Jean Chaudhuri-Seminole Legends
C: I have talked to several people who are rich with folklore. We
sat around and talked about the stories which have been handed
down for generations. Some were very enthusiastic about telling
their stories, but were a little bit shy about talking into the
tape recorder, and preferred not to. Here are some of the
stories I had the pleasure of listening to. This story is
about a little boy and his grandmother and the forbidden mountain.
Once there was a little boy named Gibran who was forbidden to
go to a certain mountain, because it was dangerous there. Gibran
was always curious to know what could be beyond the mountain.
"Grandmother," he said, "What would happen if I went to the
mountain?" "My grandson," she said,"You will never want to come
back here and live among your people. There are many, many strange
things that happen there." This made Gibran even more curious
than ever before. Daily he would dream and wonder what could be
so mysterious beyond the mountain. One day, Rabbit the mischief-
maker happened to pass by Gibran's house, and overheard Gibran
asking his grandmother if she could give him some idea what iy
beyond the mountain. Grandmother answered,"It is not my time to
tell you anything about the mountain. But please, no matter how
much you want to go there, do not go." Rabbit, hearing all this,
and with his ears standing up straight as straight can be, moved
a little closer to the house, with one ear leaning forward so
he could be sure to hear everything. Gibran told his grandmother,
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"If only you would tell me a little of what goes on beyond the
mountain, I should not be so curious." Then Gibran leaves his
house and goes to the pond and lays down with his head resting
on his hands. He was again daydreaming about the mountain. As
he looked into the pond, he suddenly saw reflection. And it was
Rabbit. The Rabbit spoke. "So you want to go and see what lies
beyond the mountain, don't you? One thing for sure, I can tell
you all about what's beyond the mountain. There are many wonder-
ful things that there are over there. There are exciting people,
there all sorts of animals there who love to play games, and daily
they play Indian stick ball game." Gibran .jumps up from his posi-
tion and stands up quite excited. "You can take me to the mountain?
You actually know what lies beyond the mountain, and what goes
on there?" The Rabbit nodded yes. "I know of the wonderful things
there." And then Gibran, very disheartened, he says, "I'd love
to go there. But I'm forbidden to go there. Grandmother expli-
citly warned me that there is much danger there." "Oh, you mean
your grandmother? Your grandmother is a foolish woman. She knows
that you will enjoy your visit to the mountain, and that is why
she doesn't want you to go there." "My grandmother is a very
clever and loving person, and I am sure that she has good reasons
why I should not go there, and I must obey her wishes. She has
always looked after me and taught me the ways of the forest ani-
mals. And she always provided enough food for us to live on.
Although I have wondered how she managed to get enough corn for
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us to live on, since she herself does not plant the corn. And
there is the mountain, it is forever on my mind. And I have
always wanted to go there. But I guess, in all good time, I
will be able to know where she gets her corn, and above all,
I will know the mysteries that lie beyond the mountain." And the
Rabbit said,"But don't you think you are old enough and clever
enough yourself to see what's beyond that wonderful mountain
without waiting for your grandmother to tell you when to go?
Look, I can do one thing for you. I will accompany you there,
since I know the whole area." Gibran, not quite sure if he
should yield to temptation or not, sheepishly said,"But I'm
forbidden to go there." And the Rabbit, with a twinkle in
his blazing red eyes, said,"Well, I guess I have to wait until
you become a man, and then perhaps it will be too late to go.
Well, I'm going there anyway, so if you change your mind about
staying home, I will be walking slowly, and you may be able to
catch up with me. And if you do, we can still yet accompany
each other to the mountain." And Rabbit proceeds,and before
he knew it, Gibran was at his side. They were silent for a
while, and then Rabbit spoke,"It really isn't too far to walk
to the mountain. I'm sorry for saying I had to wait for you
until you became a man. I should have known you were just taking
a little time to think. You are a man, and no doubt you were
deciding what to do." Gibran answers,"That is right. It is
my nature to think things through." Suddenly they found them-
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selves at the top of the mountain. Gibran was astonished at
the beauty that was before him. There was a small waterfall that
seemed to be chanting and giving prayer offerings to the Almighty.
