SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Davis
Dr. Harry Kersey
DATE: February 10, 1969
Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Davis, resident teachers of the
Ahfpachkee Day School at Big Cypress reservation speak of
their experiences coming to Florida from Maine to establish
the school. They consider the problems of attendance, trans-
portation, behavior, discipline and parental attitudes. The
difficulty of teaching English to native Miccosukee speakers
due to the linguistic structural differences is discussed.
Education (Ahfachkee Day School, Big Cypress)
attendance, 4-5, 16-18
assimilation in public school, 18
English speaking, 6-7
parental interest, 20-22
home life, 14-15
Miccosukee language, 8-10
West, Mr. David (translated Bible to Miccosukee), 8-10
K: February 10, 1969. This is Dr. Harry Kersey, Florida Atlantic
University. This evening I am interviewing Mr. and Mrs.
Vincent Davis who are the resident teachers at the Ahpachkee
Day School on the Big Cypress Reservation. Could you tell
us something about how you got interested in taking this
job or how you were contacted by the Bureau?
D: Well, my wife and I were both attending college, Fort Kent
State College in Maine, and one of our professors that we
were really friendly with told us that he had known friends
that he went to school with that were teaching in the Bureau
at the time, present time. He said he thought it would be
an excellent experience for any young couple, especially
both being teachers, to undertake. So consequently, about
a month after the talk we had with him, this Mr. Cook came
from Albuquerque, New Mexico, around, I think, the whole of
New England, and he arrived at out school and at that time
I was student teaching. He came over to the school I was
student teaching in and sat and watched me for the best part
of the day. Then he asked us over that night. At the time
my wife had already graduated and she was teaching at the
time, the second half of the year, and she came home from
work and we went over and had a meeting with him. He gave
us some of his ideas on the Bureau and we had many questions
at the time about different situations and he was very help-
ful, giving us all the good points anyway.
C: Nothing ever bad....
D: So it did sound pretty good and we were interested in help-
ing. Well, I've always been a little interested in Indians
because my background back many, oh, many a number of genera-
tions. My great-great-great-grandmother was a full-blooded
Indian, and so I've had a little interest in Indians anyway.
So talking to him and reading some of the pamphlets he had
with him and so on, we decided to take the job.
K: Did they offer you any special training prior to coming in
here to the Bureau school?
D: No, no, they did say that this summer we would be eligible
to further our education, in any field that we thought we
would like to go into for our master's. They didn't really
tell us any certain field we had to go into. We had our
own choice, more or less. This is something we don't have
to do also, but both want to. So we're interested in this
also, of course. But their standards, they say, are very
high. Now I don't know just how high they are. My wife was
an honor roll student, but I'm not. He gave me the line
you might say, that he'd been to four universities or col-
leges in the state of Maine before he came to Fort Kent. It
was the last one, next to last one on his tour of Maine, and
he hadn't hired anybody and he interviewed upwards of fifty
or sixty people. Now this may just be something he pitched
at me anyway, I don't know how true this is, but this is
the story he gave us. And benefit-wise, it does have quite
a few benefits as far as the teaching profession goes, the
government does. That way it's pretty good. But they, he
didn't give us the honest layman's view of the whole situa-
tion for sure.
C: Of course he didn't know anything about...
D: No, but...
K: He was just a recruiter, I take it.
D: Yeah, basically, yeah.
K: Just a recruiter...
C: And he'd never been to Florida. He'd never been here to
look at the situation.
D: No, he'd never been to the reservations down here.
C: So he didn't know anything about it.
K: Did you have any hesitation about coming down into a place
that you knew nothing about?
C: Well, to tell you the truth, we were interviewed about four
o'clock in the afternoon and by a quarter to five, the con-
tracts were signed.
C: We had hesitations after signing the contract. We didn't
know what we were getting into. I had never been to Florida
and we certainly had never come to this place.
K: In retrospect, is there anything that they could have done
to prepare you for this?
D: No, not really.
K: Just scare you in the process.
D: If they had been a little more honest about it, they probably
would have scared us. Because I've talked, now I've talked
to a number of people in the Bureau in the agency at Holly-
wood which, they have been here and there all over the country.
