C:Where did you live in 1957?
C:Did you favor or oppose tribal organization?
O:I was pretty much in favor of it.
C:Why were you chosen for the constitutional committee?
O:Before the committee was set up, I and some other people had worked and tried to get the tribe
organized. At that time, the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] had the office at Muskogee,
Oklahoma. You had to send letters to Muskogee and then to Washington, D.C. When we
did this and the word got to Washington that we wanted to get organized, they sent someone
to work with us. This person said to get a committee and they organized a committee and set
C:Why did Mr. Quinn help with organization?
O:When word got to Washington that we wanted to organize and they needed someone, they sent
Mr. Quinn because he knew how to do things like by-laws.
C:Why did the people on the Tamiami Trail refuse to join?
O:I do not know that much about it. I am reminded by what John Henry Gopher said earlier. They
had talked about getting paid for the land that the U.S. Government had taken from the
Seminoles. The Miccosukees did not like that because they said that if the government did
pay for the land, they could send them all to Oklahoma and they did not approve of that.
C:Were you selected to an office in the new tribal government?
O:Yes, I was. When we had finished the work of the organization, Rex Quinn told me, "I have
taught you some things, so now go out and talk to your people and tell them about the
constitution." The Miccosukees did not want it, but the others did. All but three opposed the
new organization. When the organization was done, they said officers were going to have to
be elected. I ran and got elected.
C:How did the BIA agent influence the tribal government?
O:Mr. Mormon was getting old in his years and was looking for retirement. It was not until Mr.
Harrington took his place, and he was a good asset, because he liked to be with Indians and
work with Indians. Whatever the Indians needed and wanted, that was what he was for. So
Mr. Harrington did a lot, but Mr. Mormon was getting [near] retirement age and that is what
he was looking for at the time.
C:Where did tribal government get its money in early years?
O:When the organization was started, we did not see everything in good light. Mr. Harrington, the
superintendent, helped. Only $60,000 came in at the time and it was not hardly enough for
tribal organizations. The constitution had said that we should give some dividends, so we
gave out a small amount of dividends. Before the organization, there had been some monies
that had been accumulated in Washington, D.C., for the tribe in the amount of $300,000.
Also, Tallahassee was to help. The superintendent, even without the money, helped out also.
C:Were council members more concerned with their own reservation or the total tribe?
O:The officers were older and they thought that all of the people in the reservation were together and
that they were to help everyone. So, they were for the whole tribe.
C:How has the tribal government been most or least successful?
O:Older people had said younger people would get in and take over. One thing I do not like is that
in the beginning we were told that Indians would help themselves. Indian feet and Indian
hands will help themselves. Indians were to go to school and return and take jobs in the
tribe. I do not think that is happening as much. I would like to see that happen more.
C:How long have you lived on this reservation?
O:About forty-seven years on the Hollywood reservation.
C:How has the reservation environment changed over the years in water level?
O:When I came to this reservation there was some deer, but the city came. We might have a
raccoon or a fox here, but very little. There are now a lot of canals. Now you have to have
water and we have a pump or city water. [The] water level has gone down. We have water
to drink in the house or around the house, but outside water as it used to be is gone.
C:What about forest cover?
O:There were a lot of trees, but they gave me work to clear the trees and I did. Now the reservation
does not have very many trees. They are non-existent.
C:What about animal life?
O:They are pretty much gone.
C:What about fish and turtles?
O:They are not around.
C:What about edible and medicinal plants?
O:When I agreed to live in a modem house, I agreed to a lot of things like not to have a garden or
have domestic things like chicken and pigs around. This is why there may not be a lot of
edible or medicinal plants around.
C:How did you make a living over the years?
O:I hunted and I trapped. I sometimes looked for alligators for their hides. I also sometimes worked
C:What about cattle herding?
O:I had always done that all of my life. I was given cattle and I still own cattle.
C:What about timber cutting?
O:I have never cut timber, but at Big Cypress one time I drove a tractor to clear land and to clear
trees, but I did not cut them.
C:What about agricultural farming work?
O:I did it one day and I did not like it and I quit. I did not like kneeling all day long and it was hard
work. That was in a tomato field on the Tamiami Trail near Ochopee.
C:What about working for the tribal government or BIA?
O:I worked for the BIA as a bulldozer operator at Big Cypress. I also worked for the Seminole tribe
as a leader.
C:What other things did you do?
O:I rented some bulldozers and did some subcontract work. Now I am retired.
C:Did you ever live in a chikee?
O:Yes, that is what I grew up in.
C:Did you learn to build one?
O:Yes, I learned to build a chikee.
C:When and why did you quit living in one?
O:When I came to Hollywood, I found that people were living in bad housing. The housing was not
that great. They were just little houses. I wanted to live in a better house, so out of my own
finances I built a two bedroom house that I moved into. The tribe later bought it from me
and made it into an office. I wanted to live in a better house and that is what I did.
C:Did your family ever provide any of their food needs by hunting, trapping or fishing?
O:My family fished [and] killed deer and birds to eat.
C:What about raising hogs and cattle?
O:I have never raised hogs, but I have raised cattle.
C:What about picking coontie or berries?
O:Yes, I used to look for coontie when I was growing up. My family looked for coontie and made
flour. Now the white people have cleared the grounds where coontie grow and there are
very little of them left.
C:What about gardening?
O:My father did that when I was young. He grew some potatoes and there were five different kinds.
We also grew sugar cane.
C:What other things did you do?
O:Near Ft. Lauderdale, we went to get gators and otter for their hides which we sold for food.
C:How did your family travel about the reservation or to town?
O:When I lived out in the Tamiami Trail, we used to take a canoe to twenty miles outside Miami and
a white man would come to pick up Indians to take them to Miami where there was an
Indian village. Indians would go in there and buy a lot of lard and rice, sometimes weighing
a hundred pounds. Now people use only cars. But back in the old days we traveled by
canoe in the water and by car on dry land.
C:Is the family unit important today for teaching youngsters how to live off the land?
G:When I was young I was told that my uncle was my teacher. He taught me how to do things.
When I erred, I was punished. Back in the old days, chikees were open. There were some
things which were stored and kids were taught not to steal anything or take anything away
even though chikees were open and things were stored in the chikees in the upper rafters.
Now, today, people steal things even in locked homes.
C:What about passing on cultural traditions and values?
G:That is good, but I am not sure about the cultural instructors around today in the tribe because they
are young and I am not sure they are adequate. People are beginning to lose their language
and they are not speaking it adequately.
C:What about maintaining discipline among the young?
G:The kids need to learn the old way to have good discipline. Kids today go to modem schools but
they do not learn these things.
C:What is the biggest environmental problem on the reservation? Solid waste disposal, drainage, or
G:Her on the Hollywood reservation they said to clean your yard. If you did, you lived in a good
place. The tribe helps those who are not able to clean their yards. Now, if there are some
people who do not clean their yards and they do not have any money to pay for it, it is not
good. Friends of the Seminoles early on said that if you go into homes you will get sick. I
know why now. If you live in a house you have to learn to clean it. If you do not clean your
house you will get sick. You can learn to live and you can teach the Indians how to live in a
C:Who do you think should take care of these problems?
G:The tribe is helping now and is the one that is supposed to do it.
C:Is the reservation a better or worse place to live today than in your youth and why?
G:There was very little back in the old days. Now I feel like the tribe has come a long way.
C:This is the end of the translation of Bill Osceola.