The trees were tall and were shrouded with different shades of
green. The forest animals were playing games, and the young men
were dancing and singing. Gibran told Rabbit,"I have never seen
anything so wonderful, so beautiful, in all my life. Will the
animals and the people welcome us?" Rabbit replied,"Of course
they will welcome us. They enjoy having company." Rabbit and
Gibran did not realize that they had been seen. The people of
the village, delighted with the visitors, were already making
preparations to entertain the two strangers. Playing flutes and
singing, the people of the village met the two friends. The
leader of the group invited them to eat and drink sofkee. Gibran
was so thirsty, his throat was parched, that he wanted only a
drink of water, that he would eat something a little later on.
They told Gibran if he really wanted a good cold drink of water,
that he could go to the water brook and drink from it, and they
gave him a little dipper made out of gourd, and Gibran went to
the water brook. He looked out and saw his reflection, and he
thought the water was the most beautiful thing he ever did see,
because it had all sorts of rainbow colors in it. Gibran dipped
his cup, his dipper into the water, and took a drink of the cold
water. And he thought that was the best water he had ever, ever
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tasted. It was so sweet, and very cold. After they had re-
laxed a while, everyone was ready to eat. The people of the
village had roast deer, and wild turkey and stewed turtle and
pumpkin bread, and corn dishes prepared many ways. After the
feast, they had a big dance. Everyone took part, especially
Gibran. He could not believe such wonderful things were hap-
pening to him. He danced the snake dance, the buffalo dance,
the shrimp dance, and all the dances they did that evening,
Gibran, he took part. Suddenly he realized that his mother
would be very worried about him, and he jumped up and looked
for his friend, the Rabbit. And he was no where in sight. Poor
Gibran, he panicked, and he began to cry, and he said,"I will
never find my way home. I want to go home and tell Grandmother
of my wonderful adventure, and also tell her good-bye, because
I know now, that the mountain is my home." As Gibran was leaving
the village, leaving the mountain, he saw Rabbit having a good
time, playing stick ball game. "Rabbit," he called,"Rabbit, oh,
am I so glad to see you. For a while I thought that you had
deserted me." Rabbit responded,"I would never do anything like
that. I brought you here, didn't I? And I would make sure that
you got home all right." Well, they both reluctantly left the
mountain. As they were going down the mountain, and approaching
the house, Gibran thought he would love to surprise his grand-
mother, so he slowly crept to the house and he looked through
the door, and to his surprise he saw his grandmother doing some-
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thing strange. As she 5 / /) pif, floor, he noticed
corn falling from her body. And as she walked, corn fell from
the soles of her feet, falling on the ground. And then, she would
stop, bend over, and pick up the corn, and then put:it in her
corn basket. He could not believe what he saw. It was the most
incredible sight he ever did see. He stood motionless, and not
a sound came from him, until he heard his grandmother call his
name. "Gibran. Gibran, come and eat. It is time to eat." Gi-
bran said,"Grandmother, I'm not very hungry. I'm not feeling
well today." The grandmother looked at him inquiringly, and said,
"My grandson, you have found out my secret, have you not?" Gibran
nodded,"Yes." And then she said, "Also, you have gone to the
forbidden mountain, have you not?" "Yes, grandmother, I did go
to the forbidden mountain, and I did see the most wonderful things
that I had ever seen. And I must go back, I have to go back.
It is a land of many people, and animals, and Grandmother, you
often told me something awful would happen if I went to the for-
bidden mountain. But I have found much happiness. Nothing bad
has happened. I had a friend, Rabbit, to take me there." The
grandmother, with a sorrowful look on her face, said to Gibran,
"I know you have much happiness there. You have forsaken your
grandmother. You have found out one big secret about your grand-
mother, and also, you are satisfied with the things you have seen
on the mountain. For all the things, one must also share with
much sorrow. My grandson," she whispered,"since you must go to
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the mountain, do me one thing. Before morning, take me to a
little house and lock me up for four days, and then come and
see me." The grandson said,"Your wish will be done, Grandmother.
