Title: Helene Johns Buster
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Full Text

SEM 248
Helene Johns Buster

Helene Johns Buster is a nurse at the Big Cypress Medical Center. This interview is important
because Buster is personally and professionally involved in or has experiences with many issues
central to this project. Born of mixed parentage, Buster discusses life as a "half-blood" among
"full-bloods," changes in the use of Indian names (e.g., 2-3, 15), and struggles between the uses
of Indian languages and English. Raised in Brighton, Buster spoke Creek as a first language;
now married to a Mikasuki-speaker, she grapples with the challenges of teaching her children
Indian languages when their tendency is to speak English (e.g., 15-20).

Buster worked with the tribe in their initial bingo ventures and then with the now-defunct
emergency medical program. The majority of her work history has been with health, and this
interview provides some very good information about diabetes and changes in health care at both
Brighton and Big Cypress (35-40), which she see as tied to economic and social changes (43-
44). Her experiences with drug and alcohol recovery-personally and professionally-offer
important insights into a set of large problems that many in the Seminole tribe are and have been
confronting over the last generation (40, 53-58). She discusses the uses of Western and Indian
medicines, and how she as a health care professional reconciles them (40-42). She also mentions
briefly what she sees is a connection between the Green Corn Dance and her work in health.
Buster's memories of the Green Corn Dance as a child center around one episode where her
mother became drunk; the shaped Buster's own participation in the ceremony for years, through
attending it for the party-atmosphere and then avoidance of it. Over the years her attitudes
toward the ceremony have changed from viewing it as a party to appreciating its import as a
ceremony in which her cultural heritage and traditions are taught (46-52).

Buster discusses her experiences at boarding school and in education more generally. She
recognizes that her experiences are different than those in her parents' generation and also
different than those of her children's generation. She examines these transformations, including
the push for her generation to attain education and 'be white' at the expense of learning cultural
practices, the move to and between public schools, and some of the practices at reservation (and
public) schools related to teaching Seminole culture and Indian languages (e.g., 8-15, 20-23, 25-
26, 33). Buster also discusses her concern about the role of dividends in education, both making
education more accessible and creating a difficult atmosphere for it to succeed (e.g., 22-25).
(There is a parallel in her discussion of economic development and health care.)

Her desire to attend boarding school was tied to the transformation of housing, when her mother
decided to leave the matrilineally-related extended family camp and enter a CBS with her
children. Buster resented this, and she explains how she saw this as an assault on the family as
she knew it. She discusses the form of the family structure when she was growing up and how it
changed with this shift in housing (e.g., 26-29, 32-33).

Near the end of the interview Buster gives her assessment of the economic changes in the tribe
over the last generation, and she explains why she sees them as simultaneously a blessing and a
curse (52-53, 58-60).
SEM 248

SEM 248
Helene Johns Buster
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Interviewee: Helene Johns Buster
Interviewer: J. Ellison
11 August 1999

E: I am sitting in the Big Cypress Medical Center with Helene Buster and Daisi

Jumper. I want to talk today with Helene about some issues related to the

Seminole Tribe and to health matters and so forth. I guess we will start off with

the basic questions, which we are asking everybody, and that is, your full name.

B: Helene Johns Buster.

E: To what clan do you belong?

B: Panther.

E: The Panther Clan. That is a large, well-represented clan on Big Cypress.

B: Yes, it is.

E: Were you born here on Big Cypress?

B: No. I am from Brighton originally. I am a transplant.

E: Are there a lot of transplants here?

B: Yes. We move from one res to the other.

E: When did you move to Big Cypress?

B: I have been here about a year and a half.

E: That recently? And did you come because of the clinic?

B: Well, actually, I moved here because I was getting married, and I was moving

over there to the Miccosukee part of this reservation that is right down the road. I

was planning on commuting back and forth to Brighton from here, but then they

wanted a clinic supervisor here, and that is the job that I was doing in Brighton,

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so they just moved me here. I have been here since.

E: For a year and a half. So, you are from Brighton originally. Are you a

Muskogee-Creek speaker?

B: I speak Creek.

E: Was that your first language, or did you learn English first?

B: No, it was my first.

E: Do you have a Creek name?

B: No, I do not. My oldest brother, he was about twelve years older than I, he had

an Indian name, but I have another brother and a sister and we did not. I do not

know why. I asked my mother why we did not have a name, why she did not

give us an Indian name, and she said [it was] because the people that could

name you-there was not anybody that could name you. So, I do not know.

E: Because it would not be them, it would ...

B: There was somebody else that would have to name you. They take you to

somebody to name you, like an uncle or somebody like that. I guess their

uncles-it would have been her uncle, and all of those people in that family were

already gone. I never knew my grandparents. They were already dead before I

was born.

E: Did you find, then, growing up that that was a big absence, not having an Indian

name? Did a lot of your peers have them and use them?

B: No. We all used the English names, so it was not. It actually did not become a

big deal until I got older, and then I am starting to question why. Now it is like not

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too many people remember everybody else's Indian name; just the older people

use the those names, and then they are like, who was that?

E: That is interesting. So, you were raised on Brighton reservation; you have lived

most of your life on either of the reservations?

B: The majority of my life was in Brighton, but I lived on the Hollywood reservation

for probably about eight or ten years. I lived here for a year, and then I went

back to Brighton, and now I am back. When we had the million-dollar bingo, I

worked there.

E: When was that?

B: Oh, gosh, that was probably about 1988, 1987, or something, with the big old

building right down the road here. That was called the Million-Dollar Bingo.

E: That is no longer there.

B: No longer. It was a huge, huge bingo that we had only once a month for a

weekend. People would fly in from all over into Fort Lauderdale and they would

be transported out here and we had loads and loads of buses. But, it was under

poor management; it was not managed under the tribe.

E: It was contracted out?

B: Yes.

E: And you worked there for a time?

B: Yes, for probably around a year. I worked for the time that it was opened, and I

do not know what that was. It was different.

E: I have seen the building and I have wondered what that is.

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B: My job at the time was to make sure that it was clean and ready and set up for

the game, and all the paper packages were made for the game.

E: That sounds like it would have been a lot of work.

B: Oh, it was. We would put in ninety-nine hours in a week, the week prior to the

game, to make sure everything was done.

E: About how many people worked there?

B: Oh, gosh. A couple hundred, I would think.

E: Mostly people from the reservations?

B: People from all the reservations came out here and worked on that one

weekend; on that one day they would come out here. When I worked it, it was

like eight to five, Monday through Friday, with doing the paper, making sure the

place was cleaned, and all that. It took us a whole month in between, from one

game to the next game, to get everything straightened out for the next game

because it was so huge.

E: I can imagine. And people would fly in from ...

B: From everywhere. They would fly in to Fort Lauderdale from other states just to

play. It was interesting.

E: It sounds interesting, big crowds all of a sudden descending.

B: Yes. It was huge. That one weekend a month Big Cypress was busting out of

the seams with people.

E: People would stay-it was the whole weekend?

B: It was a Saturday, all day. It was way after midnight a lot of times when we

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closed the place down, so it was like a weekend.

E: What did people do-I guess they had food and so forth.

B: Oh, yes, they had everything there.

E: Nobody stayed? There was not lodging?

B: No. It was just that one day, but it started first thing in the morning and it went

until the wee hours of the morning.

E: That is remarkable.

B: I never could figure why people liked bingo that much but they did.

E: It seems popular in lots of places. You worked there for about a year?

B: Well, for whatever time it was open, I do not even remember.

E: Have you ever lived on the reservation and worked off the reservation?

B: Well, actually, the times when I have lived on the reservation, I have always

worked on the reservation. But when I went to nursing school, then I worked at

the clinics, too, but I worked part time at the hospitals just for the experience of

working somewhere other than a clinic. I worked at the hospitals over there in

Highlands county.

E: Where did you go to nursing school?

B: South Florida Community College in Avon Park, which is also Highlands county.

E: How long of a program was that, the nursing program?

B: I took my LPN [Licensed Practical Nurse] first. Actually, I got a GED [General

Equivalency Diploma]; I did not graduate so I got my GED. I did not ever go to

college or anything, so I had to take all my pre-requisites first. That took me a

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year. Once I had my pre-requisites, I was ready to go into the nursing program,

which was one year-for my LPN. I worked as an LPN for three years and then

decided I wanted to go back for my RN [Registered Nurse license], so it was

another year.

E: When you worked as an LPN, that was back here or at Brighton?

B: Yes, at Brighton.

E: That is a lot of training. Worthwhile?

B: Yes, really. I enjoy it. But I have worked probably about twenty years, off and on,

with the medical facility because I worked as an EMT [Emergency Medical

Technician] when we had an EMT program. I worked as an EMT and I was

nationally certified as an EMT. And then I did CHR work, and then I worked with



B: Community Health Representatives. It is kind of like a liaison between the

community and the health department. They go out into the communities and do

home visits and things like that. I did that for a while and then I worked with the

WIC program, that is the Women, Infants, and Children program, and then I

decided to go to school. I keep going in and out of work here.

