This interview with Carl Baxley-the 45 year-old son of a mixed marriage who has lived on
Seminole reservations since he was about five years old-follows one done with him in the
1970s (1). When asked about Seminole history, he explains that he was not so much taught
"stories in regards to the war, but more stories of how my ancestors survived, who they worked
for, how they ate" (2). He discusses racism against Indians in society and in the public schools,
(3-4, and see 22-23). Among his business pursuits, Baxley sells cigarettes, although he sees that
tapering off (5-6). One of the largest cattle holders at Big Cypress, Baxley donates cows to the
4H program, feeling that, "if you take something, you should give something back" (6-7). Here
he gives a brief discussion of the cattle breeds found in reservation herds (7, 20). He also builds
chickees for sale to outside businesses, which was once his primary income (8). At boarding
school Baxley met with difficulties and dropped out (10). Despite his lack of education, he does
well economically, perhaps better than his educated siblings (10-11). A Christian, he does not
attend church, since he was forced to attend as a child; but he also grew up with Indian traditions
such as the Green Corn Dance. He knows Mikasuki and Creek, and he used to lead songs at the
dance. He also knows some medicines. Baxley no longer attends the dance because of the
alcohol, a problem for his children and grandchildren. In Oklahoma they forbid alcohol, and
there is an effort to establish an alcohol-free dance at Big Cypress, although he thinks that it may
be too entrenched (13-15). Some changes are hard for his children to understand since they live a
different world, with dividends and cell phones and computers, not used clothes (13-14, and 4).
Formerly, parents and grandparents, maternal aunts and uncles gave discipline by scratching
(14). In the cattle industry, technical service "is there, but you have to go get it," which is
something many tribal members are still learning (16-17). He learned about cattle through youth
programs, which his peers also participated in (18). He discusses cattle certification, and the
need for economic diversification (18-19). Education is the key to this diversification and to
success; although he did not have it, he insists that his children go to college, whereas "twenty
years ago .. you were lucky if you had a tribal member who graduated from high school" (19,
and see 24-26). Economic development has made a great difference; "Before, we did not have
time to think, we just had to do in order to survive" (22). He links health and education; of the
people he has seen die from diabetes, "I classify those as unneeded deaths because there was
prevention" (23). The health situation is better than when he was a child, and without that and
education "we would be back to where we were twenty years ago, selling trinkets on the side of
the road and hoping people would come and see us" (23-24). Economic changes through gaming
have paid for those developments, not the federal government. These changes have made his life
better; "Medically, physically, economically, just any way you can imagine, it has made my life
better" (26). In many ways life on the reservation is like life off the reservation, with some
people working and others not; but economic development has provided opportunities for people
to become businesspeople and entrepreneurs (27). A member of the tribe's board of directors,
Baxley feels that "things seem to be moving in the right direction" (28). Today one might think
the reservation is on the white side of the street rather than that with the sprinklers, driveways,
and fences (28-29). Baxley was raised in a chickee, but his children "have no concept of how it
used to be" (30). Tourism helps with cultural preservation; culture needs to be understood and
preserved to be marketed, which in turn makes you think about it (29).
Interviewee: Carl Baxley
Interviewer: R. Howard
30 June 1999
H: I am speaking this morning with Carl Baxley. We are at the Okalee Museum in
Hollywood, Florida. Today is June 30, 1999. Carl, can you tell me what clan you
H: When and where were you born?
B: I was born in Asheboro, North Carolina, September 26, 1955.
H: Asheboro, North Carolina. So, how did you get to Florida? Can you tell me a
little bit of that story?
B: My mom is half Seminole. She was going to school, to a boarding school, in
Cherokee, North Carolina, I guess, and met up with this white guy and got
married. His parents were from there and he was a truck driver. I was born
there, and my younger brother was born there, and everybody else was born in
H: What is your younger brother's name?
H: So, you moved to North Carolina to Okeechobee?
H: Did you ever live on a reservation?
B: I have been living on the reservation ever since I was about five years old.
H: Which one?
H: There was an interview done with you back in, I think, 1972. You were, at the
time, living on Brighton reservation. The interview mainly talked about your
experiences with boarding school. Was that long after you returned from
boarding school, in 1972?
B: I would [not] say so. It was not very long after I returned because I would have
graduated from high school in 1973. Instead, I went into the military.
H: What branch?
B: The army.
H: Where did you serve?
B: I went to Monterey, California, for basic training, and then I took advanced
infantry training in Fort Carson, Colorado. Then I went back to Monterey and
stayed there until I got out.
H: Do you have an Indian name?
H: Do you currently live on the reservation?
B: Yes. I live here in Hollywood now. I have been living here for about twenty
H: Can you tell me what you know about Seminole history, like the wars and any
famous figures. Were any stories about that passed down to you from your
B: Probably not so much stories in regards to the war, but more stories of how my
ancestors survived, who they worked for, how they ate, and different things like
that. Not so much about the war.
H: Can you tell me what you were told about those things?
