• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Summary
 Interview














Title: Mary Jean Coppedge
CITATION PDF VIEWER THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00008097/00001
 Material Information
Title: Mary Jean Coppedge
Series Title: Mary Jean Coppedge
Physical Description: Book
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00008097
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:

UF00008097_SEM233 ( PDF )


Table of Contents
    Summary
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Interview
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
Full Text





SEM 233, Mary Jene Coppedge, Director of the 4H program at Big Cypress


Coppedge was raised in tourist camps-her father was non-Indian and helped them get to
different sites, such as Silver Springs (3). Her [maternal?] grandmother was a source for a lot of
cultural information (8). She saw this as a traditional responsibility; she does not remember her
grandmother actively teaching, but in retrospect understands that it was going on all along and
that she enjoyed it (14). From this she finds lessons for education today (14). She had criticism
of the Ahfachkee school before Byrd Gaffney took over (see SEM 232). Then students were not
being challenged (10). Through her grandmother she learned much of what she knows about
Seminole history. She recalls stories of people fleeing and putting mud or cloth into their
children's mouths to keep them quiet, often leaving them behind. "And that is really what I
remember my grandparents telling about the wars. Not so much of why, or who, or whatever, but
it was just thinking everyday of how to survive" (32-33).

Members of Coppedge's family have been involved in preparing Indian medicines and treating
people (14). She finds that some problems may first call for use of Indian medicines, while
others may not. Sometimes one feels better having gone through Indian healers, since they are
holistic and may understand things non-Indian doctors would not (15). About Christianity and
medicines she notes: "I do not know of anybody that says they are Christian and [does] not take
Indian medicine" (16). Christianity did not block traditional medicines but worked well with
them; Breathmaker, she feels, was the creator and thus also giver of plants; people on the
reservation, she notes, tend not to think in terms of Christians and non-Christians (12).

Coppedge recalls changes that have occurred in agriculture; her grandparents, like other people,
were active cultivators and people regularly shared their produce, which is not so today, when
hardly anyone has a garden (18-20). Sharing declined with changes in housing, having four walls
(20-1). Similarly, Seminole values may have changed, but Coppedge sees them in her children
and grandchildren (31). Coppedge considers that the government knew that new housing in the
1960s and 1970s would transform social organization, culture, and language. She would rather
have seen houses grouped as chickees had been. Her grandmother hated the new houses: "It was
hot. The windows were real tall. You could not see through the walls." Today, with more
prosperity, some people arrange their family housing near each other, similar to what existed
with chickees (34-35).

Coppedge feels that the non-Indian population should learn that Indians are human, not aliens.
She notes that the US caters to Latin-speaking populations through bilingual efforts, but she has
seen no public signs in Miccosukee (33-34). She recalls incidents of racism, such as being
brought groceries through a store's back door (18). Ecotourism can teach non-Indians about the
environment, since they destroyed theirs (25). She remembers changes to the environment and is
skeptical of the motivations (25-26).

Gender is somewhat significant in the church, where women's roles are like those at home: "I
think we have been more Sunday school teachers and nursery teachers and no different than
being a mom or grandma at home" (13). The same cannot be said of the cattle industry, where
she as a cattle owner does nothing different than male cattle owners (21).









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 2

Finally, Coppedge has significant views about the importance of bingo to the tribe and to her
personally. "I can remember going to school and wondering if I would ever get a chance to go to
college and wondering how I was going to pay for that," she explains. "Since bingo .." Despite
some criticisms from non-Indians, she says, "I think we deserve what we get" (23-24).









SEM 233
Interviewee: Mary Jean Coppedge
Interviewer: Rosalyn Howard
28 April 1999


H: I am speaking this morning with Mary Jean Coppedge. Mary Jene, can you tell

me what your clan is?


C: Panther.


H: When and where were you born?


C: I was born in Stewart, Florida, January 16, 1956.


H: Do you have an Indian name?


C: Yes. I have two of them, in fact.


H: What are they?


C: The first one is Inmahkih. And the second is Inhohchih. Inmahkih is to fan the

fine dust off the corn when someone is grinding the corn, which my mother used

to do when she was younger. Inhohchih is the one who actually does the

grinding of the corn.


H: Did your mother give you this name?


C: No, my grandmother.


H: Your grandmother. So, the name has something to do with the grinding of the

corn.


C: What my mother actually did.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 4


H; So you were named for what your mother did. Interesting. And how do you feel

about having both an English and an Indian name?


C: [I have] never really thought about it. It is just [that] I have had both all of my life.


H: Do you have any preference?


C: I have always been called by my Indian name, and they shorten it up to Mahkih.

Most of the kids I grew up with always called me Mahkih, and some of the guys

that I grew up with would take my Indian name and my English middle name and

they would call me Mahkih Jene. It kind of gave me a nickname. Other than

that, I really did not use Mary Jene until I got into public school, off the

reservation.


H: Are there any contexts where you use one of the other more now?


C: Yes, when I am on the reservation it is usually [that] most of the people call me

by my name ...

H: Which name?


C: Mahkih. And when I am off the reservation, most... a lot of the non-Indians

think it is neat to be able to pronounce an Indian word, and a lot of them that are

close to me will call me Mahkih. A lot of the non-Indians will call me by Mary

Jene, off the reservation.


