Title: Paul Douglas Buster
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H: Today, April 14, 1999, with Paul Buster. Paul, to what clan do you belong?

B: Otter.

H: When and where were you born?

B: I was born on January 17, 1950, here at Big Cypress reservation.

H: What is your Miccosukee name?

B: I do not have one. Maybe Cowbone.

H: Cowbone? Who named you that, and why was that name chosen?

B: I got it from my dad. He used to spend a lot of time at a place called Cowbone,

probably about ten miles west of here. He did a lot of cowboying out there. Back

in those days, we did not have any modern irrigation. When it was dry, it was

dry. When it was wet, it was wet. There were times when animals, cows, would

die out there. From that, I think, they got the name Cowbone. I finally got it. I

named my music, or my band, Cowbone.

H: Do you prefer using one name or the other?

B: Not necessarily. I really do not prefer it or anything. I am Paul. If somebody

wants to call me Paul, that is fine. That is my name. But, a lot of people call me

Cowbone, too.

H: Okay. Have you always lived on the reservation?

B: Pretty much of my life.

H: There are some people who live on the reservation and work in the city or vice

versa. What do you think of that lifestyle?

B: I think we have an avenue with the world when we do that, that we understand a

little bit better how this world is turning and, in so doing, we can accommodate

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some of the things in our lives as Native Americans being isolating here on the

reservation, but we can also understand the life that the world has to offer on the

outside of the reservation. I think it works both ways, an advantage for Native


H: What do you know about Seminole history?

B: I do know that there were more clans 200 years ago. I think it has dwindled

down to about seven or eight now.

H: What are those clans?

B: Bear, Deer, Otter, Wind, Snake, Panther, Big Town. I may be missing one.

H: Bird?

B: Yes, Bird.

H: What else do you know about Seminole history?

B: Back in those days, 100, 200 years ago, most of the livelihood for the Seminole

Indians was farming, maybe not on a big scale or anything, but farming or

gardening around the villages and living off of the land. Also, the women were

gatherers, pretty much like anyone else, I guess, in this world. The men were

mostly providers, hunters, and minded their own business of livelihood. Their

traditions and customs in the family or in the village, pretty much of the time, the

shaman or the leader, the head man, would make decisions about what is to take

place, if he had a son or a daughter who was old enough to be given away in

marriage, things like that. In marriages, the same clan does not intermarry in the

traditions and the customs. Therefore, if the girl had to get married, she had to

marry from a different clan and from a different clan that she was not really

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related to, because there are different clans that can be cousins, related to one

another, depending on the father and the mother. So, it had to be sorted out, to

make sure that there was no close intermarriage with the clans.

H: Has that changed today?

B: I think so. It is not necessarily that the tradition has changed. It is just the people

who have changed. In this modern world today, there are really no traditional

teachings in homes, stories are not being told like they used to be. One thing

that is making it hard for us to communicate with our children is that we live in

modern houses now, bedrooms, living rooms, stereos in the rooms. Back in the

days of chickees, villages, children would gather around, and there was no

partitions of walls or anything. Everyone could hear what was going on, what

was being told. Discipline was taught, pretty strict. Today it is entirely different.

Some of our children do not even speak Miccosukee. So, it is different today.

H: Do you know anything about the Seminole wars or the prominent thinkers in

Seminole history?

B: Just the ones that we mostly hear of, like Osceola, Micanopy, Wildcat, Alligator,

those kind of people. My grandfather never really told me the names of those

people, but my grandfather=s father, my great grandfather, Jack Buster, I think

he came from around that era, at the time, maybe at the end of the Seminole

wars. He knew a lot about what took place and what had happened and how we

had to go about in surviving from the U. S. government. One of the things that

we had to do was resort to the swamp lands of the southeastern part of the

United States so that we could survive.

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H: What is your primary occupation?

B: Probably music. Something to do with music, sound systems, and things like

that. I did work for the Seminole Tribe a couple of times. I was working as a

paramedic with the Tribe before and also in land irrigation management for about

ten years. I am just kind of neutral right now.

H: Tell me a little bit about your music and your band and how often you play.

B: My music got into me, I guess, from my dad. From the 1940s and 1950s, we

used to listen to Grand Ole Opry from Nashville every weekend, and I kind of

picked that up. My dad, in his own right, was a guitar player and sang some

songs. I kind of picked it up from there, and I listened to him. Eventually, I

started writing my own music, my own songs.

H: Where do you play?

B: Just about anywhere I can get a chance to play. That is where I=11 be.

H: What instrument do you play?

