Interviewee: Louise Jumper
Interviewer: J. Ellison
5 November 1999
E: I am Jim Ellison, and this is the fifth of November. I am sitting at the guesthouse
at Big Cypress Billy Swamp Safari talking with Louise Jumper. We are going to
talk today ultimately about the language program that you have been working
with. But to start with I would like to go through some of the questions we have
in our standard questionnaire. To begin with, I want to ask you if Louise Jumper
is your full name.
J: Yes. That is my full name.
E: To what clan do you belong?
J: I belong to the Otter Clan.
E: Were you born around Big Cypress?
J: No, I was born in Fort Lauderdale.
E: In town?
J: Yes, in a hospital.
E: If you do not mind my asking, what year were you born?
J: I was born in 1952.
E: Do you have an Indian name?
J: Yes. I do.
E: Is it something you can share?
J: Sure. It is Pahyeche, but they call me Pahye for short.
E: Pahye. And Pahyeche is the long?
E: Would you have any idea how to spell that with the English alphabet?
J: Yes. It is P-a-h-y-e-c-h-e, and for the short one it is P-a-h-y-e.
E: Does that have a meaning?
J: It has a meaning but I do not know what it is because it is taken from the
medicine songs. I do not know any medicine songs, so I do not know what it
E: Do you know who it was that gave you that name?
J: I think it was my great uncle or something like that.
E: It was when you were an infant?
J: Yes, when I was born, after I was born.
E: Do women get an adult name, an adult Indian name? I know men will have a
boyhood name and they will take an adult name.
J: No, I do not think so.
E: And you do not know why they chose that particular name?
E: Are there contexts in which people will call you that name? You said for short
people will call you Pahye.
J: Well, my family calls me Pahye, and my friends. They rarely call me Pahyeche.
My sister calls me Pah, for short-for even shorter. [Laughter.] She will say,
Pah, and I will say, what?
E: Do other people outside of those people tend to use ...
J: No, they call me by my husband's name, as his wife. My husband's name is
Wahee. They call me Wahee Hadlih, meaning Wahee's wife. Or they could call
me as my children's mother. That is how they would know, the other ladies; the
oldest child is, I think, what they go by. Like my husband's name is Wahee and
they use to call his mother Wahee Ge; Wahee's mother.
E: And do you have children?
J: I have two. But mostly they just call me Louise because the children-I have
worked with the kids for so long they just say Louise.
E: So, that ends up being more common, that name? Probably more often, then,
you end up using Louise in other contexts?
E: Were you raised in Fort Lauderdale or in Hollywood?
E: No, we moved out here. We kept moving around because my parents were
looking for jobs, like picking vegetables. They would just follow where there was
work. We would move here and there until we settled here, in Big Cypress. I
was about six or seven, somewhere around there, when we settled here, and we
lived here all our lives after that.
E: Around 1960 or so?
E: They were pursuing work in agriculture, picking and so on, through the 1950s?
Do you have memories of going? You went with them, of course, when they
were going to these?
J: Yes. Since I was the oldest I had to help watch my siblings.
E: A lot of responsibility.
E: When you moved out here to Big Cypress, when you were seven or eight years
old, it was probably a very different place.
J: It was. The roads, we did not have that. The roads were not developed that
well, it was just dirt roads, and when the rainy season came it was under water.
E: Pretty much every place here was? Where was it paved? There was a dirt road
that came in from-I do not know the history of the roads here real well.
J: I hardly went anywhere. I probably went to town like once a year, once in a great
while. So, I do not remember that much about roads. I just remember about the
reservation road and remember it being under water. I kind of joke about that
once in a while because I say, our roads used to be under water and you had to
walk everywhere and sometimes in water. We probably were fit people with
clean feet. [Laughter.] It was kind of rough times because you had to walk
everywhere. My family had to walk everywhere to places, like to church. I
remember walking to school and walking home.
E: When you were moving around, before you moved to big Cypress, lots of other
people were doing that same sort of thing?
J: Probably. I really do not know. Sometimes we were kind of isolated.
E: But when you moved out here, did you join up with a lot of other people?
J: I think so. Yes. There would be a group of families here and there. Mostly it
was like my father's family that we would move with. We would travel in our own
vehicles but we would go there and stay in tents and they would work. And then
we would move along.
E: In tents that they would provide? Or you had your own?
J: I think we had our own.
E: And it was with your father's family?
E: Where was your father from?
J: I cannot remember. I think he might have been from .... I know that there were
basically like two kinds of people. There were people that were from near the
water, like the Tamiami Trail somewhere, they had to be near water, and some
people were in the areas of central Florida. I do not really remember where my
father was from. I think he was from Ochopee somewhere. I am not sure.
Maybe he was from here. He might have been from here originally and that is
why we came back. He came back and we came back with him.
E: Is he a Mikasuki speaker?
E: And your mother? Is she a Mikasuki speaker?
E: Where was she from? Do you know that?
