Interviewer is James Ellison
Interviewee is Alice Johns Sweat
E: This is Jim Ellison, and today is November 6, 1999. I am sitting here with Alice
Johns Sweat, and we are in Brighton at your laundry...
S: CCE laundry house, I guess you call it.
E: We are here today to do the questionnaire and to do an interview, and Daisy
Jumper is here as well, to help with the translation and what have you. First of
all, is that your full name?
E: Okay. To what clan do you belong?
E: The Panther Clan. You were saying earlier you were born in Hollywood?
S: Big Cypress. Not on the reservation. It was off the reservation, as it stands
today; it may have been part of the reservation back then. Now, it is not part of it.
E: What year was that?
E: Were you born at home, at your parents= house?
S: Hm-mm [yes], out in the woods.
E: Out in the woods on Big Cypress. Do you have an Indian name?
S: Yes. I was given the name Lugayee, and I understand there was an elderly
woman who has passed on who had that name, too.
E: Is that unusual for people to share names?
S: No. No, usually, somebody gets named after somebody, but I do not know why I
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was given that name.
E: Does it have a meaning that you know?
S: Well, my activities come to me. That is what I do. It is kind of like, Lugayee is
wanderer. That is how I understood it to be, and I am just all over.
E: Were you given that name at birth?
S: I guess I was, maybe after four months or something, four moons or something.
I do not know.
E: Do you know who gave it to you?
S: No, I do not.
E: But you grew up with that name. So, somebody had the foresight to see that this
is how you were.
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: So, it kind of means Aone who wanders.@ Do you see that as being kind of
S: Yes, I do. I mean, I always think about that. I go to Big Cypress and Hollywood
and Tampa. I am just all over, so I just figure, well, that name fits.
E: Yes. Do you use that name in particular contexts? Do certain people know you
by that name?
S: No. A lot of people probably do not know you by that name.
E: So, people call you Alice.
S: No one calls each other by Indian names anymore, not like back then.
E: No? Back then when you were growing up, people used the names more?
S: Hm-mm [yes], Indian names more. When you talk to elders these days, when
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you are talking to them about somebody, if they do not remember you, they will
ask you, what was your mothers name or Indian name? When you tell them,
they kind of remember whose child you are. A lot of them will say, you know this
so-and-so, and they call them by their Indian name. Some people, I do know,
and some people, I do not but I go back and say, who is this person?
E: So, it was a name that people used much more, and you do not see people today
doing it the same.
S: No, just the elders.
E: Does anybody call you Lugayee?
S: No, not even my sisters. We are just so into English, I guess.
E: Do you have children?
S: Yes, I do.
E: Do they know your name?
S: They know my name, but they do not call me with it.
E: Mom, or that kind of thing?
S: Mom, yes.
E: Do your kids have Indian names?
S: Some do, and some do not. My grandchildren have Indian names. The problem
with me was, I married away from the tribe, and my husband was really down on
the Indians. He was Spanish, and he did not want me talking my language in my
home, and he did not speak his language in the home, so my kids wound up not
knowing either. They speak English.
E: That is what they grew up with?
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S: Yes. I learned a little Spanish, but I am not fluent in it.
E: How about your kids, now? Did they pick up any?
E: Are they fully grown?
S: They are now fully grown, and they have their own families.
E: You say some of your grandkids have Indian names. Do they live on the
S: Yes, they do.
E: So, there is a chance that they might be learning Creek or Miccosukee.
S: Yes. They went through Head Start, and that has helped them learn animals and
numbers and the different things they are learning. When I have them, I talk to
them and try to help them remember that they do have a language.
E: And they understand most of it?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: How old are they?
S: My oldest one just turned six.
E: So, just getting started in school?
E: Do they live up here in Brighton?
S: Yes. They live here, but they go to school in Okeechobee.
E: We were talking to somebody who was talking about doing culture and language
programs in public schools for Indian kids. Do you know if that is something that
they are getting into?
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S: I do not know. My oldest one is not. She is over in a different school than where
the Seminole children go to, and that was because they lived in town before and
she started school there. So, she is not getting that part of education.
E: Has she ever had friends who were going through that class?
S: Hm-mm [yes?].
E: How about the name Alice? Was that from ?
S: I was told that after I was born in the woods, I was taken to the hospital, and
there was a nurse there named Alice who just named me after her.
E: The nurse did?
E: So, there was not anybody else in the family with that name?
S: Not that I know of.
E: Do you prefer one name over the other? I guess you end up using Alice all the
S: Yes. That was my name, I guess.
E: Yes. You have had them about the same amount of time. So, you were born in
Big Cypress, and you live in Brighton Reservation now.
S: I did until, probably, a year ago. I got married, and I moved uptown with him. We
have a house in town. I gave up my house to my youngest son out here. He
lives out here. He was going to school, in college and renting out, and he has
two children. So, in order to help him, I just moved, because I was living out here
in the house by myself. So, now, I live on Lake Okeechobee.
E: Did you grow up on Big Cypress?
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S: I was around the Hollywood Reservation. We lived on the far end from the
school, I guess. Do you know where the church is where Jean used to preach?
What is the name of that?
J: First Seminole Baptist.
S: Are you familiar with Hollywood?
E: I have been around there.
S: Do you know where Coons Ford is, the truck place on 441 South? We used to
live in that area when it was all nothing but woods. That would be the far end,
and my mom used to gather up all the little children along the way, and we would
follow each other all the way to the Kindergarten or Head Start or whatever they
had for us back then. So, I grew up there. Then, we moved around to
Immokalee. I guess they were moving with the seasons. Tomatoes, or
whatever. Wherever there was work, they would move around.
E: So, both of your parents were doing agricultural work when you growing up?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: So, you were saying when you were growing up in that part of Hollywood, the
time you were there, it was not really built up like it is now.
S: No, no, no. Nothing. It was just trees and woods, looking just plain. Now, it is
E: Now, it is a city.
S: Yes. There used to be a drive-in theater back there, too, and that is not even
SEM 255 page 7
E: So, when your parents would go to do agriculture work, you would go with them?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: Do you have brothers and sisters?
S: I had an older brother. He died in, I think, in 1978 or 1977. I have a sister and
an older sister and older brother and my half-brother. I think we just traveled
around like that. My dad was not around us a lot.
E: So, it was mostly your mom Was clan was your dad in?
S: The same.