B: I play mostly a guitar. I play bass guitar, a little bit of drums. I kind of squeal a

fiddle every now and then, but I am not to good at it. I play a mandolin, but

mostly a guitar, a six-string guitar.

H: What schools have you attended?

B: I went to Clewiston high school for my high school, and I eventually got my

correspondence or, what do they call it, equivalent high school. Then, from

there, I went to Baptist Theological College in Graceville, Florida. That is in the

panhandle area, about an hour or so from Tallahassee. From there, I came back

home. In recent years, about three or four years, I have been attending a couple

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of courses here and there at Broward Community College. I might do that again,

maybe in the summer or in the fall.

H: What kind of courses have you been taking?

B: Mostly courses that will give me some kind of degree, maybe Liberal Arts. I think

I am about halfway to reaching that point. I would still like to get into an art

school where they teach sound systems and things like that.

H: Did you ever attend any boarding schools?

B: No, I never have.

H: What about your primary school education? Where did you get that? You

mentioned you went to Clewiston high school, but before that?

B: I went to school here, on the reservation, one little room, one little old wooden

house. There were, I guess, first grade through fourth or fifth grade, something

like that. It was just one room, one teacher. We had most of our activities in that

one-little-room schoolhouse. We had lunches in there. We had different things

in there, except during recess we would go out. That is where I got my start in

education. I think I was a little bit older when I started school, too. I was

probably seven or eight years old, something like that.

H: What were your parents= attitudes about you attending the white school at


B: They were a good support to me. They knew that education was important, both

my mom and dad. My mom never had a proper, or any kind of modern

education. My dad did have some education in school. He could read and write.

My mom eventually learned how to write, especially her name.

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H: What were their occupations?

B: My mom was a home keeper, kept the fires burning, and my dad, most of the

time, would work for the road constructions provided by the Bureau of Indian

Affairs. My mom=s occupation was keeping the home. She did pretty much of

the discipline and teaching on me, too. I thank God for her, that she did. Dad

was kind of tough, too, on discipline. If he said something to me, you better quit,

you better stop it, son, but if I did not listen a couple of times, especially the third

time, I knew what was coming. A spanking-not abusive, but good discipline. It

does not mean that I am so good today, but I thank God that I am here today.

H: Do you know much about the Ahfachkee school here on the reservation?

B: That is the school that transferred from that little school that we attended back in

the 1950s, into what it is now. They had another building there where the

present school is now. I never went to school there, the new one.

H: How do you think attitudes about attending high school and college have

changed since the 1970s?

B: The 1970s? I think we are more into getting an education so that we can be a

benefit to our own people, to our own tribe, as well as our own personal well-

beings, livelihood. Back in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, it was more of just

being there--if we could get there, that is. I remember in the 1960s, in high

school, we had good friends, non-Indian friends. But, there was some objection,

I remember, especially when I was in fifth grade or so.

H: Objection from who?

B: Even from the teachers. It seemed like they were kind of choosey between

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whoever else and myself and things like that. But, all in all, I really had no

complaint about anything. I thank God, once again, that I did learn some things.

I could have learned a whole lot more, if I had tried, probably. But, probably, I

just did not know any better.

H: Did any members of your family ever attend boarding schools?

B: I think two of my sisters went to Oklahoma. I am not sure where. I cannot even

remember the names of them now. Over in Oklahoma, anyway.

H: Do you go to church?

B: Yes, I do.

H: Which church are you a member of?

B: I used to be here, at Big Cypress First Baptist Church. Then I moved to

Hollywood Reservation, and I go to the First Seminole Baptist Church there.

H: When did you first start going?

B: Over in Hollywood?

H: No, from the beginning?

B: Oh, I see. My mom and dad were Christians when I was born into the family.

So, I was raised all my life going to church.

H: Do you think that Seminole values have changed because of... since the

Baptists ministers came here to convert them?

B: Yes. If that does not take place, then you are really not a Christian. The Bible

teaches otherwise. Not to say that customs and traditions and following strictly is

not good either. You just have to work what you feel, how you feel, and a

relationship with God, and just work it into your life like that with the church. But,

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you cannot really walk the fence, one foot on one side, one foot on one side.

Either God is dominant in your life, or traditions and paganism or whatever it is

called, whatever dominates your life, then that is your individual life.

H: Do you know medicine men or women who continue to practice traditional


B: Most of them have passed on. There is just a few left, I think. Johnny Jim was a

good man. He was a medicine man. His sister, Susie Jim [Susie Jim Billie], or

something like that, she is a medicine woman. Abraham Clay came from back in

the 1850s, I believe. He even took time with me to teach me about some things

and tell me stories about wars and things like that. He passed on ten years ago,

something like that. Buffalo Jim is probably one of the legends among

Seminoles as a medicine man.