J: No. That is something she never told me, they never told me.
E: When they moved here, when you all moved back to Big Cypress, that was
before that had the CBS structures, the concrete block structures?
J: Yes, everybody lived in chickees, I think. And then, after that I saw some
buildings go up. I remember that because I remember some families that were
moving into those homes. But we did not. We lived in chickees for a long time
E: You stayed in the chickees.
E: You were with your mother and your father and your siblings-your younger
siblings, your brothers and sisters-and aunts and uncles when you were living in
J: No. It was my parents. My grandmother, my father's mother, was in the area.
She lived here too. And my mother's family lived here too. So, we could just go
over there or go over there.
E: So, they were around, but in the particular camp you did not have aunts and
J: It was just my parents' camp and that was it.
E: How many chickees did you have then?
J: I remember one. One and kind of like a kitchen area separate. I guess that is
E: Did your parents actively teach you about Seminole or Miccosukee or Indian
culture and history? Did they, for example, talk about the wars?
J: Not too much because they were just busy trying to prepare for us. There were
about ten of us kids, so they were busy. And my father had a drinking problem,
so there was not that much teaching.
E: Do you feel like you have a full knowledge of...
J: No. No, I do not. I wish that, instead of waiting-what I know now, I wish I could
go back and ask questions. Or I wish that I had known better so that I could
have asked questions and questions, but since I did not I feel like I missed out on
E: A lot of people say that when they were children, grandparents and parents
would tell them things and they would not pay attention. They reflect on it and
say they were probably talking about some of these issues that I would like to
know about. Or was it more that you needed to go and ask them?
J: Sometimes I would spend most of the time with my grandparents, both sides. My
grandmother from my father's side would teach me stuff. She would sing
medicine songs to me, but I could never catch on to them.
E: Why was that?
J: I do not know. Sometimes it is hard for people, and sometimes it is the people
that are meant to have the music [that] catch [it]. It is just something about you, I
guess, that you can grasp it but some others cannot, and I am one that cannot.
She would teach me to know people's Indian names, the older people. When I
[would] go to my other grandmother and then I would use that knowledge, she
said, no, you are not supposed to do those things, you are a child. And then I
would get all confused. And that is where I think I did not learn that much.
E: Was it a clan difference?
J: Probably. Probably.
E: What clan was your father?
J: Panther. And I still have my grandmother, his mother. But my mother's mother
passed away already.
E: And your father, is he alive still?
J: No. He has been gone for a long time.
E: I am sorry. So, that is interesting that you would go back to your mother's mother
and she would tell you that you were doing something incorrectly.
J: My father used to kind of want to teach me a little bit, here and there. I
remember him telling me some stuff, that I still remember, and I was telling my
daughter about it. I thought that I was just passing on what he told me. That felt
good. He taught me how to cook some stuff. He taught me how to cut up a
chicken, because I did not know how.
E: In teaching some of these things, it does not sound like they emphasized the
names of great warriors or that kind of thing.
J: No, they never told me those kinds of things. But I think it was right in this area
when my grandmother-she likes to plant vegetables, in the woods, clearing out
and plant vegetable gardens in there; she did that across the street, over there.
We went way back in there, we had to work, work, work, and clear it out, plant it,
and then we kept tending it. I remember carrying the pumpkins out, walking in
the water out onto the road. It was a long walk. It was a heavy load. I
remember doing that with her. We went to gather some firewood, she drives a
Jeep, and we would go in the water, drive through the water, then we could get to
a dry place and pick up firewood and take it back. She would tell me, we sat
down one time and she told me that her grandmother, I think she said, had told
her that they used to hide in the woods when there was a war going around. It
really felt kind of scary, imagining how they must have felt. I remember that.
She never told me names, though. She talked about a lot of hiding, you know,
you had to hide, and keep quiet, and stay low, and stuff like that.
E: In a way that frightened you when you were young? So, you could actually feel
what she was talking about?
J: Yes. Especially [since] we were in the woods and gathering wood and sitting
down to rest when she told me about that. I got kind of scared because you can
imagine how it must have been.
E: And this was your father's mother?
J: No. That was my mother's mother. She taught me things by doing it, by doing
stuff. It was hard work she put me through. You know that sofkee, that corn
sofkee that we drink a lot? We had to go out and find the whitest sand and fill it
up in a five-gallon bucket, carry it back in her Jeep, and we had to build a big fire
and roast the corn in the sand, and then grind it down. It took all day; I guess it
took a whole week to do that. I remember that. I remember the steps but I do
not remember how brown the corn had to be. That is the only step I do not
E: It sounds like a tremendous amount of work.
J: It was. I remember grinding it and grinding it and grinding it.
E: With a stone?
J: With a hand cranking grinder.
E: And so she was training you in these ways by actually doing things?
J: Yes, but at the same time she was not teaching me the language, though.
E: Did she speak English?