This school was probably a little further backward than most
of them. But all of them have problems in the communities,
you know. So this isn't that much different comparably, I
guess from what they tell me. Of course, this is second-hand
K: Believe it or not, there are some more isolated schools than
D: That's what they say.
K: Out in the West, certainly on the Navajo, for example. And
those southwestern schools certainly are. When did you
arrive in Florida?
C: I arrived the nineteenth of August and he arrived two days
later. I took a plane with my son, and he drove the car down.
K: And you'd never been to Florida before and arrived in August,
huh? That's quite an introduction.
C: All by myself. I tell you, it was quite a wait for him.
K: Did you move right into the house here on the Reservation?
C: No, our furniture didn't come before three or four weeks later.
D: Just about four. We had an awful lot of trouble.
C: We had to wait in Fort Lauderdale, and then we had to move
to Clewiston after school started and we had to travel back
and forth every day.
D: The first two weeks of school we commuted from Clewiston.
K: That's about a ninety-mile round trip, isn't it?
D: Yes. There wasn't any other way 'cause we didn't have any
furniture and we brought our son out here, and we brought
the crib every day back and forth, and some of his toys.
We had a baby sitter that would meet us here every morning.
K: He's how old now?
D: He's two now. At the time he was about a year and a half
probably. She'd meet us here, bare rooms, not a thing in
here. Just a refrigerator and a stove and that was all.
We'd bring his portable crib and he'd play, he had a great
time. There wasn't any furniture, he could run all over
C: He loved it!
D: He loved it. But we couldn't stay out here because there
weren't any sleeping accommodations and so on, so we com-
muted for two weeks which was very tiresome...to say the
K: What was your introduction to the community? Did anyone in-
troduce you around? Were any of the Bureau officials here
to introduce you?
D: Very brief but we had-one meeting to meet our, my staff at
K: Which did consist of what?
D: At the time, one cook, one teacher's aide, and two janitors.
Now we have two cooks, a cook and a cook's assistant helper,
but at that time I only had one cook. Now we have an assist-
ant cook through the NYC working for the Tribe more or less,
Tribe-supported, and she turned out very good, actually.
K: How many meals a day do you serve over there?
D: Breakfast and dinner.
K: This is for all the children?
D: All the children.
K: How many are attending now?
D: Now, thirty-eight. We lost three and gained one in the last
month. We had a whole family move to Immokalee, and we had
a little girl move in from Hollywood.
K: What is the age range?
D: Six to eleven years basically. We have one boy that's just
turned thirteen. Right? Isn't Eddie thirteen now? He was
twelve, now he's thirteen.
K: Connie, you take the first two years, is that right?
C: Pardon me.
K: You have the first two years?
C: Um hmm. Beginners and first.
K- How do you find the beginners? Are they really ready for
C: I don't think so.
K: Have they come through Headstart?
C: Yes, they have. They call it Headstart, but it really isn't.
They don't even learn how to write their names. They say
they teach them to recognize names but when they started the
beginners class this year, most of them didn't know what their
names looked like, even their first names. So that's why we
had beginners class here. Actually these children are old
enough to start first grade, the beginners.
D: They're all six-year-olds.
K: Are there any professionals over at Headstart?
K: Who runs Headstart? Is this strictly tribal people?
D: No, it's...Yes, it's tribal people here but, the head man of
Headstart is down in the tribal building, and I don't know
his name. I should. I talked to him a number of times. But
I, but anyway...
K: But no one out here on the Reservation is trained.
D: No. They have a woman that comes and goes, I can't remember
her name either.
C: Mrs. Stabbard.
D: Mrs. Stabbard, yes. She's a retired school teacher. Has
worked for Headstart now, has been for a number of years now.
C: Doesn't she do the cooking over there?
D: Oh, no, no, no.
C: I thought she was...
D: No, that's Margaret. She's an Indian girl. No, she doesn't
do the cooking. She's supposedly a supervisor type, I under-
stand or something like this.
K: How long have they been running the Headstart over there?
D: Oh, gosh.