H: Have you always lived on the reservation?









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 5


C: Well, no, because my parents and my grandparents traveled to different tourist

attractions as employment and my dad, being non-Indian, helped my family to

seek employment with the different tourist attractions and set up different ones in

different cities in the state of Florida. The most famous one, the Silver

Springs/Ross Allen Reptile Institute that they had there in Ocala, my family spent

a lot of years there and my dad would travel different places. I guess at the time

they were building one in Stewart. That is where I was born. My other sisters

were born at different cities.


H: As your family traveled around. Where is your father from originally? What is his

nationality?


C: His nationality is Caucasian. He is from around Clearwater, Florida. That area.


H: How long have you lived here on Big Cypress?


C: Well, I was off and on since I was born. I am forty-three now, so I imagine at

least forty-two years.


H: Off and on as your parents traveled. Some people live on the reservation and

work in the city. Do you have any opinions about that?


C: Well, I tried that. I hated it. For one thing, the city and the people, they are not

friendly. I guess once you make friends and you have certain people that you

feel comfortable with, that is fine, but as a whole they are not really friendly.

They are at their own pace. They are going 100 miles an hour and I am not used









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 6


to going that fast. I worked at the bank in Hollywood, lived on the Hollywood

reservation for a year and a half, and I hated it. It was just too busy.


H: The Hollywood reservation is very different from Big Cypress? It is almost like

the rest of the city, or how is it different?


C: Well, the Hollywood reservation is like the rest of the city. There is a little bit of

difference there, you can feel coming off the reservation and going onto a non-

Indian land or vice-versa. The people in the community were caught up in being

busy and what they are doing and not so much [the] social atmosphere there that

I was used to. You see somebody here on the reservation in Big Cypress, you

just ... you spoke, you said something, even if it was just an acknowledgment of

a wave, how are doing today, or whatever. But in Hollywood, it is just not like

that. I am not saying that the people are cruel or the people are mean, that they

do not acknowledge you or anything, it is just that they are so caught up in their

pace that they are busy with what they are doing. They just do not have time, it

seemed like, and they are going 100 miles an hour.


H: Why do people try to do that, who work off of the reservation, live on the

reservation?


C: What do you mean?


H: Is there a reason that people go off the reservation to work and then come back

on it, like in the evening, to live?









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 7


C: Some people prefer just working off the reservation. Employment or pay scale

may be a little better, or that is what their careers are just all about, and it is off

the reservation. Most of my working career I have been on the reservation. That

is just the way I chose it to be.


H: What is your career, your ...


C: Right now I am the Director of the 4H program, which is a youth development

program under the Council Programs that I work with.


H: What program is this?


C: 4H.


H: Tell me about what you do as director of that?


C: Well, everything, really. Just because I am a director does not mean that I get to

sit down and do paperwork or whatever.


H: I am a city girl. Tell me about 4H.


C: 4H is a rural development, youth development-type program in agriculture. You

can introduce them to other things, I mean we do everything from A to Z.

Whether it is cooking, or horsemanship, or raising cattle, or hogs, or rabbits,

anything to do with animals, if a child wants to learn anything in agriculture,

farming, planting, it is just anything that a child can think of, then we provide

some technical assistance for him to get most of the information that he needs to

learn about this particular subject that he wants to learn about. Most of our









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 8


dealings are usually with cattle, hogs, rabbits, and horses, and when it comes to

horses or even raising a steer, they are taught record keeping. They have to

keep a book, finances, the responsibility of feeding this animal twice a day,

halter-breaking it so that it can be led and shown in the show ring, and the whole

nine yards, from start to finish, and actually see a finished product, from taking a

weanling ...


H: A weanling? What is that?


C: A weanling. That is a calf that has just been weaned off of its mamma. So, you

would take a weanling and introduce it to feed, the whole nine yards, and get him

fed out, like a feed lot would do, if they would send steers to feed lots and they

would feed them out. And just keeping track of progress on their weight gain,

making sure that they are gaining weight, and if that particular feed is working for

them. They have to learn to differentiate which feed is going to be better or

suited for this type of cattle. They learn about the different breeds of the cattle.

Get it all written down in their record book. They have to turn that in and the

record book has to be judged and gone over to make sure their calculations are

correct. Then they take and sell their steer, which is their final product, at the

fair.


H: Well, there is a lot involved there. What are the age ranges of the children who

participate?


C: For the large animals, you have to be eight to eighteen. Now, we do have small

animals that you can be five to seven years old.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 9


H: What kind of... the rabbits?


C: The rabbits, chickens, gerbils, or whatever.


H: Interesting. And how long have you been doing that?


C: It seems like all my life. I grew up in 4H. I grew up in 4H, I volunteered while my

children were little, and then I finally got the job that I have now, basically for

selfish reasons, really, because I wanted to have a job that I could spend time

with my children and have quality time as much as possible. This job was right

there in line that my kids could be in this program, they were in school during the

day and after they got out of school, then they come to this program, and I was

right there with them during the whole time. So, for selfish reasons, and I enjoy

working with children, that gave me a chance to be with my kids the whole time.


