SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. William Boehmer
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Harry Kersey
DATE: January 23, 1969
William D. Boehmer, in this transcript, gives a fairly
detailed account of education for the Brighton Reservation
beginning with his arrival in 1938. He and Mrs. Boehmer
began the reservation school there and he discusses attendance,
method of instruction and Indian acceptance of education.
The transferral of Reservation Indians to public schools is
considered in detail and comparisons between the reservations
are made on the basis of these transcultural contacts. Finally
adult education is considered at length.
Bowers, Mrs. Mary, 2
Bureau of Indian Affairs, 4-5, 7, 20, 24-25, 33
Cypress, Billy, 14
Dania Elementary School, 8
adult (Big Cypress and Brighton Reservations), 17-36
aides, 2, 20-26
Brighton Reservation school, 1-5
Dania Reservation school, 13, 14
high school graduates, 12
public schooling (Broward County), 14, 16
Jones, Louise, 15-16
Osceola, Joe Dan, 4, 6, 20
Osceola, Richard, 4
Stranahan, Mrs. Ivy, 8, 13
Transcultural Contacts, 6-11, 15, 28-33
I: Mr. Boehmer, when did you first come to the Seminoles?
B: My wife and I came to Brighton Reservation on September 13,
1938, coming from the Sioux Country, South Dakota.
I: What was your primary job with the Seminoles? What was your
B: I was teacher. At that time they were building the first
school that these people had ever had on the reservation.
I: Where was this school located?
B: This was, as I said, on the Brighton Indian Reservation,
which is about twenty-five miles west and south of Okeecho-
bee, on the northwest shore of Lake Okeechobee. The people
that lived on the reservation--or at least a few of them--
saw a need, I believe, at that time, for education for their
youngsters. They had asked the federal government to build
a school. So when my wife and I came, this school was in
the process of being built. We lived in a trailer for a few
months until it was finished and our quarters were completed.
I believe we moved in in December, and we opened the school
in January of 1939.
I: How about attendance?
B: When we opened the school we had eight children. While we
were waiting for the school to be built, we helped with the
building, and also became acquainted with the people. We
would go around the reservation and visit them in their
The first visit, I recall going to a camp of Jack Tommie.
They had a lot of children, about ten or twelve. When we
drove up, these children saw us coming, and they ran to the
woods like scared rabbits. Gradually they came out, looking
out from behind the trees and so on, and after we had visited
them other times, why they changed their attitude, and in-
stead of running away, they'd run out to the car to meet us.
So we were building up through these three or four months a
feeling of confidence among the people.
I: Did most of these people speak English, or did you speak
Creek, or how did you communicate?
B: No, a few could speak some English and understand some, but
neither my wife nor I could speak the Creek language, which
the Indians at Brighton used.
I: This should have made instruction a little difficult.
B: Well, it did when we started the school. As I said, we
started out with eight pupils, and the superintendent, who
was Francis Scott, had been here for some time, several
years, and he was quite pleased that we could get eight
children to go to school. They ranged in age from six years
to about sixteen, and only one of these had ever been in
school. One of the boys spoke fairly good English; the one
who had attended public school. In order to help us to com-
municate with the youngsters, the agency hired a young woman,
Mary Parker, she's now Mrs. Mary Bowers, to act as an aide
in interpreting, and also help my wife with preparation of
the food for the children. We gave them their noon day
meal. Besides teaching the school, I had to drive the school
bus--go around and get the children every morning, teach them
during the day, then take them home in the afternoon.
I: This was all right on the reservation. Were any living off
of the Brighton Reservation at this time?
B: No, they all lived on the reservation; those living farthest
away probably were five or six miles.
I: Oh, well then it wasn't a big trip, nothing like the trips
that they take now, off the reservation, to go into Clewiston.
B: No, that's right, that's forty miles each way, but this made
a round trip of twelve, maybe fifteen miles twice a day.
I: The children ranged in age from about eight to sixteen?
B: About six to sixteen.
I: Six to sixteen? Now, what did you do for instruction? Did
you more or less take them where they were, and try and
individualize it? It's a rather modern saying, but evidently
people teaching Indians have been doing this for years.
B: Yes, you said it properly. I think we took the children
where they were. One boy had been to school some, so he
could read. Others couldn't read, and we had all these
children, regardless of age, in this non-English speaking
class. In order to teach them English we showed pictures;
sometimes we used this boy as an interpreter, but not a
great deal. By showing pictures and going through certain
motions--for instance, shut the door--I'd get up and shut
the door, or open the door, and say the words, and get the
children to repeat until they learned what the meaning was.
We tried not to teach them abstractly, or they would just
be mimicking words and not knowing what they meant. We
tried to make it meaningful.
I: Did you feel that you were getting reasonably good support
at home? Were the parents in favor of this, or were these
children coming in spite of the general opinion on the
B: There really was not much support for the school at the
beginning. The people on the Brighton Reservation are good
workers, they're hard working people, and if there was not
work on the reservation, they would go out to ranches and
farms, sometimes thirty, forty miles away, to work. When
the winter's farming season, truck farming season opened,
they'd often take the whole family, and go to these farms.
[They would] stay until the crop was harvested, and take all
the children along. In fact, the children worked too.
There was one time where I had one boy in school for a
month--that's all, just one boy. He came regularly, and I
had school regularly, because I wanted to impress upon him
that school was important. Regardless if you only had one,
it was still important to have school.
I: That's encouraging to hear, that you still operated with
one, because sometimes we're operating with one or two in
the current adult program we have--at least showing the
flag educationally, so to speak. At least we were there to
B: That's right. And our attendance for the first two or three
years probably ranged [from] 72 to 75 percent attendance.
But as time went on, the parents learned that the children
did not learn unless they were in school; they had to attend
regularly in order to continue to progress. The parents saw
this, and later on they would go to farms to work, [but]
they'd leave the children home with an aunt or grandmother
or somebody who'd take care of them.
I: Well, this is something then, that more or less.... This
affinity for education evolved out of the people themselves
over a period of time, rather than BIA [Bureau of Indian
Affairs] or the tribe pushing it. You had to more or less
let this grow on them.
B: Right. At that time there was no tribal organization. It
was all, you might say, BIA. You depended on certain leaders
among the Indians themselves....
I: Did you find certain families more receptive to education?
B: Oh yes, that's true.
I: For example, we keep hearing about Joe Dan Osceola being
the first one to finish high school. Was he from a family,
for example, that....
B: I'd like to correct this. Joe Dan was not the first Seminole
to finish high school.
I: Well, I should say a public school in Florida.
B: That's right. It was Joe Dan's father, Richard Osceola,
who was one of the prime movers in getting the school built
up at the Brighton Reservation.
I: Then it sort of figures, doesn't it, that his children would
take advantage of it?
B: Yes, and it was his youngest brother that I spoke of a
moment ago who'd been to public school.
I: Joe Dan's brother?
B: No, Richard's brother, Joe Dan's uncle, but he was much
younger than Richard. He was the only one that had been
to school before. He had lived with Richard, and had gone
to school, so you see the tie-up here, that Richard was in-
terested in education.
I: At this time, to your knowledge, were any of the other Sem-
inole families who did not live on Brighton--and there were
a few scattered families over near the Fort Pierce area I
know--were any of their children attending any schools,
public or otherwise?
B: Not to my knowledge.
I: How long did the school remain open out at Brighton? I
think it closed about '56, '54 or somewhere in there?
B: It closed in 1954; '54 was the last year we had school.
And they, the youngsters there went to Okeechobee for
several years. Now, you know, they're going to Moore
Haven, to Glades County.
