Title: Jeanette Cypress
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Title: Jeanette Cypress
Series Title: Jeanette Cypress
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Interviewee: Jeannette Cypress
Interviewer: R. Howard
28 April 1999

H: [This is Rosalyn Howard, and I am with] Jeanette Cypress. This is April 28,

1999. We are meeting at the Billie Swamp Safari Cafe. Jeanette, to what clan

do you belong?

C: Panther.

H: When and where were you born?

C: February 4, 1956, Fort Lauderdale.

H: What is your Indian name?

C: Doshkeche.

H: Doshkeche. What does that mean?

C: My grandmother says it has something to do with distance or reaching distance.

I am not sure why she selected that name.

H: Was it your grandmother who gave you the name?

C: No. She explained it to me, but it was my grandfather who named me. She is

the one who said that it had something to do with distance. The man who named

me had died already when I got older, so I was asking her, and that is how she

explained it to me.

H: How do you feel about having both an English and an Indian name?

C: I just accept it as part of our tradition or our culture because every time a child is

born they usually give it an Indian name and an English name. So, it is just

something we grew up with.

H: Is there a certain context where you would use your Indian name?

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C: Mostly family, the immediate family. I have cousins that I grew up with who will

call me by my Indian name, or my mom, or my grandmother, or people like that.

Not just everybody knows your Indian name, and not everyone uses it. Most

people just use your English name.

H: You had mentioned how you address elderly people.

C: Yes. When we were growing up my mom, my grandmother, or my grandma's

sister, they did not wanting us calling her by her Indian name. They said it was

disrespectful. If you are young, you do not say that. So we used to call them

mom, grandma, or aunt. My brothers and sisters, we called my grandmother

mom too. We never really called her grandma; we just called her mom. When

you are growing up they tell you that is not something that you do. Like my

grandmother, I did not know her Indian name until I was probably in my twenties.

H: And your grandmother's name is?

C: Hoyeniche.

H: Do you know what that means?

C: I am not sure, but I think it comes from one of the medicine songs. Back then

they used a lot of the chants from the medicine songs, or maybe they would

select something that the father might have done when he was younger, or the

mom, or something like that.

H: And her English name is?

C: Susie Billie.

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H: You mentioned that your mom also does the medicine, like your grandmother.

Have you always lived on a reservation?

C: No. I have lived in several places. I lived in Hollywood for a while and then I

lived here. I went to live with a non-Indian family in Fort Myers, and then I went

to the University of [New Mexico at] Albuquerque for two years and lived in

Albuquerque. But I always came back here. This was like my home.

H: The non-Indian family that you lived with, how did that come about?

C: There was a social worker that used to work for the tribe. I went to an Indian

boarding school, I think it was around the eighth grade, and I did not particularly

care for the school.

H: Why was that?

C: The sports and the extracurricular [activities]-I cheerleaded, I did a bunch of

stuff that I liked, but academic-wise I felt like they did not really care if we learned

or not. At the time they were just passing people. There were students who did

not really try but they still got promoted. I felt like I needed a better education, so

I was talking to him and he told me about this family out in Fort Myers. They had

two sons and they were interested in being like a foster home. So, I went and

met them, and I liked them. We all got along, so I moved in with them, stayed

with them, and went to school up there for a while. I probably would have stayed

there and graduated but I came home because my mom had hurt her hand. She

had cut her hand pretty bad and she needed help with the brothers and sisters.

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When I was here I ended up-I was so young I do not know if it was love or

whatever, but I got in trouble with a boy and I ended up pregnant. At the time, I

guess everybody was thinking of me and saying, well maybe we will terminate

the pregnancy. But I decided that was not what I believed in or wanted, and

even though I was young, I do not know if that was the best thing to do, but I

decided that I wanted to raise the child. I ended up quitting high school, tenth

grade, and I went to work.

H: What kind of work did you do?

C: At the time I ended up working in the fields. There was a man that ran a field

nearby. They picked bell peppers. They did different kinds of stuff, so I worked

there for a while. He found out I was pregnant-I was probably about five

months pregnant-and he went home and he told his wife, there is a young

Indian girl working out there and I do not think she should be working out there.

So, he came back and he said, would you like to work with my wife? I said,

doing what? He said, she needs a teacher's aide. I told him that I had never

finished school and he said, that does not matter because she will teach for you

and you can work with her. He told me to meet his wife, and I met his wife. She

asked me to come to work, so I started working with the Head Start program. I

was a teacher's aide for a while. Then I have had different jobs. I went to work

for the Miccosukees for a year at their medical facility.

H: What kind of things did you do there?

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C: I worked for the WIC [Women, Infants, and Children] program for pregnant

women, and transported patients to hospitals, and interpreted. I even took an

EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] course, and did different things. It is kind

of hard for me to remember the years, but along the way they told me about this

program that some of students were going to at the University of Miami. It was

called the HEP program. It was for different people, like Spanish [Hispanic],

black, Indians, white people, who wanted to go back and get a GED. They

offered it where you could apply and you stayed on campus, and they provided

the meals and everything. You worked with computers and you could get a high

school diploma. I applied for that program. I got in there and I got my diploma in

six months. From there I continued to work. I have worked for the social

services program in different departments of the tribe. I went to college a little bit

at BCC, Broward Community College, just picked up some courses. Then this

lady from Miccosukee told me about this Indian health service scholarship. She

knew I was interested in nursing. She told me that they were only selecting so

many Indians from the U.S.; I think it was like twenty students out of the whole

United States. She said, you have to apply, and you are going to have to write

an essay of why you want to be a nurse, and hope you get chosen. So, I did and

I got selected. They are the ones that paid for the education when I went to

Albuquerque. By that time I had two children and my relationship was not too


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H: Relationship with?

