SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
JEAN CHAUDHURI MONOLOGUE
Billie, Josie, 1
Brighton Indian Reservation, 1
Food, 3, 7
Green Corn Dance, 6-8
Creek [Muskogee], 1
love potion, 3
medicine man, 1-3, 6
potion of an evil medicine man, 3-4
"The Medicine Man Who Turned Into a Dog ", 4-6
ceremonial protection rite, 1-2
stickball game, 6
Vietnam War, 1-2
I have been talking with a young man who has served in
the Vietnam war. He is twenty-eight years old, bilingual, speaks
Creek and English. He lives on Brighton Indian Reservation. He
works on his father's cattle ranch. He talked about the ceremonial
protection rite he went through with just before he left for
Vietnam, and he said to me, "Just before going to Vietnam, my
parents had the medicine man, Josie Billie, perform a ceremonial
protection rite for me. Then he proceeded to explain to me
what the ceremonial protection rite was all about: For those
of us who believe in tribal customs, it is a general practice
to have protective rites performed over the young men going off
to war. The medicine man will have special ceremonial rites for
the young man who is to leave his family. We believe that our
medicine man has power for dealing with the enemy. Therefore,
it is only appropriate for him to attempt to safeguard a young
man going off to war.
Just before leaving for Vietnam, my family had a ceremony
for me. The medicine man made medicine for me, and gave me doc-
tored cigarettes and a medicine bag to wear around my neck to
protect me from the enemy. This was three years ago. Just be-
fore going to Vietnam, Josie Billie performed a ceremony for
me. This ceremony was held for me about four times before I
left for Vietnam, and I had to stay with the medicine man.
I remember some of the steps I took for the ceremony. I
had to get up early in the morning, just before dawn, and I could
not have any breakfast. I had to fast according to tradition.
During that morning, I started out for Josie Billie's camp. As
I arrived at his home, I noticed he was getting ready to start
the ceremony. I was naturally curious to know what he would do
to me. Suddenly,he started chanting songs and blowing into a
bucket full of water, filled with different kinds of leaves--
herbs of some kind. He motioned me to move closer to him and to
sit down. I sat down. I had to stay with him for four days.
Within this period, I had to go under his treatment. From this
bucket full of herbs he was blowing into, he took a cupful of
water, and then he handed it to me, and asked me to drink it.
"Take this, drink it," he said, "because of this, it will pro-
tect you from your enemies." I took the drink and sipped some
of it. No longer than two minutes passes; my whole system be-
gan to shake. And then I began to vomit--I began to throw up
everything. After throwing everything up, I felt clean and good
inside. He asked me to bathe in the water filled with herbs,
and I did. The water was very cold. After the bath, I felt
While there at the camp, he told me if I were faithful
to his advice and carried some of the things that he will give
me, then I will be protected from harm. I believed in this
old man, and I nodded, saying I will do as he asks me to do;
that I will keep the protective medicine on me at all times.
During the rituals, he taught me very short songs I had to
sing while facing the enemy. Also, there was another short
song I had to know so that when I fired at my enemy, my bul-
let would go straight in the right direction. Josie Billie said,
"It hits and never misses." But he did say, "You must know each
song correctly to sing for the right thing."
After this, he gave me a tobacco pouch and some cigarettes
that were doctored, and protective medicine was put into it.
"You must carry these with you at all times. Without it, you
will lose the power of protection, and you will face harm," he
After instructing me in songs and how to use my medicine,
he began to chant and sing. As he was singing and chanting, he
seemed to be lost in the land of oblivion. The words in the
songs were repetitious. I had never heard the songs before,
but he gave me a feeling that I must also sing, which I did.
He kept reassuring me that I would know very little fear when
I am fighting with my enemy, and the bullets would bypass me
as long as I carry the medicine with me.