J: I mean, the ones that I would have wanted to learn. She did not speak English.
She talked in Indian. But, the names of people and stuff like that, and the ways
that you have to go, I do not remember her telling me those things. But she
taught me how to work. [Laughter.]
E: So, it was really when you came back here to Big Cypress when you had these
kinds of interactions with her.
E: You mentioned walking to school and walking to church through the water, and
so at that point there were churches and schools here?
J: Yes. They were already there. As a matter of fact, they founded the church in
1952, so right about the time I was born, that was when they had that church
E: It was well established when you came.
J: Yes, when I was of age to go it was already there.
E: And you went to school here too?
J: Yes, I went to school here.
E: Was that through the church?
J: No. It was through the government.
E: How about your parents, had they been educated?
J: No. They went to school but they probably went to third grade or something like
E: So, they had some of the basics. Did they speak English?
J: Yes. They could speak enough to get groceries and get work.
E: Working on farms?
E: Did you finish school here and then go on?
J: No. I dropped out at seventh grade or something like that and I got married at
fourteen. But I went back and got my GED.
J: Here. Here on the reservation.
E: When did you do that?
J: I got my GED in 1975.
E: Was it hard to go back after you had left school and gotten married?
J: Yes. It was. But then again it was not because we did not have children. So, I
could go and get my education, but if I had had children, it might have been hard,
because I would have to take care of them. Since we did not have any, I went
ahead and got my education. On top of that I went to work. I worked at the
school, at Ahfachkee School. I have been there for a long time. Just this past
summer I got out. It must have been thirty years I had been there, almost thirty
E: That is a long time.
J: It was. I started out with black hair and got out with gray. [Laughter.]
E: Thirty years, so you probably started that before you had gotten your GED? Or
did you get your GED and then get into the education?
J: I started out working in the kitchen, it was called a youth program. I started
working when I was sixteen, I think it was. While I was working there they had
me fill out some papers for the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], employment forms
or something like that. I was still in the kitchen and the principal came and told
me, hey, your job description says you are supposed to be in the classroom as
an aide. I said, oh, my gosh. Of course, I did not know anything about working
in a classroom, but I got in there, and here I am, still a teacher's aide.
E: It must have been fun.
J: I wanted to be a teacher at one point. I went to college for a couple of years. I
never completed it, I just went back in as a teacher's aide. Just completed a
round and went back in. I was in there for the next twelve years and then I got
E: Where did you go to college?
J: At Broward Community College.1 It is just that driving every day got to me. I
could have done something else. I could have gone on weekends. But then, in
that year, when I started college, we adopted a little girl, and so all my being went
1 225 East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
to this little girl. I needed to get some work so I went back.
E: So, you have been with the school for much of that school's existence, it sounds
J: Almost. But it had been there a little while when I got there.
E: You said your parents had gone to school a little bit, early on. When you left
school in about the seventh grade, were they upset about that? Had they wanted
you to go?
J: Yes. I think they were. But I hope they forgave me.
E: I am sure they did.
J: It was like an arranged marriage: I wanted to be going to school, but then I could
not go against what they had set up, so I went and got married.
E: I see. So, leaving school and getting married were that closely related?
J: Yes. My mother had wanted me to not get married and go to school, but my dad
was strongly for me to get married and settle down.
J: Well, I guess mostly because he just wanted me to settle down, not to be running
E: So, they were, before that, generally encouraging about going to school?
J: When I started school, I remember they had continued looking for work. But, I
stayed with my grandmother so I could go to school here. So, I went to school
here and kept going. My family would go off and then come back and finally they
E: They continued to do the agricultural work?
E: And so, you stayed with your...
J: My mother's mother. Sometimes with my father's mother.
E: With your brothers and sisters also?
J: No. Basically, by myself. And then when they got older-I wanted to go to
boarding school with my best friend, and they would not let us go. The one that
says okay, you can go, and they do all the paperwork, he said, no, you are too
young, you cannot go. So, we did not go. But my brothers and sisters, even
though they were younger than I was, they went, they all went. So, I have never
been in a boarding school.
E: But you wanted to go?
J: Yes. I just wanted to see what it was like because the other people would go and
come back and say, oh, it is okay. But, I guess it was that sometimes I heard
people say it is too far away.
E: But your parents had no objections to that?
J: No. I remember my mom saying, no, you cannot go. She went to boarding
E: Oh, she did? She went to where, North Carolina?
J: I think so.
E: But your dad had gone to school in ...
J: I think he went there also.
E: There is a question here that kind of jumps ahead. I will read you the question.
It says, what aspects of traditional Seminole culture does the Ahfachkee School
teach? It is jumping ahead a little bit. It is taking us from your education up to
this school right now. When you went to school, it seems like the school was
probably a very different place back then than it is now.
J: It was, because I remember that the kids that went there spoke the language, our
language, very fluently, very well. That was what they spoke to each other with.
