UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Jim Shore
Interviewer: Harry Kersey
November 20, 1990
K: This is Dr. Harry Kersey of the History Department at Florida Atlantic University.
Today I am conducting an interview with Mr. Jim Shore, general counsel to the
Seminole Tribe of Florida. The interview is being conducted in his office at
Hollywood, Florida. The date is November 20, 1990.
Mr. Shore, have Seminole water rights been satisfactorily defined by the 1989
Water Rights Compact?
S: We more or less have defined what our water rights or our role is here in south
Florida in relationship to other land owners, and I think with the population
growth and development going on, all of our natural resources are depleted or
destroyed or polluted. We only have X amount of acres to begin with-the
Seminole tribe, I mean.
Then we have to preserve and protect our natural resources wherever we can. I
think as time goes on that water is going to become an issue. It already has
become some sort of an issue now, with the drought and that sort of a thing. So
I think the agreement that we worked out with the state on the water aspects of
the compact was probably one of the more important things we have. We did
not start out with an attitude that we wanted all the water available to us, even
though the state was not all that clear on their side of negotiation. But we
realized that we have to live in this community here and work with our neighbors,
and I think with that kind of approach that we were able to negotiate this long-
range plan as far as water use.
How that will eventually end up in the future we do not know. But at least we
know where we all stand-our tribe, the South Florida Water Management
District, and the state. I guess that is the price we have to pay-if you want to
call it a price. There was a comprehensive agreement with the state and the
water management district formed [to deal with] all the little issues that may have
been lingering around. I think we had to give up six sections in order to come to
this agreement, but I think what we gave up is going to be used for conservation
by the state.
K: This was the Rotenberger tract up north or near the Rotenberger tract in Palm
S: Yes. I think one of the conditions was if it was ever developed or if it was not
kept for conservation purposes, I think the property was to revert back to us or
we would have the first option [to purchase it], or something. In the long run, our
main purpose and the idea behind the negotiation was to conserve the land. It is
kind of hard for non-Indian people to see why we do things or act the way we do.
Like I said, we only have X amount of acres to begin with, and we do not have
the luxury of selling land and buying other land if that particular land does not
suit us. You know, a big corporation or a state water management district can
buy land elsewhere or sell land if it does not suit them. We do not have that
luxury. We are stuck with what we have, so we have to more careful. I think we
have [been more careful] than the state would have been in developing their
area. If we somehow destroy our environment and natural resources on the
reservation, then we are the ones that are going to live on it and going to be
affected by it. A corporation that is only concerned about their bottom-line
profits and that lives in a downtown mansion somewhere does not have that
same concern as we do, I do not think, in trying to preserve and protect the
environment and its natural resources.
So that was our main underlying feeling and thinking going into this negotiation
with the state and the district. I think to a degree we did accomplish that, but you
cannot ever tell what is going to happen in the future. For the time being, I think
it has worked out to both the state's and the district's benefit. We all cooperated
for the first time in areas of this kind. It is just that we have little things that we
have to work out with the private land owners, the land holders, but I think
eventually we will work these things out.
K: I have read a report done for water management district by a young lady who
was looking at the politics of this, and she says there was a big turning point in
the negotiations. First of all, she quotes you as saying this tribe had always
wanted to negotiate. Was she correct in that?
K: That negotiations were what you really wanted rather than litigation?
S: Yes. I think we have a simple philosophy here in that we would start out being in
a mode to negotiate rather than any confrontational situation, because the
bottom line is simple: there are more of you than us. So it is in our best interest
that we negotiate. But then on the flip side, when the state or the district refused
to negotiate, we had no alternative but to go to litigation, so we took that
approach. We were willing to negotiate if someone was still willing to talk to us,
but we were not going to just sit there and let the state and the water
management do what they want to do around us. I think, or I guess, up until this
time they refused to acknowledge or just ignored us in their overall south Florida
water management plan. We are the large land owners in the south Florida
area, but I think they ignored us and just went ahead with their plan without ever
considering us or without asking for our input. And I think the first time that we
got their attention was when we more or less halted their first Hendry County
plan. There have been so many Hendry County plans I am not sure of the name
of the last plan.