E: Your dad was in the Panther Clan, and your mom also. How ?
S: I do not know.
E: Do not ask; do not tell? I guess that does happen though, right?
S: Yes, it does. When you would go places with your mom, say, to work in
Immokalee, did you have other family who would be out there you would join up
E: Yes. I think that is why I learned the Miccosukee language, just going from here
to there to wherever, and different people would be there. I remember some
areas of Fort Drum on the other side of Okeechobee, being around that area,
too. So, I do not know. That is why I cannot even tell you if the Miccosukee-
speaking people were here or over there.
E: Because people were moving around?
E: When you would get to a place like that, say you would go to Fort Drum or you
would go down to Immokalee, would you have to build a new camp or were there
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tents or something like that? Would you build chickees?
S: There were chickees.
E: Would you go to a new one your family had built, or were they established places
you would go to?
S: Yes, they would rebuild or put up one real quick or something, or it was there
when we got there. I do not know.
E: We have a question here about people living on reservations and working in the
city, and I think that kind of gets to a different time because you are describing
this work but, now, it seems different people live on the reservations
and go off to some cities, perhaps, for employment?
S: Yes. It depends on what kind of work they are wanting to get into, I guess.
Mostly, back then, it was field work, farm work. Even when I was old enough to
work, I was out there on a farm.
S: Yes, tomatoes, and I remember picking up what they called roots for when they
cleared land. The palmetto bushes, we picked them up and hauled them out and
E: Do you remember who you were working for, you and your parents, you and your
mom, or ?
S: No, but I remember the place. It was around this area. The tomato farm was
Jephers. I would not remember their first names, but their last name was
E: Did they have a big farm?
SEM 255 page 9
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: Would you go back to the same places year after year? Like at the Jephers
farm, would you show up the next year and the year after?
E: Do you remember how much they paid you or how they paid you? Every week,
every other week?
S: No, I do not. I never saw any of it. They always gave it to my mom. At some
point, I remember planting hay, and we walked and did that. You know, we
would pick it up and go walk and spread it. We did that, and I remember $8. I do
not know if it was a day or a week, but I remember $8. For some reason, I
always remember the $8, and I do not know why.
E: It seems like real hard work.
S: Yes. That is what I thought. That is what I think about it now. Kids, nowadays,
like my grandkids, they are so spoiled, even my kids. Well, my kids went to work
out in a side farm with their dad, so they know about work. There is a difference
between my youngest son and my other ones. He did not go to work, but my
others one did.
E: When was your youngest son born?
E: So, by the time he was old enough, what, like six or seven years old, that was not
happening? He was not going to go out to work the field ? But then,
your older sons had that experience ?
S: Yes. In fact, my oldest son has sod business now.
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E: Wow. It made a big impression on him.
S: I guess. I would not want to do it. We stacked sod. We worked hard, but we did
what we had to do.
E: Do you remember when people got away from the agricultural work,
the things like the tomatoes and the hay? Was there a time when people started
not doing that any longer?
S: I do not know, probably about twenty-five years ago. Some probably did here
and there, but it was not so much around here anymore. When we worked,
picked, tomatoes and stuff, it was right here on the reservation. I also remember
my mom working in Lake Placid [at] the caladium bulbs thing.
E: I am not sure what those are.
S: It is a plant, and they use it for landscaping and stuff. She worked out there, and
I remember my sister and I just hanging out in a car while they worked all day.
She and I would be around the car.
S: I do not know. My daughter-in-law introduced us in 1995. He had just lost his
other, and I was widowed or separated or divorced. Since 1979, I was basically
by myself. So, my daughter-in-law introduced us in 1995, and that is how we
E: How did she know him?
S: His brother who has passed on now...well, her mom had a daughter by his
brother, so she was aware of that family.
E: Alright. And he is North Carolina?
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S: Yes, North Carolina.
E: Was he living down here at the time?
S: Yes. My husband has been down around the Okeechobee area since about
1963 or 1964, he says. He has a different life story, too, of how he grew up. He
had to walk to school in the snow, and he nearly froze to death. When he gets
around cold weather, and he is miserable.
E: That is one reason for moving to Okeechobee and staying there since 1963, I
E: How about you? When you were growing up and moving around to do this
agricultural stuff, did you go to school? Was it possible for you to go to school?
S: Yes, I went to school.
E: Where did you go?
S: For two years, I was in Davie, down Sterling Road somewhere in Hollywood.
From there, I went to Okeechobee up to about seventh or eighth [grade]. Then,
from there, I went to Moore Haven. From there, I went to McArthur High School
in Hollywood. Eventually, I wound up in a boarding school in Oklahoma.
E: So, you moved to all these different schools. You were up here. You were down
in Hollywood for a while. You were up near Okeechobee and Moore Haven. Did
switching schools reflect moving with your parents= different places? Or
S: Yes. I mean, I went with them. I guess my home is in Hollywood. My dad lived
up around this area. I do not know if it is around Fort Pierce where they talk
SEM 255 page 12
about the Bluefield area. He helped build us a home up here in Brighton where
my mother eventually brought us back up here.
E: So, he was from up this way, and she was from down that way more?
E: Was her mothers family down that way?
S: I do not know much about her family. I really do not. I wish I did.
E: His family was up here?
S: I know more about his family because I am around him all the time, around here.
We are one big family.
E: Are they Miccosukee speakers or Creek speakers?
S: No, Creek.
E: And your mother?
S: My mother spoke both, and my sister spoke both. I guess that is how I picked it
E: But, you do not know your mothers family?
S: No, I really do not know.
E: What about education in your parents? Had they gone to school?
E: Did they want you to go to school?
S: Yes, my mother did.
E: Why? What was she saying about it?
S: I guess she thought it was important that everybody needed to go to school. I
remember trying to skip class. In fact, I did, and she put that belt to me. So, I do
SEM 255 page 13
not know if they would get in trouble for not sending us or what. I also remember
going to the school here. Daisy probably showed you where she lived before.
There used to be a little school there in that compound. I went to school there,
too, and they used to chase us. You know, if we did not show up, they would
come looking for us.
E: Who would?
S: What was his name, Daisy? I cannot even remember. Bomer? Or Gene
Meadows? I remember Gene Meadows, too.
J: Yes. Bomer sounds right and Eugene Meadows.