C; Not too long, because....
D: Two, three years I guess. Not too long.
C: Because they have their own school open over there.
D: Might be even four years. Not more than four though, I don't
believe. But it's just a glorified babysitting service over
K: But the kids come with no preparation at all?
D: Very little, although they do teach them some English. This
is something they do.
K: Are there any children who did not speak English when they
came to you?
C: No, some speak very little English, and understand very little.
D: They know "yes" and "no," and a few simple words. All of
them know a few simple words. Most of them know their own
name in English, don't they?
D: "School," they probably know that, "car" maybe, "house," "eat."
C: They all know that word.
K: How do you start them out? What do you do with them, Connie?
Give me a typical first day with these children.
C: It was very difficult because I had never run across this
kind of situation myself. I can't really remember my first
day. Let me see. Well, I had my teacher's aide in there
all day. He was all by himself the first day and every other
K: Oh, Vince was all by himself. I thought you meant the teacher's
C: Yes. No, our teacher's aide doesn't like to...
D: She's afraid of the upper grades.
C: She is scared of them. That's what she told me. I don't
know why, but she likes the beginners and some of the younger
children. She does wonders with them. She helped me a
great deal, especially that first day.
K: Does she have a good English facility as well as her native
C: Yes, yes. Very good, for an Indian. I mean she's...
D: She explains, still does, she explains many things in their
language and then they say back to her in English. We've
worked this way quite a lot with them. There are certain
things that they just can't seem to comprehend in English.
She'll have to tell them in Miccosukee, and then they under-
stand, and then she tries to get them to bring out the English.
I don't know...
K: Well, they have such a constricted vocabulary, the Miccosukee.
D: Very very limited. Oh yes, and it's backwards too, of course.
D: Everything is backwards, and so you'll find your first grade
and even your second grade some of the children, they'll pick
up a book for instance, a reading book, and they'll start
reading the bottom of the page and they're reading up. In
other words reading everything backwards. And they'll try
to read in English backwards, see? I found this true on...
especially at the beginning of the year. Now my kids, my
room don't do this anymore. At least, to my knowledge they
don't. They may when I don't see them. But anyway, they
know where to start and where reading starts.
K: Well, now you say Miccosukee is backwards. How much work
has been done on making this a written language? It wasn't
too long ago that they had no vocabulary that I know of, a
D: They still don't have really what you'd call a written language.
This Mr. West--is that his name--he's been out here for
eight, ten years, I guess, hasn't he?
C: Um huh.
D: Quite a long time. He's gone at the present time. But he
left I guess this fall. He's supposed to return, but he
hasn't come back yet. He's been translating the Bible into
Miccosukee. Through this, he has written up a few small
pamphlets on simple words and phrases.
C: In Miccosukee.
D: In Miccosukee, using the accents on the different words and
so on, so you can pronounce them. But still, even this,
you'll pronounce the word that he has accented and so on, in
Miccosukee, and of course has the English word along side of
it. I have, both of us have a book that I sent to our
teacher's aide, and other people out here that we know quite
well, and often times they won't understand it because, the
main reason being, the older people which he did...which this
Mr. West went to on all of his work--he didn't go to the
younger people. Now I'm talking about people, oh, in their
sixties probably, ohhh, fifties and sixties. He translated
the Bible through them, see, into Miccosukee. I understand
he speaks Miccosukee fairly well.
C: Probably speaks it as well as these other people, and can
understand everything they say. Just by speaking to them.
D: But the Miccosukee these old, evidently the Miccosukee that
these older people speak is not the same, exactly the same
as the younger generation, see? So the younger generation
their, the way they pronounce the words is just a little
bit different and to the extent where they don't understand
them. I can't remember any words, but I guess my wife
probably can. I'd say a word accented the way it's supposed
to be pronounced in Miccosukee and Mary'd say, "Say that
again." And I'd say it again, and she wouldn't understand
me. And then I'd tell her what it was in English and then
she'd pronounce it and it would be quite a bit different.
She said, "That's the way we pronounce it," she'd say. Now
whether or not....
C: Also, isn't Mary a different dialect, I mean clans, different
way they pronounce their words....