C: The first one, like I said, I was a teenager, and he told me, well I will marry you

since I messed up your life. I said no. I said, if I get married, I hope it is because

somebody loves me, not because they feel like they messed me up. He was

from Oklahoma. He was here for the summer.

H: Was he a Seminole?

C: He was Choctaw. He wanted to go to college and this and that. I told him, I

would rather you go and get an education because I do not think we are going to

work out if we stay together. So he left. In the meantime I met someone else

and that is who I had the other two children with. That relationship, I guess I

made a bad judgement in that one too. I chose to get out of it because he was

abusive and he got into the drinking real bad. He was Seminole. Finally, I just

decided it was not going to work out, and I was pregnant at the time with a third

child. I just told him it was not going to work out. It was either [stay with that

situation or] just leave him alone and go on with my life and raise the kids by

myself, so I chose that route and I left. Then I met my husband I have now,

Danny Tommy. He is Seminole. I met him when my youngest one was about

two-and-a-half years old. He was totally opposite from the other relationship I

had. I have been with him all this time and we have kids. I think that is the best

choice I have ever made. He had two boys. His first relationship was not too

good either. He had two boys and I had three [children]. I had two teenagers, at

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the time my son was fourteen and my daughter twelve, and then the little girl.

We met, and we all got along. I took on the responsibility of raising the two boys.

I love them to death. They are just like mine. Then we decided to have kids of

our own. My first pregnancy was not too good; I had a stillborn. I carried full

term and I lost the little boy at the end. So we tried again the second year and I

miscarried at four months. I was like, God, I finally find the person I want to be

with, what is wrong? The third time I was pregnant, this was the third year, and I

started bleeding. I was so upset. I thought, here we go again. My husband said,

nope, do not even think that. Just calm down. Do not think the worst and we will

see how it goes. The doctor put me on bed rest for a week and my sugar went

up with him. I guess it was meant to be. I had him. That is my little boy that is

six. I had him and then my husband said, that is it, we are not going to have any

more because it is just too much stress on you and I do not want you to have to

go through that. So, I went on the shots that they tell you, are you sure that you

do not want any more children? I said yes. So, they put me on the shots and

they said, even after you get off the shots it takes about a year to eighteen

months to conceive. Well, I got pregnant on the shots. On the shots. I told my

husband one morning, I said, I think I am pregnant. He said, are you joking? I

said, nope. He said, well the doctor says . .. I don't care what the doctor says,

something tells me I am. He said, we tried so hard and now .... So, I went in

and he said, yes you are pregnant. I do not know how it happened, but you are.

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We had nothing, no problems, a perfectly healthy pregnancy, and that is the little

girl. I already had two daughters, and that was his first daughter. Then we took

in a nephew. My brother and his girlfriend were really young at the time when

they got together and they had three children and they got into the drugs and just

never straightened up. So, we all split up [the children], and my grandmother

had the boy I had for a while, but she was too old. So, I took him, and he is

fourteen now. My mom took the youngest one, he was a baby at the time, and

one of our aunts took the little girl. We had to split them up because none of us

could not take all three of them.

H: They are all here on Big Cypress?

C: The nephew I have stays with me, and my mom and the aunt live in Immokalee,

so those two live in Immokalee and they get to see each other quite a bit. We try

to get them together for birthdays and stuff like that.

H: Tell me about your mother's education, and your father's.

C: My mom, at the time they used to send them to places like Cherokee boarding

school in the Carolinas, and she said, I think, she went to the third or fourth grade

and she dropped out and never went back. She speaks English, but it is kind of

broken sometimes, and I have to help her sometimes, like if there are certain

things she cannot read we will help her with that. But she does pretty good. She

has had to learn along the way a lot of stuff. But she teaches the culture

program, that is what she does for a living, out at the Immokalee reservation.

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She has been doing that for several years. She teaches basketwork, patchwork,

and language classes. She will even work with adults if they want to learn the


H: Is the language she teaches Mikasuki?

C: Yes, Mikasuki.

H: So the Immokalee reservation is mainly Mikasuki speakers?

C: That is another thing. I do not know if other people you are talking to-our

language is kind of dying out to a certain point. You will have some families that

still speak the language, and then you will have some where they will go down

the generations, like myself, I am fluent because I grew up with grandparents and

they did not speak English. All of my brothers and sisters are fluent. My oldest

son is fluent-well it starts kind of dying out. My oldest son is fluent; the next

one, she understands everything you say, but responds in English. She does not

feel comfortable talking the language, I think because she thinks she is not going

to pronounce them right of something. My other daughter, she understands here

and there, and she will speak a little, but it is not enough to really just .... And

my youngest ones understand some, but they are the same way. A lot of it is

because-I think if I could have stayed home and spoken to them all the time, it

probably would have worked. But when you send them to Head Start and

preschool, most of the employees are not Indian and they do not speak the

language. So, they lose a lot of that because they spend the whole day hearing

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English. I always tell them, even if you only learn a little bit, it is better than none

at all, so I still try to teach them things at home. But as far as traditional things,

like how to behave, or how you are supposed to respect your elders, they know


H: What about your father?

