Sonny Billie is a medicine man and has also trained many people in healing. He begins his
interview by discussing the obstacles, at the time of his childhood in East Naples, to Indians
attending schools (1). It was in part through these obstacles that he pursued training in
medicines, although he was from a family known for healers. Billie makes the useful comment
that the Indian way is to trace through the mother's side, that his father is like an "outsider," and
hence his training and association with healers was matrilateral (2). Concerning White views
against Indians where he lived, Billie commented that, "Anytime it is outside reservation land,
there is a prejudice so strong" (3).
Sonny Billie explained that many people, not just healers, used to know about medicinal plants,
and that people would often bring the plants to a healer for their treatment (5). He also tells about
medicines not being limited to the members of individual clans (6). As one who teaches
medicines to others, it is important that Billie does not know much about the world of women
healers (11). During his discussion of the role of a medicine man, Billie emphasized that it is not
for the medicine man to be a disciplinarian, that he should never do things that cause another
person harm. He considers that the Green Corn Dance has changed over the years, so that it is no
longer so much a place for scratching, to demonstrate right and wrong before the younger
generations, and that when that does happen it is handled within clans and families (14-15). As a
healer, Billie was asked by Mitchell Cypress to use medicine to bring peace to the reservation
communities, something Billie says must be repeated after certain periods of time. He was also
asked to perform a similar act by the mayor of Miami to relieve social strife (16-18).
Sonny Billie believes that Seminole Indians had a clear understanding of Christianity before
missionaries introduced it, despite the language barriers, and this is because they already had
religion. As he explains it, they could not adopt something they already had (20-21).
Christianity, however, is partly to blame for the major health issue of diabetes. People who
spread Christianity told Indians that they have God with them and therefore can be trusting and
do whatever they wish, which Billie says led to excesses and abuses of the body, and then to
diabetes (7-9). This commentary also contains a lesson Billie learned about trusting others.
Despite Seminole Indians' preadaptation to Christianity through their own prior experiences with
religion, Billie twice makes the point that people of different cultural backgrounds cannot fairly
participate in the ceremonies of others, for they would not understand the possibilities of
violation (11-12, 23-25).
Interviewee: Sonny Billie
Interviewer: R. Howard
11 May 1999
H: I am talking tonight with Sonny Billie, at his office on Big Cypress reservation,
and this is May 11, 1999.
B: Okay, I am a Panther Clan. My name is Sonny Billie. I was born and raised
outside the reservation. I never lived on the reservation in my whole life until
working with the Seminoles, and then that is the only time I stayed over here. I
was born and raised to the east of Naples, right around Everglades City, in
Ochopee. There is a small town they call Ochopee. That was mostly my area,
where I grew up. All those years that I said I never lived on the reservation, I
never went to a non-Indian school because back in my time the boarding school
was the only thing that they had. They would not let us go into a non-Indian
school because the prejudices were so high. The reason why they then sent me
to school was that, back at the time, there was a boarding school, that was about
the only thing they wanted the Indian to go [to]. Here, in the local [area],
everything was kind of squeezed out to Indians. The Indians did not have a
chance to go to a non-Indian school. Therefore, I asked them, my people-my
parents, actually-asked them, how come we [cannot] go in there, in the non-
Indian school? Back then, when I was a kid, when I was hanging around
younger Black people, as well, when I was out there in Ochopee, even the Black
people had another small school away from the White community. I asked them,
is that where you guys go to school? They said, yeah. It looked like a little barn,
not as good as this, either. That is where some of those Black kids were going.
Back then, at the time, when I was a kid, even my people would not go any place
out there, throughout the Glades, Everglade City, I mean. They would go to buy
groceries certain places. And also in the Naples area, the same way. Like if
they are going to go get supplies or different kinds of supplies, they would go to a
certain place, certain places. They [would not] go just anyplace.
H: Because they would not be served at some places?
B: Right. And therefore, I never went to a White man's school. I always had
studied. I asked my parents, but I never knew I was in the highest medicine
people in my family. I did not realize that when I was a kid. I was in that with
H: Okay, so your father, your grandfather ...
B: Not, really my father. My mother, actually. Actually, the Indian world, to the kids,
it falls to their mother's side. So, actually, my father is sort of like an outsider and
then my mother married him and brought him into the family. But mostly, on my
mother's side, there were doctors in my aunts, and grandmothers, and my
grandfathers, and all that. All those kin folks were doctors. But when I was a kid,
I did not ever realize it.
