Interviewee: Mary Johns
Interviewer: J. Ellison
Date: November 6, 1999
E: This is Jim Ellison and today is the sixth of November, 1999. I am sitting at-
what is the name of this park?
J: This is Margaret Vanderveldt.
E: Margaret Vanderbilt Park?
J: Beach or Park or something.
E: Right on the banks of...
J: Myrtle Vanderveldt. Something like that.
E: It is right by Lake Okeechobee.
J: They were the ones that settled this little area, there. They used to own that little
store called Joe's Fish.
E: Right across the road?
J: Yes, a long time ago. The store is still there, but the people are long gone now,
E: Vanderbilt was their name?
J: Vanderveldt. Dutch sounding name, isn't it?
E: Yes, it does sound Dutch. Anyway, I am sitting here with Mary Frances Johns
and with Daisi Jumper and we are going to do an interview. Is Mary Frances
Johns your full name?
J: Yes. I usually leave the Frances for the legal papers. My name gets too long.
E: Then we will leave that for the consent form. We will park that one there.
J: Leave Frances parked at the consent form.
E: So, can I call you Mary?
E: To what clan do you belong?
E: Panther Clan. We are up here, we are near Brighton and it is extremely windy.
That is probably evident on the tape.
J: [It is a] beautiful day.
E: It is a beautiful day. It is wonderful out here. Do you live on the Brighton
reservation right now?
J: Yes, right now. I was born in Miami, and we lived on Tamiami Trail until I was
twelve and then we moved into Big Cypress and I lived there until I got married.
E: So you have lived in several different parts of South Florida.
J: Yes. We used to live in Hollywood, too, so I know people from all the
E: So, you were born in Miami, in the city? In a hospital?
J: Yes, I was one of the first ones in my family to be born in a hospital.
E: Do you know what year it was? I guess they would have recorded it.
E: Do you have an Indian name, a Mikasuki name?
E: Is it something I could ask you to share with me?
J: Daisi might give it to you, if she remembers.
E: Daisi might give it to me? [Laughter]
D: I am trying to remember. [Laughter]
J: That is one thing, you do not use those names after you start having children.
J: Yes, because it is like disrespectful to call people by their names after they have
E: It is disrespectful?
J: Yes. Children should call you Mother or Father, they should give you a name of
honor, like Aunt or Uncle, but they should never call you by your given name.
E: So, somebody else would know you as the mother of so and so.
J: Of so and so, yes. I always kind of get embarrassed to call myself by my given
E: So, do your kids-how many kids do you have?
J: Three. They all know what my name is but they do not ever call me that. It is
always Mother or Aunt.
E: Do they have Indian names?
J: They have Indian names.
E: And do you call them by their Indian names?
J: Yes, until they start having children. Then it is so-and-so's mother or so-and-so's
E: So, pretty much, do most people you interact with know you as Mary or do
people actually call you mother of one of your children?
J: Yes, Mother of so-and-so or they call me Mary. Or Monica's Mom, usually
E: That is the English version?
E: Are there different contexts where people might use the Indian version over the
J: Yes, your peers can call you that. And your elders can call you that.
D: Is it kind of like Louise Jumper's name? Do you remember Louise?
J: I forget what her name is.
D: Jim knows.
E: Pahee, that is the short version, Pahee.
J: Yes, that is what it is.
E: Is it the same name?
J: Yes, that is right, isn't it. You are talking about Junior's wife?
J: Yes, she has the same name.
E: Does that have a particular meaning?
J: Not really, other than it is part of a medicine song.
E: Do you know who decided that that name was to be your name?
J: I was given the name by an older gentleman, it was either Burt Frazier or the
other one, your grandfather, [Daisi,] what is his name? Johnny Jumper.
E: Are they related to you?
J: Yes, they are related to us.
E: Are you two related?
J: Yes, we are related by clan, and her grandfather was related to us by clan, too.
E: Do you know why they chose that particular name?
J: No. It is not really an issue. You just pick a name and you give it to a child and
they carry it for the rest of their life. But, if it is somebody else's name, like if I
pass on, somebody will be given that name. They say if it is a recent person that
is still in memory, then the name should be blessed before you give it to a new
E: It should be blessed? How would that happen? How do you bless a name?
J: I am not sure how they do that but they have songs to sing to bar it from being
remembered as the previous owner's name.
E: What does that do?
J: I guess it is supposed to keep that other person's destiny or run of luck or
whatever [from] intruding upon the next life.
E: So, it is separate.
E: That is not something I was aware of. But it does not matter that you have the
same name as somebody else?
J: Yes, she was given that name-I am older than her, so I had it first.
E: But is it an issue?
J: No. We are both living, and she is another clan, so it does not matter. She
belongs to Otter Clan.
E: What clan does your father belong to?
J: Wind Clan.
E: Where was he from?
J: He lives around Big Cypress.
E: That is where his family was from?
E: Your mother, was she from the Miami area?
J: Actually, no. We lived in Collier County, which is the next county over. They
said when I was going to be born, though, my mother was having a difficult time
and they had to transport her by a Trailways bus to Miami for me to come to this
E: That sounds like it was a fairly uncommon trip.
J: It was. I mean, most people were born at home, during my time. I was one of
the first ones born in a hospital. But they said that I probably would not have
made it if the doctors had not intervened.
E: So, that is how you ended up going to Miami, for that. And then, after you were
born, did you go back to Collier County?
J: Yes, my folks lived at this little place called Jerome's Mill. It is on [Route] 29, just
on this side of Copeland, on the north side of Copeland [in Collier County]. It is
almost not there now, the mill is gone and people who settled there are mostly
gone. There used to be farms all around there.
E: So, your mother was there; was her family there? Her mother?
E: Were they working there?
J: Yes. They were working there, working the farms, picking tomatoes, and
squashes, and cucumbers, and whatever. Picking potatoes.
E: Your mother's family, they were probably Mikasuki speakers.
J: Oh yes.
E: And your father's family, were they Creek speakers?
J: No, they were Mikasuki speakers.
E: He was in the Big Cypress area.
J: Yes, at that time.
E: When you were growing up over that way, you say they were working picking in
the fields, did you end up doing some of that too when you were young?
J: Yes, some of it. We were living in Big Cypress already, though, when I was old
enough to work. We did things like plant hay for ranchers. Part of that time, my
mother and father, they lived over in Kenansville [in Osceola County]. They were
all over the place-Daytona Beach, around the place, wherever they found work.
