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Interviewee: Buffalo Tiger
Interviewer: Harry Kersey
SEM 215


K: Today is October 8, 1998. This is Dr. Harry Kersey [of] Florida Atlantic

University. Today I am interviewing Mr. Buffalo Tiger. [This is] another tape in

the series we are doing on his life and experiences. Mr. Tiger, in 1954, there

was a hearing in Washington, part of the so called termination hearings. The

Seminoles sent up a delegation and the Miccosukees sent up a delegation.

Who went and what were you trying to accomplish there?

T: We already trying to work with Eisenhower [Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S.

President, 1953-1961]. He was president at that time. Not really work with him,

but we want him to understand our feelings. So we wanted to make sure they

understand and government and Washington. So I didn't have an

easy job. We found out we have to go to Washington, but before that I have to

get some type of help, like lawyer who understand that type of business.

Because between me and fifty young guys [we] not know too much of anything.

As a matter of fact, I don't even know anyone in Indian Affairs in Washington.

But our leaders, the older people we call medicine mans, they have select us to

go up there and make sure nothing happen with us. Other words, we not asking

anything. We not telling the government what we want. We don't want anything

from them. That is my job to let them know we are not too concerned about

education and welfare and all the things the tribal reservation people usually








Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

it and work with it. We did not have a reservation, we never want it.

We don't really care about that type of life at that particular time. The medicine

man select me to speak for them. They so particular about not taking anything

from white man, not even ten cents and I should always go back and ask them,

this is what Washington, or government want us to do. If they say yes, we can

do it, then I will say yes. Other words, I was avoiding office. So this

particular time when the termination supposed to be taking place in Washington,

we don't really know what it is. The lawyer is Morton Silver. He is a Jewish

young man and he happens to be attorney. He trying to explain to us what does

it means. But look like we have to go and we didn't have any type of funds for

that type of business. However, the people do get enough money for us to buy

tickets for the train. Everybody put a couple of dollars here and there. We had

enough to send people up there and had enough for food and hotel room. That

particular time it was cold in D.C., but I went and Jimmy Billie went. George

Osceola, he's the elder man, he was barefooted and he wear a long skirt and we

went just like we are here. Anyhow, the three of us and Morton Silver, four of us

all together, and we went up there on a train, spent a couple of days there.

Meantime we have talked to many, many reporters and different people, but we

try to bring a message to Eisenhower. My elder people, medicine people tell me

to tell Eisenhower, we don't really care what he's got. We don't want anything

from them. We just want to live our life and we want to live the land we live on it.









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

We hunt and we find the food the way we always [have] and that's the kind of life

we want. We don't want any different from anything else. New ideas, we don't

want that. So that's what make us want to go up there and when we got there,

it's something different. But we realize what it was. Reservation people happen

to be there, like Seminole tribes and other leaders. Lot of Indian people are

there and some attorneys from different tribes and some of the senators are

there. We recognize they're from the state of Florida.

K: Senator Smathers [George A. Smathers, U.S. Senator, 1951-1969].

T: Senator Smathers and Congressman Haley [James Haley, U.S. Representative

and chairman of House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 1952-1977] were there.

And they kind of sympathize with us because so far we all get along good down

here. We never cause any problem for nobody. So they kind of respect us to

come and be there. But they don't know why we were there, just like we didn't

know why we got there. But once we get there we realize that it was a good

thing we come up. But when we testified at that particular subject, what the

president want us to do, we didn't either accept the ideas or reject it. We just

say we don't want anything from white man. I guess that did it. So the senators in

congress who were in charge of the committees and all that agreed. They

thought maybe they just going to have to let it go. They're not gonna push that.

K: The Buckskin Declaration [please explain], did you pick that out, did you draw

it up?









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

T: Buckskin Declaration, we have yes. And then we took it up and we give them to

some particular person there, I believe. He want to take it.

K: A fellow named Kelly.

