Title: Claude Allen
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Title: Claude Allen
Series Title: Claude Allen
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Bibliographic ID: UF00007833
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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?

A: C-l-a-u-d-e.

I: Got a middle initial? Middle name?

A: Y.

I: Y? What's the Y stand for?

A: Yates.

I: Yates. Is that a family name?

A: No, it's not.

I: How do you spell it?

A: Y-a-t-e-s.

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?

A: Yes.


I: When?

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?

A: Right.

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?

A: Right.

I: How do you spell that?


A: S-u-d-i-e.

I: S-u-d-i-e. Now, you were raised by your mother.

A: Yes.

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

I: Why?

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.

A: Right.

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... .

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