The ceremony was over. Wonderful feelings seeped through
my whole body. I felt clean, inside and outside. I left for
Vietnam, and I faced the enemy with my medicine bag and my
doctored cigarettes. While in Vietnam, I saw bullets whizzing
by my head, and there were times I didn't feel as though the
bullets were going to bypass me. But, due to the medicine
I carried with me, I felt protected. I returned home from
Vietnam in good physical condition. I was not hurt.
Most of the young men I know who served in Vietnam re-
turned home without a scratch. They, too, took part in the
protective ceremonial rites before they left for Vietnam.
Our medicine man serves us for many purposes; in re-
turn for his services, we are obligated to give him a gift.
Therefore, it is customary that each time we go to the med-
icine man we must take a gift or some money to him. Since my
parents insisted that I have protective ceremonial rites, they
gladly gave the medicine man some money. For almost anything,
a person goes to the medicine man and have them conjure up some
medicine. If one is ill, he goes to the medicine man for
healingers. If a young man is going off to war, a protec-
ive ceremonial rite is performed, so that he may well be
protected from his enemies. Also, if one seeks affection
from a certain person and that person is not aware or cares
for the pursuer's affection, the pursuer will go to the
medicine man and have him to conjure up love potion, and
then the pursuer is to take this love potion and secretly
pour it into the drink of the person he wants. If this
person takes a drink of the love potion, they cannot help
but fall madly in love with the pursuer.
For those of us who are true believers, the medicine
man serves many purposes, but the medicine man who uses his
power to prepare sechla medicine is not too popular with the
As he told me this, later on in the day, I met a lady
who told me a story about a love medicine conjured up by
an evil medicine man, which was an interesting little story.
The story goes somewhat like this: In the days past a little
girl was born to a couple. This little girl grew up to be very
beautiful, gentle and charming. She knew how to cook, dry
meat, roast meat, and she knew how to make the favorite dish
called sofkee. Also, she would get up early in the morning
and say her morning prayers, and then go out to gather berries,
roots and barks, and then come back to her camp and put on
a bowl of sofkee for guests and relatives. Her family wanted
her to find a husband who would be worthy of her services.
The young girl showed no interest in any young man.
In a nearby village lived a mischievous and lazy young man
who was completely useless to his village and anyone else's
camp. But he had his heart set on this beautiful young girl.
No matter what he did to draw her attention to him, it wasn't
possible for him to gain favor from this young girl.
Then one day the young man decided to go to an evil med-
icine man and ask him to make up some love potion for him so
that he could give it to his object of affection so that she
would come to like him. The medicine man told the young man
that he must come to his camp and stay with him so that he will
understand what to do with the love potion. For many days,
the young man stayed with the medicine man, faithfully taking
instructions. The instruction was to put the love potion into
the drink of the young girl. If she took the drink, she would
naturally fall madly in love with the lazy character.
Filled with excitement and great expectations, the young
man waited patiently for the right opportunity to put the love
potion in the girl's drink. Then the right opportunity presented
itself. The young man secretly put the love potion into her
drink. The young maiden, being eager with thirst, consumed her
drink. Time passed, and as the conjurer had predicted, the
young girl began to shower her attention on the young man.
No one could understand the change in the young girl, but the
young man 'did, and he was happy.
This was the way some people won the hearts of their
new-acquired husband and wife. It is said sometimes the love
potion wears off, so it is better to go out on your own and
to win the love of the person you want by displaying your own
charms, because once the love potion wears off, you may be in
Here is another short story, and this short story is about
how an evil medicine man turned into a dog. The title of the
story is, "The Medicine Man Who Turned Into A Dog."
A long time ago, according to some people, lived an evil
medicine man who cast evil spirits on the camps of good people,
causing people to lose respect for their own households. This
evil man had no respect for anyone. He lived only for himself.
There were two young men who were told to be careful of this
wicked man. If they see him, they were to avoid him and not
to ever speak to him. Otherwise, he would cast an evil spell on
them and steal their hearts, because the hearts of young people
was what the evil man relished.
One day the two young men started on a hunt. They travelled
for many days, following the footprints of different kinds of
animals, but were not lucky to find any food to take home.
They thought and thought, "Where can we find food to take back
to our camp? We have to have food so our people will be proud
of us." But they couldn't find a thing. Finally they gave
up their search for food. Their time was spent by playing games
and swimming, which their hunting trip proved to be quite en-
A few days passed, a night crept up on them. It was a
beautiful night. The moon shone brightly, giving some light
to the night, making it possible for a person to see at a
far distance. The two young men suddenly noticed an object
advancing toward them. Full of curiosity, they tried to figure
out what the thing could be. Was it a man or some wild
beast? The more they strained their eyes, the more clear the
object became. Suddenly, to their surprise, they recognized
what the object was. It was the old evil medicine man who
they had been warned not to talk to.
Both considered themselves brave, [and] decided to scare the
older man. They thought they would chase the old man by making
sounds and acting like they were wild animals, but they could not
help but be fascinated by this old man. The old man stood in
the middle of the bright moonlight as though he was the only person
in the world. He wore old animal skins. The old man lifted his
arms and extended them toward the sky, mumbling as though he
was saying prayers. Then he reached and took from his side what
appeared to be a medicine bag, and he took something from the
bag and he began to sprinkle something around that looked like
ashes. He sprinkled some of it all over his body, and then
threw some into the air and then sprinkled some on the ground.
Afterwards he started chanting._ With a few dance steps, right
before their eyes, he began to change physically. The more he
chanted, the more his body transformed into a four-legged animal.
After his chanting, he had completely changed into a four-legged
animal. There he stood in the bright moonlight. He was now a
big four-legged dog. This dog turned his head from side to side
and slowly gazed at himself as though he was quite pleased with
his body. Before they knew it, this big dog dashed into the for-
est and disappeared.
This left the two young men stunned and frightened. They
did not know what to do. They did not know if they should run
home and tell the people what they saw. They were scared to
death. But they thought they would wait until the old man re-
turned. Just before dawn, the old man did return. From the dis-
tance, the old man was eating something that looked like the
heart of a man, and the two young men, whispering to each other,
said, "Look, look, he's eating something that looks like a heart."
One of them said, "You know, they say that an evil man will take
the heart of healthy man in order to prolong their lives."
Both, feeling quite afraid, wondered what they should do. They
knew if the old man knew that they saw him turn into a dog,
bad medicine would fall on them. The two young men thought
perhaps if they stayed until the next night, they could find a
way to take his evil medicine from the old man.
The following night, the two young men waited for the older
man. Right at moonlight, the old man returned. The two young
men, determined to find the secrets of the bad medicine, watched
every step of the bad medicine man. One thing they did not
notice before was the old man opened the front of his chest and
proceeded to take out his intestines, and he took his intestines
and left them in the hollow of a tree trunk, and then proceeded
his ritual--changing himself into a dog.
After seeing all this, the young men decided they would
destroy his intestines. This will destroy the bad medicine
man, and he will never cast evil spells or steal anyone's heart
ever again. But they did not have to, because another four-
legged animal came and ate them up. The young men waited all
night for the old man to return. At dawn, the old man returned,
and he frantically hunted for his intestines, and he could not
find them. He began to weep. The older man did not go back to
the village. He went further into the woods and died. The two
young men went back to their camp and told what had happened.
I had been talking with this young man, and we got to
talking about Indian ceremonies, and I wanted to know if there
were specific prayers said during the ceremonies. He said, "Yes,"
so this is my tale about my visit with this young man:
I had a delightful visit with a young Miccosukee man. He
is about thirty years old. He is bilingual, speaks Miccosukee
and English. He is quite conservative in his Indian ways.