H: When were you born?
B: November eleven, 1935. So, back then, at the time, like I said, I never lived on
the reservation. My parents never lived on the reservation. I remember they had
some kind of Indian school on the reservation, the government people were
teaching it. I do not know how good they were teaching it, but there was
H: But you did not go to it.
B: No. We were too far away from them. We were too far away. Like I said, they
had one ... the Ahfachkee School, I think they had some kind of small building
right there. They called it Ahfachkee, I believe. But I was too young, back then.
But like I said, we never lived on the reservation, we lived out in the East Naples
area. Anytime it is outside reservation land, there is a prejudice so strong.
H: Were there many Seminoles living where your family lived?
B: Not together. Not in a group, like today. They were scattered, living throughout
the East Naples area, scattered through all the way up to Miami, and even up
here, as well. People did not want to live together because, like I said, the
prejudice was so strong and all that. So, back then, everything they would do,
they had to use their own doctors, like some diseases. But people were ...
different nationalities, when they come, they bring in different types of disease,
then that makes it stronger, and stronger, and stronger. But they say that they
are going to be like that in the future. It is not going to get better. It is going to
get worse, they say. Therefore, when I was a kid, that was about the only thing
to do, and that is what I studied.
H: You studied medicine?
B: Yes, I studied medicine. I did not realize that Indian study and non-Indian study,
I did not know they were almost identical. But, as I was studying for many years
to be ... people called me a medicine man, but I do not call myself a medicine
man; I just say I am one of the Indian doctors, but actually you may call it an herb
doctor. That is what I am. Most of my teaching, I was very good at it, but I am
not as good as my teacher was.
H: You are still learning after all this time.
H: They taught you what herbs to go out and pick, and which ones to use for certain
B: Yes, which herb to, not just .... Okay, let's say you pick up one herb, and it goes
H: You mean it can cure many different things?
B: Right. Many things. Just like you are buying a flower. You can make many
things out of it. It is the same thing. But, back at the time, everybody was so
educated about herbs and stuff, the Indian doctor did not really go out and pick.
Almost every person, each individual Indian person, knew what they were gong
to have to have. So, they always had it with them. What they would do, he
[would] just give it to him and he just, like a pharmacy, mixed it together for him,
and then chopped it up and gave it back to him, and he would go home and use
it, or sometimes he put it on him himself.
H: Would they use it like . boil it, like in a tea?
B: Many ways. It tells it what to use. Just like you go buy different things from the
drugstore. You read the label, and the same thing. Like I said, each individual is
almost, every one is almost as educated as they are. They did not really tell
them what had to be done, only explain to them how they were going to use it.
Sometimes he would just go home with it, or some of them would stay right there,
maybe two or three weeks, depending on how bad the patient [was]. A lot of
times people stayed there and they treated them after many days, some of them,
and then, when they got well, they would just go on home, with their family and
all. Like I said, when I was a kid, I did not realize it, but a gentleman, the best
one that I knew, was Josie Billie and another man, his brother [-in-law]. His
brother-in-law's name is Bobby Jim. Not many people talk about him, I think.
Bobby Jim. To me he was good. He was sort of like my hero. He was a younger
man, but he was good. Those two people were sort of my heroes. And then
Josie was partly my teacher, as well, but his brother was more my teacher,
Ingraham. You have heard about him, right? Ingraham Billie. That is his
brother, Josie. He is his younger brother, not real young, but he is the younger
brother to him.
H: All of them were medicine men?
B: Oh, yes. They were doctors.
H: Did most medicine men come from the same clan? Was there one particular
clan where most medicine men came from?
B: They can teach them, the other clans, how to save lives and stuff. No, it does
not have to be the same clan. It depends on who wanted to learn. Even the
H: And you can treat people from any clan? It does not matter.
B: Yes. It does not matter. Even Blacks I treat, even Whites. Even today.
H: Do they combine your medicine with Western, White doctors' medicine?
B: Yes. Right.
H: So, they can use both, really.
B: Yes. Use both.
H: One of the biggest health issues that I have heard about that the Seminoles deal
with is diabetes. Is that something that was also prevalent in the past, or is that
something that has happened to the Indian people more recently?