B: Well, the Seminoles were, I guess, in the same class as black people. They
worked out on the fields, were looked down upon by the white people. I guess in
today's society you would look at them as migrant workers, sort of, but probably
with more disadvantages back then-not having the education and having to
deal with the government on different issues, and things like that. And then,
again, still being treated like black people. Not to say that black people are any
less than us, but there was always that racial discrimination back then, which still
exists today, to a certain extent, it is just called a different word. But, yes, it was
rough being on the reservation, rough trying to survive out there and not having
any skills or any education, because back in the early days it was forbidden for a
lot of kids to go to school.
H: Their parents did not want them to go to the white schools?
B: Right. And then the white people did not want the Indians coming to their
H: Did you have that experience?
B: I remember when John F. Kennedy got killed, I was in a public school, and there
were no blacks in our school at that time.
H: Which school was that?
B: Moore Haven. I remember when it was integrated, the white kids bringing
shotguns to school, and the black kids bringing knives, and stuff like that.
H: Was that in the late 1960s?
B: Yes, I would say somewhere in the 1960s. So, I remember all that. But, yes, the
Indians were still kept in that same category because we were, I guess,
recipients of free lunches through the government programs and different things
like that. And hell, everybody knew you came up from the reservation, which
was a poverty stricken place, no different from the black town, you know what I
mean? So, the economics divided us and that is what made the racial thing a
problem, I guess.
H: Is that why you decided to go to boarding school, because you were being
discriminated against at Moore Haven?
B: Probably not so much being discriminated against, just [for] an opportunity to get
away, for one thing. A lot of people who went out there came back with some
good experiences and seemed to grow when they would return.
H: Grow in what ways?
B: Maturity, I guess, more experiences with life's good and bad. Being on the
reservation, there were not a lot of things happening back then. Today it is a
totally different story, but back then we did not have any money. Hell, the clothes
we wore to school we picked up on the ground at a church that was giving out
used clothes. If it were not for used clothes, a lot of us probably would not have
had clothes to go to school. We cherished those clothes, but we did not have
H: You said your father was a white man. Did he come to the reservation with you
B: No. He and my mother split up, and my mother went to the reservation with all of
her kids, and we have been there ever since. In fact, I think my youngest
brother, who has passed away now, was probably less than a year old.
H: What is your primary occupation now?
B: I am in retail business, cigarettes. I raise cattle. I have a construction business.
H: You have a wide variety of enterprises.
B: Yes, I am involved in a lot of things now.
H: Can you tell me a little bit about each of those businesses, the cigarette
business, how you got into that?
B: I got into the cigarette business back in April of 1983. There had been tribal
members selling cigarettes on the reservation tax-free-state tax free, not federal
tax-and it kind of opened the door for a lot of other people to take that
opportunity, if you could find a piece of land. I was fortunate enough to find a
piece of land and get approval from the tribe to put in a cigarette shop.
H: That is here in Hollywood?
B: I have one here in Hollywood, and I have one up in Brighton now that I have had
since September of 1989. At one time it was a great business to get into, but
since then it has just kind of dwindled away.
H: Why is that?
B: Well, there are lots of things that contributed to that. You have a lot of non-
smoking campaigns going on now. A lot of the elder smokers died off. You have
of a lot of lawsuits going on. And the price of cigarettes has gone up dramatically
in the past year. So, there are lots of contributing factors to it. People are being
made more aware that it kills you. The economics of it, too, the price going up.
Stop smoking, there is a big campaign for people to quit smoking now.
H: What about the cattle business?
B: Well, I have been in the cattle business I guess about six years, out on the Big
H: How many head of cattle do you have?
B: Right now I am running about 230 head. I am the largest cattle owner out at Big
Cypress. I started a program last year where I donated one of my steers to the
4H youth. Normally they buy them and pay for them; I just took it upon myself to
donate one, just trying to give something back, and I am going to be doing that
again this year. From what I was told the other day, I started a new fad, because
there is a guy in Brighton going to do it this time. I have always felt that if you
take something, you should give something back to society, or to wherever you
get it from. I have been in the cattle business going on six or seven years, and
last year was the first year I gave one out. But there are about forty cattle
owners on that reservation, and if one person gave one every year, it would be
forty years before they would have to do it again. Surely we can all afford to do
that. But, there are people who have been in the cattle business twenty years
that have never done anything like that. It is just trying to make a change, do
something different, I guess. Giving one calf to a 4H child-I think he would
benefit more than I would for the money of it and it shows them that you support
them and stand behind them. Not only that, it gives you an opportunity to exploit
your own cattle, so to speak, that you raise on the reservation. There is a
number of ways to see the benefits of it rather than just, well, here you go, it is
free, raise it. To exploit your own cattle, your own industry, is another avenue,
and then you put responsibility on that child to manage that animal, the funds of
it. They have to turn in a book at the end of the year. So, there are lots of
advantages to it, a lot of teaching.
H: We first met at the video cattle sale a couple of months ago, you and I. How did
that sale go for you?