C: My father, I never got to know my father. My mother says that she was

seventeen when she got pregnant, and he was not Indian. She said that she met

him here, but I guess they went to Virginia, I do not know whatever job he had, I

do not know if he drove trucks or something. While they were there, I do not

know for what, but my mom says she got really aggravated with him and she

caught the bus home. Back in the 1950s they said they did not allow a lot of non-

Indians to just come on the res, and they said he came asking about me, but at

the time, I do not know if they turned him away, but I heard he never came back

after that. Then a lady from the Trail said she had seen him I guess near Miami

somewhere. This lady who works for the tribe was trying to help me track him

down, but we did not have enough information, we did not have a birthday, a

social security number, or anything, just the name. She tried for a while and she

found someone that was in the Homestead area around that time with the same

name that died from an automobile wreck. I felt like that was him, because my

mom had said that she had heard that he ended up in wreck and he was in the

hospital, but she never went and saw him, and she did not know if he died or not.

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I do not know if she had a grudge, or if she was just mad at him, or what. So, I

just left her alone. It was like part of me wanted to know because I always felt

like, do I resemble him? Because you hear people say, you look like your dad,

you have your dad's height, and your hair coloring, and all this. Then my mom

married my step dad and he raised me since I was three.

H: Is he a Seminole?

C: Yes, he is Seminole. So, on my birth certificate I have mom's maiden name, but

after about three years old we started using Cypress, that is my stepfather's


H: What is his first name?

C: Herbert Cypress.

H: What are your ideas about the reservation school here, did any of your children

attend it?

C: My little girl goes to Head Start and the preschool program, and my little boy

goes to kindergarten, and my two sons go to a private school in Bell Glade called

Glades Day. One is a tenth grader and one is an eleventh grader. My daughter

goes to Clewiston high school, she is in the tenth grade. My nephew goes to

Vanguard in Lake Wales, it is a boarding school and it is private. The reason I

chose to send him there was because he just was not academically doing well

here, because they just do not have the teachers to handle certain learning

disabilities that he had. I have been really pleased since he has been there, and

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that is why I sent him there. My daughter went to the reservation school until the

eighth grade, my two boys went here for a while and then went to middle school

in Clewiston. My boys, mostly because of sports, we really do not have a good

sports program here and they like football, baseball, and basketball. They went

to Clewiston high school for a while but I guess they felt like they were not getting

a fair shake in sports, so they wanted to try Glades Day. So, that is where they

go. And the seventeen-year-old has a car and he drives so they ride together.

They are happy there and so they will probably graduate. And my daughter

chooses to stay where she is, she is playing sports there. She is going to stay

there. The main reason why I chose to send them was, I have nothing against

the education program here, or the school, but I wanted them to learn to mix with

other people because they are going to go to college and do things. Nowadays I

feel like you cannot go backwards. We are always going to be around other

people so they might as well adjust. I want them to be respectful but I do not

want them to be too shy either. I want them to be able to talk, because a lot of

things nowadays in this world, if you can not speak up, you are not going to get

too far.

H: What were your parents' attitudes about you attending these white schools that

you went to?

C: My grandparents are the ones that basically raised me because my mom-I

guess in some ways we are both similar because, like I said, I had a rocky first

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start, and her relationship with my dad was not too good. When she met my

stepfather they started a new family, there was a sister after me. She had two

bad relationships. She ended up giving my sister to a preacher here, Frank

Billie. He is a preacher. My stepfather's mom and dad, he was a preacher and

she was a preacher's wife. Well, he was an only child, my stepfather, because

he had a sister, I think, that had some mental problems, I do not know if she was

mentally retarded or if something happened, and she died at a very young age.

So, he was an only child and they always wanted children. My mom, before she

got with my stepfather, met another Indian man and she ended up pregnant: she

thought they were going to get married, and he did not. My stepfather met her

while she was pregnant. He had been in the service and he came back. He fell

in love with her and he knew she was pregnant with somebody else's child but he

wanted to marry her anyway. So, he married her. When my stepfather married

my mom, she was pregnant with my sister Wanda, who would be the second

child. Financially, they were just trying to get on their feet. He had come back

from the service. So, they made the choice to give my sister to his mom and

dad, because they were better off at the time. They had a nice house and

everything else, and they wanted a child too. They felt like she would still be in

the family but she would be taken care of, so my sister got adopted out to my

stepfather's mom and dad. That was who she grew up with.

H: Was that here on the reservation?

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C: Yes. So, my sister was like a preacher's daughter. [Laughter.] She grew up

here. I stayed mostly with my grandmother; that was who I got raised with. I

helped them a lot, and in return-they always wanted me to get an education.

They wanted me to learn traditional things but they wanted me to get an

education because I was the one that, when we went shopping, I had to read the

prices and names of things. At an early age I helped them do a lot of that stuff. I

think it was good for me. I got to live in chickee until I was twelve. We did not

have the luxuries, we had to go in the woods to the bathroom, and pump water

for baths, and sometimes you heated it up. I grew up more like that. I think it

made me appreciate things a lot more.

H: You attended a boarding school for just one year?

C: Yes, one year.

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

C: My sister graduated from Clewiston high school. The rest of my family, they

never went to boarding school; [perhaps] my cousins, but not my brothers and


H: Do you know much about the aspect of culture that they teach at the Ahfachkee


C: They also have a cultural program. We had this bilingual education program

back in the 1970s and I worked in that. When I worked there we were doing

legends and transcribing them into English to work with the kids, and recording

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numbers in Mikasuki and English so the kids could learn. We were doing a lot of

that. There was a girl that came from Gainesville, I had to work with her on that


H: Was she from the University of Florida?