I stayed with my grandmother most of the time, though. We lived in Jerome's Mill
until I was about three or four. Then we moved to that Rokanhamaka, that was
one of the establishments set up when US 41 was being put through, when they
were building it. It was the stations that housed and fed the people that worked
on the roads. And always when there was a gas station on one side, there would
be another Indian village across the road from it. The one at Rokanhamaka was
started by Daisi's grandfather, Johnny Jumper. They had moved out a few
years before and the place was not occupied when my uncle took it over. My
uncle Tom Buster took it over and rebuilt the place and turned it into a village,
one of those tourist attraction places. We used to have people come through
and visit and we would live there.
E: This was your uncle, Tom Buster, he was your father's brother?
J: [He was] my mother's brother.
E: And he had this tourist village, and you would live there?
J: We lived there until I was older, around twelve, I guess. Then we moved to Big
Cypress. At first, we moved to Hollywood, and I started school in Hollywood.
Then we moved to Big Cypress, so I went to school in Clewiston.
E: Did you take a bus up there?
J: Yes. You had to leave like 6:15 in the morning to get to school. It was so early.
E: Yes, that is a long drive for school. Over near Hollywood, when you were at your
uncle's village, that Indian village, you were there for a few years?
J: Yes. Well, I was there from maybe when I was four or five until I was around
eleven or twelve, so we were there for a few years.
E: Obviously that was before it was built up the way it is today, that area.
J: Yes, there is a dike through part of that now, part of what used to be the village.
It is totally different. It is still the same and yet different.
E: Was it more like countryside at that point?
J: It was a very pretty place. It was wooded, densely wooded in some places, and
hardwood hammocks right along side cypress heads and pine ridges. [It was a]
very densely wooded place. Water coming in off of the Gulf coast from the tides,
it would run briny water in the canal, in front of the little shop. When the tide went
out, then the fresh water would come back. So, we had both salt water and fresh
water fish running in the canal. We used to go fishing for snook and mullet
alongside the garfish and bass.
E: That is just remarkable. That is not something people are doing today.
J: No, they cannot. That dike, well, the ditch just dried up now. [There are] no
signs of the blue crabs that used to walk along the beaches of the canal, the
banks of the canal.
E: So, who all lived there at this village?
J: Just my uncle and his family. But, it seemed like his family always returned to
Paolita Station, which is toward the Dade County Line [in Collier County, on US
41]. I do not know what was wrong at the time, but I guess there was something
going on between those two. It seemed like she always ran home to mother.
Her mother lived over there.
E: She was going there. Did she take her kids with her?
J: She would take her kids with her, yes. So, my uncle would usually end up back
down there. So, it was just mostly us, my grandmother and my great, great aunt,
and myself. These were my maternal folks.
E: Was living in that village kind of like living in a camp elsewhere? Or was it really
radically different because of the tourists coming through?
J: Well, I did not ever notice any difference between that village and my
grandfather's village. My great, great aunt had a brother who had two villages-
there were two brothers who had two villages way out. I am not sure how I can
describe this, but it was between-do you know where Alligator Alley is now?
J: It was south of there and north of [US] 41. It was like in between, in that area. It
was right up by the edge of the Everglades where the cypress heads run. They
both lived there. Their villages were just as quiet as ours.
E: They did not have tourists coming through?
J: No, they did not have tourists coming through there, no.
E: But, you had tourists coming through?
E: Were they showing up in cars? Or was it inaccessible by car?
J: Oh yes. They drove to the house. When they parked across the road, getting
gas, they would just walk across to our village. We had an automobile bridge
over the river, as well as a walk bridge, and so you could drive into the village,
which my uncle did. He would park his car on the inside because it was kind of
dangerous, they did not have too much of a shoulder between the canal and the
road. So, it was kind of dangerous to park your car up there.
E: Having these tourists come into your village and your home, when they would
show up did you drop everything that you were doing and have to go pick up
something else and act traditional in front of these people?
J: No. We were just traditional people. I mean, we dressed in our clothes the way
we are, every day, and my grandmother cooked on an open fire and we had
black pots and pans hanging up in the rafters, and whatever. My grandmother
used to hate a mess because she said, when tourist come, they do not need to
see [it]. So, after we ate, she would put a piece of canvas over the food and
weigh it down so that the food being left on the table would not be inspected.
E: What kinds of things would you do?
J: I didn't. I was just being a kid. I would play around. I would do my thing. They
did not care. They would take pictures of the place and look at the chickees. We
had alligators and wild cats and coons and whatever. They were all in cages.
E: You had them trapped in there so people would come and see them?
J: Yes. I used to hate to have to feed them. That was one of my jobs, to give them
some fruit, a piece of chicken. Sometimes my grandmother would kill garfish just
to feed the alligators and the wildcats. That was something that I used to find a
yucky thing to do.
E: I can imagine.
J: They smell, too, you know, their piss and poop. You have to wash it out of their
E: Yes, because you had them right there, I suppose you had to do that kind of
J: Yes. The only thing I did not ever want to do was touch the alligator's water so
they lived in that green water until my uncle came.
E: And he would change it?
J: Yes. He liked to change the water regularly for the alligators, so they would have
fresh water. But I was not going to touch it.
E: You were not afraid of the alligators, it was just the ...
J: No, I was not too afraid of them. I just ...
E: It was just disgusting?
J: Yes, it was too disgusting. I guess, maybe, that is the reason I do not like to eat
alligator meat now.
E: Because you imagine that?
J: Yes, I cannot get over that hide, that scaly hide.
E: While you were living out there, you say you actually started going to school for
your first couple of years out in the Hollywood area?
J: We moved over there, my aunt had been living there for quite some time, but she
died. Something happened and she died. My great aunt, my great-great aunt
had a daughter who also lived there that I also called my aunt. She was still
living there. My mother and my stepfather were working down there in
Hollywood. They had established a village there next to my Aunt Martha's
house. Right across the road was my other aunt's family, the one that died.
When my mother moved out to go back to Big Cypress, my grandmother went up
there to stay so she could visit with her daughter's children across the road. That
is how I ended up in Hollywood and I started school. Before then, they did not
believe in sending me to school because they did not think that I was educated
enough in my own culture. I had to be able to speak my own language and know
all of those things before I began to learn cultures of other people.
E: So, actually, while you were living at that camp ...
J: Yes. I was doing all that.
E: You were not going to school.
J: I was not going to school. And my grandmother had my full attention. It did not
hurt me, though. I mean, the education that I was given through my grand folks,
all I had to do was translate it into English. I was not that far behind.
E: When you moved down to Hollywood and when you started going to school, how
old were you then?
J: I was thirteen.
E: Did you want to go to school?
J: Yes. I asked to go to school, and my grandmother finally consented.
E: She was reluctant?
J: Yes. They were very reluctant.
E: Really? What would they say about it?
