Title: Jean Chaudhuri
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SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida


INTERVIEWEE: MRS. H.M. WEISS
INTERVIEWER: JEAN CHAUDHURI















INDEX




Animals in ceremony, 9

Apopka, 11

Boats, 5

Brighton Indian Reservation, 1-2

Chattahoochee, 11

Clans, 1-2

Creek Indians
in Oklahoma, 7,9
Isti Jadi Damasculgogi, 4-5
laziness, 7-9

Ecology, 1

Family structure and function
relationship with blacks, 7
loss of former life-style, 2

Food, 3, 5, 9

Gaines, General Edmund T., 10

Green Corn Ceremony, 9

Hospitality, 3

Hunting, 1, 3-4, 6, 9

Intermarriage
with blacks, 6
with whites, 9

Land ownership
whites, 1-2
private property, 2-3
Seminoles, 2














Language
English, 2
loss of Indian, 2
Creek [Muskogee], 1, 5, 10-11

Medicine
for Indian stick ball, 9-10
men, 6, 9-10

Okeechobee, 10-11

Oklahoma, 7, 11

Osceola
imprisonment, 7
in Withlacoochee battle, 10

Palatka, 11

Religion, 2

Seminoles
definition of, 5
origin, 1, 5
unwillingness to migrate west, 5
war, 1, 4, 10

Slaves, 5-7

Transcultural contacts
cruelties by whites, 3, 5, 7
Indian-black relations, 6-7
Indian-white relations, 1-3, 7
tortures by Indians, 4

Wakasassa, 11

Wetumka, Oklahoma, 11

Withlacoochee battle, 10


Wewahitchka, 11



















I visited with Mrs. H.M. Weiss while at Brighton Indian Reser-
vation. She is about sixty-five years old. [She] never attended
school, she speaks only the Creek language, and she belongs to
the Bird Clan. I asked her, "Start anywhere you want to in
telling me about our people and the relationship they had with
the white man." She began in this manner:

The Seminoles are now living in Florida; originally they
lived in Alabama and Georgia. They were forced out because the
white man was on a rampage of destroying all living things, man
or beast. This is the reason our people are presently living
here in Florida, although our people had known Florida for
many years before the white man had chased us here. Florida
had always been a place where the Seminoles went for hunts.
Then, some of them preferred to live along in this area, so
they have always roamed about in this area. Florida was not
an unfamiliar territory where they fled to. It was a home
away from home. It was only when the white man demanded
more lands from the Seminoles, and went crazy in killing off
the population, that whole families and others fled to this ter-
ritory and made it their permanent home.
I have to laugh at you. You said that the white man
only wanted our lands to improve the property and to make
better lives for our people. This was not so. Don't you see
that the white man not only wanted our lands, but they wanted
us all dead. We were not people in their eyes--we were useless
animals who stood in the way of their progress. Because of
their greed it cost many Seminole lives, and also it cost
their language, religion and land. How can you say that the
white people only wanted to improve the land, and make bet-
ter lives for the people? If anything, property devaluation
took place when the white man robbed these lands from us. Have
you seen the rivers [and] swamps lately, how polluted they are?
If this is progress, our forefathers were very wise to have
fought for these lands.
The white man had no feelings--he was emotionless. It is
true he built better homes than the Seminoles, but what is
a house when there is no love and empathy for other living
things? It is also true that his war weapons were far superior
than the lousy weapons the Seminoles had. Of what good are
weapons when they are used to destroy others? What pride is
there to say this country was founded on military conquest--that