E: And they would come looking for you if you were not there?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: And your mom was on their side and did not have that? She wanted you to be
S: Yes, she did. But, sometimes, they would go to work real early, I mean, real
early wherever they had to go to work. We would stay at the chickees. When
they would take off, well, we would just stay home and not even worry about
going to school. We would just play all day long, and they would be at work.
E: But, they found out.
S: Yes, eventually, they found out.
E: What about your dad? You say your mom was really encouraging about school.
S: Like I said, my dad was not around us. I think probably, by then, he had a
different family. I hardly ever saw my dad when I was growing up. I knew who
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he was. When he lived up here and we lived in Hollywood, he used to pick us up
and bring us up here. I do not even know for how many days at a time. Then, he
would take us back.
E: But, he was less stable, less around than your mother was?
S: Yes. My mother was around all the time, yes.
E: So, she wanted you to speak English in school, learn that kind of thing? Did she
S: Very little. Very, very little.
E: And your dad?
S: I think my dad spoke more English than her.
E: So, she spoke a little bit? Did she ever talk to you about wanting you to learn to
write or read English or something like that.
S: No, not really. I mean, she said that she wanted us to know what she did not
know and to be able to read what is being written so that we could tell her what it
said. I can just hear her, too.
E: Yes, because that would be kind of rough if she could not understand written
things. She would need somebody to interpret it.
S: Yes. I guess that is what she wanted us to do, to interpret.
E: Now, by the time you went to Oklahoma, that was high school?
S: Hm-mm [yes]. I was in eleventh grade.
E: Where in Oklahoma?
S: Shalocko. It is closed down now, but that where I went.
E: And you went there for a couple of years?
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S: Yes, I graduated from there.
E: So, your attitudes by that point had probably changed about education. Did you
want to go out there?
S: Yes. My brother spent a year up there, and he told me what all they did up there,
and it was different from here. Here, when we were growing up, we had to ride
our bike, if we had one, to church. Well, the kids did. I am sure we must have
had a car for us to be able to get around. But, all they had for us was a field
office over here, not the new one but the old one, and there was an elderly man
who used to show black and white movies, the Lone Ranger silent movies. We
would pay five cents or something to go watch the movie there. It was like the
E: Who was that?
S: His name was Bob Snow. I do not know where he got his movies or whatever,
but that was the place to go.
E: He was Indian?
S: Yes, he was Indian.
E: And he showed these. Wow, that must have been kind of neat.
S: It was. I mean, we did not have a TV or radio or anything and, here, this man
had this screen and projector movie or whatever it was. That was the place to
go. Go watch a movie.
E: And lots of people would go. Was it just kids?
S: Adults, too. I think he worked for the county for years and years, so he must
have found out something from the outside.
SEM 255 page 16
E: Well, he had electricity.
S: Yes, but I remember a time when there was none. When we lived in chickees,
when we would come up here, I think the road was the highest point around
here. We lived in chickees, and we had to wade in the water up to our knees or
something to get to the school bus. I remember somebody had a picture, and I
always wonder what happened to the picture of how we lived and water just all
around our chickees. We had to walk in the water from one chickee to the other.
I try to tell my kids this, and they do not believe me. It is like, you are making it
up mom, sort of attitude, because looking now at what you see here is so much
different than years ago.
E: They cannot even understand that?
E: What do they say when you try to tell them that?
S: How could that be, mom? Look, they have the drainage, and how could water be
standing like that? And I say, well, they did not have them back them. But, it is
so hard, I guess. Over the years, there are so many changes and build ups.
E: It is a different world altogether.
E: When you were growing up and going to school, language instruction was (in?)
English. Probably, at Okeechobee and Moore Haven, they were teaching (in?)
the English language.
SEM 255 page 17
E: So, you probably learned Seminole culture ideas and language, the Miccosukee
language, at home.
S: Around here, it is mostly Creek.
E: So, here, you are speaking Creek?
S: Hm-mm [yes]. Creek, now. Most of my elders here speak Creek. Maybe one or
two speak Miccosukee. At Big Cypress, they are all Miccosukee. So, working
with these elders and being able to understand both has helped me in being able
to work with them and try to meet their needs, whatever the case may be.
E: Yes. When you were down in Davie and Hollywood and that area, you are
speaking Miccosukee, and up here, Creek. I imagine that does help you talk to a
lot more people, being able to back and forth.
E: Do you feel like when you were growing up that you learned a fair amount of
Seminole history, Indian history? You say you did not really know your mothers
parents too much...
E: ...but up here, you have your fathers family. Did people talk about things like
the wars or history at all?
S: No. No, I did not learn that, just what the school taught about the Seminole wars
and stuff. I think, by that time, everybody was at peace with each other.
E: So, what kind of things did the school teach about it, about, say, Seminole
SEM 255 page 18
E: I guess what I am getting at is, I am trying to see the sort of things you feel like
you learned when you were growing up about Seminole history or Indian history.
What kind of things, then, the kids might be learning right now, or what do you
think your kids learned when they were in school?
S: I guess, as far as the wars, all I know is that there was a war of Seminoles
against whoever, and the peace treaty was not signed. That is all I know about
the history. When I was growing up, in fact, I started this doll project around
here. I learned how to make those beadwork and designs that the Seminoles do
now. I know that part. I grew up with it, and I was taught that in order to make a
living, you have to learn to do this in case you need to fall back on it or
something. This is how we make these things and sell, and we have food. So,
we did that, too, and I know that. But, I am not teaching my children that.
E: Who taught you to do that?
S: My mom, my older sister.
E: But, your kids did not...?
S: No. We went out in the woods and got the palmetto fibers and everything. I did
all that with my mother and my sister. Nowadays, we depend on someone who
still does it and we buy it from them, and then we make these things like that. It
is hard work. You have to go out to there, wherever it is, and go cut it.
E: So, you were actually doing that stuff when you were growing up?
E: Was going up in the woods...I mean, it seems like here, you are talking about
how the landscape has all changed, that it is all built up and everything has
SEM 255 page 19
changed. To go out to the woods, it seems like a lot farther.
S: Well, it was not then.
E: That is what I was going to ask you. Was it?
S: It was not that far, but you had to get to it to get the palmetto fibers right there.
Pictures tell lots of things, but no one had a camera, I guess, to capture what was
back then, as it is now.
E: Yes. What is your primary occupation?
E: At the laundry, this place? You run this?