H: Great. Tell me about your education. What schools have you gone to?


C: Well, I started off at home. I do not even know how old I was when I got to first

grade, but my education started well before I went into school because my

grandparents raised me after my mom and dad and everybody settled down.

Going back and forth to different tourist attractions and everything, I was left with

my grandmother and they raised me. So, a lot of things that I was taught were

taught to me by my grandmother. And then there was a little school on the

reservation [that] went from first grade to fourth grade, and then fifth grade to

ninth grade, I went to Clewiston on a school bus everyday that picked us up and

took us to public school. And then I spent a few years at an all-Indian boarding

school.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 10


H: Where is that?


C: In Utah, at Brigham Young. Then I came back home and graduated out of

Clewiston.


H: Why did you leave the boarding school?


C: It was too cold. Simple as that. It was too cold for me. I did not have the proper

clothing, shoes.


H: They didn't provide those for you?


C: No. Our parents had to, and there were three of us there already. My older

sister, me, and a younger brother were already there. My mom did the best she

could providing clothes for us, but it was just too cold for me. My older sister and

my brother graduated from there, but I just could not handle the cold.


H: So you came back and graduated from Clewiston. What about your mother and

father, what was their education and their occupations?


C: My mother has never been in school. My mom has always been a seamstress or

a farmhand, labor.


H: What is your mom's name?


C: Mary Wagerby. She is Wagerby now.


H: What was her maiden name?









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 11


C: Mary Billie. Albert Billie and Willie Mae Billie were her mom and dad. Then my

dad's name is Jene so they named me after my mom and dad, they called my

Mary Jene. My mom has never been in school. My dad, actually my biological

dad has taught her how to count. She knew how to count in Indian, anyway,

counting money in English and handling money, she learned how to count, and

my dad taught her how to sign her name and everything. And just picking up

English here and there from us being in school and everything else, that is where

her English has come from. But she has never been in school. And I do not

know how much schooling my biological dad has had, I really do not know.


H: Does he still live here?


C: No. He lives in Alaska.


H: Do you know much about the Ahfachkee reservation school? Did your children

go there at all?


C: Yes.


H: What do you think about that school? Do you think it is a good school? Is it a

way to preserve the culture?


C: I guess at the time my children were going I did not think it was such a ... it was

not so much the school, it was the administrators they had there and some of the

teachers. That was before the staff that they have now. I feel like Dr. [Sharon

Byrd] Gaffney now has come a long way to do and implement a lot of things in

that school. I have three nephews that go there now-two nephews, now one is









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 12


in military school, but I think it could be better. To me, I always think things could

be better.


H: In what ways do you think it could be better?


C: I think they could challenge them a little harder, a little more. I have a child who

gets bored very easily. You have got to keep her stimulated the whole time, and

they were not up to par. I think that is still lacking. A lot of our children that are in

that school right now are like that. They get bored very easily, they get done

quickly with their work, and they constantly need to be challenged and

stimulated. To me, that is lacking. But that is my personal opinion, and this is by

just standing on the outside and looking in. I can see because sometimes I have

walked in classrooms before and they are not doing anything. Some of the kids

are working, and you can tell which ones have finished but yet they are not doing

anything. To me, they need to be constantly going.


H: Do you know whether they teach any aspects of traditional Seminole culture?


C: Oh, yes. They have a culture teacher there.


H: What does she teach?


C: I do not know. I have never been to any of her classes, so I could not really tell

you.


H: Since the Baptist ministers came to convert Seminoles Indians to Christianity,

have Seminole values changed?









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 13


C: I do not think they have at all. I guess, quote/unquote, I grew up in a Christian

home because my grandparents and my Uncle Junior-my Uncle Junior

preached at the little church for many years, and my grandpa was a deacon at

the church, and my grandmother [was a] Sunday school teacher, I did not see

anything different. I was brought up with both worlds. My grandmother still relied

on all of her Indian medicine and one of her great uncles, or one of her uncles,

was a powerful medicine man.


H: What was her name?


C: Willie Mae Billie was my grandmother.


H: And what was the uncle's name?


C: Josie Billie. So, whatever the time of the year or things that had to be done with

the medicine, they were all done with us. It was still there. So, Christianity did

not block anything; in fact, I think that it kind of worked hand and hand with what

we had already. I have always been taught that the Breathmaker is what started

this and he is the one who taught us, and gave us this medicine, and gave us the

plants anyway. So, it did not really break anything up.


H: Do you think the fact that some people adopted Christianity and others did not,

has that affected relations between Tribal members?


C: No.


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









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 14


C: I guess in the sense of the word Christian I really do not know, but I think all tribal

members believe in God. I do not really think we define each other that, we are

Christians, we are not Christians. I do not think we really do that.


H: The clergy people in the church, are they all Seminoles? The ministers, the

leaders.


C: Now, the one in Brighton, I do not think he is Seminole. I think he is from

Oklahoma or somewhere. The one here in Big Cypress, he is.


H: What is his name?