the original possessors of this land were mutilated and destroyed
and dispossessed? What pride is there? If this is the replica
of progress, then I say that the white man were progressive.
My uncle used to say that the white man must have everything
for himself. When he wanted land, it was not for the interest of
his people; it was for himself. Once the white man obtained
the land, they began to throw signs all over the place. Signs
were posted everywhere, with "private property" written on the
posters. The white man thought we thought of land the same
way as he did--that private property was the way of life for
everyone. The white man was so blinded by his wants and desires
and his greed that he failed to see that the Indian regarded
the land belonging to everyone. The Seminoles' idea was that
ancient lands belonged to everyone. This land was mother to
the Seminoles. It was she who gave life to them. It was incon-
ceivable to the Seminoles that the white man would ever want
to divide the land.
When the white man gave money for the land, the Seminoles
could not comprehend that money to the white man was equated to
land. Therefore, many Seminoles sold their property without
realizing it. They did not understand that to accept money was
to give up rights to their ancestral lands. The Seminoles felt
that the earth was mother to them, so therefore they believed
it was impossible to give or sell mother earth.
As the years went by, the Seminoles began to understand more
and more that to accept favors or money from the white man could
only mean one thing--that they wanted the land, or whatever they
had. After hundreds of years of having common property, the
Seminoles of today are beginning to understand the concept of
what private property means. Today we hold individual titles
to our homes, land and cars, and whatever else we may have. The
white man has almost succeeded in making us like him. I fear that
we will lose everything in the same way we lost our land. I am
sure eventually the white man will put a price on the air we
breathe and the water we drink. And if we cannot pay for them,
what little else we have in our possession will be given to
the white man.
Today at Brighton we are mere shadows of the great Seminoles
of yesterday. We have lost our traditions, religion, language,
family system. Our Indian religion has been replaced by the
Baptist religion. Our language...most of our young people speak
only English; and our family system, which was known as the clan
system--no one knows for sure how it functions. Since the
first white man arrived it was their ambition to rob the Indians
of their land and to convert them into "Christians". Today














I feel that they have almost succeeded.
After my grandfather died many, many years ago, I don't
hear anything any more. In my day, forty or fifty years ago
when the white people became a little more friendlier, we felt
free to hunt for our wild games, but in spite of their friend-
liness, they would put up posters discouraging us not to be on
their property. Thday it is very difficult to go anywhere with-
out posters being here and there warning you to keep away.
These properties are either private property, or they are
government property.
Sometimes I wish for the day of my forefathers. My
grandfather told me many times that the white man come into
this area before the Seminoles understood the sadistic instinct
of the white man--they had received them in the best of manners
with a show of goodwill. If the Indians knew ahead of time that
the white man were going to come into their village, they would
get a delegation to meet the white man. The micco would lead his
men in a single file to greet the strangers. It was customary for
a man to be playing a flute while they were gradually walking to
the place of appointment. After the meeting was over the Indians
would invite the white men to come and share sofkee or whatever
food they had.
As time went by the wild killer instinct of the white man
come to dominate the white man's thinking and as a result he
went berserk and started to spread himself like fire, burning
and taking everything that was in his way. We learned to be
suspicious and careful of the white man. When evil possessed
him, he began to attack the Indians' villages by night or
by day. My grandfather said the cruelties they practiced on
the Indians were beyond description. They would take the breast
of women and cut them off and make tobacco pouches out of them.
They would mutilate the rest of the bodies; the men would
lie about with their heads split open and their bodies broken
into many parts. Sometimes the white man would get their plea-
sure from castrating the men. With their mad action it left
the Indians in a hopeless plight. An Indian would rather fight
until death than to be taken captive at the hands of the white man.
The white man had ingenious ways of tormenting and killing
their captives. Many meetings were called by the white man
trying to persuade the chiefs to leave this ancient land of ours.
But our leaders felt that they would never leave their home--the
places they had been born in--much less leave the bones and
the dust of their fathers before them, whose souls and bodies
had blended with mother earth. Because of the resistance that
our people put up, they had to be on guard for the white
devils night and day. The warriors were hidden in the