C: Yes. I remember her name, it was like Maria Derek, and she ended up, I think,

marrying a guy from Peru. She spoke different languages real well. That was

what we did when we first started, but the tribe funds this one and she does the

crafts, Theresa Jumper. And James [Billie], the chairman, is really big on

wanting to preserve the language. So, she will do some language classes. I

guess they have a certain time set aside for each grade. They pull them out of

class and work with them for that time and then they go back to the classroom. I

think it is doing good, because my little boy comes back and he tells me about

what they learned.

H: You work for James Billie, right? What is your job with him?

C: We are called Administrative Assistants but we are really like-you know how

people have political aides or people who do stuff in the community? That is

what we do. There are usually one or two people on each reservation that work

for him. I guess you met Pat Diamond. She works up in Hollywood. I first

started off with her. I was working up there for a while. Then, this is my home,

so when James said, I need someone to work out in Big Cypress, I said I would

love to move back out there, so I came here. I did not really care for Hollywood. I

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do different stuff, it could be anything, like if someone dies, there is only a few of

us that collect the plants, so I will collect the plants and help people get ready for

the medicine. Or I might sometimes shop for an elderly person if she cannot do it

herself, or drive her to a doctor's appointment, and I attend meetings. I sit on a

lot of higher education committees for college students. We have meetings. I

am the vice chair for the Education Advisory Committee, I stay active with 4H. It

is a bunch of different pre-school meetings, PAC meetings. Those are the

Parent Advisory Committee meetings for different schools. I read mail for

people, if an elderly person comes in and wants me to read their mail. It could be

anything, just giving somebody a ride home. I do a lot of social work, that kind of

stuff. I never know from week to week. I have even cleaned someone's house

before. Just different things. I enjoy it.

H: You mentioned that at one time you were very interested in the health field.

What are the major health issues for the Seminole tribe?

C: I think the biggest thing that we are working on is probably diabetes. We have a

lot of diabetics and the tribe has really gotten into [assisting]. They have

wellness/diabetic day at the clinic where they have an interpreter in case some of

the older ones do not understand. They have a diabetic breakfast that morning

and they will do screenings and talk about medication, any questions. We have

a nutritionist on board; we have a person who does exercises now. We have a

real nice gym here equipped with weight machines. We even have Tai Bo and

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aerobics and that kind of stuff now.

H: How many people actually participate in these things?

C: It is just like anything else. You will get a whole bunch at the beginning and then

you will have the faithful in the end. But, I think as long as that lady has even

one person she does not care. She says if it is making a difference, she will

teach that class. Sometimes she will have seven, nine, sometimes two, or one.

H: Is it mainly the younger people?

C: It is mixed. She will get some of the older people, and middle aged.

H: Do you think that the change in diet has had any impact on that?

C: Yes, I think so. I see my grandmother, and then I see my mom. My mom is

younger and mom is already struggling. Do you know what I am saying? My

grandma is over one hundred, she says, but they have her down as ninety-nine

in the tribal enrollment. But they have to estimate; they do not really know. They

have her down January first, 1900. My mom is diabetic. She has had some

problems with high blood pressure and she is probably sixty now, fifty-nine or

sixty. My grandmother, she still does really well. I think a lot of it is because of

the exercise and the work. They did not have all of that junk food that we eat

today, and she had to work hard. They traveled a lot. They walked a lot. She

got a lot of exercise. I think that has a lot to do with it. And now, everything is so

fast paced, and junk food, and we just grab everything and go. It is not like it

used to be. To me, our life style has a lot to do with it.

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H: You mentioned that your grandmother knows the medicine. Has she taught your

mother and you?

C: We grew up in a family where my grandfathers all practiced it. We all used it

growing up and I think, like I always tell my husband, I think I am destined, like no

matter what you do you always go back to something. I think it is one of those

things with me because I think my grandmother is determined that I am going to

know it whether I want to or not. At this age, she always wants to have it done.

So, I am the one who has to go get the plants. When I first started, I might pick

the wrong plant and she would send me back out. I have been going back, and

now I have learned quite a bit from her. My mom is really knowledgeable and

she knows a lot of what to do, how to prepare, and what it is for, but she has had

a really hard time with the singing and the chant-prayer part because she said

her memory just can not seem to pick that up for some reason. It is like a totally

different language. A lot of it is like the old Mikasuki, and then you have some

Creek thrown into it. Myself, I can understand certain words when she sings, but

there are parts where she has to stop and break it down and tell me what she is

talking about so I can relate to it. I always tell people, it is like going to medical

school; like you have people come and go, what is this for? If you tell them Bay

Leaves are used for something, they think you can grab a Bay Leaf and use it. It

is not that way. There is a lot that goes into it. If you really want to learn, you

have to devote a lot of time. You have to go listen to her and she has to repeat a

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lot of stuff and break it down and explain it to you. And then, when you learn the

chant, then you have to know what kind of diet you tell your patient: what they

can not eat after they use the medicine; how to use the medicine; whether you

bathe in it or drink it. Then you also have to learn the plants that go in it. My

grandmother used to go out and pick the plants, prepare it, and do everything.

H: But she does not now?

C: No, because of her age. She cannot see that well, and she does not get around

as good. So, we are the ones that she will tell; I have to fix something for

somebody, can you go out and get these for me? Then I go get them. There is

an exchange that goes with it. It is not money. It is like a certain color fabric.