D: A little bit.
C: Between the clans?
D: Some, but they can understand each other. But the older
people, Mary said sometimes they'll be talking and there are
a number of words that she can't, she can't....
K: Who is Mary now?
D: Mary Louise, our teacher's aide.
K: Oh, Mary Louise. Yes, yes.
D: There are a number of words that in this conversation that
she won't know what they are.
K: Even with other people?
D: Even with other people. Even the Reservation. Because
especially the older people. Because they pronounce them
quite a bit different evidently.
0: You were saying that the speaking was backwards, the language
being backwards, it isn't really backwards, because it's back-
wards for us but it's not backwards. That's a backwards
language. You talk backwards.
K: Well, right. Your modifiers and your verbs come before your
subject or verb at the end or what have you.
C: It's basically the same.
K: I was interested in what you said about them starting to
read at the bottom of the page. Is this a character of
the stuff that West has written, for example? Does he do
D: I don't know.
C: No, no, none of these people have seen anything that West
has written. He hasn't showed it to any of them.
D: It's odd. I don't understand that myself but the kids will
start at the bottom of the page or the back of the book, too,
and try to go frontwards.
C: They do the same with numbers.
D: Yeah. Numbers, too. In other words, your numbers from one
to ten, they're just as liable to start at ten and go back
to one as they are to start at the left and go to the right.
This is one, one problem my wife has had in her first grade
with two or three of her children in recognizing numbers.
Now thpy can add, they can add say, five and five together
to get ten, but the number symbol for ten, they just can't
figure it out.
C: I had a little boy in the first grade; he should be in the
second, but his teacher last year held him back. He didn't
know any number three at the beginning of the year. I started
teaching them addition and he could add very well but he had
to look on the blackboard at this number chart and he'd find
out; he'd look at five and let's say, five plus five, and
he'd look at the number five at the top and he'd count one,
two, three, four, five and...that's five and he'd look at
the number at the bottom and he'd one, two, three, four,
five--five plus five and he'd add it and he'd know that the
answer was ten, but he couldn't write ten. He'd go up and
count to ten and that's it. He couldn't put it down. Just
lately he's started knowing all his numbers from one to ten.
After ten, he hasn't the vaguest idea what the numbers are.
K: Are you trying to say here, and don't let me put words in
your mouth, that these people have very limited capacity for
abstractions like numbers?
D: In most cases.
C: They can't visualize things. They just can't feel or sense
K: I'm sure you're familiar with Piaget's work on abstractions
and children's capacities. Do you think it would be fruitful
if we came out and ran some of Piaget's experiments here with
D: I'd like very much to see the....
K: Some of the number concept problems, for example, we have
some people who are interested in doing this. This is some-
thing we may try later on to see just what their capacity
for abstraction is.
D: I'd be very interested to see how the kids would do in some-
thing like that.
K: Let me ask you about the problem of discipline. I'm sure
that all of us have come through somewhat traditional teacher
training programs and have acquired along the way a great
storehouse of knowledge on how to handle disciplinary problems
in the classroom with their limited utility granted. We have
always understood that there is no such thing as a perfect
answer to discipline. What is your reaction to your own
training? Have you run into situations here for which you
were just not prepared to cope?
D: At first,...
K: I heard a groan over there.
D: At first,...
D: It was really bad. They just wouldn't listen to anybody,
but they slowly came around to our way of thinking. It took
some time though because evidently the last year or two I
guess they were disciplined at times, but they were let run
pretty well free too, quite often, I've been told by people
out here, and by their actions in the classroom the first
week or two. I just didn't think they were even half civil-
ized at the time, but it just took a little extra time and I
didn't hardly crack a smile for almost a month. But they sat
down, and once I got them to sit down, I didn't get too much
accomplished for the first two or three weeks, but they did
sit down, and they were quiet anyway. Then slowly they got
used to this. Then we started more or less getting something
done in the classroom and since then I haven't had too many
problems. But I found the best way to work with most of
them, not all cases, but usually if you will make fun of them
to the other kids. Make them look foolish like, for instance,
if one of the boys in the back makes a funny noise through
his nose, I might say, "I think we have a wild pig in here
today." The kids will laugh and then I'll say, "Well, if
we have any wild pigs, I suppose maybe we ought to put them
out back and make a little pen for them." Then the kids
will laugh except the one I'm talking to usually. Now usually
he'll laugh the first time, but when I carry it a little
further and look right at him, he'll blush to quite a degree
usually, and he'll go right back to work. Most always you
won't have any more trouble with him that day.