And then, and as a teacher's aide, they used to say what I had to translate to
them. Now, I am supposed to be translating but I am talking to them in English.
If they have a question about their work, I would talk to them in English now,
when a while back I would talk to them in Indian.
E: When you were a student, it was the same place, a different building, right?
J: It was the older building. That was the school I went to. Where everybody, all
those grades, were in one room. That was where I went to school.
E: And all of your peers spoke in Indian.
J: Right. All of us spoke in Indian.
E: The language of the instruction, was that in Indian also?
J: No, it was in English. I know there was a white man out here with his wife and
she cooked and he taught.
E: Do you remember his name?
J: Just a minute, I will remember. Mr. Jameson, I do not remember his first name.
E: I am not sure either. When you would have a break or something, you would
quickly be speaking in Mikasuki?
J: We would talk in Mikasuki to each other all the time.
E: When you became a teacher's aide, you were actually doing some translating.
You were taking lessons that were in English and explaining them.
J: Right. If a child wants something, he tells me in Indian and then I would tell the
teacher in English.
E: When you first started being a teacher's aide were most children needing that
assistance, that translating assistance?
J: Yes. Now they do not.
E: It sounds very different.
J: It is, very different.
E: Now students speak English with each other a lot?
J: Yes, a lot. A lot. If it were a child that can understand and speak Mikasuki, he
would mix it together. He would use English and a few words of Mikasuki in
there. That is how they are now.
E: Do you still translate for some students? Are there still some students who need
J: I do not remember translating, but if a teacher wants me to talk to the child, I
would still talk to that child in English, and that child would talk back to me in
English. In that way, but no translating.
E: At that point maybe you are translating concepts or explaining things to the
students. At some point, then, that went through a pretty dramatic change, if
when you began all of the students required that help, and when you retired-
you formally retired this past year?
J: Well, I did not retire. I still work for the Seminole tribe. I still work under
education, it is just in the pre-school now.
E: But when you left that particular position you did not have to translate language,
it sounds like, at all. When did that change?
J: That is what I was just wondering. When? Why didn't I catch it? I would say in
the last ten years.
E: It happened gradually?
J: Really gradually, that I did not realize it. Now I think they-what do they call it,
immersion, that was the Mikasuki-speaking children, they wanted them to be
speaking English more-now they want it switched around.
E: When did they want them to be speaking English more? Was that while you
J: Yes. While I was a student, especially. Maybe, over-you know how in the
1800s, 1880s somewhere, when that happened, when the Indian people, the
children, especially, they wanted them educated the white way, and you cannot
talk your language or you would be punished? It started back then, but I
remember the kids were talking fluently in Mikasuki and they wanted them to
learn the English so that they could survive in this world. And now, I am wishing,
maybe I should have taught them to keep their language alive and well but yet try
to grasp on to the English language and use it, instead of taking up one and
losing the other. I hope it is not too late.
E: Obviously you have taken a step toward doing something like that.
J: Yes. That is what I think too. The whole idea behind this pre-school, where they
have the native language project going, is to start with the pre-school, the babies;
they have got to hear the language, talk to them, let them hear it, you talk to
them. Even though they cannot speak it, you have to just keep talking to them
until they learn it along the way.
E: How did that program get going?
J: I think it was supposed to be done a while back, but it was never really done until
the chairman said, I want it done right now. And through the council, I think, it
had to be done, and so that is when they got it started.
E: I saw the flier that you had up, in August I saw it; is it that recent or has it been
going on for a couple of years?
J: No, this is just recent. It just started. I just started this job on July 9th, I think. It
just started because the council wanted it started and to get it going.
E: Obviously, the chairman has an interest in this, and the council, how did they
come about getting to the point where they said, we need this?
J: I think because of the reports. I am not sure how it came about but I know that
they know. When they talk to the children there, they see them talking in English
more. I think that is why. I am not sure how it came about but it has been
waiting to happen. It needed to happen for a long time. Maybe we are too late. I
E: Did they come to you to ask you to do this? Or did you go to them?
J: Well, my supervisor is the one that called me while I was at work and she had
mentioned to me that there was a position and would I be interested. And it was
E: Why scary?
J: Because I think I might not be effective enough to teach the language. When my
children, my own children, do not speak that well, they speak in English at home,
when I looked at that I just .... But then I thought about it; I still have my
children, they can still learn. And I am working on them. I can work on that
group of kids and work on my kids as well. And myself, remember I told you I do
not feel confident enough that I am a good speaker in my own language. So, I
wanted to grow in that area as well.
E: Yes, we had talked about when you get to teaching you actually have to look
things up, look for information. So, it has only been a couple of months, it has
only been since the summer that this has been going, how does it feel like it is
working with the students?
J: Oh, well, it is hard. My job is just to find people, speakers, and put them in the
E: You mean adult speakers?