J: They said that I would be learning another people's culture and that if I do not
understand who I am and what I am myself then it would just present problems
for me. Finally, they discussed it and decided that they would go ahead and
allow me to go to school. So, I went.
E: Do you know why they changed their minds and thought it would be a good
thing? They figured you had enough of your own training?
J: Well, yes, I think so, and also they needed an interpreter. None of those two old
ladies had ever been a day in school, and they did not speak much English. My
grandmother understood it just enough to understand how to deal with people,
like how much, or what certain articles are. She might order bacon, or
hamburger, things like that. But that was her vocabulary, the total vocabulary.
Basic things, very basic things.
E: And up at the camp, your uncle probably knew English to interact with the
tourists coming in. No?
J: No, my grandmother did. Well, my uncle made signs, how much admission was
to the village. And he would make signs as to how much the dolls were, or
different sizes of dolls, baskets, if we had bracelets, there were little labels.
E: How did he make those? Did he have somebody help him out with those?
J: Oh, he went to school.
E: So, he knew.
J: He knew how to read and write. So, he did fine.
E: Did you pick up English from those tourists and other people around?
J: Not really. I was very much Mikasuki all the way and never really tried to
understand. It was just gibberish, English was just gibberish.
E: When you did go to school, was that kind of a shock, then, because you were
thirteen years old?
J: I think the most difficult part was the first year I went. I was in school for a sum
total of six months back when I was seven years old and I picked up the ABCs
and the very rudiments of first grade. Hanging around with kids, other kids who
went to school and did other things, I picked up some of it, but I did not speak it
fluently. So, the most difficult thing was to make things understood. Do you
know what I mean?
E: Not so much to understand what somebody was saying but to ...
J: To be understood myself was the biggest problem. Like, if the teacher asked me
a question, I would have difficulty responding.
E: That must have been difficult.
J: Yes, it was. Another thing was writing it down, [that] was even worse. I mean,
sentence-well, I tackled it, I mean, sentence structures and words, identifying
their purposes, using conjunctions, and things like that, when to do it and how to
do it. I tackled it. I mean, there was nothing else to do.
E: Right. You were faced with that situation.
J: Yes. That was when I first discovered that our language was reverse from
E: It is reverse?
J: Or English is reverse.
E: In what way? How is that? I do not know any Creek or Mikasuki, and so I ...
J: I am finding out now that most of the languages of the world operate on subject,
object, verb, whereas [in English] it is the opposite, it is subject, verb, object. So,
it is like, Jack hit the ball, or Sue catches the ball, we say, Sue ball catches.
E: Interesting. So, it was tough to get that, it was a whole process of translating you
had to do to be able to write that.
E: That must have been extremely difficult.
J: It was. I mean, when you first look at it, it is like a wall, impossible. But
eventually it came easier and easier.
E: The first time you went to school, when you were six or seven, for six months ...
J: Yes, I went to Dania Elementary. They bussed us over there. I went there for
about six months.
E: So, there were other Mikasuki-speaking kids with you?
J: Yes. At that time I did not speak a work of English. I had a very stern teacher.
She was the kind who would come along and rap you on the knuckles with a
ruler. She was very rude to me.
E: This was a white person?
J: Yes, she was a white lady. She did not understand that I did not understand her.
E: So, she was thinking insubordination or something.
J: Yes, she thought I was being unruly, just to aggravate her, I guess. And my
grandmother said, this is for the birds. Let's go home. So, it did not last very
E: When you started at Dania, you were six or seven years old, were you at your
uncle's camp then?
J: No. My uncle's camp was on the West coast. Hollywood is on the East coast.
We were, at that time-do you know where that native village is? That is where
the village was.
E: Which native village?
J: The one that James Billie built over there across from the Bingo Hall.
E: Oh yes. Not the one that Skeet Johns has now. Not that place. Do you mean
across Sterling Road from it?
J: Yes, from Bingo.
E: Right. I know where you are talking about.
J: At that time it was Sam Nelson. Henry Sam Nelson, they used to call him.
E: I do not know who that is.
J: He was Ruby Nelson's father. They are dead now. I think the mother is dead,
too, Juanita Nelson. But the Nelsons are still around. I am not sure which ones
are still living, but I know Teddy is, Teddy Nelson.
E: Who are they? Are they Indians?
J: Yes, they are half Seminole and half I do not know what else. It was his village
and I used to catch the school bus right there, across the road.
E: I got a little confused and I apologize for that but I was somehow was thinking
that your uncle's village ...
J: My uncle's village is on the West coast. It is over by Marco Beach. My aunt lived
behind that village, there was another village back there, behind there. Back
then, the Delaware Chicken Farm was back there. If you ride by there, you will
see that Delaware Chicken Farm still there, where you can buy chicken and fish
and all that. It is still there. I do not know if the farm is still there. They [might]
get them from someplace else. I do not know. There used to be another village
right next to that where my aunt used to live. And then there was another village
up by the road. Sam Frank used to live there. I think we lived with Sam Frank at
the time I was going to school. We lived in that other village, too, where that
native village is now. We stayed there a time or two, and I stayed over here a
time or two, and they stayed with my aunt a time or two. They are family.
E: So, when you first started school, you went on a bus up to Dania with a bunch of
other kids who had a similar background, so you kind of shared this experience
and they saw this person rapping you on the knuckles.
J: Oh, I was the only one in my classroom there. The rest of them were white
E: So, the other kids you went with were older or younger?
J: They were older and younger but none of them were in my classroom.
E: Lucky you. [Laughter]
J: Yes. Lucky me. I was all by myself. But all my grandmother had to do was look
at my hands.
E: So, you could see it, it broke the skin or something?
J: Yes, bruises.
E: Enough of that.
E: What about the second time, when you went back when you were thirteen?
J: When I was thirteen I had a real nice teacher. Her name was Dorothy Miller. It
was the third grade and I actually started in there. I could hardly speak English
but she understood. I mean, she worked with me. She was just a superb
E: You got pretty lucky.
J: Yes. She made things plain enough so that I could understand what was going
on. She was just a very involved teacher.
E: Were you the only Mikasuki speaker in the classroom?
J: Yes, I was, again. But I was very fortunate. The next class I went to, they
skipped me over to the fifth grade, and I had to learn the multiplication tables in a
E: How did you do that? I still remember trying to learn those things and I was just
one year after the next. That is a lot of work.
J: Well, she gave me the multiplication tables and she told me to remember the
ones, the fives, and the tens, and everything in between will come. So, that is
what I did.
E: Obviously your grandparents had not had education, but your uncle was fine, he
J: Yes, he had had some.
E: Did your mom and dad, do you know?
J: My mother was also educated. She spoke great English, and she never had any
trouble getting along with anybody.