B: When I was a kid, I never heard of diabetes. I never saw anybody that had
diabetes, not that I knew about it. But, just recently, not recently but when I was
a kid .... I will put it to you this way. When I was a kid, when we were kids, he
told us some things you are not to do. You have to follow the guidelines. Your
mother and dad tell you to, and especially your mom, what to eat, what not to
eat, and all of that. Let's say we were eating in a restaurant, just any restaurant.
We do not know what kind of stove they were using or how clean [it is]. We do
not know what is going on back there, but we go on ahead and eat. Many times,
when we were kids, they told us if any strange person gives you something, do
not take and eat [it]. That is how they were. That is sort of the same way that I
am today. I come to realize that they were right, whether you are a kid or today,
you still do not trust anyone. That is what it means. That is what we followed
when we were kids. Especially when you were eighteen years old, too. When
you are eighteen, [that is] the age when you are a young lady or a young man,
and you go many places and you go out with different people and have dinner
with different people and all. I remember when I was a kid, this is sort of like, I
am not against any religion, but people who were called the missionaries came
down. When they came down, they brought in a lot of used clothes. Some of
those Indians said we are not supposed to wear it. You are not supposed to
wear it. And I asked them, how come? Different men were wearing it before.
So, body oil, it goes into the clothes. It is not healthy. If you want to, you do not
have to wear it. But a lot of them went on ahead and wore it. A lot of times I
wondered. Mom says, and mom and dad says, or these people say, don't you
wear it. Then, why do you wear it? I have seen many Indians wear it.
H: Do you think that caused problems?
B: No, no, no, no, no. I am just trying to bring it up to you. You asked me a
question and I am just trying to give you a bigger picture. Just quiet and listen
and put it together.
H: Yes, sir.
B: Otherwise, you will throw me off. When the weekends came, some of those
Indian people, especially Josie, he was a very educated man, he was pretty
good, but some of those, they called themselves a preacher man. They start
preaching that God protects you, you can eat anything that you want. Nothing is
going to harm you. Do you understand what I am saying? God will protect you.
And then, another man, he did not say it right then, why do you say then, God
[be] with you, God will protect you. They say, creator [be] with you, they protect
your body and you can eat anything that you want, nothing is going to harm you.
All right. And a lot of times, when I was a kid, this guy here says, jumping up and
down, you must believe in the creator, you can do what you want. Nothing is
going to be a harm to you. The next thing you know, pieces have started the
infection, and the doctor cuts them off here, and here, and here, and there. Why
are you saying, you who used to be jumping up and down, nothing is going to
harm you, how come your are cutting to pieces, little piece by piece, and you
die? Some of them, I went to talk to them, before they died. I asked them. You
said one time-especially Junior Buster, I asked him. There was a gentleman by
the name of Junior Buster. He was not really a preacher. When I was a kid, he
was sort of like my big brother. Part of my kin folks, anyway. He used to sing in
the church and then, in a number of things, even a food guideline, they eat
different things and then they say, like I am saying, that God be with you and all
that. Yes, God [be] with you, yes. But your body, you are supposed to protect it.
You are supposed to protect it from what is not good for you. You cannot pack
everything that you can pack because some things your body rejects. Your body
cannot go on. And then, even the Indian doctors say, you have got to equalize it.
You cannot just smoke cigarettes too much because you have to go easy with it
so you can smoke longer. You cannot smoke one after another. And then,
maybe you smoke after you eat, or things like that, maybe you will last a long
time, and all that. But some people, every time they just get hungry, they just
puff on a cigarette. And then, when they get hooked on it so bad, then they just
suck the air, I guess, as much as they can, I guess, on the smoke. So, the lungs
they get all plugged up. Then sugar, like I said, they are not protected so much.
Ever since the other people came out and talked to them, some of them, they just
went a little too far into it. Some of them. I noticed that is where some of them
began it, but not all of them.
H: About how many medicine men are there, still around, who practice? And
women, are there any medicine women?
B: I do not know about women too much. Women, one of my daughters studied,
but I do not know how far she went. I noticed that Susie [Jim Billie] is about the
only one I knew who was a lady doctor. She is about the only one I know. She
is pretty well up there [in age]. Then Jeannette [Cypress] maybe studied, I do not
know. As far as far as the ladies, I do not know too much about it, how much
they practice. But, some of them, they practice with me, some of them.
Jeannette never really came around in my class. But some of those ladies came
and studied a lot, as far as the woman part, like a woman treatment site.
H: What about medicine men?