B: The sale went real good. I sold 155 calves and I think I made-well, I am not
going tell you how much I made. [Laughter.] But I did all right. I was happy.
H: Good. What breed of cattle do you raise?
B: We have crossbreeds from all kinds. Right now we are trying to convert over to
Brangus. It seems to be more acceptable in the market place, as far as the
waste factor, because they buy cattle on the hoof, feed them up, and then they
slaughter them, and they get paid for the actual finished product. So, if you get a
higher yield on your animal, it brings you more money in the market place. And
they look to buy those type of cattle.
H: And there was one other business you mentioned, trucking?
B: Construction. Well, I have had a construction business, I guess ever since I have
been in Hollywood. I build these tropical huts-they call them chickee huts, I call
them tropical huts because they sell better that way; people understand tropical.
I would say that I have been doing that probably about twenty-six years. I do not
do it as much as I used to, but that was my main source of income probably for
about ten years, before I got into the cigarette business. And me not looking like
a full-blooded tribal member, I had a little hard time, from time to time, trying to
sell this product. But, over the years I have probably gotten a reputation second
to nobody, as far as being able to build them and the workmanship and the
quality of work. My personal opinion is that I have taken it a little step further with
the quality of the work and the salesmanship of it. When I got in the business, I
was building them for three dollars a square foot; the last one I built, I got twenty-
seven dollars a square foot. That was unheard of-and sometimes it is still
unheard of because a lot of people still build them for ten or twelve dollars. I
figure the quality of the work speaks for itself. You know what your work is worth.
H: Who are your customers?
B: A lot of golf courses; a lot of hotels on the beaches; a lot of condos that have
pools around them. I have built them over sheep cages, horses cages. My main
customer is anybody who has money. [Laughter.]
H: Do you know anything about your father's educational background?
B: I do not know anything about him. In fact, I can only remember my father
whipping my butt for a blinker that I broke off of a car one time. If I ran into him, I
would not know who he is, even though my mother, all her kids were fathered by
the same man.
H: How many kids were there?
B: There were five. She raised them all by herself; [she is] a very strong woman.
But, I have very little memory of him.
H: What was his name?
B: L. D. Baxley.
H: And your mother's name?
B: Lottie Johns.
H: What about your mother's education?
B: My mother, I think she went to the seventh or eighth grade, and that was the
extent of her education.
H: What did she do for a living?
B: She did a lot of things. She worked in the fields planting grass, picking tomatoes.
Back when a gentleman by the name of Bill Osceola was the president of the
tribe, they started a textile plant up in Brighton. I guess that was back in the
1960s or early 1970s that she was hired to run that. And that is when this village
was opened full speed. They would bring all their wares down here and sell
them. Actually, they worked for the tribe; the tribe was labeling the collars and
different things like that. It was a really good business, I thought. It ran for a long
time. Then they just shut it down and she went back to working out in the fields
and stuff. And then I think the government came up with this senior citizens hot
meal program. My mom started out as a cook and wound up, when she retired,
being the manager of it. She is retired now.
H: Where does she live now?
B: She lives in Brighton.
H: So, once you graduated from the boarding school, you did not go on ...
B: I did not graduate from boarding school. I graduated from the eighth grade at
Senaca. Then I went to Sequoia to the ninth grade. I got in trouble there. I was
going to get sent home. I jumped on a bus and went to Shelocko. I did not go
to school there, and I got sent home from there. I came back and hung out about
a year, I guess, and I went to Intermountain, which is in Utah, another boarding
school. I went there, stayed there for about three or four months, and I hooked
up with one of these girls that was running the place and I left campus and
moved in with her. I got a job, and then, since the tribe sent me up there, it was
their responsibility to get me home. So, James Billie and Joel Frank came up
and packed me up and drove me home. So, I never finished school, never got a
H: But you have done very well despite that.
B: I have done all right. Well, there was a professor from Harvard that wrote a
book-I do not remember his name, but I was reading it a couple of years ago-
and it said that education is for people who do not have common sense. They
need a little extra to make it through life. And that works for me, because I am
uneducated. I have a brother that has a college degree. I make more money
than he makes. In fact, he works for me from time to time. Everybody in my
family graduated from high school except for me, including my youngest brother.
They all do well; they all have their own businesses, or work for the tribe, or both.