E: Where did she go to school?
J: They went to Cherokee, in North Carolina.
E: The boarding school?
J: Yes. My uncle, I am not sure how he came by his education. I think he had
gotten some of it from the Boehmers who were out here and at Brighton. He had
gotten enough to read and write and speak English. He worked for white people,
he did mechanic work and whatever else he could get hold of.
E: So, it was not just the camp, the village. He had other things that he did.
Because you said he had a car.
J: He had other things. He was a very dependable, reliable person. People liked
having him work for them.
E: And your mother was fluent in English?
J: Yes. But, like I said, she and my stepfather traveled a lot and followed work
around. They did not stay around enough to help my grandmother with things,
just to interpret for her, take her to a doctor, just the usual things that people
need to know English for. It was difficult for my mother. So, that was part of the
reason why my grandmother was willing to let me go to school.
E: For this purpose. Well, that makes a lot of sense, too.
J: Yes. I learned how to interpret early.
E: Do you speak Creek also? Do you speak Mikasuki and Creek?
J: I do now.
E: You learned that up here?
J: Yes, I learned that when I moved up here, married to my husband.
E: Was it pretty difficult to pick that one up?
J: No, not really. I could not speak it but I could understand it by the time I was
here two years.
E: I have heard a couple of people give me examples of the differences and you
can see that they are close, but different.
J: Yes. They are different, and if you do not know but one, you cannot speak the
other. Some words are in common but a lot of them are different. You have to
learn how. Once again, I was faced with gibberish when I first got here. You all
might as well as have been talking Chinese. [Laughter]
E: Really? It was that different?
J: It was that different.
E: How old were you when you came up here?
J: When I came up, I was about sixteen or so.
E: So, you were done with school? Or were you?
J: I did not finish it. I got out. Things were real difficult in the seventh grade
because there was a lot of discrimination.
E: Where was this?
J: This was in Clewiston.
E: I had come across that before in some of the earlier stuff.
J: There was a lot of discrimination, teachers sorting you out for special privileges
that you really did not need.
E: Like what kinds of things?
J: Like during gym, I had a gym teacher that ... I had a slip on. It was a cotton slip.
I was so active that I used to split my slips sometimes, and they are built just
around you, you know. They do not give you any fullness or anything. So, I
would do something and I would rip it. So, I had done that, down the one side
the seam came apart. It was just from me being so active. But I had done it that
day. It was like that when I took my clothes off and I was changing clothes for
gym. I got into my gym clothes and did my thing with class and then I changed
back and I went on to school. Well, apparently the gym teacher saw my split
skirt, so she wrote home saying that they had to buy me new clothes. My mother
was so exasperated. She said, what business is it of hers? And then she told
me, I keep telling you not to do things like that. That is stupid enough, to tear
your clothes. [Laughter]
E: So, everybody was in an awkward position, then. Your mom, on one hand, was
rightfully saying keep your nose out of my daughter's under garments, and then
she up and turned around and said to you, calm down in school.
J: Calm down. Quit doing these things to your clothes.
E: And then you are stuck in this bad position.
J: Yes. It was things like that. There were some boys passing notes on the bus,
and they got hold of it, the bus driver did. It was something sexual, and they
wrote it about me. They thought that I had a part in it. They called me from class
and took me to the principal's office. I knew nothing about those notes. And yet,
they suspended me for it. My mother said, that is enough.
E: At this point you were in seventh grade?
E: Do you suspect that was ...
J: I knew who they were, who were doing it. It was just boys, you know they play
pranks. That is how they were.
E: Do you think that this had something to do with the fact that you were a Seminole
... [End of Tape One Side A]
J: The teachers and the principal and the guidance counselors, they were the ones
that could do something right by everybody but refused to do it.
E: I had actually heard things like that from other people I have come across and in
reading some of the other, earlier interviews. People were talking about that up
J: And they would not let us talk to each other.
E: At all?
J: At all. They did not want us to do it at all, but we used to do it all the time.
E: In the language?
J: In our own language, yes. Their reasoning was that we were not learning
English, otherwise. We were not practicing English while we were talking to each
other in our own language. They did not like for us to group together.
E: So, they would try to prevent you from doing that?
E: So, you left school at that point?
J: Yes, I left school at that point. I mean, I have been to schools where people
were better and were more interested in you getting your education than in trying
to make Seminoles do what they think is best for them. Those kinds of people I
did not care for, and Clewiston was just full of them.
E: It was very different than the third grade teacher you had.
J: It was very different from the other teachers that I had been with. So, I went part
of the sixth grade there and seventh grade, and I just dropped out. At that time I
found my husband. We got married and we moved up here. I finished my
schooling in Okeechobee.
E: So, you did go back?
J: I did go back.
E: After you were married?
J: Yes. After I was married. Ten years and three kids later I went back and
E: It must have been difficult, then, because you had become a really different
person at that point. You had become married and mother of so and so.
J: Yes, I was a mother.
E: Was it hard to go back, then?
J: Not really. My mother-in-law was one of the greatest people I ever had the
fortune to meet. She was all for it when I told her that I wanted to go back to
school, so she babysat for me.
E: Wow, good for her. Where was she?
J: She lived here.
E: Up here in Brighton?
J: Yes. She was just so sweet about everything. She took care of the kids while I
went to school. And she took care of the kids while I did other things, worked
sometimes. Actually, I got along with her better than I did with my own mother.
E: Really? Is that unusual?
J: You would think so. But my mother was a person who was a really private
person. She was really hard to get to know. Up until she was really, really sick
and dying, I did not really know that woman. My kids knew their grandmother
better than I did my own mother, because she was closer to my kids than I was
E: Is that unusual, though? Is it more usual for people to be closer to their
grandparents than to their parents? I do not know.
J: I do not know. I cannot really comment on that. It was in my case. She was
married to my stepfather and they were always on the go, doing things. A lot of
times they were taking trips up north to sightsee and things like that.
E: Like vacation trips? Did you ever go with them on anything like that?
J: Yes, I used to when I lived with them. A year or two, I lived with them. Before
then, I lived mostly with my grandmother. But for about a year or two I lived with
them. That is why she was exasperated with the teachers and me. She was just
a hard person to get to know, for me. My oldest daughter was closer to her than
I was, until, of course, when she became ill, she had to depend on other people
for help getting around and driving her places and things like that. She was on
dialysis, so she needed somebody to just give her rides to and back from dialysis
and things like that. That is when I got closer to her.
E: You were seeing her regularly.
J: More. And she was home more.
E: And she needed somebody around.
J: Yes. But at that time I was in college.
E: Where did you go to college?
J: Edison Community College in Fort Myers.1
E: Did you go there right after you finished high school?