The person who is asking you for the help might have to bring you a certain color

fabric or beads or something.

H: Is that dependent on what kind of illness it is?

C: Yes. So, when you are learning different things, you have to learn a lot of stuff

that goes with that one illness. That is why it makes it complicated. It is

interesting, but it makes it complicated.

H: You say this is being preserved?

C: Yes. We are working-the chairman was really interested in trying to preserve a

lot of stuff. In the old days they used to tell you that you cannot record it, you just

have to learn it. But now, if you do not record some of this stuff, it is going to be

gone when someone dies. So, me, my mom, and my grandmother agreed and

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we all sat down and discussed it and I felt like it is a way of preserving her if she

passes on. There is something of her. And my kids and other peoples' and my

grandkids will probably benefit. So, we decided to record some of this stuff. I

have experimented, I am trying to grow [and] transplant some plants to see how

they do, and do a little bit of studying just so I can help somebody else that is

trying to learn. See, that was her church.

H: Do you go to Church?

C: Yes. Not on a regular basis, but I go to church. I believe, like I said earlier, there

is a God, Jesus. And I believe and respect whatever everybody else wants to

worship. I go, and I also believe in the Indian medicine, so I put everything

together and work with it. Like my kids, I will take them to church, but not all the

time. But if they chose to go on their own, I am not going to say, no, you cannot

go. But I also teach them about traditional medicine and try to tell them to be

open-minded, because in this world you are going to meet a lot of people with

different ideas and a lot of beliefs and you cannot sit there and say, my belief is

better than yours. You just be open and just listen and that is how you learn. I

told them, everyday you are going to be learning something so you have to be

open-minded enough.

H: Do you see any conflict between people who believe in Christianity and people

who do not?

C: I think we all live together, I do not know if it is in harmony, but I think we all live

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together and we respect, we do not try to force .... Like the preacher might

come to your house and say, I am just visiting you and would like to invite you to

a revival. Everybody lets him in and they hear what they have to say, but they do

not try to force it on you and say you have to go to church.

H: Has Christianity drawn some people away from the traditional [practices]?

C: It has. I think you will have different types of people. You will have some that go

to church and they will feel like Indian medicine is the devil's way, so they might

not use the medicine, they might just strictly stay with the church. Then you will

have some that might have been that way at one time but then, because of

health reasons, and they have tried everything else, they will come back to Indian

medicine and feel like maybe that is where they need to go. So, it just all

depends on the individual.

H: Are there any particular medical issues that are best treated at hospitals or by

white doctors versus traditional medicine?

C: To me, that is kind of hard to say because it all depends on the individual.

Sometimes I think some people's illnesses could be in their minds, like you might

be depressed or something might be wrong and you are thinking of something

else, and I think some things, if they find relief in Indian medicine, go that route.

If you feel more relieved with the other way, I would say go that route. If you feel

like you have to have both, do both.

Like my grandmother, she still goes to the white doctor, even though she does

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medicine. She will go to the white doctor, but she never gives up her Indian

medicine. I do not care how many other doctors she sees. She has never had

surgery. Last year she had a gallstone; she got really sick and she was throwing

up, and she wanted to go see the medicine man that night. So, I took her, and I

told her, I think we are going to have to take you to the hospital because at your

age you cannot keep throwing up. You are going to get dehydrated and your

stomach hurts real bad. It could be your appendix. She did not want to go to the

hospital, but I took her, and it was a gallstone. They did that procedure where

they did not have to cut her open. They go inside your mouth and if it is

something they can push through or pull back out, if it is small enough, they do

that. She had that done and that was like the first major thing that she has ever

had done. She was in the hospital room-this was two years or a year ago-she

was in the hospital room and I waited for her to recover. I talked to her until they

took her in, they brought her back and I was waiting for her. She was really

hurting; she was in a lot of pain and she was crying, and she made me feel bad.

We took her back to the room and she was lying there and I remember she said,

I need some Indian medicine done. And I [thought], who am I going to go get?

We were in Naples. [While I was] thinking she said, you are going to do it. I

said, I do not know if I am ready, I can not remember a lot of stuff. And she said,

you are going to do it. I said, but how? And she said, well, I have some stuff in

my purse and you are going to cut it up in a paper cup and you are going to use

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the straw and you are going to sing after me and [if there are] some things you

do not remember, ask me. We are going to do it. So, she was my first patient. I

feel proud that I could help her.

So, I have done medicine on her but I have not done it on anybody else. She

says, you will know when you are ready. You will probably have to be older, and

you will know when you are ready. She said she learned when she was

probably-she started learning about ten or eleven years old. She said, they

used to get mad at me. The men and women would be sitting around and they

would be singing songs and teaching each other, and she said, I would always

be right there and get in the way, and she said some of her relatives would get

mad at her and tell her, you are too young. She said she had one relative say,

no she is not; you never know, she might be the one to help people some day.

She said she never gave up, but she said, I learned, and some of the things that I

thought I would never learn, I did. When she got older she started practicing it

after-usually women, they kind of want you to be already in your menopause

state, so she started after she already had her kids and went through

menopause. Then she started helping other people.

H: Before menopause, I was told that women can only treat women, other women.

But after that they can treat men also?

C: Before menopause, I think you can probably-like I said, I have done her, and

she said I could probably do my family. But, after that, then I could [help] more

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H: After menopause?