I: Right, down in Glades County. This is something I've had
trouble tracking down: What was the official reason given
for closing these schools? Was it simply that they felt
the Indian children would be better off if they were assim-
ilated into the white schools, since they were going to have
to live in this larger society? Or was it anything more
complex than that?
B: Well, this is the reason given, and I think this is the
basic reason. During those sixteen years that the school
was opened--and I was the only teacher that they had dur-
ing those sixteen years--there have been good roads built.
When we went there, there was no road. We wound around
through the woods to get from one place to another. But
in that sixteen years, there's been a good hard surface
road built into the reservation, from the Okeechobee side,
so that buses could be brought in, you know, to transport
the kids to Okeechobee. The program of the Bureau of In-
dian Affairs was to place children in public schools where
ever it was possible, because the feeling was that they
would be assimilated into the dominant culture better this
way than if they were kept in segregated schools. This
I: Right. By the time they closed the school at Brighton, I
take it that a greater number of families were, by then,
willing to send their children to school, and accepted this.
Could you give any estimate--were you getting, say, 90 per-
cent of the children, by this time, coming to your school?
B: We had 100 percent enrollment. Every child on the reserva-
tion was in school, and the average attendance for the last
several years was 95, 96 percent, which was better than
most public schools had.
I: You had worked long and diligently to build up this educa-
tional following, and you pretty much, as you say, rather
conclusively sold the people on education, or they sold
themselves. And then here we come along and sort of change
the ball game on them, put their children on buses and send
them into Okeechobee. Was there any noticeable slacking
off of attendance, and continuing with education once you
put these children on buses and took them into more or less
alien situation, i.e., the public schools?
B: No, the Indians themselves wanted this. They wanted their
children to go.
I: They wanted to make the change?
B: They wanted to make the change. They too said that they felt
like the children would learn English better if they were
with English-speaking children. And this is true, because
like any children that speak another language, when they get
on the playground they're gonna use the language that they
know, and they would play in Creek, mostly.
I: Well then, they followed through on this. What you're say-
ing is there was no perceptible falling off of attendance
or high drop out rate.
B: Actually, I know at one time that the attendance of the
Indian children in Okeechobee was better than the average
white attendance. At that time there were only whites and
Indians. We got the records every month from the school,
and we kept up with it.
I: Well then, starting with Joe Dan graduating, I think, in
B: That's right.
I: ...was the first one. Then you had a succession of people,
that I know of, who graduated following him, and as far as
I know this is still going on up there...
B: That's right, yes.
I: ...that a reasonable number continue to graduate, not a very
high drop-out. Would you say that this is unique to the
people at Brighton, as opposed to say, Big Cypress and the
people here at Hollywood? Is there something unique about
this group, the so-called Cow Creek Seminole up there at
Brighton as opposed to the Miccosukee speakers down in Big
Cypress? What's the difference here? Is there more accul-
turation? The things you've talked about, that they have
had more contact with white culture; that they knew more
people; that, in other words that they were, shall we say,
ready to embrace white culture, and white language, and
speak English and so forth. Is this something that was
apparent to you, or is this something that writers have
B: This is so. Let's take Brighton and Big Cypress as examples:
People at Brighton had more contacts with those white people.
The people at Big Cypress are quite isolated, and....
I: To this day.
B: Yes, they're still isolated, but now you can drive to Clew-
iston in an hour or less. And back in the '40s, for example,
they didn't go to Clewiston, they went to Immokalee, which
was thirty-five miles, and sometimes it took all day to go
to Immokalee and back. One time the commissioner was here
from Washington, and it took eight hours to go from Immokalee
to the reservation.
I: Eight hours?
B: Eight hours. It was in the wet season. They had to use
swamp buggies. They'd get stuck, and then they had to pull
themselves out with a winch. Eight hours in, and then
another eight hours, I guess, going back out again. So this,
of course, hindered any exchange between the outside world
and the Indians themselves. Now, they'd go out to town, to
Immokalee, to the store, well maybe once a week, or let's
say every two weeks, on a government truck, and they'd go
to the store and buy groceries; but there wasn't much, that's
all they did. Just go in and get their groceries, and get
on the truck, and go back home again. So they don't learn
too much that way.
I: Was there any spontaneous demand for a school out at Big
Cypress? I know one was opened up.there in 1940. Was
this initiated by the people there, like it was up at Brigh-
ton, or was this BIA initiative?
B: I think it was BIA, and perhaps a few people, white people,
who were interested and wanted the Indians to have a school.
I: But there was no one who spoke up, say like Richard Osceola,
to demand it?
B: No, not to my knowledge. Now at this time of the game I
wasn't very much in contact with Big Cypress; I was teach-
ing at Brighton. Later on after the school was closed in
Brighton, then I was put in a supervisory position, and I
worked on all three reservations. I didn't come here until
1960, to Hollywood. But between '54 and '60 I covered all
the reservations, and the Tamiami Trail, the Indians that
lived down there. So, before that time, I wasn't too closely
in touch with Big Cypress. Now as far as Dania is concerned,
in the Hollywood area, of course, these people down here had
more opportunities to become....
I: At least by proximity.
B: That's right. They've been close to the culture of the
whites. And they have wanted their children to go to school;
in fact, these were the first ones, children in this area,
that went to public schools. There were people like Mr.
Stranahan and others--Mrs. Abbey and some others--who worked
hard with the public school people to get these children
accepted at the Dania Elementary School.
I: Was there that much reluctance to accept them?
B: That's right. There was. And there was Okeechobee, in
Moore Haven at that time. That's the reason the children
went to Okeechobee, really.
I: They didn't want them in Moore Haven?
B: Well, actually, that's right. They didn't put it this way,
you know, but this is what it boiled down to.
I: Now they're going to Moore Haven. How do you account for
this change of attitude? Is it this new administration or
B: No. See, they've been going there now for about four or
five years. No, more than that.
I: More than that.
B: Yeah, maybe eight years.
I: Because some got out of high school there as early as '63.
If I'm not mistaken, the first of the Big Cypress people got
out of Clewiston about '63, and at the same time people were
graduating from Moore Haven. I was looking at the gradua-
tion roster and that's why I was trying to....
B: That's right. That's right, yes.
I: So [in] the early '60s they started going to Moore Haven.
B: You see, in the meantime, there had been a change of admin-
istration in Glades County, in the school administration.
There was the...I don't know what effect the Supreme Court
decision of '54 had on it. But anyway, people were getting
"Here we're gonna have to take other people of
other races," you see, and the man who was the Superinten-
dent of Schools in Glades County asked for the children to
come. It was not forced on them. They were getting along
fine in Okeechobee. There wasn't any reason to change, but
they asked for it.
I: But officially they lived in Glades County.
B: That's right, this is where they should have been all the
time, you see. But, so, the Indians themselves were given
an opportunity to express themselves, and we had a big meet-
ing, maybe more than one, up at Brighton, to give the people
from Glades County the chance to speak and say that they did
want the people to come; [that] they did want the Indians
to come, and give the Indians a chance to talk, and ask them
questions and so forth. And then a vote was taken. And it
was unanimous, but for one vote, and I don't think this old,
old man knew really what it was about, see?
I: When was this, do you recall when that was done?
B: I wish I could tell you the exact year.
I: We were trying to figure. I imagine I can check the records
and see when they first started going, because we'll be work-
ing with all these counties.
B: About '60. Glades County records would show it.
I: Right, we're working trying to get all of this information
together, to show how they moved around.