J: Actually, no. I took emergency medicine training and I worked for a while.
E: Where did you do the EMT?
J: In Okeechobee. I became a certified Emergency Medical Technician.
E: What year was that?
J: Gee, I do not know. In 1971 I went for Community Health Representative school
and that was in Tucson, Arizona. I had gone for that and taken the training and
came back and I worked for three years and then I went back to school.
E: You worked for three years ...
J: As a CHR, a Community Health Representative. And then I went back to school
for the EMT, and so that must have been 1974 or 1975, something like that. I got
my certification. I was working as an EMT at the clinic and I started going back
to school for paramedic training.
E: So, you were working as an EMT up here on the Brighton reservation?
E: Then you went back to school for...
1 Edison Community College Lee County Campus, 8099 College Parkway SW, in Fort Myers.
E: How did that go?
J: That did not go. I was too busy with other things and I just could not make it go.
Well, I came back and I worked some more and then I went back to school for
nursing. That went better. I almost finished it. But, when my mother passed
away and my mother-in-law was really, really ill and dying, and I had lost my
daughter, and just a few other things, I burned out, I mean I just literally just
E: That is a lot of loss to deal with.
J: Yes. I would be reading, looking at books, or whatever, but I was just looking at
the words; I was not reading, just scanning them. And I could not-my grades
fell from like-well, I started out with a 4.0 and then gradually fell to 3.0, and by
that time one of the professors said, you are just having a run of bad luck and so
forth so we think it might be better if you just take time out. So, I told him okay.
And then I got involved with something else and I never went back. Actually, I
just need twelve more credits to finish an RN degree.
E: Are you going to do it, do you think, eventually?
J: Maybe someday. Right now, I cannot make enough baskets or jackets or other
things like that.
E: Is that what you do most often these days?
J: Yes. Actually, what I am doing is, I am consulting with museums in the culture
E: Which museums do you consult with?
J: Any of them who need me.
E: Outside museums?
J: Yes. The last one we did was the Smithsonian, we were telling stories for their
exhibit that they are working on for the Native American Museum.
E: I saw something about that in the paper.
J: It has been all over the papers. We went there to tell stories and talk to them
about our people. Of course, one of the folks that is going to be part of the
display is the Seminole folk.
E: So, you went up to talk to some of the experts who were putting that together and
teach them about things that are going on?
E: When did you get involved with doing this?
J: Well, right after I got out of school, a cousin of ours was getting married. There
was this gentleman who came down to perform the ceremony and he
approached me and he said that there was a position for an artist in residence at
a museum in Tallahassee.
E: This is after you got out of school for ...
J: For the nursing. I was just too burned out to go any further with any kind of
education where I had to do a lot of reading. So, I decided it might be a good
idea. So, I told him, yes, I will take it. They sent me papers and I signed up for it
and I got it. I went up there and I started out by painting pictures. But, it
eventually became obvious that there were other things that would be of more
interest to the people who were coming to see a Seminole. For instance, I could
make baskets or make designs in clothing or do bead work.
E: Had you had a background in arts before then?
J: Oh yes, that was no problem. My folks did that all of my life. They made
baskets; they made the coiled baskets, the woven baskets. My grandmother, my
mother, my mother-in-law, everybody made jackets, skirts, and whatever. And
my grandmother made dolls all of her life to sell to Deaconess Bedell.
E: To sell where?
J: To Glades [Cross] Mission. This was run by a lady named Deaconess [Harriet
E: And she would buy these things?
J: Yes, and that is a whole other story.
E: We just opened up a chapter that we had not gotten into.
J: Anyway, it was not a problem. I told the education coordinator that anything his
little heart desired I could probably do. So I demonstrated making bread and
baskets and just different facets of Seminole life. And just talked to people,
history, culture, you name it, we talked about it.
E: I am trying to see if I have the time right; this was in the late 1970s when you
were doing this?
J: No, the 1980s. You see, during the late 1970s and 1980s I was going to nursing
E: So, it was pretty easy for you to go up there and take up doing this?
J: Take up doing that, yes. And I get paid for it, what the heck. [Laughter]
E: Did it feel really different than what you were doing at the village with your uncle,
2 "In 1933, a semiretired sixty-year-old Episcopalian deaconess, Harriet M. Bedell, arrived in southern
Florida," Patsy West, Enduring Seminoles: From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism, Gainesville, 1998, 54-
55. Bedell began craft cooperatives through the Glades Cross Mission in Evergaldes City to benefit Trail
and Big Cypress families. She helped with many new designs of crafts that were widely sold. See also
West, "Glade Cross Mission: an influence on Seminole arts and crafts," American Indian Art Magazine 9
(4), 58-67, 1984.
or was it kind of like and extension of that?
J: Like an extension of it, yes. If my grandmother and I had known how to speak
English, we probably would have done this at the village. But we did not. But,
now, it is like thirty years later and I am over here at Tallahassee continuing the
same story in another chapter.
E: So, how long did that go on? How long were you up in Tallahassee?
J: I was up there for about three months. The guy that was up there with me, I think
the thing was for eight weeks but the guy who went up there with me got in
trouble and came on home.
E: He was another Seminole?
J: Another Seminole artist, yes. The museum staff was not very happy with him at
the time, so they asked me if I would come back and do another month. So, I
went back and finished up what he left off. And I really enjoyed doing that.
E: We came to this discussion because I asked you how you got started with this
and you went back to that point, so, obviously, doing that up in Tallahassee ...
J: It just opened up a whole new can of worms.
E: It showed you something else that you could do.
J: Yes. And people I would be introduced to gave word to somebody else they
knew [that] there is a Seminole doing this, and they would call me up and say, I
hear you are doing this. Would you come do it at our place? I went through a
rotation thing while I was up there, like two or three hours a day I would go out to
schools and talk to the people, and I would talk to the students, teachers.
E: That is while you were up in Tallahassee?
J: Yes. And I just had a ball. It was fun.
E: Going to the schools, is that something that you have continued to do at all?
J: Yes. Over the years I have visited many schools and many museums.
E: After Tallahassee, after you went back and did the extra time there and came
back, what was the first thing you ended up doing when you came back from
that? How did you channel your energies at that point?
J: I went into the business of selling crafts. You know, these museum festivals in
places like that go begging for Indians to travel there and make a presentation of
themselves. Take your sewing, take your beadwork, or whatever, and if you
demonstrate, some of these people will let you slide on fees, in exchange for
demonstrating. Others will pay you extra for the time to demonstrate. Take time
to talk to people and things like that and you can sell your crafts on the side. I
really got into it. I traveled from the middle of August until the first part of
November; I was not never home. And I am still doing that.