S: Yes. I am a project director for community care for the elderly. I have been in it
for four or five years now. This is my laundry house, like I said, my office. The
girls come here. I have two girls and one man who work here. The girls go in
and do the cleaning in the homes, laundry or whatever. The guy goes around
and mows yards, weeds, picks up fans that have fallen from the wind and stuff.
E: At peoples houses?
S: Hm-mm [yes], at the elders== homes. This is their office here. I have another
office over there, with a computer and everything else over there.
E: Still on Brighton?
S: Yes, still here on Brighton. I have to report to the state. They give us grant
money, as well as to the tribe. Everything we do goes on a computer to the
E: It is a big and important project. I am going to come back to that because when
we first start talking, it was really interesting. What I going to ask you though
SEM 255 page 20
about your occupation is, you have to work eight hours a day, five days a week;
you have this thing going on, so you are pretty busy?
E: And something else, you were doing sales on the side? You gave me your card,
and it said you were at the studio.
S: Oh yes, Nikkan. That is the modern thing these days. I just got into that for
what I saw it did for people. I wanted to be able to help with that, too. That is
why I got into that. I am not really, really busy with that. It is just whenever
somebody wants something, I order it. That is about as far as that goes.
E: So, if you decided one day that you wanted to go get palmetto fibers to make
some dolls, what I was thinking was, when would you go do that?
S: If we can, whenever.
E: Which is really weakened trying to do anything else.
S: Or take some days off.
E: So, what I am trying to imagine is, the whole structure of time is pretty different
than when you were growing up? gather the fiber to make the dolls
would be more impossible now?
S: Maybe it was a weekend. I do not remember what days we were going to do
that. My sister used to come down from Big Cypress. I had an older sister who
is passed on now. She lived in Big Cypress, and she would come up here.
Brighton still has a lot of that palmetto stuff. You have to find a place where it
has been burnt. Then, you go there and chop, cut that stuff off. So, she used to
SEM 255 page 21
come up here, and we used to take her. One of my sons and I would take her,
and we would go get that stuff, the palmetto fibers, with her. My son would cut
them down, and she would clean them. They were cleaned.
E: So, this was after he was pretty well-grown?
E: So, he knows how to do this stuff?
S: He knows what we have to go through to get that palmetto fiber.
E: Yes. Are there lots of things, do you think, that have changed like that? This is
an aspect of culture you learned from your mom and your sister when you were
growing up. Do you see that people these days do not really do it so much?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: Are there other things that are kind of like that?
S: A lot of people are not sewing. They are not taking the time to sew. I see that
because there is always a demand for the Indian designs, always a demand. I
can make simple ones. I do not take time to do that, but I have sewed some
clothes for my granddaughters. Usually, I do that in the evenings. I love my
husband. He has this business, pavement and asphalt, Sweat Trucking and
Paving. He keeps me pretty busy, too. He is small but busy, so I do his
paperwork also. Usually, when I go home from here, that is what I am doing,
checking the man=s machines and see who he has to call and contact.
E: He keeps you busy.
S: Yes, plus I have this magnet business on the side.
E: Right. Did your kids go to school on the reservation, or did they go off it?
SEM 255 page 22
S: They went to school in Okeechobee. All of them graduated from Okeechobee,
except one. One went to boarding school.
S: In Oklahoma.
E: With Okeechobee here, at that point, there was not any beginning language or
culture program? ?
S: No, plus that I had married off, and we lived in town.
E: So, in other words, then, your grandkids who have started going to school might
have access to some pretty different programs than your kids did.
E: Do you think they are going to start running some of the stuff, like the dolls and
selling things that you learned from your mother?
S: They will learn if I take the time to teach them. I do not think they are going to
get it from anywhere else, unless I take the time to show them and teach them.
E: So, you do not think the school programs...?
S: Not making that. They are mostly in the language, which is very, very important.
They are teaching them mostly about the language. They do have culture
classes here that kids could go to, but I have not seen my grandkids go through
there. My kids have not taken them.
E: So, is this a serious concern? You said teaching the language is very important.
Do you feel like that is a pretty major issue?
S: Yes, I do. I think once we lose that, we are going to lose it.
E: Do you feel like it is being lost? It is hard for me to tell because I am an outside.
SEM 255 page 23
S: We are getting there. I think we are getting there because look how old I am. I
am what? Fifty-something, and I have not taken the time to teach my kids.
Other people might be doing it. In fact, Big Cypress are more fluent. The
younger kids are more fluent in their language than here.
E: Why is that?
S: I think over here, we are all about education, but so much our culture education.
It is outside education. Now, we are finding out how much we have lost not
having that culture education or even in our own families over here. When I get
around, say, Big Cypress and I can hear these young people talking their
language, I say, oh man, I wish my kids could do that, too. Even little ones. I
went down to Miccosukee last Sunday or something, and the little ones are so
fluent in the language down in Miccosukee.
E: Somebody was telling me that yesterday. Somebody down at Big Cypress was
talking about Miccosukee language. The language, he said, sounded beautiful.
E: Is it that different from, say, Miccosukee Reservation up to here?
S: No, we are all basically the same people. It is just that I feel like the
Miccosukees want to hang onto that, so the adults speak it all the time with each
other, among each other. Here, we speak English. I was telling my sister that,
and my niece was with me, too. I said, here we are; we can speak our language;
how come we are just speaking English. It is just a habit, or whatever you want
to call it, to speak English. So, when she calls me now, she starts talking to me
in Indian, so we try. In fact, we said, one day, we are going to speak
SEM 255 page 24
Miccosukee; the next day, we are going to speak Creek. We are going to go
back and forth talking to each other like that. So, my sister and I have kind of
started that with each other.
E: That sounds pretty interesting and, obviously, your grandkids are around to hear
you, and that is going to help some. Is the school program a pretty good way to
go about it? I mean, it sounds like they are doing this in public schools.
S: Yes, they are.
E: And that is pretty remarkable. Do you think that is an effective way to address
some of these things, these problems?
S: Well, I think that is one. It actually starts at the home when they are little, but that
is one way that is going to help those who want to learn. We are so much into
everything that we do not think it is important. I do not know. I guess I just
learned it as I was growing up. Now, I am not even fluent. I mean, I can talk to
Daisy or somebody who I know knows it. But, I would speak to her in English
E: How come?