J: Adult speakers, yes, like elders. They say elders but I just want to put good
speakers in there that are willing to work with the kids and are willing to devote
their time. Talk to the kids in their language and just converse with them, and at
the same time make the children feel like they are people, they are special
people. I would like to get some people but they already have jobs. I have found
a handful of people and I have put them in. And I am waiting for others to come
and let me know they want to help out.
E: That is what the flier is about?
J: Yes. The other day I was in with infants, this is from one year old and up in the
infant class, and I was singing to them and they were mimicking me. That made
me feel good. So, there is a chance that they can pick up the language and be
E: How many kids are there in the program?
J: Maybe there are about twenty. Somewhere around there.
E: You said there is an infant class?
J: I do not know how many are there. It varies from day to day because I do not
think she has had the whole class at one time.
E: Who is that?
J: The head teacher. That is Maria. She is a Spanish lady. She is pretty good,
too, because she wants to learn the language and she teaches them. She has
been there for a while and she tells them to come in Mikasuki and they respond
to her. Our thinking was that the kids, all of the kids, were not speaking that well.
They have lost the language. But our kids knew the language. They had not
lost it-the smaller kids, the little kids-because last year Marie had taught them
and at graduation they did some things at their graduation ceremony, they did
some things in Mikasuki. They did some singing and some counting and all of
that in Mikasuki. She did a good job. So, we knew that it was not our kids that
had lost it, it must have been other centers that were showing that they had lost
the language. It just comes from one program and then there are all those
constituents now here and there, they are talking about the whole program when
it is just one little part that is not functioning well, if I could say that. [End of Tape
E: At Big Cypress?
J: Yes. They are from Big Cypress, from this community.
E: Is there a sister program up in Brighton?
J: Yes. Up in Brighton, in Hollywood, and in Immokalee.
E: You were saying that you would see one group of kids that had lost the
J: Yes. I do not know which group of kids did not speak the language that well, but
they just thought-maybe they were thinking a good positive thought-that we
should do something now before the other group of kids ends up like that. I think
they were on the right track.
E: So, this is a positive step?
E: How do people around that you speak with, how do they-you put up the fliers.
Do you get a lot of response?
E: Not too many. I only had one person that came and asked. And I said, do you
want to work? She said, well maybe. I told her about the program and what it
was about, and she said, I will think about it and let you know. I think she let me
know two days later and I said, come to work. She is still working. She is doing
a good job. A good job. She is a grandmother.
E: She is a grandmother, so she is a senior. And is she a Mikasuki speaker?
E: On Brighton, are there both Mikasuki and Creek speaking people?
J: Let's see. Hollywood, Big Cypress, and Immokalee are Mikasuki speakers, and
Brighton is Creek. I do not know how Creeks are, I mean, how well they have
kept their language up. It seems to me that they have got their language going
on good, as far as I know, but they have the same program over there.
E: How would you compare-which I guess is kind of a hard thing to gauge-
Hollywood and Big Cypress and Immokalee for language preservation and
language loss? Is one reservation in worse shape than another is?
J: I have no idea which one would be worse. But, to my thinking, I am just thinking
it might be Hollywood since they are close to the non-Indians all around them,
and that is what I am thinking. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe we might be, I do
not really know.
E: The way you structure it, you have a classroom situation and you bring in people
occasionally to do presentations and talk with the students and so they hear
J: Yes. Actually, we are supposed to be getting elders to come in and tell stories,
but I have not had that. I have ladies that work all day long with them, everyday.
E: Those are people like this woman?
E: I spoke with somebody else who was working on a TV project. I think it was
Mark Madrid was doing this TV program to try to use Mikasuki language
J: Yes. They did one. They might have done more but I have seen one. They did
a good job on that.
E: It is finished?
E: You said this is effective. Do you think this is the best thing to be done for getting
kids speaking Mikasuki?
J: I think so, because we are trying to teach them through speaking, through the
media, through pictures, and through videos, and all that.
E: So, multi-media.
J: Yes. We try to. And all of that music. I do not know how it is going to work out.
I hope it works out good.
E: I am going to move on-we can come back to some more about the education-
and try to cover some of the basic questions we have here. When you moved to
Big Cypress, you said that you attended the church. Were your parents also
churchgoers? Were they Christians?
J: They were Christians but they did not go to [church]. But they said they were
E: Do you practice? Are you involved in that kind of thing, the church, at all?
J: I was going for a while but I have not been to it in a long time.
E: You said that your grandmother, when you moved out here, would sing medicine
songs to you. So, she obviously knew-that was part of medicine and part of
E: She must of known some plants and some medicines.
J: Yes. She is a medicine lady. She knows a lot about herbs and plants.
E: And she is still alive?
E: Does she do this to help just people in her family or do people seek her out for
J: She said she helps out with the family and then other people came to her.
E: People still do that?
J: She has been sick lately and she slowed down a lot, I think.
E: You mentioned not retaining all of the songs when you grandmother was singing
them to you; did you learn the medicines?
J: No, I never did. I just never could remember it.