C: Howard Micco. The one in Hollywood, I believe it is Paul Buster, and he is a

tribal member. For many years we had Genus Crenshaw and his family who

lived in Hollywood reservation and I guess he was like-I do not know what they

would call it-in charge of all the churches, I guess. He was kind of like the

administrator of all the churches, kind of go between the outside Baptist churches

and to what he was supposed to implement into our churches.


H: What roles do women play in the Christian church? You say you have been

really involved in the Christian church all of your life, are women the leaders?


C: Nothing more than what they do at home. I mean, it is just the same thing.


H: So, they are never the leaders or the ministers.


C: No. I think we have been more Sunday school teachers and nursery teachers

and no different than being a mom or grandma at home.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 15


H: What about in traditional religion, what kind of roles do women play in that?


C: Traditional roles, I guess that it was your responsibility to make sure that the

teachings were continuing, that you passed on the culture, and that the younger

children were being taught and cared for. I know my grandmother, when I was

growing up with her, I did not feel like I was being taught. It was just something

that she did every day. I did not realize I was being included in the things that

she did, but the whole time she was teaching me. As I look back now it did not

feel like, I did not feel like I had to be there. I wanted to be there. It was just the

way that she taught things and made me feel comfortable that it was more

enjoyable, I wanted to learn more. That was the way she taught things. I think

that was most important, that you wanted your children to be hungry for more,

and I think that that was the most important item.


H: Do you know any medicine men or medicine women now who still practice

medicine?


C: Oh, yes. My cousin, Jeannette Cypress, her grandmother does, Susie [Jim

Billie]. Then, I call him my Uncle Sonny, Sonny Billie is a medicine man. His

father and my grandfather's father were brothers. So my mom and he are

almost like brothers and sisters. We are kind of close and so Sonny Billie we just

call Uncle Sonny, out of respect.


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

people today?


C: Diabetes and hypertension.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 16


H: Do you think that people who face these problems have adequate medical help?


C: Oh, yes.


H: Do some people go to White doctors or Western medicine for specific illnesses

versus traditional healers for others?


C: I think it is kind of like, well, I know that simple things like a cold or 'flu or

whatever, for me, I go to the clinic. But there are some things that I know for

depression I always try to seek out my own first, traditional medicine, and go

through that, and sometimes I just feel a lot better when I do that. I feel like,

when I go to a non-Indian doctor about some different things, even though it is

the clinic that provides these doctors for us, that are non-Indian, they just do not,

they just can not feel or understand what I am talking about. So there is kind of a

void there. There is a link missing when I go to a non-Indian doctor.


H: The doctors that they send out here, they are European or Caucasian doctors?


C: Yes.


H: I was just curious. So people, then, like yourself, would use both the traditional

and the White doctors.


C: I would probably think that most of our people use both. It is just the way we were

brought up and we still use a lot of our Indian medicine. A lot of times we use

both combined with one because it seems like the non-Indian doctors do not .

they just treat the physical. They know what a body function will do. They know

that if they give them this type of medication, it is going to do this and it is going









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 17


to do that, whether it is hypertension, so they give you a beta blocker to bring

blood pressure down, but they still do not treat the whole body. It is just the

mechanism that they are treating.


H: Whereas traditional medicine does?


C: Treats your soul and your spirit, your mind, and everything.


H: There are some people who have adopted Christianity who do not engage in

natural or traditional healing methods anymore. Why is that?


C: I do not know of anybody that says they are Christian and [does] not take Indian

medicine. I do not know anybody like that.


H: The healers, the knowledge that they have, is that passed down through the

generations in any particular way?


C: Well, I know my grandma used to tell me that they used to have .. well, of

course, when my grandmother was growing up and they all did their singing and

teaching each other, they would be sitting by the fire in the evenings and the

elders would talk to the children. They would pass the songs along, but they

would sing together, so that when you sang with someone you learned it a lot

better. They were taught the songs and then they would explain to them why,

what this song meant, and everything else. That is how my grandmother used to

tell .. that is how things were passed down, as a group, in a family setting, all

the time.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 18


H: How did people become recognized as bona fide or certified healers? How did

they get that reputation?


C: When it comes to medicine, that is really not my expertise. I am not sure a lot of

the ways on how they really go through, what the apprenticeship, how long it

takes, or when do they go through the apprenticeship, when are they done with

it, I really do not know that exactly.


H: Since you are involved in 4H, let me ask you some questions about agriculture

and the cattle business. As far as you know, what sorts of subsistence

agriculture do people practice in their own gardens? What kinds of things do

they grow?


C: Well, I do not have a garden, yet. I have been trying to get one but where my

house is, it is cap rock and you cannot grow anything there. But I grew up with

my grandparents all the time, so I am capable of doing one, it is just that where I

am you just cannot grow anything. But I remember my grandma, we always had

corn, and pumpkin, and squash, and tomatoes, and just different varieties of

vegetables. And it was always that way, as far back as I can remember. As far

back as I can remember, my grandparents owned cattle. When my grandpa did

all the hunting, he always brought meat home, and if necessary, if my

grandmother wanted beef or whatever, then they would go kill one of the cows or

a calf or something. Refrigeration was a problem, too, so they would sometimes

divide or quarter with the different families that are within the family and

everybody would get a piece of meat. In that way it did not got to waste because

sometimes they would kill a cow and it would be way too big [for] trying to keep it









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 19


cool and everything. But we always had some sort of meat on table. I

remember, for flour, they made their own, but when I was growing up they got to

the point where they were going to the grocery store and buying things-not

grocery store, the little trading post and stuff like that. But I remember going to

La Belle with my grandparents and still picking up groceries at the back door

because the Indian people were not allowed inside. I was probably six, seven, or

eight at the time, and I still remember that. I thought it was normal. We did not

go in, we just told them what we wanted and they would bag it up or put it in a

box and bring it to you. Then you paid at the back door and you went on. That

was the first drive-through they ever had. They did not know it at the time. Curb

service. [Laughter.] But we always had gardens.


