Title: Elaine Aguilar
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Title: Elaine Aguilar
Series Title: Elaine Aguilar
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Sem 262
Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 1

Sem 262

Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar

Interviewer: J. Ellison

Date: June 20, 2000

E: ...the 20th of June. We are at Immokalee the Imokalee Reservation. I am Jim Ellison

and I am with Elaine Aguilar. This is the tribal office on the reservation in Immokalee.

We are going to do an interview today, following the standard questionnaire that I have

and hopefully talk a little bit more specifically about Immokalee. So, is Elaine

Immokalee your full name?

A: Yeah.

E: To what clan do you belong?

A: Otter.

E: You are Otter Clan. And were you born here in Immokalee?

A: No, I was born in Clewiston.

E: When did you come to Immokalee?

A: We came to Immokalee back in 1960.

E: You came with your parents?

A: I came with my Mom. From Big Cypress, we came over here.

E: So, you were born in Clewiston and then ended up in Big Cypress, somehow. Do you

have an Indian name a Miccosukee language name?

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 2

A: Yeah.

E: Is that something you could share with me?

A: I guess. It is just a funny name. It is called Tihalateh.

E: Do you have any idea how I would spell that? Say it, again.

A: Tihalateh.

E: I am spelling it T-I-h-a-l-a-t-e-e? Or would it be a D at the beginning?

A: "T", I think.

E: Does that have a meaning?

A: Mom always said that it was an elderly man that had named me and he said that when he

was young, girls used to fight over him pull him this and pull him that way. So, he said

that is what they were going to do with me when I grew up. So, that is what he named

me. So, it means I don't know how you would say, in a word, you know, pulling

instead of back and forth, what it means.

E: And the person who gave you that name was...?

A: I have no idea. All I was told was that it was an elder.

E: And so you were given this name when you were born. Do you use that name often?

A: No, even as I was growing up, they never used it on me except one of my aunts. She

always called me by that name. But, she is gone. Not too many people know me by that


E: Your peers, when you were growing up, didn't...?

A: That name wasn't used too much.

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 3

E: So, you were given the name of Elaine, also, when you ... Did you have brothers and

sisters when you were growing up?

A: Yeah, I had a brother and a sister.

E: Did they call you, Elaine?

A: Yes.

E: Are there any contexts where you use Tihalateh? Like at the Green Corn Dance? Or is

it pretty much that one aunt? And she was your mother's sister?

A: No, she was my uncle's wife.

E: So, your mother's brother's wife?

A: Umhum.

E: So, you were born in Clewiston, in the town...is that correct?

A: Out in the woods in the outskirts of Clewiston, I guess. They were out there and they

were working and that is when mom was supposed to go to the hospital to have me but

she just had me out there in the woods, somewhere.

E: They were working on the farm?

A: Yeah. They were working in the cane fields and stuff like that. And farms and whatever

around there. And that is when I was born.

E: They were working in cane fields. Both of your parents were working in the cane fields?

A: Umhum.

E: How long did you live there before you moved to Big Cypress?

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 4

A: I don't know. Probably, not too much longer because I grew up in Big Cypress. I don't

know nothing of Clewiston except you know, when I got older and when I went there.

Most of my memories I got in Big Cypress where we grew up.

E: What year were you born?

A: 1945.

E: I think that is the same year that James said he was born. So, you don't really remember

Clewiston so much. You earliest memories are of Big Cypress.

A: Umhum.

E: So, when you moved to Big Cypress, did you move there with family or did your mom

already had a camp?

A: Mom already had a camp, there.

E: What was her name? Your mom's name...?

A: Lucy Johns.

E: And your father's name?

A: Billy Johnson.

E: Billy Johnson.

A: Umhum.

E: And where was he from? Was he from...

A: I have no idea. He died, you know, just right after I was born. So, I don't know. That

what I have been told. I never knew a father.

E: And your mom was from Big Cypress?

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 5

A: No. She grew up out in the Everglades or wherever. Collier and Dade County, out that

way. But, when it became a reservation, people were slowly moving on there. That is

when she got into Christianity and everything and so she moved there because that were

establishing a church and everything, for the Indians.

E: So, at that point she moved to Big Cypress and eventually, she came to be working in

agriculture and toward Clewiston. I have questions about people working off the

reservation and living on the reservation and I guess the way to ask those questions is to

ask about Immokalee. You moved here in 1960 with your mom?

A: Well, my mom, my brother and my sister. We moved up here so that we could work out

in the fields because there wasn't too much field work or whatever but we had been

hearing about Immokalee and that you could work and then, over there at Homestead.

They picked potatoes over there. You know, you could work and make money. So, I

guess we got tired of being poor. We came on out here and started to work and

everything. We stayed here, working. We were all able to go to work. It was big

money, we were making together, the three of us making fifteen dollars a day.

E: Wow.

A: But it was money back then.

E: But in Big Cypress, the opportunities were more limited?

A: Right.

E: What kind of opportunities were there in Big Cypress? Do you remember?

A: There was the only thing really, that there was is to go to go and work out there with a

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 6

farmer that was farming out there on the reservation. But, when they were hiring, it was

limited. You know, so many people go that day, so if they already had their limit, you

really couldn't go. So, it was just like slim to none, I guess.

E: Who was farming out at Big Cypress at that time?

A: Scott Madson or something like that. That called it S & M Farm.

E: What kind of things were they growing?

A: Mostly, what I remember, it was tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. And they were

growing out there.

E: And how did you hear about Immokalee?

A: I guess my mom just heard about of course, there were already some Indians living out

here. So, I guess my mom had been hearing about it. So, she was saying that we needed

to go there and work. See how that is. If it doesn't go, we will just go back. So, we did.

My mom has been in Immokalee ever since then.

E: You were a teenager at that point?

A: Umhum.

E: Do you remember how you felt about picking up and going to Immokalee?

A: Nothing dramatic or anything. It was just that eventually, you could come over here and

try it. To me, if I was always with my mom and my family, I was home, no matter where

I went.

E: Had you traveled before coming to Immokalee? Had your family gone...?

A: Yeah. Because we had gone like mom was a single parent so she always had to ...she

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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made arts and crafts so she went here and there so she could sell her stuff pretty good.

Then, we would stay there so she could continue to make her stuff and sell it. You know,

earn a little bit to feed us, but And so, we would go to Hollywood for a couple of months

so she could sit there and sew, buy her supplies, make some money and then we would

come back. Because she didn't have a vehicle so she couldn't go back and forth. That is

why when we went somewhere, we stayed for two to three months at a time and then

came back. So, that is why I say, as long as I was with mom, I was always all right.

E: So, mom defined home.

A: Right.

E: What sort of things did she make?

A: She would make hum, she makes everything. She used to make baskets, and then she

would make dolls. Then, she would even just do the patchwork or she would make

skirts. Just stuff like that.

E: A whole range of things. And you were doing that with her? Did you learn how to do

some of those things?

A: Yeah, I eventually learned how but not at a real young age. I guess I must have been

about twelve years old when I first started sewing but me and my brother were doing

bead work. I guess that was more easier for kids, I guess. We were taught how to do

bead work so we would make bracelets. There would be some people coming in from

Hollywood that would go and sell the crafts. So, they would come around picking up

supplies. So, we always knew that if they came around we would have money after we

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 8

sold our bracelets and stuff. We were always making bracelets.

E: Both you and your brother. Did you attend school while your were growing up before

you came out here?

A: Yeah, I went to school out in Big Cypress and then when we moved out to that only

went to sixth grade. So, when I went into the seventh grade, I went on to Clewiston. I

don't know, I guess (what do you call it) prejudice was still there. So, it is like, I had

this feeling that you were not really welcome but if you did real good in sports and did

good in school, everything was all right. But if you didn't do too good and you missed

too many days, that kinda says, you are wasting my time, you know. So, you might as

well go back to the reservation and stay out of it.

E: This was up in Clewiston?

A: Umhum. So, eventually, I dropped out in the ninth grade. And my brother was in the

eleventh grade and he dropped out. And that is when we came on over here.

E: What did your mom say about education, in general?