B: What do you mean, medicine men?
H: I mean, are there many who, besides yourself, still practice medicine?
B: I have about two groups. But the one that is really into it, I do not see it, but they
say they are. As afar as I see it, they are not so hot. I have Parker Jones,
Collie, Jerome. Jerome is not from here, he is from another tribe, from
Mohawk. He can become an Indian doctor, but he can never be a medicine
person. He never will be because it is not his tribe over here. His tribe is back in
the .... Just like you. You come to learn, non-Indian people, maybe you go
back one day, that kind of a thing. Ray Osceola is practicing, and Ronnie is
practicing, Ronnie Jimmie. I do not know how much they went [on]. One of my
friends' sons practices, he is Dwayne Billie. Another one, another friend's son is
practicing, Cheyenne Billie. Another one, my nephew, was practicing as well, he
was Sequoia Billie, but he has not come back the last year. I do not know if he
is going to continue or not. I have about ten, I guess, who are practicing.
H: Does it take a long time? You said, yourself, that you are still learning, so
apparently it takes a lifetime to learn.
B: In a way, it is just like you. You finished college, and you finished all the others,
and then, by that time, you begin to wonder whether you really want to study.
And then, at the same time, you practice medicine as you go, too. Sometimes a
patient will give you more of an idea that you need to practice a little more.
H: I wanted to ask you a little bit about the Green Corn Dance. I understand that the
Seminoles here at Big Cypress have started one, and they have had it for just a
couple of years. But that is a tradition that has gone on for, I guess, centuries
with the Seminole people.
B: Actually, a lot of Seminoles, I mean a lot of Indians, did not ever realize that, I do
not think. But, on that one, actually, just pray togetherness. That is all it is.
B: Pray togetherness. Pray gatherings. Whatever you want to call it. That is all it
is. More different clans get together to do a lot of praying that they are stronger.
That is what they do.
H: I have been told that it is a time of cleansing, like a cleansing of the soul,
cleansing of past wrongs. People, whatever they did wrong over the year, get
judged at that time. That is not true?
B: No. I cannot say it is not true. But, whatever they tell you on this, you ought to
ask them what they are talking about. You ought to question them little bit more.
I cannot say no, but I cannot say yes, either. You ought to ask that person that
you talked to, you ought to question him more on what they are talking about, a
H: What they explained to me was that, say someone did something wrong to
another person. At the time of the Green Corn Dance, their punishment for
whatever wrong they had done would be meted out to them. That was one of the
functions at the annual Green Corn Dance.
B: Well, I will put it to you this way. Like I said, you should have asked them more
questions, deeply, on what he knew about it, because if they do not explain to
you properly, they sort of leave you incomplete. I will put it to you this way. Let's
say you break .. this is going to take a long time. Let's say they committed
adultery. What do you know about it?
H: What do I know about adultery?
H: Adultery is when a man or a woman who is married ...
B: Not holding up the marriage, right?
B: I use that for an example. The person who explained [the Green Corn Dance] to
you, you should have asked them a little more deeply.
H: There are different punishments for different crimes? So, it is like a level,
depending on what the crime is, there are different punishments meted out.
B: Yes. Exactly. Let's say the Green Corn [Dance], as I was saying, is religious.
Me, I am not supposed to, like my job, I am not suppose to say, this person is
going to be punished and this is going to be, etc., etc. I cannot say that because
I am the Holy Man and I cannot, am not supposed to, say things that are going to
do anybody harm. Because my job is not there. I mean, it is not my job. It
depends on each individual family that they bring in. That is what I am saying
[with the example of] committing adultery. Let's say you are trying to protect ...
let's say you have got a whole bunch of your family, you are one of them that
came to our ceremonial. Throughout the year, let's say your daughters or your
kinfolk go out and commit adultery and then breaking up families and all that,
with this one particular woman or man. All right. You can try to stop them, but
you cannot stop them. They are doing it over you. No matter how much you
talk, there is nothing you can do. [End of Tape Side A] So, actually, what they
do, let's say you cannot speak for your whole clan, you can only speak for your
clan. Your mother clan, they call it. Let's say you are the most educated one in
the entire clan. Then that is your responsibility over your clan. So, we try to
keep it from happening, but it continues, and there is nothing you can do. So,
you go to the people who provide the law, and then you can say, I want this
action to take place at this ceremonial. But, you do not come to me. You know
the rule. It is just like you as a doctor. You know the guideline. You know what
to do. So, you go to them. The reason why they are doing that, everybody
would stare during the ceremonial, so they want the youngsters to learn what the
punishment is, what is not a proper thing to do. That is what they used to do
there, but they are not doing it anymore. They are giving [this person] a long
scratch, they call it. They scratch all the way from the ear to all the body. What
they do is strip them and then scratch them, and a lot of other youngsters watch
them. So, if he bleeds to death, that is fine, because whatever the [person who]
committed the adultery has done, it is done. Or, if he killed someone, you know.