We worked with the school one year with the big farm that they have over here-

the Seminole Farms, where they grow a lot of the bell peppers and stuff-and

picked out a lot and we planted everything. We had cauliflower, broccoli, and

tomatoes and worked with the school and the 4H program and we cared for the

little vegetable garden and they all got to hand plant them. It was a little difficult

for them to come out everyday, it was almost like an FAA program-Future

Farmers of America, like the public schools have. We got the farm itself to help

us keep the garden under control-the weeds, and the fertilizer, and the

herbicides and everything. So, the kids just came out periodically and measured

the plants to see how much they had grown in a week, or the leaves had

changed, or if they had gotten broader, or they actually [went] to study and

looked at the plants. When they got their vegetables grown, they harvested

them. We did that one year through the school program.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 20


H: Do you think that farming has changed a lot in the last generation?


C: Oh, yes. I do not think hardly anybody has a garden anymore. I know my Uncle

George, who is my Uncle Sonny's brother, he likes to garden. Of course, he is in

his sixties, probably close to seventy, but he always tries to have something in

his back yard. And he has some great pumpkins sometimes, and my

grandmother, her specialty also was pumpkins. And the same farm field I am

talking about, they were clearing that land and had a lot of palmettos and lot of

palmetto roots were bunched up and lot of soil, rich soil, was there and it has

been burnt and everything, so my grandmother went and took and planted a lot

of pumpkin seeds on the little piles of dirt and grew humongous pumpkins. And if

they could find any rich soil, they always .. and they would plant a lot, and it did

not matter if one family planted it, it was for everybody. So, if anybody wanted

pumpkin, they could come get it. But my grandmother was always like that, too.

She always shared.


H: So things are a lot different today, or are they the same, as far as sharing?


C: As far as sharing, it is probably a little bit different, but I know still a lot of our

people, like if you go and visit someone, it is, come on, sit down, and whatever

food was on the table or they would provide even just a glass of water, glass of

tea, or whatever. It is still there. It is just that it is not in the open anymore

because we have four walls and a house. You do not get to see it as often as if

you were in a chickee. You could see people visiting in there under the chickee

and you could see them exchanging whatever and having a drink, or you could

see someone carrying a bucket of water. But you cannot see that anymore









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 21


because we have four walls. It is not that it is not there, it is just that it is not as

noticeable.


H: So, housing has changed tremendously over the last thirty years. And from what

you are saying, it sounds like that change has created a cultural change also,

because you say you cannot really interact like you used to.


C: Well, I am sure there are some changes, but not to the degree that it is not there.

It is there but it is just not as visible. Because you can tell it in your kids. Some

of the kids, whether whatever we are doing, you can tell that the culture is still

there just by the way they act, and the way they share, and the way they talk,

and the way they act. It is still there. They are still being taught.


H: You mentioned before that your family was in the cattle business and has been

for a while. Who were the first people in the tribe to get cattle? Do you know?


C: Well, the Brighton people were first to receive cattle. It was always interesting,

they always say the government gave us cattle. They never really gave us cattle.

We purchased those cattle. Actually, there were dying and dead cattle that were

purchased, basically. Cattle were shipped from another place that were starving

and put on the trains and shipped out here and supposedly given to the Indians.

But they were not given to the Indians. In the long run they were purchased. It

was not free. After Brighton got theirs, I am not sure which individuals were the

recipients of that but I know several . some of them are gone. My Aunt Eddie,

my grandfather, there was Burt Frazier, Burt Billie, Josie Billie, Bottonen John,









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 22


Henry Osceola, these were just different people that were some of the first cattle

owners for Big Cypress.


H: What kind of roles do women play in the cattle industry?


C: I do not see it as any different. I do not see myself any different than a man

cattle owner. It is business.


H: So do you won cattle?


C: Oh, yes.


H: How many?


C: I have seventy-five head. And then I also take care of my mom's, which used to

be my grandfather's herd. But since he passed away, it was put in estate and

then my mom and two of her brothers are the owners of it. Then one of my

uncles passed away not long ago so now it is just one of my uncles and my mom

who own the herd, and then I in turn take care of that herd, plus mine.


H: What are the differences in the breeds of cattle?