Well, they all work for the tribe and have their own businesses. So, my mom
was a strong lady and a lot of that rubbed off on me, I guess, in the common
sense aspect of it. I do all right. In the cigarette business, I broker for big
companies, like Liggett and R. J. Reynolds. I do work for Winn-Dixie. I have a
distributing company, too, and I distribute lighters and cigarettes. So, I have
H: I understand, from what you are saying. Are you a Christian? Do you attend
B: I do not attend church on a regular basis. I was baptized back when I was a
young kid. I really probably did not understand the significance of why we were
doing it, just that everybody was doing it and I did it, too. Now that I am an adult
and make my own decisions I do not go to church. I believe there is a God. I do
pray. I do ask for forgiveness and I pray for other people. As far as going into a
church, one of the reasons why I do not go is that when I was a kid I was made
to go, dragged to church, punished for not sitting there and being quiet. And I
still have those memories. But as an adult, church is everywhere; it is on TV, it is
on the radio. So, I think it is up to the individual how they want to pursue it. I do
not think it is something that should be rammed down your throat, like it was to
me when I was a kid-even though I probably needed it and it probably has
influenced my life today. But, I have always been a fighter and I have always
gone the opposite way that everybody else goes. I have the knots on my head to
prove it. I also have the success to prove it as well. It has been a hard road to
travel, but I do not think I would have done it any differently. If I knew what I was
going to learn, back then I would have chosen to go that way, because the
lessons that I have learned are lessons you do not learn in school and you
cannot pay somebody to teach you. You pay to learn them. It is those kinds of
H: When you were growing up, did your family ever practice traditional Seminole
B: Oh yes. Sure. Absolutely. We went to the Green Corn Dances. I know a lot of
things . .. I grew up in Brighton, which speaks Creek, but I lived in Big Cypress
for about eight or ten years, something like that, and I am married to a girl out
there, so I probably can speak more Mikasuki than I can Creek. I certainly
understand more Mikasuki than I do Creek-to this day. I also sit on the board of
directors as an elected official, and we were in a briefing the other day and one of
the tribal members was talking to the president and started speaking Mikasuki,
thinking that I did not know what she was saying. So, as she finished saying, I
just kind of broke in English and just threw her for a loop. I know a lot of the
language. I speak it if I have to. Most of the time I do not have to. A lot of the
elders understand English, here on this reservation. My mother understands
English. My mother speaks both languages, Creek and Mikasuki. And English.
H: About the Green Corn Dance, you say you used to attend it all the time. Do you
B: No, I have not gone in a long time. The reason why I do not go anymore is
because of the alcohol and the drugs that were out there. I mean, I did it when I
was there, too. Do not get me wrong, I am no angel. But, I have kids now; in
fact, I have grandchildren now. The perception of the Green Corn Dance-this is
just my opinion-it is not what it is supposed to be. In fact, a gentleman by the
name of Sonny Billie and the Chief have put one together out in Big Cypress
where there are no drugs and alcohol allowed. If you go out to Oklahoma, if you
show up with drugs or alcohol, they will arrest you on the spot. They do not
tolerate it, at all. I see us trying to go in that direction but there is always going to
be the traditional Corn Dance. And not to say that alcohol was part of that
tradition, but it was introduced way back and it has just kind of been accepted.
And it continues to this day. The Oklahoma medicine people believe that if you
mix alcohol with the medicine, the medicine does not work. A lot of the younger
people in our tribe really do not understand what that means and the significance
of it. Daisi could probably tell you, she understands all that. I am forty-three
years old, so I have been around a little while. I remember when we did not have
dividends and we had commodity foods and we had used clothes from the
churches. My kids could not comprehend that. It is like the old story, well, I had
to walk five miles in the snow to catch the bus. No, you did not do that. You
know what I mean? They just do not understand. I mean, they have grown up in
a different world. And I grew up in a different world, too.
H: The different world that they have today is due to a lot of the new economic
activities that the tribe has gotten into.
B: Well, yes, that is a contributing factor. But not only that, the world itself has
moved on. I mean, there are computers now, which we did not have back then;
cell phones, everybody has, which we did not have back then. I mean, there is
just a number of things that have changed.
H: Do you think that those changes have made a change in Seminole values?
B: I think it relates to the individual. From what I remember, being a young child the
values were instilled in you from your grandparents and your parents. We all had
aunts and uncles, and those were the people who passed down punishment to
you. I mean, my mother could be out of town and my mother's aunt would
scratch me, or spank me, or whatever the case would be. And that was
H: The scratching was the form of punishment?
B: Oh yes. Absolutely.
H: So, that was not only done at the Green Corn Dance?
B: Well, at the Green Corn Dance it was done for different a reason.
H: What was the reason there?
B: Supposedly to let out the old blood and let the new blood in, and keep you from
getting sick. That is what I was told. I am sure everybody has their own versions
of it, and that is passed down through family and through tradition. But, back to
the Green Corn Dance and the tradition, if one generation misses that cycle, then
it is hard to get any other generation back into it. Do you understand what I am
saying? I know some of the songs, as far as the Indian songs go. I know some
of the medicine; I know a lot about the medicine plants, only because I wanted to
know. I know what plant is called what, what this plant will do and not do, and
different things like that, which probably surprises a lot of the full-bloods, that I
know as much as I know. But, when they were going to school, I did not go to
school; I was hanging around the village and the camp working with the elder
people. So, I learned a lot more than anybody could imagine.
H: Were you ever like an apprentice to a medicine man?
B: No. I was never an apprentice, but I have learned, and I do know songs, and I
have led dances at the Green Corn Dance when I was younger. I would say
back in my twenties I used to lead dances out there, like the Firefly and the
Catfish, songs like that. I know them; I still know them. Most of the songs,
whether they relate to Indian medicine or the Corn Dance, are all Creek. So, you
may sing in Creek and speak Mikasuki; but to my knowledge the majority of them
H: Back to the scratching incident. You say your grandmother or other elders would
do that. So, that was a form of punishment.