hammock or the saw grass, and our watchmen were in the palm
trees or other places where they could not be seen. The slightest
hint that our enemy was approaching, they were ready for them.
The warriors did not have the iron weapons of the white man, nor
the trained soldiers, but they tried to defend themselves the
best way they knew how.
The only thing going for them was mother nature. If it was
not for her, the lives of the Seminoles would have been wiped out
from the earth the minute the white man decided to use their
war weapons, because with the cannon it could blow one hammock
with thirty or forty people in it. If they did not have any
hiding place, our people would have been wiped out. But mother
nature helped as much as possible. She gave us hiding places
in the swamps and hammocks which were inaccessible to our enemy.
Never did the white man ever give up trying to find us.
Always searching for our hideaways. Sometimes they would
run out of food and were hungry, but the only thing that would
save them from being killed by the hands of the Seminoles was
they had guns. No matter how physically weak they were, they
made excellent use of their guns. So our people couldn't kill
them.
My grandfather said they would occasionally find a soldier
or a civilian lost in the Everglades, bleeding from being cut
by the saw grass or spanish bayonet, or covered with poison ivy.
They would be so hungry and exhausted. Our people would take
this enemy to the medicine man to be doctored and to be nursed
back to good health. Just as soon as he was in good health,
then the villagers would torture the enemy until he died. We
dared not keep an enemy because we feared o. they feared that
he would become well and do more harm to the Seminoles in the
future.
Another story I liked very much was about a young warrior
being captured by Isti Jadi Damasculgogi, or the Creeks. My
grandfather told me this many years ago. He said when he was
a young man on a hunt, he went with a hunting party. One
member of the hunting party left them and went astray. They
had no idea where he went to. After waiting for him for quite
some time they decided to go back to their village. Many days
days went by, and the missing warrior came into camp with other
Indians. These Indians were Isti Jadi Damasculgogi, meaning
Creek Indians. No doubt they were from Georgia, because they
said they had come down from the north. What was most fascinating
about this story was that the missing warrior was captured by
these Isti Jadi Damaculgogis, the Creeks, and he related the
incident to the villagers.












He said, "I was enjoying a nice swim in the swamps. As I
came out of the water, these men jumped me and tied me up, for
I could not move. I was very frightened of these strangers, be-
cause I didn't know what they would do to me. These Isti Jadi
Damasculgogis started talking to me in Creek, and I was so mad
at them that I pretended as though I did not understand what they
were saying to me. They asked me where I was from and where my
camp was, but I did not reply. They fed me quite well, sharing
with me their dried meat and berries. Every once in a while
they would try and talk again to me in Creek or some other Indian
language, yet I was too stubborn to answer because I was thinking
how they captured me."
"I was quiet for awhile, until they stopped giving me food
to eat and I decided to talk to them. They were not surprised
at all at me. I told them I was so afraid of what they might
do to me that I forgot how to talk, it was out of fear that I
couldn't remember to talk. But we started talking with each other,
and they told me they would like to have a better boat to go
through swamps than the clumsy ones they had. They needed light-
weight boats that would be easy to handle. I told them it was
easy to make one; that we must first make our boat out of cypress
trees.
We made a dugout boat, and they were very pleased. They
took turns maneuvering the boat in the water. I showed them
exactly how to use the flat paddle and the round paddle. They
told me the wicked deeds that the white man was doing to their
camps and how the women and children were being killed. This
was a problem everywhere, and the white man were crazy with the
desire to kill every Indian. I asked him to come with me to my
village and tell my people what is happening to their villages."

The second time I visited with M.H. I asked her about slaves. I
asked her, "Can you remember any time in your lifetime that you
may have heard what the real reasons were that the Seminoles
did not want to go out west?" Then I told her, according to
the white man's thinking and written history, they believed that
the Seminoles were afraid that if they went out west they would
be forced to join and interact with the Creeks who were their
enemies. Also, another reason was that the Seminoles were afraid
that they would have to give up their slaves to the Creeks. I
asked her, "Do you think all that I am saying is true?" She
replied:

A long time ago, the Seminoles were part of the Creeks. Our
separation came when the white man began to demand more land.
What Seminole means is "runaway". If you saw the white troops
coming into your villages destroying and burning homes, raping
young women, shooting men, women and children and whatever live-
stock they might have had, you would run away too. This was one














specific reason why some of the Seminoles began to go to
different parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. As far as
the Creek being the Seminole's enemy, I don't recall why my
people would think they were our enemies.
The other question--that the Seminoles would enslave another
man--is not true. As far as giving up their slaves to the Creeks,
I'm sure that the Seminoles did not wish to do so; it would be like
giving up their friends to a group of people who are strangers.
You just don't go around giving away your friends. The black
man was given refuge in our villages. Just as soon as he learns
the ways of our people, he was free to go and live with his own
people. The Seminoles had their different camps; and when the
blacks became numerous, our ancestors created for them a village
of their own where they could be happy. My grandfather said the
blacks were free to join in the sacred ceremonies, and a few
intermarriages took place; but of course, with the blessings of
the tribes. There were not too many intermarriages--even
today, you hardly see a Seminole with Negroid features.
Unlike the white man, who exchanged money for slaves, the
Seminoles acquired their slaves by giving them a refuge or res-
cuing them from their master. Sometimes a group of hunters
would be on a hunt, and suddenly they would hear the cries and
screams of a human being. They would carefully follow the sound,
careful not to be seen. Usually those screams would be that
of a slave whose master was beating him to death. One incident
was told by my grandfather: One day he and others were on a
hunting trip, and they heard cries and screams as though
death were about to overtake a person. They carefully went to
that place where they heard the cries, and to their bewilder-
ment, they saw men taking turns whipping a man. This man was
a black man, and he was hanging from a tree. And each time
they would whip him, they would take big chunks of meat from
his body, and the blood would be streaming all over his body.
This wasn't the first time that my grandfather said they
found a black man being beaten to death by his master. Many
times they rescued black men. Some would be tied to a tree, or
sometimes they would be eagle-spread across a big log, or some-
times the white man would have the black man lying completely
on the ground, and they would seem to be enjoying taking turns
beating on this helpless man. It was times like this that the
Seminoles would rescue the black man and then he would take him
home so the medicine man could heal him.
Our black men were not treated as beasts of burden. The
white man would work a black man from sunrise until sunset, and
he would chain and confine him to a little house. But when














black man came into the village of the Indians he was slowly ab-
sorbed into the Seminole's way of life. He was happy, and a free
man. Sometimes, though, if the black men did not want to stay in
their own village, they chose to stay with the man or families
who first took them in. Therefore, some people would have ten,
twenty black people staying with them. The duties of these
black men were to help out with the family gardening, the family
hunts, or whatever the family did. They were to become part of
that particular family.
Our enemy really delighted in violence--I believe this. You
see, for the longest time, the Indian's and white man's relation-
ship was not very good. Today, we're on our own reservation, and
we're not too much of a problem to anyone. But a long time
ago, our people were very brave; they knew and fought for their
rights. They fought for the land that belonged to them.
Also, another thing I often thinking about is the white man,
he likes to display his cruelty. If a man was taken into captivity
by a civilian or a soldier, he was put on public display. The
white man naturally came to look at them. They did not come
close to them. They kept their distance. I guess they thought
the Indian would reach out and eat them up or something. Each
time these people would come by and look at the Indian it would
be as though they were laughing at them, and as though they were
mocking them. I often think of our great leader, Osceola. He
was put on display. When he was beaten by the white soldiers,
they chained him and left him outside. The soldiers would come
by and ridicule him. This helped kill Osceola. Osceola knew
what it meant to be free. He knew how to be swift like the panther
and to understand his enemy. But to be confined and chained, he
felt like an animal. When I hear stories of Osceola, it makes
me awfully sad, because no man had the right to imprison another
man. You see, the Indian feels and believes that he was born
to be free like the wind, and the rivers, to flow with no hindrance.
When he is imprisoned, then his spirits are imprisoned. There is
nothing more to give or to take, only it is time for death to
claim what is his.