K: But you can't ignore it?
D: No, no. You can't ignore it.
D: Because they just keep it up. They won't stop. Now a lot
of kids, well, a public school for instance, quite often
some child, which I probably, in fact I know I did when I
was going through school, I was far from an angel many times,
but I'd try to get away with something at the given time,
but I wouldn't carry it all day long, you know, 'cause I
knew damn well I wouldn't be able to start with, and I just
didn't. I don't remember even thinking of doing things in
this fashion. I might try to pull something right then.
But these kids if you let them get away with making noise
or well, just getting up and going to get a drink without
asking you for instance, or something like this, they'll do
it constantly. Then the next thing you know, there'll be
four or five of them are up getting a drink.
K: A constant testing, they'll try to...
D: Yes. Right. They still do it even today. Now they've tried
me and tried me and tried me, and they know just about how
far they can go with me you know. I'm pretty lenient some-
times and other days I have to jump on them a little more.
K: Connie, I want to get back to your groan a few moments ago.
You said your first week was pretty horrible.
C: For both of us. Those children were terrible discipline
problems. Really horrible. I had never seen such a situa-
tion in my whole life.
K: Were most of these new to school....
K: ...or had most of them been in school before?
C: Yes. Every--well, all of them had been to school before
except for the beginners and they had been to Headstart.
It wasn't really the beginners who gave us trouble. It
was the upper classmen, the...
K: A testing process again.
C: Um hmm. You had to be pretty strict with them, and tell them
they had to sit down or else and tell them three and four
and five and six and seven and eight times a day. They'd
listen the first time, but five minutes later they'd be up
again. They just didn't seem to know any better.
D: Almost subconsciously, I think, oftentimes.
K: Is this traceable? Maybe this isn't a fair question, you've
been busy teaching school and I know haven't played anthro-
pologist in the community, but in a rather restricted com-
munity like this I'm sure you will have some inkling of what
I am about to ask. Their behavior in the classroom, is this
just a carryover from their behavior at home and in the com-
munity at large? Is this a syndrome in other words of the
children of this community?
C: Yes. Yes. As far as we could see around us.
K: A lack of discipline, generally?
C: Oh yes. After the child is out of diapers, he can roam around,
go wherever he wants to; the mother doesn't know where the
child is, and she doesn't seem to mind. She doesn't seem to
care where he is. He could be in the swamp up to his neck,
and it doesn't seem to faze her a bit. It's just the way
they're brought up. So if the child is brought up in the
home, up until they're five and six years old in this way,
then how can they react any differently in the classroom?
...unless you teach them?
K: Well, this is...this is the point precisely. The average
middle class child coming to school will come from a certain
background of disciplining and therefore will respond to the
usual dictums of the teacher to sit down and behave yourself,
as opposed to groups from different cultures or subcultural
groups who don't have this sort of upbringing and may or may
not respond to. What I guess I'm saying here is that I'm
awfully leery of the stereotypes we give of how to handle
discipline problems. Not just for people going out to teach
Indians, but teachers going into any classroom where they
are cross-cultural situations developing. I'm just very
leery of giving the stock answers to discipline for the reason
you're saying here, that we have to know a great deal about
the cultural background of the people that are coming into
C: No matter how much you tell them to do something or try to
have them respect elders, then they go home, and after school
they revert right back into that same old grind, same old
way of doing things and it doesn't seem to be any, what's
the word I'm looking for; well, these children aren't growing
up to respect their elders at all. They speak to older people
just as if they were a friend. No "sir" or "please" or
"thank you". I have never heard one child say, "thank you."