E: But you had been working in health and that led you to go seek further training.

B: Yes.

E: The EMT program-you said, when there was one; there is no longer?

B: No. We do not have one in the tribe. At the time-and that was back in 1975 or

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1976, somewhere around there-we had an ambulance and all on the two

reservations, this reservation and Brighton reservation, because we are so far

from the doctors and the hospitals. It just was not feasible. It probably was more

feasible here, and I cannot say because I was not here at the time, but their

program stayed up longer than ours did in Brighton. We just did not have that

many emergencies where we needed an ambulance, that severe of an

emergency that we needed an ambulance to transport. We came to realize that

it was-with the insurance and everything that it took to maintain the

ambulance-it was taking a lot more of our budget. At the time the tribe was not

as financially set as they are now. The feasibility was not there, for Brighton,

anyway. So, they did away with the ambulance, and then we just used cars.

The CHRs and the EMTs just used cars, and we made assessments and things,

and it is only a half an hour away from Brighton to the nearest hospital, whereas

here it is totally different. So, their program stayed up here for a lot longer time

than ours did [in Brighton].

E: You were doing this work in the 1980s?

B: 1976 and 1977.

E: Where is the nearest hospital to Big Cypress?

B: Clewiston, which is by flying probably about forty-five minutes away.

E: That is what they do if they have a serious case?

B: Yes. Flying means a high-speed vehicle, not flying. [Laughter.] Going eighty

[miles per hour] you can make it in forty-five minutes. The ambulance, usually by

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the time you call 911 it is forty-five minutes to an hour before they get out here.

So, it is just as fast. We have all kinds of accidents over here on Snake road all

the time, really, really bad accidents. And most of them are pretty life

threatening. That is when the Medevacs come; you have to call them in. Usually

they go to Fort Lauderdale or Naples, mostly Fort Lauderdale.

E: To major hospitals. Did you receive your training for the EMT on Brighton


B: No, I did not. Actually, my first training that I got for it was in South Dakota, Black

Hills. I went out there for a program that they had, an EMT program. I spent a

month out there in their training program. Then I came back and I went to Edison

Community College because Florida does not accept national certification yet.

They have a Florida certification, and so I went through that program over there.

E: You went to South Dakota specifically to seek the EMT training program?

B: Yes.

E: Was it good?

B: Oh yes. I really learned a lot. The health department was the one that sent us

out there for it.

E: You mean the tribal health department?

B: Yes. There were two of us that went from the Brighton reservation. I think the

ones that got the training on this reservation went locally. I do not know why they

sent us out there, but they did, and we spent a month out there.

E: You do not know what the decision-making process was.

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B: No.

E: But you had contacted them about your interest in doing this?

B: No, they had an advertisement out for EMTs, that they would train you and all

that, and so I applied for that.

E: Who was the other person who went with you?

B: Agnes Bert from Brighton.

E: Is she still practicing?

B: Oh yes, she is still there. She is a community health representative out there.

She probably has twenty-four years in with the facility over there. She has been

there a long time. And hers is full time work; mine has been in and out over the

years, going back to school, and some training or something, and coming back,

or just not working and then coming back. But hers has been steady, probably

twenty-five years.

E: Your primary occupation is working here at the clinic?

B: Yes. This is what I do.

E: It is what you do. So, we have been talking some about the schools. Where did

you begin school, in Brighton?

B: Actually, the first school I went to was Okeechobee. I went to the Okeechobee

system for the first two years and then the Glades county system said we had to

come over there because we were in their county, because you get all of the

assistance or subsistence for the amount of students that are there. So, they

transferred all of the Seminole kids from Okeechobee to Glades county; they said

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we had to go there because we lived in Glades county.

E: Because the reservation is in ...

B: Glades county. And so we went there for years.

E: How old were you when you made this change?

B: Well, I was in third grade, so whatever age that is; six, seven, or eight, eight

years old. So, I went to school there until my eleventh grade.

E: Was that a hard change, to leave in third grade?

B: I do not think so. I do not remember it. You know, from the third grade I went to

school with this one girl and her name was Sherry, in Okeechobee. We went to

first and second grade and third grade together. When I left, she and I still

stayed friends-I mean, today we still know each other and we are still friends.

She actually married a guy that I went to school with in Glades County, and so

we have stayed in touch even over all these years, even though we did not go to

school together.

E: So, it was not that dramatic of a ...

B: No, because everybody that you went to school with and all that, they all went

over there, too. It was just the white kids that did not go over there, but all the

Indians went. Everybody that you rode the bus with and all that stuff, the people

that were in your same grade, they were all there, too, so it was not like you were

just thrown into a place with all strangers.

E: Extracted by yourself.

B: Yes, you were not pulled out and put over there by yourself.

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E: Were there white kids who lived in Glades county but who were going to

Okeechobee schools?

B: Way over on the side where Buckhead Ridge is-I do not know if you know

anything about that, but it is over on Route 78-those people lived right on the

county line, and so they took their kids to Okeechobee. They had to drive their

kids there; the bus did not come to them. That was our big thing; you see, we

could have gone to school in Okeechobee, but Glades county would not allow

Okeechobee busses to cross their line to pick us up.

E: And they certainly were not going to take you by their busses to another school


B: No. That was the whole thing, and back at that time you were lucky to have a car

to go back and forth to town, whatever transportation you had. That was the one

thing that they had over us, that our parents wanted us to be educated whatever

it took to get you there, and that is what they did. The school busses were our

main means of transportation. And so that is where we ended up going. But,

then, it was years later-maybe ten, I do not know, it does not seem like it has

been that long ago, but it has been probably about fifteen or twenty years-that

the Seminole Tribe found out, the Brighton community found out, that we did not

have to go to Moore Haven schools. The money would go to whatever school

we decided we wanted to go to. So, from that point, because Okeechobee was a

better school-which I totally did not agree with. They had more to offer, but

being a better school? I sent my kids to Moore Haven because it was a smaller

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school, and the teachers there were my old classmates. They knew me and if

they had a problem with my daughters, they did not have one problem calling

me, whereas Okeechobee was a bigger system. They did not know me, they did

not know who my daughters were, or anything like that. To me, that made a

difference. Both of my daughters graduated from the Glades county, Moore

Haven system.

E: You went through the eleventh grade?

B: I went through the eleventh grade. I needed a credit to graduate but I decided I

was in love; I had to get married. So, that is what I did, promising that I would get

my high school diploma-but I did not, until about three years later when I got my


E: What year were you born?

B: 1954.

E: I am just trying to think about the changes in education and so on. Did your

parents, had they gone to school? You said they were adamant about you

getting an education.

B: No. I only had a mother. And no, our parents were-maybe I should not say

parents. We lived in the camps when I was growing up. We lived in the camps,

and so all of my aunts and uncles were there. They were the ones that took care

of you-all of our parents, because there were twelve of us kids that lived in the

camp. They were the ones that you went to school with, you played with, and

everything, and so we grew up like brothers and sisters. We were cousins, but

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we grew up like brothers and sisters. All of our parents there, in that camp-that

is what I was saying-we did not have fathers; we just had our mothers and our

aunts and uncles.

E: And your aunts and uncles were your mother's sisters and brothers?

B: Yes.

E: And they were encouraging you to go to school. It was important.

B: Oh yes. It was kind of like, to me-and I always said that-our being an Indian

was kind of put aside so that we could go out and learn to be white, so that we

could help them to be able to live in this life that was changing, because they had

to go to Okeechobee to do their business and they could not because they did

not speak the language. They always had to take one of us kids to town with

them. And here we were, making contracts for cars and translating all this stuff

for vehicles and just bills and things like that. And we were little kids, just

translating all that stuff. It was very important to them for us to learn how to live

out here in this world.

E: Did they talk to you about that when you were going to school? Did they tell you,

this is what we are thinking about your education?

B: No, you just kind of knew it, I guess. But it was really pushed on us to get


E: And their generation, fewer people had education?

B: Nobody, in our-nobody. No.

E: They did not have the same opportunities, I understand.

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B: Not at all. Nobody in my mother's family had any kind of education. Some of the

families around here, I do not know how it happened, but some of them in their

age group had gone off to school, but they did not. Our generation was like the

first generation to get any kind of education.

E: Was there any apprehension, do you think, on the part of your parents, your

mother and your aunts and uncles, concerning their children going off to

Okeechobee or Moore Haven to the white schools?

B: I do not remember it, but they had the Indian school on the reservation and Mr.

Boehmer taught them, and he was really instrumental in getting them into public

schools because public schools would not take the Indian kids. That was the age

when Mr. Boehmer was there that my older cousins-and they are in their sixties

now-they went to Okeechobee. They went to school in Okeechobee and they

were the first ones that went to school over there. That first bunch of people.