I will take you to your house." Gibran followed his grand-
mother's instruction.. He got up early in the morning before the
morning sun, and took her to the little house. Four days gra-
dually passed by, and the fourth day, Gibran went to the little
house and as he unlocked the door, his grandmother was nowhere
to be found. He called out, "Grandmother, grandmother, where
are you?" Only dead silence remained. He looked all over the
little house, and he knew his grandmother was nowhere to be
found. And inside of this little house, he found corn, big
healthy kernals lying about. And Gibran understood that his
grandmother was the Giver of Corn. Also, he realized that defying
the wishes of his grandmother by going to the forbidden mountain,
he lost his dear and beloved grandmother. And he knew what his
grandmother meant, when she said,"For all good things, you must
give something up." But he also knew that, by going to the moun-
tain, many of his curiousities had been satisfied. Just as his
grandmother g& predicted, that once he had gone to the top of
the mountain, he would never have any desire of going back home.
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There are many versions how the cooing dove- came about, and
here is one. Once long ago, there was a set of twins, and the
twins were inseperable. They went swimming together, they went
on hunts, and they went looking for herbs together, and they al-
ways brought in more than their share. One day, the two went to
play in the forest. One of the twins decided to follow a trail
that went to the river. As he approached the river, he stumbled
and fell into the mouth of this water, and he drowned. The other
twin came running, looking for his brother. He saw the muddy
footprints leading into the river, and he knew then, his brother
must have fell into the water. For days he called his name, and
looked night and day. Out of sadness, he lamented for days. And
he finally went to the medicine man, asking him to help find his
brother, but the medicine told the twin,"Your brother is gone. The
rivers have taken him home, for him to live with your fish brothers.
But if you don't stop crying, you will turn into a dove." And the
twin, out of loneliness, cried for many more days. And just as
the prophecy was told, he turned into a dove. And he would coo
each time he went looking for his lost brother. Even to this day,
when you hear a dove cooing, you will know it is one of the brothers
lonesome for his twin, and he is cooing, hoping some day his
brother will hear him, and he will come to him.
C: I have to know what clan do you belong to, I'm a bear clan.
I: I'm a wildcat clan.
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C: Wildcat. I guess your mother's wildcat. How are we related,
since I'm a bear and you're a wildcat?
I: I really couldn't tell you.
C: You couldn't tell me.
I" No, I don't know.
C: Since we both belong in the animal kingdom, do you think we be
brother and sister.
I: Well, if you don't make them mad at you.
C: Oh, okay, we'll stop it there then.
C: O.K., tell me something, do you know any of your stories or
legends that you might have heard from your grandfather and
I: Well, I know some of the characters in them, but I don't know
C: Name the characters.
I: Well, there's lion and Qhe rabbit, --_, and there's
well, like I said, there's many different animals ,
like I said, but I forgot them. It's been a long "Ime.
C: O.K. A lot of times, people will tell us that you know, as In-
dians, we should know our own history. O.K., one part of his-
tory relating to religion. Does the Sbminoles have one God, or
did they have many gods.
I: /// 7 U'"-" they believe that there was only one.
C: And what was he called?
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C: And what does it mean.
I: It means, God.
C: God, uh huh. Now also, talking to elders, they say that we
as Seminoles, we used to see God in everything. Is this true?
In the water, in fire, in everything.
I: Well, if he was in the rOGT I wouldn't have the place
like I do now.
C: And what sort of things did the Great Spirit or God do? Do you
I: Well, he provided te-food, shelter, and also Brains, so we can
C: ...our religious leaders and our medicine men, and our religious
leaders, did they search God through visions, quest, or did they
look for God in their dreams? Did the Seminoles have dreams
I: Well, they must have, but I, like I said, I really couldn't tell
C: Uh huh. And also, some of their medicine men, I have talked to,
they said, the reverence, the respect for the body was the holy
temple of the great spirit, you know, keeping your body good,
keeping your mind good, and when you go through the sweat bathes,
this helps you to clear out all the evil things in your body, and
in this way you can reach God or the Great Spirit. Do you think
they still believe this today?