B: That was a form of punishment. Absolutely. They wear beads, a lot of beads.
You do not see that too much anymore. A lot of that has kind of died off, I guess,
with the elders. But, back then they wore a lot of beads and they had safety pins
on them all the time because they always needed a safety pin.
H: Oh, that is what they used.
B: Somebody would bring you up there, they would grab that arm, take a safety pin
off, and tear you up. And you would run off crying. Not a lot of spankings; more
of discipline through the scratching and through verbal and through teaching, I
H: In your cattle business, do you have extension agents that help you, as far as
dealing with your cattle?
B: Yes, we are tied in with the University of Florida, with IFAS [the Institute of Food
and Agricultural Sciences]. We have a computer up in Brighton that they provide
us, so we are tied directly into them. They provide us with an extension agent
that actually is stationed on the reservation in Brighton. She works on all the
reservations doing 4H.
H: What is her name?
B: Sabrina Tuttle. She is just an old country girl but probably fits into our program
better than anybody else has in the past. She is more of a hands-on type of
person. As far as the benefits that she brings, there is probably a lot there that
we have not tapped, only because of not being at that stage in life or the
economic part of it, not having a need to tap it; but it is there.
H: The Seminole tribal members who have cattle, as their knowledge increases, you
will be able to utilize her even more. Is that what you mean?
B: Well, I guess you could say that, but it is kind of like this. The knowledge is
there, but you have to go get it. It is not going to come and find you and jump
into your brain. It is there, it is available; the tribe and the university have
provided that to us. Now, whether we take advantage of it is up to us. It is the
old cliche, you can lead a camel to water but you cannot make him drink it. I was
amazed when I went up there to find out all of the information they have, as far
as citrus, and cattle, and grasses, and different things like that, that we do not
really tap into. I guess we do now, more than we have in the past. There is a lot
of knowledge there. I am not an educated guy by any standards, but I have a lot
of common sense and I have been pretty successful. I have learned how to learn
over the years, and I see things like that being a big benefit to the tribe. But, it is
not a benefit if you do not use it. I mean, having money and not spending it is
doing nothing. It is the same thing [as] having the opportunity to do something
there and not doing anything with it, it is still nothing. I operate in a layman world,
you know. [Laughs.]
H: You have been in the cattle business for six or seven years, you said. Can you
give me any idea how the business has changed over a longer period of time
than that, or were you not involved in that at all?
B: I guess that I have been involved in the cattle program ever since I was thirteen
years old, when the tribe or the government gave us the funds to have some kind
of a youth corps. I do not know what you would call it. It was not YMCA. It was
a bunch of young kids who went to work-and they still have those programs
now, when you are out for the summer and they put you out in different
programs. I worked on a cattle program then; in fact, the majority of the boys in
Brighton worked on a cattle program back then. That was basically the only
industry that we had on the reservation to work [in]. So, I have been around
cows pretty much all of my life. I know how to artificially inseminate them,
pregnancy test them, all those things I learned on my own.
H: What are the major changes you have seen over the past thirty years?
B: Well, one of the things is that we have more improved land. We have a better
quality of cattle. We participate in a lot of state programs. As far as brucellosis
goes, we have certified cattle; all cattle on the reservation are certified cattle.
That means they are free and clear of brucellosis, which can be contracted
through eating cattle, and humans can contract it from cattle, as well. That is one
issue we are proud of. In fact, the whole state of Florida has been considered a
certified state, even though not every cattle owner participates in that program.
We do. You pay to be in that program. We feel like it is a just cost and a just
service that we do participate in it because the cattle industry, back in the 1970s,
was probably the biggest industry on the reservation. We have all kinds of
people come in and give us suggestions on how to improve our herds, and this
and that, and this is what the market is calling for. But, I guess in the past five to
six years we have taken it upon ourselves to do our own legwork and go out
there and get our own hands dirty.
There are more educated people in the tribe, too. I think I read an article in a
magazine yesterday where the chairman had made a statement that seventy-five
percent of our people are educated now. Seventy-five per cent of our people
[are educated], which is probably true and [it] maybe even more than that. But
that statement was not true twenty years ago. So, we have come a long way, as
far as being educated, and a lot of our own tribal members are out there in the
nursing field, and we have people that have been to the University of Florida for
cattle and veterinary and agriculture. We have tribal members that are attorneys.
We have tribal members that possess PhDs. Twenty years ago that was
unheard of; you would be lucky if you had a tribal member that graduated from
high school. So, education plays a very important role here and it trickles all the
way down to the cattle, citrus, and sugarcane that we are now involved in. We
have diversified a lot and it is due to education, because the lack of education will
only hinder your ability to move forward. I am forty-three years old and I know
that now. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I knew everything then, too-at least I
The cattle business has always been and always will be a mainstay in this tribe.