C: The tribe has had many different breeds, I think. I remember Brahmans were a

very prominent type of breed when I was growing up as a little girl, and as I got to

learn a little more, we have had Herefords, we have had Charolais, we have had

Angus, Brafords, and then we have had Beefmasters. We just got out of

Beefmaster, the breed, and now we are in to Brangus. But you have got to have

that Brahman influence within this type of area because of the heat, the humidity,









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 23


and the insects. Brahman has a natural insect defense. Brahmans can sweat

and they are more heat tolerant than most breeds are, so a lot of Florida and the

hot-climate areas have crossbred a lot of their cattle. They have taken a

Hereford and crossbred it with a Brahman and became Brafords or just different

types of breeds that way. But they make sure they have that Brahman influence

so that the cow or the cow that is taking care of that calf can sustain this type of

humidity and weather that is here in Big Cypress.


H: Were you at the cattle sale last Friday?


C: Saturday. No. My 4H program, we had a play day that day so I did not get to

make it. It is the first one I have missed in probably thirty some odd years.


H: Wow. Well, tell me, before they had the video way, how were cattle sales

handled?


C: It was handled by our cattle manager making personal contacts with different

feed lot buyers or anybody who wanted to purchase cattle and it was done that

way and it was done on mostly private treaties.


H: What would you consider to be the most important economic activities that the

Tribe engages in today, and how are these different than thirty years ago?


C: The most important economic [activity] I guess would be bingo. Thirty years ago

I guess it was the individual who had cattle, but that is not to say that everybody

had cattle. So, that was only certain ones who could really benefit from that.

Today, bingo is the most important. Bingo has done a lot for my tribe. I can









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 24


remember going to school and wondering if I would ever get a chance to go to

college and wondering how I was going to pay for that. Since bingo has come

and the man behind it, James Billie, our chairman now, has done so much for our

people, it has given us an opportunity to have more and be able to do more, not

just by having some money and going and spending it the way you want to, but

to be able to send you children to whatever college they want to go to, to be able

to have the health care that we have now, the facilities, the school, it has just

been an economic boost for my people. I know a lot of people and a lot of non-

Indians look at it as, they get a check every month and they just blow it. I think

we deserve what we get. I have never complained about their finances. I mean,

they had what they had, they have always had what they had; but I remember a

time when my grandparents had to cut cypress logs for non-Indians when they

were building fence, or make dolls, or cut palmetto fiber to make the dolls, just to

have a little bit of food on the table, just to be able to buy some sort of fuel for

their vehicle, or grandpa used to walk from Big Cypress to Immokalee and

purchase food to come back to feed his family. So, I think whatever we get and

what we make now, we deserve every bit of it. Bingo has made a lot of changes

and I think it has made a lot of changes for the better.


H: These changes in agriculture or education, how have these affected you

personally?


C: Well, I have had the opportunity to go to different workshops, different seminars. I

am always trying to learn something different-whether it is animal health,

learning about the different breeds, forages-so that I can implement my learning









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 25


with my cattle program and work from there. To me, it has benefited me that

way.


H: What about ecotourism? Do you think ecotourism is a good thing?


C: Yes. I know my grandpa used to say, you just cannot go traipsing through the

woods and just tear things up. If you keep constantly tearing things up, it is not

going to be there. [End of Tape Side A]. The ecotourism that we have here, and

are able to share with other people, the non-Indian population has gone out and

destroyed theirs, and I think because ours is still in tact-it is fortunate that it is

still in tact-now we will be able to share it with someone else and teach them

what was once there.


H: There have been some changes, though, in the environment here in the last

thirty years, haven't there, with the digging of the canals and things like that.


C: Since we did not do that and had nothing to do with that ...


H: But it did affect your environment.


C: But it did affect ... because I remember walking to church with my grandparents,

and church was probably a good two or three miles from the house, from the

camp, and I remember my grandmother was four foot, eleven [inches tall], and I

remember her walking through the water right at her knees, and our platforms

were raised, and we had boardwalks underneath our chickees. You could hear

eels, or fish, or whatever underneath the platforms that you slept on. And then

when they built the canals, it dried everything up. I remember when I was a little









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 26


girl, well, actually, even twenty years ago, I remember seeing sawgrass

everywhere; you can't hardly find a blade of sawgrass anywhere [now]. There is

a lot of different foreign plants that have been transplanted here, or seeded here

and has taken over the Cypress heads.


H: Like what kind of plants?


C: The melaleucas was introduced to dry up the Everglades, but not of our doing. I

guess they were trying to help the people who lived in this area and try to dry it

up for them so that it would be better, I guess.


H: Did it have anything to do with cutting down disease and stuff like that, was that

one of the reasons that they wanted to dry it up?


C: I do not know. I never heard. I guess maybe it would have been, but when I was

growing up, I do not hardly ever remember being sick. And there was lots a

water when I was a kid. And I know there was a lot of mosquitoes, but I do not

ever remember being sick.


H: You mentioned living in a chickee. Do you know how to build one?


C: Kind of. But I do not know, because it takes practice. I probably have the

general idea of how to construct one. Now, if I can make it waterproof, that is a

different story. [Laughter.]

1 Melaleuca sp., of family Myrtaceae, common names: River Tea Tree, Weeping Tea Tree; "Bark serves in lieu of
cork as an insulating material, also used in floats, life belts, and stuffing cushions, mattresses, and pillows. Years
ago, the tree was recommended for salt swamps to subdue 'malarial vapors.' . The wood, durable under ground
and water, is valued for boats, cabinetry, carving, crossties, fencerails, flooring, gunstocks, mine braces, pilings,
posts, rafters, railway sleepers, ships and wharves" (Source:
)









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 27


H: It might look good but it will leak when it rains.