T: Somebody, he's a big guy, nice man. And we give it to him and we tell him, we

explain to him what exactly it means. They can read it. What this said exactly

[is] that we didn't want anything from anybody. I wish I had a copy of that. I

used to have one, but everything I have is burnt out. So I don't have them. After

that, we feel like we accomplish something, so we didn't feel bad when we come

home. But the whole situations on Miccosukees at that particular time. Maybe a

year earlier, down here in the Everglades, when my people, in particular older

folks, [were] upset about too many people trying to force themself on the Indian

villages, like they want to find out how they live and what they eat and what they

do and that type [of thing]. They happen to be the Freshwater Game

Commissions, they're doing that and some other law enforcement, those

But I believe the experience we have [with] the Freshwater Game

Commissions was the worse we had. Because they trying to stop us from eating

the garfish and mudfish and other fish we usually eat. So we got together with

our people, I guess I can say at least fifteen Miccosukees and Bob Mitchell

[Robert Mitchell, president of Seminole Indian Association and longtime friend of

the Miccosukees], he happen to be living in Orlando at that time. He has a place

for us to stay and [he said to] come on up and let's do something about it. So we









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

come up and he arrange it for us to meet the of Orlando, city people in

government, mayors and others and all have elections in that time. So we got in

there at that time and everybody come to us and newspapers and radio and all

that. They want us to call Tallahassee and talk to the governor and we call him

and the governor not there, but the governor's aide happened to be there. He

was nice. He just say, we just gonna have to stop that. They just can't do that to

you people. You been doing this years now. Later, we found that everything is

straightened out because they never bother us no more for that. That goes on,

but we have other problems, too. Don't have to be just the white government

doing something to us. Maybe they are, but to Indians [on the] reservations,

Hollywood Reservation, Dania, and Big Cypress and Brighton, those are

establish reservation and we did not have any reservation down here. We

thought that the land we were hunting and we live on it many, many years

belonged to us. They organized themselves in 1965.

K: The Seminoles?

T: Yes.

K: 1957.

T: Yeah, that's when they organized themself and got constitution and bylaws and

approved by government. Then they want us to come in with them and our

people still say no. But they have threat some people like my cousin. I hate to

say this, but Mack Osceola wants to be a representative from here. So he got









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

himself elected up there in Hollywood. He's supposed to be representing us up

there. We're still fighting. We did not want to go to be with the Seminole tribe.

You have to recognize at this particular time, we meet so many times some

people from Okeechobee, like St. John's and and all those medicine

people, come down and a good friend to them, they all get together.

They are medicine mens anyhow. So they are talking about what right they have

up there, what right we have down here. And they recognize the two had always

been that way. We always have different language and we always eat different

type of food and all that. They didn't see no problem there or for us not to be

belong to that tribe. But as I say, we don't have many much experience like we

have today. We could have done something different that particular time I

guess, but we did not do it. We just fight them to tell them, the government and

Bureau of Indian Affairs, we don't belong to that Seminole tribes.

K: They had another meeting out at your brother Jimmy's camp. The next year the

senators and the congressman came down here. Do you recall that?

T: Yes.

K: Did you essentially tell them the same thing that you had told them in

Washington?

T: That meeting, it was a little bit different. While we doing all this, we trying to stay

away from Seminole tribes. We don't want to be part of the Seminole tribes.

Then people still trying to get us involved in the Seminole tribes, and then we









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

start doing different things like we wanted to be away from that and then we start

moving around like we used to go in Washington, different places, trying to tell

other nations. The only other place we didn't go is Russian embassy. But

numbers of countries recognize we have a problem there. Mexico has

recognized our problems and France recognized our problems, too. Then later,

the Cubans seems to be recognize our problem, too.

K: Whose idea was it to go to Cuba?

T: It's not the same. What happened is I'm talking to you what happened when the

Creeks St. John's are coming down talking to us, lot of talking. What

happened years ago, what type of people were here, like France were here,

British were here, the Spanish were here, and all those things didn't come out.

They know at that time, pretty much. And they say we have signed a treaty with

people, the British and Spanish. That's what Morton Silver supposed to be

finding. We find them, it take a long time. We find the treaties, but I think we

managed to find some of them in Spain. And I think some of it come from

England. So we had them and realize it then, we be treat O.K. that time. So we

want to get help from them. That's how we started. When we start doing that,

we got involved, like Cuban, with different people. We just sit here today and

that kind of stuff not so important, but years ago, let's say about the 1950s and

1960s, the communism, it's a big deal, it's like poison. So that's what people

start calling Morton Silver and some of the lawyers we work with, and then we









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

got to be called that communist, too. We don't care because we know what we

talking about anyhow. But when that kinda thing come up, things get little tough.