It is there for life, it has been one of the things that got us to where we are today.
We are recognized throughout the cattle industry in the United States as one of
the five largest producers in the United States-certainly one of the best
producers in the state of Florida. Our cattle are second to none. In fact, we have
been selling to the same buyer, I would say, probably for the past five or six
years. He likes them that good.
H: And you said you are improving them all the time.
B: Yes. We are improving the quality of the cattle. Now we are getting into the
Brangus. We have Brangus bulls that we have probably ...
H: Is that a hybrid breed?
B: Well, depending on from what angle you look at it. From us, it has less fat, less
waste. Waste you cannot sell, you only throw it away.
H: Is that a cross between an Angus and a something else?
B: And a Brahma. It is a mixed breed. Brahma and Angus, and that is where you
get the word Brangus. So, a lot of our cattle in the past years were bred by
Beefmaster bulls, which the university had some dealings with us. We had a guy
down here named Dr. Joe Crockett1, from the University of Florida, who worked
with us for a long time developing our cattle and getting our cattle up to the good
standards. But, like I said, in the past five or six years we have kind of taken it
upon ourselves to move in a different direction, and it seems to be working out.
We are getting higher prices on our cattle. We are getting more demand for our
cattle. That was something that fell in our lap by accident, but somebody had the
common sense to understand what it was saying and start moving in that
H: The physical environment around here in Hollywood has changed dramatically in
the last thirty years. I understand that all around here used to just be woods. Did
people around here used to rely on their means of survival right here, on the
1 Dr. J. R. Crockett, J. R. Crockett, Animal Science Department, Agricultural Research and Education
Center, Belle Glade, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 1960-1982.
reservation, in Hollywood also, like they did in Brighton when you were growing
B: That I could not answer because I have only been here twenty years. There are
people who have been here a lot longer than I have that actually were here when
this reservation was established. From what I do know, they were hunting and
fishing off the reservation, stuff like that, here. This was all woods. The city has
passed us now and gone out to the Everglades. It is a little bit different living in
the city, having to deal with all of the elements that are around you, as opposed
to living out in Brighton. I mean, heck, we knew everybody that was there. If a
stranger came into the reservation, we knew there was a stranger there. Here,
they can come and go all day long and you never even knew they had been
H: Right, because there are really no boundaries around the reservation.
B: But we know where they are. Everybody else does not know where they are. I
am not sure if that is good or bad, meaning us knowing where the boundaries
are, whether that isolates us from time to time because of knowing that boundary
and looking at it as a boundary. I mean, there are lots of mental processes that
you go through in life. It is like there are ten reasons why you should and ten
reasons why you should not, but it is all in the head how you determine which ten
you are going to use. There has been a lot of that going on. I think the tribe,
now, we spend a lot of time with thought processes; before, we did not really do
that. We did not have the money to do that. Even now, just because you have
the money does not make you smart. There is also an old saying that a fool and
his money will soon part.
H: But having the money gives them a little bit more time that they do not have to
spend out in the fields making a living, so it gives them time to think.
B: Well, yes. Absolutely. Before, we did not have time to think; we just had to do in
order to survive. There was no time to think. Now things are a lot different. You
have a little bit more time to think. You have a little say-so about where you are
going, as far as controlling your destiny. Back then, there was no say-so. You
had no say-so. You got up and you went to work or you did not make it. So, it is
a lot different now, and it is not just on the reservations, it is everywhere.
Problems we have on the reservation are not any different than problems off the
reservation. They are the same problems, whether it be drugs, alcohol, poverty,
rape, murder-we do not have a lot of murders on the reservation, but we have
all of the other problems. We have had murders on the reservation. We are not
any different than outside society. It is just that we are isolated on the
reservation. When something happens here, everybody knows where to look,
because we are at the same place and have been here for all these years. I
guess it is the same way with black people, I mean, you know where a black
town is, and you go there. When it is a white person that does it, I mean, you do
not just go to the white town to look for them, they are all over the place. Being
on the reservation, if somebody says, well, it was one of those Indians, you know
where to go and where to look. In my opinion that is still a form of racism. Call it
what you want, but racism comes in all different colors, shapes, and forms. It is
not just a black-white issue anymore, or an Indian-white issue, or whatever the
issues were back in the 1950s or 1960s. They are still there and they are
probably bigger now then they were before, they just have a better cover on top
H: What would you consider the most important economic activities or practices that
the tribe has gotten into today, and how are these different than thirty years ago?
You kind of answered it by talking about how you just had to survive, you did
things to survive. But some of the economic activities that the tribe has gotten
into recently, what do you think are the most important of those?