S: That is just what I am saying. I do not know why. English was pushed on us so
much that it is the first thing we say. We say, how are you, in English, other than
chihantamo or whichever language it could be, stongo or something. The only
thing is the elders; you do talk to them in the language. They may understand
English but, to go into their homes and they are going to feel comfortable with
you, you have to talk their language.
E: That is really their first language.
SEM 255 page 25
E: Do you have a first language, in that sense, like the elders have their first
language; up here, it would be Creek, and further south, it would be Miccosukee.
S: I enjoy working with the elders because that is my first language.
E: So, it feels like that?
E: Your kids?
S: My kids= first language is probably English because they do not know the other
two. [End of Side 1, Tape A.]
E: There is a question here about people converting to Christianity, the conversion
of Christianity and its relationship to Seminole culture and Indian values and
Indian practices and whether or not you see any kind of influence that changed,
or that Christianity had on, Indian practices or Indian values, or were they really
S: It is funny you asked that because when I was about eight, missionaries came
around and taught us Vacation Bible School and stuff like that. I remember going
to that and still going to corn dances where my father was a medicine man.
When we moved up here, I spent more time with him, around him, and both my
mom and dad were going to Green Corn Dance. As I came to understand the
Christianity, it was like, you could not go to both places; you could not be a
Christian and go to Corn Dance. It was like [with] the Christianity, they were
saying, you have to have a changed life; you cannot go to Corn Dance and
participate in what they do out there as a Christian. I had a problem with that for
SEM 255 page 26
a long time. Trying to understand the Christian ways is like, okay, you depend on
God, he meets your needs, [and] you pray to Him, whereas [at] the corn dance,
you take part this tradition. This is what you grow up with. This is part of me.
Why are [you] saying I cannot go there, be a Christian, and take part in it. But, I
did. I went anyway. Then, afterwards, I would feel guilty because, here, I am
supposed to be a Christian, yet I was still going over there and taking part in the
dances and stuff. But, I yearn for that. I want to hear them singing. I grew up
with that. It is only so many days out of the year. What is wrong with it? I have
a chickee out there today, you know, because that is part of what I grew up with.
I do not want to give it up. It is still my roots. That is the way I look at it.
E: So, who was it? When you say the missionaries would come and do the
Vacation Bible School and there was an urging of people to choose one or the
other, to abandon...
S: The preachers.
E: Were these white preachers, or were they people from Oklahoma who
? Who were the ones who were...?
S: People from Oklahoma.
E: Some of whom were also Indians.
S: They were Indians. The Indian preachers were telling you that was pagan
religion [and that] you could not take part in stuff like that. So, I do not know. I
always think, well, maybe they did not grow up with what we grew up [with]. You
know, that is my roots. Maybe, they did not have that. I do not know. But, I
used to think, who are you to come in here and tell us how to live? But, I had a
SEM 255 page 27
big problem with that.
E: That was mostly when you were younger. Is it any different today? Are there still
people who say it really has to be one or the other?
S: No. It is your choice. It is your choice in how you handle it, I guess. On the
Christian side, you know there is a Heaven and Hell. Then, on the Indian side,
you know there is a spirit world. It is the same thing. You just do not interpret it
the same way, I guess. I guess it just depends on who is telling you what and
who you believe or what you believe.
E: Is it that they can work together, or is it that they are kind of the same thing with
S: The people who do the traditional dances and stuff, I do not see them at church.
I mean, I guess you probably will not see them. I do not see our preachers going
out there, either. So, it is kind of like two different leaders, I guess.
E: But, if somebody was not a leader, they could go back and forth easily?
S: Or somebody who does not really believe in the Christianity would not have any
problem feeling guilty about going to Green Corn Dances, whereas, me, I
became a Christian when I was about eight or nine years old. From then on, I
have always heard, you cannot take part in that and be a Christian; you have to
be one or the other; that is pagan religion; you do not take part in pagan religion,
and stuff like that. I have a problem with that because, like I said, that is what I
grew up with; that is my roots. I still have a chickee out there where I can go.
E: It has a lot of meaning, too.
S: Yes, it does. See, my kids did not grow up around it. I did not take them
SEM 255 page 28
because my husband influenced me a lot not to let them grow up that way, but I
know they missed out. They yearn for that. They are old enough now where, if
they want to go, they can go.
E: When they were growing up and when you were with your husband, did you still
go by yourself?
S: Hm-mm [no].
E: You just did not go at that time. You became a Christian up here at ?
E: Were your parents Christians?
S: Eventually, they became Christians.
E: And they also did the Green Corn Dance?
S: I think, eventually, they quit going, as they got older. My dad went up until he
E: To the Green Corn Dance, and he was a medicine man?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: I am sorry. I do not think I asked you his name?
S: Barfield Johns.
E: And he played a leadership role in the Green Corn Dance?
S: Yes. In fact, before he died, I asked him...see, I have two brothers (one was a
half-brother), and neither one of them learned the traditional medicines and stuff
like that. I asked him one time, how come you do not teach me this stuff? I want
to learn this stuff. People come to him for healing and [for him] to do this and do
that. I said, I want to learn all of this stuff. He told me that it is mostly men, boys,
SEM 255 page 29
young boys. Men are mostly known for medicine men. There are women. I have
known women who can do medicine, too, but I told him, dad, I want to learn this
stuff. By then, I had married and moved back. I divorced my husband and
moved that. By then, I was wanting to get back into my roots, I guess, and I
asked, how come you do not teach me this stuff? And he said, if you are willing
to sit up all night and let me teach you...I mean, it is going to take more than just
one all night; night after night, you have to sit up and do certain things, and I will
teach you. But, I am the one who was not willing to sit up all night, at late hours.
So, it is my fault that I lost out. He was willing to teach me, but it was me.
E: And his sons, he did not teach?
S: No. Both of them died. No, they did not learn anyway, but they died young.
E: Yes, Did he teach anybody? Did he have any apprentices?
S: He took part in teaching those who are carrying it on now.
E: So, do you attend the Green Corn Dances today? Are they pretty similar to what
you experienced when you were younger, or are they different?
S: They are very similar. Not many changes. I can see with all the people coming
in, they want that. They want that. We have people younger than me who grew
up around it, and they yearn for that. So, you will see a lot of them going over
there during those times, a lot of them.
E: And you think it is pretty similar to what you experienced when you were young?
E: Is that one arena where, say, Seminole culture and tradition is taught and
perpetuated? It is a way people learn Seminole culture?