But, I never heard anything from anybody in our family, anything negative about

going to school. It was always pushed to get there, that you needed to go to

school and to learn whatever you could. That was really pushed on us. I never

felt like it was a negative to be going there, being mixed with the non-Indians and

stuff. I know a lot of people talk about that and I never felt that, I never felt like

that. It was always pushed on us, and today I think about it; it was more pushed

on us to be white than to be Indian. Because, like I said, I never learned how-I

mean, they never sat down and taught us how to do the crafts and things like

that. And we were pushed more to speak English then to speak the language so

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that we would be able to handle things. And the majority of us were half-breeds

and so that was a problem. We were always called half-breeds and we were

probably more ...

E: Called that by whom?

B: The Indian kids. The full-bloods. We were probably more prejudiced against, on

the Brighton reservation, for being half-breeds than we were in the white

community for being half-Indian. That is the way I always felt about it. It is funny

to me today and I laugh about [it] that the full-bloods were always down on us

because we were half-breeds. But today, when you go to the community

meetings and stuff like that, the full-bloods are up there asking us half-breeds to

interpret for them to the community because the full-bloods do not know how to

speak it but the people in my family know how to speak it, because we hung on

to it, the language. But the full-bloods out there did not. I do not know why they

did not. I always have a hard time with that because both parents-and most of

them had both parents-they both spoke the language and everything, but the

kids all spoke English. And they did not pick it up well enough to or where they

feel comfortable enough to speak to the community in the language. So, they

always get [people] like my cousins to interpret for them.

E: To interpret in ...

B: Into the community, like at a community meeting or something. It is always one

of the half-breeds that interprets from the full-bloods to the community.

E: Going from Creek to English? Going from English to Creek?

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B: Yes. Well, it is from the English language to the Creek language to the


E: Do your kids speak ...

B: No. They do not, because I married a Mikasuki-speaking person. Well, my first

husband was an English-speaking person, and he was white. The second

husband was a Mikasuki-speaking person, so I did not understand him, and he

did not understand me, so, of course, we spoke English. And that is what my

child speaks. I have really been thinking about it back then, they should have

learned both languages. They should have been tri-lingual, but they are not.

They speak English. My daughters try hard now to learn the language but they

do not speak it. My grandsons speak more than they do.

E: Do you understand Mikasuki?

B: I am catching it a little. [Laughter.] It is hard for me. With some I can sit in a

conversation and I can hear talk and I can catch things here and there and by the

time the conversation is through I kind of think I know what they were talking

about. Then I will lean over to somebody and say, did they say this?, and they

will say, yes. Sometimes I think I know a little bit more than what I am

comfortable saying I know, I think, because I do not want to say yes and then be

totally wiped out. It is hard. It is a hard language for me, and when I was

working with one of my cousins teaching her how to talk, she would say, how do

you say this? And I would say, you can say it like this or you can say it like this,

but if you say it like this, it means this and all this. And so now with Andy [Buster]

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I am saying I just want to learn phrases that I can use in the clinic. He will tell me

something and I will say it and he will say, no, you do not say it like that because

if you say it like that, then it means this. You need to say it like this. He says it

changes the whole thing, just the emphasis on the word. He says, you do not

want to be saying that at the clinic. I always tell him to record it so when I am

riding down the road I can practice saying it over and over. But he has not

recorded it; he keeps talking about it but he has not, yet.

E: You run into a lot of people here who speak Mikasuki.

B: Oh, they all speak Mikasuki here. I think I have only run into two-two of the

elderly women-that speak the Creek language, too. But, then they determined

that I am going to learn how to speak Mikasuki, so they quit talking to me in

Creek. Every now and then when it is serious business they will tell me what

they are saying in Creek. But most of the time it is all in Mikasuki and I might

have to get an interpreter. If I cannot pick up the gist of what they are saying,

then I have to get an interpreter.

E: In fact, we were just looking at this poster outside about language training for

young kids and we were speaking to someone else who is doing some language

stuff through broadcasting. I guess up at Brighton there are people who are

working with language training with students.

B: They go into to schools and do it.

E: That is what I had heard. I was wondering about, for example, here, there is the

Ahfachkee school, and I do not really know what they do with language here.

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B: They teach it in the school; I think they teach it in the school.

E: What ages are your children? I forgot, but they are grown and past school.

B: Oh gosh, yes. Twenty-six and twenty-three, I think.

E: So, they have already gone through the education.

B: Yes. They are on their own education now. [Laughter.] I said, you know what,

you can blame me forever for not teaching you, but if you do not ever learn it, you

have to blame yourself. You are on your own; you have to learn it on your own.

E: Do you get the impression that if they were going to have kids that they would

want their kids to have an education in the language, in Creek or in Mikasuki?

B: Oh yes. Well, I do have three grandsons with my oldest daughter and my oldest

grandson went through the Head Start.1 First he stayed with my mom, and my

mom talked to him in the language all the time. So, he knew it very well. Then

he went Head Start. He is a little redheaded, freckle-faced boy and he does not

look one bit-he is not a tribal member. But they would laugh at him because he

was the only one among the other little kids that were half or more, they did not

know the parts but they could say, how do you say this? and, how do you say

that?, and he was the only one that knew because my mother had taught him.

Up until four years old he was with her. She taught him. She was the one who

took care of him, so she taught him the language.

1 Head Start is a child development program that has served low-income children and their
families since 1965. The Head Start program is administered by the Head Start Bureau, the Administration
on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and
Human Services.

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E: His great grandmother.

B: Yes. He went there, where they just spoke little bits at a time-I do not know

how often in a week they went, but it was not an everyday language that they

were speaking at the Head Start. Now he is in a private school and there is none

spoken there at all. But they told my daughter-because they take the language

into the public schools now-they told her that if she would bring him over one

afternoon a week, over to the culture building, they would work with him and

teach him.

E: How old is he?

B: He is six.

E: He expresses interest in that?

B: Oh yes. He thinks it is pretty cool to speak a different language. It is something

that his mother does not know. He says, me and uncle can talk about mama and

she will not even know. I said, why do you want to talk about mama? [Laughter.]

E: At the Ahfachkee school, my understanding is that they teach other things

beyond just linguistic materials, that there is an emphasis on cultural learning.

You said something about that, you did not have that kind of education, it was not

emphasized in the public schools you were going to in Okeechobee.

B: Yes. In Okeechobee, they have a certain day of the week or something and they

have all of the Seminoles meet in one classroom and they are exempt from their

other classes at that time. They come and they meet and they either do

language or they do a culture presentation, like somebody in the community goes

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over there and they talk about something. One of my cousins is very

knowledgeable about how the tribe was developed and all the process that it

went through and the changes over the years, and he goes over there and talks

to them about that. Or just different things in our culture, they go in and they

have that captured audience in the school and they can teach them.

E: Right. There was an interview that was done with Louise Gopher and she spoke

about some of that.

B: Yes, Louise was very instrumental in setting that up.

E: I gather. And do you think that is a good idea?

B: Oh, I think that is a wonderful idea. I think they ought to do that in all the

[schools]. In the Hollywood area I think it would be difficult because they are all

in private schools over there, so you could not go to all of those private schools.

But you have the Clewiston system here and they could do that, too, for our kids.

I do not know how many kids go over there, but they could still do it over there.

E: Do you have an idea of how many kids-the percentage, or the ratio-go to the

public schools versus the ratio that attend Ahfachkee school?

B: No, I really do not know. It is just the older-it is like [from] the eighth grade on

up, and there are not that many. Plus, they do have a high school here, too. So,

the majority of the kids are here, I think.

E: The whole school, I do not know enough about it but it sounds like a pretty

interesting project, and what they are doing up in Okeechobee and the public

schools up there.

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B: Well, I know more about that-the goings-on there, because that is where I was,

mostly-than what really goes on here at the Ahfachkee. As far as the

immunizations and things like that, I can tell you what is going on. But as far the

other, [I am] not involved because I do not have children there in the school

system-it makes a difference, with my knowledge to what is happening there.

E: If you could point to one or two things that you see as the dramatic changes in

education since the early 1970s, what would you point out as the major

differences for a kid going through grade school now versus a kid going through

grade school in the 1970s.

B: The opportunities they have are so different now. Even in the sports and things

like that; when my cousins and my brothers and them wanted to be in sports,

they had to have somebody-because we were very poor back then and we did

not have transportation and things like that. So, the school, in order to have the

Indians play ball, which they wanted them to, because they were very good

ballplayers, they would have to have transportation from school, from practice,

and all that after school, and back home for them, every day. And they would set

that up. Now, today, every kid, just about, has their own vehicle. To me, that is a

big difference. Now they do not play in sports and things like that because they

have so much more material things that that stuff is not important anymore.

E: So, it makes school a lot more accessible?