C: Right.


H: I did notice, though, that a lot of people have chickees even though they have

houses. What do they use the chickees for now?


C: Well, a lot of them still have ... well, I have two of them, one stalls my horses

and one is like a shed, it is just a storage area. Most of them have their cook-

chickees, it is just cooler outside, it is not so hot inside the house when you are

cooking. If you are having a family gathering, you just do it outside. It is just

more family oriented that way. There is a lot more room. You do not have to

worry about the kids running in and out of the house. Kids are supposed to be

kids and kids are suppose to play and you can't inside four walls. So, it is just a

lot nicer and a lot more comfortable and the children do not have to sit still and

be cooped up. So, a lot of them still have their cook-chickees outside, or just a

sitting-chickee to be able to sit outside and watch people go by, because you

can't see anybody inside a house.


H: Unless you sit at the window. It is not like being outdoors. How is the standard

of living different today than it was thirty years ago, in areas like the income,

which you have already talked about, but what about literacy and access to

healthcare?


C: They have improved. There is no denying that. I had grandparents who did not

speak a word of English. I have a mother whose English is very broken. And









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 28


there are still a lot of elders who do not speak English. And there is a lot of

children and a lot of people my age who are fluent in both languages.


H: That is English and Mikasuki?


C: There has been a lot of changes. A lot of things are maybe not for the best, or

for the better, but it is almost inevitable, it just happens, there are some things

you just cannot stop.


H: The Rodeo. Are rodeos more important today than they were thirty years ago?


C: I do not know if they were so much important or more important, but the family

values have always been there whether you played a ball game, whether you

played with horses, it was a family gathering. It was always get together and

share things. Whether you were teaching one person to ride a horse, teaching a

person how to ride a bucking horse, or just being around animals, it has always

been that way. It is not so much more important today than it way thirty years

ago. It is just that the availability is more, we can do more with the same things

that we had thirty years ago.


H: In your cattle industry, what are the principal products? Are there other products

besides the calves?


C: No. It is a cow/calf operation, and what we are selling is calves. They go to the

feed lot and then from the feed lot they go to the retailers and then to the

consumer.


H: Who are your key customers?









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 29


C: Feed lot people. They are usually in Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas.


H: Have you ever visited the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum?


C: Oh, yes.


H: And what do you think of it?


C: It is beautiful. There is a lot of history there. I have been able to get in there and

see some things and often wondered just it would have been like to really-a

hundred years ago, not just thirty or forty years ago-to actually live the way they

did a hundred years ago. And it always intrigues me and my imagination just

runs wild. I think it is beautiful. My opinion, if I was the curator-I know nothing

about museums, but I am a people person; I like to mingle, I like to talk with

people-to me, just talking to someone I learn a lot more. The way our museum

is set up, they really do not have guided tours. The first opening thing that you

see is the movie and the first thing that they open it with is bingo. I realize that

bingo did accomplish what we have but I just feel like it should be a little different,

somehow. I am not quite sure what, but...


H: The video should be different?


C: Yes. On some parts they are fine, but it is just that ... I guess they are just

trying to get across that bingo did provide this facility and it was made possible

because of bingo. But, to me, it just does not quite fit in the history of what we

are trying to pass on to the other people.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 30


H: Especially, like you said, it being one of the first things that you see. Often that

plays into a person's thinking about how what is important is placed first.


C: There are little signs that you can read as you go in, and to me, I have seen

different places, living histories, that have different places that provide that and

you can actually talk to a person. And they can give you information. That is

what they have learned. That is what the crafts [are] that they are doing, and you

can actually talk to someone. To me, that is more personable, and you learn

more that way, by interacting with someone. To me, our museum should be that

way. I think there should be a guided tour all the time, and that even if it is just

one person or one hundred people that comes through there, they should have a

guide to walk through with them, because you just can't ask a question to this

plaque that you are reading. It is just really difficult to ask and get an answer

from that. And to me, that is just kind of impersonal. It is just not very inviting.

Things are nice to look at, but the mannequins are not going to answer you

either.


H: The changes, all these changes that we have been talking about, do you think

that these changes have affected Seminole values?


C: Not as much as a lot of people say. The values that were instilled in us are still

there. I do not think it is so much just because we are Seminoles that our values

are diminishing or anything, just because there is better economics or better

living, the values are still there. Because I know, I teach my children the same

values that I was taught and I see, now, my grandson just turned one, the twenty-

first of this month, and I can see my daughter already teaching her son the things









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 31


that I taught her. It was so funny because now he is in the stages touching and

grabbing everything and she slapped his hand and she told him, your fingers do

not have eyeballs on them. Why do you keep grabbing them? And then she

said, oh, my gosh, I sound like my mother. So, the values are there, the

teachings are still there, and you can see that by just the way the young people

react and they way they are teaching their children. So, it has not really

diminished. I think a lot of people think it has and that we have no values, or that

we are just becoming money hungry, or whatever, but I really feel in my heart

that it is not, because I just see too many things. And when you live here and

you see things every day, it is different than a non-Indian person coming in and

they say, well, golly, he drives a $50,000 car, or she has got Tommy Hilfiger

clothes on so they just must be dishing out money. But along with that, I think,

still, we may have $50,000 vehicles or wear Tommy Hilfigers, but that is not all of

it. They do not see what I do everyday. They do not see the teachings that are

passed on or are being taught to me by my elders everyday. So, they really do

not have the right to say a lot of the things that they do. And my values, to me,

are still there.