E: Did other people? Are there other people around who are still practicing
E: Men and women?
J: Yes, I think so.
E: You referred to her as a medicine woman, how is that different than a medicine
man, other then just men and women? Are there differences in what they do?
Do the medicine men do particular types of medicine and medicine women do
J: I do not know. I think they learn the same songs. It is probably the same thing.
E: Did she actually go through an apprenticeship and training with somebody?
J: I think she came [from] a long line of medicine people. I remember her brother
being a medicine man. This is Susie Jim Billy. That is my grandmother. And
Buffalo Jim was her brother.
E: I did not know that. So, obviously, people still practice that.
E: People practice that sort of thing and Christianity, is there ever any kind of an
issue with that? Are they compatible?
J: That is a good question. I think that most Christian people hardly use the Indian
medicine. But some Christians believe that God had given us the ability to do the
medicine to help our people out, and so there is that group of people as well.
There are some people that believe that when they are Christian they get away
from all of their Indian ways.
E: Why would people do that?
J: I guess some people, way back then, when my people had the Green Corn
Dances, and they practiced all that renewing of health and body and mind, they
saw it as an act that went against God. So, they told them that they cannot do
that, and they believed it and they went on to be Christians that let go of their
E: There are still people around today who will say that you cannot practice those
things because it goes against Christianity?
J: Yes. And some people believe that [they are] Christian and God gave us this
ability to help, to use it in a good way. And they held on to it too.
E: So, it is not necessarily clear cut. Different people have different interpretations
E: While we are talking about medicine and talking about health, in your opinion,
what do you see as being some of the major health issues that people in the
Seminole tribe face today?
J: Well, the most critical thing is alcoholism and drug abuse. I know that also there
E: Do people find adequate help for these on the reservation?
J: Yes. They get help through the health program and also they have a program to
get them Indian medicine, if they wanted it that way.
E: It is a formal program through the tribe?
E: For both of those things; for alcohol and drug abuse, and then for diabetes?
E: And it is a formal program, so if somebody goes down to the clinic ...
J: Then they would get sent out to a doctor to get help in special areas, whatever
they might need. It would get referred out.
E: To a healer, a medicine man or a medicine woman?
J: No, to a doctor, to a white doctor. There is, I guess under James, the insurance
program where there are some people that can help you get Indian medicine-
but it is not out of the clinic; it could fall under family health services or something
like that-where they would help to get you counseled. They make the Indian
medicine available so you can use that too under the family health services.
E: So, it is not just an informal, I happen to know that your grandmother practices
medicine so I would go see her, I might go to family health services and say, who
would I talk to about a problem?
J: Yes. And they know where to send you or to refer you to, from what I
E: So, it is possible for an individual to use both of them at different times or even
for the same ailment?
E: Are there some ailments that require going to an Indian healer versus something
else that does not?
J: Probably. I know I went to both. I was depressed; I was into depression for a
while, and I went to both and I got healed.
E: You went to both for the same issue?
J: Yes, for the same thing, for the same issue.
E: So, you can certainly use both together.
J: Yes. But sometimes, I would just go to the white man's doctor and not go to the
Indian, or go to the Indian medicine and not go to the [white man's doctor].
Sometimes I would do both.
E: I am wondering how you would decide, initially, to go to one or the other. Would
it depend on the ailment itself?
J: Well, I would talk to some Indian ladies and if they had ever been through it or
ever heard of people going through it and what did they do. And they said, oh,
you can go to an Indian medicine for this. So, that was when I went.
E: Because people would say, you just need to go to the clinic for a pill, or there is
this person down the road who can help you with this? Through other people's
E: Do women tend to see medicine women and men tend to see medicine men?
J: No. No, it is whoever wants to, I guess they can go. I tend to go to the Indian
medicine men rather than to a woman.
E: Earlier you brought up the Green Corn Dance. That still takes place?
E: You mentioned briefly the purpose of it as renewal. Lots of things take place at
the corn dance. Do you attend? Have you attended?
J: Not really, [except] this past summer, when my daughter wanted to go and watch
and we went.
E: Was it the first time in a long time you had gone?
J: Yes, it had been a long time.
E: How was it?
J: It was good, because they did not allow alcohol or drugs, so we went and we had
a good time.
E: Did you go when you were younger?
J: I think I did. Whenever it was.
E: Out here, after you moved here?
J: No. My father had taken us to the Trail, and I remember being there. I do not
remember how we got there but I just remember being there.
E: So, it would be hard to compare that with this one?
E: This time you went with your daughter and you stayed with people in the Otter
J: No. We just sat around the big fire where they dance, and we just saw them
dancing, that was it.
E: So, you went one day?
J: For just a few hours one evening and that was it. But I was talking to some
people that had participated in it and they said that you need a lot of patience
and lot of self-control. You learn by doing that, I guess. But you have to help
out. A lot of effort on your part is needed.