H: And is he still alive?

B: No, he is gone.

H: Is it possible for people who profess to be Christians to also be treated by

medicine men?

B: Yes, I think so. It is possible. It depends on the shaman or the medicine man. If

I don=t feel too good with that, I don=t even mess with it. As a matter of fact, I

don=t do anything with custom or traditional medicine. I go to Eckerd.

H: How has the adoption or non-adoption of Christianity affected relations between

tribal members?

B: The traditions that we follow, that the Seminoles follow, or Miccosukees, I am

sure that there is some kind of gap with the teachings, discipline, and family

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ways, life of the Seminoles, this and that, and Christian life of the Seminole. We

listen to what God has to say to us in the Bible, and we do our best to try and

follow it. Sometimes, there is a contradiction between the two entities of God

and man among the Seminole or Miccosukee people.

H: So, you think it has had an affect on how people get along, depending on

whether they are Christian or some traditional ...

B: Yes. As far as getting along, it does not bother anybody, I don=t think, unless

there is one or two who are really into the traditional 110 percent, or something

like that. They might say things. But that is the persons feelings, so we just let

it go at that. I do anyway. My position, I feel that God gave us today, even

today, and I thank God for that, and I just live from day to day.

H: What percentage of the Seminole tribe members are Christians, would you say?

B: Probably more than fifty percent, and it is dominantly Baptist. There are a few

other religions, denominations, but mostly Baptists.

H: What other denominations are there?

B: There might be Methodists, Catholics, Jehovah=s Witnesses. There might be

some more, but I am not sure.

H: Is the church on Big Cypress reservation here, either one of them, supported by

the tribal organization?

B: No.

H: All the clergy in these different churches, including the one you attend now in

Hollywood, are they all Seminole people?

B: That is how they would like it to be, but sometimes the availability of the

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preachers, pastors, is not like what it used to be when Christianity first started.

So sometimes churches will get any preacher that will meet the needs of the


H: What roles do women play in the Christian church? Is there a difference

between men and women?

B: Yes, there is, in a way. When it first started--sixty, seventy, eighty years ago--

even the women were appointed as deaconesses and would help out the

preacher, help out with the activities in the churches. Nowadays, you do not see

too many women as deaconesses. They do have part in churches, like Sunday

School and women on mission programs, cooperative programs, lots of

programs. Women will head up some of the major work in the churches. But as

far as standing up there behind the pulpit or helping the pastor, like a deacon

would, you do not see too much of that these days.

H: Why do you think there has been a change, and when do you think that came


B: Probably in the 1950s or 1960s that kind of started fading out. It was mostly men

deacons and pastors, and probably more Bible teaching. I am sure that the

Seminoles started learning more about what God had to say about pastors and

deacons and eventually that is what they wanted to do, to follow what God is

saying in his word, in the Bible.

H: And God is saying that men should be the leaders?

B: Yes, that is what God says. The Bible does not say it is wrong for the women to

help out and to be a leader.

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H: What do you consider to be the largest health issues that are faced by the

Seminole people today?

B: Besides diabetes, I believe it is more psychological. We are weak for things that

are not good for us, that is one of the main problems, such as alcohol, drugs, and

not a real relationship between a man and a woman, and the consequences of

catching diseases or whatever might happen. The major thing that bothers us,

that is getting us down today, is diabetes. It will lead into heart problems,

kidneys, the liver, and that kind of thing.

H: Do you think that most people who face those diseases get adequate help for


B: Today, we do. Ten years ago, twenty years ago, it was not really so. Our

leaders of the tribe have made strides to see to it that that took place, and we

can see the fruits today.

H: Do people still use medicine men and native doctors to treat some of those


B: Yes.

H: And they also use the white doctors and clinics?

B: Yes.

H: Do you know people who do both, use both types?

B: As a recipient? Yes.

H: Does the tribe still have an annual Green Corn Dance?

B: The Tribe never really did before, until a couple of years ago. I do not know if the

Tribe is sponsoring it or not, but there is one that takes place a few miles from

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here. I think it is off of the reservation.

H: Have you ever attended one?

B: No.

H: What are the most important economic practices of the tribe?

B: In recent decades, two or three decades, it has been mostly farming, citrus, and

in the last twenty years or so, the Tribe has gotten into the sales of tobacco and

casinos. So, I would say we started out with agriculture and also branching out

to other avenues, to bring in much needed financial support for the Seminole


H: So, how do those differ from what was happening thirty years ago?

