Title: Interview with Randolph Mantooth (July 16, 1974)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007877/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Randolph Mantooth (July 16, 1974)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: July 16, 1974
Subject: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Mississippi Choctaw.
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: UF00007877
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Mississippi Choctaw' 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: MC 55

Table of Contents
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Full Text

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and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
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MISS CHOC 55A Page 1

P: Today is July 16, 1974, and we are out to interview Randolph Mantooth. And Randolph,

the first question is,what do you think about heritage and culture and preserving it?

M: Well, I think it's,important but I think, foremost it, that the heritage, well, it's

here now, but it's changing and heritage is going to be changed with different peoples.

A prime example is in Los Angeles, the heritage is always there/and they come into Los

Angeles and they're exposed to other Indians and other tribes and there's a lot of,

thxaea. their own personal heritage that is lost because of the association with,

the- T a itS.ri th 'therz A tribes and how some things are dropped and other heritages

are gathered up. It's kind of hard because the heritage, I don't think, will ever

die with the Indian, if he just keeps on maintaining like he has been; for something

like 400 years they've tried to knock it down and the Indian has stayed, and he will

stay, but not without trying. They've got to try to keep the heritage and keep the

culture going. Without it, there'd be a lot of people who would like very much for '

all to wind up in a melting pot and come up with a whole, totally different tradition.

I don't think it should die and I don't think it will die. I don't think with people

' like I've met here today, with the Choctaw people, with the Lumi Indian in Washington

"' and with the Shoshoni in .e'ade--they're all working very hard not to let it die,

and I don't think it will. I don't think they'll allow it to.

P: What do you think about the education for the young people? Do you think it's important

for them, like, now, like four or five years ago, they said, -oher-people said 'tha

It's not worth getting a high school education. You could get a high school, you know,

when you finish high school, you get a job andyou don't graduate from high school, you

still get a better job, I mean, the same job as the high school graduates do. What do

you think about the education of:the young people now?

M: They're right to a certain extent and I think it has to go beyond high school. And

needless to say, without a high school education, you can't get a college education,
but think it has to go hgh school education, it has to. That's the only
but.I think it has to go beyond high school education, it has to. That's the only

MISS CHOC 55A Page 2

way anybody can compete with a non-Indian world today, because they're all educated,

highly educated and highly motivated kids too, and I think the Indian people have to

be just as, just as educated and just as motivated as the non-Indian, otherwise they

just can't compete with them and they've just got to go on to college in order to

successfully compete.. I ordei even if you go back to the reservation to help the

reservation, a college education, you're still kind of competing with the non-Indian

that surrounds the reservation, and you have to know what to do and what to say, and

who to say it to in order to get anything for the people that don't have a college

education and also for the people who don't have the high school education. The old

people are right. You do get the same job whether you went to high school or not.

That's not necessarily because of the education; it's because you just can't get a job.

They'd much rather give it to a non-Indian than an Indian, as I'm sure everybody...

I don't really know the situation as far as the Choctaw is concerned, and that's what

I'm here for4-to learn. But I do k ow some of the father reservations that: I go to,

and also some of the urban Indian. butthat's essentially my answer to it, and I'm ,

not really sure that my answer is right and if somebody finds out that's it's wrong,\
o rlyd e ta m t i s f
I wish they'd be sure t.o give me a telephone ring and tell me because I'd sure like-

to know. That's just my feeling on it.

P: OK, while we're on the young people, how do you think the young people, both non-Indian

and Indian, should spend their leisure time? You know, like, should they spendtheir

time on, like, for instance, hobbies or what they're interested in or what the group

are doing, ,or group or the others are doing?

M: Well, this is going to be a totally biased answer because I don't believe anybody

should be doing what...you should do exactly what you feel, as long as it's constructive;

even then you should go ahead and do what you feel anyway, just hopefully that that

person is motivated where his leisure time will be constructive to him, to his circle

which will)in effect affect other people somehow. Just as long as it's constructive 'v,

and gets him just a little bit farther along and just expands his knowledge just a

MISS CHOC 55A Page 3

little bit more. That's a real hard one to answer because it's kind of a personal,

/, /
and it would change for you and it would change for whoever'.:it's a real tough one

to answer.