I asked her if she ever heard anything about the people being
lazy. "What did the tribe do when people were lazy?" She said,
"Well, I don't really know. I don't think I've ever heard
anyone talking about lazy people." So I told her the story
among the Creeks in Oklahoma, which I would like to relate right
now:
Once there was an Indian family who had a son who was
very, very lazy. It was tribal custom for the entire family
to help each other in gathering food for the winter. Well,
this young boy just ate and slept and slept and ate. He had
no intention of doing anything. In fact, he thought he was born















just to do that--just to eat and sleep. Well, his relatives
finally grew tired of this; they grew tired of doing his share
of the work. They no longer wanted to plow the ground for him;
no longer did they want to gather in the corn for him. They
decided it had gone far enough, and if he does not want to
help out, we might as well forget about him.
One day the relatives decided to scare him into doing his
share of the work. They told him they had decided he would be
better off being buried alive, 'cause he was so lazy and
useless anyway. They said that they should get rid of him as
soon as possible. Well, this didn't do anything to the lazy
cousin--didn't even faze him. His cousins thought, "Well, if he
really thinks that we're not going to do it, we'll just show him."
So his cousins got together and started making a stretcher. They
built a stretcher, and they placed him on it, and he didn't
even move an eye. He was even too lazy to grunt. Then they
took hold of the stretcher by the four corners, and they started
taking him to the burial grounds. His cousins thought, "Well,
he'll get up and he'll want to do his share of the work." But
unfortunately, the lazy character still lay there as though he
was dead.
On their way to the burial grounds, they met an old man
who inquired about the young man. He said, "What's wrong with
him? Is he sick? Has he been in an accident? Is he dead?"
The boys said, "He is neither. He is just plain lazy, and
completely useless to the people, and we're going to take him
to the burial grounds and bury him."
The man thought this was all funny. He says, "Oh, you
don't mean that you're really going to bury this man! He looks
pretty strong and pretty healthy. Give him a chance, give him
a chance. I'm sure he will be more than happy to help with the
tribe."
But the young relatives shook their heads and said, "No matter
what you do, no matter how much you try to scare him, it doesn't
faze him. So he's better off at the burial grounds.
But the man said, "Please don't bury him. Let me take him
home with me. I'm sure he needs someone older, who is very
understanding to young people. You don't have to bury him.
I have plenty of green beans. He'll be happy with me."
And the young man who was on the stretcher lifted himself
halfway, and he asked the man, "Sir, are those green beans
shelled?"
The man replied, "No, they're not."
Then the young man lay down again and closed his eyes and
turned over, and told his cousins, "Carry me on." So this
story shows how a lazy guy was taken to the burial grounds.















Traditionally, among the Creeks, when a person was very
lazy, he was given the option to straighten up and be helpful
to the tribe, or he would be asked to leave and never to return
to the tribe. In fact, he would have faced banishment.
I asked this lady if she remembered the first time
when whites started intermarrying with the Seminoles:

I really do not remember exactly when, but I do know in
my life time that a young woman became pregnant by a white
man, just as soon as the baby was born, and they found it to
be true that it had white blood, the young woman and the baby
were taken up to the country and the young woman was strung up
to a tree. At this point, the women of the village killed the
young woman and her baby. That's about the only incident I can
remember. In my days, it was not permissible for a Seminole to
marry into whites. We strongly felt we would be corrupted if
our blood mixed with white blood.


I asked this woman if any kind of an animal played an im-
portant role during their ceremony. She replied:

The deer played an important part a long time ago. The
deer was roasted, and before the Green Corn Ceremony began, they
would feast on the deer meat and then they would use its skin
to make their ball for the Indian stick ball.
After hearing this, I told my informant that some Creeks in
Oklahoma had similar tradition. Traditionally, the tribal towns
of the Creeks would stew a squirrel dinner before their first
ceremonial dance, and after the last ceremonial dance. It was
a belief among the Creeks that the squirrel skin was used to make
good medicine for the stick ball games. Therefore, squirrel
skin was used to make the ball for the Indians' stick ball
games.
There were certain rules one had to follow in catching a
squirrel. The hunters wore their tobacco bags so their hunt would
be a success. When a squirrel was caught, it was traditional
to catch the squirrel before it fell to the ground, after it
had been wounded or killed in the bushes with whatever weapon
that was used. A squirrel that falls to the ground was considered
bad medicine for the ball players, and its skin should not be
used to make the ball.
Medicine was always prepared by the medicine man. The med-
icine man usually put the medicine in the bags before the skin
covering was sewed up. It was our belief that a ball with good
medicine would have powers to fly away like a bird, fooling the
opponents- The opponents would think that the ball was a bird














and they would fail to strike at it, and therefore, they would
lose their point. This is how the team with the good medicine
would win. We depended on the powers of medicine to help us
win.
I asked my informant if she ever heard of the Withlacoochee
battle where the Seminoles attacked General Edmund T. Gaines
and his troop. Osceola had hundreds of Indians with him, and
he took his men and attacked the white general and his troops.
As they were fighting, the number increased to 1,000 Indians.
My informant thought a moment and then she said that the
white man has a wierd way of relating history:

I don't guess they never thought they had reduced our pop-
ulation to a small amount--that it was very difficult to get
hundreds and hundreds of Indians all at one time. Our old
people used to say that warriors were scattered all over Florida
defending their homes from the white settlers and other white
men. The kind of fighting power we had--organized warriors, that
is--they were no more than 400, and these were our fighting troop.
Osceola was very influential in getting warriors organized to
fight, but as I understand it, he made sure there were several
groups of Indians in different areas, so that we would not be
overpowered and overtaken by the white man. As far as Osceola
attacking General Gaines at the Withlacoochee River with hundreds
and hundreds of Indians, it may be true--but with hundreds and
hundreds of Indians? I believe the white man miscounted. Not
that our figures are accurate, but our old people used to tell
us that we really didn't have too much man power--that we only
had about 400 organized warriors when we were fighting with the
men. We had other Indians fighting, but I'm talking about or-
nized fighters.
And then I asked my informant,"Then you have heard of the
battle of Withlacoochee?"
She said, "I heard of some battle. I think it was this battle,
but I always thought that it was perhaps at Okeechobee. My
grandfather said the white man, with his superior weapons,
killed many warriors, as well as women, children and old men.
At this battle, the bodies of the Seminoles were thrown in
the river and the river was flowing as though it was made out
of blood."
After the conclusion of our interview, realizing that she
was a little bit tired, I asked her to help me with
my pronunciation of some of the place names in Florida which
were in Creek names, and also perhaps if she could explain some
of these Creek names. She said she would be more than happy
to help me with the pronunciation. The first place name was














Withlacoochee, and she laughed and she said, "You do not pro-
nounce it correct; it's Wisacoochee, and in Creek wi is equal
to "water," sacoo is equal to "big" and chee is a diminutive
for "small." It comes out "Little Big Water." Withlacoochee
becomes Wisacoochee; its actual meaning in English is "Little
Big Water."
Then I asked her to help me with Apopka, and she said
apopka means "eating place." Then I asked her if the famous
river Chattahoochee was pronounced right. She laughed and
she says, "No, it's supposed to be Chattohutsee." Chatto
equal to "rock," and hutsee is equal to "river." So it
comes out Chattohutsee.
The next word, Palatka. Palatka means "over-flowing with
water." Platka means "to flow over." Number four, Wakasassa,
it means, "there are cattle." Waga is equal to "cow," sasee,
"there are." And Wewahitchka. Wiwahitchkee means "view of
water." Wiwa equal to "water," hitchkee is "view."
We have Wetumka, Oklahoma, and which I can pronounce it
quite easily, but I also happen to know that there's a place
name here in Florida. Wetumka means "sounding name."
We means "water," tumka equal to "sounding water."
Okeechobee is a good old Miccosukee name. Okee is equal
to "water," chobee means "big." Okeechobee. And oglaknee.
Oglaknee means "yellow water," and you pronounce it oglanee,
which is "yellow." Oboxi means "tommorrow,"and I will start
on another tape oboxi, "tomorrow."
We practiced counting:
(1) hungin
(2) chocolin
(3) dochinan
(4) osten
(5) chakeeban
(6) abagan
(7) conobagin
(8) chinabagin
(9) ostabagin
(10) balin
(11) balin hungin hungin
(12) balin hungin cocalin
(13) balin hungin dochinan
(14) balin hungin osten
(15) balin hungin chakeeban
(16) balin hungin abagan
(17) balin hungin conobagin
(18) balin hungin chinabagin
(19) balin hungin ostabagin
(20) balin cocolin




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