Other words, we start rolling a little bit. We getting bigger, we have more power.

Newspaper and news, everybody seems to know now. Then, Mort Silver says,

I'm not getting paid. He never got paid, and I never got paid. But he says, that's

alright. Maybe one day you'll get your land back, then maybe you can share

piece of it to me. He did, I think he did in writing and then next one, this

congressman and senators, special committee, come down investigating with

James Haley. They think we mixed up with the communists and Morton Silver is

the one who put us into that, and he wants to go ahead put the reservation in

our name. He wants to get that piece of land, get paid for that. So that's why

they coming down and investigate us, but when they come down here, we told

them, exactly like we said it over and over and over, we're not Seminoles. We

live down here. We live different life and we don't want anything from nobody.

But this is the way it is in the glades. It's where we live, we always live that way,

we want that life. But I think at that particular time, some of the congressmen

are pretty hard with us, because some of the white folks stood up for us, trying to

help us out. They kind of antagonize those people, and the straw was back and

forth. I think our tribe, we never get upset about it. But you know how senators

and congressmen blast you.

K: So the going to Cuba was not the first thing you had done.









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

T: No, they we went to Cuba. All the work we did, it never problem we

have with state of Florida. We did have attorney work with us, too, but when

Governor Collins [LeRoy Collins, governor of Florida, 1955-1961] got control of

Florida, he have set up a hatch committee, they call it, to investigate the

Seminoles and Miccosukees again.

K: Is that hatch?

T: Hatch committee they call it. Just a committee investigate the kooks here and

there and there. That's what they say. Do you remember his name, the

gentleman who used to live in West Palm Beach up in there somewhere?

K: Capron? Louis Capron? [anthropologist who studied Seminoles and wrote

various articles for National Geographic]

T: Louis Capron, yes. He was on committee. I have information on the man, what

they found. If you don't have any papers, I have them somewhere. But anyhow,

they did that to us, too. But then, there, I think those people never say anything

about me, individually. They just talking about groups. But they

too. They say Miccosukees are separate from Seminoles. Then they have they

own life and they should be treated that way anyway. To me, it was not bad, but

Morton Silver think it's because they are not working with us, it's not good. I

agree with them in that way.

K: Collins did not want to treat you as a separate group, as I recall. Governor

Collins wanted everybody to be together.









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

T: I think it's politics. I'm not sure if he was Republican or Democratic.

K: He was a Democrat.

T: But he did say he would like to set up reservation land in the glades for the

Miccosukees, but the Indian Commission turn it down. Glenn Emmons [U.S.

Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Eisenhower administration], Indian Commission.

He did say he couldn't do that because President Truman is going to try to

terminate the reservations, so he would be working against him, so they wouldn't

do that. That's what happened.

Break in tape.

T: What happened around 1951 or 1952, the Sam Jones [identify

please], those people upset about Ingraham Billie and medicine people upset

about it. The Seminoles, before they organize, have a constitution bylaw. They

want to go ahead and sue the United States [for] some payment. That did it.

When Seminole people trying to get money from U.S. government and our

people say, it's not supposed to be done that way. This land not for sale for no

kind money. We supposed to be here, we not selling it. We gonna live on it and

we gonna work, do what we have to do, just to keep it the way it is. Seminoles

not recognized at that particular time. They had no right to file a suit against the

United States. That's what Morton Silver said to them. But they did, and that's

why Sam Jones and other people are upset about it, because they don't

want to do that. But their people did it. And that's why the battle start between


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

Seminole people and Miccosukee. It's not really government itself doing it.

K: I want to change topics and talk about the writing of the tribal constitution back in

1961. Who came down to work with you in putting the constitution together?

Was that still Reg Miller [Reginald Miller, Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal

specialist, 1950s], or did Rex Quinn [Bureau of Indian Affairs, government

officer, 1950s ] come down to help?