B: It makes it accessible, but harder for them to get to because they have so many

other things. Do you know what I am saying? It is more accessible because the

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parents have their own vehicles and the kids have their own vehicles and the

money is there for gas to go back and forth. It is more accessible that way. But,

because of the materialistic things that our children are more involved in today, it

makes it harder for them to get to school. They have other things going on in

their life that are more important than school.

E: The motivation is not the same.

B: It is just not there. The whole motivation for going to school that I remember was

that because you did not want to work out in the tomato fields and you did not

want to be a field hand and be in the sun forever. You had to get an education

so that you were out of that and that you had some kind of a profession. That

was the motivation to get you out. But our kids never worked in the tomato fields.

They never had to harvest any kind of food or anything. So, they do not know

what really hard work is and having to work for your clothes or anything.

Everything is given to them.

E: And their parents, your generation, is away from that. You have made it through

the education system and stepped out of the tomato-field days.

B: Yes. Our kids, they have dividends, and from what I see today the majority of the

kids have the control over their dividends, whether they are eighteen or not.

They have the control, or that is the hold they have over their parents, their

dividends. They have the kind of clothes they want, I mean, they wear the $200

tennis shoes and whatever is in style and all this. We were doing good to have

tennis shoes from the dollar store. And when we had a Saturday and Sunday off,

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we were in the tomato fields working for $8 a day so we could help pay the bills

at home so we would have electricity and things like that. When prom and things

came up, I remember my mother going to the tribal government to get a loan so

that we could have prom dresses and the guys could have tuxedos to wear.

Now, those boys wear them, and the girls wear those things, all of the time

now-and things that cost twice as much as those kinds of things do.

E: Do you think that has really changed the whole attitude toward education?

B: I think so. I definitely think so. I mean, the thing to go to school was so that you

could learn how to make money and have a job. Hell, when you have money

coming in that is probably more than what your teacher is making in a month,

what is the motivation to go to school-for just being Seminole. Hopefully, it

changes one day. You would like to see people as this given money, this money

that we get for being a Seminole-and I feel that it is rightfully due to us. It is

kind of like newfound money. You buy all of your playthings and all of the things

you always wanted with that. And then after you get all of that stuff you realize,

hey, there is still a life, I still have to live a life, even with all of my toys I still have

to go and make a life for myself. Hopefully, we are going to get, as a tribe, into

that place where we say, oh, okay, we have all our toys now. Now I need to

learn how to invest this money. I need to think about my future. We are not at

that point yet.

E: I hear some people talking about things like that. Do you think it is still in the

formative ...

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B: Oh, I do not think we are there yet. No. You see too many things going on. We

get a dividend and we have people out here that actually do not even have a car

anymore, and two years ago they had a brand new car.

E: And they do not have one?

B: They do not have one now because they either drank it away or had an auto

accident or something. And it was through a loan through the tribe that they got

it. It was not building their credit or anything like that. It was not repossessed or

anything, but they just do not have it anymore. They put it up for collateral for

another loan or something like that and lost it.

E: And these, of course, are situations we see in communities all over the United

States, people working with credit.

B: Yes. I said the one good thing that could happen with the year 2000-they talk

about these computers going down and all that-was that that system would go

down. That system, instead of maybe the banking system and all that, but that

credit bureau system would go down and give everybody a new start of credit, a

clean slate. If that would happen, that would be a miracle. I work so hard to

keep my credit up, and I have lost it and I have built it back up, but it might tick

you off to find out that somebody could get the very same thing you could and

they do not do shit. But, I always think that if something had to fail, why couldn't

it be that just to give people an equal chance again.

E: It would be quite a gift.

B: Yes. Just one more chance. Then if they screwed it up from there, hey, it is your

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E: Well, they talk about debt relief to foreign countries-and rightfully they should, I

think-to foreign countries that have come under colonialism and so forth and

now are living in tremendous debt, and they could just project that kind of thing to

people within the United States. It used to be, it seems to me, that two

generations ago people were going to boarding schools and a lot of people went

to Oklahoma. Do you know people who did that or do you know people who still

do that?

B: Quite a few people, actually, in my family went to Chilocco, Oklahoma. It is on

the Kansas/Oklahoma line. I went one year. All my friends, everybody that I

hung out with, either graduated and were going to be going to college in

Oklahoma, or they were going off to boarding schools. I ran around with a bunch

of guys in Hollywood and they were all going to boarding school, so I felt like I

was all alone here. And back then it was kind of like, if you were not having a

problems in school, if you were going to school okay and you were not having

truancy problems, they did not send you out there. It was if you were having

problems in school or you just could not get to school and things like that, they

sent you out there. I put in an application to go and they could not understand,

my mother did not want me to go. I got my brother, my oldest brother, to make

her sign the paper so I could go to Oklahoma. I wanted to go because

everybody was leaving me, in my group they were all going out to Oklahoma.

Even though I was not going to the same schools as they were-because they

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were going to Sequoia, or the Choctaw one, Mississippi. They were going some

to Mississippi, some to Sequoia, and the only place I could get into was at

Chilocco. I did not care that I was not going to school with them; I just was not

going to be left in Florida. And so, that one year, I went out there. I did. I went

out there one year. Actually, that was the last time that I really lived at home.

And that was when we were moving from our chickees and our camps to the

homes, when we first got brick homes, the CBS [concrete block structures]


E: That was when?

B: In 1969 or 1968, somewhere around there, because I would have graduated in

1972. To me, when that break-up happened, with the camps and the stuff, and

we moved into the CBS homes, that was probably the biggest, the most

sorrowful time in my life.

E: How did that work? You say the last time you lived at home was about that time

and you discussed that you were going away to Oklahoma. When you came

back, people had been moving?

B: We had already moved into the homes when I left. It was the first year-

probably the first couple of months. I remember it was a summer that we moved

into the CBS home. I was not happy because we were a family there. And then,

all of a sudden, my mother decided she was going to get a home and pull us

out-there were three of us at that time because my older brother was about

twelve years older than we were. She took us out of there, out of the camp, and

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put us in this house and became a mom.

E: Before, you had been living with your mother and with her sisters and brothers

and their children.

B: Yes.

E: And maybe her mother?

B: No, their parents had already passed away; I never knew them at all.

E: So, she and her siblings and their kids were all living together in this camp.

When you moved into the CBS structures, did everybody move into one? No,

they could not have done that.

H: No, we moved into different ones. That is what I am saying. She took the three

of us and put us in a house over here with just her.

E: And she was the first of that group to ...

B: Well, actually, I think it was three of them at one time that got the first set of

homes that came in. I think there were three families from there that got the

homes and then a couple of more got in the next round. But, I was really-I felt

like everything was kind of destroyed at that time, when we got into those homes,

because then we did not have that bonding like we had. We were all very close

to each other there, and then we got pulled out and taken with our moms, which

at that time you knew who your mom was but everybody disciplined. It was not

just one person, just your mom, that you listened to; it was all of your aunts and

your uncles that were there that you had better listen to. We had one aunt, the

oldest aunt, that basically took care of all of us. She did not work; she did not

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have her own children, and my mother and her sisters and all, they went out to

work in the tomato fields and things like that. They were gone from daybreak to

nightfall. My aunt was the one that took care of us, so we called her Mama. She

was Mama to all of us. We all looked at her as if she was our mom. So, when

they decided to break up into these homes, move into the CBS homes, they just

kind of broke up that structure that we were used to.

E: When you moved into the CBS home with your mother, this aunt, the woman you

called mom also, stayed ...

B: She stayed in the camp.

E: How far were the CBS homes from the camp?

B: Not very far. They were just right around the corner, really.

E: Spatially separated.

B: Yes. It was. We had different chickees where the girls slept in one and the boys

slept in another, and we all had our mom. Then we had a whole bunch of

chickees around there. It was not that I did not like the home.

[End of Tape Side A]

E: She [Merwyn Garbarino] talked a little bit about that in her book about Big

Cypress. It has always struck me that that would have been a really tremendous


B: And I think, not only because all of my friends or the people that I hung with were

going to Oklahoma, but that was one of the main things, too, was that I was not

happy with that. Even though my brother and sisters lived there, it was still like

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the rest of your family was not there anymore, that extended family that was just

like your immediate family.

E: So, that was also a reason to go to Oklahoma?

B: Yes. I was kind of angry at my mom because she was the one that finally

decided to be a mom-in my head. I can look at it today and it is a whole

different story. I can see why things happened the way they did and all that. But,

at that time, I remember thinking, who the hell does she think she is? Now she is

going to be our mom. She is going to take us away from mama and move us into

this house with her; and she is going to act like mom? Those were the thoughts

that were going through my head. I was very angry at that time. And that is what

I said, I got my older brother-who did not even live with us; he had his family at

that time-I had him talk her into signing the papers so that I could go to

Oklahoma. And she was totally against that. I mean, it was against everything

that she always-they always preached to us, about getting education and

everything. She thought, well, why would you want to go out there? We have

schools here, just as good, and all of this.