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I: Very much so, I do believe.
C: Uh huh. And when they said, reverence for the body, how did
they take care of the body?
I: w do you mean by that?
C: For example, did they, whenever we think about, take care of
the body, eating the right food, drinking the right drinks, and
you know, just always running to keep our bodies in shape. Were
the Indians like this at one time, always making sure, they tell
me that, you know, you have to go to bed early, and get up early
in order to be ready for the hunt, and also for you to get used
to different seasons of the weather, they would get you up early
in the morning and then you would have to dip yourself in cold
water so you would know different temperatures of life. Do you
know anything about this, that the Seminoles may have done this?
I: Well, they used to, I guess, back in the old days. You know, c~'s Vt
d)YC, hr/ a/dQ
t/ V pretty d&if en- fm back then, but now it's kind of wore off,
cause you don't think about frontiers nowadays. Maybe there's
a they had a falling out (~ij // ~t 'ack
when I was growing up, we never did do that.
C: Why do you think we've lost all this?
I: Well, I guess you would call it a generation gap.
C: Uh huh. Oh, so, do you call it, is this what an Indian would say
generation gap, or is this a, what you learned from the white man?
I: Well, I guess, you would say the white man.
C: He's always doing things like that, isn't he? He's always ruining
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us. O.K., go ahead.
I: What I was getting at, you know, they did that a long time ago.
But now, you know, kids go to school, long time ago they didn't
have to go school. They stayed at home with Mommy and Daddy, and
did his work, and they stayed home altogether. And nowadays, he
doesn't go to work, and he's tired and doesn't have much time with
their kids to teach them stuff like that. And that's when they
just get further and further and further. That's what I think
it is, that's how come we lost it. That's the way I feel about
it, at any rate.
C: Like some of our dancers, you think, because the parents are
working, that there isn't much time to tell them about our tra-
ditional dances and our stories and things of this sort. Is this
what you're saying? How do you see we could teach our young
I: Well, I'd have to think about that for a while.
C: O.K., now this going to be kind of hard one, but this will look
like we're really thinking about the question, is that the
American Indian believed in k--ping America beautiful, and this
was always said that, if you swim in a river, you couldn't, you
know, you had to, well anyway...all right, how do you know.there
are two languages, the Micasukee, and the Seminoles? Why are
they so different?
I: Why are they so different?
C: Uh huh.
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I: Well, I'll tell you one main reason, I can understand one, and
I can't understand the other one. The Creek sounds altogether
different from the Micasukee. Micgsukee's sort of more like
Spanish, I guess they got it from Spanish.
C: Yeah, they have a lot of Spanish words, this is what you're saying?
C: Like horse, what do you say horse, how do you say horse in Mica-
I: Horse in Micasukee?
C: Uh huh.
C: ((/6( you know it's almost close to /.: : you know
horse in Spanish, -' But there are a lot of Spanish
words, aren't there?
I: Yeah, when I in the, I heard her talk
about it one time on the school bus. They had a, Mexican, I
guess a Mexican girl or Spanish girl who went to school from
Okeechobee and she sat in the back of the school bus with us,
and he said, you know, he asked us for some Indian words, Micasukee,
one of the Micasukee boys,
language, you know, like cow, we say Vo~a and that's how
they say it, too. There are a lot of Spanish words in that
C: I was just wondering because, I was just talking to one old
Indian man, and he was saying that one of the words for chief,
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the Indians used to say, was (C i/ means chief in
Spanish. Have you ever heard that word, GCi'^Ce ? I was
talking to one of the old men who's quite active in green corn
dances, and he was saying (CW(c.c and I was surprised, be-
cause that is the word meaning for chief in Spanish. Have you,
how old were you when you went to, started to school?
I: I was about seven, I believe. I was seven.
C: Uh huh. Did you know English then?
