Title: Tom King
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SEM 164A -1-

Sub: Tom King

Int: Mark Bass

M: Uh, do you want to go ahead and say something?

T: O.K. t hat? I don't even know what to...

M: Uhnyou said that when you were down there... you should hold that like

eight to ten inches. You said that when you were down there that they

were still living in hickees and that they were wired for electricity
vJ O.5
and piped in water. How did they, what that a good compromise for

them? Were they happy like that?

T: I think the majority of them were. It's difficult to say because of

course they have picked up many of white society's material values andyl

the/ younger Indians, those of-less than middle age, wanted concrete

block houses or modern structures of practically any kind I'm sure.

J-I don't know how many of them would have been happy to continue living
in -Skn but umI think it's safe to say that most of the older

Indians, most of those of more than let's say 40 years of age, 45 years

of age were fairly happy living in the traditional Shkkee in the

traditional camp system.

M: Do you think the younger ones got changed because around the early 70's

late 60's they were starting to go to public school in larger numbers,

whereas before that apparently they had had to either go off to a

federal school or um.....
T: Well that's not exactly true. They began attending public schools

immediately after the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling.

SEM 164A -2-

Tom King-Mark Bass

.P&rh4w4OLe okecl'o bee 41
T: Now Brightennbegan attending schools in- Oeeh-&keBe and4finally switched to
moori AVel. 3o0 ,' Oh fya th 4V sh
m -ebr en. Uh, the Big Cypress... ---ahead... Oh, anyway the the school..
The children from Brighten began attending school in Qka e. The city

of Wa'chobee and finally there was a hassle between Glades County of which
mvvorfLavfA OKQC-
4or4 wen is the county seat, and -Okachobee County, over who would get the

Indian children, this humorous incident. I don't know exactly what happened.

I don't knowAthe details to it, but I do .know that there were federal funds

involved and that initially although the Indians lived in Glades County they
&HOVyed rA ofr Ha." were not aletd to attend school in-Meraven, the county seat of Glades county.
Yt we, AaJC-
But as soon as it became apparent that there was federal money involved MerhavFn-

wanted their Indians back.

M: Was that ever clear to the Indians that bureaucratic problem?

T: It's very clear to them. Uh, they're very much aware of it. They laugh about

that to this day. There also seems to have been... Or at least just-a feeling

of a number of Indians involved, that part of the--of the problem was the

athletic ability of the male Indians. One of whom-you know Joe Dan Osceola--

Joe Dan played)I believe quarterback for the- kechobee High School and they...
no was it? I don't know if he went to e8kachobee High or the one in Ft. Lauder-

dale. But it doesn't matter.
M: It was 9kachobee I think... from what he said.

T: O.K. And uh, he and some others played football very well and their football

team was quite successful so Glades County decided that they could use a

successful football team too and they wanted their Indians back. Now I don't

know how much of this is true and how much is just a -ocryp butuh -

certainly there is some basis in fact.ef this. But I think you know).you're

SEM 164A -3-

Tom King- Mark Bass

T: quite right when you say-when you link education with changing values. Of

the generation that was going to school in the 1950's-starting grammar school

in the 1950's or even attending high School in the 1950's-is the generation

which is now in control of-the tribe. The ones who fill most of the positions

in tribal government. And they have gone to the white mans school,they've

learned the white mans language, and have picked up many of the white cultural

values. So it's hardly surprising that they would tend to live more like

white men than do their mothers and fathers.

M: Do you have any feeling for how much the introduction of electric media has

meant? Television WhrtC fhy/lT--where they're in affect a part of a global

village and they can pick from the mix and see different clothing and different

dress and different morays? Is that really impacted on them?

T: I can't think of anything that's had a greater impact on them. And it's

been two-fold. Not only can they now pick from various alternatives that

are-that they can see on the television screen or hear over radio or see

in the movies but it has also to a very great degree, to an immeasurable degree,

it has replaced the former oral tradition that were handed down through the tribe.

There has been a great loss of their own heritage and history and culture

because of the fact that they.... The oral traditions which were once almost

as much entertainment as education have been replaced by the T.V. screen. I

mean you don't sit around the fire and listen to stories anymore. The medicine

keepers, the elders, the people who achieve some stature in the tribe simply

through the ability to tell stories and tell them well don't have -ee audience

anymore. AnAa result theA culture is dying. I don't think there is any other

way to put it. There has been an attempt in the very recent past on the part

of the tribe to revive the Seminole culture. They haveAtried to get what they

SEM 164A -4-

Tom King-Mark Hass

T: call grandmothers and in many cases these are grandmothers, but just elderly

women into the classroom structure at the Ah PoFekePfe. tay School in the

Big Cypress reservation. And they want them to tell stories in the,iaokee

tongue and to)um try and help the children retain both their language and

their own culture. I think some program of that sort has been instituted at

Brighton as well, although I'm not sure of that. Uh, there is an increasing

awareness of the fact that their identity as Seminoles is becoming diluted and

uh they very much want to retain that identity.
M: Do you think the-4;a ik ees will be any luckier than the Seminole tribe 4:r of


T: Yeah. I-uh, I don't know if you're aware of the distinction between AM~kasukees

and Seminoles, perhaps personally you are. But when you say YMkasukeesAI don't

know whether you're talking about Mikesukees along the Tamiami Trail or 4--

Mi-kasukees in general. You see two-thirds of the Seminole ribe of Florida
t^,rcco MO'ccO
are4Mikasukees. Uh, there are probably only 300 Mikasukees who are represented
(A 'tx of Ali CLO
by the tLkasukee Tribe in Florida. So, the Mi~asukees who are represented
I c.;co
by theMiaksukee Tribe of Florida, which is located on the Tamiami Trail, are

by far the more traditional group. They're not as affected by all of this

as are the other Indians. But the Mikasukees living on the Big Cypress reser-

vation and those living on the Hollywood reservation are becoming just as

acculturated as... as the Co0reeks or the I&ew ee speaking Seminoles from


M: How about just general observations or anecdotes from your life down on f A

reservation for you? Did you get toum, establish close friendships over time?

SEM 164A -5-

Tom King-Mark Hass

M: Did you find people opened up to you over time?

T: Yeah. I found that they were probably the most cu44tie+ people I've ever met.

They um... Almost to a fault as a matter of fact. They don't like to say no.

They don't like to offend anyone and they will go to any extreme to keep from

doing that. Sometimes that causes some problems because uh,I was not always
aware of where I stood. It took me quite awhile to become accepted iL Brighton.

I lived uh immediately adjacent to the Brighton reservation for one year nd

my appearance differed from that to which they had grown accustomed in white

people. (laugh) Uh, my hair was longer than normal. I mean that's cowboy country
Okec. eVeC flaZ
there. -9kachobee and M&Pran and so on. I have a beard. Um, in fact they

began calling me red-beard shortly after I got there. That cause~lne problems.

That's-that's a humorous anecdote, yes. Uh, some Indians from India, Hindus,

graduate students here at the University of Florida, had apparently gotten some

vacation time and had decided to see some American Indians. They had contacted

somebody in the American History Department here at the University and had

been told that I was living down on the Brighten reservation. So they went

down to see me and I guess they had gotten my name wrong or had failed to get

me properly identified by the people here at the University. At any rate,

they went o out to the Brighten reservation and began asking various Indians

if they knew a white man from the University of Florida who was doing research

on the Seminole Indians and they wanted to know exactly where I lived. If they-/ ly

could be directed to my house. Well, they talked to-I think it was Sally
Osceola-and some of the other Osceola.. some of the Osceola children. Zhere

fatherwas Billy Osceola and they told them that yes they knew a white man and

his name was -ED Beard. Well (laughing) these people from India thought that

my name was Red Beard. They were directed to go to a bar which is on-a-&Al

SEM 164A -6-

Tom King-Mark Bass

T: Highway 78 which is about oh) a quarter of a mile from my house and were

told that the bartender could no doubt tell them where I lived. So they went

into the bar and they asked the bartender where Mr. Beard lived. Well of

course they never found out because the bartender hadn't the faintest idea

who they were talking about. I went in a couple days later and the bar-

tender then told me this funny story about the two Indians who were in asking

around forAMr. Beard. And only then, you know, it triggered and I knew who

they were talking about. It was me. As far as being accepted by the tribe goes,

for a long)long time I didn't make any process at all. They were very friendly,
very e rte+ie and$ u wouldn't give me any answers to any questions at all. Not

in depth at any rate. But I found out that some of the older people thought

that I could not be in the position that commanded any respect whatever because

I didn't wear a coat and a white shirt and a tie and my hair wasn't cut short

and a few other things like that most of them concerned with appearance. Also,

I was too young. You see age isa -thibg that is very important to the Seminoles.

The older you are the more respect you command. So I wasAtoo young and I didn't

look right to be in the position that I said I was in. Well uh, I cut my hair

much shorter, trimmed the beard up, and wore a tie one day and went by Billy

Osceola's house, told his wife who 4ad apparently baae-one of those who had

been upset with my appearance) told her that I had cut my hair especially for

her and put on that tie that very day just to please her, and she giggled at it ,

and I guess passed the word around that everything was O.K. Meanwhile, I had

talked to the medicine keeper, Frank Shore, and had gotten along with him fairly

well, and he apparently told some other people too that I was not a young punk

down there to create trouble but that I was on a legitimate enterprise apparently.

SEM 164A 7-

Tom King-Mark Hass

T: So after awhile.., after a long period of time I gradually became accepted

up to a point by most of the people on the Brighton reservation. Uh I don't

think I was ever completely accepted by them. There are some of them whom

I call my friends. In fact, there are a few who have come up to Gainesville

to visit me on a couple of occasiions. Uh at my daughter's last birthday

there were two Seminole ladies and their children who came and celebrated

our daughters birthday with us. But I... It's difficult to say whether or

not I have any real friends among the Seminoles um.--_ h they.. It's a closed

society. I'm not Indian. It's just that simple.

M: Let's talk about the oral history project nd specifically-well generally

it's work With the Southeastern American tribes. That's one aspect of it

and then the Seminoles are just a particular of that...- hat overall approach.

What do you think you're going to accomplish? What are you trying to accomplish
6f o-F 4Hiete pe.pre7
in the gathering of the oral tradition lie ry?

T: Well two things. One is preservation of the tribal history and culture. Uh,

it's necessary to do it through an oral history approach simply because these

are nonliterate peoples. Once they become literate peoples.... For instance, Of'ce

a Seminole becomes full/literate he is no longer entirely a Seminole. And I

think I can say this without-without risking any offense to the Seminoles

themselves because they're perfectly well aware of this. That is the basis
h ad
for most of the opposition that they -hve toward allowing their children
to go to white schools. They knew perfectly wellthat once their kids

learned to read and write and speak English that they were no longer

entirely Seminole. But as nonliterate peoples they have not recorded

their own history. They hati't recorded their culture, their heritage,

nothing. They have passed it down from generation to generation through

SEM 164A -8-

Tom King-Mark Hass

T: stories as I indicated before. It's all been through oral transmission.

And once this begins to die out... and it has died out. I mean the current

generation, the one that is growing up right now has-has lost this facility.

Once that stops then it's almost as if the culture itself had come to a

hault and a new one has begun. There is uh, there's a wall. There's a

demarcation point. The current generation of Seminoles... doesn't know

what it's own past is.

That puts them in .a very tenuous position.

It certainly does. I think they're very well aware of that now and you know

there has been this attempt, recent attempt, to recover it. But inAsome

cases it's too late. I hope'that some of the tapes that we have made will
-f 4e^-
be of-of value to It has preserved the language and in many cases it

has preserved uh storiesJ it's preserved history.tind some cultural

preservation. So theit-there's that and there-is also the fact that as

a nonliterate people againJwithout a written history then it'sonot possible

for us to write the history of our own society uh as it applies to them.

You know they're an integral part of American society. It's not possible

for us to write their history with any accuracy. With any degree of

accuracy without having some sort of oral input from them. You know we've
found out a great number of things in this project that we didn't have any

idea existed. There's no written record of it. Or we've found other

things of which there are written records and we didn't know they existed.

didn't know where the written records were and have discovered them only

because we've gotten some oral cluej -Some oral t's almost. AnIndian

will tell us about something we didn't know anything about and then we

SEM 164A -9-

Tom King-Mark Hass

T: know where to go to find out about it. So,you knoy oral history I think

is a very very valuable supplement to written history.

M: Did they at any time question the traditional history of Florida that you...

T: Oh certainly' Yes they have an entirely different history. An entirely

different approach to it. In fact,uh, I'm sure that most Seminoles would

disagree with practically everything that I would say about their history.

For instance, I ran into a number of Seminoles, the great majority of them

who believe that they are not descendants of the Creek confederacy. They

believe that they are a separate partAf a separate tribe rather) completely

apart from the Creeks. Have never been a part of the Creek confederacy,

kave always occupied peninsular Florida. You see things such as that. Now,

uh, anthropologists and historians will tell you differently.

M: Their whole history broke down then didn't it? Didn't the the transmission

of their oral tradition break down at some point and they chose to selectively


T: Uh, selectively. Now there's the key. Yeu knew I'm not so sure that the

oral history broke down. I don't know. I think it may have been selective

perception. You know you believe what you want to believe. Uh,how many.---

how many people of our generation actually know what happened during

World War II? You know our version of it varies very much from the truth.

And the same is true of of I'm sure of Seminole history. But um whaLt-t would

hope that they could and to some degree recover some of their past through

this oral history program. And certainly we can. We can uh... White society

can certainly stand to learn a great deal.

M: How about things like uh,Lee Tiger who's gone to L.A. and tried to make it

in a rock band and comes back with uh an English haircut and bellbottom

SEM 164A -10-

Tom King-Mark Hass

M: pants and that sort of thing. That to me just was completely unbeliev-

able. I-I expected to find acculturated people but he probably was the most

acculturated person I found and the most at ease with me too!-

T: Mm Hmm.

M: -.'spent about eight hours hanging out. Um, what's gonna happen as more and

more of their young people move to Miami or move touh)Gainesville or become

involved in the University system? Do you think that they're going to

go back there? Isn't it traditional that they'll stay away and you'll just

have a dwindling group of older people? Or....... What do you think?

T: No it's not traditional that they will stay away. It depends on how

acculturated they are into white society.

they return. Without mentioning any name

number that were to one degree or another

them have actually gotten degrees. Part

problem, part of the reason they have not

don't like staying away from home for the

it requires. It doesn't have anything tc

They're perfectly capable intellectually

anybody else.... but most of them return.

in the military, have been three and four

of the world and have chosen to return tc

In fact it's traditional that

is I can tell you that I know a

college educated. Very few of

of.interesting enough.- Part of the

gotten college degrees is that they

it length of time. The time that

do with intellectual capacity.

of achieving just as much as

A great number of them have been

years away, have seen a great deal

That little plot of land that is

not necessarily the most attractive land in the world.(chuckle) You .know

it's left over, It's land that whites didn't want. NonedtheJess, they

come home. They're very very strong family ties. Cultural ties. To family.

to clan, to their own people. The most educated of Seminole Indians, a man

with a doctarate in education has returned to the Hollywood reservation.

SEM 164A -11-

Tom King-Mark Hass

M: He works for BIA doesn't he?

T: He works for the BIAyeahin Hollywood. Uh,now, you asked whether they

would move away or not. As they become more acculturated into white society,

I think the chances of them permanently moving away become greater and

greater)as they become less Seminole in a sense.

M: Do we... ao we as a white society owe them anything? Do we owe them input

that will insure a positive acculturation or is there any... Mot necessarily

a white mans burden sort of thing, but is there something we could be doing

to give them a more positive viewpoint of white society? What's the answer?

Because they're pretty bitter as far as I can sense. Prettypuh, particularly

say 25-40 year old people are pretty much anti.... um, Chevrolets and Big

Macs and televisions and that sort of thing. This was a feeling I got from

people I dealt with.

.T: Now you-you had asked me what? What white society could do to......

M: Is there something we owe them or owed them that could have made this

acculturation easier for us and for them?

T: Well as far as making the acculturation easier goes I don't know about that

but I think that perhaps their attitude would toward white society in

general would not have been as bitter as it is now had we lived up to our

treaties. Uh, we made a number of treaties with the Seminole Indians in

the nineteenth century and failed to honor any of them. We are now paying
flc, -kke I
the price as far as money goes but it's a very small small price for us to

pay. There was a 16 and a half million dollar settlement for 32 million

acres of land which had a greater value then than 16 and a half million

dollars. A greater value.... pvUsCe n-;fa- ~

SEM 164A -12-

Tom King-Mark Hass

M: Uh, didn't agree that they had signed the treaty of 67 because in

their culture everybody has to vote on that and that one group of people is

not really in power to speak for the entire tribe.

T: The 1967 thing?