C: Yes. But, as far as her, I have helped her do stuff like that. I enjoy it. I told my

husband. He always teases me. He says, golly, take off in the woods and [it will]

be six-thirty in the morning and she is running around in the woods. I said that I

guess that is just part of my life now. I enjoy it. At first it was like, oh, God, I do

not know if I can do this. I do not have time. It was like I was finding all sorts of

excuses, and certain things just kept going back, and my grandmother was pretty

persistent with me about it. I think, in her own way, she really wants me to learn

because when she is gone, I think she feels like maybe it is gone to be all gone.

I think it bothers her. Then a lot of things too is her last child, who has Down

Syndrome, her last son, I think part of the reason she holds on so long is she is

hoping that he will pass on before her, I think. My husband and I were talking

about that one day.

H: Who takes care of him?

C: She does. He is pretty self-sufficient. He bathes himself.

H: How old is he?

C: He is in his fifties. He bathes himself; he does things around the house, it is just

that he could never live alone. He is hard of hearing now. She chooses to live

just the two of them. We have to check on her. I got her a phone. She can not

dial out; she does not know how to dial, but she can at least answer it the right

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way. She used to pick it up upside down. She would be yelling in the opposite

direction. We check on her. My mom says, I think you have got her spoiled, she

always asks for you. I said, well, I am the one that had to doctor her up when

she was sick. We just check on her. The Spanish girl that came here, I have her

clean her house two days a week to help me out. I was getting really stressed

out from trying to run my household and her household. She had broken her hip,

she fell and broke her hip. One night she got up to go to the bathroom, and she

had put this piece of rug down that was kind of worn. I had found it and I was

going to throw it away. I had stuck it in a closet, and she went back in and got it

and put it down. She got out of bed and must have just stepped on it just so and

it moved, and she fell and broke her hip. You know how they say elderly people

with their injuries; I was so upset because I thought she was never going to get

any better. Well, it took about four months-to bathe her, to take care of her-

but she got back on her feet. She gets around good.

H: In the church on Big Cypress-there is an independent church and then there is

the First Baptist. Which one are you a member of?

C: I go to both. When I was younger, I used to go to First Baptist, pretty much, and

then when I got older, when I lived in Fort Myers, I went to the Church of Christ

because that family went to Church of Christ. My sister's family is the one that I

told you runs the church on this side. If they want to go to Brighton, I will go to

church up there sometimes. I go to different ones.

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H: The clergy, the ministers, are they all Seminole?

C: The ones out here, yes, they are. They do their sermons in both languages

sometimes, English and Mikasuki.

H: Does your grandmother ever go to church?

C: She does. She usually goes to the First Baptist Church. She used to go more

often but now she does not go as much. I think a lot of it is because she does

not get around that good. I mean, she still gets around good but not...

H: What are some of the roots and herbs that she uses? You mentioned Bay Leaf.

C: Yes.

H: What is that used for?

C: She told me that is one of your most important ingredients, because if there is

nothing else, you can use that.

H: For what kinds of things?

C: They use it when someone dies. They might use that to help prepare for the

family, during their grieving time. Or they might use it when a child is born, for

the little bundle they make. It is used in a lot of different stuff. That is one of the

things that they put into a lot of the mixtures they make.

H: You mentioned bundles that are made when a child is born. This is a traditional

thing? Is this still carried on today?

C: Some families do it and some do not. Some young people grew up where the

family did use it and they still try to, and then you will have some that never used

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it. You will have some that maybe their parents did not really teach them, but

now that they are older they want to learn. So, they come and they will ask.

H: The medicine bundle that is made for a child, is that something that they keep all

their lives?

C: A lot of them, they put it on beads and put it around [their neck]. It is like a little

pouch that they put on their necklace or you might put it by their crib. It is for

their protection, to make them healthy. [End of Tape Side A.]

H: How do people become recognized and acknowledged as certified or bona fide


C: Probably by word of mouth. Once someone starts treating people, then people

start coming to you and then they will tell another person, oh, so-and-so can do

that for you. That is how they get well known. My grandmother told me that

some people will be specialized, just like you have your gynecologist and

pediatrician. When they were growing up, one person might be better at one

thing they treated than another, so they would say, go to that one because she

does good with that. One person might be so knowledgeable in everything that

he will do everything.

H: Now there are far fewer medicine people, so is the emphasis on trying to teach

the person to learn everything well?

C: I think that is what her goal is. She is hoping somebody will learn everything but

she is teaching some men from Miccosukee. They come on a regular basis.

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She has one in particular that she has been training for a while and he has

picked up quite a bit. There is one medicine that is specifically for women, that

could be for after you have a baby or you could have problems with your period

or a cyst, or those kinds of problems, and that one, she is the only one that

knows that and she has really been wanting to teach it. The man I am talking

about has pretty much picked it up. The only thing about that is they have

restrictions on that medicine. If a man is going to treat other people, she said

they have to be pretty old already and not too sexually active. It cannot be a

younger man, it has to be someone that is an older man to treat women and the

man can prepare the medicine, the chant and the prayer, but a woman has to

collect the plants. It cannot be a man touching the plants; a woman has to collect

the plants, and usually a woman that is older, that cannot have children anymore.