K: Let me try and grab another hook here to hang on to. Could
this have anything to do with the high percentage of families
that do not have a male in the household?
C: Uh huh. Quite a few of them here don't have.
K: I don't know the exact figures here on Big Cypress.
D: Somewhat, but I think even more so is the male is not the...
does not discipline the children in the home. He as a rule
has very, doesn't have anything to do with discipline. He's
K: A father you mean, a biological father. This, of course,
goes back to the matrilineal society where the biological
father historically has been the least important figure in
D: Well, I'd say that they follow pretty close to those trends
right now out here, in most situations. The woman runs just
about everything. Most of the fathers drink heavily, and
that's about all. Now a lot of them work, but they'll work
during the week, they'll come home, and whatever they do at
home, I don't know really, but I presume if they have TV,
they may sit down and watch TV. And come time for the week-
end, they're off. Their family's home, and they're off.
They're drinking or just running around. Now on some rare
occasions you'll see the family all together, but very very
seldom do you see the whole family together. You'll see
the mother going to town with the kids in the car, or you'll
see the father going to town without the kids in the car.
But very seldom do you see the father and the mother together
with the children going anywhere. It just isn't done, that's
K: And there's no detectable community consensus on some tribal
organizations. Every adult in the tribe is at least de facto,
a discipliner and trainer of the children, whether it's
your child or any blood relation or not. The elders will, if
they see a child stepping out of line, they will have some-
thing to say to him, but not here.
D: Well, not except for, I'd say maybe one person, and that's
Eloise, that works down at the store. Now if she ever hears
or sees any of the kids around the store or in the vicinity
that she gets wind of, she'll reprimand them and she'll get
right after them. Any child, it doesn't make any difference
who it is.
C: Anyone, as a matter of fact.
D: In fact anybody actually.
C: Not only a child, grownups too. Eloise will speak her mind.
D: Yes. She is that way. But she's the only one I know of that
can really, that is this way. Most of them could care less.
K: Well, this leads me to the next logical question. Do you
get any support from the home for your efforts in school? If
there is a severe discipline problem, for example, do you think
about resorting to the home for support?
D: Almost 100 percent we don't. Just about 100 percent.
C: No. The parents will usually take up for the child.
K: They will what?
C: They will take up for the child. They'll take their side.
We had two children going to school, one in beginners class,
one in first grade, and they live just straight down the
road here. The one in the beginners class is a fairly in-
telligent child, but he doesn't seem to like school. So he
told his mother he had school every other day. Like, he'd
come to school on Monday, and Tuesday there was no school
so he'd come to school on Wednesday, and Thursday there was
no school. Well, his mother knows a lot better than that,
but yet she'll agree with the child and she'll say, "All
right, Don, you can stay home," or she'll get him up in the
morning and say, "Don, you have to go to school," and Don
will say, "No, I have a headache." He has a headache four
times a week. She'll say, "All right, Don, you can go back
to bed." It doesn't seem to phase her in the least that
the child is losing a lot of education this way. We have
gone to talk to her. My teacher's aide has gone, the jani-
tor has gone, her husband, Mary Louise's husband, and she
doesn't seem to care. It's as if she doesn't know any
better, which I think she does.
D: I don't. I don't think she does. Nope. She doesn't know
any better. Most of them don't. That's the whole trouble.
C: She's intelligent.
D: She isn't intelligent!
D: No, she's not intelligent.
K: Well, do these people even make a pretense at wanting their
children to come to school? I mean, do they even go through
D: Some of them do. Some of them do. Some of them make sure
that come hell or high water they're coming to school. They
don't know why they're coming to school, but they're coming!
That's about the whole thing in the nutshell right there.
But they make 'em come. So I'll say give them that much
K: At least go through the motions.
D: Yes. Now I have a family down here, the Roberts' kids, and
we have three, four of their children, her children in my
school. Now she's a widow. Her husband was shot by, her
husband was shot by his brother about two years ago. These
kids, you know if one doesn't come to school he's sick.
They're there before the, well, they're there in the morning
before the cook is to open school, every single morning.
They're there by seven o'clock to seven-fifteen. Every morn-
ing they're there.
