next younger generation than Calvin Magee
and Roberta and all of them?
T: No, uh, well Leola was the youngest one that was on the council until
Buford was elected on the council.
P: Uh huh.
T: At Buford's election he was by far the youngest member on the
council. Shortly after I was put on the council, uh, a couple of
years or so, whenever Chief Magee's health started going down,
Huston was elected at Chief Magee's recommendation. We elected
him as his assistant chief.
P: Uh huh.
T: So that he could V-at that time Huston started accompanying him
a lot more. Course, Oustor went a lot before then, see, but--
P: Uh huh.
T: In an official capacity he didn't so therefore he become a member
of the council at that time.
P: When was Bernasteen put on the council?
T: Beruasteen's only be-en on the. council about three years now.
P: After you?
T: Oh yes, definitely after me, yeah. Oh uh, Bernasteen-Bernasteen
was put on the council when we expanded the council. The council
used to be a ]2-man council, and then we expanded it to 15 first.
I think it was in 1970, I believe. And then last year we voted to
expand it to 25 members, but there's only 18 elected 'members on the
P: Uh huh. Well, have you ever thought about whether there are any
particular reasons why, say back in the mid-sixties, the council
started changing from an older people's organization to a younger
T: I think the--the primary reason was the fact that Calvin needed more
P: Uh huh.
T: He--he got to the point where he realized that--that he couldn't
do it all hisself, and and he got to the point where he realized
that he needed help. And those people that had served with him
for such an extended period of time were getting to the point
where they did not see any accomplishment, I think, was the biggest
factor. Uh, people that look back with it with an open mind or with
a--intelligent mind can realize that he, uh, accomplished an awful I/0
but again it was one of those things where you did not see a lot of
progress, and-and I believe that was the main determining factor--
was that Calvin realized that he had to have more help, not only the
driving back and forth, but he was getting into where it was,,nuh
consuming so much of his time that he had to have help and those
people that had been on the council for an extended period of time
was not able to provide that help for him.
P: What was the reaction of the older council members to adding people
like yourself, and Buford, and Leola?
T: I--I think that most of them accepted it readily, due to the fact
that it had become a burden to them without providing the results
that they had expected. Uh, I--I know for a fact that I had heard
;: council members, uh, complaining about every time Calvin went to
Washington he had to have a meeting, and it got to be a burden to
them to attend meetings, due to a lot of them to age, due to a lot
of them to the fact that they were not seeing any concrete results
of it. So I think most of them accepted it readily or was glad
to see somebody that would assume that responsibility to help Calvin,
because I think that they--they respected him or realized to the point
that he needed help. And they realized that they were not able to
provide that help, and readily accepted people that were able to do
P: When you and the other younger people first started serving on
the council, uh, did you feel free to speak your peace at council
meetings or did yall really participate in discussions?
T: Uh, yes, dueLto the simple, uh, in my particular case, due to the
fact that when t became a member of the council, at that time I
had probably been as much involved with Chief Magee as a lot of
those that were sitting on the council, because, uh, a lot of them
had never made a trip to Washington. A lot of them had, like I said,
had attended the meetings faithfully, and had provided money for
Calvin to Washington, but .had never actually taken the--the time to
make a trip with Calvin or anything, so whenever I did"become a member
if the council, I--I personally felt, and I think it was accepted as a
fact that I was well enough informed that I could speak my peace. And
was accepted readily, yeah.
P: On the other side of the coin, as someone from outside the community
with much more education that a lot of the council members, did you
ever feel any frustration in trying to work with the older people?
T: Yeah, this is one of things that bothered, I think, Buford and myself
both to start with was the fact that once we got caught up in the--
in the turmoil of the council's work and Calvin's work and all, it
was hard to understand why more people wasn't involved, and it did
become a frustrating thing. It's, uh, like any other, I expect,
project that a individual get involved in. You--you'd like to see
some results, and uh, you--you know the cause or you think that the
cause is justified, and you don't see that concrete results, and it
does create frustations, and uh, uh, and you can't understand those things
T: Til you're involved in them in a while, and--
P: Do you think that, uh, overall the general character of the or characteristics
of the council today is, uh, any different than it was when you first started?