That is who they want to prepare it and get it ready if a man is going to do the

medicine. And then, the older woman has to be the one to bathe or fix it for the

girl. She cannot even touch it herself, the one being treated. That one is one of

the stricter ones. That is the one that she was specialized in because hardly

anybody knew that one. So, she is handing that down and we are trying to learn

that. I have learned all of the plants. There are about seventeen plants that go

in there. I have learned how to do it, how to bathe the individual, I just do not

have the chant down yet. It takes a while. It is long. It takes a lot of time. So,

we are working as a team, mostly. The guy, he is an older man now, so he

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practiced on her first, and now he is learning. He will call me and tell me, so-and-

so needs this, can you help me out? And I am the one that goes out and gets

the stuff together for him.

H: So, you have really gained a lot of knowledge about the plants already?

C: Yes, I am pretty comfortable with that.

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

C: Yes, they do.

H: Have you ever attended?

C: Yes. I grew up going to those, except I never was too active in the dancing when

I was younger. I had to watch my brothers and my sisters because my mom and

my grandmother and other people danced. We used to go to the one in

Miccosukee quite a bit. When I met my husband, he went to the one towards

Brighton. They have grounds out that way. He leads the songs and he is more

Creek, so we used to go that way. Now we go to the one that is here that Sonny

Billie has started. That one, they are doing it where there is no alcohol at all. I

do not know if they told you about that one. We go to that with our kids quite a

bit because I like that atmosphere. My sons and my daughters, they dance, and

they get out there and help me cook and do stuff.

H: What is the purpose of the Green Corn Dance?

C: My grandmother always said it was like a time to get together, to celebrate, to

see your friends, to be like one big family, and the boys kind of grew up and got

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their man names. That is the way I perceive it. It is a time to be happy and not

argue, we all get out there and play ball. It is kind of like a New Year for us. That

is the way I see it. It is a good time to teach your kids certain things because you

have all the other relatives there. Maybe if somebody is not that good at cooking

bread, they will show them how to cook something.

H: What about scratching? Is that something that still goes on?

C: Yes. That is part of the corn dance and it will probably always be there.

H: What is the purpose of that?

C: I think it is a time of cleansing for the men; the boys, when they get to a certain

age, they get to get scratched by the men, and for some of them it is a big deal.

Oh, look at me now, I am macho. I am grown up.

H: It is only the boys and the men who are scratched?

C: Yes. The women do not. The women, we used to get scratched when we were

bad, not behaving or something.

H: What about fasting? Have you ever fasted?

C: Yes. My little boy gets scratched so sometimes he will fast for half a day, since

he is smaller, and I do not want to eat in front of him. A lot of times the women

will fast with their little boys.

H: What about the sweat lodge? Have you ever visited a sweat lodge? Or is that

only for men?

C: I think it is only for men. Other tribes have sweat lodges where, I think, women

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and men go in it.

H: How does the annual fair, the powwow that is put on, how does that help to

preserve or change Seminole culture?

C: It is hard to say. I think, to me, it is more of a get-together, for everyone to see

each other that they have not seen in a while, but culturally I guess maybe it

makes the women want to try to do the patchwork and their artwork and their

crafts. That is probably a good thing because they compete. They try to be

better at the basket or the clothes, and in that way that is probably helping

preserve. It is cool to make a jacket or wear your own traditional clothes. In that

way, it probably does. We have other tribal members from other places come

and they socialize and they have powwows. I guess if you want to just get

together and see people in powwows, I think it is good. I think if you really want

to try to teach your child, some people do not like to go, but I think the Green

Corn Dance is probably your better bet for culturally wanting to ask questions or

learn certain traditions.

H: Why don't some people want to go to the Green Corn Dance?

C: It all goes back to the Christianity thing. Sometimes I think they feel like if you

are a Christian, you should not go to those, because some people perceived it as

worshiping something else. And then some people think it is a place where a lot

people just go out and get drunk because of some younger people drinking, and

they do not see what it really stands for. They think it is time to get together with

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your friends and party. That is probably why they made that [dance] no alcohol

over here.

H: That is been for the past couple of years that they have had that no-alcohol one?

C: This one is probably in its second year.

H: Skills like canoe making, I spoke with Henry John Billie yesterday and he said he

is really not teaching anyone that skill. Do you think that is a bad thing, that no

one is learning that to pass on, like you are learning the medicine?

C: Yes. I think everything that we have done as a tribe, that or our ancestors did, I

think it is always good to learn because that is part of us and I think it should

always be there. Even if you think it is making basket, that is part of our culture,

so I think they should keep it.

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

C: Yes.

H: What do you think of that?

C: I think it is a good thing.

H: Why?

C: Probably because it gives the public a better image of us, and they can ask

questions and really learn from us and not through somebody else or through a

book or a newspaper. I just think it is good for the tribe.

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

C: Yes. I think so.

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H: Why?

C: I think tourism has always been a part of life for us. That is probably how we

survived before we got gaming and other things. I remember going, as a

youngster, to this village in Miami. My parents had to go there and sew and do

things in front of tourists. I did not think of it as being bad. And then I worked at

a village, when James Billie used to run the village in Hollywood, I was like a tour

guide. I always felt like I was out there promoting the tribe in a positive way. I

did not want people to stereotype us, like, oh, drunk Indians. You know, you

hear that all of the time. So, I guess it was a way for me to tell people. I had kids

asking me, can you see in the dark? Where are your feathers? It was one way

to tell them who we really were. I never thought anything bad [about it]. Like

here, I think this was a good thing to do.

H: This Swamp Safari?