A: To her, education she didn't have an education, so to her, it seemed like if we could talk

and understand what we were saying in both languages and do that, we would get by in

this world. We were doing great, better than she was. So, when we had that, she thought

we were doing fine.

E: Both languages, meaning Miccosukee and English.

A: Yeah, if you could communicate in both and be able to interpret and be able to do this.

You know, we were then capable of helping her out, you know, since she didn't know

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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very much English. We would help her out plus help our own self out.

E: How was her English? Did she speak English?

A: She just barely speaks it.

E: She is still alive?

A: Yes.

E: And she lives here in Immokalee?

A: Unhum.

E: And she didn't have any education?

A: No. None at all.

E: So, you went to the Big Cypress school until seventh grade, did you say?

A: Sixth.

E: And then on to Clewiston. Of course, at that point in school, school at Big Cypress was

really quite different.

A: Yes. It was a BIA school, I guess. And they would hire different teachers to go out there

and they would teach. They would get some mean ones, too.

E: Yeah, like who? Like what sort of things would they...?

A: Oh, they were just mean. We had one teacher that I remember. I don't remember his

name but I know he was a tall guy and he had a wife and a little kid. During recess time

when we would go out and be playing, the little boy would start crying and he would get

mad at all of us. He was a mean teacher. I know, like kids they count on their fingers

and whatever. And if he caught us doing that, he would get a ruler and slap our hand

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 10

with it. And he would do that. I remember one girl who started doing it and then she

started doing it under the desk and she would get caught. But, to me, that was being

mean. We would get spankings and everything, but it was for something we had done

that wasn't no good. In this, we were trying to help ourselves. So, we didn't have

nothing else to count on. But, after him, I don't remember his name, Mr. Anderson and

his wife came. And they came and they had some children. But, he was a nice teacher.

He was better than all the rest that I have had. Even his wife, because the wife would do

the cooking for lunch and everything and I know back when we had the other teachers,

the older kids had to serve the table, serve the food, do this and that, wash the dishes,

clean up and everything after everybody got through. So, when this other couple came,

we were there and volunteering to do what we always done before. And she would say,

'No, you all don't have to do that. They pay me to do it, so I am doing it.' And that was

like, I guess that was good and we let her do it. But, we were used to doing everything

ourselves. We never knew that other person was getting paid to do the job we were

doing for her. That was the last teacher I had going to Big Cypress.

E: And a real different sort of experience.

A: Different experience.

E: So, eventually, when you got to Clewiston, there was a certain amount of racism in the

school system?

A: Yeah.

E: And these teachers who were at Big Cypress with the BIA school, they were white

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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teachers, right?

A: Yeah.

E: The education was in English language?

A: Yeah.

E: Did you feel like well, there is a big difference between the first teacher you described

and Anderson. Do you think they were sensitive, at all to things like cultural differences

or did you Was it a pretty different experience than Clewiston in terms of the racial...?

A: Like at Big Cypress, when we went to school there, I guess, no culture or nothing was

ever talked about. Either which way, either the white or the Indian's culture. All that I

ever remember is that we were taught the three "r's" like they say, reading writing and

arithmetic And recess time. That was about it. But, when we started going to school

there, you could see it there, kids- some of them know about it and so even about racism.

And even as far as the adults or I have always been able to feel it, that somebody feels

indifferent towards me. I don't know why but I have always felt it, if somebody feels

that way about me. And they can pretend that they are not but I can always feel it. I

don't know why I do that. So those kind of people I have always try to avoid. I don't

want to be with them because they are just there trying to be nice to me because I happen

to be there. So, it is better if I am not around there. Then I don't feel it.

E: Did you feel that much at Big Cypress School?

A: No. Because it was all Indian and we were all going there.

E: So, the teachers did not...?

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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A: No.

E: But you did feel it when you got to Clewiston?

A: Yeah.

E: Do you remember when you first felt it, what

A: Like the first couple days, you start feeling. Then, I say, Shoot, we were probably not

even dressed decent or whatever. Because we just wore whatever we had. That is why I

always tell mom, when we went places, I never thought we were poor, but I can look

back today and we probably had about three days of clothes to wear. Mom had to do a

lot of washing. It was clothes. We were told that as long as it did was it was supposed

to, you know, hide your body. We didn't care. We wore whatever we had to.

E: And the kids, when you got to Clewiston school, they were dressed mostly white kids?

A: Yeah. And that is when Cubans were starting to come over, so there were a few Cuban

kids, there, too.

E: And by and large, they were weather?

A: Yeah.

E: I was reading the other day, somebody was talking about the busing taking the bus from

Big Cypress to Clewiston or even out toward Immokalee, I guess, out this way. And they

said it was probably setting a world record for the school bus distance. It was a long trip?

A: Yeah, it was. Because we would leave early in the morning. I remember in the first bus -

I know where....I have always talked about it. Probably other kids know, but there was a

bus, maybe an old Army bus, or whatever, but there was a bus that Junior Billy drove and

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 13

he would bring us all the way up to close to Vivian Crooks' house. And that is as far as

the county bus would come. So, he would take us up there and we would get on the other

bus and come I think it is 833 or something and go around this way to get to

Clewiston. And we would come back. It would be evening time when we would come

home. It was a long trip. I don't know how fast the bus went but I know the one we

were in, Junior didn't drive fast. And the bumpy road and everything, so it would be

whole day trip just to go to school and back.

E: Would you have to get up in the it would still be dark or something?

A: It would still be dark when we got up. Back then, momma always made sure that we

were up and ready to go.

E: Did she have an alarm clock?

A: No. She would just get up and she would say you all better hurry up and get ready.

Junior will be here in a little while. And she would have breakfast ready and everything.

We would eat and then we would leave.

E: So, she must have been really committed to you guys going to school.

A: Yeah. She was always committed to her kids, in general. She would do without for us to

have. Even food if there wasn't too much meat in the soup, she would make sure that

each one of us got a piece of meat and maybe she wouldn't have it. She would just drink

the soup part, or whatever. You know, we never thought nothing of it but later on as we

were growing up, we would see that she would eat a little bit and then she made sure that

us kids had the food. To good to school, she always got up and sent us to school when

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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we got home, food was ready. So, we got there and we ate. So, she knew, with the sun,

about when we would be coming in and she would have the food ready. We would eat.

Always took care of us kids.

E: So, you would get home at sunset or dark, sometimes depends, probably on if you did

something else at school, could you do anything like homework? Was it possible?

A: I know the first year, I was used to not doing homework, going to Big Cypress School.

So, when they say homework, you didn't know that you were supposed to do it and bring

it back. I didn't. I was the naive one. I would do it, sometimes because we had a

kerosene lamps and sometimes I didn't take it back. And then, mom, she don't know.

She didn't make us take it back or anything or make us do our homework. So, it was up

to us whether we did it or not because she didn't know if we were supposed to homework

or take papers back

E: She wasn't getting phone calls from the teacher?

A: She didn't have no phone, anyway.

E: I am thinking about the Ahfachkee School that is on Big Cypress, now and how different

of an experience that must be for students, there.

A: Right. To me, I think that is a great school out there. They have got all different kinds of

teachers and everything. And they are air-conditioned. We were in a one building

school and one teacher from kindergarten on from first grade up to sixth grade.

Everybody was in there. Now, I know they have got a good school because they have

classes for every grade, it seems like, out there. When BIA had it, it was just a school. I

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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think since the tribe took over, the tribe has been trying to make it a good school.

E: Yes, I have had a chance to visit and one of the things that strikes me is that they have

culture teachers and assistants and the language program. Do you think that is something

that is pretty important?

A: It is important because to me, some children don't get their culture at home. And

because the parents are working or the parents are not home so they don't learn a lot of

their culture. Because in my case, my mom was always home, so she would talk to us

whatever and everything. Then, in this modern society, you [have a case] where both

parents need to work to make a living because you have got a house with air-

conditioning. And that needs to be paid off or you will be sitting in hot air. So, you try

to go to work and try to do this and that. I know that is why the culture is kinda dying

out because we, as parents are not taking enough time like our parents before hand had

done. I think what little bit they can teach them there, at school, they can pick up on it.

They hear it.