T: Yeah, uh, the--the one great difference in the council today is that--that
we are broader based, and and not broader based in representation, but
broader based in outlook. There's a number of people that of course, we
all realized that the council was formed for one specific purpose was the
land case, and--and that was the sole purpose of it for twenty years or
for fifteen years at least, and only-after Chief Magee's death did--was
there really a change of the philosophy of the council was that--and
and I think until his death was that the primary objective was still the
land case, and uh, because it had not been paid off then, and Calvin never
lived to realize to see any results of it, as far a concrete results. He
did see the Indian people accepted a lot better and all, but he did not see
the payment of the primary goal of it. And--and I think immediately after
his death the people on the council realized that--that we could not do
what Calvin had done as far as the land claim's case so--and we had to
assume responsibility for other things or to broaden our outlook if we
were to represent the people.
P: Was there ever any consideration given to just disbanding the council?
T: Yes, and it was seriously considered that--that why should, I mean what
could we do. We, uh, a lot of people An AtS sai d at
can we do now without Calvin, because when everybody thinks of the Creek
Indian they think of Calvin, uh, I--I think Buford and I had a lot to do
with that end of it. I--I think some of the, uh, older people would have
just forgot it if we hadn't been there, and uh, and I think that Buford's
job with him meeting people every day, and--and my political activities,
I think, had a lot to do with it. I--I said, well, you don't have to be
T: Calvin Magee to be effective, if you'll work at it. So I think that, uh,
that made a great difference at that, uh, period of time right there in
P: With all false modesty aside, would you go so far as to say that if
if hadn't been for you and Buford, it would have fallen apart?
T: There's good, uh, not only Buford and I. There--there were other people
that were involved, uh uh, not an awful lot of them, but--but probably
four or five members at the most of the council. If we hadn't been there,
uh, then I think it would have fallen apart. Yes, uh, probably the last
four or five members that had been elected, I--I think, uh, assumed it.
I believe that the older members that had been on the council since its
conception would have just given up hope because they looked to Calvin to
do everything. And uh, uh, to provide all the leadership. They were there
to provide the numbers, but Calvin was responsible for providing all the
leadership to it.
P: Was Huston ready to continue on, too?
T: Uh, Huston went through a period of remorse and went through the period of
of--he did not consider himself qualified to assume the leadership. And I
think it, uh, it was something that he'd given an awful lot of thought to--
of no I can't do it so I won't go to the trouble to try. But, again, I
think, due to the fact that there was enough of us on the council that
realized that we had to do something and--and at that particular period of
time did assume more leadership--was the reason that we were able to maintain
the council and go on.
P: many things you've said along the way, it sounds to me like, a
key element and/or a key factor in why you got involved in all of this in
the first place was your involvement in the Young Republican. Could you
talk a little bit about how you got involved in the Young Republican activities?
T: Yeah, uh, (laugh) uh, again, I come about it in a very unusual manner.
It was one of the things where, uh, I don't really know the first person,
you know, that said, "Oh, you ought to be a politician or something," but
but I guess even in, uh, high school, I--hell I liked to be at the front
of the class or something and--oh uh, at the plant where I worked was the
first political action that I ever had. They--they came around and--and
some of the people at the plant or the company jai Mleticfle is a--is a
company encourage your citizen participation. And they presented us the
opportunity to participate in the National Jaycees Co-' or National Chapter
of Commerce course, action in practical politics.
P: The Chamber of Commerce course?
T: Yeah, th-ational Chamber of Commerce had a course, Action in Practical
politics, and the company would provide the teacher and the space and all,
but we had to go on our own time.
P: Uh huh.
T: And why, I'm not real sure that I did decide to go, but I did decide to go
and became very interested in it and, uh, the reason I became a Republican
or the biggest reason I became a Republican was that--and through that
course I was convinced that we needed a two party system, and immediately
I seen that the Republican party was considerably an underdog in this
particular area, and uh, after quite a bit of study and all, I realized
that my opinions were more closely associated with the conservative
Republican party than I was with the democrats so I, uh, completed that
course, and then I became a or started attended the meetings of the
Republican Executive Committee.
E. XCS< % C. rn
P: was this before 1964, when they were--
T: 19 about 1961, somewhere along in there, yeah, way back there.