E: You were mentioning that it is a way that people learn things and that they put in
that kind of effort. Do people talk about it having changed a lot in the last thirty
years or so?
J: No, it has been that way. And when you go there you use medicine and you
renew your health, state of mind, for your body and your mind to be strong for the
next whole year. That is what they go through.
E: And scratching is a part of that?
J: Yes. Scratching is part of that.
E: You cannot really compare with the one you went to when you were a child, and
it does not sound like people are saying that it is changed that much.
J: I think there was a lot of drinking there, but I guess some people just take it out of
context because a long time ago when they had to drink, it was just to stay up
and to dance and sing. It was for a purpose. It was just to stay up and keep
going. But now they think they just had a big party or something. But over here
[this year], there was none of that. Everybody was all sober and was getting
down to business. So, I thought that was pretty good.
E: What did your daughter think of it?
J: She liked it.
E: Does she want to go next year?
J: Yes. She wanted to get some shakers and she wants to get in and dance.
E: How do you feel about that?
J: That is okay with me. If she wants to do her thing, she can do it.
E: Do you think you will go next year?
J: Probably. I want to take her and let her get involved.
E: How old is she?
J: She is fifteen.
E: How is her Mikasuki?
J: Oh, she gets on to me a lot because of my upbringing. For some reason, I was
thinking there are two ways, the Mikasuki way and the white people's way, the
education way, and I am just going to push her in the direction of the education.
Let her get a good education to see if she can survive in this world. So, that is
the way I pushed her, mostly, and now she is saying, how come you did not
teach me how to talk Mikasuki and what my culture is about? I said, I was just
too busy trying to get you to get an education so you can survive in this world. I
am very sorry. But now she is learning some. She is learning how to talk and
she really wants to know, so she is learning. And I did not teach her. She is
picking it up. I am talking, talk to me and teach me. So, we sat down and talked
for a long time and after that I have been worked out. I told her about what I
have seen, what I have learned, and what I have heard. I told her that she needs
to talk to the elders a lot so she can pick up and learn the language. That is how
I did it. I got involved in church and that was where most of the elders were. I
thought I knew the language, but I did not, so I ended up learning it from them
when we talked with each other and through the preaching and the singing. That
was where I learned my language.
E: Through preaching at church?
E: So, that takes place in Mikasuki?
E: I always thought it was just in English.
J: No, not at this church, the First Baptist. The preacher is from Brighton; he
speaks Creek. But he does pretty good in Mikasuki, better than I can speak it.
E: Is it Howard Micco?
E: No kidding? So, he preaches in Mikasuki and the songs people sing are in
J: Yes. Some are Mikasuki and most are in Creek.
E: Is your daughter [June] in school?
J: She is in school.
J: Over at the high school.
E: And that is English language instruction?
E: Is there a culture and language program there?
J: Yes, Theresa [Jumper].
E: It is really interesting that she came up to you and said ...
J: Yes. She got mad at me. [Laughter.] I deserved it, and then I said, thank you
for pointing it out to me. If you had not said anything, I would have not done
E: How long ago did she come up to you with that?
J: It was last year. Remember I told you that she works at the museum? That was
when she started. That was when she wanted me to teach her. She wanted to
use the language but she found it difficult. That was when she got onto me.
Before, when she started picking it up, I think it was a couple of years ago, when
she was hanging out with her friends, she said she had to translate for those kids
to their grandmother because they wanted some money. She said, I did not
know how to say anything, but they wanted me to ask her. So, I went up to her
and I said in Indian, they want some money to go and buy something to eat. And
she understood and gave them some money. So, she knew some, more than
her friends, even though it was just a little piece of language. But, she got the
idea across to the grandmother.
E: When she came up to you and said this, how did it make you feel about your
work in education and your work with the school? This was before you got
involved with this pre-school program. Did you go to school the next day and
think, here is a place where these kids should be getting more of this?
E: How did it make you feel about the whole, big process of kids growing up and not
learning the language?
J: Sometimes I think they are pulling my leg. It is like, I know they understand it, it
is just when they are trying to speak it, is what it is. The kids that she had
translated for understand it when you talk to them, but they cannot give it back.
E: Because they grew up with their grandmothers saying don't put your books there.
J: Yes. [Laughter.] It made me kind of wake up. Ahfachkee has been trying to get
that language going for a few years now.
E: The pre-school program?
J: No, through the whole school. And we even took some tests on the kids; if we
were lucky, we would have gotten one child or two children out of the whole class
that could speak the language. They understood it but they could not speak it.
That is what we found out. They only took those tests a couple of years ago.
We have been involved in getting the language in the classrooms so they can
learn the language. They have that culture program into the classrooms as well
as Theresa's program. So, they are really working hard on that, which I am glad
[about]. And I am glad to be working with the pre-school so we can send these
kids to Ahfachkee being able to understand the language as well as speak it. I
hope this bunch of kids that we have now will go over there being able to
understand and to speak it, but it is going to be a while before we know that.