Anyway, I went out there. And I did really good there because I was a straight A

student there and then I got into the Upward Bound program out there in

Oklahoma. Then during the summer I went to Dartmouth College. They had a

summer program there and we could go and take the English courses and the

science and all that in the Upward Bound program. I spent the whole summer at

Dartmouth. I went to Dartmouth College, and then I got accepted-I did not

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apply, but somehow I got an offer to go to a private school there at Burlington,

Vermont. I went to Rock Point School for girls there, a private school. I finished

my eleventh grade in Moore Haven, the last part of it. So, I went from like the

tenth grade there, the tenth and eleventh, part of it, there.

E: How was that?

B: It was different. It was with just girls, for one thing. It is like the movies, where

they have the boys' school and the girls' school, and then they have dances

together. That is the way it was. Just like that. The boys come from over there,

the girls come from over here to the school. That is the way it was. It was a

boarding school.

E: Where did they come from; the people who were at the girls' school, were they

from the northeast mostly, or were they from all over?

B: Mostly from that area. It was a private school for that area.

E: Was anybody else with you from down here?

B: No.

E: How was that?

B: I have always been pretty good by myself, even when I was in Oklahoma. At

Chilocco there were other people from Florida that were there. I had my cousin

Timmy, who was the president of the senior class when he was there, and Cecil

and Archie Johns, and they had made a pretty good name for themselves there. I

went there and they found out my name was Helene Johns, and Johns from

Florida. So, the dean of the school called me in and he said, you have a heck of

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a reputation to hold up for your family here. They have all done really good here

and all have been really good students and all this. From that, they put me in a

totally different dorm than the other Florida kids, and I [wondered], why can't I be

in there with them?, and they said, before the year is out, before half a year, most

of them are going to be sent home. They will be going home on their own or they

are going to be sent home, and you just do not need to be a part of that. At the

time I thought they were crazy, too.

E: They were tracking you, in some way.

B: Yes. So, here I was, over here. But, it made a difference because I did not get

sent home; and they were right, most of them were gone home. I think two of us

finished out the school year there. It was Esther Cypress, she stayed and

finished out the school year there. She was from here. And I finished the school

year and then I went to Dartmouth. That was the last time I went to boarding

school-well, to Oklahoma. Then, I was in a private, a pretty uppity, school up

there. It was pretty cool. I really had a good time there. From there I came

home. I decided I was tired of being gone and I wanted to come home, so I

came home probably about three months before school was out and finished out

my eleventh grade there. And I met my husband-to-be. Actually, I met him in

April and we got married September.

E: You were pretty sure of it.

B: Oh yes. Actually, things did not work out well, but not-he passed away. We

were married in September; he died in July the following year. I was two months

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pregnant with my oldest daughter at the time. I guess it worked out but it did not

work out-not what I thought. But I think if he did not die, we would probably

have still been married today. That is how sure I was of it at that time.

E: That is tragic.

B: I was seventeen.

E: Some of things you were describing about going away to school and so forth,

and then getting married, but the fact that you were seventeen and being

widowed, a lot of people ...

B: And two months pregnant. That was one of the main things, probably in my

whole life; I was not going to have children without knowing who their fathers

were because we were all raised that way. That was a goal in my life. That was

not going to happen to me. And that was very acceptable at that time, to have

children whether the father was there or not. That was not the major thing. The

major thing was to have children, and that was how we were produced. But, I do

not think they ever realized how traumatic it was for us, for everybody else to

have fathers and us not-I mean, even though we did, not [to] know who they

were. Or not being a part of our lives; they never realized how traumatic that was

for us. But then, I think that kind of makes us who we are today, too, because we

struggled a little bit harder, a little bit more, because we did not have that other

parent. And then that made us half-breeds and that was another thing that made

us struggle that much harder. But, anyway, my goal was not to have children

without a father for them.

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E: The boarding schools, do you talk with many people who are going that route

these days?

B: That is kind of a thing of the past now, I think. Very few people go out there. If

they go out there, it is really because they want to go, it is not because they have

to go, anymore.

E: A lot of people are going to college these days.

B: Oh yes, a lot more. My brother is the education director, Billy Johns, and he talks

about the more and more people who are into college or working toward getting

their degrees and things. I think you have to get to a certain age, and if you can

get past that age-where you just do not care, and you think that life is going to

exist whether you go to school or college or whatever, you are going to have all

this stuff-I think once you hit your early forties or late thirties, then it becomes

important to you. I was thirty-five when I finally went back and got my nursing

[degrees]. I have not been a nurse that many years.

E: Do you find a lot of people these days are going back to school to get specialized


B: Not so much training in anything in particular, but going just to get a degree in

something. But not like I did; I knew I wanted to go and be a nurse.

E: Because you had this background in health.

B: Right. I think it is basically something that I always knew I wanted to be. I just

did not know how to work towards it. It was not that I did not have opportunities,

it was just that I ignored it.

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E: I am going to just shift gears here a little bit, kind of an abrupt change. Are you

Christian, or do you attend a church here?

B: I am a Christian. Yes, I have been baptized, but I do not really attend a church.

My uncle-I always say my uncle, he was married to my aunt-is the pastor at

this church here, but he is not clan kin or anything like that. I guess since my

aunt died, in our way he really would not be a family member anymore. But we

still call him our uncle. He is our uncle.

E: He is married to your mother's sister?

B: He was, and she passed away. But he is the pastor over here. So, when I do

go, I go over here, but I just do not attend much.

E: I guess one of the things I was looking at would be questions about the church,

and the kind of role the church plays.

B: You know, we grew up in the church. My aunt was-I mean, when the church

doors were open we were there.

E: Is this your aunt that was the disciplinarian?

B: Yes, the one who took care of [us]. Dolly Johns.

E: Your mom's name was ...

B: Arlene. We went to church. The church was the center of everything back in

those days. In the 1960s and the early 1970s the church was the center of

everything. We had parties-Thanksgiving and Halloween parties, and Easter

[egg] hunts-and everything was a part of the church. It was not like over here

by itself and then the church do their things. Everything was a part of the church,

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every part of our life was there at the church. I do not know what happened.

Maybe in the late 1970s and early 1980s it just kind of went into a different

direction. It was no longer the center of our community anymore like it had been.

E: And you do not know why?

B: I really do not know why. I do not know what happened.

E: I am going to move on to things related to health because that is one of the

reasons we are here, it is what you do for a living. I am curious what you see as

being some of the major health issues and health concerns that people on the

reservations, this one and Brighton, face today.

B: Diabetes is the number one disease that we have out here. Diabetes.

Everything else is secondary to the diabetes.

E: It is that big?

B: Yes. I have seen it on both reservations and Brighton is probably, health-wise,

sicker than this community is, as far as the diabetes.

E: Why is that?

B: I would like to say now it is changing over there because we have a doctor that

works there. This community for years has had Dr. [James] Van Gelder, who is a

nephrologist and works with diabetes. He has been coming here for years. He

has had the clients on this reservation on a regimen of medication and it has

been a lot more closely monitored than the Brighton reservation. Whereas at

Brighton we only had a nurse practitioner and nobody that was really into the

diabetes like Dr. Van Gelder is. [That made] a big difference in the diabetic care

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on the two reservations. Like I said, I worked over there for about twenty years.

I came over here and I saw a big difference in the care of the diabetes patients.

But now over there in Brighton we have a doctor that is there and he works, and

he is there twice a week now, where we used to only have a doctor at Brighton

once a week. We have two doctors that are here, one on Wednesday and one

on Tuesday. Plus, we have a podiatrist that comes here every other Thursday,

which makes a big difference in our amputation rates and things like that. They

were not having that in Brighton, but that is now all in place over there in

Brighton, too. So, hopefully, the care level will go up over there as it is here.

E: Do you think over at Brighton that has reduced things like the rates for the

amputations and that kind of thing?

B: Yes. We were having a lot of amputations there. In the year and a half that I

have been here, going on two years that I have been here, we have had an

amputation of part of a toe, and that is all that I have seen here. In Brighton, the

time that I was there, I saw lots of amputations of limbs.

E: These people, these doctors coming in, where are they coming from?

B: Dr. Van Gelder comes from Hollywood. He is with the Memorial [Healthcare]

System over there. He is a very good nephrologist; he is not an endocrinologist,

but he works a lot with the diabetes.

E: I think I have seen his name in the paper. Are there Indian doctors, are there

Seminole or Miccosukee medical doctors?

B: No, not at all. Nobody close that I know of.

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E: Nurses.

B: Nurses. We have several nurses. There was a couple out here. In Brighton

there were only two of us nurses: one of my cousins was an RN, and myself. We

were the only two there. We have one new one; Shelly just graduated from her

nursing school, and there was another one from Immokalee, Mary Lou, and I

think she is an LPN. Shelly just graduated as an RN. That is two there, but I am

not sure of any more. In Hollywood I do not think we have any Seminoles that

are. We have a Miccosukee girl that worked over there that was an RN.