H: So the children learn that they do not want that to happen to them, so they will
not commit the same kind of crimes.
B: Right. But they are not doing it anymore. It is not my job to say it is going to
happen. Actually, there are some other clan people who are supposed to hold
that responsibility. Like yourself, you are supposed to know what the guidelines
are and you are supposed to go to them. You do not bring small stuff into that.
The Green Corn [Dance] is something that is far beyond, beyond your control.
Each clan is supposed to control the minor problems themselves.
H: As a medicine man, you have told me what are not your responsibilities-to
make that judgment on people and things like that.
B: What do you mean?
H: You just told me that you are not supposed to make judgments on people about
what kind of punishments, so what do you do?
B: My job is like a Pope John Paul job. That is my job. I do not do any bad things
and I do not judge, I do not say this particular clan has to be punished, etc., etc. I
cannot say that. My job is only supposed to be good. Let's say I have been here
the last five years. I will just have to explain to you that a lot of people, I am sure
they realize it, but some do not, I do not think, but they say whenever there is a
medicine man around, or a medicine person or a holy man around, things
improve. Like five years ago, when I first came here, I came out to do small work
for one person and then, when I came, it seemed like this community was so
glad to have me. That lady right there, she even bought me lunch, or dinner.
And [since] about five years ago it has improved, quite a bit. The museum was
not here, and they got it completed, and a parking lot. Then the rodeo was kind
of run down, it has improved. Many things have been improved and it is just
booming. That is what it is supposed to be.
H: So, having you here has really helped the people a lot?
B: I cannot say that, but I see it booming.
H: Both things happened at the same time, so maybe there is some relationship.
B: And then Mitchell [Cypress], the man that just got elected, about five years ago,
about the same time, he asked me, can you fix community medicine? And I said,
what kind of community medicine are you talking about? You know, sometimes
people are angry at each other and screaming at each other and that kind of
thing. Oh, okay. So, I fixed it up, I think it is about twice, over in the ball field,
and a whole bunch of people came in and used it. It was five years ago. I did
the same thing over in Brighton. I did the same thing over in Hollywood. The
people wanted it, and that is why I did it. I told Mitchell, this thing is going to wear
off in a certain length of time. When it wears off, that community anger is going
to come back again. You have to redo it every so often. You have to do that.
And I heard, about three months ago, or maybe two months ago, people were
shooting each other, not too long ago, I heard. This was five years. I told them
that you ought to do it every so often because it wears off. So, one time I had a
meeting with him in Miami. Back at the time, a long time ago I am talking about, I
was living over in Miccosukee. A gentleman by the name of Steve Clark, he was
the mayor of Dade County,1 and he was talking about that kind of a thing, you
know, some kind of blessing. And in the north end of Miami there is a black
people's area and somehow the white and the black did not get along too well.
And we would sit there and talk, not talking about that particular thing, we were
talking about something else, but while we were talking somebody brought it up.
Do you think [that] if you fixed up some kind of medicine and took it up there with
a helicopter and sprinkle it over the whole dog-gone town .... That is an idea,
one time. But this man here, he was an older guy, he died about ten years ago, I
believe. This is the same kind of thing. We did that. But Mitchell was the
President, I mean not really President, he was a Community Representative, and
he ordered it. Mitchell Cypress, the one that is President [of the Seminole Tribe,
Inc.], he was a Community Representative at the time. That is why. He wanted
he people to improve, so that is why he did it. But Paul took his job, two years,
and he was talking about it, [but] Paul never really did anything. Paul Bowers
1 Stephen Patrick Clark (1923-1996), Mayor of Miami, 1967. Died of stomach cancer, June 4, 1996.
[Sr.]2 was an ex-councilman. He never really did anything on that. Mitchell was
talking about it one time, I did not understand, Paul did not do anything about this
there. The people were improved, they were saying. But, my job, I cannot really
say, this is what you have to do. Actually, you have to ask me for it, and that way
I cannot volunteer to do things, it will happen. People have to ask me. Just like if
you need to go to the doctor, you go to the doctor, you explain what you need.