K: The modified Hendry County plan, as it is referred to?
S: Yes. That is the only thing that got their attention.
S: But, I think, back to that negotiation mode, there are things the tribe will give up,
as far as their sovereignty. We are particularly careful on how we use our
sovereignty and how we protect it. When it is going to mutually benefit the area,
the county, the state, we would be willing to work with them. If we have to give
them a right-of-way easement, even a strip of land, we can do that. But when
you get down to water, if the state or the management district refuses to
negotiate with us, then this is something that we cannot back down from, when it
concerns water. If you are going to get us in the future, hell, we might as well
find out now whether you are going to take all the water away from us or not. If
the state and the district are going to restrict or take the water away from us,
then we are dead as a tribe and a culture. So in areas like water, it is better we
know now where we are going to stand. We will, as they say, fight to the end to
preserve our water, the resources in that area.
K: Well, I am working on an article now that I call 'The East Big Cypress Case:
Environmental Politics, Federal Law and the Reaffirmation of Tribal
Sovereignty," because I think that is what it was. Would you agree with that, that
ultimately it was a reaffirmation of your rights in this field?
S: Yes. I think at the beginning things were uncertain, and I think the state and
district, wherever they could, would have taken what they were looking for. But I
think with the resistance that we put up in the end, we all had the same goals in
mind. It is just that we had a different way of approaching [it]. In the process,
when we sold that East Big Cypress area, we sold a portion to the state; and the
others agreed to have us put in trust an Indian preserve-hunting and frogging
rights in that area. I think in the long run they became aware and were
interested in preserving whatever federal rights we have in that area. I think,
even today, we usually have a monthly meeting with the district on various things
in implementing that agreement, and we are probably at the best cooperative
level with the district now than we have ever had before,
K: It would seem so, on the surface. I think the fact that the whole thing went all the
way to Congress, as these things have to, and you got the Seminole Land Claim
Settlement Act in 1987 [is significant]. This is always interesting to my students
that Congress gets into the act, when it was really something between the state
and water management district. I keep telling them to look back to 1789 and the
Trade and Non-Intercourse Act, which still prevails. I guess the tribe's position
all along was that the state had violated that Trade and Non-Intercourse Act, the
illegal taking of the land and so forth. You never backed away from from that
position, did you?
S: No. That was one of our main bases for our arguments in this whole lawsuit to
begin with. The district and the state, in taking up the East Big Cypress,
reviewed it [the 1790 Trade and Non-Intercourse Act] in their agreement
between the state and the district, but this was never approved by the federal
government. That was one of the reasons we were into that litigation to begin
I think that the Trade and Non-Intercourse Act comes in handy sometimes, and I
think it did in this case. I think the fact that we had U.S. Congressional approval
and a presidential signature also has another advantage or plus to it. Even if we
had worked out an agreement with the district alone, it is easy to just sign out a
few things. What would happen if the tribe and the water management district
made an agreement just between the two? We always have these political
changes here in Tallahassee, and then we have a change on the governing
board, and nothing is consistent with the district as far as how they handle
certain situations. They can amend the rules and regulations. The same thing
is true with the state. If the agreement is between the tribe and the district and
the state, the same thing could happen.
What it boils down to is we did not trust the district or the state to live up to their
agreement. The people involved at that time were probably sincere, but five
years or two years down the road, after the elections, when things change, then
they start reviewing these things. Our best bet was to have everybody in the
process approve it: the district, the state, the governing board, and the U.S.
Congress. Then at least we know something is going to be long range and
consistent. This way, the district or the state cannot easily get out of it or
change their plans midstream. They would have to get Congressional approval.
K: They are locked in.
S: Yes. I think in our remedy for any violations we have a choice of going to the
state court or the federal court. I think a person not aware of our situation would
wonder why should we have two avenues to resolve our problems. But, actually,
the way we look at it is if the problem is simple enough that we can resolve it in
the state, then we will go that route. But again, back down to politics, if we get
into any administrative hearings with the state, it is going to get bogged down
and that sort of a thing. We always take our major cases [to federal court]. We
at least have better faith in the federal court system than the state.