I: Not very much. Only a little bit of it. See when my father wmdf
work a~'se rid, one rancher, I used to go with him, about every
day, and before I went to school, and he had a boy, I used to
just, == just hang around together, you know, so that's
where I picked up most of my English, that's when I first started
C: Uh huh. What did you think of the ( /;i':' /1 when you start,
started associating with them?
I: Oh, they weren't too bad, t,-- ~ fj6 q
C: Uh huh.
I: He was a good friend of mine$ 60 at first, he was kind of bad,
you know, but after you get, after you get to know them,cTey 'i
U& more .. *jo a'cCOt.' '-' they get, they Ciw'' r:.' A
d pretty good.
C:: Uh huh. Have you ever wanted to be a medicine man yourself?
I: Oh, I never gave it a thought _.
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C: And also, a long time ago, who taught, who taught the children
to hunt? Did they teach both boys and girls, or just boys?
I: I would say, that mostly boys (r0yE /-. ea U /; ,
a4 &, S v. A stay home and cook.
C: Uh huh, and take care of the garden.
I: Right, take care of the house and everything. That's really
what they should do anyway, you know.
C: Well, a long time ago, when they were t"iching the young boys
how to hunt, did they have to go through discipline taking care
of their bodies and going sweathouses, and things of this sort?
I: In ~ I know they :did, but I don't think
Seminoles have ever done that, really.So I don't think they
were really that disciplined. But they learned to hunt, they'd
learn from their parents,,jwhen he went hunting, he took them
along.And I think that's when he picked up most of his hunting
C: O.K., let's kind of come to the present today. You know, sta-
tistics always talk about Indians taking first place when it
comes to alcoholism. Do you think this is true? With this,
with these reservations around here, I know it's true with many
other tribes, their reservation, they do have high alcoholism.
I: Oh, I don't really say that because there isn't that really that
many Indians as there is whites r /u -S V we've been out-
numbered by the white people, among the alcoholism, you understand.
But there are quite a few around here, including me.
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C: Do you just drink beer, or hard liquor?
I: Well, just about anything you can get a hold of. But I'm kind
of choosy about my drinks, I just _/__ the beers, and
S---__- y I drink regular whiskey.
In oe w- I don't overdo it.
C: O.K. And also, nationally, suicide is quite high among In-
dians. Now, Seminoles, there aren't too many of them, about
fifteen hundred, I think they told me. Do you know of any
case of suicides here, or do you think you uJV5t do this?
I: No, there isn't any suicide ----------- Seminole tribe
so far. I kind of hope there won't ever be.
C: All right, how about low income. What kind of skills do most
people here, but tell me about low income first.
I: Low income. Well, back then, you really had, there have to have
enough, very much money to live, and stuff like this. Nowadays
you do, to meet t. a)* ee- Kf-
you do, to meet .- / '* -pogtanss, you know, and upkeep
of your home, and everything like this.. Young guys like me, we
sort of go into a trade, we have some carpenters, we have some
ironworkers, and we have operators and --- different kind
of t So like I said, they make it pretty good.
C: You were talking about young guys your age. You're in your early
twenties, I see, so where do you go to school to get these trades?
I: Mostly, it's in Miami, the headquarters are in Miami. Like Union
Hall, they have a close by one, there's one in Fort Lauderdale,
training school in Fort Lauderdale, different trades. You have fo
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if you go to a trainer, you have to be in it, anywhere from
three to five years, it's according to Vat kind of trade you're
taking. And after that, you get your card, and whatever trade
you're in, and therefore you're qualified for the job.
C: Sometimes when you think about it, do you think you were better
off before all this modern houses have gone up around here, or
do you think it's for the best for the Seminoles?
I: Well, really I think it is best for the Siinoles. I mean,
before modern houses, I know before we lost all our old people,
it was all right, you know. But everything has changed, and
you got to change along with the times.
C: When you say change, does this mean giving up your language, and
giving up your traditions?
I: Well, not really.
I: What I meant was, what I mean by change is--