C: Yes, I think it was, because it also provides a place for our elderly, if they want to

go somewhere and get something to eat or socialize without having to drive all

the way into town. I think it is a good public image too. I do not want everybody

to think, all they do is casinos, and gambling, and bingo. They do not realize we

have citrus and cattle and we are normal like everybody else. I have had people

think that we do not pay taxes, that everything is for free, and they are in shock to

know that we have to pay for everything. I even had a person ask me one time, if

you break the law, because you are on the reservation like this, if you kill

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somebody, they will not do anything to you, right? And I am like, where have you

been? It is like people think that just because people are different colors on the

outside that everything is so different, but really it is not. We might have the

cultural things that are a little different but still, basically, we all have the same


H: Do you wear any traditional Seminole clothing?

C: I do. I wear it to work sometimes, but not all of the time. I have different types of

dresses, some for when we dance at corn dance, I have the longer ones and the

capes and sometimes I wear a jacket, but I do not wear it all of the time. When I

was growing up I had to wear quite a bit of it because my grandparents sewed it

a lot, so that is what we wore.

H: When you were growing up, what type of house did you live in?

C: I lived in a chickee because I stayed with my grandmother and her husband, my

grandfather, and we lived in a chickee until I was about twelve. We did not have

a bathroom; we had to go to the woods. We had the pump. I remember her

when she used to wash her clothes in the canal, there was like a pond behind us.

H: After you were twelve what kind of house did you move into?

C: They started making homes for senior citizens and then they started making the

wooden homes. My parents got one of the wooden homes, and I ended up living

with them. I came from a family of seven and I was the oldest, so I helped with a

lot of the brother-sister stuff.

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H: And your mom, you said she was in Immokalee?

C: Yes, she lives in Immokalee.

H: She teaches culture there?

C: Yes.

H: Does she make baskets also?

C: Yes. She does the dolls, the baskets, and she sews, she does a lot of crafts.

H: Do you do any of that?

C: I can do beads but I am not too good at sewing. The baskets I can do. I am not

that great because I do not devote enough time to it. Like I said, I preserve a lot

of the plant stuff and the culture stuff, but the craft stuff, I did not devote that

much time to it. I ended up devoting more time with my grandmother and she

takes up a lot of my time now too. Being old, she wants attention more, and then

with all of the kids I have I spend a lot of time on the road with sports and trying

to be there for them, and trying to work and everything else.

H: Tell me what you know about Seminole history, like the wars.

C: You mean, like the books and stuff?

H: Well, you can tell me where you learned it from, but did your grandmother pass

any of that down to you?

C: She tells me stories about different things and how they grew up and about their

food and how they traveled in canoes and the carts with the oxen, I guess you

would call it. And about her aunts and their grandmas telling them about how

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they used to run when the soldiers were coming. One of her aunts told her that

she was young and she would cry and they would tell her to be quiet and she

would get tired, and how they used to leave their babies behind sometimes so

they would save the rest of the family. She has told me things like that. As far as

books, I read a little bit about it but I have not really-I could not sit here and tell

you like, the Dade battlefield, nineteen whatever. I mean, all the years, I just

never really got into that. I got into more of the verbal history that she hands

down, telling me about things and stuff they did, what they ate, some of the foods

they made.

H: What were some of those?

C: When I grew up, my uncles hunted a lot. We ate a lot of fish and turtles, roasted

turtles, ducks, curlews, a lot of things that you can not kill anymore. They used to

make stuff out of this leaf they would wrap around, and I taught my daughter that.

Different kinds of drinks they made out of pumpkin and guavas. So, I guess I

have been spending so much time trying to absorb what I can from her that I

have not really got into-because I feel like I can always get a book, if I want to,

and read it, but I cannot get that from her once she is gone. That is it.

H: Well, I want to thank you very much. Shonabish.

C: Shonabish.

H: Is there anything else you would like to add that I have not asked you about, that

you think would be important for us to know?

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C: I think you covered just about everything.

H: The physical environment here on the reservation has changed. How has it

changed in the last thirty years?

C: I guess it has changed as far as building more things, like the museum, the rodeo

grounds, but basically I think we still have quite a bit of woods. I just do not think

we will ever destroy anything. We have had to do ditches because of the water,

certain things have to flow a certain way, but I think we try to keep our home sites

in certain areas and try to make sure it is nothing that is going to really impact

something environmental-wise. I think we are pretty cautious about it.

H: You mentioned that when you were growing up there was a lot of hunting and

fishing going on. Is that still?

C: We still have a quite a few people that fish and hunt and eat a lot of game. It is

just that we fall into the same guidelines as everybody else, so we can not kill a

curlew anymore.

H: What is a curlew?

C: An Ibis. Ibis are those birds that have that weird beak. I think it is one of the

endangered [species]. Certain things you can not kill because it is the law, but

we are still allowed to get deer meat, if we want it.

H: Do people tend to rely as much on the environment for subsistence as they did?

C: Probably not as much as they used to because now, like I said, everybody goes

to town and eats Kentucky Fried Chicken. We still have quite a few people that

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fish and eat fish. A lot of younger guys, they will go out and catch fish or kill a

deer and bring it to my grandma because they know that is the kind of stuff she

always ate. They will bring her turtles, stuff like that. She still has a few guys

that come and do that for her.

H: It seems like the elderly are still held with high respect.

C: Yes, I think that is pretty much [the case].

H: Is it as much as when you were growing up?

C: Probably not as much, but I think it is still there. And it is nice to see that, that it

is still there, because someday me and Daisi are going to be the elderly.

Hopefully they will still respect us. [Laughter.]

H: Again, thank you very much, Jeannette. I appreciate it.

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