K: I can see that. Again, in the research done for the water management district, .
the researcher, the young lady who did that, put a great emphasis on the James
Billie panther case and Timer Powers's role. From your perspective, how
important was Timer Powers in this whole negotiating process?
S: I think if it was not for Timer Powers's appearance on the scene, we be in the
long, drawn-out litigation for which western states are known. I am not sure
exactly what year we were in a stalemate.
When I was first made the general counsel in 1983, I believe, this case had
been lingering around. So when I came into this office, [I tried to bring about a
K: The case was filed in federal court in 1978.
S: So this was one of the things I wanted to clean up, one way or the other. I think
we had some series of negotiations with the state, but I am not sure exactly what
At one last-ditch effort meeting in Tallahassee, the state more or less did not
negotiate with us, or they wanted to negotiate with us in bad faith, and more or
less ignored us. [It was] just their subtle way of telling us to go to hell. And I
think at that point we were ready to go to court on this thing. I do not know
exactly how Timer Powers was appointed. I think he was an at-large member on
that governing board, the South Florida Water Management Governing Board.
I do not know who appointed him or assigned him, but we got a call one time
saying they wanted to come down here and meet. We had heard that story
before: "Let us talk." We knew it was just a delaying thing. But like I said, in
case there is a chance, we are always willing to talk if someone wants to talk.
He and [John] "Woody" Wodraska, the executive director and their general
counsel at that time, Marty Swartz or something, ...
K: This was before [Steve] Walker [water management district attorney]?
S: Yes. They all came here, and Jerry Straus and I met with them and Timer
Powers. You know, that is the first time I ever met him. He wanted to keep
things going and talking at that time, so we agreed to meet again and talk again.
I think that is how things kept going until we developed some kind of a mutual
trust or understanding between the district and the tribe, and then the state later
But Timer Powers's style has always been, "As long you have got the parties
talking, you are going to resolve something." I think there were times when all
the talks broke off and had chances of not going further, but he was like your
show man here between the tribe and the district and the state. I know when
things were not going that well he would come visit us on his own, separately, to
try to keep things moving, negotiating. I think if it was not for him, this thing
probably would have never gotten to where it is now.
K: That is interesting. Again, in this research piece for the water management
district, some emphasis was placed, as I said, on the James Billie trial, and then
Powers tried to help out on that some. Was that really all that important, though,
or does this just show more good faith on his part?
S: I think, at that time, the James Billie trial was going on and we had started
negotiations here, and I think there was not much good faith on anybody's part.
I think, again, when we are negotiating an overall scheme of things, the state
and federal government were trying to try the chairman of the tribe for killing a
panther. And then, on the other hand, the same federal government, the state
agency, was trying to work out a water management district.
Actually, we probably put Timer Powers on a spot and in the middle, but, hell, we
knew he would survive. I think at one time we went down to federal court. I am
not sure exactly what it was on James Billie case. It did not sound too good. So
we would tell Timer Powers, "Why the hell do I need to negotiate with the state
when we are not getting anywhere on the panther trial?" Then he would zip
back and forth and this and that and whatever. But actually, it did not have that
much effect on overall negotiations, but it was just establishing the attitude of the
state. Here they were trying to convict the chairman on one hand and were
trying to negotiate a deal with him on the water rights on the other. Something
just was not consistent there. So that is where Timer Powers had a hand in
getting people in line and keeping things in order.
K: How about Straus as a negotiator? I know of his legal expertise, but I got the
impression he sort of played the role of mediator, on the other side of the table,
on the Seminole side of the table. He was trying to keep the dialogue going, I
guess is a way of putting it. At least with the water management district research
he seemed to play a similar role. It sort of calmed the hotter heads on the other
S: I think again, as far as negotiation goes, people have various styles on how to
negotiate. Like I said, when I became a general counsel, this was one of the
things I wanted to clean up. I knew that the Jerry Straus people were involved,
so when we got this whole issue-revived again, Straus happened to be in charge
of it. I think working with him on a couple things here and there, I now
understand how he operates. Or better yet, since the tribe is paying his bills and
he has going to have to deal with me, he knows how I operate and how the tribe
thinks. But his style of negotiation ... It always pays to know what you are
talking about, to know your laws and whatever, and I think with him, just as well
as anyone out West, he knew the law and the water rights, and he knew he was
not around. So there were gray areas that no one knew about, but he, with his
experience across the country and with other states and other tribes added a lot
to our negotiation with the state.