E: Obviously it is a way you can make some money.
J: You get paid for doing these things.
E: And you also get a chance to do something you enjoy doing. Does it serve any
kind of purpose in terms of teaching people about ...
E: Is that a big part of what you are doing?
J: Yes. That is a big part of what you are doing. What you are doing is publicizing
E: That is important to do?
J: Yes. To me it is, because they see us in the newspapers, they see us on
television, they see us in other places, but, a lot of times, what you see written up
in newspapers and things like that does not present the whole people. So, I feel
like if there were not people doing these other more positive things, then the
image presented by the public media would be the only thing there would be.
E: A very narrow picture.
J: Focused, yes.
E: So, it serves its educational role for people-it seems largely for people who are
J: Yes, children, schools, and things like that. They always want to know things like
that, but they do not have the information because none of it is written.
E: Why is it important that these people know these things? Why is it important to
teach that? Do you have a feeling about that?
J: I think that what I am doing is counteracting stereotyping. Seminoles do not wear
feathers. Seminoles do not live in teepees. But that is all they see, the plains
Indians, southwestern stuff, and they think that Indians that live around here have
to be that, too. But along the eastern seaboard, none of the Indians have the
same type of housing as the plains Indians because housing is dependent on the
region where you live. If you live out in the desert, well, a teepee is fine. But can
you imagine a chickee out in the desert? It snows there sometimes, too, like out
in the plains. So, a chickee is more suited to the tropical weather, here. Up
further north, where it snows, people live in like those [Navajo] hogans or
whatever, that housing with walls. My people up in north Florida, Georgia and
Alabama, places like that, they used to live in log cabins. Wherever you are, the
climate is different, so you have to be adaptable to the climate. It does not occur
to these people, to these students, so they just assume that everybody wears
feathers and lives in teepees and does powwow dancing.
E: It becomes important to counteract these stereotypes because these people
are-because we interact with them. They are out in the world making decisions.
They grow up and become legislators.
J: Yes. You might be interacting with the future president of the United States.
E: So, it really does, then, make a difference to do that kind of thing.
E: I do not have any trouble at all seeing that, that is easy for me to understand,
counteracting stereotypes. So, there is educating these people outside, who
have these stereotypes that I see all of the time, too; does something that you
do, do you think, come back home in some ways? Are you educating people
here about things, too, do you think, like the younger generation, maybe, about
crafts or things that maybe you learned from your grandmothers?
J: Coming home with it?
E: Yes. You learned crafts in these villages where people were ...
J: Actually producing it and selling it, and using it themselves.
E: Right. Do as many people grow up knowing how to do those things today?
J: I think a lot of them do. We still produce a lot of stuff like that. It has been a
problem lately, though; everybody is working all the time, so people are not
getting the time to sit around and make things like we used to. And older people
are dying out and people that used to produce these things are getting too old to
do it, or too sickly to do it. We are at a point now where dolls and things like that
are really hard to come by. I think a lot of people are just kind of putting design
making to the side. Like me, I cannot keep up with demand. I have been kind of
sick a lot lately. It is like that for most of my generation.
E: I was talking with someone earlier about the fiber and just simply how difficult it is
to go out and get fiber.
J: Yes. Well, [that] problem can be solved. You can get some of the younger folks
to go out there and chop it and clean it for you and you can just pay them so
many dollars for it. But, with me, it is finding the time to do it, to sit down and
make it. I have fiber sitting at home waiting for me to put dolls together and I
have not touched it. I am just too busy, going places, doing this and doing that.
And then, in between times, I am in the hospital, off and on. I cannot win.
E: You mentioned that some older people may be passing away and they might be
the ones who know how to do certain things. Do you ever worry about that, that
a lot of knowledge is going away with people?
J: Yes, I do. I worry about that. But, I can only do so much, personally. Whenever
I see the older folks and get a chance to sit with them, I will talk with them. But, I
do not get to see them very much because I am usually home, over here. And
most of my older, elder people are in Big Cypress and I do not see very much of
them. The other problem is that, if I had the funds and the stamina I need to get
around, I could do more, but I have not had the funds to do that. I guess it might
be a good idea to find a sponsor, but I have not looked for one either. I did one
year of-oh, what was that program? It is through the State Department. It is
like you take classes with a master.
E: Oh yes. I know what you mean.
J: I cannot think of it. I just went through a year of it in herbal medicine. I did it with
my grandmother, Susie Billie.
E: Susie Billie is your grandmother? She is your grandmother through ...
J: She is my maternal, probably a great-great aunt, twice removed or something.
But, she is my grandmother, the only one I have left. So, I did that with her, and I
E: She taught you?
E: And she obviously knows medicine.
J: Yes, she taught me.
E: Had you had any exposure to learning medicines before that?
J: Yes. I had a whole thing of it just by my grandmother, just getting Indian
medicine made. She knew how to collect herbs and things like that so I learned
all that. Not this one [Susie]; this was my maternal grandmother, the one I lived
E: And her name again was?
J: Lillian Doctor Bowers.
E: And Doctor, was that a name that she obtained because of...
J: That was her maiden name. Lillian Doctor. Then she married Andrew Bowers
over here, from Brighton, and had my younger aunt, the one that passed away
while we were in Hollywood, I was saying. She was his daughter.
E: What was your mother's name, again?
J: Elizabeth. Elizabeth Buster.
E: So, she married...
J: Johnny Buster was my uncle's father and then they got separated and while she
was a Buster, she had another child. So, my mother's name became Buster.
She was not with my uncle's father anymore, but her name was still Buster, so
my mother acquired that. And then, afterwards, she married Andrew and had
Frances, that is my aunt that died. Frances Bowers. Her last name, after she
got married, was Billie. She was married to Joseph Billie's son. His name was
E: Did he know medicines? Did he learn his father's?
J: No. He did not know. If he did, he never let on. Anyway, he died. He was one
of the first ones that became one of the preachers and he was a preacher here at
that little church, that independent Baptist Church over here at Brighton. He was
the pastor there for a while.
E: That was Joe.
J: Yes. And he died. This was after my aunt died, he moved up here. He married
E: There are several different directions I want to go at this point and I am going to
pick one. I want to ask you about your kids and what they know about some of
the things that you do, the craft work, if they help you and how much of that they
do. I also want to talk to you about this project you do with Susie Billie, dealing
with medicines. So, let's do the kids first.
J: My oldest daughter is Monica and she is trilingual, although she does not
practice it very much. She understands and speaks both the Indian dialects and
English. But, she does not do it very much. And she has always done so since
she was little. My second daughter, who died-about 1985 she passed away, so
that has been almost fifteen years ago-she had a hard time with Mikasuki. She
could understand her grandmother, Archie's mother. She spoke Creek to her
and she would understand. Susie was also trilingual, my mother-in-law. She
understood a lot of English, although she did not speak very much of it.
