Title: Jean Chaudhuri
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Jean Chaudhuri-Seminole Legends

February, 1971

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,


Page 2 sjm

"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


Page 3 sjm

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-

Page 4 sjm

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


Page 5 sjm

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-


Page 6 sjm

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



Page 7 sjm

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.

Story 2


Page 8 sjm

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.


Page 9 sjm

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

the stories.

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?


Page 10 sjm


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

better ourselves.

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

about God.

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?


Page 11 sjm

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


Page 12 sjm

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

Indian generation?

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.


Page 13 sjm

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?

I: Right.

C: Like horse, what do you say horse, how do you say horse in Mica-

I: Horse in Micasukee?

C: Uh huh.

I: Cci

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,


Page 14 sjm

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
told you.

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 _.


Page 15 sjm

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.


Page 16 sjm

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



Page 17 sjm

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.

C: O.K.

I: What I meant was, what I mean by change is--

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