He believes in his medicine men, medicinal herbs, ceremonial
dances, stickball game, scratching ceremony, and anything related
to the traditional way of life of the Seminole people. Anything
that's Indian, he accepts wholeheartedly. But this does not
mean that he rejects the white man's ways. He fully realizes
that to survive in this day and time, one has to have the
skills of the dominant society. As he said, he wants his
children to enjoy and understand and be a part of the rich her-
itage of the great Seminoles, but also he wants them to go to
school and go as far as possible, because this gives them an
understanding of the white man's ways. His wife works at a
store, and he helps construct houses. He feels strongly that
anything ceremonial belongs to the Seminoles, such as the Green
Corn Dance, the big feast, the scratching ceremony, drinking
medicine. He told me these are sacred to the Seminoles, and
no outsiders should have a part, because these are the last
things that the Seminoles have left to enjoy. He is one of
the most interesting people I have spoken to.
We talked about the Seminoles. He felt quite free to talk
about the Indian religion and the significance of the Green
Corn Dance. He talked about ritual, the habits and behavior
of the Seminoles, but there were times he would not give specific
answers to some of my questions. Nevertheless, he was most in-
teresting and also he requests that I not tape anything he had
to say, because these were truly sacred to him.
The young man was concerned with the fact that the con-
temporary Seminole does not feel close to his own religion:
At one time, the Indian religion was very much part of the
Seminole, he said. Every Seminole knew the religion as he knew
the soil, the canals, the trees, waterways, and the trail. His
religion meant happy things like big feasts and festivals,
visiting friends and relatives.
Every summer everyone used to look forward to the annual
Green Corn Dance, which began in June. Then the day of the
Green Corn festivities broke loose. The first day was the be-
ginning of a holy week. It was our time to thank the Great
Spirit for a good year, and to make new resolutions, and to
enter the new year with purified souls. During this time we
have one day set aside called [Indian word], meaning "big feast,"
where we ate as much as we pleased. Many fat deer, bear, turkey
were roasted, and corn was prepared in many ways. There were
lots and lots of sofkee to drink, as well as sassafras and berry
The day of the Green Corn Dance began by having a man chosen
to wake the camp. The man chosen would be up early in the
morning, and almost at daybreak, men, women, and children would
be gathered around the ceremonial grounds without their break-
fast. It was traditional to fast during the first day. Promptly
at sunrise, the medicine man would be inside the ceremonial
grounds. Usually he was the keeper of the sacred fire that
represented new life. Facing the east, standing with reverence,
he would offer his prayers. The medicine man was the person
who performed the most sacred ceremony. The participants
would be waiting anxiously around the ceremonial grounds for the
ritual to begin. The medicine man would offer his prayers to
The Green Corn Dance was the beginning of a new year.
During this time of the year it was a time of renewal--time
to burn old houses, old things, and sweep the camp clean; and to
ask forgiveness from your brother, or your friends, or even your
enemy. This was the time to start life anew.
Still facing east, the medicine man offered his prayers.
These prayers were to ask for better life, and to be a better
person. During this time, the medicine man would ask the Great
Spirit to please accept our prayers in thanksgiving. In most holy
reverence, the medicine man would say, "I give thanks to the
east, from whence the new day is born which tells us all things
are made from you. I offer my prayers and thanksgiving to
the west, which ends the day and thus brings forth sweet sleep
that gives us strength for tomorrow, that our bodies may well
be rested and strong. I offer my prayers and thanksgiving to
the south, which sends the warm breeze which gives me a feeling
of comfort. I offer my prayers and thanksgiving to the north,
the mother of coldness whose bitter winds prepares me to prepare
for the cold days. I give my offering to the blood and bones
of my ancestors that mingle with mother earth. Accept our
offering and thanksgivings, so that my people will be strong
in spirit and helpful to our traveling brothers. Give us
courage, strength, and wisdom so that we may be aware of our
responsibilities toward each other." After this, the traditional
dances would follow.