E: It is a big experiment.
E: I am going to switch gears again and go on to another topic. Do we still have
J: I have about five more minutes. I have to go.
E: Then let me just ask you a couple of questions. I have a series of questions
about economics and a whole series of questions about cultural preservation.
E: Just asking about the changes in the last few years.
J: There have been lots of changes, some for good and some for bad. I can
remember my family was poor all the time. We were always hungry and my own
family-my husband and my children-when my husband and I remember that,
we see that the kids are fed and they are taken care of. So, we have come a
long way from being poor and then here we are providing for our families not to
be that way. Through the dividend program we have a home, whereas we would
not have a home. But then we are working. My husband and I work very hard to
provide for the children. Even though we never had our own, we have two kids
and we are lucky that we have them. And we make sure that they get
experiences, like going to the movies, going to town, and going places and doing
things, which we never did because we never could. Like I told you before, I only
went to town about once a year for a long while, if I was lucky enough. Even
though I went to town every day when I had to go to school on the bus to
Clewiston, it was not the same as going to town to see places, because you
would just go to the one place and you were there. You were with the same
people and then you would come back. It was a different experience. We are
providing for our families; we were working and the dividends helped out and I
hope we are part of the group that puts that money to good use and not buy
drugs and just throw it away. I know that some of our people in the community
do that, and it is sad. That is the bad part. The good part is seeing the family
putting it to good use. I hope that the other group does not ruin it for the other
people that use it, put it to good use. It is sad because you see those people just
wasting their lives away like that when they have to use it for drinking and buying
drugs. So, I have mixed feelings about that.
E: So, there are opportunities both for your kids to get experiences in the world and
to get an education in a different way than you had, but there are also
opportunities for kids today to get into drug use and alcohol in ways that they
could not when you were a kid? Is that different as well?
J: Yes. But in my day, when I was a little girl, there was drinking but it was just only
like for the weekends. Like from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. My father, I
told you he drank, he worked. Whenever he could find work he worked. He
started drinking on Friday nights when they went to town to get groceries, that
was where he got his beer, and came home and started drinking with his friends.
We would see him, he would come and go until Sunday afternoon, and he would
go to sleep, go to work Monday morning again, all over. But nowadays you see
people drinking all through the week. So, there is a lot of change in that too. I
dreaded the weekend before. When I was a little girl, I dreaded the weekend.
E: Because your father was drinking?
J: Yes. And after I got married, my husband was drinking on the weekends as well,
so that is why I dreaded the weekends for a long time. But he quit drinking, and
it has been okay for us for a long time. But I see people, we will go to the Shell
station in the middle of the week and we will see people buying beer. We know
that goes on.
E: So, it seems like the economic changes, it is a dilemma, it provides the possibility
for people to be drinking all of the time or for people to be taking advantage, like
you were saying, with kids going to school and so on.
E: I am keeping you longer than we agreed to. Is there anything else you would like
to add before we wrap this up, or things that we did not talk about that you would
like to talk about?
J: I could just talk on forever with you on these subjects, there is a lot more to be
told or to be shared, but I cannot think of anything.
E: Well, maybe we will have a chance to do it again and talk more.
J: Yes, I think I am going around with an empty head but once you sit down and
think about it, it is there. The people have come a long way and hopefully they
have a long way to go. It seems like their ways are getting away, that our
language is disappearing, and we want to hold on to it as long as we can and [to]
our ways. Especially our medicine people, we want to hold on to all of those. It
seems like we are just kind of slow grabbing on to it.
E: Let me ask you one more question then. When your kids are your age, what
would you like to see their world look like?
J: I have never thought about it that much. But I am hoping that they have their
language going and their children are speaking the language and they are
holding on to the culture. And they stay away from drugs and alcohol and live a
sober life and teach other people about keeping our culture alive. And also I
would love to see people respecting each other, like they say, the nature around
them and the people around them. But, for some reason, I do not see that much.
E: You do not see it?
E: Less than when you were younger?
J: Oh yes. We had to respect other people and respect our elders. That has been
slowly going. But from Miccosukee I see, especially the older people there, they
are saying you are supposed to show respect to yourself and people around you.
Even if people are not in the same race as you, just show them respect, and
E: Miccosukee people said this?
J: Yes. When I talk to them I see the rich culture they have.
E: Really? Would you say more than ...
J: More the older people, though. Their language is just so rich. I just-it feels
good just to talk to them, just to hear them talk.
E: Does the language feel more alive with them than it does at Big Cypress?
J: I think so, yes. If we can get ours going like that, that would be good.
E: When your kids have children that are in high school, would you like them to not
be facing these dilemmas and have their kids know the language as well they do
J: Right. But hopefully we will get it written down and have it. Because the
language is not written, so we are having a difficult time. Some are, but we need
readers and speakers and writers.
E: It is a big project.
J: It is, it is.
E: Well, I want to thank you very much for your time.