B: It is entirely different, I guess, from agriculture to other things, like bingo and

things like that. In just a matter of a few seconds or so, we can have contact with

other reservations and programs by computers and things like that. So, it is

entirely different from when I was a kid growing up. From one end of the

reservation to the other--I used to work in cows, and we used to ride horses from

way west of here all the way to the east so that we could work cows over there.

Nowadays, people have four-door, air-conditioned trucks with a twenty-foot trailer

they can put four, five, or six horses in and be over there in ten minutes. It was

totally different back in my days, when I was younger.

H: Yes. I was going to ask you about whether you or any of your family had been

part of the cattle business.

B: Yes. My mom and dad were cattle owners. That=s how I grew up.

H: Who were the first people in the tribe to get cattle?

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B: I don=t think I can answer that question, but early pioneers from the 1930s and

1940s. My dad would be one of them, and Morgan Smith, Willie Frank ....

H: Is that your dad?

B: My dad=s name was Junior Buster. I am not really sure when he got his cattle,

maybe back in the 1940s or maybe in the 1950s. I am not really sure. But the

other pioneers, such as Bill Osceola, Willie Frank, Junior Cypress, Jimmy

Cypress, those kind of people were into cattle business. That is what I


H: Do you know anything about the roles that women play in the cattle industry?

Are they different from what men do in the industry?

B: Just kind of like keeping the home fires going, meeting the needs, such as

cooking, and seeing to it that the husband or the people that were working in

cows had something to eat during lunch or supper, and taking care of the

children, taking care of the wash, and things like that.

H: With all of the changes that have happened with the economy and the different

activities that go on now, what would you say is the change in the status of

Seminole women as a result of those?

B: I think they are better educated, as far as taking care of themselves physically.

Health education is far better than it was thirty or forty years ago. Back in those

days we just did not have the programs that we do have today. It was not

available back in those days.

H: In the last thirty years, the Seminole tribe has made major economic changes, as

we have talked about. How have these changes affected your life?

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B: I still kind of scrounge around, financially, but it is a little bit better, and I thank

God for that. Also, improving health is a little bit better, too. Therefore, I think I

have a little bit better health than I would have if the standards did not change,

because I am a diabetic, maybe not a serious one, but still, maybe that's why I

am not too serious of being a diabetic. I can take care of myself. I don=t have to

rely on shots or anything like this. I think some of those changes that took place

in twenty or thirty years is more of a benefit to all tribal members. I can see that.

H: What do you think about eco-tourism? Do you think it is a good thing?

B: I think so. People, from the outside, from the world, can have some kind of

education, about who I am, who the Seminole tribe is.

H: Do you see any personal benefit to you as a result of eco-tourism?

B: Yes, I guess, in a way, it would help us. There again, it still kind of helps us with

education, too, not just older folks but everyone in the Seminole and Miccosukee


H: You mentioned computers earlier. Do you think that computer technology has

been a positive force for Seminole people?

B: Yes, it is, in a way. It depends on whose hands it is in. If we are using it for a

good purpose, for our education, for our work and livelihood, then it is the best

thing that has ever happened. But, if it gets into the hands that will use it for

other things, pornography and all that kind of stuff, then they shouldn't even

have it.

H: Overall, how would you say the physical environment has changed in the last

thirty years?

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B: There are more farmlands and cattle lands, more roads here and there, more

waterways that are being taken care of. There are less fish. Back in my younger

days, I could go no more than a few hundred feet, a quarter-mile or so, and I

could get myself a fish, back in those days. Even getting a turkey or a deer,

some of them used to come around the chickees. All we had to do was just point

the gun and go get our turkey or deer or swamp bird. But it is totally different

now. You would be doing good if you could see a swamp bird today, or a fish.

H: In your opinion, do people rely on the environment for a living, like people did a

generation ago?

B: Pretty much. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, some of us did not go to civilization,

to town, for some necessities that we needed, maybe once every two months or

something like that, to go get the necessities that we could not get ourselves, like

salt, flour, and those kinds of needs in the family. But pretty much of the survival

that we did was that we grew all of our own vegetables, and we had our own pigs

and chickens and things like that. If we needed a deer, we would get that.

H: But, is that the same now?

B: No. They have McDonald=s now. I would not be surprised if one exists here.

H: Well, that is about all of the questions I would like to ask. Is there anything you

would like to add that I have not asked you about?

B: You probably did pretty good.

H: All right. Thank you.

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Interviewee: Paul Douglas Buster
Interviewer: Rosalyn Howard
Date: 14 April 1999

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