E: The diabetes, to get back to that briefly, you have been in the health field for a

long time, a number of years, has the diabetes always been a serious problem or

is it within the last ...

B: It has always been serious problem but not as serious as it is now, on the scale

that it is now. And it really should not be the problem that it is because we have

Diabetes Type II, which is diabetes that is controlled with diet and exercise. The

other, Type I, is the diabetes where your pancreas does not make insulin

anymore. That is what they used to call juvenile diabetes. What we have is

Type II and the onset is usually at about forty years old, but we have onsets of

eighteen and seventeen here.

E: What triggers it?

B: It is the diet and exercise. If everybody would exercise and lose some weight,

change their diet, we would not have this problem. But, we tend to be very

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obese and not exercise and we eat all the wrong foods. We like our fried foods-

fried breads and sofkees and things like that-and that makes a big difference. I

mean, just changing that is very hard for a lot of people. It used to be that we

could blame it on commodity foods, which were government issued foods. Stuff

like that was very high in salts and fats and starches and carbohydrates. But we

do not get that anymore, so we cannot blame the government for that anymore.

It is what we buy for ourselves now. Fast food is a killer for us.

E: What kind of programs do you do here to deal with the diabetes?

B: We have diabetic day once a month. In our diabetic day we have the nutrition

program, and health educators present a certain thing, like one month it will be

foot care, the next month it will be diabetes and your kidneys, or diabetes and

hypertension, or cardiovascular problems, or just different things and how they

relate to diabetes. So, people begin to realize that you have a heart problem

because of your diabetes. If you did not have your diabetes, you would not have

your heart problem. Most of the problems that we have are related to the

diabetes. They are all secondary to the diabetes. I have not found one yet that

somebody that has just had a heart problem and does not have diabetes.

E: That is remarkable. Do you get a lot of response for these programs?

B: Diabetic day is a really good thing here. All the diabetics in the community come

in-not all of them, but the majority, and we see the same ones over and over

again. We serve them a breakfast, a nutritious breakfast. They come in without

eating, they get their finger stuck, we take a urine [sample], we go over their

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charts and see what it is, all the diabetic stuff that is supposed to be done. You

have to have a physical, you have to have your pneumo bags, your 'flu shot,

your blood sugar done, glycohemoglobin, and things like that. There is just a

whole list of things that we check to make sure that this patient is being followed

like he is supposed to be-checking his medications, making sure they

understand how to take their medications, and things like that.

E: It sounds like a really good program.

B: It is. It is. But, it is as good as you want to make it. You can come in here and

eat the free food and get your blood sugar and go and never care about your

medicine, if you take them or not.

E: It is only one day a month.

B: That is it. Making people responsible for their own health has been a very hard

thing here. I mean, not just here but in our tribe, because you do not have to pay

for health care, the tribe pays for it, but as an individual you do not see it as

money coming out of your pocket. You think you are not paying for it, but, in

actuality, you are paying for it because it is tribal money that is being spent on it.

They do not realize how much of our own money we are spending just on

diabetes. [It is] lots and lots. Eye care, foot care, everything that is related to

diabetes. And that is our number one killer, the number one killer, besides drugs

and alcohol and auto accidents. I think it still beats that.

E: After diabetes it would be the other health concerns, what one would consider in

any community to be normal accidents.

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B: Yes, we have a lot of auto accidents out in this community, and that is drug- and


E: Does your facility here get involved in drugs and alcohol?

B: The building behind us is social service. The only way that we are involved is

when we do drug screenings. If we get a positive, then we automatically do a

referral. If somebody comes in and they were in an auto accident and apparently

has not been reported, then we will do a referral. If someone has been in a

confrontation-a fight or something like that, was beat up, or whatever-then we

do a referral to social service. We just write to them what we found, if we saw

that there was neglect or abuse, we do all that referring to social service.

E: And you deal with strictly health aspects. Do you intersect with people who rely

on what people might call native medicines at all, or do you encounter people

who practice native medicines at all?

B: A lot of the people still use a lot of the Indian medicine or the native medicine.

Sometimes they use it in conjunction with the Western medicine. Sometimes

they want to do that first. Or, if the medicine that we are giving them is not

working, then they will go to the Indian medicine. And we let them know that is

perfectly fine. You can do that. Of course, being trained in Western medicine,

you are like, you really need to get on this medicine, you cannot wait four months

to see if your Indian medicine is going to work first. And I do Indian medicine and

things like that. But still, like I said, my training on one hand can override that

sometimes because the science of it outweighs for me sometimes. But, it

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depends on what is really happening, what the problem is, sometimes. I will see

an open wound and somebody will go out and get things from the woods and

brew it up and stick all this stuff on an open wound and I am like, man, do you

want to lose that leg, or what? I am just thinking about everything that is going

on in it. But, they really do have that trust and that faith in it, and I do, too. But

like I said, sometimes I let this science part of it and what I learned of the

Western medicine, sometimes I will let it seep into what I know over here in

traditional things.

E: The funny thing is that even in white communities-they do not call it native

medicine, they call it folk cures or something-there are always these remedies,

but probably less because people in communities I am familiar with, white

communities, move around a lot. [Tape Interrupted.]

In other research that I have done elsewhere I found that there were certain

ailments that people would use other sorts of remedies, medicinal plants, and so

forth, for those ailments, and there were other ailments that they would

automatically go to a clinic or a hospital or a Western doctor. Do you find that

kind of division?

B: No, not really. I think they just kind of try both out and they do one before the

other one. I do not think that they decide that if it is for this, they are going to do

this first, and if that does not work, then they will go to this. It is just kind of at the

time, what the situation is.

E: Is it an individual decision?

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B: Yes, I think so. It is. It is not something that I will say, you might want to try

Indian medicine instead of this medicine. I would not do that. For one thing, I do

not want them to think that I think one is better than the other; I think that they

can both work pretty equally. I do not think that one is better than the other one,

and I do not ever want to come off that I think the Western medicine is better

than our Indian medicine, or that the Indian medicine is better outright than the

Western medicine, because I do not think that way.

E: They could work together.

B: I think they could work together.

E: I kind of have that perspective. I mean, what is aspirin? I have some specific

questions here on health matters. I think we might have talked about a lot of

them. We have talked about diet and eating habits, I think, in relation to

diabetes. Is high blood pressure a component of diabetes?

B: Oh yes, it is. Yes.

E: Has diet changed significantly? You talked before about these government foods

that were distributed.

B: Well, it did not really get any better than those foods, and those, like I said, were

a lot of carbohydrates and starches and things like that. When we were not able

to-we did not qualify for commodity foods anymore.

E: That was because of...

B: Gaming. We did not qualify for it anymore. But the foods that we started buying

for ourselves were not any better than that food because that is what we learned

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to eat. Even though we have nutritionists out in our community, and then we

have this and that, it does not matter, we still learned how to eat one way and

everybody is sticking to it. The fast foods are one of the killers for us today. It is

so much easier-like my husband and I, we stay really busy and I rarely cook.

E: Fast foods, like what?

B: Here it is much different. We have Reilley's over here, R and R, or I call it the

Mexican food restaurant down there on the corner, Dusty's. That little place on

the corner when you come on the res, right on the line, is called Dusty's. It is a

little store and they have food there, and there is a Mexican lady there that cooks

all of the food. It is mostly Spanish food and that is why I call it the Spanish

restaurant. [Laughter.] But she has learned how to make fry bread, too. I went

in there the other day and she was cooking up some fry bread for us. I came

back over here and they said, you smell like fry bread, and I said, yeah, she is

cooking some.

E: So, fry bread is now fast food, too.

B: Yes. But, our diet, really, if you had to come right down to it, that is what is killing


E: Is it different that when you were growing up?

B: You know, when I was growing up, like I said, we did not have that much money,

and there were twelve of us kids there. You kind of went down the line, and so if

you were the youngest, you did not get much of anything. The men, in our camp,

the men and the boys ate first, and then the women and the girls ate last. That is

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the way it was in our camp. So, if you were one of the younger ones, you

really-but there were so many of us, it was portioned out and you only ate so

much. And that was it. It was not like you just laid around and watched the tube

and grabbed a sandwich here and there and ate whenever you wanted to. Meals

were cooked at a certain time and you ate then, and that was it. If you did not

have refrigeration, then you did not have the meats and things, and when you ate

meat and things it was fresh meat. You ate it then.

E: That somebody had to get from hunting. Vegetables came from farms.

B: Yes. And they had gardens and things like that. We had pigs that we raised,

and chickens that we raised, and we ate the eggs, and that is how we ate.

E: Do people keep private gardens for vegetables much these days?

B: No, they do not.

E: Animals like chickens?

B: My mother has chickens. She raises chickens and she sells the eggs.

Everybody likes the brown eggs and that is what she has. She goes to bingo in

Brighton every night that it is open and everybody knows that she has her

chickens that have brown eggs, so she can take her eggs up to the bingo and

sell them up there.