E: What did she speak most frequently?
J: Creek. She liked to talk Creek. But sometimes we would be just sitting around
and she would shift languages and we would be talking in purely Mikasuki.
E: She had that ability?
E: At home, now, what would you say is the language you speak most?
J: I think we speak predominantly English.
E: Is your husband-I do not think I asked you.
J: He is trilingual.
E: What would you say his first language is?
J: His first language is Mikasuki, I think, because he was one of the ones that
traveled a lot, like me. They lived a lot of times more in Hollywood and the Big
Cypress area. So, I think he grew up probably speaking both languages, but I
think his mother probably started him out in Mikasuki.
E: And still you speak English more often at home?
J: Yes. But whatever language is spoken, it is understood.
E: Everybody has all of those.
J: Yes. Now, my youngest son, I am not sure of how much grasp he has of the
Indian dialects because he is in English most of the time. He married this little
white girl from Okeechobee.
E: He is already full-grown?
J: Yes. And they have four kids.
E: They have four kids and they live off the reservation?
J: No, they live here. They live across the road from us.
E: Do his kids have a clan?
J: No. They have a clan but it is not a Miccosukee clan or a Seminole clan. It is a
E: How do they have that?
J: Because some of her folks are Cherokee. But she was raised in Okeechobee.
They have Choctaw and Cherokee in their lines.
E: And they have a clan, a Cherokee clan?
E: Does that inhibit their participation in things around here at all?
J: Not really. It depends on whether or not the makers of medicines accept their
clan, which they say is the Long Hair Clan.
E: The makers of medicines, that means somebody like your grandmother?
J: Yes, or like Uncle Sonny [Billie], Pete.
E: So, they would make medicines for people and it would be dependent upon their
J: No, [but] whether or not you had participation in ceremonials and things, or in the
learning process for the ceremonials [depends on clans].
E: Do they tend to accept them?
J: Sometimes they do, and others, it is too white. But, I think it depends on your
upbringing, how much exposure you get to whatever culture is presented to you
by your folks. What you have is what is important, and whether or not you know
E: So, are his kids, are they growing up learning Creek at all?
J: They want to. But, I am afraid they just do not get enough exposure to it
because they speak English most of the time at home.
E: Because she probably does not know Creek or Mikasuki.
J: No, she does not. And my son is hard put to put anything in Mikasuki,
E: He is your youngest?
J: Yes, he is my youngest.
E: And the older ones, they are fully competent in both Creek and Mikasuki.
J: Well, my oldest boy, he is living in an institution and he is forgetting a lot of these
things. He just does not practice it enough.
E: If it is going to be ...
J: A part of you, you have to practice it. It is hard to do that in an institution where
most of the residents are white people.
E: And it is English in that setting?
E: We are just scratching the surface here and we are finding a lot to talk about, and
I am going to have to go pretty soon, and I suspect you are, too.
J: Yes. It is after 4:00 [PM]? Wow.
E: I am really curious about this program you did with Susie Billie. So, you got a
grant to do it and it was a technical time period that you were actually going to
spend with her?
J: Yes, and then I had to make a presentation at the end of the year at the Florida
E: And how did that go?
J: That went fine. As a matter of fact, I had an invite to come back, even just to tell
stories. I still go back. This year I did not make it because it fell on the same
weekend as the ceremonial, and I wanted to go to that.
E: The Green Corn Dance?
E: I did not make it to it either. I was out of town. I heard that James Billie was
going to be there.
J: Yes. He went. He flew out there to do it. I was tempted to go with him, but I did
not. I needed to stick around and be with my aunt, though, because we do have
a lot of cooking and things we have to do for the ceremonial and you need help.
E: It seems like it would be a big ...
J: It is a big to-do.
E: Has that changed a whole lot? Since you were a kid have you regularly
participated in those?
J: Yes. It has changed. Back when I was younger, those ceremonials used to be,
well, they served a lot of liquor, and they would get drunk, and they would fight,
and it would just be a mess. It was hard for kids to be there because of that. My
grandmother was always cautioning me. She would not let me dance until I was
maybe five or six. Nowadays, there is not that much drinking out there and
people are straighter about things. You see little kids out there, like two or three
years old, and they are just really going to town, dancing, and it is just so cute.
But, back in those days, they said that drunks would step on you if you go out
there. So, you had to be very careful.
E: So, has that changed a whole lot?
J: Well, the ceremonial itself has not changed that much, but the drinking has
changed. It has gotten to the point where Uncle Sonny, the one he has in Big
Cypress, the drinking and other substances are not allowed at all. That has been
good for us.
E: It seems to open it up for a lot more people.
J: A lot more people can participate, yes, that really do not enjoy having people
drunk in there all of the time. And they behave better when they are there.
E: I guess it has more people there, and so it probably serves a purpose of teaching
younger people more, and more of them.
J: That is true. I think it is good that this is happening.
E: I think we should probably wrap this up. I would like to talk to you again in the
future because, like I said, we have really just scratched the surface. There are
still a lot of things that I would like to talk with you about.
E: Before we do wrap up, is there anything that you want to add that you think we
have not covered that would be a good thing to talk about?
J: Not really. Whatever you want to talk about is fine.
E: I would like to talk with you more about some of the changes and things that you
have seen in craft making and language and culture. I would also like to ask you,
the next time we talk, about what you see happening in the future and what you
would like to see with your grandkids, how you would like to see their lives, in
terms of being Seminole Indians.
J: Well, I do not really have any prospects for grandkids that will carry on our clan
because my daughter does not have any children. Since this is matrilineal, I
guess this is the end of the line for this family. I am an only child.
E: So you are not an aunt.
J: My daughter never had any children and the other one died without any children.
My son is the only one that has grandkids for me. I would like to see them grow
up as Seminole as possible but this has been really hard because they go to
school from the time they are three years old until they are already grown, and
you have no chance to really pass on anything like my grandmother had time to
do for me. That is really the hard part. If my daughter had any kids herself, I
might like to have those kids hang around closer. But, I hate to make that
demand of my son because his family is not part of the family line. It is the family
line of her folks rather than mine. [End of Tape One Side B] [If they] come to me
and say they want to learn something, they are welcome to it, but that would be
the only the way that I can do it for them. Whereas, on the other hand, if it were
my daughter's kids, then I could say, hey, grandma wants to talk to you. That
privilege I would have.