C: Yes, but I don't know if that's the mother. Now their older
sister is supposed to go to school in Clewiston and she hardly
ever makes the bus.
D: Yes, but you have to, now there's a reason for that too, be-
cause the mother has little children at home. She has nine
kids in the family. They're all at home. It's as good an
excuse as anybody has out here for not going to school, put
it that way. Now she should be in school granted, but the
daughter does stay home and help her mother with the washing
and so on. I know she does. That's why she does, that's
why she stays home and her mother keeps her home because I
think she honestly needs her because she's all alone and she
doesn't have anybody else there. There's no grandmother.
In most of these camps there's a grandmother and umpteen
million relatives around living in the same camp but she's
all by herself, just her family.
K: It's interesting that you say camp rather than home because
that's what they are essentially, clusters of camps.
D: Yes, that's all. In her case, I don't know, I presume that
probably the brother on the other side which shot her husband,
I have an idea that she has more or less disowned them, with
a right, of course. So they don't even have anything to do
with each other from what I understand. Whenever you go by
there, and I've taken the kids home a number of times and
so on, I've been over there. You never see anybody around
there, ever, except her kids, unless some other kids there
playing with them, and herself, but grownups, never. I
never see any other grownups there.
K: What would you estimate your attendance to be percentage-
K: 85 percent.
D: 80 [percent] to 85 [percent], I'd say.
C: Maybe even higher.
D: Maybe. Maybe even higher.
K: So they are going through the form of attendance?
C: Oh yes, lots of these children love school.
D: Yeah. They do really.
C: They like to go to school.
D: At first they didn't but now...
K: How long is your school year?
C: The same as public schools.
D: A hundred and eighty-one days.
K: Hundred and eighty-one [days] as opposed to one hundred and
eighty-five, so it's very close.
D: Just about the same.
K: What happens when these kids get on that school bus to go
into Clewiston? Does this fall off appreciably, or would
you have any ideas along this line?
C: We heard that it did. They don't like to go to school in
Clewiston because of the white children.
K: Because of the white children?
C: Well, they--I don't think they're scared of the white children,
they're just not used to them because they've lived here most
all of their life. They don't associate with the white chil-
dren unless they really have to.
K: They're not assimilated into any of the activities or any-
D: They're not indoctrinated into that culture.
K: How about athletics? Do the boys from here participate in
D: No, they don't generally because of the situation of trans-
portation. They have one bus, period. And if they miss
that bus, there's no other way for them to get home unless
they come from a family, which in a few cases I understand,
this year it hasn't happened, but back along, there have
been a few boys that have played sports in Clewiston where
the family has either eventually got them a car for their
own use or has gone and gotten them every day. But, and
I think also, in a few cases, some of the children stay
with families in Clewiston during say, football season or
basketball season or something like this. But then it
doesn't happen, as a general rule it just doesn't happen.
You have kids out here that are going to school in Clewiston
that have ability, athletic-wise, but aren't playing sports.
C: They love sports.
D: All do. Even the girls do.
C: They love sports.
K: Well, there've only been a handful of...
K: Graduates from here.
D: Very few. In fact out community service aide, Don Osceola,
was the first person from out here to graduate from Clewiston
K: And that was '63, wasn't it?
D: I believe, in that vicinity somewhere, yes. He was the first,
and since then there might have been just a...
K: I remember seeing that.
D: Oh, just like you say, a small handful that have graduated.
K: Well, I'm sure that bus ride would be enough to dissuade
K: That's a terrible bus trip.
C: They get home at four-thirty in the afternoon.
D: And leave at seven in the morning.
C: It's horrible.
D: But these kids, it's just something about their nature; I
don't know if it's lack of background or what it is, but
they give up awfully easy. Very, very little of, they
don't seem to have any extra initiative or pride, shall we
say, or something like that in themselves.
K: No competitiveness even among themselves?
D: No, very little, even among themselves, yes, surprisingly so.