T: A gentleman named Rex Quinn. Constitution we talking about, we really don't

know too much about it. What does it mean? Reginald Miller have suggested

that we have to have constitution bylaws so we would organized under that. The

Bureau for Indian Affairs for the United States would recognize that so you be

away from Seminole tribes and not only that, but that you are another tribe. So

we did that, let me tell you how we did it. As I said now, it's not easy. First, we

have to select members from our people, whose going to be on committee. I

happen to be one, and my brother Jimmy Tiger, John and I believe

Billie, I think he was there. John Billie was there. I believe that

George Osceola was there, too. We understand the constitution is going to

protect our people and the way we live. He pointed out to us that there's so

many ways we can do it. He wants to know, you want to go ahead and detail

everything you planning to do. I have talked to my committee and they says,

what do you think? I say, I don't think we need all of it. We're gonna grow.

We're little tribes. We do what we can with it now and maybe we can add it on









Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

later. So he says, you want it like frame for the constitution and you want to add

some meat and fat layer. I says, yes, I think it's better idea. We just finish now

and later we have to change so much, so we don't want to do that. We just go

ahead and take what we've got, what we're gonna make, and we do changes

later. You can do that. So start working in that way, and he did ask so many

questions, which you had to go over it a lot. Let's take the business council. We

can have the tribal council running the tribe, and the business council would run

the business. We say, not really, we don't want to go that way, because we're

such a small tribe and we have the two sets of power there, and it's not going to

work for us. So let's go ahead and keep the business council acting as business

and tribal people, like Green Corn Dance and all that would be left out. So let

the business council run the business and run the tribe, the reservation and all

that. But as far as the religious practice and all that, should be left out, so those

people run it they want to see it run.

K: So all the people served as a general council, not an elected council.

T: Exactly. That should be that way. And he thought that be O.K. Then they start

asking the other things about when you organize yourself, live on reservations,

what do you like to have on reservation as a law? So many laws. What are you

gonna do with those laws? We talking about that, too. We talking about not

having experience with what we have today. We had a simple life we live that

time and the only life we know. They did say to us, sooner or later, you'll be


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

running into some problems. We are today, so you have to put something in it

and how you'll protect your people in the reservation. So we did do what we

have to do at that time, knowing we are gonna make some changes. Everything

we're talking about at that time, it's possible we might have to add more, we call

it meat. Frame's already done, so we just add whatever we want to make it

better, so we could do it. But they were asking more like, do you want alcohol on

reservation? We says, no. Alcohol don't have to be on reservation. You want

gambling on your reservation? My people say, no gambling. I'm talking about

gambling Sometimes they say some tribes do different things, like

it or not, but some tribes want it that way. So they do that. Like the girls want to

sell themselves on reservation. We say no, it's not gonna happen. So many

things they have suggested that my people say no. One thing I remember, we

did not agree to have state law step in to take care of our problem. It's never

happen. Talking about state or federal. If any reservation problems, federal

would be looking after the people and investigate our people on reservation and

then health and all that. But one big thing, I thought and we thought, we know

some of these people in charge of Green Corn Dance and we have medicine

man. We know they want to practice the way they always [have]. So that's why

we like them to be not included with that. Our people belong and have to

practice what they have to practice, but business council have nothing to do with

that. In other words, they can't say, we're here to take care of this for you. They


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

cannot do that, unless their people have their celebration or whatever they call it.

They be the one to take care of that.

K: What was the idea behind requiring membership from the four major clans be

present before business could be conducted?

T: We did it. Because that's the way we always run in there. We always running

our affairs. That's the way it is in the corn dance, wherever we go, that's the part

I like, so that have to be there. Today we're kind of glad that's the way it is.

Another problem we run into, suggesting how we gonna handle in case some

people go outside marriage then different type of people. How we gonna handle

it? We had little before, good for that job, so he have

suggested to us, this usually happen this way. So we fish around and knowing

what we need to say. In this particular time, we are talking about marriage,

outside marriage, and how the youngsters remember. They have it easy. We

can only go just half blood, no less, just half blood would be accepted. But

either husband family half blood can come in, either wife, child if it's half blood,

can come in our tribes, but like another tribes, come from other places, can be

half. Let's say they're two Seminoles. Even though it look like it belongs to us,

the Seminoles maybe they are speaking Miccosukee, they sound like the

Miccosukee people. But today, I see that they belong to the Seminole tribe. We

have to treat them like where they belong, so they're not qualified. Well, we are.