E: She goes and plays?

B: Oh yes. She loves it. She is addicted. [Laughter.]

E: My grandmother used to be addicted.

B: My nephew is the manager of the bingo over there at Brighton. My brother was

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the one that originally started the bingo on the Brighton reservation. Then he

passed away and my nephew inherited it, and so he has been taking it, and they

are really adding on to it now, making it much bigger.

E: That is your brother's son who has taken over?

B: Yes. It is really growing out there. It has grown a lot. And my mother,

everybody calls her Grandma; everybody at the bingo hall calls her Grandma,

they know she is Marty-Marty is my nephew-they know she is Marty's

grandma. Everybody calls her Grandma and she has her own seat that nobody

messes with at the bingo hall. [Laughter.] It sits empty until they start the game

and then they realize she is not coming and they will go ahead [and sit there].


E: So, she is a real fixture there.

B: Yes. She is a real ringer; if she is not there, she is really, really sick. If they call

me and say, Grandma does not feel good, she is not going to bingo, then I will

think, wow, what is wrong? Then I know she is really sick, if she is not going to

bingo. But, if she says she is sick and she still heads out to bingo, then I do not

worry about her. If she sick and she is staying home from bingo, then I get in the

car and I go down there and I check on her and see what is going on. She is sick

if does not go.

E: I am going to change gears once more. We have some questions about the

Green Corn Dance. Have you ever gone to the Green Corn Dance?

B: Yes, I have. But, you know what, I remember years and years ago, when I was

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little, I remember going out there, and my mother drank. That is what I related to

that, her getting drunk. So, I never went to Green Corn Dance after that one

time. I do not know why.

E: How old were you?

B: I do not know. I do not remember. You know what, I do not even know if it is

true. I always tell my brother this, I say, I do not know if it is something that I

dreamed that happened or if it really happened; but a lot of times when it is in my

mind, it really did happen. So, we were there, and I remember her getting drunk.

And that was the last time I went there. I never went there again, until I got

married to Andy. Actually, I went back other times, but it was not to be a part of

the Green Corn Dance, it was to be a part of the party that was outside of the

Green Corn Dance.

E: That was spatially separated from it?

B: Yes. We just went and partied and drank and stayed up all night. It was not for

the dancing part of the ceremonial part. It was not for that, it was to go and party.

E: That is interesting. So, there is the ceremonial thing that is taking place in an

area, the ceremonial area, and there is ...

B: A party on the outside of it.

E: Just people hanging around, getting together, and talking, and partying?

B: Yes. I went to that part. But it was like, oh, I am going to the Green Corn Dance,

like you were really going to the Green Corn Dance. But we never went to that

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part of it because you did not want-I did not grow up around it, so I really did not

know where you could be and where you could not be. I appreciated it as a part

of my heritage and my culture and I did not want to disrespect any of it. I should

have realized back then, even at that time, just being there drunk was being

disrespectful, in my view today. But, it was a part of that. And then, just

recently-I have only been married to Andy not a year yet, but when he and I

started having a relationship I went to Green Corn Dance with him and I have

gotten a totally different view of what it is.

E: You have gone to the ceremonial part?

B: Yes. I have actually gone out there and was a part of the ceremony-the

dances, and the cooking around the campfires, and staying there, and spending

time there-and not just running out there to go get drunk and drink all night and

run back to the res to work the next day.

E: When you and Andy went, you went to your clan-your clan has an area?

B: Yes.

E: So, he went with you to your clan?

B: Yes, to my clan. I really did not know what I was supposed to be doing or

anything, but I have a lot of family out there, I mean my immediate family, and I

knew that I could talk to them and they would help me through things. And they

did, they told me what I needed to do.

E: Was it difficult?

B: No. The tasks that you had to do were all really simple, it is just being there,

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cooking the food, and doing the things, and going out to the dances.

E: You say your view of it has really changed a lot since then; how many times have

your gone back with this new view? Just once, or twice?

B: Twice.

E: How do you view it differently? I guess what I am asking is, you had this kind of

image when you were a kid, this memory of your mother and this drinking, and

then you went once and hung out and tailgated, you might call it.

B: Yes, that is exactly what it was.

E: Now you have this different experience with it. How is it...

B: Well, to me it was always a drinking party. I always said it was a glorified

drinking party. Everybody goes out there and talks about how traditional they are

and go out there and spend the week and all they do is get drunk and party out

there all week. A lot of that sill goes on. I mean, I cannot say that is not so for

some people. But since I got more into it I see that there is a lot more that goes

on. There are lots of people there that are not drinking and that are into what

they are supposed to be doing-with the culture and upholding the traditional

part of it. That is what is very appealing to me because, not growing up with a

whole lot of tradition, even though we had the camps and all of that, like I said,

they pushed us more to be white, I felt, so that we would be able to function in

this world. We did not learn a whole bunch of our stuff there, so now, at the

place I am today, I am into learning more about my history and what we should

be doing as Native Americans.

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E: Do you see that as a major part of the Green Corn Dance, to teach people?

B: Yes.

E: Do your kids go?

B: Actually, my daughter and my grandsons went once with me. A year ago they

went with me to the Brighton one. The one out here, the Big Cypress Green

Corn Dance, is a non-drinking one, completely non-drinking, and that is

wonderful. I intend to come out here to this one. It is really different because the

one over there at Yeehaw, it is loud because there are people around that are

drinking and stuff like this. Over here, when the dancing is over with at midnight

or eleven o'clock, silence. It is quiet. You can actually hear people talking in

their chickees, whereas over there you would never hear that. It is getting

different over there, too. It is like I said, I think I was on the outside and I finally

came on the inside and I found out that the people on the inside were actually

upholding the culture and the traditions that I really never thought was going on

there. I had such a block in my head; my perception of it was that all they did

was drink because I saw my mother do it one time. It just put a total block in my

head, but now that I went on the inside and have seen what was going on I

realize that it is different than what I thought all these years.

E: Do you get a feeling from your experiences or from what people say that it has

changed a lot in the last generation?

B: I think it has changed a lot. I think it is coming back. I think it is being important

to people now. Actually, I do not know whether it is an age thing, because like I

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said, the people my age, we all drank, but now we are all to this age now where

these things are more important to us, and making them what they are supposed

to be is more important today than what it was back then. So, I do not know if it

is an age thing. Maybe it was always that way and I just could not see it because

of the age I was. But, to me, now, it is important and I see a lot of my age group

people out there; they are not drinking anymore and they are out there being

responsible for things on the grounds like they are supposed to be.

E: Does it relate at all to what you do here in the health field, the traditions that are

taught in the Green Corn Dance or in the way the Green Corn Dance works with

cultural preservation, the ideas?

B: In a real roundabout way, I think, because being new out there, I am not real sure

of everything yet out there. I have not been out there for years and years so I

could just not really speak about it. I do not want to do that and not really know

what I am talking about. But, they do purifications out there and that is to help

you. They do different medicines out there that are supposed to help you

throughout your life. And they teach the women that when you are having your

menstrual cycles you are not a part of what everybody else is doing, and things

like that. And I think that is very important. I mean, not that your menstrual cycle

is a dirty part of you; it is not. It is an actual purification, too. That is the

message. Just like the men-the women are purified every month, where the

men are just purified once a year.

E: At the dance.

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B: Yes, at the corn dance.

E: Does scratching have something to do with it?

B: That is the purification part. They scratch you and let out that old blood and you

build new blood in you and that is the purifying part of it.

E: Do older women in the clan lead-you said you were instructed about these

things at the dance, is it the elder women in the clan that do that?

B: Well, it is not so much elder women, I mean, mostly around my age, but there are

the elder women there that tell us what we are supposed to be doing. And if we

have questions as to how we are supposed to be doing something or when we

are supposed to be doing something, we can ask them and they will tell us.

E: The ones you have gone to out here-you have gone twice to the Big Cypress?

B: I have gone to it out here but I have not been a part of it. I have gone to it and

listened, but I do not have a chickee out here or anything. I have just gone to it

and I have listened to the dance and I see how they have things set up. The

ones that I was a part of were the Brighton ones that are out there at Yeehaw


E: Do you think you will keep going?

B: Yes. We were planning on going and spending the whole week out there this

year, at both of them, but my husband had a trip to Sweden that we went to.

That was kind of a different thing, so we missed it totally. We did not go at all.

E: We were talking about changes that have been taking place over the last

generation, we talked about health and we talked about education, and related to

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those, of course, are economic changes. Looking at some of these things we

have been discussing, what do you see as being some of the major economic

changes that influence or go along with some of the things that you have been

describing to me about transformations in ideas about education or access to

health care?