We were talking about starting up a teaching program for culture, and traditions,
and other things, just to sit down and talk to youngsters about the corn dance,
why we have the corn dance, how it came about, the history, and the whole ball
of wax. And other things, like other dances we had during years past that are not
being held anymore. We were talking about learning different things about the
culture and being able to understand your own culture and language and things
associated with that so that you would be able to make better judgements in case
something happens. The youngsters would be able to do that. I guess, in other
words, we were talking about a hoop, sort of, or a warriors society for women.
E: Who were you talking about this with?
J: Just different people. I wrote a proposal and Leslie, James [Billie's] wife, I sent it
to her. I have not heard from her and I was about to go down there and check
and see what is happening, if she ever got it or not. And then I got sick and
ended up in a hospital, so I have been kind of laid up for two weeks and then I
came out. I am still not able to get around like I want to because I had
congestive heart failure, my kidneys are not functioning well. It was kind of a
hard blow; it kind of knocked me down a little bit. So, whatever is going to be
done, we need to do it soon.
E: I have talked with people who are trying to get some things going in the schools,
language programs and culture programs, down in Big Cypress and some up
here. Are your son's kids in public schools?
J: Yes, in Okeechobee.
E: Do they have that language program?
J: No, not in Okeechobee.
E: Where do they have that going?
J: Here, on the reservation. They have some things going there, but there is only
so much they can do. And the other parts that I want to cover are not just the
language thing; they have to do with the whole culture.
E: The meanings of dances and so on?
J: Yes, whatever. Things like that can be done through the culture program, I
guess, but you have to be more selective with people when you are teaching
something like that. I mean, the person who is learning things like that has to
have a certain sincerity about their reasons for being there. I mean, you have be
like a good-hearted person, not just a-how do you say it? When you are taking
a college course and you take an easy class just to get out of something else,
how do you say that? Like, you want to be in football, so you take easy classes
E: They refer to those classes as blow-off classes, or as-I know what you mean.
J: There is another term for it but cannot think of it right now. Those are the kinds
of people that you have to sort out, weed out, because this is a very serious thing
and you just cannot teach just anybody.
E: Do you perceive that it is at a serious juncture right now, that the teaching of it
needs to be done?
J: Yes, it needs to be done. A lot of what should be done by our folks does not get
done because of our children being in school, and they just do not get it because
they have not had the time to spend with their folks. Or elders pass away before
the child gets a chance to be exposed to it, and we have a lot of people who are
walking around with no inkling of what Seminole culture is, they are just out
there. They just know they are human beings, and they have maybe a college
education, but that does not do them a bit of good because they just have no
footing in culture. It is people like that that I am aiming for.
E: Somebody else mentioned that the elders and grandkids are kind of segregated
or separated these days, kids are off in daycare, kids are off in schools, the
parents are working, the elders are in their own houses by themselves, not
teaching their grandkids.
J: Yes, exactly, not teaching the grandkids. Yes, a lot of it is like that. When we get
out to the square grounds, we see the results of it. There are people out there
who are just there to make trouble. They have no idea what is going on. There
is like an inner society that functions to make the corn dance work and everybody
else is on the outside partying.
E: Some of the wiser ones know what is going on and a lot of other people might
E: Are you pretty optimistic about it? Do you think there is a lot of opportunity to
J: Yes. What we were trying to do was to get funding so that, if we needed to learn
herbs, we would have the money to buy gas to, say, rent or borrow a big van that
we could put gas in and go places to learn whatever we needed to learn. You
have to go to the source. If an elder could not travel to meet us, we would like to
go to the elder and take our class to the elder, and provide food for the group and
whoever is teaching, and things like that. That is what I was looking for.
E: I hope that comes through because it seems like an important thing.
J: Yes, I think it is. And here, as the millennium comes to a close, it is a really
serious problem that we understand what our people are about. To understand
the difference between the reality that we live in and the world that we call
cosmology, even that difference-you see, the world of the spiritual and the
cosmology that surrounds us in the everyday, what we consider reality, is a
whole study in itself. To be able to understand-and I cannot say that I
understand all of it. There are people who will say that there are seven layers of
the earth, seven realms, and I do not understand a part of that, but I do
understand the cosmology part of it, in the reality that we consider the real world
that we live in. They say the two are connected, and because they are
connected what our people do decides whether or not the reality we live in
continues to exist. In other words, if there are believers disappearing every day,
and if there are not enough believers left, then the spirit world will implode. The
implosion will set off a chain reaction that will destroy the earth one day. So, it is
scary. So, there has to be an Indian person who understands a lot of these
things that the elders used to talk about, and it does not get talked about very
much any more.
E: And find a way to talk about it with the children?
J: Yes. But you can see, yourself, what I am talking about, because your
cosmology would be what you consider to be heaven, or the place of the
universal being that you return to eventually. Did you know that there is an
article out on this very same subject? I read it in a science magazine. They
were talking about atoms. There are the structures that make things. In the
atoms they say that there are further, smaller pieces of something that makes up
the atoms, and it keeps on getting smaller and smaller until they disappear. They
are talking about that point where an atom disappears as the place where growth
comes from and destruction is on the other side. And this theory is not new. It is
as old as the traditional Native American, because, you see, from the time you
are born you are in the process of dying, and by the time you die, you go back
into the universal being. Then, from that universal being, another being is born,
and they live from that time on in the process of dying until they die. So, things
get created, things get taken apart, all the time. That is a very deep subject.
They were talking about that in that magazine. It was in a national science
E: When you are talking with your grandmother, when you are talking with Susie
Billie, for example, when you did this intensive project with her, in addition to
talking about medicines specifically, did you talk about people's place in
cosmology in this way as well? I mean, is that part of the medicines?
J: No, that part I learned from other people, from some other way. With Grandma
Susie I was just learning to make medicine, and herbs-what herbs to use for
what medicine, how to fix it, what was the payment required for the medicine,
and things like that. That is what we were concerned with. That is more focused
than the other topic.
E: Very technical, very specific.
J: Yes, it is like studying pharmacology.
E: I suspect also that when you get into dealing with medicines, certainly people
who are running a Green Corn Dance are thinking about it.
J: Yes, now those are the kinds of people who have to consider things like this,
cosmology, the spirit world, why we do [things and] the way we do things in
reality, as opposed to the other side.
E: In terms of pulling this together and teaching the kids, the next generation, do
you think it is important to teach them both, the technical aspects as well as the
E: Otherwise it is...
J: Incomplete, yes. You see, a little bit of knowledge can hurt people. You always
have to remember that. If you have this one part, you do not have this part, and
you use that part, you can hurt somebody with it-or yourself.
E: I am going to stop here.
J; We do have to stop somewhere.
E: But I do want to talk again sometime. Obviously there is a lot more to cover. I
want to thank you very much for doing this, and I look forward to talking with you