I think that when he had to be he could be firm. A lot of times we had a three-
corner negotiation-state, district, and tribe. So it was important to keep things
on kind of an even keel, and I think that was one of his great assets. He was
able to talk to these people and be firm without actually getting them hostile or
mad at us. At the same time, when I felt like they were not negotiating on good
faith, or after things got going good, it would start to slow down because they
would take interest in other areas. I would send a message to Straus: 'The tribe
is tired of waiting here. Let us see what they are doing." He would deliver the
message not only as our negotiator, but he was always delivering little
messages from us to the state and district on how the tribe's feeling was on the
On the tribe side we had a more up-to-date tribal feeling on the whole
negotiations than the state or the district people did with their constituency,
because at every stage of the game we kept the tribe and the community,
whenever possible, updated on the situation. So when we felt like things were
not moving, they were suspicious. The community has always been leery of any
negotiation with the state anyhow.
K: Yes. [Laughter]
S: That was one of our difficult tasks there. We knew we had to work out
something with the state, but the community had heard these things before. If
these things were worked out and handled right, the chairman felt like it would
be beneficial to everybody concerned. That is why we had to keep the
community involved on a more frequent basis than we normally would, because
if something screwed up, then right away they would have told us, 'That is what
we told you before. You can never work out anything with the state," and that
sort of a thing.
Here, even in this new agreement, there is something new for the tribe. And I
think, like I said, they are willing to negotiate. They know they are part of this
community. So this was also an example not so much of trust in non-Indians,
but, like I said, it is better if you can get the agreement [to work] all the way up to
the U.S. Congress. [By getting Congress to act, it is a protection for the tribe.]
On Straus's style, I have seen him work with Buddy Blaine, and I had him work
on this Indian Gaming Association with other attorneys, and he just has the
knack to fit himself in where the negotiations are difficult.
K: Do they still represent the tribe in any way, now that the water compact is done
and the bill is past Congress?
S: Yes. They still come down. Jerry Straus comes down here for a monthly
meeting with the district.
K: OK. So they are still involved?
K: I did not know whether the attorneys worked on a contingency basis or on a
S: It was just a straight contract, on an hourly basis.
K: Yes, right. Well, that is interesting. One last question on this particular
[incident], and I will not take any more of your time. I was interested in both the
1982 law affecting the Miccosukees and in the 1987 law [regarding the]
settlement act, bingo, tax-free sales and cigarettes and so forth [which] were
prohibited in what had been the state reservation. Do you consider, in any
negative aspect, that for the tribe-granted, it is an isolated area-there may
come a time when some enterprise might want to go out there? Is that, in any
way, a violation of Seminole sovereignty?
S: I do not think so. At the time, we were dealing with the laws at hand on bingo.
With this new federal Indian Gaming Commission that is about to be set up, this
may supersede all existing state laws on bingo. So, dealing with what we had at
hand, we still think the state [was concerned about control]. I do not know why
they came out with the prohibition against cigarettes or bingo in that area. If that
is their only concern about us, then either they do not think too much of us or
We are in that remote area, like you said. They want to prohibit bingo and
cigarettes, but I think we are willing to agree to it in order to take that fifteen
sections into trust [fifteen sections of land that are now held in trust by the
federal government as a reservation for the Seminoles], so it was kind of a give
and take. I am not sure how this new Indian commission is going to develop
their own rules and regulations under that federal regulatory gaming act. That
still remains to be seen, how that is going to work out there.
K: Well, I think you have answered all of my questions. I will get this typed up and
send you a copy for your editing, and you can delete anything you want, and
then we will, with your permission, put it at the University of Florida in their oral
S: All right.
K: I will use some of it, and of course you will get the right to see it all, and edit it in
any way you wish before we do the final copy. So, thank you very much. I
appreciate the interview.