B: As far as being in today's world and the economic development that we have
here on the reservation, I would think that the most important things would be
health and education. I say health because I have lost a lot of relatives in the
past due to diabetes, or alcohol, or whatever. I classify those as unneeded
deaths because there was prevention there. But whether they did not go seek
prevention or prevention did not seek them, for whatever reason, a lot of it was
due to the education part of it, of not knowing. So, I would say that health and
education would be the backbone to make this tribe go into the twenty first
century because without them we would be back to where we were twenty years
ago, selling trinkets on the side of the road and hoping people would come and
H: So, you think there is better access to healthcare and education and that type of
B: Well, I do not think there is, I know there is. The health and the medical facilities
on the reservation may not be to the standard that I think they should be at this
particular time in our lives, but they are a heck of lot better than they were when I
was a young kid. There are lots more opportunities out there. Not to say that
those are things that we highlighted back then. I mean, money changes people.
It makes them good; it makes them bad. I guess in the past ten years this tribe
has come into some money through our gambling. But the issues are still there.
We have better medical facilities on the reservations that were built with those
dollars. We have better education programs on the reservations that were built
with those dollars, not given to us from the government or the BIA [Bureau of
Indian Affairs]. We have actually made our own money and used our own
money. We walked the walk and talked the talk, when a lot of government
bureaucrats just walked the walk or talked the talk, whichever way you want to
look at it. They never do both. But, a lot of our kids-and my kid for one just
graduated from high school, from a private school here in Fort Lauderdale called
Fort Lauderdale Preparatory School. I have a stepdaughter that goes to a
private school. My oldest daughter graduated from public school.
H: Your children in private schools, are they supported by the tribe?
B: Absolutely, one hundred and ten percent. If you find a private school that you
want to go to and you meet the tribe's criteria, they pay for it.
H: And the criteria are based on what?
B: Go to school. Do not go for a week and drop out. And keep you grades up. You
have to maintain a certain grade point average. There are some rules attached
to it, and a lot of tribal members have really benefited from it. I have a nephew
that graduated from high school and went to one of these computer schools out
in Fort Lauderdale. Well, he just recently got a scholarship from them. That is
what he wanted to do. He loves computers and he has done real well there. He
came right out of high school and went there. So, the opportunity is there. There
is no reason for anybody to walk around saying, I did not have an opportunity to
get an education. I cannot even say that, and I do not have an education. I have
an eighth-grade education; that is it. I am proud of that, too, because I was able
to survive; but I would not allow my kids to do that. In fact, I have two kids that I
am their biological father, their mother is a full-blooded Seminole, so actually my
kids are more Indian than my mother. My grandchildren are almost full-bloods. I
think they are 1/32 away from being full-blooded tribal members now. So, there
is really no excuse to not have an education, and I do not have an excuse as to
why I do not have one. I can just tell you that I did not need it, and I still do not
think that I need it now. But I will tell you this, if I had it, I can see where I could
benefit from it now. I mean, enormously. I make good money now. If I had the
educational background that I should have, I would be out doing real well-a
whole lot better than I am now.
H: So, you see the need, because of the changes that have happened in society, for
your children to have an education.
B: Absolutely. And both of my kids graduated from high school. They do not have
a GED; they graduated from high school because GED was not acceptable to
me. And I expect both of my kids to go to college. It is mandatory that they go to
college. You would think that coming from a high school dropout that would not
be a priority to me, but it is. I have learned it the hard way, that I should have
taken advantage of it back then. Not that I am too old now, but it is like trying to
catch a runaway horse. I do not see myself going back to school. I take a lot of
workshops and I read a lot of books. I mean, I know how to read. Like I said a
while ago, I learned how to learn. If there is something I do not know about in the
morning, believe me, by the end of the day I will be educated on it enough to talk
about it. [End of Tape Side A]
H: I just want to ask you one last question. The economic changes in agriculture,
livestock, education, and business that the tribe has engaged in, in the last thirty
years, could you tell me how these changes have affected your life?
B: They have made my life better. Medically, physically, economically, just any way
you can imagine, it has made my life better. The quality to my life is better. The
outlook on life is better. I think a lot of tribal members can relate to that. I
remember before, we were scrounging around, trying to live, trying to survive.
Now most of us are not scrounging around but we are still trying to learn how to
survive and live. But, we have time to do that, to give some thought to it now,
when before there was never time to think. If you missed one day of work, you
were just out in the cold. It is not that way anymore.
The tribe supports a lot of people. I think everybody should work that is capable
of working. Not everybody does work that is able to work. Again, it is not just in
our tribe; it is [also] outside. There are people that do not work, there are welfare
recipients there, [and] there are welfare recipients here. It is not any different. It
is kind of frustrating when people come on the reservation [and ask], well, how is
the reservation different than the outside world?, expecting to hear something
that is different. Well, it is not any different. But, as far as the economy, and the
tribe, and what they have had, I think it has improved everybody's way of life. I
think the opportunities that it has presented in the form of spin-offs have made
opportunities for tribal members to become businesspeople and entrepreneurs
on their own. And I firmly believe that when one person gets ahead, we all get
ahead. I really believe that, because somebody's got to go out and there and
beat the bushes in order for other people to follow. That is why you hear me say
that and you hear a lot of people echo that, that when one gets ahead, we all get
ahead. Well, somebody has to be the bush-beater and then everybody will
H: And who is the bush-beater in the tribe today.