B: Well, as far as health care, I think we have a wonderful health care system

because of our economics today. Where things failed, when we worked under

an HIS [Indian Health Services] budget only, most of time we were on

urgent/emergent and things that were life threatening were the only things that

we could deal with at the time and that was in the budget to deal with. But now,

you can do preventative things that will help, like if a kid needs to have his tonsils

taken out, you can just do that, it is an elective thing. A lot of elective things the

tribe will pay for now and subsidize so that you do not have all of the problems

that you would have had later on down the line. On the other hand, with the

economics, where people would have been coming to the clinic on a regular

basis because they could not go anywhere else, now, because they have

vehicles and they travel here and there, you have a hard time getting them into

the clinic to take care of their health.

E: It is a paradox in some ways.

B: It is just like that. One family, and I will not use any names, but ... [Tape

Interrupted by Clinic Business].

A part of my life that I really do not like to talk about but I do talk about is that I

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am in a recovery program. I am a recovering alcoholic. If it was not for the fact

that I got into trouble like I did with the alcohol and the drugs, I probably would

not be here today as a nurse. It was because I ended up in jail with a felony

charge due to my drinking and went into a treatment program. That was kind of

like the last change for me, I decided that was not a place I wanted to be again. I

work in this community and the Brighton Community and my husband and I are

both recovering alcoholics and we do AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings and

the majority of my work today is in drug and alcohol. That is where my interests


E: Outside this office, or here you do it?

B: Even here in this office, but mostly outside. Everybody that I work with knows

that I deal with that, so if we have an alcohol and drug problem, I am usually

involved with it because I have worked a lot with that and because of my life and

where it is. But it was when I got into treatment that, finally, the counselor that I

was talking to said, you need to get on with your life. You need to go ahead and

do what you are going to do. You have been just hanging and going for all of

these years and that is one of your problems. You need to go on and do

something. And so, that is when I decided I was going to get back into school

and get my nursing [degree]. And then they said, oh well, nursing is probably

something that you are not going to be able to do. And I thought, well, why? And

they said, because ... [End of Tape 1 Side B] ... whether my competency was

there or not. I had to go in front of the state board and they had to make a

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decision on whether, with my felony charge and all this-because I was on

probation at the time-whether they would allow me to take the state boards.

And they did, they agreed to let me take the state boards, but as long as I was on

state probation my license would be on probation with the nursing board.

E: But they could not tell you this in advance, you had to go through ...

B: I had to go through the whole program first before they would tell me and let me

know they reviewed it.

E: That is courageous to do it.

B: And then I passed it. They allowed me to take the state board and once I got my

LPN-and I think that is the main reason I went into LPN instead of the two year

RN program, because I did not know if they were going to let me take the state

boards. I did not want to put two years into it if they were not going to allow me

to. That is why I went that route.

E: Does the AA program have a good reception here?

B: Off and on. Some days we have really good groups there, and then some days it

is just me and my husband sitting there looking at each other.

E: Like every other place, probably.

B: Yes. And we go through phases. I work real hard on this thing that we call the

Wellness Conference every year. I put a lot of time and effort into that. We do it

at Marco Island for a week every year and we do a lot of recovery things there.

The tribe backs us financially to do that. People in the community have to apply

to go and go over there for a week. We have three meals a day, and we have a

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conference all day long, eight to five, and we just give them all kinds of wellness

stuff, all to do with diabetes and alcohol and drugs and things like that. We do

AA meetings and things all during the week. It is a wonderful thing.

E: Is there a good reception for that?

B: Oh yes. This year we had over two hundred people there for it from the


E: Wow. That is spectacular.

B: But we also had, through the tribe, the two ups, James [Billie] and Mitch [Mitchell

Cypress], and this was our sixth annual.

E: You said the two ups?

B: Yes. James and Mitchell, the chairman and the president.

E: I did not get the reference to ups.

B: Yes, ups. [Laughter.] They allow the people in the community that are tribal

members to go to this without taking leave from work, so they get paid to go and

be a part of this conference the whole week, because they think it is very

important information they are getting there. If you are really into your disease,

you are not going to go because you do not want to hear it. If you are kind of like

hanging one way or the other, you are going to go while you can still not lose pay

for it because that is really important to a lot of people that are working. But they

may be the ones that need to hear that little something that is going to make a

difference in their life one way or another. The money that we spend there is

quite a bit, but even if we save one person a year on that, it is well worth any

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amount of money we can spend there, I feel like.

E: How long have you been organizing that?

B: This was our sixth annual that we just had. I actually have been in recovery for

ten years, going on eleven years, and my husband has been in eighteen or

nineteen years. It has made a big difference in my life. And like I said, a lot of

things have changed and I do not know whether it is because I have gotten

older-and not only gotten older but gotten into a recovery program where I look

at the trash that I had to grow up with, like without a father, the splitting up of the

camp, then even the death of my husband, and dealing with that at seventeen

had such a big impact on my life that I drank over those things for years. Finally

facing up to-getting in trouble like I did and then facing up to what was really

behind-what was the core of this stuff, and once I could deal with those then I

could go on and start having a life. That is where I am today.

E: And you are helping other people do that.

B: Yes. And I try real hard when I see people-I do not preach to them or anything,

but merely staying sober and having a job in a position like this in this clinic [is]

being an example in the community, because people know what I did. They know

the kind of person that I was. So, if I can have a life and hold a position in the

community and be sober, what better way to say something than being an

example? Then I do not have to say anything with my mouth, I can say it just by

being. And I believe that you have to be an example for people to see. If they

knew what you were like and who you were before, and they see you living a

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different life today, then that makes a big difference, and that shows that it is

possible, that it can happen. That is what I am about today, mostly. I want to go

back to school and get certification in substance abuse, be a substance abuse

councilor, but I want to maintain my nursing status, too; I just want to specialize

in it.

E: What would that require?

B: Another year of school, another year of intense school. [Laughter.] But it is what

I want to do, and I am talking about it. But I keep telling my husband, I think I just

want to take a course here and there, and then all of a sudden I can go back.

That is what I did with nursing, all of my prerequisites I took and took and took

and then finally got those out of the way. It had been twenty years since I had

been school, so I was so scared to do it. Finally I had to just jump in and do it.

Once I found out I could do it and do okay at it-we had to maintain a 3.0, and I

did better than that all through my nursing school, so I said, hey, I have it, I just

needed to get out and do something with it. That has been important to me, just

that knowledge was important to me because I did not think I could have been-

in the life that I lived I was pretty convinced that I was not worth very much. My

self esteem was very, very low. Once I got going and my self esteem started

building, I could do it. I was capable of learning, and I really did not think that it

was because of different things in my life. It made a big difference.

E: To wrap this up I would just ask you, A, is there anything else that you would

want to talk about that we have not talked about, and then, B, thinking about if

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you are explaining to somebody what you see as the overall major changes in

the last generation, what would you want to emphasize-I mean, in your life and

the life you see around you in your family and friends and community, here and

at Brighton?

B: I think probably the one big change in our lives has been the dividends, the

moneys that we have coming in to each tribal member today. There have been a

lot positives but [also] a lot of negatives that have gone with it that, I feel. The

positives are that we have been able to go outside of our little cocoon, our little

reservation, and been able to see this world out there that we never could afford

to see before. We can travel, and we can see things, and we can experience

things that we were not able to before, and our chairman has made it very clear

that we need to get away from here, we need to go see other things that are out

there existing and experience them. They are important; how else would we

know what we have here if we do not experience what is out there.

On the other hand, that same thing that makes us able to go do those things has

been a very suppressing thing for us because it keeps the people that are in the

addiction able to afford their addiction. They can stay right here and not have to

work and not have to do anything and they get their monthly dividends and they

drink, stay drunk, or do their drugs. They do not ever have to hit a financial rock

bottom because they have that monthly money coming in. So, because you

never hit that financial rock bottom, you never will get into recovery because you

cannot recover from something that you have not hit yet. The bottom has not hit

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yet. You have to hit that bottom in order to recover.

So, I think that it is something that is a big plus and it opens up the whole world

to us, and it has been a wonderful experience, but then the same thing has been

a very depressing thing for us, too. I see both parts of it. And it is sad. Like I

said, I hope that one day everybody buys all their toys and all their material

things and then starts getting one with life. I am thinking that one day that is

going to happen and people are going to say, you know, we need to start

planning for our future, everything does not happen in just today. We have

children and grandchildren. One day, hopefully, that is going to happen. I hope

soon, but I do not know. But that is important to me. We talk about preserving

our culture and out traditions and all that but we kill ourselves off, one by one,

with the drugs and the alcohol. And we are killing ourselves with diabetes. One

by one. And those are things that we can control; they do not have to be killing

us, but they are the three major things that are killing us today-diabetes, drugs,

and alcohol. That is our destruction today.

E: And there are the resources both to perpetuate them and then also to overcome


B: Yes. They are right there. They are answering their problems right there. That

is the way I see it. It is the same thing, the problem and the answer is the same

thing; you just have to know how to use it.

E: That is the challenge for the coming generation.

B: Yes, it is.

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E: Okay, I know you have work to do. I want to thank you very much.

B: Okay, thank you.

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