T: I attended those meetings and then was a-was appointed to the Escambia
County Republican Executive Committee. Well, then in 1964, when Barry
Goldwater started, we have a very good friend here in town who was at
that time chairman of the Escambia County Alabama Republican Party, Robin
Swift. And Robin invited us to become involved in the Barry Goldwater
campaign, and Mary Jane and I both participated in it to the point of doing
door-to-door work and uh, doing oh uh, uh, telephone surveys and this with
the Republican Party of Escambia County, Alabama. So I was involved in
Eseambia County, Alabama, and Escambia County, Florida Republican club,
and in 196T-well, the later part of 1963, we had the opportunity to go to
Montgomery to hear Barry Goldwater, and--and really motivated both of us
then, I think. And then we worked throughout the Barry Goldwater campaign.
Right after the Barry Goldwater campaign, I was elected chairman of the
Escambia County Young Republican club.
P: Alabama or Florida?
T: Alabama, although I was living--well, we formed a Young Republican club
in Alabama and I served as chairman there two years. And since in 1968-66,
I was elected to the Escambia County Republican--Escambia County Florida
Republican Executive Committee, and have been a member of that commission
since. Then in 1968, as the chairman of the Escambia County Young Republi-
cans, I was invited to join a Nixon staff at the convention in Miami Beach.
And seized that opportunity as a great opportunity, and consider it still
as one of my most rewarding experiences. We went to Miami Beach-a group
of us--from Alabama-a thirty-one-man group from Alabama went as part of
the Nixon staff. We went down four days before the convention and stayed
three days after the convention, and consider that as one of the highlights
of my political career, and have been involved on a local level ever since,
P: Given the fact that, uh, in this country there--to my knowledge--not
many American Indians who are Republicans, and you are a Republican and
very active in Indian activities. Has there ever-been any sort of invita-
tions to publicize you as a Republican American Indian?
T: Yeah, we had an opportunity here two years ago--or no--four years ago
when George Wallace entered the presidential primary. George Wallace
invited us as a council to send a delegation to Wisconsin when he entered
the Wisconsin primary, due to the fact that there were a number of Indians
in Wisconsin, he asked. Although he was not aware of the fact that I was
a Republican at that time, we were invited and we did at that time send a
delegation of Evelyn and Catherine with--to Wisconsin--
T: I mean Olivette and Evelyn went to Wisconsin, and worked in the George
Wallace campaign, speaking to Indian groups in Wisconsin. So there has
been political acitivies as an Indian, and now--in the Miami Beach area--
or in the Miami Beach trip there, I was recognized as an Indian representa-
tive. And--and that fact was published the fact that when the, uh, brochure
of the Young Republicans that was there for Richard Nixon-that was published
in that thing. I was not chosen specifically for that purpose, but it was
a known fact.
P: Uh huh.
T: And uh, that's the onllt activity that I have been asked, you know, to
participate as an Indian, representative Indian.
P: One of the other subjects Irwanted to ask you to talk about a bit, uh,
weren't you somehow important in the very first contacts with uh, the people
that were later to become and, uh, contacts with Sarah over in
Baton Rouge and all that? How did that come about?
T: Yeah, I'm not sure--still not sure--the exact series of events that took
place before Buford and I were in--or myself first was involved in the
organization of Sena, but the Boston, Massachusetts, Human Rights CommisSion
funded a meeting to form an organization of Indians. The onliest person
that I had had any relationship was--was a boy that worked for the governor
of the state of Massachusetts in Miami Beach in 1968.
P: Through the Republican Party?
T: Right. So I'm sure again, there's where my name comes up there. I was
invited to attend that meeting (end of side 1-CRK-65A)
T: Was a member of the governor's staff of Massachusetts. He was there in the
same group or working with the same one that I was. And, as far as I know,
that is the way they acquired my name as far as being an Indian. And we
were attend and--we were invited to send one representative, and the
council elected to send Huo as our representative, but due to the fact
that Buford and I both were real active or really motivated at this time,
Buford and I paid our own way to go to Boston to attend this meeting. The
meeting was attended by thirteen different representatives of--of tribes
in the northeast there. The thirteen including Buford and myself. The
meeting was about a two-day meeting, and--and was a good complete workshop,
I guess you'd say, uh--as far as an organization was concerned, and had
good leadership from, uh, John Stevens, who at that time was just chairman
of the, uh, one of the tribes in Maine, I'm sorry I can't even remember
which tribe John's from, but he was involved in the Indian activities to
the point where he was one of the guiding lights behind this conference and
and is the oldest one from this first original meeting that has maintained
his, uh, participation throughout. Uh, we left that meeting hoping that
T: we would be going back with that same group of people to form a meeting,
and I'm not real up to date on what happened from that conference but I
know enough to know that--that John Stevens was one of the primary movers
behind continuing from that meeting. From that meeting there, a committee
was appointed under John Stevens' chairmanship to participate--or to continue
to find money to form this organization. From that came the invitation to
participate in the forming of Sena, and Buford and I were elected as our
council representatives to go to Washington when the first conference was
called to form the national organization or the eastern seaboard organiza-
tion. We participated in that first week long conference there, where we
did draw up a resolution of--gLn e ntre-jn and Sena was formed. And the
first Board of Directors was elected. From that first Board of Directors
is what we were electing when we elected them, came the staff as it is now--
and uh, or came most of the staff as it is now. A lot of the people that
are involved in the staff now were not at that first meeting or anything,
but particularly W. J. Strickland, who is the director now of Sena, was
elected to that first board at that first conference that year.
P: And is he a lawyer from Oklahoma or something?
T: He's--uh, he's a Jaghe*dIndian from North Carolina. He is an attorney, I
believe, but he is a ir from North Carolina, his home. And he has--
was re-elected as director, you know, to the last--the first annual
convention they had back in March, I believe it was. And yes, we were
involved in the original meetings that led to the formation of Sena.
P: And to the best of your knowledge, you think it is a good chance that it
was your contact at the Miami Republican Convention that round about way
led to your getting into--
T: 6P '_ into us being involved in that first meeting in Boston, uh,
uh, it either was there completely or else the fact that--that somebody had
T: read of Calvin Magee. It, uh, and--that's one of the things that we
don't understand 1 who decided to invite us. See, we-were the onliest
ones south of--of North Carolina that were invited, see. And uh, so it
was one of those two things. Either somebody had, there or else it was
my contacts, see. And oh, uh, so--
P: Where did you meet, uh, Sarah Peralta, I think your name is from Baton
T: Okay. At the first organization meeting in Washington of Sena. She--
they did not participate in the Boston meeting, but in the second meeting/
she did participate in. They--they were invited to participate in the
first organization meeting where Sena came from. That's where we met then.
P: Had the Creeks here had any contacts with the people in Baton Rouge before
T: Yes. Calvin was the Indian AMrg'e_ Association, which is Sarah's involved
with was formed before Calvin's death.
P: Uh huh.
T: And Calvin had participated over there before. So they knew of us and we
knew of them, but none of us, other than Calvin and maybe Huston as along
with Calvin, driving for him, had participated or had had any direct communi-
cation with them, now. Very little. Now, if I'm not mistaken, Calvin had
participated over there in their parades and all one year.
P: Do you have any idea about he made that first contact over there?
T: C you know we had council members from Mississippi--and uh, one of
the original council members was from Mississippi.
P: Is that Mr. Deten
T: tA&. Joeert h, see. And I'm pretty sure that it was through his
family that--that Calvin become aware of--or they become aware of Calvin.
Uh, and issued the invitation to him to participate. Uh, I'm almost
T: positive of that.
P: I want to go back to a phrase that you used earlier, uh, speaking of Calvin's
death, and I wonder if you could-rhad any more to say about it. You said
that at the occasion of his death. It almost sounded like there was a
complete--almost a complete change of philosophy. Uh, could you talk a
little bit more about how that came about and what exactly was the change?
T: There definitely was a change there, due to the fact that Calvin's--or
everybody expected Calvin to devote his full time to acquiring the money.
Calvin had been in the position for so long, and had--and had done so much
til it had come to the point where everybody expected him to do it. It
wasn't that--that he was providing a service to the people, the people got
to the--or in my opinion, had got to the point where they expected him to
do it. And due to the duration of it, I think that they had lost a lot
of the, uh, admiration that they--or what they should have had for Calvin
due to the fact that he was providing a service. I think it got to the
point where they was expecting it of him, and um, that's what brought
about the great change. When Calvin died, they said--I think people said
"Well, there's nobody to do that, now. And who's going to do it or Nobody
else will know how to do it or Nobody else will accomplish anything now
because Calvin's gone and we don't have anybody that's supposed to do that.
And I think that was a big change. That once the new council started to
provide leadership and all, we realized it. The--the people just had put
so much faith in him that I think that they had got to the point they
expected him to do it. I know, uh, once the new council did begin to move
into other fields, we become to realize that, oh uh, our primary goal
would not be the acquisition of the land claims money--that that there
were other things that would be taking our time. Uh, I think that was
a big change that was there.
P: How did you come to, how do I ask it, how did you come to realize that there
were other things that were possible?
T: I think that the younger people on the--that had been on the council, Buford,
myself, and all, was the motivating factor there that was that--I think that
we had the--the foresight to see that all had been done that could be done
as far;as the land claims case was.
P: UH huh.
T: And when we realized that, we realized that here was a group that could
do something if they just had the right direction. And--and I think that
was the main factor involved there. We realized that--that the lawyers
had done all they could do or all that we could do, as far as the lawyers
were concerned, had been done by Calvin--that that he had--he had fought
a good fight and he had his--his fight had been won as far as what we
could do. And I think we realized the fact that we had a group that could
go on if they had the leadership and uh, that's when we started looking at
the other things that we as individuals would like to see done, and we
started having much more input into the council then. Uh, a lot of the
older people provided a great input once they, uh, got to the point where
they were not preoccupied with the land claims case.
P: What motivated you as an individual to want to go on rather than just going
about your own personal life?
T: Well, I think that trips to Washington--once I went back to Washington and
become involved in--in the--the archives part of it, I think it was uh--
I think I always had an interest there, but it really, uh, motivated that
interest then. When you--when you start looking through those census
records, and you start doing that work and the more you do the more you
want to do, and I think it, uh, this would be the very definite motivation
that motivated me to want to keep going back and doing more, and uh, once
T: I realized that--that I did have that heritage, like I said, in my younger
childhood I was really unaware of it--or uh, and once I realized that I
did have something there that should be preserved, I think it just
developed on to the point it is.
P: So your initial interest was in--really cultural heritage or--
T: True, yeah. The--
P: What other kinds of needs, if any, did you see at that time that kept you
T: Probably--that that was probably the biggest thing that I did see--the
fact that we did have a heritage and we should preserve it, uh--
P: Then how did you get into all of these things like health and nutrition
and all of those things.
T: It--it's something that, like I said, there's more input into the council
now.or into the--the motivation of the leadership. And I think these are
things that--that once you have these inputs into it, you assume the
responsibility of trying to provide that service that you see, and--and
I think that this is one of the things that the council is so much ahead
of what it was is that--that we do recognize, when we have the input into
it, when we recognize that there are needs, then we have the ability or we
have the foresight to try to concentrate on what those needs are. And I
think these areas are things that have just developed because the need has
P: It seems to me that the council does much more in the way of health, educa-
tion, welfare type things than it does in terms of specific cultural heritage
as a council activity, other than the Thanksgiving owwow. Do you feel
there's a stronger need for that or the people will respond to that better
T: I think that--I think if people respond to it better because it is more
T: tangible evidence can be presented in this place--this area, uh uh, the
the heritage of the Indian is something that--that an Indian's got to be
motivated to want to preserve it. Uh, his health and his welfare is day-
to-day stuff and he sees that every day and you don't have to remind him
of that and uh, the--the heritage is something that--that he really has to
sit down and think about before he really--I think--all of them do realize
it once they do think about it, but you've got to stop to think about it
before you give it any serious consider tion in a day-to-day life.
P: Is this still, uh, your overriding goall0 the Indian heritage thing or
have you moved into sort of looking at the Indian work in terms of just
community service or something?
T: I think of the heritage is much more important. There's a definite need
for the day-to-day activities and the health and the welfare and all, but
there's much more help available in that field than they are in the--the
P: Uh huh.
T: And I think the--the heritage is something that--that's going to require a
L lot more time from those people that are motivated in that field, and is
something that--that requires a lot more attention due to the fact that--
that there are so few people involved in it. The--the health and welfare
end of it--everybody cares about it so you've got a lot more people that
you can have an input from. The heritage thing is-something that--that
there's that area where you have to depend a lot on outside activities, uh,
you you--we do not have the resources to do what we need to do here.