SEM 255 page 30
S: That is one aspect of our cultural history or whatever that they are maintaining. I
mean, it keeps on going because a lot of young people go there. They may go
there for other reasons, but they know what it is all about.
E: Somewhat related to that...I mean, we will move away a little bit, but it maybe
connects in some ways. I am curious about the health issues among people
here on Brighton Reservation and Big Cypress and Hollywood, the Seminole
community. I am curious about what you see as being some of the biggest
health problems that people face today.
S: I do not know about the difference between Big Cypress and here, but most of us
are diabetics, even me now. Now, I do not know if it was because as I was
growing up, we got a taste of that sweet stuff. We yearn for that, I guess. I do
E: So, that is pretty widespread, a lot of people here.
E: Do people find adequate help for that here? Are there moving medicine lines?
S: I think there is enough education here available to us, but it is the choice that we
make, the individual [makes]. But, for our elders, I do not know if they are
educated enough. Letting them know why it is important...you know, you can tell
them, that is bad for you; eating this is bad for you. But, most of them are so set
in their ways. Fried food is bad for you. You go to clean, and you see nothing
but grease. You know they have been frying food.
E: Is diabetes something you see as being kind of a recent development, or was it a
problem when you were a kid?
SEM 255 page 31
S: I do not remember it being then, when I was a kid. It might have been there, but I
was unaware of it. My mom was a diabetic. My dad became a diabetic.
E: Are there ailments, either diabetes or other things, that people would maybe seek
out your father for help with, or people like your father who had herbal
E: The Indian medicines, not the Western medicines.
E: So, there are still people around who practice?
S: Hm-mm [yes]. In fact, there are some who will not take Western medicine. They
will depend on traditional healing completely.
E: Why that? Are they elders who are like that?
S: Hm-mm [yes].
E: What about people who are in your age group?
S: My age group? We go to the clinic.
E: Yes. Or both? Is it possible to do both?
S: Yes, you can do both, and I have done both.
E: Are there certain illnesses that call for one over the other, like when you have
certain symptoms, you know, well, I have to go to the healer who has the Indian
medicines or, if you have some other symptoms, you know, well, I will go to the
SEM 255 page 32
clinic? How do you decide which is appropriate?
S: Me, I will use both because I respect the traditional healing still. I go and visit.
My grandfather was a medicine man. My dad was a medicine man. You know,
there is something to that. So, if it is there to help me, then I am going to go
there first. But, there are some things that we do not, and traditional healers do
not, have that the clinic can provide, like right on the spot ache or something
where they give you a shot. We do not have that in the traditional.
E: You said that some of the elders will say, I do not want to go to the clinic,
because they are more familiar with the traditional medicines. Are there people
who would say it the other way around, that no, I do not want to deal with the
traditional healers because...
S: The elders, if they do not go. (?) I mean, I do not know if they do. Like, some
Creeks do not understand Miccosukee, and some Miccosukees do not
understand Creek. So, some of the medicine men speak Creek only in the song
and the singing and stuff. So, I have been asked to translate for the elders for
the Miccosukee language. So, I know they use both.
E: You have been asked to translate in healing, for healers in what they are saying?
S: Hm-mm [yes], and I have done that.
E: Yes? That must be really interesting to do. When you were growing up, how
much of your dad=s practicing were you around when people would come to
him? Would people come to him on an individual basis and say, I have this
S: I did not see. I mean, they do it behind closed doors, sort of. I did not hear the
SEM 255 page 33
singing or the chanting, whatever you want to call it. I did not hear that part, but I
knew what he was doing when he would go. They would bring the herbs and
stuff or whatever it was that he was asking [for] that they had to have. They
would bring it, and then he would take that and go.
E: So, it must be pretty interesting, then, to be in a situation of translating a Creek
healer or a Miccosukee healer.
S: Yes. Most of the time if I translate for somebody, I will say, this lady wants so
and so. Then, the medicine person will understand what this lady wants, so they
will go do it. Then, they will come back, and then I have to translate how to do it
[and] what not to do back to this other person.
E: What I would really like to do with the rest of the interview, I think, is to get
into...one of the reasons I really wanted to talk with you was because of some of
the stuff you do with elders. When we first spoke about two months ago, we
talked about some of the changes that have taken place in what it means to be
an elder. One of the things I think we spoke about was housing, that housing is
obviously different. We talked earlier today about the change in landscapes and
how people lived in chickees. Now, the drainage has changed, and people have
their houses. When you are working with the elders, what do they say to you or
what do you feel like their biggest problems are as elders?
S: What I think is, this change has been forced on them, basically. Yes, they
wanted better housing for us. Yes, it can keep out the cold and keep out the heat
and whatever. But, it has been forced on them.
E: In the sense that they did not know what they were getting into or in the sense
SEM 255 page 34
that somebody pushed them into something?
S: I think somebody pushed them into something, because a lot of them will get into
a house and, yet, they still want a chickee outside where they can go out there
[but still have] all the conveniences in a house now. You do not have to build
your fire. You do not have to walk for water or pump for water; just turn it on and
it is there. It is so much more convenient, so much more easy, to have this
house than the way it was back then. To me, it has kind of been forced. I do not
know if it was for their own good. Yes, maybe, because of the weather and the
elders getting sick and stuff.
E: So, how has it changed their lives, do you think? Somebody who is, say, in their
seventies, how is their life different from somebody who was in their seventies
when you were growing up? Now, they live in a house; then, they lived in
chickees. But, what else is different? Is it just exactly the same or is it somehow
? My impression is that thirty or forty years ago, people in their
seventies had a lot more people around them. I do not know if that is really true.
S: They did. I mean, we did. When they lived in chickees, it was all like a big old
camp with family members [and] extended family members living in and around
that camp all of the time. Now, being put in a home, it is kind of like they have
isolated the seniors into this building. Since there are no chickees or family
members nearby, I feel like they get lonely and they get depressed, isolated.
Yes, even though we are in a community [and] we know everybody, [because]
everybody knows each other, [like] they know whose grandma that is, they just
feel there is not anyone around them now.
SEM 255 page 35
E: With your work, how do you come into contact with elders, mostly? You have
this laundry facility that you run. You are program director, you said?
E: So, that includes this laundry? I am not sure exactly what it includes, obviously.