It's not really fair, but that's the way the constitution is already drawn up. Only


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

have to be Miccosukee members, half blood. Could be black, could be Spanish,

could be anybody, have to be half Miccosukee blood. We have a problem with it

now, but we still practice the way we always from the beginning. Now, as far as

having the rules, what Miccosukee people must do on reservations, we did not

indicate it too much, because it's gonna come next. I know one day maybe we

have to have an extra councilman run affairs for the whole thing, not a business

council, but have their own council people from the traditional type of area there.

We did check that, we left it out, but one day when we're getting ready to start

this we need it, otherwise we going to where we are now. But I see

that sometimes I feel like they needed something that don't have to be the

powerful people.

K: For the traditional people you are talking about.

T: Right. Keeping language and culture and all that. They need to spend more

time. But we left it out. But someday maybe we'll be talking about it.

K: What was the function of the Lawgiver?

T: We talking about Lawmaker, right?

K: Yes.

T: We have traditional way, too, but it's different in the constitution. [In] the

constitution only that particular person will be selected like that, only good for

during the meeting. He is controlling people during the meeting. You're out of

line, get back in that line. Or we talking about something else. He be standing


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

half drunk, he be running his mouth making too much noise. He'll be kicked out.

K: He is sort of what we would call a sergeant-at-arms.

T: That's what it is. That's what I have to tell people all the time. This person we

have in that, that's the way they look at it, but it's not the way it's meant. So I'm

gonna have to let them know a little more and they're only during the meeting.

He be the one controlling people who goes out of line and trying to get them

back in the line. That seems to be a little problem now, too, so we have to make

some corrections.

K: From what you are telling me it sounds like you were trying to have what we

would call a minimal government.

T: Exactly.

K: Just enough to function, but not enough to be oppressive.

T: I think it's good enough for that particular time and knowing we not experiencing

the white man's way. In 1952-1954 we are using our own traditional way and we

always use that way. They still use today, but we not using like stronger, and I

don't think business council has the power to do that either. So I been

that maybe we need to look at it. Today look like we might need

something stronger in trying to control what's going on here now. Like I'm just

finish saying, we're not supposed to have gambling on reservations. Situation

we're in now, even though the reservation that we have now, but it's for that.

The setup is strictly for that, not the people's reservation. They look like it's a


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

business reservation. That's what we have now. But it's nobody

ever say that.

K: Are you talking about the reservation out at Forty Miles, or the one further back

here where the gambling is?

T: I'm talking about gambling place, it's different. I know that, so I fill in the

We have to take that out and put it somewhere else. Because we

said we're not going to have it on reservation. Not only that, we feel like that all

the things that people believe in, I'm talking about traditional people. They'll be

lost so quickly when so many people come, spend their money and have a good

time and enjoy themselves. It will kill the culture we have, right away. So I said,

let's think of that and put it somewhere else. So it's that way, but we never say

why. Only thing I say why, and I don't think many people believe me, so that's

the way I see it.

K: Keep it away from the people, keep the business separated.

T: Right.

K: Has the constitution had any major amendments, any major changes?

T: Since we adopted it?

K: Yes.

T: Some, I'm not sure exactly what changes they made. We didn't have much

when I was in the office. Do you know any more important changes they're

making to the constitution?


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

K: For example, do they still have to have the clans represented to conduct

business at the general council meetings?

T: Yes.

K: O.K, that has not been changed. How about the age for voting?

?: Unknown person [please identify this person]: The constitution has not

changed. There might be ordinances adopted to it, but the constitution has not

changed. I spoke to because we are meeting about tribal

membership, and an ordinance adopted for it, and he said, we can,

with the ordinance that we have, we can always come to a meeting and override

anything in it.