P: In your own opinion, why is the heritage thing important?
T: That's a hard question for me to answers. It's--it's like a--it--I really
don't know how to answer it. To-me it's like a football team. If you
play on a football team, and you got a good winning team, you'd much
T: rather keep the record books, and--and you want to be proud of it, and it's
the same way with an Indian. I think that we have something that the Indian
should be proud of--every individual should be proud of being an Indian.
And I think the bad part of it is that=that the majority of the people
don't realize the--the true history of the Indian, and I think that the
fact that it is something you can be proud of, and the fact that the truth
is kot known is a big motivating factor behind the heritage. Is that
I--I think that the truth should be known, and it should be presented to
the people for generations to come that--that, uh, we should not be allowed
to--to absorb just what we want to, we should be, uh, required to absord
the truth about the American Indians.
P: Now you--do you mean truth in the past rimarilyior what?
T: Yeah, the fact that the American Indian was here and the fact that the
American Indian exsts today. The thing that bothers, e more about the--
the American Indian and particularly the Creek Indian is the fact that
there's so many people that does--that is not aware that the Creek Indian
exists today, the fact that, uh, when you talk about the Creek Indians
they kind of justgg>it off that--that oka so he's there, forget about
it. And, oh um, that so many people, Indians included had rather for you
to become a white man than you would for yo to become an Indian, even if
you're like I am ere you're half and hal or-or there's that line where
you have the choice, and uh--and uh, I think that the--due to the fact
that the Indian has so much more heritage that--it seems to me that anybody
who has that choice would want to say he was an Indian, see, due to the
fact that if the truth is known there's much more to be proud of there.
And uh, so that's a motivating factor behind it--
P: Well, considering that in today's world, uh, as far aseeconomically and
P: educationi\and all of that, Indians have to live like anybody else, what
do you see as sort of the thing that can, in the modern world, can keep
Indians as a distinctive group?
T: I think the Indian is very capable, given an equal opportunity to--to
maintain his heritage in today's society the Indian, if he's given
the opportunity should not be any less educated than the white man if
he's given the equal opportunity, and uh, I see nothing in today's society
that prevents the Indian from being an Indian. Uh, sure you--the economic
situation you've got to go, but if there's enough organization and enough
participation by the Indians as a group, those--you don't have to lead
the Indian community to go out and make a living. You can--if if the
Indians will stick together enough, they can make a living as an Indian
group, and I think that the Indian--uh, the majority of the Indians still
have the desire to congregate together. And I see this everywhere I go
that Indians do like to congregate:with Indians. And uh, I think the
biggest factor is if they had the organization and they had the desire
to provide for their livelihood as Indians, that there'd be a lot more
P: So when you talk about Indian heritage, you don't mean just feathers and
dances and music and that kind of thing?
T: No, uh, like I said, the truth of the matter, I--I--uh, when I talk about
an Indian or when I say I'm an Indian, I want people to realize that I
do have a heritage, that I know about )uh, hey think that I walk into--
or when I walk into a crowd and--and I say I'm an Indian and--and nobody
else in the crowd can say he's an Indian, I like to ask people what their
ancestors are. It's amazing that there's so few people that really have
an interest in their ancestry, and uh, a big majority of them don't know
anything about their ancestry. The American Indian don't know an awful
T: lot, uh, or a lot of it is distorted, but a lot of American Indians are
much better off than the average white man is as far as his heritage is
concerned. And uh, I think we talk about heritage and we seem to--or
most people seem to think about heritage just as their lifetime, and uh,
it's something that should go back a lot farther than that, and people
should be more interested in much farther back than that.
P: Why do you think?
T: Just for the matter of the truth of it--is that so that it can be
maintained or so.that we can take the--the best part of it and build on
it and eliminate that which is created problems in the past.
P: Uh, from what you said, it sounds to me like, in a roundabout sort of
way, economic and educational programs are in some way make it possible
to have a heritage maybe.
T: Definitely. I--I think that it provides that opportunity for you to be
aware of your heritage. Like I said, if the Indian, uh, in our particular
case, if all the Indians have to leave this area to make a living then
it's--it creates that much more of a hardship to maintain that heritage.
And--and it does in a roundabout way come back to the economics or the
education of it, not only should the child have the education to--to
understand it, he should have the education so that if he wants to he can
participate or maintain that heritage and pass it on to his children. So
it is the important thing is the education and economics.