H: I know this sounds like an ignorant question, but I am asking because I do not
know. Does each medicine man have a medicine bundle, or are there just so
many medicine bundles?
B: No, medicine bundles is altogether different. The medicine bundles you are
talking about ... I know what you said, but ... I see that the medicine bundle is
actually a Bible. Not a Bible, if you think of the white man's Bible. It is not. But
that is what it is.
H: That is the equivalent of the white man's Bible.
B: Yes. That is what it is. Not everyone has it, no. That is what I mean. My job is,
I am not supposed to say, this person is going to be punished, etc., etc. I am not
supposed to say that. Because of that, like I said earlier, I am a Pope Paul. Like
a Paul John II. You see? Even if I am up there in a ceremonial, I do not provide
2 Paul Bowers Sr. was Big Cypress representative in 1997, Seminole Tribune Vol. XX, 9, May 1997; he
was defeated in the May 1999 elections by Manuel Tiger, Seminole Tribune Vol. XX, 40, 28 May 1999.
the scratching. I do not provide anything. I do not provide anything that is going
to be of harm to anyone. So, my work, it is the same as the church. The
deacons were there. They are the ones who moved the things.
H: When Christianity came, when a lot of the missionaries came to convert the
Seminoles to Christianity, were there conflicts with the people who accepted
Christianity and people who did not?
B: No. I say this: Christianity, the Indian people knew what it is, even though we did
not speak English, they knew what that is. Even though they did not really
understand what they were saying, they knew what they were doing, actually,
what they were talking about, and all that. But, they have nothing against it,
religion, no matter whose religion. Indian people have nothing against it. They
cannot really say that my religion is better than yours, or you come across to
mine, or something like that. Nothing. He can never say that. Because he
realizes that he respects it, anyone's religion. But, they say, the only thing they
are saying, in our world, we do not even have cuss words. Did anybody tell you
that, since you have been here?
B: We do not even have cuss words. And we cannot say, get out. Sometimes, we
cannot even tell our girlfriend or our friend or our son or anything, we cannot tell
them to get out. If we tell them to get out, it could be meaning, get out of the
world. We are so religious, and a lot of non-Indian people did not understand. A
lot of white people did not understand. We are so religious, and today we are
born. And so, therefore, we cannot accept another religion because we are
already into it, one of them, we cannot adopt it. If you are adopted by a non-
Indian talking to you, it is sort of like you dropped what the creator gave to you
and readopt it. In other words, you cannot make it two. You have got to die for
this one. And that is the only thing you are saying. I will put it to you this way.
One time, a long time ago, they say, let's say we were talking about the Spanish
landing here in 1500, that five hundred years back. They are talking about, like
year 1000, somebody seems like they are landing here before, the way I
H: Yes, there have been stories about Vikings having been here long before that,
and other Native peoples having been here.
B: What happened, they went on ahead and accepted their religions. And then they
got into a lot of disease on account of that. And some of them, they had a heart
attack and died, and some of them, just like the sugar you were talking about, it
is the same thing. They had a lot of disease. So, therefore, back then, the
fortune teller was with us. The autopsy on one of the bodies, they studied the
life, what you do, you are walking out, the creator gave it to you. The creator
gave it to you that is a balance with your skin. You are living color, or whatever
the creator gave to you, you cannot convert yourself into another color. You
cannot adopt another religion on top of what you got. And so that is what your
problem is. So, you have to stop doing that. So, they killed it one time.
Therefore, they do not want to adopt another religion, but some of them went on
ahead and did it. The one that is not educated too much, they went on ahead
and adopted it. So, that could be part of that disease, too. The punishment from
H: Oh, that is their punishment, adopting Christianity.
B: No. I cannot say that, either.
H: But you are saying that is possible?
B: Not Christianity. Maybe somebody else's religion. I do not think I am saying that
H: Any other religion, not just Christianity.
B: Yes. Not just Christianity. I am speaking about any other religion you adopted.
It is what is already. I talked to many people, especially on the ceremonial,
coming up. Many other tribes come down and ask me, can we join you? And I
said, no, I do not think so. It is not healthy. But a lot of them did not understand.