P: A little earlier you were talking about should Indiansportray Indians in Westerns or

other movies. Do you have any comments about that?

M: Yeah, I do. First off, the )and I think, I think you're asking it because of past

movies and that again is a hard one because I believe Indians should portray Indians.

I don't believe they should be doing it with a white script, though, because a non-

Indian does not knowtnor is he really trying, nine times out of ten, trying to find
out what it is the Indian mind, the Indian way of life, he doesn't know and he really

shouldn't be allowed, unless he does know, he really shouldn't be allowed to write

scripts about Indians because invariably it's going to be wrong; whether it's detri-

mental or not, that's not the question. It's going to be wrong in a lot of ways, and

I do believe that an Indian should play an Indian in a Western if it's truthful, and

if it's telling both side's of it. There was a lot of things that were happening and

we only got one side of it. John Wayne's side, and it's not right. When you see the

old films and you see Indians being knocked off their horse by a two-shotgun blast.by

John Wayne, that's tellfi. a rather surface side of it, and, at that, not even a

truthful side of it. I think that -'tha was indeed a movieAI didn't think that it

was possible for a non-Indian film company to do a good film on the Indian until I

saw, and even then it wasn't really a non-Indian film crew).it was pretty well mixed A

I saw "I Will Fight No More Forever" about Chief Joseph, and that was incredible,nd

it told the Indian side of it. And itv-I thought it was incredible. Indians played

Indians and it was a Western, but it was unlike any other Western that you've ever

seen. It was about the Indian, and we need more Indian writers. We've got to have

them to tell that side of it. We can't, we can't go on any further. Another thing

is we're having a particular problem in Los Angeles or in Hollywood, we're having

a particular problem because the studios and by and large the producers want to, want

MISS CHOC 55A Page 4

to do stories on television about the Indian, but they're afraid; Ehey're over-

sensitive. They're having the same problems with blacks and with Chicanos and, but

they're particularly afraid of the Indian's attitude and they say, well, we can't do

a show about Indians because we don't really know and we don't really have Indian

writers and da da, da da, da da, and they go on and go on. And I ask them, Well, why

don't you just have Indians playing human beingstI mean, they do exist. They don't

have to be Indian, I mean, there are Indians who drive trucks,.or Indians who are

interns in hospitals. There are Indian firemen. Why don't we just play, them as

human We don't have to necessarily play them as an Indianras such and all of a

sudden make a big script about it. It serves two purposes:. it exposes the non-Indian,

seeing that indeed they do fill certain roles in society and it also serves another

purpose)which I strongly feel about. It gives them experience in front of the camera,

and it gives them the opportunity to get in front of the camera and to act. And then,

when a real movie comes along about the Indian, 4h..s e biggest complaint is, Well,

we have to hire Sal Mineo or have to hire a Chicano to play an Indian part because

there are no good Indian actors. Well, the reason why-there are no good Indian

actors s because they don't have an opportunity to do anythingbecause everybody's

afraid of hiring, hiring an Indian because they think that for some reason he isn't

in this society. They =hink that he has to play an Indian. Well, he's a human. e

all know, we all see him all over society. We see them filling all kinds of roles,

but you don't see it on t and that's supposed to be the gauge pardon the pun, that's

supposed to be the gauge of what's society is all about. It's what you see on&/.

Well, that's a hell of a gauge because Indians don't exist as far as television is

concerned unless they're Indian, talking about Indian problems, which has its place,

but first comes first. First you get jobs for them. Let them become experienced

and then, when that movie does come along, they don't have to hire Sal Mineo and they

don't have to hire a Chicano. They've got Indians that have had experience in front

of the camera and acting experience. And right now, it's a vast wasteland out there,

MISS CHOC 55A Page 5

We had a part to find, for an Indian, and nobody had the experience to do it, which

I found really hard to believe. And then, later on talking to a lot of the, a lot

of the Indian leaders in Los Angeles, they said, ,Sn a way, they're rightC nd the

reason why is because nobody gives them any jobs. That was a long answer. f

P: Do you meet any, you know, many Indians, Indian actors?

M: Mostly1I meet Indians who are trying to be actors and it's a tough road for them, real

tough. Now, see, if you're, if you're of mixed blood, then you can go in, you know,

because they accept you then. If you're full blood, they for some reason they stand

back away from you. I had it very easy, you know, they look at my last name and I,

you know, in a lot of ways I don't look Indian, and so they, they see Mantooth. well,

they like the idea that I'm Indian but look white. They like that. I want to see the

day come when :tha Indian can come in and be what he is and they don't, they're not

afraid of it. That's hopefully won't be too far away, but I have a feeling itL

things are hard to change. Especially people's attitudes and prejudices, they're

really hard to change-and hopefully maybe I can have a little something to do with

changing itif I car Ioy, that's good then wo't just be acting just for me, then

I'll be doing something-that I feel is good. I meet a lot of Indians who, who are

good, really good, but still find it really hard to find a job. Eddie Littlesky, a

Si6ux from South Dalkoctal he's been in this business, boy, about three-quarters of my

life, and he's good, but still, I make a heck of a lot more money at tRiS business

than he does, and it just doesn't seem fair that he's been at it for as long as he

has and I've been at it at a relatively short period of time and I outgross him,

income wise, and God only knows, he needs it. He's got kids to feed. I.Vdid you

happen to watch the movi-e "I Will Fight No More Forever a television movie?

P: I missed that.

M: I wish you couldc.ve seen it because it was about 97 .i.-.at Indian and when they tell

me that they can't make an Indian movie because Indian, there aren't enough Indian

actors, I refer them, refer them to that movie because when they see that, when

^ *

HISS C1HOC 55A Page 6

everybody sees that, their minds are going to change because it happened, and it was

probably one of the best television movies I've ever seen on television. And I didn't

think it was possible. I felt, myself, that that was the same caliber as feature

films. I think that everybody, every Indian should see it, because it really, it .,'-

should make everybody feel, the minute the movie's over, like they'd walk out the

door, and say, "I can do it, I can do it."

P: Have you heard of this Indian, let's see, Indian thing, AIM?

M: Um hum.

P: Do you have any con=ens about that, I mean, of thi e-

M: Yeah. And it's a legitimate question. It's something that I've been dealing with

in my own mind and I have comments about it, but I'm not really sure my mind is

really made up. I believe that everything has a purpose, including AIM. I have a

lot of friends that are AIM members, and we have round and round about it. It's really

hard)0it's like, it's like the black problem in Los Angeles. I really believe that

without the riots, I don't think that the blacks would have-progressed as far as they
have now. Now, that's really bad to say, it's really unfortunate, but I believe that

it's the truth. I think that you just have to have that radical end and you have to
have that incredib-y liberal side too, because it's not going to go radical and it's

certainly not going to go this liberal. It's going to be right down that, right down

that middle. It's going to be. So as far radical as a few radicals can get, the

more over that middle goes. I'm not going to sit here and say that I think that if

you're pissed off, if you're angry, that AIM is the way to go. I'm not saying that

at all. And I'm not saying that you should sit back and just let the non-Indian

progress you to his dictates. I'm not saying that at all- I'm just saying that :

somewhere in you mind you're going to have to, in your own conscience, you're going

to have to figure out exactly where you're going to go. AIM, AIM has incredibly

legitimate gripes Iand I think AIM has done a lot for the Indian, a lot. Some of their

ways of going about and getting it are not necessarily my ways, but I certainly, I

MISS CHOC 55A Page 7

certainly can relate to their frustrationsreven though indirectly, because I don't

necessarily have the same problems, but I can relate to them I can relate to the

frustrations, I can relate to some of their tactics. The non-Indian has put them

there. I mean, the non-Indian has created AIM, you know, it's not the Indian's fault

The non-Indian has created AIM and there it is and now they have to deal with it.

And they're mad, and they should be mad. And they're getting tired of being hit,

they're getting tired of being shot at, so they're going to shoot back- It's natural

but I'm not, I'm not advocating it. I'm just saying it's there, and I believe it has

it's place. I'm not necessarily there, but I can totally relate to it. I knew I

had to deal with that question sooner or later. Nobody has really asked me about it,

and I knew sooner or later somebody was going to bring it up, and I knew I'd have to

deal with it, so that's pretty much how I feel about it.

?: That's a good answer. I think most Choctaws certainly do feel like AIM is good, that

it has its purpose, and its purpose is good, but not in necessarily the way they're

going about to achieve their aim and they're goals and,their purpose.

M: I pretty much feel the same way, but I don't, I'd sure hate to see the FBI go and

lock up AIM. That would really scare me aIot, because I do believe that AIM does, it

does have. its purposes. And I don't think it's necessarily AIM policy to shoot FBI

people, and I think it's only, I think it's a.personal, a personal thing when it's doi

and I'm not necessarily saying that that was a bad thing. It's always bad when somebi

loses their life, but we only know what the paper tells us. i, fe all know the paper
there are
don't tell the truth. So all we know is that two FBI people dead and that's all we
A )r\0^
do know, that's all we do know. We don't know what happened, and I don't whether we

ever really will.

P: What do you think about the fair, the Choctaw fair and something similar to the

fair in other parts of the country and--the-event.

" M: I like it, and I wish there'd be more of it. I go to, every year, to the Lummi India

It's kind of, it's a tribe that not too many people hear about. It's a fishing tribe

d -

MISS CHOC 55A Page 8

in Washington. They have relatively the same thing. jast June was my third year

there, and I've watched it grow and grow and grow. And it apparently like the

Choctaw O9fair. And from what I understand, it's grown and grown and grown, and it's

getting bigger every year. I must say that the Choctaw fair is a mhch larger concern

than Lumi in that what3 great about Choctaw is that, is that the non-Indian is also

helping, which really is encouraging, because a non-Indian won't really get involved

with the Lummi, mainly because there's a fishing hassle up there. And so, the non-Indial

not all non-IndiansyVbut some non-Indians, by and large the non-Indians up there just

say, you know, Qo put on your fair. They really won't give them any help. And they

succeed every year. They succeed in spite of it, you know, mainly because they just

sit down and say, OK, we got to do it, ,nd they do it. Here it's a heck of a lot

better feeling. You know, it's a lot more friendly feeling and understandably why

the Lummi can't do it is they're hassled a lot, they've got a lot of pressure that they':

not used to really dealing with. They're doing things that they had never done before

and I think it's incredibly brave and incredibly energetic on their part to put together

--- -what they call the L-a! Indian Staumish Festiva And it's a water festival, hey

have war canoe races and thins like that, and here you have your stick ball, and I

think it's great, and i thinly, I think it's important. I think it's also important

that everybody exposes the non-Indian to it, because sooner or later, sooner or later,

one way or another, the Indian is going to have deal with a non-Indian. He's going

to have to deal with him on the outside and, and by the same token, the non-Indian

is going to have to deal with the Indianand if there can be some sort of a coexistence

going on, the Indian will be allowed to be Indian. That's what's lit's to knock

down this fear barrier that's going on. The reason why a lot of non-Indians don't want
Indians to be Indian.is because they're afraid,,they don't understand it. And with

understanding, breaks down that fear. And if they can, if they're allowed to under-

stand what an Indian is, what an Indian really is, I think, God, I hope I'm not wrong,


Page 9
but I think that the non-Indian will allow the Indian just to be Indian. All he

wants to do is be himself. What more does he want, you know? That's all. That s

all they wanted from the very beginning.

iT .'1 1 -
;U S '".. "" 7c J c, ""


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