Now in fact, in school, not so much now as before, but still to
some degree, one of them will answer a question, and they'll
answer it right, and the other kids will snicker and laugh
at him sometimes, making fun of him 'cause he's doing well,
you know. I've kept after them to the point now that they
don't do this very well except on occasion, once in a while,
but very seldom. But at the beginning of the year, I was
telling you over at school about this Roger Billy that just
left my school. He was a sharp little boy and he learned,
oh, so fast, anything, just, no matter, almost anything you
gave to him, he'd just pick it up (snap) just like that.
But at the beginning of the year--through papers I had given
him and talking to him alone, I knew Roger was a sharp little
fellow, but to get him to answer sometimes in class, questions
I knew that he knew, without any doubt I knew he knew them,
he wouldn't answer them because he was afraid of the other
kids making fun of him. But they've gotten out of this habit
pretty much. They don't do this anywhere near like they...
K: This sort of reinforces what you were saying before, that
they go through the motions of coming, but are not after
the substance of education. That this is the missing ingre-
D: Yes, and this comes right from the home, the families at
home, their parents, most of them had very little schooling,
some of them none, and they're living in the, I honestly
think their views on the whole thing are, "Well, I've gotten
this far. I'm alive. I have something to eat. I didn't
go to school, or went very little. Why should my kids have
to be, have to be there every day and so on. What difference
does it make if they learn or not?" See? I honestly think
this is the way a lot of them feel, because they just don't
understand. They can't visualize how the world is today,
and how fast the world is leaving them.
K: Do they ever come in to check on the progress? Do you have
parent night? Do you try these things?
C: Uh hmmm.
D: Yes, we try them, but they're just...
C: The first one was fine, but the second one we had was very
K: Tell me about the first one and then tell me about the
C: Well, the first one we had, how many, twenty-nine out of
D: I don't know, I guess so.
C: Twenty-nine came, out of forty. I think that's what it
was. And they seemed very interested. But of course, we
had our Parents' Day the same day as they had Clinic. Most
of the, well, practically the whole community goes to Clinic
on Wednesday and Fridays.
D: Whether they have anything wrong or not.
C: Um, just go to Clinic.
D: Now they like the nurse and they like the doctor so....
C: The second time we had Parents' Day we couldn't make it the
same day as Clinic because he had to take some of the children
to the dentist that day, so we chose the next day. We had
one person to come the whole day, and this person was the
mother of the white boy we have in the school.
K: You have one white?
C: One white boy.
D: No, we had more than one. Carlos' mother came.
C: Well, she...
D: And that's two.
C: Carlos' mother came?
D: Yes, Pauline came, that's three.
C: Well, Pauline came, she was always there.
D: Well, that's three. We didn't have just one. It's just the
same as one, but we had more than one. We had, may as well
not have had anybody come actually.
C: It was terrible.
K: In other words if something else wasn't going on right next
door to the school,...
D: Yes, no interest. It was so evident when they were here.
They were too nice, you know. Ah, smile and oh gosh, every-
thing was just perfect, you know, and you could see right
in their faces. They didn't understand what we were doing,
half of them. For instance, I had all the children in my
room, had their papers all separated out and stapled together,
[for] each child. So when the parent or guardian came in
to bring the report card back and have a chat with us, I had
all the papers there and I'd take the papers and I'd explain;
went through almost every paper, item by item. Oh, they'd
look and smile and say, yes, they were so glad that we're
doing so well; the ones that could speak English, and the
other ones would just smile. Never asked questions.
C: They never asked questions. Not one question! We'd try to
explain what the child was doing right or what he was doing
wrong and they just didn't seem to understand a word you
said. It would go in one ear and out the other. They just
smiled and no, thank you, just goodbye, or not even a good-
bye. They'd just walk out the door.
K: You don't even think they understood what it was...really
and truly do not understand what the school is doing for
them. How are you ever, not you necessarily, but how is
anyone going to make any inroads into the situation? In
other words, it seems to me that the Bureau, and this could
be leveled against public schools generally, we demand that
kids come. You know, they have average daily attendance
and we're prone to measure educational success in terms of
sheer number in attendance, and how many kids are crawling
on the bus to go to Clewiston, or 85 percent show up at
your school. If anyone looked at these figures without
questioning the substance of the education,...