M: That's a date Tye used. I don't even know what the paper said. What the

1967 treaty was about unless it was the final affirmation of their having

surrendered. I don't....

T: I'm not so sure that I know what he's talking about either. I think, well

there are two other things that he may be talking about. One was an agreement

in 19.... 35 to organize as a tribe. Now I'm not certain of these figures.

I'd have to have the papers in front of me. But as I recall, there were

about 200 and 95 people eligible to vote on whether or not they would

organize the SeminoleTribe of Florida and apply for government aid and

government recognition etc. as a tribe separate from the Oklahoma Seminoles

who had been legally removed. Whether or.not they would set up,uhsome

sort of tribal government, whether or not they would allow their people to

attend school, a number of things were involved here. The majority of the

Seminoles didn't want anything at all to do with white society. They wanted

to continue.living as they had lived for a long time. However, the referen-

dum was taken and less than twenty people actually voted. Less than twenty

out of two hundred and ninety five.... and even that was not unanimous. It's

like I can't remember the exact numbers but it's like sixteen out of twenty

people voted to organize the Seminole tribe and the government took that --

.Sixteen people out of 295 eligible to vote.and took it and organized the

tribe. The same thing happened in 1957. That's probably what you're talking

about. In 1957 the tribe was chartered and a constitution was drawn up

and accepted by the Seminole people. And once again the same thing happened,

the majority did not vote. It was a.... well there are differing interpretations

SEM 164A -13-

Tom King-Mark Hass

T: of this of course. There are Indians who will tell you that they didn't vote;

that-because they didn't want any part of the process and that it was not a legitimate

process anyway, that therefore the charter and the constitution are illegal

and that the tribe did not want to organize along those lines. On the other

hand, there are ndians who will'tell you that they did want to and that

it was perfectly legal and of course the BIA will tell you that it was a

perfectly legal thing that was done. So it's very difficult to tell who's

right and who's wrong. You have to have some sort of a value judgement there.


M:A Excuse me. What have appved to them had they not signed and organized

like that?

T: They would have been left alone.(laugh) Or so they hoped. That's it.

M: Yeah, but the: land would have eventually have been developed and sold

%tLC-fyrpTm -

T: No the land is theirs. Reservations.

M: Oh. I see.

T: You see... of course that doesn't mean a great deal.

M: They could have stayed on that particular group.of land?

T: Sure. The land is guaranteed to them in perpetuity. Um, such guarantees have

been void in the past (laugh). For instance, what is the Everglades National

Park was originally a state reservation. It was guaranteed by the State of

Florida to the Seminole Indians and the State of Florida later decided well....

zAfutI we ought to turn this thing into a park. So they took it back and they gave

I think 63,000 acres of land in return to the Seminoles. And this 63,000

acre reservation is in the worst part of the Everglades. There is nothing,

literally nothing but sawgrass and water in the section of land that was

turned over to the Seminoles in return for the Everglades National Park. Uh


SEM 164A -14-

Tom King-Mark Hass

T: as you know the Everglades National Park is-although it's a spectacular

wilderness-nonetheless it does have varying terrain in it. It does support

life)whereas the reservation that was given to the Seminoles in return for

it doesn't support a damn thing except frogs and minnows youknow. There's

nothing there.

M: You say originally Big Cypress was their habitat and that they were driven

from that. Now that's an even more environmentally rich area than....

T: Oh yeah. The Big Cypress is.... well it's mostly swamp but there's a great

deal of high ground as well. Hammocks throughout it and gigantic cypress

trees, mixed hard woods, and pine,Asome high land. It's-it's a very mixed

environment and it-it supported a great deal of life oF fish and game and

so on. And then the Seminoles traversed all of the land between there and-and

Fort Pierce as well. They went all the way up the west coast of Lake
-Qachobee, around the east coast, and up to Fort Pierce. It was all back

lands... until the ditches began to be dug. Until the Corpsof Engineers

began draining all of that land)making it habitable for whites. And then

things changed and Indians were pressured into the Big Cypress swamp where

they continued to live more or less as they always had but the Corasof

Engineers then ran channels through the Big Cypress reservation as well.

(laugh) Uh I don't think that it could support Indians in the way in which

they lived in the 19th century today. You know I'm not so sure that any of

them would want to live that way. But even if they did, I don't think that

they could anymore.

M: I think that'll do it.

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