S: I oversee the program, making sure our elders= needs are being met and
[seeing] how we can meet them and yet stay within the guidelines of the state,
where, like, the state says sixty and over. Yet, they have to want the program. A
lot of them will not sign the paper. They are still thinking they are going to be
taken advantage one way or the other. This program has been with the tribe
[for], I do not know how many, years, but I still have people who will no sign.
E: What do they have to sign?
S: Saying it is okay for them to get this service, and that comes under the guidelines
of the state. The state is all about computers and the reports and all this.
E: So, some people will not sign it because they...?
S: They are afraid. Either they are afraid, or they think they are going to be taken
advantage of or something.
E: So, they feel like signing their name is signing something away?
S: Yes, and it does not matter how many times I have interpreted, you know, we are
just here to help you. I am not the first one who has been working in this
program. There were other people before me working in this program. So, there
are a lot of people who would probably tell you, maybe, different than what I am
SEM 255 page 36
telling you, but I am sure they have faced the same issues. Now, the biggest
problem I face working for this program is, a lot of them have lost...the children of
the elders would bring their kids to the elders. The elder is not being well today
and, yet, the parents still bring their kids over and leave them for the elder to
watch. That just burns me up. They bring their grandkids over.
E: For daycare? I guess they are going off to work or something?
S: Or something.
E: Why do they do that? Is that something that they would have done? Is that
something that when they were growing up, they were dropped off at their
S: You know, I think about that a lot because, back then, we all lived in a
community, sort of related extended family living around a camp, and everybody
watched out for everybody else in the camp. So, I do not know. But, of course,
grandma is not going to say no anyway, you know, bring them on. They feel
lonely, [and] they want company. But, yet, they are not capable of taking care of
them. In fact, I know of a situation where she had below her knee amputated
and, yet, the grandkids would go out the door and go running down the road or
something and she would not be able to go after them, not that fast anyway.
[What] if something happened to her grandkid? She worries about that. And this
is a situation where neither parent worked. That is why I said other when you
E: Yes, whereas if it was thirty years ago or something, there might be other
grandparents there or aunts and uncles.
SEM 255 page 37
S: Yes. Then, when we go in there to do the job, our cleaning and stuff, it is hard
for us. We are cleaning up after the children or the grandchildren, not the elderly.
I have a problem with that. Now, if it is in a situation where our client has her
own bathroom, in her bedroom or right off her bedroom, we go in and clean that.
We do not clean the other part of the house. It is hard for us. It makes it hard
E: Yes, because you face staff issues and what have you. So, that is one of the
things. You do house visits to do cleaning and to make sure things are working.
S: And the elders are okay.
E: I guess by going, you can see if there is a problem.
S: Oh, somebody will let us know if we are not aware of it. I would say that was the
biggest problem, the hardest problem. Well, I take that back. The hardest
problem for me is when they get real sick and I know that, eventually, they are
going to pass on. You get to know these elders, their problems, what they are
facing. They get to be like your parents.
E: Because you see them all the time.
S: And you see them sick and bed, not able to get up and get around like they did
before. That is the hardest, hardest part of this job. I was taught this song and,
when they are laying in bed and cannot get up, I go and sing this song to them.
It is just how they react to listening to it.
E: It is a song that is in Creek?
S: It is a Creek song.
E: What does it mean? What is the song?
SEM 255 page 38
S: This is part of the Christianity stuff, too, but it is an Indian song. It says, like,
when I am sick and cannot get up anymore, I will tell my boss who is Jesus what
I am going through, and I will pray with all my might or whatever I have in me, I
will make it be known to Him. That is kind of like what the song says.
E: And so, singing that for them in Creek, that is comforting, probably.
S: Yes, and I think they think, my gosh, who is this woman who can sing this song?
You know, nobody sings that song, hardly.
E: It is an old song?
S: It must be. They do not hardly hear it anymore. My mother and them said, you
sing this song to someone who is sick and in bed and feeling bad. You go and
sing this song to them. I do not know. Daisy, have you heard this song?
J: I do not think so.
J: I would like to learn it, too.
E: How many people do you work for? How many elders?
S: Right now, I have about forty-three to forty-five. That is not all of them. That is
not all of our elders.
E: These are the ones who you give [care to].
E: Those are all people up here in Brighton?
S: No, about half here and half in Big Cypress.
E: So, there are more people at each place who did not sign?
S: Some at both places, yes. Some do not want it.
SEM 255 page 39
E: If they do not sign, is there anything you can do?
S: Well, we have been talking for years, even the director before me had been
talking, to our administration. I do not even know if James is aware of it. They
pass the information on to our chairman and not him. To get away from this now
that we have money available, to get away from the state, that way, we could
service more seniors and more people who could use the service. But, I do not
know. For some reason, we hang onto that grant. I mean, yes, we needed it
back then. It helped us. But, now, with more revenues for the Seminoles, why
not use it? Before, we went by income guideline, and then we make too much.
So then, they took that income guideline from us. I mean, we did not have to
report our income anymore for the elders.
E: The income guideline was changing with economic changes?
E: So, you deal with about forty people? That is how many elders you are working
with? That sounds like a lot.
E: So, the things you are describing, you see them all the time. You get it through
a lot of different parents and grandparents. I am thinking about before this
program existing, maybe when you were growing up, who would get that close to
forty elders in a given time who were in that state? It seems like a very different
situation. When an elder, say, when you were growing up, becoming infirm or ill
or needed help, who did they rely on?
S: Back then?
SEM 255 page 40
S: Just family members who were in the camp at that time. Now, we have the clinic.
We have the EMS, emergency medical service, here. Most of the elders are
home a lot by themselves now.
S: So, over here, the council representative told me to check into an alert system.
So, I did, and we had them installed here in Brighton. We are still working with
Big Cypress yet, where if something happened to them and they were there by
themselves, all they had to do was push a button and either the police
department or the emergency medical team would go to that home. But, I have a
problem with that, too, because they talk to my elders in English and my elder is
not knowing what they are saying. They do not know what they are talking
about. So, I try to educate my elders on the electronic system and the
emergency alert system people. It has been a tough one. That is why I would
not pick up a Big Cypress project for that right now.
E: Is there somebody down in Big Cypress who does kind of what you do up here?
E: You do both, right. Is there somebody who will do that alert system that you are
talking about down there? You say you would not do it down there.
S: Because of the problem I am having with this electronic monitoring system.
