Mr. Claude Allen (A)
Choctaw Reservation, Pearl River Community
Interviewer: Dr. Samuel Proctor (I)
December 2, 1973
Typed by: Paula Whidden
I: I'm doing an interview this afternoon with Mr. Claude Allen. This is
Monday, the second of December. It's twenty minutes to three. We're
doing this interview on the Choctaw Reservation, Pearl River Community,
in the gymnasium of the high school on the reservation. Claude, I hope
you don't mind if I call you by your first name, is that all right?
How do you spell your name?
I: Got a middle initial? Middle name?
I: Y? What's the Y stand for?
I: Yates. Is that a family name?
A: No, it's not.
I: How do you spell it?
I: Just something that your parents found in a book or something?
A: Uh, I don't think they had a choice, or-something like that...
I: Where're you from, Claude?
A: I'm from Pearl River Reservation. I guess we can call that the head-
quarters of the tribal government--that's where it's held.
I: Were you born here?
MISS-CHOC 8A 2
A: October 21, 1948.
I: All right, let's continue with this interview now and see how we move
along with it. Claude, you said that you're a native of these parts.
Were you educated here in Pearl River Community?
A: Yes, I was. I went to the only high school that we have--that's Choctaw
Central High School, here also in Pearl River Community--and I went as
far as tenth grade. Then I finally got tired of school, for the reason
that I was seventeen and I was in the tenth grade fand found that'*
there was very little that I could learn ele-.- M Tay Ta to
restliesa .that's all. I wanted to be free, be on my own schedule
and like that, so I decided ;that I'd find the eight road get my
dream a lot faster if I was on my own, not tied down to the high school.
After I dropped out, I went into the service.
I: Claude, before you tell me about what you did after you got out of school,
let's go back just a little bit and talk something about your family.
Tell me about your father.
A: Well, my father, his family came, or rather, his family lived in the
6~P.r ', aRedwood Community, which is about fifteen miles west of
Pearl River. And my father died when I was three years old, and...
I: You were raised by your mother?
I: What's her name?
A: My mother is Sudie Willis. She was Allen, but then she remarried, and...
I: ~yray her first name was Sudie?
I: How do you spell that?
I: S-u-d-i-e. Now, you were raised by your mother.
I: Did that have any effect at all, being raised in that kind of a household
without a father figure? Did that have any effect on you?
A: When I think back, it does now. .Yes. I could sure of.used a man in the...
I: Was this a conservative Indian family?
A: I believe it was, yes.
I: Were there any grandparents in the family?
A: Yes. I'm glad to say...I'm happy to say that my grandmother is still
living. I don't really know what her age is, but it's somewhere in the
I: Do you remember any of the stories that your grandmother may have told
you? Was she a story-telling lady?
A: Uh, no...
I: Talk about the past, did she talk about the past?
A: No, I can't remember too much. She didn't really tell me all that. Maybe
trying to keep me around the house, not to wander off so far,, she'd tell
me about if you wander off something will get you and all that. Just
regular ghost stories and all that stuff.
I: While growing up, were you aware of the fact that you were an Indian
A: No, I didn't. I didn't really know. C (i t5
A: /ex .--L*' ---, ,how about that? We had T.V., and what I saw on
T.V., well, the white man was it, you know. He was making things happen.
And, like when I was little I used to play cowboy instead of Indian.
I: What were you, a cowboy or an Indian?
A: I was a cowboy.
I: And the Indians were bad people?
A: They were bad, right.
I: To you.
I: This was true of the other children in your community?
A: Yes. The majority...when we played cowboys and Indians, we used to play
cowboy and we used to be chasing the Indians.
I: When did you first become aware that you were an Indian?
A: Let me see...uh, it had a lot to do with this man that I went to live with
for about a year in my early teens. He was a white man. Before that,
before we met, I had an eye surgery in Memphis, Tennessee. This man, he
came down to Memphis to study...or, rather, he was a film-maker for the
Game and Fish Commission--at that time, anyway. And we met, and--this was
summer of '61--we met and we got acquainted. And that summer, I found
that the right side of my eye was...well, I didn't know I was going blind
then, but anyway it was going out partly. So I told him about this, my
friend there, and he said I should go see a doctor. And I said, "Sure,
take me to the biggest hospital in Memphis." They took me to one of the
hospitals there,-3 I(-s the biggest. And they found out that I
had a detached retina at that time. It required surgery, and there was
no funds available. I think they contacted the Neshoba County--I don't
remember what foundation it was, anyway--but he contacted them and I
had the surgery done. From there I went to live with the man for the
reason that they had to watch my eyes that certain year that I was there.
I: Claude, tell me--getting back to the question I raised before--how did
you discover you were an Indian? In what way was this brought home to
by this operation?
A: Well, I was getting to that.
I: Oh, okay, excuse me.
A: I said this pertains to this man. This man is very well-known now
among the Choctaws. Anyway, as I went to live with him, he had a...how
would you say? He was fond of Indians, really, and .trs he had grown
interested in them and then he started buying books and had read a lot.
And that year--guess he bought a dictionary somewhere--he learned to
read and talk the language. And from there, still, in my mind, I really
didn't think that I was an Indian. Because, after I entered public
school, it never bothered me. :They never said I was an Indian or...I
don't know. The thing about it, I stayed with this man anyway. It was
summertime again and I was going to go to a swimming pool with a group
of my classmates that I'd become acquainted with this certain summer,
and that everybody else got admitted except me. So I said, "Why?"
Kinda__ me there. I realized that I was dark completed
and all that, but that was the first incident that ever kinda put...
brought to my attention that I was an Indian. I finally realized that
it was some kind of a challenge that these people tried to put me down,
-but- I am an Indian, I want to stand up I(for t? gj I won't be told.
I started doing Indian ways, and when I say "Indian ways" I was...I
TAE wouldS uh... .