E: You feel like you grew up with your mom. You said earlier, that when you traveled, that

wherever your mom was, it was still home. Is Miccosukee do you feel like that is your

first language?

A: Umhum. That is my first language.

E: And English is like your second language?

A: Umhum.

E: And I know you have at least one daughter because I saw her. Do you have other kids?

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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A: I have two daughters and two sons.

E: What do you think their language skills are like?

A: Their language is English.

E: That is interesting. You were talking about that as being partly related to the work.

A: And I am married to an Hispanic. But my oldest son he did talk the language. But he is

deceased. He did talk the language fluently and everything. But then me and my mom

raised him up so he that was the first language that he picked up. I think, today, the kids

have to hear the Seminole language from the day they are born so that is the language he

picks up on. If not, it seems like it is so hard for the kids to pick it up today.

E: Do you speak Spanish?

A: No.

E: And your husband speaks Spanish as his first language?

A: Umhum.

E: And he speaks English, also?

A: Yeah.

E: Does he speak any Miccosukee?

A: No.

E: So that would make the kids hard for them to pick up. So, education seems to be

something that has changed quite a bit since the seventies and the last generation or so...

A: Umhum.

E: How about boarding schools? We have a question here about boarding schools and

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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whether people in your family ever attended boarding schools.

A: My brother did. My brother went to boarding school.

E: Where did he go?

A: He went to one in Cherokee. He went there and then he went to Sequoyah in Oklahoma.

E: And he is two years older than you are?

A: Yes.

E: And you didn't go?

A: No. I wasn't allowed.

E: Because...you were the daughter?

A: Because mom said I had to stay home with...

E: Why was that?

A: I don't know. My bother got more privileges than I did. But he was the boy. Mom said

you have got to stay home with me. I need somebody to stay home with me. Because

my sister is ten years younger than me. So, my brother was real young when he went to

Cherokee because he saw our older cousin going and he wanted to go with him. So, he

went. He must have been real little when he went. So, that is why I ...I don't know, real

little thinking about seven years old or something when he went. So,..

E: What is his name?

A: Harry Clay

E: So, he was pretty young when he went off?

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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A: Yeah.

E: Was he excited about that, do you remember?

A: I don't really remember much of it but I just know about him goingand they were talking

about it. Because I don't even remember when he left. All I would know is he is back;

he is here. That is why is I have never took life serious. I depended on my mom too

much. My mom to take care of me; my mom to provide for me, whatever. I didn't pay

too much attention, I guess. But, I have always been like that. I depend too much on my

mom; I depended on my mom to wake me up; depended on her to do this and to do that,

until I got to where I had to it.

E: And then you took over that role?

A: Yeah.

E: You said you were not allowed to go to boarding school, though. Does that mean you

kind of wanted to go?

A: I would ask to go because I wanted to go where my brother was going. For ten years, it

was just me and my brother all the time. So, I wanted to be where he was at. And I

wanted to be able to go with him. She didn't want me to go. And she said that she would

be all alone by herself, if we both went.

E: When she said, she would be all alone by herself, did she mean just in terms of not

having somebody around to talk to or was it also related to the work?

A: Just somebody not to with her there, at her camp. Because at the camp, it was just me

and my mom and my brother that stayed there. So, if both of us left, that meant that she

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Date: June 20, 2000
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would be by herself.

E: So, the whole time you lived at Big Cypress, you were living in a camp?

A: Umhum.

E: At least up until 1960?

A: Yep.

E: So, chickees and...

A: Yeah.

E: When you moved out here to Immokalee, did you build a new camp or?

A: Yeah. We put up a new chickee and everything because they had a camp on the west

side of town. So, that is where we went and put up a chickee and started living there. I

guess that was like a big camp but it had clusters, you know. A little camp here with two

or three chickees for certain..and then another couple hundred yards, there would be

another little chickees, there. So, there were quite a few families. Maybe, one, two, three

maybe about five or six families living there, in a cluster, kind of close to each other.

But, I guess, it was kind of like, this is their camp and there is my camp and this is their

camp but...

E: Were they sort of nuclear families in the camp?

A: Yeah.

E: ...or extended families?

A: Yeah.

E: Were there different clans in that same area?

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A: Umhum.

E: And you say it was west of town?

A: From here. That way.

E: So, it not where the reservation officially is, today?

A: No. Mom moved up here in 1968.

E: Here to this reservation?

A: Unhuh. Because I don't know whose property it was. We were land squatters, I guess.

Whose ever property it was, they sold it. They sold the land and they went and gave

them, I think it is four point eight acres. They said they will give them that land. And I

don't know if it was Collier County Company or whoever, but somebody donated that

land to the Indians and they moved up over here. Because I know we came and we

helped mom build her chickee, her little camp and that is where her house is, today. And

she moved up here along with three other ladies, I think, that built their homes, here and

there. And they are like the first four that moved up here because all the rest, they I

know one family, she moved to in town with her husband. Another lady did, also.

Another family moved on to Hollywood. And they moved on out. So, there was like

about four ladies who moved on over here.

E: But some people moved into town into ...?

A: ...into home. Because like, I know one, she was married to a Puerto Rican. So, they had

applied for an FHA loan or something. It was called self-help housing or something. I

guess that was your down payment whatever hours you put in. They got a house like

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Date: June 20, 2000
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that, so they moved in town. Another moved in with her husband; her husband got a


E: And when your mom moved over here, you said you all helped her build her chickee out

here. Where did you go?

A: I was living in LaBelle at the time. Because I had already gotten with my husband and

we had moved for LaBelle. That is where he was working.

E: What did he do in LaBelle?

A: He worked in farms.

E: Picking?

A: No. He was driving equipment.

E: And so when you moved up to LaBelle, you moved into a house?

A: Unhuh.

E: Is that the first time you lived in a house? Like a concrete clock...?

A: Right.

E: When your mom moved over here in 1968, was it a possibility for her to move into a

house? Or did she have to build a camp?

A: No. She had to build a camp.

E: Or did she prefer building a camp?

A: She wasn't well off financially or whatever and you just knew to do a chickee so we did a

chickee for her, helped her. I guess we were just the same thing, again, me and my

brother, you know. We helped her do that. We had a vehicle so...and it wasn't a truck. It

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was a car but we loaded it up with palmetto fans and brought it here. Many loads after

many loads but we got it her a sleeping chickee and a cooking chickee done.

E: And there were four other people that moved over about that time? And they were

building chickees, also.

A: Yeah.

E: Right around this same general area?

A: Yeah.

E: I want to come back to some of that. It will come up later in some of these questions.

But the next questions deal with Christianity and churches in the region. Did your mom

attend a church?

A: Umhum.

E: I think you mentioned that.

A: She did up until about two months ago. She has been ill so we haven't been allowing her

to go anywhere. We take her but she has not been attending church for the last couple of


E: Which church was she going to?

A: She was going to the First Baptist Church here in Immokalee. We have been going there

for the last thirty years, I guess.

E: You have been going, too?

A: Um.

E: For about thirty years. So, did you grow up going to church?

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A: Yes. We grew up going to church. I always tell people we were there when the church

doors opened. Whether it was Sunday, Monday, or whatever, we were there, Wednesday

nights sick or not sick, we had to go.

E: Why is that?

A: I don't know. It was just moma's belief. She made sure we went to church every time

that there was church. We went to all the revivals; we went to all of the Sunday schools;

we went to all of the vacation Bible schools. And so I always put it, every time the

church doors opened, we were there. She made sure that we went

every time. So, I guess when she, way back then, when she accepted Christ, she fully

accepted Him. She has been faithful to the church for years and years.

E: Did she become a Christian after you [were born], do you remember or was it after you

were born?

A: ...before I was born was when she became Christian. She got baptized and everything.

So I said back then, because she always said, God will be able to provide for us. And

today, she will tell you, God made sure that I had food for my children. He provided for

all of my kids. That is how big a faith she has in God.

E: Did she ever talk about before she was a Christian and the decision to become a


A: She didn't talk about that but she talks about back when she was growing up, doing all

this and that. That is why we were brought up going to church and going to Christianity

and that is why, today, I do not know much about the Green Corn Dance or other

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traditional ceremonies because back when they were bringing Christianity in, they had to

give up a lot of stuff because that was not practicing a true religion or whatever you want

to say. You have to quit all of your heathen ways, I guess. She quit that the Corn

Dance part, she quit. She didn't take us. She didn't do anything with that. But as far as

traditional medicine, traditional story-telling, everything else, she kept except for the

ceremonies. She never took us there. Everything else, we are aware of. The Corn

Dance, I don't know nothing much about it except for what I have seen.

E: What did she say was the problem with that? She wasn't the only person saying that.

Why couldn't one be a practicing Baptist and also go to something like the Corn Dance


A: Right. Well, I guess back then, they had missionaries or the preachers or whatever was

down here, that when they were coming, they would tell them, it was not right. It is like

you are committing a sin to be doing that because you are a Christian. You are supposed

be believing and worshiping in God and here, they were told that they were doing wrong

by going to that. Worshiping no God out there because I don't think they worship a god

or anything, what it is, from what I understand, is like a blessing for the harvest and for

everything that is going to come up. I get confused sometimes but that is what those

preachers and those people would tell all of them. That is why a lot of them quit. And

that is why a lot of people even quit other traditional stuff. So, traditional ways of

teaching and everything. A lot of it got lost when Christianity came in, I think. But all of

that, Mom kept it with us. Because like I say, it was traditional teachings and everything

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else. She kept that in us but the only thing was the Corn Dance.

E: What sort of things did she keep that were traditional?

A: I guess it is a lot of I don't know what you would call it rules and regulations, sort of

things. It is not good to do this or a lot of common things but... We had traditional

beliefs of things will be bad if you have done this and even as far as when my brother got

old enough to start hunting, she told him that he has to not eat the meat out of the deer

that he killed until he killed his fourth

end of side one

She taught us at even at childbirth, that you are not supposed to do, really nothing for the

first four days. Just take care of your baby. Really not do nothing and then four

months after that and everything...so a lot of traditional stuff like that.

E: You said, when you were describing this, you said you get confused by, I guess you were

talking about what is prohibited or what the Baptist ministers were prohibiting and what

they weren't or what people were giving up and what they weren't giving up. Is that

what you mean?

A: Yes. Because that is what I am saying. When, today, if you, like I said, if you were to

attend Corn Dance you would see, they go over there and dance or whatever, get

scratched, whatever, and to me, the way that I understand it, because after you do all of

that, go through the Corn Dance and everything, that is when you are allowed to eat the

fresh corn. Other than that you don't eat fresh corn before it is All the

other corn you have been eating is dried or whatever, all that. But then, after that dance,

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that is when you get to eat your that is why they call it "Green" corn because it is fresh

corn. So, to me, as I see it, it is like asking for a blessing or thankful for the blessings or

thankful for everything up until then. It is just a ceremony. So, I don't see where

Christianity or the religious people thought it was something bad. That is the part that I

really don't understand. But I guess, we are that way we don't really know about it, we

condemn things that we don't know about. So, that is why when they became Christians

they were told they had to give up everything that they had learned before.

E: SO, you have never been to a Green Corn Dance?

A: No, probably we just go out there just one day to visit and come back. We have never

stayed because I know they have it for four days. But we have never gone out there to

really stay. And like I tell everybody, I don't know much about it so I respect it. That is

why I don't want to go out there and do something wrong that I am not allowed to do out

there as a woman or whatever and make a fool out of myself. So, out of respect, I stay


E: Do you ever feel like going out and learning or do you feel like it is too late?

A: No. Sometimes I do but respect for my mom, I don't go out there. I said, I am interested

in learning and all that because I 've got kids that need to know but momma chose to

raise us up differently so out of respect for her, I don't go. And if I do go it will probably

just be for the one day to visit and then come on back. Like I have always said, if

something should happen to mom and mom is gone, then I might go. But as long as she

is still living, I said no. Not to stay out there for the whole term event.

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E: Do you feel kind of torn by this?

A: No. Because it really doesn't pull me either direction because like I said, I didn't grow

up with it. Something that you didn't have, you don't miss it, but I would like to learn

more about it and everything so I can pass it along and maybe my kids would become

more involved in it. But with respect to my mom, I don't go.

E: So, she still maintains this idea that there is an incompatibility...

A: Right. Right.

E: Have your kids gone, do you know?

A: No.

E: Have they ever spoken to you about it?

A: Yeah. Because I have got the two boys that had their baby names and they haven't

changed them, yet. And my oldest one who is always talking about it, he is twenty seven,

and he still has his baby name and that is where they go to change it. But, he talks about

like when it is about a week away. I tell him, you have got to plan on this in advance.

We will get one of your uncles to help us and we will go through with it. There is an

interest in it from my kids, whatever, but with respect, like I say, for my mom, we don't


E: I know you have a grandson.

A: Yeah.

E: Is that your first grandchild?

A: Yeah.

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E: How old is he, nine weeks?

A: Nine weeks. He hasn't been named, yet.

E: Interesting to think about what he might experience. You mentioned that your mom

didn't give up things like medicine at that time when she was back living at Big Cypress,

perhaps, and after she had become a Christian. But she gave up going to the Green Corn

Dance but that she kept doing things like taking medicines. I was wondering why she

would give up the Green Corn Dance but not give up medicines.

A: Because I guess maybe it stuck in her head that that was sort of a another religion. That

was probably the part that she caught and stayed with it. But, I don't know why, but she

hung on to the medicines and the traditional ways and everything. She hung on to that

and the only thing we were deprived of was the Corn Dance. Those kind of ceremonies.

E: Did she know how to prepare medicines?

A: Like go out and get them but she always had to get somebody else to fix it. She knows

how to look for the herbs and everything else.

E: I understand that was very common for people to know how to look for the herbs and

then they would go to somebody else to do the preparation. Do you know how to do


A: Umhum.

E: To look for the things?

A: Yeah.

E: Do you know how to prepare them?

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A: No.

E: But there are still people around that know how to do those preparations?

A: Umhum.

E: Do you get a feeling that today, there is a whole lot of is there a separation between

practicing those kind of medicines and Christianity, today?

A: Umhum. Yeah. Because a lot of people do both go to modern way of medicine and

traditional way of medicine. Some of them use both of them together. Some of them use

only one, one or the other. And then, there are a lot of people who don't believe in

traditional medicine because you don't see too many and that is mostly our younger

ones, going to get it done. Unless you know, maybe a parent would do it for them. But, I

have heard some kids say, ooh, I am not going to drink that stuff. I am not going to use

that. And I guess that is where we have gone to where we don't use that much for our

kids. They go to modern convenience that is what they are going for. They would

rather go to the drugstore and get something.

E: They go to Eckert and ... So, do you still do both?

A: Umhum.

E: Is there any kind of rule you follow that if it is a certain type of ailment you do one or the


A: No. If it is something first we try modern. We go to see a doctor and we do this and

whatever is wrong and it is not really whatever medications they are giving you, it is not

really helping you the way you think it should. Then, you go to the medicine man and

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tell him what has been going on and whatever and you say what do you think is wrong

with me. And he will say, well, we can try this and that. And sometimes, I always say

with the both of them, with both helps, I say it helps you. And you know, you go to the

medicine man and he will tell you that it was the Breathmaker that has given you the

knowledge to be a modern doctor and for me to be a traditional doctor. So, you can use

both of them. That God is the one is the one that is providing us the knowledge and the

know how to do this. You know, it is what you hear from them; that is what they will tell


E: I have heard people talk about that. But when you say the kids don't really necessarily

see it that way, do you mean people who are in their twenties or teens or?

A: ...more like in their teens that are really getting away from traditional. And that is where

I was saying we are getting too modernized to where we are not really relying on our

traditional stuff. Or not teaching our traditional stuff. Or really going to a medicine man

to get medicine that fixes us. So, my mom would go and do it but I wouldn't hardly do it

so my kids wouldn't do it at all. And that is the way it is getting to be. And that is why

as mom did it and I do it and I tell my kids and if you give them anything and you tell

them that it is going to do them some good, they will take it and use it. They have been

brought up using it so, it doesn't bother them to use it. But if my kids don't do that with

their kids, it is going to be like that. My two oldest grand daughters, I've raised them up

using that stuff. I have taken that chore and use it. If I use it on them, it doesn't bother

them. And so, you have to start off with them when they are smaller and tell them it is

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Indian medicine and they use it.

E: They get in the habit.

A: Because they will see the herbs and leaves and whatever. And that is what some of the

kids say that they don't want to drink that dirty water.

E: They don't understand things. And they also don't think that aspirin is made out of tree


A: Right. They haven't seen that part.

E: Because it comes in a plastic bottle. Since we are talking about medicine and so forth,

here in Immokalee and I guess in the broader Seminole Tribe, what do you see being

some of the biggest health issues that people are facing, today?

A: The one that I see is diabetic. Diabetic is getting our young and our old, alike. It is

hitting everybody. I know that the way it was explained to me by, I guess he was a

consultant for the tribe. His name was Dr. Suda.

E: Dr. ?

A: Suda. And he was down here, I guess he was a

E: S-u-d-a?

A: Something like that. I don't know how to spell it. But he worked with the tribe for a

while back in the eighties and he is from the land down under.

E: Australia.

A: Yeah. Australia. He was from that way. And he says that what is wrong is like Indians,

they eat today like they ate you know, cook and eat the same way they did twenty or

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thirty years ago. But, what has happened to us we have gotten into vehicles and do this

and don't exercise to burn up a lot of that stuff. Because what our ancestors ate before

was to give them energy to do this and that. So, ate the same thing and we sit back and

watch TV and don't do nothing, then that stuff that is giving us energy, don't know

where to go so it is turned into sugar in our bodies. And he showed me that if I could

take this patient and do a blood sugar test and say it was 300 or whatever, get that person

to walk fifteen minutes, sit down fifteen minutes and check it and it would have dropped

considerably. And that is what he was trying to prove to me. He said that by walking,

exercising, and doing all that, that we could burn it. But if we were back to what our

ancestors did before walked everywhere they needed to go and farmed, chopped wood,

and do all this there is a lot of work back then. There is a lot of work back then. If we

had done that, we wouldn't have diabetes. But I think that is like the biggest, major

health problem within the tribe.

E: And you said young and old face this.

A: Yeah.

E: So he convinced you? You pretty much agree with that interpretation?

A: Right

E: Were you working in the health field?

A: Yeah. I worked for the health probably for about five or six years. That is when he was

telling me about that.

E: Where you working for the health thing?

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A: I was working here. I was like transporting, doing the ...helping at the clinic.

E: In the seventies or the eighties?

A: In the eighties. Because I started working for the tribe in 1984.

E: There are a whole lot of questions that we have already covered. It is always interesting

to look down and realize that we have already talked about a lot of those things. So, you

started working for the tribe in 1984, initially in the health field.

A: No, in education.

E: In education. In what area of education.

A: I started working as a well, they call them counselors. But what they are, is to see if all

the kids are in school. Sort of like a truant officer and all the others combined. See if

they were how good their grades were and whatever. It was just like a truant officer, a

mother, whatever to all these kids. Because you have some parents that check up on their

kids doing their follow-ups, whatever, so you kinda help that parent out. It is still

going, today, but now, it is more like making sure that the kids are doing good, get

tutoring, going to college, help them get all of their needs met as far as education goes.

E: So, you were doing that here in Immokalee?

A: Umhum,

E: Pretty much where this office is?

A: No, we had an office across the street because we didn't have this as a reservation. We

had this only that four acres over there. So, the majority of the Indians were living in

town, that is here on this side, now.

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E: Over across the street? You mean where that I am not sure where you mean? You

mean where the jail is, now.

A: Over here just right across the street. You know, you came on this road.

E: Oh.

A: Just go straight across and that is like about six houses over there and some trailers.

E: OK, I am with you now.

A: That is where we have our we were in a trailer house. That was our main office.

E: Where did people go to school here in Immokalee?

A: In town.

E: The public schools? And in the eighties. So, what were the major problems at that

point? You were talking about being a truant officer and so forth in the eighties when

you started doing that...what sort of other things did you deal with? The tribal

members...in schools?

A: It was too bad. You just had a lot of the older kids they were all, by that time, I guess,

all of them were really going to school. But you would get some that would miss a lot of

days of school which the parents allowed them to even if they were claiming to be sick

or the parents would go off and come back, whatever, so if they miss a week of school,

what ever and so you always had to explain to the school why they were gone and why

this and why that. You were just like an advocate for the parents, for the student -

whatever. There wasn't really that much of a problem with kids because they were

sending them to school and everything. But it is like if I wasn't sent to school every day,

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then I, as a parent, wouldn't know that I was supposed to make my kid go to school every

day. So, it was like the sort of thing of the teacher helping the parents out whenever.

And like go with the parent to school to have a teacher's conference, whatever be a


E: This is interesting and I am wondering, do you think that the kids that you were working

with when you were doing that in the eighties, do you think that their experiences in the

schools in Immokalee were different than your experiences were in Clewiston schools

when you were up there?

A: Umhum.

E: How were they different, then?

A: Because I know like here in Immokalee, I know that we call it the salad bowl. In

Immokalee, you have any kind of race you can think of is here. And they have

always...when we first moved here to Immokalee, the coloreds had a school that is when

segregation hadn't really started. So, I know that the blacks had one school, and the

whites had another school. But, you know, they were allowing Mexicans to go there;

Indians to go there.

E: To which school?

A: ...to the white school. And all that so it is like the kids kinda grew up and I know

Immokalee they always accepted Indians but I know the Mexicans had a little bit of

hard time to get accepted by the people who lived here.

E: Why was that?

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A: I don't know. You see pictures of way back in Immokalee, I mean with the people in

town and you see them, and they will say, 'No Mexicans, allowed'.

E: There were signs up or something?

A: Yeah. Just like it says 'No Blacks'. They would say, 'No Mexicans, allowed". And you

know, that feels kinda strange because when I was growing up we all knew that we were

supposed to go over here for service, not in the front door, for like if you wanted to get an

ice cream cone or something. You didn't get in this line. You got in this line.

E: You mean here in Immokalee?

A: No, not here in Immokalee. I know that was in LaBelle or Clewiston. And my

grandfather lived in Copeland and he says you have to go to that window he would

always tell us.

E: So, you knew this growing up, in places like Clewiston and LaBelle, that you had to go to

a different like a back door or something? Did you think about... you must have...

A: No, that is what I tell you that nothing really bothered me as long as I got what I was

going to get. If I was going to get me a soda, if I went to that window and they gave me a

soda. Fine. I think that if they deny me that soda, I probably would have thought

something bad about it, but you know, it is just we were brought up that that is where you

had to go. Never really bothered me, as far as that goes.

E: But, then you came out here and you saw it similar but not the same.

A: But Indians have been coming to Immokalee for years trading or stopping over and

going on to Fort Myers to trade their hides and everything. So, Indians were more

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accepted here.

E: So, there was still probably racism but it was a real different configuration of racism. So,

when you went to school, well, when you came here and you were working in the

schools, working with the students who were going to schools that was in the eighties -

but when you came here in the sixties, you saw some of this stuff, also, these different

lines? Segregation.

A: And even back then, that is when Indians were not allowed to buy liquor, wine or beer.

They charge you just to get a runner to buy it for them. I have seen that, too.

E: Really? What does that mean, get a runner?

A: Get somebody to go and buy it for you or he might run off with it. They kinda got

blacks to go buy it for them or somebody. Or go buy them wine or their whiskey. They

offer them a swig off of it. Or sometimes, that man wouldn't return, he would run off

with it.

E: By the time you started working with the education stuff, had things changed

substantially, in terms of integration?

A: Yeah. Everything was fine. Everybody was already was mixed, together.

E: Everything was fine?

A: Everything was fine.

E: I would like to shift gears a little bit and talk about some of the economic changes in the

tribe over the last thirty years. Because there have been some substantial

transformations. To start off with, what do you see as being, today, some of the major

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economic practices that the tribe is engaged in? Or if you could pick one that would be

the most...what would it be?

A: It is like the casinos, the Bingo halls or whatever. That is the one that is where it has put

a mark on the tribe's life.

E: In terms of things like the revenue?

A: Yeah. What it generates because that is what the tribe is surviving off of. That is why

we are capable of providing more and more things for the tribal members, in general.

Compared to when I was growing up and compared to today, even health issues, no

matter what is wrong with you, they can put you in the nicest hospital, get the best

doctor, whatever. When I was growing up, I couldn't even get my tonsils taken out,

which bothered me because we didn't have no money. BIA wasn't providing that and the

tribe didn't have nothing. So, today, I can get all of that done and don't really have to

worry about it. But you compare the two, we are well better off as far as the tribe

providing for its members than we were back then. That is a plus.

E: I was thinking in terms of...we were discussing this reservation housing. And you were

talking about in 1968, you came back to help your mom build a chickee. In 1984, you

said when the offices were across the road in a trailer and, what did the housing look like

here at that point in 1984?

A: They were still in chickees.

E: They were still in chickees. Here in this area, here?

A: No here because back, I don't know. I think this got federalized, probably about twelve

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years ago and when they did, no, more than twelve years ago. Probably about in 1985

or 1986, somewhere along there, is when they became federalized. So, they (I'm not real

good with the dates and years and everything) but that is when they federalized the land

across the street plus this one they added this one on to it. That is when we could use

like HUD money to build homes over here like what was over there. I think mom has

been living in that house, maybe about fifteen years, she has been living in a house. That

is when they were able to use HUD monies and all that to build homes. Other than that,

they couldn't use no HUD money to build houses, if it was on a reservation. So, they had

to get that four point acres to get it federalized and start building homes on it so they

could ask for grants and whatever.

E: Is Immokalee considered is it a separate reservation or is it considered a part of Big


A: It used to be considered first to begin with as a part of Big Cypress because we were

close to that. But now we are on our own over here, kind of separated from them.

Because we got to where we have our own people that come from here that represents

Immokalee. So, now today, they have Tampa being the small reservation, but they have

a representative that goes there. But they work with Brighton and I work with Big

Cypress so they are still like our grandfather still. If we need help, Big Cypress is going

to help us out.

E: They have a bigger population?

A: Yeah.

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E: And you are the council representative for Immokalee?

A: Umhum.

E: Before we get int to talking about that, so in the eighties when you were doing this work

over here, people were still living in chickees? Was there a particular time because

driving over here, now, I just don't see people living in chickees when did that, and it is

fifteen or sixteen years, when did that change?

A: Like I said when the land got federalized over there, and they got the HUD monies to

build homes there, that is when they built the six homes. That is when they started to

move. But even then, there were people still living in chickees that didn't have home,

you know the brick homes, but they were still living in chickees scattered around, over

there on the four acres. There were quite a bit a families on the four acres. The trailers

came in after we had a fire came through and burned down all of our chickees and


E: What year was that?

A: That what I mean the years and stuff like that....

E: That is what books are for, right?

A: I don't have any recollection of it.

E: But is that when you were working?

A: That is when we had the houses built over here, also. So, it must have been about ten

years ago, I think.

E: What started the fire?

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A: There was a fire it was way over there. It was a brush fire but it started spreading and

coming and coming. It jumped the road.

E: Wow. That is devastating.

A: It was. Because our native arts and crafts which is in a trailer, today, but back then, it

was in a chickee. And that wasn't even...


...but that burned up the machines and all their fabrics and everything they were using

got burned. Because I know a lot of the chickees got burned. We had a mess out there.

But that is when everybody within the communities around surrounding communities -

they were very helpful as far as donating and everything. And that is when we got them

six trailers that are there. You know, to put the people in. We had to put some in hotels

for the time being until we could get something for them to live in. It was terrible.

E: At that point, were you already working in the tribal government? You had been

working for education.

A: I wasn't working for tribal government, yet. Because I was still living in LaBelle.

Because they had the houses here and I had a house here but I hadn't moved in, yet, when

the fire came. Because these houses were still new.

E: You were commuting from LaBelle? How long of a commute is that?

A: It is like about oh, working? When I was working?

E: Yeah.

A: From about 1984 to about 1987. 1988, I think.

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E: You drove down from LaBelle?

A: Every day.

E: How much time did that take?

A: It would take about thirty five minutes to get here. The same going home.

E: Could be worse. Could be worse -could be taking a bus to Clewiston.

A: Right.

E: After you worked for education until about 1988, what did you do after that?

A: Then, I worked for health.

E: That is when you worked for health. For another five years or so?

A: Yeah.

E: And then, after that, that would be 1993 or so, something like that...

A: And then, I went back to education for a while.

E: Really? Right here in Immokalee?

A: Yeah. Went back to work with education for a while. For a couple years I worked with

them, again. And that is when I had already gotten on the political side. I started

working with the board, first, because Ethel was working, working board. But, then her

health wasn't in the best state. So, she said she was going to resign and she had told the

member out here that she wanted to ask me if I would take over for her.

E: This is Ethel...?

A: Ethel Santiago. And she asked if I would do it. And so, she approached the family

members and they said, yeah, we can let her do it. So, I worked for board but at first, I

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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started working with board along with Ethel, you know, her teaching me whatever, for

about six months before she let me go on my own. Because I never thought about getting

into politics or whatever. But the only thing that I know, is that I was always interested

in helping my fellow people. Helping my people. I guess that is why when I worked in

health, I did that, and education, whatever, because I felt like I was helping them and so,

when they appointed me, I said, I worked with the board about four years and then I

started working with board and council. I took both of them. Both positions. And I

worked at that for a while and then last year, I just took council. And we have like a little

it is not a BIA election but we will have a little election and see who receives the most

votes. It used to be appointed but not the way they are doing it now.

E: It used to be appointed in that council.

A: Council and Board, whichever it was. James on the council side and whoever was on the

president's side would appoint who they would want to work around here.

E: Are you a voting member on the council?

A: No.

E: It is an ongoing position. It seems like I read that someplace else. I wasn't sure if that

was still the same. So, you were elected to the council last year to do it, but you were

on before that, for four or five years or something?

A: Yeah.

E: What are some of the unique problems or situations that Immokalee has compared with

Big Cypress, Brighton, Hollywood? When you go to a council meeting and hear people

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
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talk about what is going on at those reservations...? Is there any time when you say, 'It is

just not like that at Immokalee.'

A: I don't know. I am thinking. What it is, is we are like Hollywood Hollywood is city

folks that is what we call it. Another thing, we are beginning to become like that but

like Brighton, it is kinda like in a remote area. And so is Big Cypress. So, I don't know,

to me, it is always like with my people, it takes them only five or ten minutes to go to the

grocery store and do their shopping and come back and so they have life a little bit easier

that Brighton or B.C.[Big Cypress] because they have to travel quite a ways to get to

their grocery store or do their shopping or whatever. And that is why you will hear

people in Big Cypress they go to Hollywood, to go here; to go there and everything.

When we were in Fort Myers and when we do like in Immokalee because Immokalee

don't offer that much stuff as far as department stores or whatever. And Brighton, you

will hear that they are going to Fort Pierce or they come to Fort Myers. And you say,

'Fort Myers!' I know we went up in Okachobee, sometimes. Because that is a western

place and if you want boots and stuff or western apparel, that is the place to go.

E: That a When did they build the casino here?

A: Five years ago, I think.

E: And first, did the tribe hire out some management people?

A: Pan Am is the one that had it. Because a family was going to do it but they ran into

some problems so it just sat idle for quite a while and then, that is when the tribe took

over, completed the project because the building wasn't all completed completed the

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 45

project and got it running and they hired Pan Am to come. Because they had hired and

come and complete it and everything and got it going.

E: It seems to be a big success. I was over there a couple of weeks ago for dinner and it just

seems like it was crowded, it was clean. Is my impression correct? Is it a ...

A: Yeah. It has been pretty good. It has been doing good from what I have seen. I go over

there and you see people there; you hear that they are from here, they are from over there.

They are just talking among themselves. But it is getting known and people are coming

and I know when you play Bingo, you get people from Lauderdale area that are being

transported by vans that come over here. They are coming from all over just to play

Bingo. Then, they have that shuttle service, too, so that is getting some more.