K: O.K, so the constitution has not been changed, or the bylaws, but you have a lot

of ordinances. Let me go back to Rex Quinn. Rex Quinn helped the Seminoles

write their constitution in 1957 and he came down to help you in 1961. A lot of

questions were raised about the unusual structure that the Seminoles have with

their board of directors and their elected tribal council. They are the only tribe in

the country that separated the business function from the tribal council at that

time. Some people had told me that was Rex Quinn's suggestion. Rex Quinn

says that he took just what the people wanted. How did you find Rex Quinn?

Did he push things, or did he really go with what you wanted?

End of Side 1.

T: ... and you just have to decide what you wanted to go with, and you have ideas


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

you own. He helped me, so he was rather open, and he's not forceful. He's

really want to do something, but let me tell you, constitution we have, to me it's

the best anybody can have. I can say that because we have looked at it so

many times. We can change it, we can add it, but people right now, they don't

want to make any changes, yet. Maybe one day it will, but only things I say, and

we say that during that time, that maybe we need to have two sets, like the

traditional people have their own setup.

K: [unintelligible]

T: So we did say that. And I still, today I see we need that.

K: Let's go back to the time when you and the others had decided to go ahead with

this constitution. You have told me that there was great reluctance on your part,

and other people, the traditional people, to do this. Could you talk about that a

little bit?

T: The reason I believe we always feel that way because we taught not to work with

the U.S. government on those things. And we learn, we grow up with it, and we

know and feel like we doing something wrong when we sit down, just like I'm

talking to you about something. But it's worse when you work with the U.S.

government, particularly back in the 1950s. So you feel like you give yourself

away and you give away some of the things you taught not to do that. It's the

only thing we had a problem with. Just like I think I said over, and over, and

over, to people. We told them not to set up a reservation, don't think about


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

having a reservation, don't live on reservation. Right now people thinking that

we should have reservation to survive. That's what people are thinking. And

some traditional people still out there, some people don't want the reservation.

But, here they are. I believe they might have to pay some taxes, property taxes,

things like that. I don't know what is the best thing for the people. But having a

reservation, if you know what you're doing, for government say, this is your

reservation, people know exactly what that reservation means. To us, they take

away from you, other land that belong to you. You have no right. You go

outside the reservation, you have to buy, you have to pay tax, you gotta do this

and this and this, white man's way. On reservation it's not that force on us. So

that it seems to be second step, a trinket we have to take to try to convince our

people, because they are against, particularly traditional people I work with, they

were so against anything reservation. I had a hard time trying to help them to

learn little more, little more flexible, so we can have some reservations. But they

didn't want that. In the long run, you'll find them on all of our reservations. I

guess, and our judgement might be pretty bad that time. We thought maybe

we're making a big mistake, but I think, to me, we did right. Because like it or

not, but you find your elders tell you not to do those things, the same ones end

up on the reservations. So I don't know if they realize what they doing, but it's

happen. So with me, I always tell my people, we always thought, not be on

reservation, not to take anything from the white man because they always turn


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215

around and say, I give you this, now I want whole thing. Like we talking about

the payment that the United States took away from the Seminoles and

Miccosukees reservations year before. The Seminole tribe wanting to get

payment from them and we didn't like them because they doing that. We not

looking at that particular reservation. We been taught, they give you so much

dollar. Not very much. But they're gonna take all the land away from you by

right, not your [?] paying you, we're not taking money. But if we take a money,

then they write down your name and they file it. And then they already pay you

off later. Not that particular reservation, but the whole state of Florida. That's

what we taught, be careful with it. And it's true. So that's what Seminoles did.

That's why we get not like them for long time, and we still think that it's wrong.

We still not supposed to be taking that money. I think our share is still in a trust

fund somewhere. So we keep telling the people not to take that money. People

looking at us today, we not conquered yet, just because we never accept that

money, we're not going to do that. But one day, we taught too, people will take it

and spend it and they'll be That's what he's talking about, attorney,

Mr. He realize that it's there.

K: The money is still in trust. Well, if money is still in trust for Miccosukee and for

the independent people, it has not been spent, a dime of it, yet. I think for today,

that gives me a lot of information to work with, so I thank you very much.

End of interview.


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Buffalo Tiger, SEM 215


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