There have been occasions where one of my elders would call there, and they
have to have a password, the password deal. If my elders do not remember their
password, they get the police sent over there. I have had a couple of occasions
SEM 255 page 41
like that. They will call me and say, what was my password? You know? I am
having a time with it right now. It was for their own benefit that I went and looked
for this system and it was put in. They know all they have to do is push that
button, and someone would come if they were sick or if they fell and could not
get up. They know that.
E: How long has it been installed?
S: Just this year. In February, it started. So, I have been trying to clean up the
kinks and stuff.
E: So, it cannot just work right away because it...
S: No, not with my elders not understanding what somebody from the security
system is calling [about]. Lots of times, I get called at home that so and so did
not know the password, and there was somebody in there who should not have
been in there. So, I am trying to get it all.
E: Yes. Has it worked successfully on any occasions?
S: Well, I have asked the EMTs, has any one of my elders called? And they said
yes, that someone had fallen off the bed and could not get up. So, they
sent...well, at first, their contact is immediate family. They have their phone
number, so they call them and say, yes, so and so called; we got a call from this
elderly; can you go check to see if she is really having a problem? And it was a
situation, yes. She was fallen and was on the floor. So, it has its benefits.
E: And it certainly sounds like it would have benefits.
S: Well, it was for the good of the elders when they are home a lot. You know,
people go to work, or they are in their own homes and young family members
SEM 255 page 42
have their own homes.
E: How did you get started working with elders.
S: I came back to work for the tribe in 1979 when I divorced. I started out as a
dental assistant, and I worked there for seven years. Then, I got into this
outreach program with behavior help services. [Then, from there], at the
chairman=s office, this other person was leaving. Or, no, this other person who
had this job before said, you know, there is too much paperwork; I cannot handle
this program and this program. So, they were looking for someone. Right about
that time, I was having problems with this other position, so the chairman=s office
called me and asked to speak to me about the possibility of me taking this job.
So, they offered me this position, and I have been here for about five years.
E: It seems like extremely important work.
S: Well, I feel like it is. A lot of the elders were taken from these chickees. We
might have lived with the ants and the roaches back then. [Interruption.] It was
hard. They did not sweep. I mean, living in chickees, that was the greatest time
of my life. I did not have to sweep. There was no floor to sweep. We just hung
our clothes up off the nails on the side of the chickee or whatever. We did not
have to put away our clothes, but just hang them up. The director before me
started cleaning house, sort of going in and cleaning everything out, cabinets
[and] everything, out of these homes. We still do that from time to time. The
elders, they did not sweep or mop. I mean, they would just cook and eat, and the
children did not bother to help them. So, that is where our program comes in.
We help the elders to kind of clean up, but they would allow us. There are still
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some who do not allow us to do stuff, which we respect. It is not because we do
not want to. We want to, but they do not allow us to.
E: Yes. Why is that?
S: I guess out of habit. We did not have anything years ago, and now we have
everything. So, we hoard everything we get our hands on, even things we do not
even really need. But, yet, they want to hang onto it, so we do not mess with it.
E: Has this program changed in the last five years? Do you think it has evolved
quite a bit? One of the things you said you were doing is, you have started this
E: Do you think it has developed in other ways?
S: I do not know. Like I said, the director before me could probably tell you more
about it. She had come in and started cleaning house, sort of, when I came in,
so she did a lot. The elders, I mean, there was a situation in Big Cypress where I
guess they went to visit this one elder person over there, and he came out with
roaches all over his cap and he was not aware of it. It was just so bad that she
literally went in and cleaned house. So, basically, the work was done when I
came aboard, and we just continued the cleaning, the work. But, I am sure she
could tell you some stuff, what she went through.
E: Obviously, we have talked about how this is a necessary program because these
things need to be done. We have talked about how elders are in different
positions now than elders were a generation ago. There are new needs that
have come up, and this program is a result of those new needs and it meets
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those needs. What do you see as being some of the positive developments, in
terms of working with elders and in terms of being an elder? Say, when you are
an elder and when your kids are in your position, or somebody who is your kids=
age is taking over this job, what would you like to see elders experiencing thirty
years from now? Because, you know, you have been talking some about what
had been happening thirty years ago when you were younger, and you have
talked a lot about what you are doing these days with elders.
S: I would like to see kind of like a group homeByes, the family members on the
reservationBwhere, when I get to be an elder, I can sit there and talk to
somebody in my language. Or, I can wake up and if I want to talk to somebody
in my language, they are going to be right there. I mean, it is not being left alone.
Not a nursing home type of situation but like a group home. Yes, I may need
some sort of facility when I get to be an elder, but I would like some people who I
know in the same home with me, the same group home, maybe have their own
bedroom or something but, like us sitting here, we can sit around and talk in our
language to each other. Probably then, though, there will be other people who
will not be able to speak the language being in the same home but just knowing
that their family is in a safe environment, I guess. I do not know. I am not going
to know thirty years from now.
E: Do you see it going that way? Do you see that as a possibility?
S: It is a possibility, but I do not see it going that way. I mean, it takes people in
higher positions to say, yes, we need something like that, and get it done. [End
of Side 2, Tape A.]
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E: When the tape ended, you were pointing across the street and saying this is how
you see it, being, there are probably going to be children owning their own
S: The elders left alone.
E: So, that is just the way it seems to be going.
S: Yes, because we are into bowling...I mean, we are into everything outside,
golfing, whatever you want to name it and, you know, a lot of them are hot.
E: So, you kind of see that as the way things are going.
S: They are so busy now and, yes, we are not educated. What we might be able to
do for our grandmas or something, you know, a lot of them have care givers,
outside care givers who come and sit with an elder all day long or all night long,
whatever hours, because children have their own lives and their own families. I
see that still continuing on.
E: Because people are working, for example?
S: Yes. People work.
E: Yes. So, it seems like, maybe, a consequence of economic development, that
people are off working and people are off doing this and that, and they have
opportunities to go bowling and what have you. But, is it also economic
development that is going to provide a group home?
S: It could. I do not know. It may happen if somebody stayed on top of that.
E: Okay. Before we wrap up completely, is there anything that we did not cover but
that you think we should talk about?
S: No, but I would like to talk to you again.
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E: I would like that, too. I would like to talk more about this.
S: Yes, it is just that I have to run.
E: Yes, but any time. An interview always raises new questions in certain things.
Okay. Well, I thank you very much. [End of interview.]