E: I had a couple of questions here that I don't know if they are relevant that deal with the

cattle industry. Have you ever been involved with the cattle industry, at all?

A: No.

E: Your family...

A: Not really. Just my uncles that were the ones that were raising cattle. Mom never got

non because she said she couldn't take care of them. You had to be able to take care of

an animal to get them. So, she never got involved with it.

E: But it was her brothers who had...

A: Umhum.

E: Who were her brothers?

A: Boughten John and the other one was her brother in law, Frank Billie. They were the

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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ones that had the cattle.

E: Do people out in Immokalee have cattle out here?

A: Not here but I know there is one lady, Agnes Cypress that has cattle in Big Cypress. She

has got cattle over there.

E: And she lives out here. I, actually was hoping to talk with her at some point.

And she has cattle. Another question I have which I got to from cattle is about the status

of women in the Seminole Tribe and how that might have changed over the last


A: I think women will always play a major role. (Laughs) Yeah. I don't know because like

here, in Immokalee, we always say it is run by women. As I said I am on the council

side. There was two ladies that first started it off when they were the representatives

here, which Nancy and Agnes Santiago. And they were the first ones that

started it off. OK, when Nancy got off, Then...

E: Nancy ?

A: Yes, then they put Benny Matlow on but he was here for his two year term and that is

when I had taken over council side. But, you know, everywhere, Because like right now,

there is nothing but women that work here in this office. Over there, we have got a

library, we have got an education, and what not, so we are doing and they are out at the

ranch and doing what they need to do. Women play a major role within the tribe because

I guess, even looking back way back when, they men went hunting; the men went and did

this and that, so the women stayed at home. They did everything else, as far as cooking,

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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washing, taking care of the kids just everything. Even preparing the corn, you know to

dry, probably even doing the sugar cane to make the syrup they took care of all that,

while the men went out and hunted. So, that is why I think

end of Tape 1 Side B

E: On Immalakee, is there anything like the tribal fair that they have at the I know they

have the Hollywood Fair and Brighton has...

A: We used to have one but this year I didn't do it because there was, to me, it was a big

expense. The date that they had, I was trying to keep up with it, but when you did it, it

conflicted with other dates, locally around, where ever. And you couldn't get too many

people to come in. So, it was like a big expense, real big expense. So, people were

interested in it and everything but they don't know how much money you had to dish out

to put something on like that. So, it always felt like we lost a lot of money doing it.

E: So, you have done it in years past?

A: Yeah. We had done it in years past except that this year we didn't do it.

E: Do you think that you will do it again?

A: You know, if we do it, it needs to be set on a date, on a smaller scale because the way

they had done it, they have had the PRCA Rodeo and that runs into a lot of bucks. And

when you have the Pow Wows, you have to have the money there, the prize money plus

you have to pay the head people to run the Pow Wow. And some of them, you have to

provide transportation plus room and lodge everything for them. So, it runs into quite a

bit of money. So, if we do it, we would have to do it where it is a regular rodeo like a

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 48

ranch style rodeo, where it doesn't cost so much. You know, maybe half of it. And then

just do just a demonstration dance or whatever. Just hire out some people.

E: Now, that is something I was not even aware of is the angle of the expense and the effort.

Is it something having a Pow Wow and the rodeo and the fair does that do anything

for cultural preservation?

A: To me, I think it is more of a sharing knowledge to the outside world. It is sharing. For

me to make you ... If you come, it is there to make you aware of whatever

misconceptions you ever had of Indians. You can see first hand what Indians are about,

what their dances, whatever. That is what it is like to me. Rodeo is just a sport but as far

as the Pow Wow. Then, different tribes and everything but when it boils down to it,

whether it be twenty or thirty tribes there, you are going to see that they have culture


E: So, it serves that teaching role for other people, more so than preserving something...

Have you been to the museum at Big Cypress?

A: Umhum.

E: What is your opinion of the museum for the role of what it does for cultural preservation.

A: I think it is good. It was a long time coming. We need something. It is history. They

are preserving everything because we do not even have history books. All we were ever

taught was oral history, oral history, all the time. Everything was always oral, oral. It

was never written down. Nothing ever done. So, whatever dies with our elders, it dies.

It is never written down. It is their all the stories, history, whatever, all goes with our

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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elders. And that is why I said if they are capable of doing that, providing for them,

whatever. So, I can be able to tell my grand kids that they can go over there and they can

read and they can learn whatever of them. Or go and see a video that they had produced

of something. They got all of that, then even our elders with all of the knowledge with

all the knowledge are gone, it would be kept there where we would go and learn if we

were interested in it.

E: So, you learned a lot of the history from do you think you did, personally, learn from


A: Yes. Because when we were growing up if we happen to be at this camp and elders start

talking, that meant for you to sit down and we listened to them. No matter how long it

took, you sit there and if they wanted to talk, they would talk. And they would tell you

things. And that is why I said even today, if one wants to talk to me and teach me

something or get on to me, I will sit there and I will listen. Because that is the way we

were taught, no matter who talked to you, you sit down and you took time out and you

listened to them. They are telling you something; they are teaching you something -

giving you knowledge. Everything that I have learned is from my elders and right or

wrong, they are older than me so they should know. They know things happen.

E: So, a lot of that would have taken place in camps where elders would be around, having

access to the younger people and talking with them. Is it the same today? Are younger

people around elders in places where they are going to get that kind of interaction?

A: No, I don't think so. And that is where we have always said it is this modern society that

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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has kind of ruined that for us, I suppose. We would talk about comparing the lives we

had as we lived in chickees, open walls you could see for long distance of somebody

coming whatever. And today, we lived in closed in houses. If somebody knocks on

your door (I have heard this being said, too, and I have caught myself doing it) just open

the door a little bit. 'Yes, can I help you? Da-da-da-' talk to them right there in the door

and close your door. When they lived in the open chickees, OK, they came walking.

They are there, you ask them to sit down. They sit down and you all talk and if you had

safke, you offered him some. Or if you had food, you offer it and all that. And you

know, talk and whatever, and they would go on there way. Today, we don't even do that.

But, like I said, we are in our houses so we are in our own little camp behind walls. And

this was an older man that had said that it is the modem houses that have kind of taken

our respect or whatever of people visiting you. You know, you used to respect them; ask

them to have a seat, to drink sofke with you; to eat food with you or whatever. But now,

you I've in your house. It just seems like that has changed a lot of our people.

E: This was an older person who was saying some of this stuff to you?

A: He was saying that is what houses are doing to us. We need to be careful with it and

maybe have somebody come over, even if it is just to talk to you a little bit, you ought to

invite them in your house and... I don't know. I don't know. We are just strange, I

guess. Because you see it in the modern world somebody comes knocking and if you

know that person, you supposed to ask them to come in. But, sometimes we don't do

that. I don't know why. We just talk to them outside for a couple of minutes and then

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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they go on their way.

E: I think that is really common. You referred to it we live in camps behind walls. That is

pretty interesting.

A: That is the way I feel. Because I always say when I get in my house, I am in my own

little world. That is what I always say. Like here, we will be working or whatever and I

go home; I get in my house; I got my shades or whatever and whatever my neighbors are

doing, that is what they are doing. And whatever I am doing is what I am doing in my

house. So, it is like my own little world with my kids. I am there. It is like my own little

camp that I live in in that house. When I get home, that is my house; that is my camp,

whatever, when I get there.

E: And it is closed off from the neighbors.

A: Right.

E: And that is really different from what existed with chickees and camps.

A: Right.

E: ...where people come and go. So, do you think that has an impact on the way kids who

are growing up living in these houses does it have an impact on the way they learn

things like history and culture from...?

A: Yeah. I think so because it is like these kids that lived on here at this little camp, could

go over here with the other kids at this camp and maybe they would sit and listen to an

elder talk or see what the elder is doing, what she is fixing, what she is preparing,

whatever, but now, we are here in these houses and sometimes we even quit a lot of this

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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preparing stuff so it is easier to go by the store, so... You know, that is why a lot of stuff

is dying off because like we don't really grow our own corn or fix it, whatever. Or even

a lot of people are giving up the traditional foods. They are forgetting about it. Today,

you have got a house so you plant flowers and all this other stuff rather than something

that is going to produce something for you to eat. Back then, they used to plant things

that would produce something for you to eat that was going to help you. But we don't

do that.