P: Along that line, could you just sort of tick off, like a list, uh, what
you see as the major accomplishments of the council say over the past, oh,
four or five years?
T: I think the one major accomplishment of the council is the fact that we
have more people participating. We've got broader participation and the
one shining thing that I see of the council is the Thanksgiving Day
T: homecoming celebration is that--that we have seen it and we have proven
the fact that the people will participate if we show them positive results.
And the first year very few of us participated and very few of us done
most of the hard work and from there though, I think that the people saw
that hard work and have, uh, participated and it's getting bigger every
year. And will continue to do so, I think, and not only did people
participate that day, but from that day we get people to participate in
other things. And to me this is the biggest accomplishment as far as, uh,
physical or uh, everyday things is something like Sena, the organization
of Sena, where uh, being able to say that we're joining with other Indians,
and uh, the more Indians you join together the better possibility of
maintaining that heritage or preserving that heritage and accomplishing
the day-to-day things also, so I think this is an accomplishment of Sena.
The--the same thing is the, uh, early organization or the other things
that we've done through-Sena. The participation of a number of our people
at workshops, I think, is good. Uh, the contacts that the council has
made, uh, locally or the arts and crafts thing which is coming up is
something that has been--that is the result of council individuals meeting
P: You mean the endowment for humanities thing out of Pensacola?
T: Yeah, and this, uh, the Pensacola Artist'% Association. The classes we
are fixing to start is--is the result of council people expressing to
other people our desire to preserve our heritage and all, I think these
things have been a definite promise or definite accomplishment for the
council. And uh, things of this thing.
P: What about your work with Tom-.rtfM. Do you see that as an accomplishment
T: Yes, I see it as an accomplishment to the fact, uh, I see concrete results
T: odt of it already. I see it to the point where a lot more people are
aware of what went on in the past. And we get right back to the education
end of it. It has educated a lot of the people. Now, I expect to see more
great things out of it, now, and I expect it to be one of our--our shining
accomplishments when it's completed. But, oh uh, of course, which hasn't
happened yet, and it is an ongoing thing right now. And I'm looking for
great things out of it, and I believe that--that we will accomplishment
things there, and if we do accomplish the things that I foresee, again it'll
be a great feedback as far as the peoples concerned. It'll be something
that the people'll say, "Well, the council has accomplished something."
P: Uh huh.
T: Again, we should take in more support for the council.
P: What do you see as the ultimate objective of your work with Tom and the
Pinetree Legal Assistance Native American Rights Fund?
T: The, uh, the transfer of the property of the schoolhouse to the council
of the Creek nation is--is the--if we could accomplish this then I'd say
we had accomplished the goal that will provide us with an opportunity to
get more support from the people. I think that, now, the long range goal
of that or even going on carrying it further will. be the fact that if we
can acquire that property then we can--can get the state of Alabama to
present or ask the Secretary of the Interior to take that as trust land,
and we can accomplish that--that's even greater. But I think the one
thing that the people will understand more than anything else is if we
can acquire that property back into the council group. If::we can say
that the council owns this piece of property here or that all the people
on it and it's in the council's name, then we'll be accomplishing some-
thing concrete that the people can see. And I think that would be one
T: that'd be one of our great accomplishments.
P: Do you see the recent, uh, funding of the, uh, educational program and
the emergency food and medical--is that-do you see that as a council
accomplishment in any way?
T: Definitely, because all the activities come through the council or council
individuals doing or providing the necessary footwork, not only council
members but the council has assumed the leadership in it. There's a lot
of people working that are outside the--the small group that is considered
as council members, but--but the council has provided that leadership that
has motivated those people to become involved. And uh, I see this as a
definite accomplishment. I think --I see this as an accomplishment of our--
not only our heritage awareness but also our political awareness, and I
think we're seeing the--the schoolboard become aware of the fact that-
that there's Indians here and they need to take advantage of it, both
politically and economically. Um, we're a plus for them as well as they're
a plus for us, and it--that's one of those things where I see a definite
improvement in the relationship, and uh, you get back to education and
economics. Uh, it's--once we got the education to realize these things
there's more economics available for us, and this is a definite accomplish-
ment, in my opinion, yeah.
End of Side two-CRK-65A