A lot of them questioned me too much. That is the sort of thing I was talking
about. It took too much time. They were dragging me down too much, as I was
saying earlier. Remember? That is the kind of thing I am talking about. Like
you. One day I was over at the University of [Florida in] Gainesville, blessing the
museum. They were telling me, oh, there are some Indian people with you here
and they are doing some pow-wow thing, and all that. I do not want to go over
there. You think that I can go over there. No, I do not want to go over there.
Whatever you asked me to do, that is what I came to do. I do not want to go see
other Indians, because whatever they do, they do their thing. Whatever they are
taught to be doing, that is what they are doing. I do not want to go over and be
part of that. No way, because that religion, whatever religion they are doing, that
is their way. I cannot volunteer myself to do that because of that.
H: And they do not understand that, that you cannot just transplant yourself over
B: No. You cannot do that. Just like you, for example. You came here, very easily.
Let's say, if you just came here and asked different people, you came here, and
you go to somebody else's house, and ask, people are going to be suspicious
about you and call the policeman on you. Then James Billie is going to find out.
It is the same thing. Now you started from the top. Now you go around and ask
questions of people. See what I am saying? You cannot not just stop in. Even if
you are going to church and you are in a non-Indian church, the biggest churches
you have, I cannot go, because that is yours. So, no matter how pretty a church
you have, I cannot go just because it is pretty. No way. I cannot say, oh, I have
been with Black people with the best church in the world. I cannot say that. That
does not mean anything to me. That is to you. Am I making sense to you?
H: Yes. Definitely. You make sense. It explains something that, I think, a lot of
people do not understand. I think a lot of times people assume that Indians are
all the same, and Black people are all the same. And it is not. So you cannot
just jump into a situation just because the people may be the same color as you.
So, yes, I understand just what you mean.
B: Exactly. So, even Oklahoma. I have a lady friend, she is from another tribe.
She is a Choctaw. She is about my age. We have been working together for
quite some time. She has a nice personality. I cannot bring it up to her because
it is not her thing. Her thing is back in the Oklahoma or Mississippi. It is almost
the same, but it is not really the same. The guidelines are a little different. If you
want to go to the ceremonial, go back. Or I will even give you a little money to go
back there. [Laughs] That is bad, isn't it? But it is the truth.
H: Well, it is not bad, if it is the truth. It may sound harsh to some people, but I
understand what you mean.
B: I cannot say, when somebody, some Seminole can say, oh, that is going to be a
kind of fun dance over here. You should come. How do you say, if you are really
a Black person, you will look at it [as if it were] un-polite to you, but they do not
know that. Do you see what I am saying? To your body. Maybe you do not
know that. Let's say you collected a disease, the same thing, as well as you ... I
should say, un-properly manage the body, to the public world, they effect your
body, as well, they say. Just like same as you eating food.
H: I am just trying to understand what you mean. I am not quite sure I understand
what you meant.
B: Un-properly managed body. Yes. Un-proper, what I am saying is, let's say you
go to church. Sometimes they say they are drinking grape juice, right?
H: For communion, yes.
B: Suppose they were doing the same thing only a different kind of thing, and
suppose you walked around and [did] not know anything about it and crossed
over some things you cannot cross over. That is an un-proper handling of your
H: I understand now.
B: Therefore, as Indian people, we do not go around too much to different religions.
One time, I was over there in Oklahoma, about two, maybe three years ago. The
ceremony over there, I know that man. And so I was over there, and I saw
nothing but women out there in the camp. I knew what was going on. Women
folks, they were telling me, you come on in and have a dinner. It was after lunch
and have a late lunch. And I said, no, I cannot do that. And she said, why? I
have traveled a long way. I cannot do that. You guys are fasting today, aren't
you? And she said, yes, we were. But, what happened to the men? She said,
they were over there but they are having a meeting over there. But they come
back to eat when it gets time? She said, they already went back to eat, they
came back to eat and then went back to the meeting. This has nothing to do with
the ceremonial. We are done. Oh, okay. If that is the case, I will eat. That is
the kind of thing I am talking about. If you do not know, and if you were with
somebody who is an uneducated person, you can overstep the boundaries and
you do not know it. With the Indian people, the boundaries and different things
are, in some areas, very restricted, very powerful, sometimes, some of them.
Very restrictive, I am saying. Anything else that you wanted to ask?
H: That is all I have to ask you. I really appreciate you taking this time to talk with