B: Glades had one or two Indian enrolees though before the
shift was made from Okeechobee. Geneva Shore, now Geneva
Burt, works out here at the agency, was the first Seminole
who went to Moore Haven. She just went down there and
lived with a family, and went to school down there. And I
don't think there was any objection on anybody's part about
I: How about the children from Big Cypress? When did they start
going into Clewiston? Do you have any idea there? Of course,
there was...I know there wasn't a large number of them who
went. Initially, in fact, getting them through the day school
out at Big Cypress....
B: This must have been about '62, or somewhere along there.
There again, I don't have this recollection of dates, but
it was after....
I: Well, I find it rather significant that you've graduated
people from high school out of the Brighton group way before
you even got a significant number of people from Big Cypress
even continuing on in the public schools.
B: Well, I think this was prior to 1960, because I was still
living at Brighton, and I remember having to go to La Belle
to meetings with the school board, and trying to work out a
plan for the youngsters to go from Big Cypress to Clewiston.
And here again, we ran into a stone wall of opposition for
a while, but....
I: Well, evidently, even if they started in the late '50s, they
must have had more of a problem finishing, because I believe
the first one didn't graduate in Clewiston until '63--the
first high school graduate.
B: I believe so. Well, Nancy Frank and Don Osceola, Don is in
Big Cypress now, Nancy is out here at the agency working.
I: Don graduated in '63, I know that.
B: Well, they both graduated in the same year. They were the
first graduates from Big Cypress.
I: And you haven't had many since, of the Big Cypress group.
B: No, that's true. I suppose it's the distance and....
I: Just cultural isolation....
B: A lot of things. That's right. They live so far away, for
example, the kids, I don't think they can be members of the
football team hardly, because how would they practice when
they live forty miles from town?
I: That bus ride from Clewiston to Big Cypress and back is a
killer. That's tough.
B: And you know the people in Big Cypress, many of the parents,
wanted all of their children to go to Clewiston.
I: You mean to close the day school?
B: To close the day school and send even the little ones to
Clewiston. Well, as educators, we just wouldn't approve of
it, because this is too far for little children to ride.
I: Five and.six-year old children getting up at dawn to get on
B: And the attendance would have been poor. It was poor with
even all bigger children. The Indians didn't realize what
it meant, and the people at, the teachers in Clewiston and
the school board, they'd realize it. And they would not
approve taking children under the fourth, under the sixth
grade, from fifth grade on up.
I: Well, the teacher that is working with us currently on the
Big Cypress in the adult program is an elementary school
teacher in the Clewiston school.
B: Oh yes, Miss Daughtry, isn't it?
I: Right. And of course, she has had, and still does have a
number of the Indian children in her classes. So she still
sees--even though they're a little older children--she still
sees the effects of that ride, and getting up early, and
many have not eaten. In talking to her, I think she concurs
with the rest of us that this is a pretty traumatic exper-
ience even for fifth and sixth graders. It might be better
if--just from a physical standpoint if nothing else--if they
added another grade or two out there at Ahfachkee, and didn't
bring these kids in until they were almost junior high age.
At least stamina-wise, they would be in better shape to go
through the rigors of the school day, and then face that bus
We've also thought in terms of what kinds of things
could we do to a school bus to make it a more pleasant situa-
tion on the way in, like setting up tape recorders and maybe
setting, if not a learning situation, at least some sort of
enrichment program on the bus. If nothing more than music
piped in. You know, we're still playing with the idea here,
that if we could come up with some formula to make that
school bus an attractive thing, at least more attractive
than staying home during the day, or, it might even go to
the extent of serving snacks on it, since many of these
children don't eat before they climb on the bus. We're
kicking this around because you just don't face many situa-
tions where a child rides, I think it's actually closer to
forty-five miles, at least the roads we take in. So you're
talking about a ninety mile round trip--that's pretty grim
for kids. It's hard to sell 'em on just education, so we
are, right now, trying to work with the Hendry County school
people and see what we could to to a bus, and what are the
But you've been this way before. You know how long
that ride is, so it's not surprising that attendance isn't
all that it should be here. It's hard to get up in the
morning, about 6:30 or 7:00, and face that forty-five mile
The point that you made a little earlier about the
children here at Hollywood--I keep wanting to call it Dania
Reservation, because that's what I'd known most of my life--
while they had the opportunity to go to school, until recently,
were they taking advantage of this, too? Or did they go along,
say, for elementary and junior high, and then start dropping
out pretty much?
B: I'm trying to visualize some of these children that started
in the first group, and I see several; there's Priscilla
Doctor who's one, and Billy Cypress, and those two I know
graduated from high school, Judy Osceola. And then I see
some of them who were drop-outs. There were a few. And,
of course, Billy Cypress was the first Seminole who graduated
I: Right, and he's back teaching school here at....
B: He's teaching in the public school system, which I think is
a very wonderful thing, a fine thing.
I: Now, up until that group, most of the Indians, say, starting
with Betty Mae Jumper, had gone away to Indian schools to do
their secondary schooling, had they not?
B: Right, now Betty Mae Jumper and her cousin, who's Agnes Parker,
were the first high school graduates from this tribe, and
that was 1945. One graduated at Cherokee and one graduated
I: Now were these high schools? Were Cherokee and Haskell
actually high schools then, or were they trade schools?
B: No, they were actually high schools, yes.
I: This, who was instrumental in sending them away? I've
heard some stories, and I can't verify them, but Mrs. Stran-
ahan had a lot to do with that too. She seems to be omni-
present in the Indian situation here, and sometimes you're
having trouble separating fact from myth in the things that
she did or did not do.
B: I don't know that I can answer it, because they were in
Cherokee when I came to Florida in '38. But as it's been
told to me, and I think you can get this, probably from
I: Yeah, I will.
B: ...and Mary Bowers, Mary, she was Mary Parker. Mary Bowers
works over in the arts and crafts center.
I: They were already up there in '38 then? They did some ele-
mentary schooling then?
B: Yes, oh yes, they were just little folks.
I: I didn't realize that. I thought they went rather late in
the game. I had assumed that they probably went to the
school here, what was then on the Dania Reservation.
B: They did go to the school on the Dania Reservation.
I: But when it closed, they moved them up there?
B: It was closed. And it's my understanding it was closed
because there was not enough support for it. The teachers
were not able to keep order, because, the kids I guess
didn't care really whether they went or not. But get Mary
and Betty to tell you about some of the antics that they
pulled at that time.
I: Right. Do you think the Depression had anything to do with
the closing of the school at Dania? I was thinking they
closed it in '36, which was pretty much in the height of
the Depression. That, coupled with a lack of support, I
just wondered if there was any retrenchment policy...
B: You mean in the Bureau [BIA]?
I: ...in the Bureau at that time.
B: I don't know of any, no.
I: So, really, there was no alternative for people like Betty
Mae. It was either go off to an Indian school or not go
anywhere, once this one was closed, because the public
schools weren't open to them yet. When were the public
schools opened? Just looking through various documents,
I see isolated reports of "x" number of Indian children in
the Broward County schools during the forties. One year
there are some children; the next year there are no children.
If you had to make an educated guess, when would you say
that the children really started going, and continued on a
pretty regular basis, would it be the late forties, or early
B: It would be in the late forties. I'd guess.... Somewhere
along in there, between '48 and '50.
I: There's a document somewhere in my files that in '44, there
were a good number of children, Indian children, in school,
but then you'll have a year or two on either side where
there are no children showing. What I'm trying to do, with-
out going back and year by year reading the school attendance
reports, is just get a general idea here. We can do this,
of course, and I think that it's interesting when you talk
about someone like Billy Cypress. He, in essence, when he
graduated, that would have been the early '60s, wouldn't it,
if he got out of college about '65?
I: He really represents the first generation that went all the
way through the public schools here in Broward County.
B: That's right.
I: So we're talking about a pretty recent....
B: He never went to Indian schools.
I: Right, he never went to anything but public schools, from
first through twelfth grade. So we're again talking about
a relatively recent occurance right here.
B: Yes, that's right.
I: So this is something that always, to me at least, is inter-
esting, that the reservation, the Hollywood Reservation,
which is right here on the edge of the metropolitan, well,
now it's surrounded by a metropolitan area, would actually
be later than Brighton in turning out public high school
graduates. I don't know if I'm overdrawing this point, that
these Brighton people had a jump on both the Big Cypress and
the Hollywood people in that they were more attuned to the
need for education. This is obviously a thesis I'm trying
to develop here, and how would you react to that?
I: Would you say as a group...?
B: Yes, I'd say so. Of course, my closest contacts were with
the people at Brighton. And I have quite a good feeling
for those people up there, because I find they're industrious
people, for the most part, and they did show, in later years,
quite an interest in education. They wanted their children
to go to school.
I: Well actually, we have a student at Florida Atlantic Univer-
sity now, who should graduate this year.
B: That's Louise Jones.
I: Louise Jones. And as I understand it, Louise and her family
do not live on the reservation, but they are Brighton people
B: Well, yes, they never lived on the reservation. They always
lived over at Fort Pierce.
I: Did she go all the way through the public schools in Fort
B: Yes, and the junior college of course.
I: Right, she went through Indian River, and then came on down
here so she....
B: Well, she went to the University of Florida one year.
I: Oh, did she? I didn't realize that.
B: I guess she didn't like it too well. Then she came down to
I: Well, it was two years ago.
B: I've been out of touch with that.
I: Right, this is her second year up there now, so she's finish-
ing. I've talked with her on occasion, just in passing, and
she's doing quite well. She'll probably finish up this spring
quarter, like most of them. So, she would then be what, the
second of the Florida Seminoles to finish college?
B: That's right.
I: Yeah, I thought there was one boy at one school out in south-
eastern Oklahoma or someplace, but to my knowledge, he hasn't
B: I understand this Tommy Billy from Big Cypress has gone out
to Durango to Fort Lewis College.
I: This is probably the one I'm thinking of.
B: He's be a freshman I think.
I: Oh, he just went out there.
B: Yes, yes.
I: Well, you get a lot who start, but.... I guess what I'm
doing is, I'm trying to measure the end result of all of
this. That, we get a lot going to school, then we start
getting a pyramiding effect, where only a few make it through
the system, and then, it's really the tragedy of the thing,
you only have two college graduates to show for the effort
at this point. Though I think it'll snowball from here on
out, at least I hope it will.
B: Well, I think it's bound to grow. The population's growing,
the interest I think is growing, and these youngsters going
through public school are, I think they're going to have a
desire to finish, a lot of them.
I: Well, this, of course, brings me back around to this project,
this adult education project we're interested in. Before we
started taping, you were mentioning the first tentative
efforts to have an adult program. Would you recapitulate
that for me? You mentioned in '55 that....
B: I believe it was in '54, when the Commissioner came down to
Florida and was having a series of meetings on the different
reservations. This was the time when the federal government
was attempting to terminate certain tribes from government
supervision and assistance. And it had been promoted that
the Seminoles were ready for termination. But the Seminole
leaders sort of rebelled against this idea. They didn't
think they were ready, and they didn't want to see federal
aid withdrawn, and so they asked the Commissioner for a
twenty-five year period to allow their children to become
educated and to learn how to speak English, and be able to
take over the operation and running of the tribe. The Com-
missioner said he wouldn't put any time limit, but rather,
when you're ready. Then there was a general opposition I
think, over the country, to termination, and so nothing
more was done about it among the Seminoles, and I don't be-
lieve among other tribes.
I: Those they did terminate, they had some pretty drastic effects.
B: I think that's right. So it was in '55 that the Commissioner
picked out five areas over the United States to start some
adult education projects. And the Seminole was one of them.
When he was having a meeting at the Brighton Reservation, in
December of '54, he asked the people that were there if they
wanted to go to school, if they wanted to learn to read and
write. And, of course, he got quite a show of hands. This
is an easy thing to do, to hold up a hand, but it's not so
easy to carry out a program of going to school and education.
Somebody said if this could have been put into a hypo-
dermic and shot in the arm, then it would have gone great
guns, because a lot of the Seminoles, it seemed, liked the
shots. But you just don't get the education that way.
When you were talking awhile ago about how to get the
people to come, and when we started the program among the
Seminoles, one official promoted the idea, or proposed the
idea, that we give the people a dollar an hour for the time
they came to school. Well, I think you could have got quite
a few to come to school if you'd of paid them to go. But
the Washington office didn't like this idea, personally I
didn't like the idea of paying people to come; if they really
wanted it, they'd come.
I: Now that would be a job.
B: If you made it interesting enough for them to stay with it.
Of course, over the years--we had these adoptive programs
still going when I retired in '65; so about ten years of
it--we tried many, many different methods.
I: You were probably hampered by lack of adult materials, per
se, weren't you?
B: At first we were, and they even sent writers here, to write
materials--you may have seen some of this--that would be
interesting to the Seminoles. Some of it was; some of it
wasn't. They even tried to teach them Dick and Jane, and
some of the adults liked it. They'd rather read Dick and
Jane than to read about cattle, or arts and crafts, or
road building, or how to get credit at the bank, and things
I: Did they have any decent devices to grade level these people,
to place them at their reading level? Could this have been
a drawback? In other words, we've run into this with migrant
programs. You can't just say, "This is good adult material."
We have to kind of know what level these people read on.
In other words, it's getting pretty scientific, I think, in
the materials they're developing for adult illiteracy, and
then literacy, programs. The kinds of things 'that we're
trying to use--some of these Steck-Vaughn Company materials
that are as good as they have out now--these would be use-
less unless you have a good device to tell what reading
level these people are in, and this is a pretty recent thing.
We're just getting good tests now to give the people when
they come into the adult program, to tell what they can and
cannot do. I think with some of these people, because of
the language problem, we maybe underestimate their ability
to do some things. I was surprised, for example, that some
of these people were reading at fourth and fifth grade, at
least by testing purposes, fourth and fifth grade levels,
who hadn't had any schooling to speak of. Interesting what
they'd picked up on their own.
,B: That's the literacy level.
I: Right. They had a fourth and fifth grade literacy level,
and therefore it would have been pretty grim to try and
start them with a first grade or primer reader. So I'm just
saying we're still playing with the same problem. We maybe
have some more sophisticated tools, but how to use them with
the Indians is the problem we're trying to work out here.
B: Well, this writer that was sent here was Ann Clark, who is
a writer of children's books, and she approached this from
a scientific viewpoint, and started at a zero level with
some of her material. And that's where the people were, at
zero level with some of her material. And that's where the
people were, at zero, as far as English was concerned, and
reading. Some might have been able to speak some, but they
didn't know how to read. But again, you...the thought was
that this material should be on an adult interest level,
even though it was on a primary or low level.of...competency
I: Right, well that's it. It's trying to...to me, the big
problem in adult education is how do you get sophisticated
concepts, and just surviving in today's world is pretty
sophisticated, and touch it in the first, second, and third
grade reading level. I'm not sure we've mastered that one
B: You asked the Indians what they wanted to learn, and we got
some response. Well, some wanted to know about how to buy
an automobile, how do they go about it. They wanted to
know about, maybe some health problems, and if you've seen
these booklets that were developed, you'd see that they're
in these areas. And there were others that they didn't
know. Some of them would look at me and say, "Well, you
ought to know what we need, you know, what we want." And
then sometimes, when these things were developed and printed,
why it wasn't too helpful, or they didn't respond to it. We
tried to take things, too, that were important, as I guess
we thought they were important. Like personal liability, or
automobile liability was a new law; you had to have liability
insurance. And so we, there was a book written on this.
And then we brought in outside people, like the highway
patrolman, even insurance people, and they would come and
speak through an interpreter, to get across the understanding.
I: Well, let me ask you this. One thing we have in mind, some-
thing that we've been contemplating, was a program, a limited
program, of taking some Seminoles who have a high school
education or the equivalency, the GED [General Educational
Development] equivalency, and developing some short programs
at the University, say in driver education, highway safety,
playground recreation directors, and more particularly, a
program for classroom teacher aides. There's only one fed-
eral school operating for the Seminoles, but then of course
the one down on the Trail, too, but we were thinking, for
example, that the people might react better to this kind of
instruction, practical instruction and so forth, if their
own people were handling it. So what we were contemplating,
we'd maybe take six or eight of these Indians and give them
a training program with us, and then supervise them in the
field awhile, while they were going through this. And then
more or less make this the cadre of people to run the adult
programs. Rather than having outsiders constantly come in,
either Bureau [BIA] people or University people, but to at
least at a certain skill level, a limited skill level, have
a cadre of trained people on each of the reservations.
They're doing this up at Brighton. I'm sure you're aware
of...the people from the University of Florida are training
four girls as home demonstration aides. Well, we were, we
thought we would extend this program to a number of other
areas. How do you react to this? Do you think they might
respond better if their own people were doing a good part
of these programs?
B: Well, I think so. I think you'd be better able to get the
program across, because if there's a language difficulty,
where there is in most every case, these Seminoles can help
to bridge that gap. Oh, for instance, Joe Dan Osceola was
a teacher's aide at Brighton in our adult program.
I: Did he have any formal training for this role? Or did he
B: No, he hadn't. He had been--of course he'd graduated from
high school--he had been to college for three years or so,
but he had no training for this particular role. I think
this is very important, and to have it under people who are
educators, and especially the adult. Many of the adult
teachers that we brought in, we had to recruit from the
Bureau, you see, and some of them had never taught adults.
They wanted to come to Florida, here was another change,
you see, and they use different techniques than you'd use
I: Well, this is the thing we are arriving at now. Of course,
we're calling on our background of experience in teaching
migrants, in teaching deprived children, in teaching adults
in ghetto situations, but rarely, except with the Spanish
speaking migrant, do you run into this drastic language
problem, the interpretation problem. And we constantly
find ourselves falling back on a few members of the class
who speak both languages well. And so, it's fairly obvious
that if we could get some of these people who had at least
finished high school, or had the equivalency of high school,
and gave them the kind of training we envisioned, it's, you
know, not to be mistaken for a full teacher training curric-
ulum like you'd go through the whole time at the university,
but at least enough to get the rudiments across, and the
fundamental learning, then if the people wanted to proceed
further, of course, there would be this way to go.
And the other side of the coin as I see it, it would
also offer some opportunity for employment, or extended
employment opportunities, for these high school graduates,
many of whom, you know, they go through high school or
through one of the Indian schools, and then many of them do
have limited employment opportunities. The language, again,
maybe being a barrier. I know I've looked at some of the
public high school graduates, who, let's face it, they really
can't compete for jobs, some of them, in the open society.
They haven't mastered the verbal skills and so forth.
B: Yes, yes, that's right.
I: And I think rather than saying "Forever and ever you're
going to either be a field aide or you're going to be just
a lowgrade secretarial job," here's something that perhaps
you can do. We were looking at it from both sides--what
would benefit adult learning programs, and what would bene-
fit some of these people who had enough stick-to-it-iveness.
Like, several of the girls from Big Cypress are going into
Immokalee to these adult education courses and getting
their high school equivalency. What's going to happen to
them? Are they going to have to uproot totally and leave
that reservation setting, which may or may not be good for
them? But wouldn't it be better if at least they had an
opportunity to train into something that they could do
there? So, we're exploring this, and it, a lot of these
plans, in theory, look good, but you're had this experience
with them. That's why I wanted your reaction to it. On
paper it looks good, but a lot of things don't quite work
out in the field when you do it. I know the Bureau is in-
terested in this.
For example, we've talked with a number of people from
Washington, and they've been down, and we've been up, and
so forth, and they ask us to do this, and when we develop
these programs, to put them on videotape, so that maybe they
can be circulated nationwide, if they're worthwhile. But,
of course, you always have a little hesitancy going into
something new. I would think this would work; it seems like
it would, just from the limited experience I have had, that
very often the people in these adult classes would seem to
be missing a point that our teacher, who is a very good
teacher, I think, she is trying to get it across, and then
she would ask one of the members of the class, maybe she
had known in the public school, in Clewiston at one time,
"Well, Dorothy, will you explain this?" And when Dorothy
explained it, it went across, and then the class would pro-
So, if we just had trained aides to assist a regular
instructor in any of these, I think that this would be a
real good situation. It seems to me in looking at the
Bureau programs there's been this great emphasis on hiring
Indians as aides in various programs, cattle, and education
and so forth, but up until now there's been no emphasis on
giving them any professional training to go along with it.
It's been sort of just providing jobs, but not providing
the training that should go with them, and that's why I
think this has possibilities. We hope so, anyway.
B: I think that this was first used in the Intermountain Indian
school out at Brigham City, Utah, with the Navaho. They
brought Navaho youths up there, really, who had not been to
school, and they used a Navaho teacher's aide, or interpreter,
to help the teacher. The teachers were professional people.
I: Uh hum, right.
B: I think these aides did have training.
I: They did?
B: I saw it in operation there. And I know from my own exper-
ience, too, that the teacher must be in charge. It's very
easy for the Indian people to look to this compatriot of
theirs, this other Indian, to ask them for instructions, and
to bypass the teacher. And if the teacher's aide isn't well
instructed in what he is supposed to do, this is easy for
him to do, and pretty soon he may be taking over the class.
They're talking in their language, and the teacher doesn't
know what's going on. The teacher's aide, I think, has to,
well, have a loyalty to the teacher, and an understanding
that the teacher is in charge, and that he is an aide
actually. Everything ought to go through the teacher, one
way or the other, go back and forth.
I: Well, right. Right. I can envision a few things where the
aide might be solely in charge. In other words, field
demonstration or something like this. Of course, in any
classroom situation, like learning to read and write, or
preparing for this or that, then they would function strictly
in the aide program. I was thinking, and maybe my thinking
is faulty here, so correct me if you see any flaws in this,
that in preparing--say taking a twenty or twenty-one year
old woman and getting her ready to go down to Clewiston to
take the driver's exam--isn't this the kind of operation
that the aide could do totally by himself? How do you react
B: Yes, that's something....
I: Is this something we could train an Indian...?
B: Yes, they're not learning to read there. They're not taking
the driver's examination. This is a physical skill. Some
of it's recalling, like the shape of a sign, things of this
I: Granted, it's a very low level operation, but still some-
thing that I wouldn't say necessarily required a BIA person,
or a professional person from the public schools or the
colleges to be there to do. I would think it's the kind of
thing that a trained field aide could say, "Whenever you
people are ready to go take your driver's exam, see Joe, and
Joe will take you through the routine of parking between the
signs, and more or less prepare you for going out and getting
it." So things like this, I can see that the Indians them-
selves could take care of, a number of functions in one per-
Well, the field aides there now are theoretically func-
tioning in a number of capacities without training. Certainly
when you get to the more formal educational operations, like
classroom instruction, then I certainly agree with you, that
the aide is an aide, just as aides in any of our public schools
have to realize that they are there strictly as adjuncts to
the main instruction. But, still, I think this is something
that we can explore fruitfully. If this is going on with the
Navaho, and if those aides were trained, this would be some-
thing to look into, to see if we can model part, or a good
proportion, of our own program on this. When did you see this
B: I guess it was about 1959, I think. I happened to be at
Brigham City to a, to an adult education conference, and this
was part of our meetings, to observe this use of the teacher's
aide. I thought it worked very, very well, the small facet
I: Do you recall, I know that's a long time back, who had
trained the aides or how they had been trained? Had any
university been involved with this training, or the Bureau
B: I think the University of Utah perhaps was involved, but a
great deal of it was done by the Bureau itself.
I: The reason I'm reacting this way, and, of course, people who
will be listening to the tape can't see my facial expression,
my very recent contacts with the Bureau, nothing of this
sort had been mentioned. In fact the people, both in adult
education and in Pupil Personnel Services, had reacted like
this was an idea that had never been broached before. It
seemed rather simple to us, that this is something that
should have been going on for a long time.
I attended this adult education conference at the Uni-
versity of Colorado just before Christmas, I went out with
Superintendent Barrett. And I talked to a number of people
from reservations, adult education people, who are using
aides, and none of their aides were trained. Now, I could
very easily have missed people who had trained aides. Granted
I didn't talk to every one, but I think it was fairly well
known who I was and what I was trying to do--gather informa-
tion relative to our new program here--and I talked to people
from Washington, and Arizona, and New Mexico, etc., etc.,
and no one mentioned trained aides. They mentioned aides,
you know, they use aides prodigiously, but when you talk
about trained aides they, they wouldn't say that they were
B: Have you met Madison Combs sometime?
I: No. No, I have not.
B: Well, he's in the Washington office. I believe he's deputy
director of education. But at one time, Madison headed up
the adult education. Now, I know that Madison could have
told you about this program at Brigham City, because he was
stationed there one time, too. The director of education,
Mrs. Thompson, who retired in '65, same time I did, I be-
lieve that she started this program. It could have been
before her time, but anyway, she gave it the impetus. It
worked, she saw, it worked at Brigham City.
I: Well, of course we'll explore this at length before we
really go through with this. In fact, I'm going to Wash-
ington with some preliminary proposals before too long, to
adult education. And maybe they're thinking in terms of
the type of technology that we have available up there, to
put instruction on video tape, to "can" it, so to speak,
and be able to mass produce it and disseminate it nation-
wide, as opposed to individualized little programs. Though
the Navaho, you're talking about a sizable number of people,
if they trained all of their aides for those Navaho schools,
it seems like someone would have responded to this. And I
guess I am going pretty much on the kinds of reactions I've
been getting from the people in the Bureau that are so in-
terested in us pursuing this, that if they'd done this be-
fore in the Bureau, it seems like, you know, they would,
they would be so knowledgeable about it that they would
say, "Well, we've tried this before, and here were the pit-
falls," or "here were the places where it failed. See what
you can do, use this as your starting point," as.opposed to
more or less reacting to the idea of training aides as
though it were a new invention. We had assumed that the
aides were trained, and were quite frankly surprised to
find out that they had had no training, at least the few
that we've seen here in Florida, like out at Big Cypress,
and down on the Trail, who have had no training. And then
we started asking, and when we started getting the general
reaction, "Why no; they aren't trained," then we said,
"Well, gee, doesn't it seem like we ought to train the
aides?" And the people....
B: The only training perhaps they've gotten is what they might
have gotten from the teacher, and if the teacher was not,
didn't know how to do it, then probably the whole thing
fell flat. Who, in the Bureau is in charge of adult educa-
tion, now, do you know?
I: Mr. Hargis, Jerry Hargis.
B: No, I don't know him.
I: And he's new, he has only been in the last couple of years
or so. He came from the University of Oklahoma. He is, of
course, he has been the only one that I've been dealing with
solely. I'll be going up to see him and some others, shortly.
I'll broach this with him.
B: Is he in the Bureau of Indian Affairs building?
I: Hargis? Yes.
B: Madison and I, we were in the very first meeting of this
old adult education program, as it started, and he's more
capable than I am. And he was in charge of the whole pro-
gram, for the whole United States at one time, the old adult
I: What we're up against now, of course, is working with these
people. I see so many similarities between what we're hav-
ing to do at Big Cypress and what you did in '38 out at
Brighton. Taking them where they are, almost individualized,
having to individualize instruction for these adults. If
they don't come, go pick them up at their homes, and if only
one shows up, still hold the class and keep the continuity.
There are so many similarities that I think that certainly
we'd have to profit by the experience of people like you
who've been with them for so long. The, the thing about
training the aides though, is.... I think the most astound-
ing thing to me was the idea that it hadn't been done. We
really approached it as a proposal for us to do it for the
people here like it's being done elsewhere. And then when
I started getting this blank wall reaction when I asked
people, "Well, how are you training your aides?", I just
assumed that people had not been. So, I'm glad to know
this, and I'll certainly talk to Mr. Combs.
B: Now see, these aides were trained at the Inter-Mountain
Indian School. Whether there were any aides actually trained
in the adult field, I'm not certain. It's possible.
I: Well in talking to some other people from the Bureau recently,
I got the impression, the distinct impression, that the aides
in most of the boarding schools, in most of the residential
boarding schools, were not trained, which makes it tantamount
to custodial care. If they don't have training, what are
they doing? And so I think I'll have to do a lot more inves-
tigation before I really put a plan on the board and say,
"Here's what we ought to do." Because somewhere in any
bureaucracy you're bound to have this someplace. In my
visits up there, I'll make it a point to get around and talk
about the training of aides.
I think that the only other thing that I am concerned
about now, is how do you drive this point home to adults out
at Big Cypress. Maybe we won't have this trouble when we
move to Brighton. In fact, the people over at the office
are telling us that the Brighton people are anxious for us
to move the adult program up there. I hope we don't, aren't
getting the same sort of thing that you got in '55: "Yes,
bring it, bring it, bring it," and then we'll run afoul of
it when we get it there. But we're committed to six months
at Big Cypress, and six months at Brighton. Originally the
idea was to run them simultaneously, two nights a week at
each of the reservations for a six month trial. But because
of the housing program at Brighton they decided to start it
at Big Cypress. They didn't want to burden them with too
many things going at once. Well, we've had limited response.
Six, seven, eight people coming, out at Big Cypress, and
then again it slacks off to one, and some nights there'd be
nine and ten, and some people wanting help with this or
that or specialty items. The way we originally entered it
was not so much adult education for adults, but our interest
was adult education to help the children. In other words
we didn't want the children to have to come back to a home
where Momma and Poppa were illiterates, or just Momma, in
many cases. And we were looking at it, and of course our
primary interests as educators was what was happening to
the children. So our primary interest was to use adult
literacy to reinforce the learning of the children. So that
the children could get help at home, or at least there would
be some example at home of people interested enough to be
able to read and write; if not help them with the homework,
at least to set some sort of example. And then any concom-
itant effect that would help the adults themselves, this
would be the secondary goal that we had set. So we didn't
set out strictly to help adults, per se, if I'm getting
this point down there, but more of what it would mean in
the long run to these kids who are going, right now, to the
day school, and will later on be getting on that long bus
ride into Clewiston. And I think that my major point in
talking with these parents, or going around--and I've started
almost a door-to-door visitation process here--is that "if
you don't feel you need it for yourself, don't you think it
might help your children?" And I think this may be getting
through a little bit. I hope it is. And I think that we
would hope that it would anyway. I don't know though, those
people are the hardest nuts to crack of the whole group.
I'm sure the Brighton people will see this, and perhaps the
people right here at Hollywood, these groups might be more
responsive, but the Big Cypress people seem to be a little
bit more difficult to get interested in anything.
B: Well, my experience was Brighton was the most responsive to
the program, and the Hollywood or Dania Reservation was the
least responsive. Big Cypress was sort of in between.
But getting back to this business of helping the chil-
dren--Probably one of the reasons that there's come about
this sort of a parting of the ways of adults and youths,
has been this lack of understanding of both sides, both
youth and adults. The adults don't understand what the
youth are learning, and the youth don't know their culture
and background. You ask one of them to tell you something
about Osceola, and he probably doesn't know anything, or
very little, or tell you something about Indian, their
culture from years past, and they know very little about
it. Some maybe don't know anything about it. Some of this
probably has other reasons, I think the church and mission-
aries frowned on the Indian customs, many of them, of course
the Green Corn Dance and these things.
I: What you're trying to tell me is they have their generation
gap problems too.
B: Sure they do, yeah.
I: Yeah, this is quite apparent, though we've seen an inter-
esting phenomenon, on a limited scale, just in a short
time, a lot of the children and teenagers come around to
this program. Now maybe they're just curious to see what's
going on, or well, we've had free coffee and cookies and
things like this, and they know we have films irregularly
--we're trying to use a lot of films to promote discussion
and language usage and other things. We haven't discouraged
this. It's sort of a madhouse situation, very informal,
and if the noise level reaches a real crescendo, why, we
try and calm it down. But otherwise, we haven't discouraged
anybody in the community [from] interacting in this program.
We haven't said, "Okay, this is a classroom, close the door
and everybody sit in rows and do only this." We've more or
less let the people bring their children, or their dogs or
cats. We don't tell the people who run the school that,
but the current resident instructor is pretty good about
this really. And so I think that once they've seen that
it's not a dogmatic formalized situation.... We're heartened
in that a few new people have started coming in the last
week or so. And I guess maybe it just takes a while for the
word to get around, too, that they are doing something mean-
ingful. They're not giving you just Dick and Jane or "See
Spot run;" the materials are materials that adults can use.
We have things on making clothes, planning your budget,
house; the kinds of material that normally you would expect
in an adult program, and geared to all reading levels. So
we're hoping this thing will come around. How did you
finally resolve it with your adult program? Did the thing
just die out, or did the Bureau finally decide to call it
off, or what was the ultimate outcome while you were with
B: Well, at the first, we had adult teachers on each.reserva-
tion, each of the three, and really it started off here at
Dania Reservation pretty strong. We had a variety of classes,
besides literacy classes--we didn't call them that, but
that's what it was. We had typing, there were some who'd
been to school, you see, they said they wanted to learn how
to type, so we tried to give them what they wanted. And we
had good attendance in the daytime classes, as well as night.
But finally it just plumb petered out, and there wasn't any-
body coming. So there was no need to keep a teacher and he
was transferred to Big Cypress, to the day school.
I: Right. Did they ever try the, any incentive system? You
mentioned originally, someone mentioned giving a dollar for
each class they attended. Did they try anything? I men-
tioned again, earlier, that we sort of came up with a sur-
prise award system out there, that we did not mention at
the beginning of the program that we would be giving any
award, but after eight weeks of steady attendance, those
who had been attending regularly, which was a rather arbi-
trary decision for the first eight weeks, we gave them this
complete place-setting of plastic dishware, and then said
that this would be in the works in the future for good
attendance. Nothing like that had been tried in the past?
B: No, I think not.
I: We thought they might respond to this, because of the hous-
ing situation, and a useful item...
B: Yes, that's right. There was a need for it.
I: ...rather than the kinds of rewards that Americans, well,
white Americans might respond to, like a certificate or a
framed plaque.... We seem to go for that, but we felt more
B: We gave a certificate one time at Brighton, and I don't
know whether people kept it or whether it meant anything to
them or not. But going back to the history of the program,
the Big Cypress program was the second one to go, I guess
you'd say. Then at Brighton it sort of petered out too, but
we combined Brighton and Big Cypress. This was when Joe
Dan [Osceola] was the aide, and he and the teacher would
go to Big Cypress for a couple of days and stay over night,
and have about two night sessions, and then come back to
Brighton and be there for two nights. We had, like you'd
planned earlier, to have two nights at each place.
I: Right, right.
B: But we did this, for awhile, and I think I've made it plain,
we've had all kinds of programs...
I: Uh hum, yes.
B: ...a variety of programs, in order to give the people what
they were interested in....
I: Or said they were interested in.
B: That's right, said they were interested in, and to give them
something we thought they ought to have. Like some of the
people, they didn't know what they were interested in. You
have to give them what they think they ought to get.
I: Well, there's always this question of what size enrollment
it takes to make it economically feasible to run one of these
programs. It's all well and good to say, "well, if you save
one soul, or if you teach one person to read...," But we
live in a world of economic reality, on limited funds, and
so this is a decision that I don't think should be left up
to us, the people running the program. We're contracted
for a certain period, and renewal is certainly at the option
of the Bureau, so I think that this is what's going to
determine the future of this program that we're doing. Now
I'm sure we'll learn a lot. We can pass on a lot of infor-
mation, just as I'm sure you learned a lot, and passed on
a lot of information. But the thing that concerns me at
this point, again, is to reach the parents of the children.
How do you do it? And so my point to Mr. Barret, at one of
our meetings, was that if we only had six parents, if we
had the right six, like those who have four, or five or six
children each, you're dealing with a cadre of people who
represent a sizable proportion of the children on that.
Let's say there's six or seven parents who don't read and
write, who each has six children. Then, I think you could
justify a program for six people. If you only had six or
seven, none of whom had children, I think maybe we're missing
the boat there. It's a terribly difficult thing to decide
on priorities, isn't it?
B: Right. Another aspect of this program here at Dania was
that one time we were offered services of a teacher by the
adult program in Broward County.
I: I think that offer still stands, if I'm not mistaken.
B: I expect it does. They sent a man out to the Dania Reserva-
tion, we set it up, and we had a few people that came. And
here again, after four or five sessions, it began to drop
off one by one. Just didn't keep it up. I believe he had
had some experience in teaching adults, but I'm not sure
that they were non-English speaking adults. And it petered
I: Of course, we tried to cover all the bases in writing in
the proposal. We tried to limit it to the parents of pre-
school and school-age children who spoke at least passable
English. In other words, we tried to write out all the
variables that we had no control over. Like, we knew we
had no one who spoke Miccosukee or Creek, and so we were
trying to limit it to a group of people who would come be-
cause they were interested in learning English, or improv-
ing their English because of their children, and learning
how to read and write to help their children. And so maybe
that was the only difference, that we're trying to sell
the program along that line, that "perhaps even if you don't
care to do this, maybe it's even a burden for you, are you
willing to do this to help your children?" Do you think
this is a good selling point with these people? You know
them well enough.
B: I think it is. They do want to help their children, I
think. Maybe not always knowing how, but I can't really
see how they're going to learn sufficient English to help
the children unless they have maybe little ones just start-
ing up in primary.
I: Well, that's why we said the pre-school and school-age
B: Yes, the pre-school age. Those that are in school, of
course, are going to know so much more than their parents
do about reading and writing.
I: Right, in fact, we have some coming now, helping their
B: Yes, this is a fact.
I: And this has been rather interesting, that the parents
accept this. We didn't know whether they would or not, but
a few have. The hard core people who have been with us
every night, two nights a week for this first eight weeks,
one or two of them have at least four children each in the
elementary schools. Lonnie Hall, whom you may know, Lonnie's
been coming, he's our most regular attender.
B: Very good.
I: And Lonnie has come a long way.
B: Lonnie speaks English quite well.
I: Yes, of course with his stroke it's quite difficult to
understand him, but basically I think that he has come a
long way, and several others. So I'm hoping this is the
approach that I want to take, and get your reaction to
that, if this is a plausible one. Of course, no society
is quite as child centered as we are, and so I didn't know
if the Indians themselves would react to this approach. I
think it would be holding out false hopes to say, "Oh, this
will enable you to get a good job" or "this will enable you
to do this or do that." So we've tried to make it, "Well
at least, would you be willing to do this to help your chil-
dren?" At the same time, we're trying to make it a pleasant,
semi-social situation with some reward involved. So we're
taking just a little different slant on this, other than
"here's something that's here for your good; take it or
leave it" sort of affair, so....
B: I think it's a good approach. We tried this, "it'll help
you get a job." Well, practically every Indian that wanted
to work had a job anyway. See, he wasn't gonna get a job
in a machine shop or a....
I: White collar.
B: That's right, he's going to have to pick tomatoes, or do
the things that were available to be done. That he didn't
really need an education for anyway.
I: Well, we'll see, in the future, if this approach works. I
think I want to continue with this when we do move up to
Brighton. I think that this will be our basic selling point
there, in an initial meeting, to just let them know that our
major interest here is to help you help your children, and
much more than, we won't short-sell the possibility that
this would help them, you know, in improving themselves per
se. But I've been sort of surprised, I guess I shouldn't
have been, that this is pretty much a matriarchal society.
I don't mean just historically, but in actual fact that the
high number of households where only the mother is present,
and certainly these women, to a great degree, are bound to
the home because of having children there. And at least
this would be one outlet, one way that they could get out
and do something a couple of nights a week, as well as help-
ing to improve themselves, I think. And, then again, let-
ting this flow back to the children. That's what we really
want to do and see. I think it would also help if they
could see some tangible gains in terms of that school bus.
I think that this might be a good thing, to show that we
are trying to concentrate on these children, to improve the
situation. We're hopefully going to launch into a testing
program with the children here. The Bureau has just author-
ized this, both psychological and physiological, speech and
hearing, and we're going to do a rather sweeping screening
process on the children to try and isolate those who need
B: This is good.
I: And if we can sell this as a package, you know. Here we're
doing all of these things, trying to tie them in, improve
the bus, screen the kids, work with the parents, all of
this; but still, there's no guarantee that you're going to
get a positive reaction to it.
Well, I've taken a lot of your time, and I appreciate
it. Before we close, do you have any suggestions or addi-
tions or cautions that you would like to give me? You've
heard some of the things that we're doing and you can see
that we're trodding some of the same paths that you've been
down before, and we might be going to some of the same dead
ends, and we have just a little divergency in approach here,
that may or may not work.
B: I can see you running into some of the same problems that
I: Yes, we already have, obviously.
B: You spoke about the youngsters coming, the children coming,
I remember at Brighton we had one woman that came regularly,
and had a baby, and this baby--well, she'd sit at the table
and write, or try to write and sew something while the baby
was nursing. And then we had a little nursery where we
took care of the little ones and the children, a baby would
cry, so you're gonna run into this. And I guess you just
can't tell them to leave them at home.
I: Oh no, no.
B: We started a little nursery so that they would be in another
room, and not be so much of a bother that way, to their
parents, and to the teacher. And here at Dania, one time
we even hired a baby sitter.
I: Yes, we've thought of that too.
B: And we took this person, we took the children in her home,
the parents dropped them off in her home, and they came to
school, and then they went back and picked them up when it
was over. And we paid the baby sitter, of course, to take
care of their children. Because, this was legitimate, be-
cause the children kept them from coming; they couldn't come
I: Well, as you say, we've considered many of the same things.
The only factor that maybe is working in our favor, again,
is time has elapsed. Maybe people, some of the attitudes
are changing. Maybe at least some of them are more willing
to put out this effort to come on. This is one theing--we're
sort of banking on this partially--that more and more of the
people are becoming aware, at least the Big Cypress people
are. Again, I hope I'm not anticipating something that won't
materialize up at Brighton, but I have high hopes that the
Brighton people will give us better response to this program
than we're getting now. And they should, if they've responded
historically the way you've told us here this afternoon, from
the '30s on. There's a good background up there for sup-
porting any sort of pre-school program or Head Start program,
so they should sort of tie into this one, and with a semi-
social aspect to it as well. We hope to move more films
and other things into it, and again sort of relate it to the
housing program up there, materials particularly related to
moving into the new houses and so forth. We hope that they'll
respond this way, but I guess only time will tell.
B: When this thing that we did, and you may be doing the same
thing, we tried to work with the churches and get them also
to work with us, because they have so many church meetings.
We never had class on Wednesday night, which was their
prayer meeting night. This is on all reservations, so we
said, "We will not compete with you on this night," and
asked them not to compete with us on other nights.
I: Yes, we've arranged that. We're not competing.
B: Although they have a revival quite often, and that runs
every night, so you lose some that are gonna go to these
I: One thing we really need more of is support of the tribe.
We need tribal officials.
B: You mean to attend, as far as attendance is concerned?
I: Well, or even drumming up enthusiasm. I don't think we've
had this at this point. I don't think we've made a big
point of it, but I think it would help. And there seems
to be a tremendous communication problem, an internal com-
munication problem, that what the tribal council wants some-
how doesn't get communicated down to the bottom, to the
lowest echelon. So, of course, we've avoided rather scrupu-
lously having the Bureau or the tribe beat the drums for
us. We kind of hope that if we can entice people to come
over and see, that we'll have something that will draw them
back. And the big problem is enticing them over to see.
So once we saw that they weren't going to beat down our
door--we really hadn't expected them to--but once we saw
that they weren't even coming around to take a look, except
for a small group, then we decided that the next step is to
go out and go door to door, and see the people who are not
coming. And I have a list of approximately twelve people
whom we'd hoped to reach. First of all, the ones with the
most children, who also said that they had minimal reading
and writing skills, this is the target group that we want
to reach. And these are the ones that, over the remaining
sixteen weeks, that we hope to get to.
This, I think, will be the final determinant in whether
we continue with the program. Are these people coming, the
ones that we really want to reach, the parents of these
children? Only time will tell. Hopefully we can profit by
some of the things that you have done, and I won't say
mistakes, because I don't think mistakes were involved. If
people won't respond, they just won't respond. And if there's
some intangibles there, things you can't measure, if you put
the kind of program on the table that people say they want,
if you are using all the best available methods and techniques
and teachers and they still don't respond, then either there's
a communication breakdown, they're not telling you what they
want, or either they're telling you they want something that
they really don't. I mean, this seems about that simple to
me. Would you concur with that basically?
B: Yes, I think we always, you know, try to give people what
we felt they wanted, or we thought maybe they should have, but
it didn't always work out. I think everybody's honest about
it. We tried to do what we thought was the best thing to do,
but this didn't always get the response that we'd anticipated.
I: Well, maybe we'll have better luck.
B: I certainly wish you success, for yourself and for the Indian
I: Well thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Boehmer.