E: Do you think this, also, is related to the language issue, maybe? That kids are in the

houses and away from go back to school?

A: I don't know. But, I blame that on modern everything modern, like I say. Because you

have got TV, you have got the radios, you go out there, English is, I call it it is a

convenience, real convenient for me to talk in English rather than Indian because when I

talk in my language, it is more explaining something or talking. And I can say a word in

English this short and I say it this long in Indian, about the same thing. So, it is easier if I

talk in English so that is why it is a language of convenience. It is more convenient for

me to talk in English. So, I do a lot of talking in English so my kids, they are going to

pick up on that English because that is the language they are hearing over and over, so

they start learning how to speak that. So, that one I think it is just because we just talk

too much English. And they do that. They can be Indians and living out in Big Cypress

and they could both of them, be tribal members but the kids grow up talking in English.

It is because us, as parents, don't use that language, either. It is what I say, it is more

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
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convenient to use the English language.

E: Is that going to be a crisis, sometime, do you think, when kids are growing up and not

teaching their kids Miccosukee language.

A: Yeah, I think so because if we don't do something about it, now start really pushing it -

or somebody to learn it, I might be able to talk my language and like I say, my kids don't

talk it, so when my mom is gone, and I am gone, then, my language is going to be gone

from my family. My kids are not going to talk it. And my niece, she doesn't talk it. And

my sister, she half talks it. So, it is going to be gone when we all disappear. When we

leave this world, the language is going to die out, so we really need to push it in the home

and in school and where ever, even with the culture clashes, to really start talking it. I

know James had said, even you, as a parent out there, only know one Indian word, at

least saying it over and over to your child so your child can pick up that one word.

Maybe later on, you can learn another word and your child will learn two words. I know

that language part is getting pretty bad. Sometimes you can see a full blooded Indian that

don't know how to talk. That is getting kind of scary. And you have a lot of elders that

are still alive that don't really speak English but you know, they try to communicate with

their grand kids. They only happen to speak in English.

E: So, it is scary. It is kind of a concern.

A: Yeah, it is. But, then you have got your culture classes, here. The teachers are willing to

teach. But then, you have got parents that won't push their kids to come. They could

come and bring their kids, also. You have some that really don't talk it. Some might

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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understand it but they don't talk it but yet, they don't send their kids to school. So, both

of them could come here and they could both learn the language. And that way, they

would be able to practice it at home. The parent and the child is taking the classes

together ... I know that I have heard, OK in pre-school, they are going in there. They are

making sure that they hear the language. They start learning it. But, if they do and the

parent does not know, who is that child going to practice with. I have heard that question

before, too.

E: So, what are the programs here, where language is taught? Is there a headstart?

A: Headstart has some because we have one lady that is a gramma and she just goes in there

and she just talks Indian all day long with the kids. And then we have some ladies from

Big Cypress that come out and help. And then, we have two culture ladies that go in

there and talks to them.

E: They go where? ...to

A: ...to the day care.

E: To the daycare. Is there anything at the public schools? I know up at Brighton, they go

out to where...Moorehaven, I guess. Is it Moorehaven they go to or is it Okeechobee?

A: They go to both.

E: And they have a one hour session or something during the day?

A: Yeah.

E: Nothing like that in...?

A: No. Because that one, some culture ladies went in and had that done you know, made

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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that arrangement with the schools and had it done. And they were interested in doing it

here but they never came and approached the schools or the principals to see if they could

do it here. But Brighton has a good program going on as far as that goes.

E: Is the language that most tribal members here in Immokalee speak, Miccosukee? Are

there any Creek speakers?

A: We don't have any Creek speakers.

E: And then this history issue... This whole history and culture issue about elders and so

forth. How does that get rectified? I mean, Headstart is a great way to deal the language

because you have got the young kids and it puts them in touch with somebody who is

speaking the language. What about history and culture teaching? That whole 'camp

behind the walls' issue. How does that get addressed?

A: Like in our case, I have to be the one who my kids here and there of what I

have heard. I try to pass it along to my kids. I sit there and talk to them. I know that is

what I do. Or mama will tell me something or she will be there while I am doing the

talking and then I will ask her to correct me or to help me out with it. I know I try to pass

it along to my kids. What I have been trying to do is try to do what my mom did with me

to do it with my kids. And that where I said probably I don't have any business that

is where I get involved with my grandchildren, too. Trying to make sure that they know


E: Grandparents are supposed to do that sort of thing. Grandparents are supposed to be

spoiling their grand kids and frustrating the parents. We have pretty much covered all of

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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my questions that I have. Is there anything else that we haven't talked about related to

Immokalee and transformations over the last generation and so forth that you wold like to

talk about that we didn't cover? Maybe, anything that you would like to add in relation

to what we have already talked about. Sometimes I ask people about where they see

things going in the next few years or in the next generation and what they would like to

see when their kids are fully grown and their age, when the grandkids are up and adults at

that point what kind of a situation they would like to see in the community then.

A: The other thing that I keep saying is that I would like to see tribal people that care for

their own tribal people, as far as respect to them; as far as making sure that they are all

right. It is because some of them say, 'tough luck, he doesn't have any food to eat.' No, I

should go and get what I have got and be able to share with you. And that, we do not do

any more. That is why I say, a lot of stuff we are brushing aside and we are living our

lives. I say, take care of your fellow man and help them out. That is what it is all about.

Tribal people, years back, they didn't have much. They didn't have too many of

anything. But, they were caring people and they cared for each other whether it be out of

a different clan or whatever, but they would say, 'oh, this family is down and out. They

don't have much to eat.' So, some people would go around and collect and maybe even a

can of corn somebody would give this and give them left over rice, whatever. But, they

had a meal. They had food to eat to survive until they could get back on their feet. And

they took care of each other that way. But, today, 'oh, Elaine, she will find a way to take

care of herself.' We have gotten to that point. And I am always saying I wish we could

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
Page 57

get back to caring about each other. Tribe, as a whole. Not even tribe, just as long as

you are that way with the people in this world, I think you would be better off, a better

person learn to care. Don't be greedy. Don't just think about yourself.

E: Do you see possibilities for that to happen?

A: I don't know. We are just going to have keep on preaching it. But you know, it is just

getting worse and worse, it seems like every year. Kids growing up. Because we are

going that way so it is getting to where nobody really cares about each other. And even,

it might not even be extended family but, they don't even care about each other. It is

their immediate family that they care about. I have got a first cousin that lives out here.

Then, I have my first cousin's kids live out here and I even take care of my first cousin's

grand daughter. She lives with me. And all that. And that is the way it was supposed to

have been years ago. You all took care of each other. Today, we don't look at it that

way. We just say, they have mother, father, brother, sisters, they will help each other

out. And they might be your first cousin but you are going to look at them that way. So,

now, today, we worry about the only family that is going to count is my mom, me and my

sister and then my kids. We are not going to worry about my first cousin here and my

first cousin in Big Cypress. We are not going to worry about their kids that is the way it

gets. That is why I said I talk that way so I have to be the role model to my kids and I go

later on in years see my cousins; I do this for my cousins kids. And keep on trying to

keep it going so they, later on in years, would be able to do that also. I have to practice

what I preach. I am telling my kids that. Help your extended family and help the people.

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Interviewee: Elaine Aguilar
Date: June 20, 2000
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E: So, that is pretty much how it has to happen. It had to be a role model that they see doing

that for that...

A: And that is why I say, I am colored blind. I see you as a person, not as your habits, not

as... I see you as a person. Number one, you are a person, first. Before anything else.

So, learn to look as people as a person, rather than whatever their habits may be or

whatever their color may be or whatever. Look at them as a person, first.

E: These first cousins that were mentioning out here, that is your mother's brother's kids?

A: ...daughter.

E: Mother's brother's daughter.

A: Umhum.

E: OK. Well, is there anything else that you wanted to ...

A: First time in my life I have been truthful, the whole thing...(laughing)

E: Well, I appreciate it. I am grateful. Thank you very much.

A: OK.

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