B: Well, there is a bunch of us. I would consider myself one. When I got voted into
office this village was shut.
H: What office is that?
B: The board of directors. I am in my fourth term now. When I get done I will have
served eight years. The position that I hold, I have held it longer than anybody in
our tribe's history.
H: Do you have any aspirations to be chairman one day?
B: Not at this particular time. I only say that because I respect the person who is
there. I think he has done a lot for us. When I do not think that he has any more
to contribute, and if I have something to contribute, I would certainly take a look
at it at that time. But right now he seems to be in control of things, and things
seem to be moving in the right direction.
H: When you became a representative for this reservation, what state was it in? You
were getting ready to talk about that.
B: Well, if you have been to the reservation now and looked at it, and you came five
years ago and looked at it, you would be lost. Actually, the reservation looks
better than the white people's reservation. You can be riding down the road, and
if you were here five years ago, or ten years ago, you would swear that the
reservation is on the west side of 64th Avenue, because that is how we looked
when I got into office. Now, on the east side of 64th, it looks like white people live
H: Very nice homes, I noticed.
B: And they have lawns, sprinkler systems, fences around their homes, nice
driveways; we did not have that five or six years ago. I put up all of the fences on
the reservation. I, meaning I had the vision to do that. It took a lot of other
people working with me. I got the funds to reopen this village here on Hollywood.
This village was very close to everybody's heart on this particular reservation.
One of my campaign promises was to open it back up. Well, we got five million
dollars together and opened it back up. And it has been opened since August of
H: It is very nice, the museum and the village.
B: Well, it is nice and we have a lot more to do with it. It is an avenue to travel to
exploit yourself, and exploiting is not always bad depending on whom you exploit
and what you are exploiting. It could be a bad word, but I think to exploit our
tribe, as far as for economic development and education, we should do that and
take advantage of it. But, again, those are my own opinions and I exploit them
when I can.
H: So, you see tourism as a very good way of preserving and promoting Seminole
B: I think tourism makes you preserve your heritage and tradition by trying to market
it. Now, if your were not going to market it, then you would probably have no
reason, other than some medicine guy saying we need to save it. But, by trying
to market it as a tourism attraction, it makes you preserve it because it makes
you talk about it, it makes you relive it, it makes you think about it. That is
another forum that kind of just fell in my lap that I really did not know was there
until it already happened. Being able to see that and use it as a vehicle when it
just flew over a lot a people's head, I could sit here and tell people about what is
going on and they still would not understand it. For me to be able to see that and
hold it in my hand and do something with it to mold it or shape it, I take great
pride in that. But, you see people walking around looking at our culture, how we
used to eat and live back in the old days. One hundred years has not been that
long; well, twenty years, in our case. I was raised in a chickee hut like that, with
a dirt floor; that is where I slept. I took a bath in the ditch. So, I am from the old-
timers school. I did all that. We had a cow in the village, in our camp, that we
milked. That is where we got our milk. The old ladies made butter off of it. We
ate a lot of turtles. People went and picked tomatoes and peppers and they
always brought some home and we ate off of that. I am from the old school. I
think it is a heck of a good position to be in because I can go back and forth, and
there are very few of us that can do that. My kids have no concept of how it used
to be, no concept.
H: Do you teach your children about the history or how things used to be?
B: I do not teach them, I talk to them about it. I teach them more about being an
entrepreneur and being self-sufficient, independent, and doing your own thing,
because I believe when you get to this level here then you can always come
back. But you can never come back if you do not ever get there. A lot of those
things may seem like rhymes and stories and things, but they are actually real,
true things. So, I am a psychology kind of guy.
H: I want to thank you very much for your time, Carl.
H: I would like to give you this opportunity to say anything that you would like to that
maybe addresses some point I did not ask you about.
B: I cannot think of anything right off of the top of my head. I would say it is
interesting reading my interview from twenty-some years ago. I do not
remember, but reading it, it definitely was me. I would say, between the time of
then and now, it has been two different worlds, no comparison. But, I am glad I
came up the way I did. I feel blessed being on the reservation because life is
good on the reservation. In my opinion it has always been good on the
reservation. I mean, I do not know any other way. I have been to one white
funeral in my entire life and that was an uncle on my father's side. When we
went to that funeral, it was totally different than the way we bury our people. I
was out of place. I was lost. My mother-in-law in Oklahoma passed away two
years ago. She was full-blooded Cherokee; spoke the language. Their funeral
service was the same as ours. I was at home. I knew what to do next; I knew
what was going to happen next. But on the outside world, I have no idea. Like I
said, I have been on the reservation all of my life. I do business off the
reservation, and I have a house off the reservation, too, here in Hollywood, that I
do not live in. I live on the reservation because that is where I feel comfortable.
only have that house for investment purposes. But the tribe has been good to
me. They have been good to me and they have been good to all the tribal
members, whether they will admit it or not. They have created a lot of
opportunities, and if you do not take advantage of them, it is nobody's fault but
your own, as you probably well know yourself.
H: Again, thank you very much.