H: Speaking of the teachings that are passed on, what do you know about Seminole

history and where did you learn it?


C: Well, most of the history that I have learned has been passed down by my

grandmother. I remember the time when she used to tell me about her

grandmothers, how during the wars and everything else, what stuck with me the

most was that they had to leave the babies behind. They had to put mud or cloth









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 32


or whatever in these babies' mouths so they would not cry, if they cried, they

could not be heard.


H: And sometimes that killed the child?


C: Yes, and left babies behind so that the rest of the people could be saved. That

stuck with me the most about wars, I think, and how cruel a non-Indian person

could be to force these people, who lived here all their life, to make them kill their

child just to protect the rest of the tribe. That always has really stuck with me and

has always been kind of like a very bitter thing to swallow. That and how our

people had fought, and how our people used Indian medicine to protect

themselves, and how they survived in the woods, and how they did not get to

wear fancy colors or clothing because it always had to be camouflaged and

always had to be under the protection of the woods. Just basic instincts of

survival. And that is what I really remember my grandparents telling about the

wars. Not so much of why, or who, or whatever, but it was just thinking everyday

of how to survive.


H: And they did.


C: And they did.


H: Well, thank you very much for your time. But if you would like to add anything

that I have not asked you that you think we ought to know about, please do not

hesitate.









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 33


C: I think the non-Indian population should really try to educate themselves that we

are just as human as they are. We bleed, just like they do. We are really no

different. We eat, breath, sleep. I put my pants on one leg at a time. And it just

amazes me sometimes that, quote-unquote, Indians, like we are not human. If

you are classified as Native American, you must not be human. It is like, what

am I? Alien? And it just sometimes ... not so much, I guess, the Caucasian

population, but a lot of the Hispanic population. Maybe it is not their fault, either.

Well, I am not saying it is their fault, I am just saying that it irks me sometimes

that the United States really caters to a Latin-speaking population and everything

is in English or Spanish, but I do not see anything that is in English, Spanish, or

Mikasuki. I had to learn English. And I guess that was a way that the

government made sure that our language would die down. And housing is the

same way. That was a way of... I mean, yes, sure, I enjoy my house. But if

they would have asked me how I wanted my house to be built, I think I would

have told them that, okay, I have lived in a camp setting all of my life, where we

had my aunts and uncles in the same place, my grandparents, there was not a

child that went undisciplined or [not] watched. We did not have any such thing as

latchkey kids. Children were constantly being taught. I think if they would have

just come out and asked, how would you like your house?, I would have told

them, put me in a camp setting. Fine, if you want to build us nice, single-family

dwellings. I would much rather have had my grandmother's house here, mine

here, my mother's here, my uncle's or my aunt's here, in this same location in a

cluster so that I still had my extended family. And the government knew exactly

what they were doing when they brought single dwelling homes into this









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 34


reservation, because they knew that would eventually break up the extended

family and that the language would die from there. Trying to kill the culture, they

knew that all along. I have always felt that way. I remember when my

grandparents first got their home-I was about thirteen when we moved in-and

my grandmother hated it. It was hot. The windows were real tall. You could not

see through the walls. My grandmother hated it. After a while she got used to it,

but she still did a lot of things outside, whether we cooked outside or whatever.

But the whole camp moved over, there were like thirteen people in that three-

bedroom house. Both of my grandparents were there, and my mom, my two

uncles, and us eight kids were in that house. We made it work. I think that is

why my Mikasuki language, my language, is fluent because my grandparents

made sure we made it work. But if the government had asked me, how would

you like your home?, that is what I would have told them.


H: Well, now that the Seminoles are economically better off, are any of you

interested in re-doing the housing to mimic that same camp-type setting again?


C: Yes. Where my house is now, you go right through the woods [and there] is my

mom's; down the street is my sister's; right next to me is Jeannette's. So, we can

go back and forth to each other. On the opposite of Jeannette is my Uncle

Junior's and his family. So, we are right there. I have a couple of sisters still up

in the main village, but most of us are up here on this road over here. Now,

Mitchell, I know, because I had talked about it to him before, too, and he said he

is building his house-his daughter has a house over here, and his other sister is

going to build right across from him, and a few others. I know another lady, Mary









SEM 233
Mary Jene Coppedge
Page 35


Jumper, has done the same thing. Her house sits over here, she has a step-

daughter-in-law, or a stepsister [who] lives on this side and all of her girls live

right beside her. So, in a way we are starting that. It is slowly but surely going

back to that. And like I said, the government knew exactly what they were doing,

but even yet, they still have not killed our culture and it still has not killed our

language.


H: Well, thank you, again. I really appreciate it.


C: All right.




University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs