Interviewer is James Ellison
Interviewee is Timmy Johns
E: I am Jim Ellison. Today is June 23, 2000. It is Friday morning. I am sitting with
Timmy Johns. We are at the Big Cypress Citrus office, and we are going to start
doing an interview with the standard questionnaire. To begin with, is Timmy
Johns your full name?
J: I have a middle name, Barnett: Timmy Barnett Johns.
E: To what clan do you belong?
J: I am with the panther clan.
E: Which is a well-represented clan.
J: Yes, it is probably the biggest clan in the Seminole Tribe.
E: It seems to be. When and where were you born?
J: I was born in Fort Pierce Hospital in 1947.
E: Did you grow up in the Fort Pierce area, then?
J: No. I do not even remember being around there too much. I just remember
coming back around the Okeechobee area. We were living in Okeechobee for
awhile, and then we ended up out on the Brighton Reservation. That is where I
remember, more or less, growing up, out there on Brighton.
E: When you say Okeechobee area, do you mean around the town?
J: Yes, right there in town. We used to live right there in town. They had a tomato
canning plant there where my aunts and all lived. That is where we camped,
right there in Okeechobee.
E: These women in this photograph here
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J: Yes, they were the ones.
E: They are working in the canning plant?
E: Do you remember the name of the canning plant?
J: It was Markham Brothers Canning Plant. They used to work there when it was
running, in season.
E: You lived in a camp?
J: Yes, we were living in tents. I remember tents that we were living [in]. It was
kind of a camping like setting.
E: And that was more or less right in town.
J: Yes, right there, kind of on the outskirts of town.
E: Did you own tents? Well, I guess you were pretty young, so you probably do not
remember real specifics about that.
J: Yes, we had tents. That is what they spread out, and that is what we lived under.
I guess we kind of moved around quite a bit. We were kind of nomads, you
know, in gypsy type situations, so that is why everybody had those tents. That is
what we lived under. part of the year, best I can remember.
E: And these were tents, not chickees?
J: No, they were tents. We had tents. Chickees were more or less built whenever
you want to, stay a good while, kind of permanize [make permanent] a little bit.
What they were doing, (like they were doing in the Fort Pierce area), they would
work in tomato fields and stuff like that, and then they would come back to a
of children. They moved around quite a bit, so I would say we stayed
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in tents quite a bit.
E: When you stayed in Okeechobee, you were staying with your aunts?
J: Yes, and I remember one of the uncles was there. He was working in the
canning plant with them.
E: This one of your uncles was your mothers brother?
J: Yes. He was coming down there, and he was staying with us that time, that I
E: What was his name?
J: It was Garfield Johns.
E: We did not talk about this photograph on the tape, but it is a photograph of five
women, one of whom is your mother. And their names...?
J: Emma, Lois, Arlene, Lillian, and Dolly. There were three more sisters. One had
passed away, and then there were two that were married to some guys, so they
were not in that picture there. That was Lizzy (Elizabeth) and Arnie Gopher.
Then, like I said, one had passed away. There were loads of kids in that family.
E: It is a big family. Your mother and her sisters, did they all go by the name Johns
until they were married?
J: Yes, they all went by Johns.
E: Was your grandfather around? You have a picture on your desk of your
J: No, I never knew him. Somebody fooled around there and scratched that up,
and just about everybody in the family has got a copy of that picture.
E: And the two people in the photograph are...?
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J: That is Willie Johns on the left and Joe Myers on the right. [This was] probably in
the 1940s somewhere, early 1940s, somewhere around in there. I do not know
where that picture was taken at, but somebody had said that it was around the
Fort Pierce area.
E: It is really hard to tell because there is no...
J: It does not have a whole lot of background. What background is there is two
chickees there. But, they looked like they had hit the moonshine, still in him.
E: It kind of looks that way.
J: Got him a jug there.
E: Yes. It could be posed for, though. Who knows what is going on? So, when you
were growing up, did you have an Indian name from childhood?
J: No, I did not have an Indian name when I was a kid growing up, but when I was
about fourteen, fifteen, at Green Corn Dance, I said, 'give me a name.' That is
the only Indian name I have ever had.
E: Out at the Green Corn Dance up in...?
J: It was when it was in Hilolo, up there north of Okeechobee. There were several
of us who were named while we were all having the Green Corn Dance up there.
E: That is when you fourteen, did you say?
J: Yes, I was probably about fourteen, maybe fifteen, when they named me.
E: But you did not have a childhood name?
J: I did not have a childhood name, no.
E: Any idea why?
J: I do not know. They probably just never got around to naming me.
SEM 263 page 5
E: But, the name you took at the Green Corn Dance, is that in Creek language?
J: Yes, they call me Cawtchachee, which means Little Panther. Well, it really
means Little Tiger because cawtcha in the Creek language is tiger. But, you
know, like a clan, if somebody asks you what clan are you and you tell them
cawtcha, it means I am in the Tiger Clan. Because if you were going to say
panther, you would say haji japku, and that means long tail. But, we do not call
our clan haji japku. We call our clan cawtcha, so it means tiger. I do not know
how that came about. I have asked around and everything, but nobody seems to
really come up with how that came about. That is something I have always
wondered about, how we come up with the term Atiger@ in a Seminole clan.
Anyway, that is what Cawtchachee means, Little Tiger, really, rather than Little
E: Do you know how you were given that name or how it was chosen?
J: Well, it was at the Green Corn Dance. You know, what you do is they make you
go sit down in front of the big house, on the front steps. Then, you have a guy on
the other end, and they will call you, and you go over there. Probably (or, they
call you?), four times, you go over there, and they will tell you what your name is
going to be and put a feather in your head. Then, you turn around and circle and
go back down. Then, everybody thanks him, and that is your name. It is a
E: I guess I am wondering who chose that particular name?
J: What is was, Garfield was my uncle, and he was kind of a ring leader in the
Green Corn Dance at the time, along with Frank Shore. He was kind of his right
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hand man. He chose that name because it was his brother Oscar John=s Indian
name. Oscar Johns had passed on, so he said that is the name we will give you.
So, [it] was just a handed down name from my uncle who had passed away. I
think there is another boy in my family who has that same name. I do not think
they realized that name was already taken, so they went and gave that same
name to another boy, from what I understand. I am not sure of this.
E: So, usually, if somebody is going to get a name that somebody else had
previously, it is going to be after that person...
J: Passes on, yes. That is usually how they do it, but with everything being so
absorbed by society, a lot of this culture is being lost at an alarming rate. It is
nothing like it used to be. I mean, if you could understand back in Seminole
culture, there was nobody but Seminoles. You did not have to worry about no
[any] outsiders or nothing [anything] whatsoever. It was just strictly Seminoles.
That was your life, and you knew it. You knew what the deal was. But, you
come in and you got a bunch of outsiders. Then, you have to relate with them,
and you kind of absorb their view. Then, you try to come back into the Seminole
deal, and the Seminole deal is just kind of out there in left field, or maybe right
field, so to speak. Today's modern society is just absorbing everybody's outlook
on life. So, we are losing it because it is not something that they use everyday.
E: When you were growing up, though, after you got this name, was it a name that a
lot of people knew, a lot of your peers knew?
J: Nobody actually ever used it to call me. I mean, I got the Indian name. That was
it. But, [hardly anyone] enobdy hardly ever called me by it. They would always
SEM 263 page 7
still call me Timmy. You know what I am saying? I mean, I had the Indian name,
but that was just because that was just a ritual that had been going on for ages.
It was just something they carried on, by giving me the Indian name, but it was
not to the point where they would address by that name.
E: Do you have the impression that, maybe in a previous generation, people would
have used those Indian names to address somebody?
J: Oh yes. There were some, very few. Back in my generation, there were some
traditional Indians who would use their kids Indian names more so than they
would the white name, but that was a minority. They were full traditional
Seminoles. As a rule, the majority always used the English name of the kids, not
the Indian name.
E: Is there anybody who does call you by...?
J: No, they do not even know it. people do not even know what my
Indian name is because, like I said, we do not ever use it.
E: So, it is a result of something like tat-smebedy someone else might have been
given that name.
J: Yes, because I had quit going to the Green Corn Dance for probably something
like twenty years, and in that time while I was out of the picture, somebody had
told me that they had named somebody else, and they thought that was my
Indian name. But, they were not sure, and they were naming somebody else and
they said, 'well, I do not think that is right because the guy is still around.' But,
they told me that they went ahead and named the guy the same name. So, there
are two of us around now.
SEM 263 page 8
E: So, they cannot really go back and change somebody's name, once they have
given them the name.
J: No. I guess they will just have to call us one and two. I had mine first.
E: So, you would be one. It sounds like the Green Corn Dance is a context where
people would use that name.
J: No, not really. When I was a kid, when I was younger, going to the Green Corn
Dance and everything, there were a lot of elders around. Kind of kept you
straight; kind of kept you on your toes or whatever. But, now, when I look around
over there now, I am one of the elders now. I have got to try to keep them guys
on their toes, try to keep them going. What we try to do is we just try to be
Indians for four days out of the year. You know, just try to be Indians. But, it is
hard to do. You go over there, the young guys who are there do not even know
how to speak the language. It is hard to say anything to them in Indian because
they do not understand. So, the Green Corn Dance up there in Yeehaw, I figure,
probably in another ten years may be a thing of the past. Either that or it is
probably going to be a traditional, just carry-on, type of situation. Because, like I
said, most of the kids nowadays are just losing their language. In the last few
years, there are a lot of young parents who are coming up who have seen the
need and the necessity of maybe trying to teach their kids how to speak. But, the
Creek language is a pretty complex language, and it just about has to be your
first language in order for you to speak it fluently. If you have not learned how to
speak it when you were coming up, it is very, very hard to get to the point where
you can speak it fluently because of all the sound structures that are involved in it
SEM 263 page 9
for you to speak it fluently. Like I said, it is kind of a tough language.
E: Would you say it is your first language?
J: Yes, it was my first language because when I went to school in first grade, I did
not even know what people were talking about. I did not even understand my
teacher or anything.
E: Where was this you went to school?
J: Okeechobee. I went to school at Okeechobee Polk School.
E: And when you first started, that was your exposure to English.
J: Right. Like I said, I really w.;as not understanding [did not understand] what they
were telling me a lot of times. I had kind of a rough time there for awhile, but I
caught on pretty quick.
E: You said something about that, pretty soon, up in Yeehaw Junction, the Green
Corn Dance will just be a traditional carry-on situation. What does that mean?
Does it mean that the meaning will be gone from it? That it will be done kind of
like a powwow or something?
J: I do not think it will ever be a powwow or anything of that sort, not to where they
are going to have the paying public coming in there. Probably somewhere down
the line, that might come in, but I do not think it is going to come in within the next
ten years. What I was talking about is, with the emphasis that the younger
people are trying to put in on trying to learn how to continue the traditions and
stuff, they are just not really applying themselves, so what few guys who know a
little bit are gone. There [is] are just not going to be anybody to carry on because
nobody else is attempting to learn what it is all about.
SEM 263 page 10
E: We were talking about the Green Corn Dance and where it might be going.
J: Yes. Like I was saying, the younger generation is just not attempting to
really...see, the Green Corn Dance was really a way of religion. It was a way of
belief, just like people go to church and whatever. It was the same thing, but,
nowadays, the emphasis is not there on the religion part because people, I think,
have kind of more or less drifted away from that part. So, right now, I just do not
really think there is anybody in our part of the world there, up there in Yeehaw,
who really actually believes that all this is going to happen. I think it is just kind of
more or less a traditional thing that we carry on. We just try to keep it as Indian
as we possibly can. We try to keep it true to form as much as we remember.
Because there were a lot of little details that you have to really study and
understand that we have lost because we thought all the old folks were going to
be here forever. And they all died off. Like I said, I am one of the elders out
there right now, and I never had really paid a whole lot of attention to a lot of
detail, even though I was instructed that I needed to learn all this. Well, I thought
I was learning it, but, you know, you do not really realize what the heck a little
simple deal was until you get to trying to do it and you just cannot remember
E: So, when you go out there now, it is noticeably different than when you were...
J: Oh yes. Like I said, I stayed away from there for twenty years, and then I came
back. If you go there every year, the changes are so gradual, you do not even
SEM 263 page 11
really notice. But, you go away for twenty years and you come back, the
changes are dramatic. That is what happened to me when I came back. The
changes were there, and when I asked these guys, when did they change this or
when did they change that? Well, it has always been like that. No, I do not
remember it being like that. It was different. But, that is the way it is. We just go
along with the flow right now.
E: You were away for twenty years. How did that come about? How did you begin
to not go?
J: Well, I married a non-Indian, and she did not really care for me to be going over
there. Then, I had a couple of kids who did not have a clan, and when you have
kids who do not have a clan, they are kind of feot- itlued [excluded] over there.
That kind of makes you feel bad because, you know, they do not have a clan and
they are not accepted as part of the deal. So, that is why I just never did go over
E: But after they grew you...
J: After they grew, I started going back over there.
E: They do not have a clan, but did they ever develop an interest in Seminole life
and being Seminole?
J: My boy is kind of more or less a history buff. He reads a lot. As a matter of fact,
he knows a lot more about the history of the Green Corn Dance than I probably
really do. I mean, he will tell me some things that I did not even know that used
to go on with the Green Corn Dance because he read about it. I mean, he has
not learned it by actual going out there and things like that, but he has read about
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it, you know, how it used to be. You know somebody had written about it and
stuff like that. He was telling me about some rocks they used for these sweat
baths. It is a granite rock that they used. They would go over there, back over
there around Fort Pierce, and get them and bring them back for the sweat baths.
He was telling me that years ago, instead of doing that, what they used to do
was find a lightning-struck pine. They would go on the bottom, and whenever
that extreme heat would hit the sand where that pine tree was, it would melt it
into some kind of a glass. He said they would get that and use that for the sweat
bath. I told him [said], 'Well, hell, where did you find that out?' He said, 'Heck, I
was reading a book, and it was pretty interesting', he was telling me. He found
out about that, and I never knew that. Somebody had told me something about it
before. One of my friends had told me something about, you know, lightning-
struck pines is where they used to get something, but I did not really understand
what he was talking about. And then he came up with what he had read, and I
understood what my friend was telling me about. I know it is true because this
guy was a good friend of mine. His name was Ollie Jones. He was the one who
was telling me about how they used to get the rocks from under a pine tree that
was struck by lightning. Then, Alex read about it and told me about it, and I put
two and two together and said, 'Well, Ollie had told me about it and he did not
read about because I know he could not read.' And then he was telling me about
it, so it must be true.
E: Is your son a board representative?
J: Yes, he is a board representative.
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E: I heard him talk last night. I was up at this sports award ceremony.
J: Yes, that is my son.
E: You said because he did not have a clan, that sort of led you to not go to the
Green [Corn Dance]. Did you ever go? Did you start to go and realize that, hey,
this is not going to work?
J: When he was young and everything, it really did not matter. He used to go, but
then they kind just fell out of it because there were a lot of things that they would
not let him do because he did not have a clan. He just kind of felt like he was in
the way, so he just kind of quit going. But, as far as being interested in Indian
culture, rather than practicing it, he is interested enough. You know he reads
books and stuff like that to find out what is going on. In reality, he probably
knows more about it than a lot of guys who participate.
E: Yes. He probably knows a real different piece of it, from reading about it.
J: Yes, because they always told us that anything about the Green Corn Dance is
not to be...no pictures, no interviews, no nothing that would make it known to the
general public what the Green Corn Dance was all about. I mean, it has always
been kind of stuck to our minds, you know. I always kind of figured maybe the
reason for that was because back when they were fighting the Seminole Wars
and everything, the white man had just run them literally off of everything. They
had stolen everything that they had ever had before. They were out here in the
doggoned swamps and bushes hiding out, and the white man just about got
everything. I always figured that probably the reason that came about was
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because they figured, if he learns all our sacred songs and our dances, he has
got everything. And that is why they always said, no, never let the white people
know what is going on about that. So, that was always, kind of, the way I [grew
up] was grown up, thinking you are supposed to do any of that, to give no
interviews, to sing songs, or anything like that. But, I have heard some songs
that have been recorded by some of the prominent medicine men who were out
and about back in the 1940s and 1950s. That really shocked me when I heard
them. I said, you know, that is something they always told you not to do. I mean,
they did it, and it always made me wonder. And we have some people who have
taken our legends and lore and put them in book forms and [sold] seitng them.
Things like that, we were always told, as kids coming up, not to do. Thinking
back on it, it is like I said, I figure, probably, they figured if you let them have
everything, your medicine, your sacred songs, everything, then they have got it
all, and you do not have anything. So, that was one thing that they wanted to
retain, anyway, and that was their way of belief. So, that is why they kind of told
everybody not to give out any interviews or anything like that. In other words,
you do not want the Green Corn Dance publicized. You just keep it under your
hat just for the Indians. That is kind of the way I was brought up thinking. A lot of
people I see not doing that. I see them doing dances in public, and I see them,
like I said, doing legends and lore, and putting them in book form and selling
them to the public. I got no problem with that, but it was just kind of a no-no in
our way of coming up. That is the way it always was.
E: So, you were kind of surprised by it.
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J: Yes, well, I was kind of shocked and awed by the audacity of some of the people
to do some of these things because I had always been told you do not do that.
E: Who told you that, everybody?
J: It was just kind of general knowledge. Everybody just told you whenever, lke-
somebody asked you where the Green Corn Dance [was] isr whatever, you tell
them they are not having one this year or it has already been gone or it is already
done or whatever. Do not let them know where it is [or anything about it] and-all
that. But, all that has kind of more or less changed, but, still to a certain extent,
we go out in the bushes. You know, we do not go out there on the general
ballfield and charge the public $5 to watch us do the dances and stuff like that.
We just kind of go out in the bushes and do it, kind of keep it to ourselves, more
or less like they used to do it and like they wanted us to do. But, as far as the
powwow and stuff like that, I could see it coming down the road further on. But,
within the next ten years, I do not know where we will be with it, but it is not going
to be good, I know.
E: You said that you came across these recordings. You heard recordings of some
of the older medicine men singing, something that was forbidden, to make those
E: When you heard them, what did you think when you actually heard...?
J: It surprised me. I thought, wow, that is something they always told us not to do.
I mean, why in the world are they doing it?
E: Were you glad that you had a chance to hear it then?
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J: Well, yes, in a way I was glad to hear it, but, like I said, I was kind of shocked
when I heard it. I mean, I did not even know that recordings were out and about
until I heard them. Somebody told me they were there, and I went and looked
and they were. They were there. I am talking about some old-timers who were
there, like Billy Stuart. He was one of the singers. Then, they had...I cannot
remember who some of the guys were. I think even my Uncle Garfield was in
there on some of those songs, and it just kind of shocked me. He used to be one
of the guys who used to tell me, do not do that, but he did. I guess it is like, you
do as I tell you, boy, not as I do. I guess it was that kind of deal.
E: Having listened to that stuff, do you wish that they had not done that?
J: Well, in a way I am glad they did that because it is well preserved, anyway. Like
I said, there are not a whole lot of guys out there who know any of these songs
anymore, and that is one way of preservation for the songs and stuff. I am glad
they did, in a way. If they had not done it, it would have been gone completely.
In this day and time, it would have been gone. Because there is nobody up there
in my part of the woods who knows hardly any of these songs.
E: That is kind of interesting because it makes it kind of tricky. On one hand, you
are talking about over this period of twenty years when you did not go, and you
go back and you see things have really changed, and you are saying that maybe
in ten years it is going to be even...
J: Oh yes.
E: And you say that with a fair amount of regret, I think. On the other hand, there
are these recordings you come across and then all the lessons about not making
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it public, because there is this long history of betrayal and theft of cultural
property and so on by white people when they get hold of these...anything.
These two things seem to pull against each other, preserving it when you cannot
really record versus watching it slowly fade away.
J: Yes. I am glad they did record it because, like I said, I do not have a whole lot of
knowledge about the guys down south, down on the trail and everything. I do not
know what they really retained or whatever, but I am sure they are probably
going along the same trail that we are going and they are losing a lot of culture.
But, they are probably not losing it at as fast and alarming rate as we are up
there in the Creek-speaking Seminoles. A lot of songs that we used to have and
everything, we do not even have them anymore. That Green Corn Dance, it is
just not the same anymore because there are a lot of songs that used to be
there, used to be heard all the time. It was just second nature to you. But, now,
you do not even hear them anymore. It is just kind of weird. Well, it is not weird,
but that is the way it is. We are losing it fast. So, pretty soon, I guess all the
Seminoles are probably going to be just like anybody else. They are going to
lose all of their identity and be just like anybody else.
E: Talking about the language, this is something that comes up when I talk with
people about language preservation. There are efforts going on up in Brighton,
and there are different efforts going on down here in Big Cypress because of
different languages. That seems to be something that people talk about also.
You know we want to preserve the language. We want to teach the kids the
language. We want to have it as something that gets carried on, and then, also,
SEM 263 page 18
we really do not want to make public how our language works and have white
people have access to it, or non-Indians have access to it.
J: No, the language is not really as hidden as the sacred songs and the medicine
and stuff like that. I mean, the language is really no problem, I do not think. I
know the Creeks have an alphabet, and they write in their alphabet, you know,
for the language. But, even though you learn to speak Creek by reading the
book that they have, it is hard for a Creek speaker like me to understand them.
The reason I say that is because I was up in Oklahoma one time, and this Creek
speaker came up there to me. He was saying something to me, and I said what?
I knew he was speaking my language, but I could not understand him. My sister
was with me and she understood him, so she told me what he said. I said, what
did he say? He said, He asked us if we were from Florida. So, I
spoke back to him, and then he said something else and I could not understand
him, but my sister could. So, I was asking her, how in the world can you
understand him and I cannot even understand it. She said, 'Well, because he
learned how to speak that language out of a book. And when they learn how to
speak it out of a book, that is how they speak it. They speak it just like English,
just kind of straight across, without any ups and downs. And the reason I could
understand him was because Amy (who is her daughter) learned how to speak
most of her Creek out of a book, and she speaks it the same way.'
J: And that is why I could understand him, because Amy has talked to me like that
for quite awhile. See, I could not even hardly understand. I mean, everything
SEM 263 page 19
was right. He was saying it right and everything, but it was just the way he said
it. I said, what?
E: So, he was following the rules, but...
J: Yes, but it just was not right.
E: This is your sister...?
E: And the daughter Amy is...?
J: Amy, I do not remember what her last name is. She married a Navajo boy from
out there in Arizona, so she lives out in Arizona. Anyway, that is how she
learned to speak most of it, through this book that they have out. And she was
telling me that the way this guy was speaking is the same way Amy spoke
whenever she tried to speak Creek, and that is why, she said, she could
understand it. I said, 'Well, I will be danged, I would not have known what he
E: Do you also speak Miccosukee?
J: No, I do not speak Miccosukee. I have been here for going on fifteen years, and
I can understand a lot more than they think I do, but as far as speaking it, I really
cannot speak it. I can say a few words here and there, but I cannot speak it. I
can pretty much understand what they are saying after being here so long.
E: Yes. So, they are that dissimilar.
J: Right. It is maybe like Italian and Spanish or something. Some words are
similar, but as a general rule, I do not think a Spanish guy could go and talk to an
Italian and carry on a conversation. It is the same way with these two languages.
SEM 263 page 20
The Creek is different, and the Miccosukee is different. It is just different all the
way around, with a few similarities in some words.
E: Which makes language preservation for the Tribe as a whole to do.
J: Well, what you have to do is you have to preserve two languages, and one is the
Creek and one is Miccosukee, which I think they are trying to attempt to do now.
The Creek is probably the minority. There are more Miccosukee speaking
people than there are Creek. Like I said, the Creek are losing their language
pretty quickly] down here. As a matter of fact, probably after my generation,
there probably will not be hardly anybody that could probably speak the Creek
E: You think so, really?
J: I am pretty sure. I just do not really know of that many young ones that are
coming up that can really speak the Creek language. [In] My generation,
probably because it was a spoken everyday language. We picked it up as a first
language and we speak it pretty fluently. Then, from my generation on I guess
it was our fault [because] we all spoke English quite a bit kids did not have a
chance to really pick it up.
E: Do your kids speak Creek?
J: No, they do not speak it.
E: So, English is their first and only language.
E: Why do you think that is? What happened? Well, let us stop for a second. You
said you went to school, when you went to school in Okeechobee, you did not
SEM 263 page 21
speak English until you got there, in first grade or whatever.
J: No. Like I said, I did not really understand English when I was in the first grade.
E: Yes, which must have been incredibly difficult.
J: Well, when I think back on it, it seemed like it was. I know I [wanted] was
wanting to go home all the time.
E: Yes, I can imagine.
J: But I cannot really remember when I started picking up English, but I must have
evidently picked it up somewhere. Because when I was about fifteen, sixteen
years old, I was coming out of this grocery store, and my first grade teacher
came walking in there. She turned around and looked and said, 'Timmy Johns,
is that you?' And I said, 'Yes, ma'am.' She said, 'Doggoned.' She came over
there and hugged me and everything. She was telling her friend there, 'When he
first started school there, he could not even speak the first bit of English. Now,
he sounds like he has been speaking English all his life.' She was telling her
E: Who was that? Do you remember her name?
J: Yes. Her name was Ms. Reeves. That is all I know.
E: So, you have memories of going to school...
J: Oh yes.
E: ...and gradually picking up the language, but...
J: But I do not remember when. Sometime in the first grade, I probably learned
how to do it. I could communicate enough to get by.
E: Do you remember a point where you realized you were speaking English more
SEM 263 page 22
than speaking Creek?
J: No, it just came naturally. I just did it without really thinking about it.
E: Does your wife speak Creek?
J: No. My wife is not Indian.
E: Yes, I know you said that, but...
J: She is a non-Indian.
E: Did she pick any up?
E: You had an English language household.
J: Yes, we spoke English the whole time in the household. That is why the kids
never did speak it, never did pick it up.
E: Do you know about this program they have going on in Okeechobee schools
now, with the culture and language program up at Brighton?
J: Louise and them, oh yes. Yes, I know that.
E: Do you have any idea how that is going? Do you have an impression?
J: I have not really even checked into it or anything, and I do not know how it is
going. From what I understand, it is doing pretty good. Some of the kids are
coming in there, and at least they can count and do the colors and stuff like that.
I have these two little boys who are staying with me, and they do not speak the
language but they can count in Creek and they can say all their colors in Creek
and a few words that they probably should not be saying, they can say it in
Creek. They learned it somewhere, so I think that is where they learned it.
E: Who are these? Are they your grandkids?
SEM 263 page 23
J: No, they are not my grandkids. One of them is my third cousin. The other one,
he is not really a relation at all, but he is just my little buddy.
E: He is your third cousin. How is that? Who is it?
J: I have a first cousin, and he had kids. Then, she had this kid, so that makes him
my third cousin.
E: So, it was your first cousin, your mother's brother...?
J: No, it was my aunt's son.
E: Okay, your mother's sister's son.
J: She had a son, and I am the son of Emma, so we were first cousins. He had a
daughter. That made her my second cousin. This is the English's way, or the
white man=s way, of going at it. This boy came along, and that made him my
third cousin. Anyway, that is what he tells everybody. He calls me Uncle Timmy,
but he says he is my third cousin. That is what he always tells everybody.
E: That is interesting. So, you are not even in the same clan, though.
J: He does not have a clan.
E: That one does not have a clan.
J: No, because he married a non-Indian, and the kid was no clan...
[End of Side 1, Tape A.]
E: Are there any examples that you know of, of somebody whose mom is not Indian
who has gotten involved in things like the Green Corn Dance?
J: No, it does not happen. If you do not have a clan, it does not happen. See, like I
SEM 263 page 24
am a half-breed. I am half-white. I have a clan, but even though I know some of
the stuff that goes on, I am not allowed to lead it. It has to be an Indian thing.
Because I am a half-breed, they figure I will take, or I will mess up the medicine
and the sacredness that is behind some of these ceremonial dances. I am not
allowed to even lead them. Then, the medicine, that is something I am not
allowed to mess with. I was told this when I was very young. I was told, do not
ever think about trying to handle the medicine, do not ever think about trying to
lead the bird dance or the buffalo dance, the daytime songs. The explanation
that was given to me was, because the sacredness of these dances to the
Indians is pretty important. And, if I was to go out there and lead the dances or
whatever, as the year goes by, there will be some kind of disaster or [an]
abnormally large amount of people start dying or something that will start
happening that is bad. The first thing people are going to do is come back and
say, well, the reason all this is happening is because that white man was leading
the songs or the dances out there. They will throw all the blame on you; this is
what this guy was telling me. He said, that is the reason I am telling you, do not
ever do it, because they will blame you. They will come back and blame you,
and it will be all on your shoulders. You do not ever want that, so do not ever
think about leading any of those. That is what he told me when I was young.
E: Who would tell you this?
J: It was a guy by the name of Frank Shore. He was our last important medicine
man that we had, who was pretty knowledgeable. He passed away several
years ago, but he was the one who was explaining this to me one time. I never
SEM 263 page 25
really understood what he was talking about until about five or six years later
after he had told, and then I could see where he was coming from. I saw what he
was talking about.
E: What do you mean? Do you mean you saw that it could be an issue of blame?
J: Yes. What happened was we had some guys who were a little bit inebriated out
there dancing the feather dance. They were hitting the ground with their sticks
and crossing them and all that. That year went on, and we had what seemed like
an abnormally large amount of people who were passing away. Then, word got
back to that, the reason all these people are dying was because they did not do
the feather dance right. They were letting them hit the ground and crossing them
over and everything else, and that is why all this is happening. It came to me,
that is [was] what that man was talking about. That is what he was talking about
because they have to blame somebody. Somebody is going to say something,
you know, so that is what he was talking about. If I had led that dance and all
this was going on, they would have said, 'Yeah, because that white man was out
there leading that dance, that is why all this is happening.' See, that is what he
was trying to tell me. I did not understand there for awhile, but as the years went
on and this came about, I put two and two together. That guy really knew what
he was talking about.
E: It would be hard not to have somebody say that to you and take it real personally,
J: Well, true. You know, it will probably hurt you pretty bad, when somebody starts
blaming you for something you did not even do.
SEM 263 page 26
E: When you saw that happen later on, did you start to think, well, he was looking
out for my interests?
J: Yes, he was. Like I said, when he first was telling me that, I was kind of hurt. I
just thought, well, he just does not want me to be leading all those things
because I am half-white. I kind of held it against him, but then later on when that
came about, I realized he was trying to spare me from that kind of torment. That
is what he had been trying to do, and it made sense to me. I understood him
better, but by then, he was gone. I wish he had been around so I could have told
yeu [him], 'Hey, I understand what you were talking about, now.' But, he was
gone by then.
E: Yes. I guess that is the way it goes with a lot of really important lessons
E: So, growing up, that was actually a pretty big issue, whether or not somebody
was full Indian or one of the parents was not Indian?
J: Yes, it was. When I was coming up in my generation, there were not a whole lot
of half-breeds around. I did a lot of fighting because of that. You know,
tormented a little bit by all these little guys who were running around. You know
how kids are. What I had to do, I learned early how to just jump on my biggest
tormenter and just beat the heck out of him. After that, they kind of quit, and
everybody kind of got to be my buddy and stuff. But before then, boy, they use
to just torment the heck out of me all the time. I mean, I was just somebody to
pick on because I was half-white.
SEM 263 page 27
E: Do you think that has changed these days?
J: I think it has changed a lot. I do not see any of that going on with the kids
nowadays. You [have] got to understand [that] there were very few of us who
were half-white back then.
E: And that has increased?
J: Oh yes, it has increased a whole lot. Yes, we have got them half-white, half-
black, half Mexicans. I mean, it is not a big issue anymore. Back when I was
growing up, it was.
E: That is interesting. Does that mean that the number of people who are tribal
members without clans has increased also?
J: Yes. There are whole lot of people who do not have clans who are in the Tribe.
As a matter of fact, there may be a majority. I do not know. I am not sure. I
never really thought about it, but I know there are a lot of people who do not have
E: Okay. I want to come back to the education stuff a bit. So, you started off school
in Okeechobee. Did you go on and graduate from Okeechobee?
J: No. I went to school up to the tenth grade in Okeechobee, and then from tenth
grade, I went out to an all Indian school out in Oklahoma called Shalako and I
graduated from out there. It was kind of like a trade school, a vocational school I
guess you would call it. It was a boarding school. You stayed there and just
went to school there.
E: How was that?
J: It was great. I think that was probably the best three years of my life right there,
SEM 263 page 28
while I was going to school at Shalako.
E: Why is that?
J: I just had a doggoned great time there. I do not know why, but that was probably
the best time of my life right there at Shalako.
E: How did you come to go there?
J: We had a guy out there on the reservationn. His name was Mr. Meadows. He
was kind of like a BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] agent, or -I do not know how you
would call it kind of like a school teacher or something like that. He was the one
who asked me if I would like to go out there. What really made me want to go
out there was because I really liked to play football. In Okeechobee, when we
played football, usually we had some Indians who were outstanding football
players. I thought to myself, [if we had] an all-Indian football team, man, we
would be dangerous. I got to go play on this team. That is why I went. But,
man, I tell you what, we were getting skunked big time while I was out there
because we were playing some teams that had a front line of 206 pounds and we
would have our 135-pound arrows up there. Boy, they would walk over us.
E: Wow. So, it was not as dangerous of a team as...
J: No, we were not as bad as I thought we were going to be. -What the deal was,
there was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 kids who were
going to school there, but there were a lot of Navajos there who were probably
six, seven, eight years old on up with what they called vocational tech, who were
going to school there. As far as the high school, the high school only had
probably 300, 400 people. So, we should have been classified way down in
SEM 263 page 29
Class C, Class B, but they were using all the kids who were at that school as a
population. That put us in Class AA, and we were playing big schools like Ponca
City, Midwest City. I mean, we were playing the big schools. But, their football
was the only thing that we could not beat them in. We tore them up in basketball
[and] track. Baseball, we kind of held our own, but we were not really all that
E: Did you play some of those other sports, too?
J: Yes, I ran track. I tried wrestling, but I messed up my rotator cuff in my right arm
so I had to quit. It bugged me ever since, so I never could go back to wrestling. I
wrestled, probably, about five matches, and then I got messed up and I could not
ever go back to it.
E: You could still play football, though?
J: Yes, I played football. I played football for two years, while I was there.
E: What did you play, what position?
J: I was playing center when I first got there, and I was the fastest man on the team.
The next year, coach told me he wanted me to play halfback. He put me on
halfback, so I played halfback that second year. Then, the third year when I was
a senior (I had to repeat tenth grade twice because I had quit in tenth grade, so
when I got there, I had to start over in tenth grade) I had too many semesters or
something, and I was not allowed to play in my senior year. So, I only played my
sophomore and junior year. My senior year, I did not get to play.
E: We had been talking about you going out to Shalako.
SEM 263 page 30
J: Yes. Like I said, I went out there for three years. I went through the tenth grade,
eleventh grade, and twelfth grade, and I graduated out there in 1966. Then,
when I came back, I never did go to [any] no more school. I just figured I had all I
could stand. But, Shalako was a school that was right down my alley because
they had horses, they had cattle, and they had farming. I am nothing but an old
dirt farmer at heart, anyway. I mean, that is what I like to do. I love doing it. So,
they had all that out there. I just took to it like a duck takes to water. I just had a
good time while I was there, and I learned a lot while I was out there.
E: Compared with the Okeechobee school you were in?
J: Well, Okeechobee was just a public school. Everything you did there was more
or less out of books, and this here, you actually did the things that needed to be
done. Like every year, we would go out there, and we would plant wheat, corn,
maize. When I was a junior, they would give you a colt to break, you know, so
you would have the experience of breaking horses. They had one of the finest
Morgan horse herds in the country at that time. They raised horses, colts and
stuff. They would have anywhere from nine to ten heads of colts. When they got
to be about two years old, you would get assigned to one of the colts, and it was
up to you to break them. That is what we would do. I mean, you got instruction
from your teacher and stuff on how you should go about it, but when I look back
now, a lot of that stuff that we were doing back then that they were
recommending we do was wrong, the wrong things to do. But, that is what we
did. Eventually, you would get them where you could ride them, and then we
rode them. Then, as you worked the cattle and stuff there, that would be yours to
SEM 263 page 31
ride. It was kind of more or less your horse. Then, some of the guys, we would
stay there all summer and work on the farm there. They would give you a calf,
and then they would give you an allotment of wheat, corn, and maize. Whatever
was growing, they would give you an allotment of it. When I graduated out of
Shalako and came home, I think I had something around $6,000 saved up, that
they had saved up for me. That was big bucks back then, because I had stayed
there and worked for two years, two summers. I never did come home, when I
got out there.
E: So, the allotment of wheat or corn or what have you, you would grow that, sell it,
and you would get the money from it?
J: Right. We would get a percentage of the sales or the proceeds. They would
give it to you. Or, they would not give it to you, but they would put it in a bank for
you. They had a little student bank there at the school, and they would put it in
that bank for you. They would only let you draw out $2 at a time, and that was
just $4 a week you could draw out of there. Whenever you sold calves, like if you
stayed there and worked that summer, they would give you a calf and they would
feed it out for you. Then, at the same time, you would get assigned another calf
that was yours, that would be your project. So, a lot of us guys had two calves
that we were feeding out while we were going to school there because we had
sat there and worked all summer. We would be feeding out two calves, so
whenever we sold those calves, we sold two calves, plus the allotment of wheat
and the corn and the maize that was harvested. The maize and corn, the biggest
part of it, we never really sold. We just used it for the feed for the livestock that
SEM 263 page 32
was there. The wheat was our big money maker. We would sell a lot of wheat.
We had, I think it was, 1,200 acres of wheat land that we planted every year
while we were up there. That was our summer project, to get that wheat disked.
We would double-disk it, and then we would go ahead and bog-plow it, and then
we would triple-disk it. It would be ready to plant when the kids came back in
September. It was kind of a little bit late to plant the wheat by then, but it was to
show the kids how things were supposed to be done. So, they would let the kids
plant the wheat, but there [would] were be about three, four of us guys who
worked all summer getting that ground ready so when they came back they could
E: So, your very first summer, you decided to stay out there. Your very first summer
up there, you decided not to come back here.
J: No. My first summer up there when I was in tenth grade, I came home. The
following year, they had asked me if I would like to stay and work that summer. I
told [them] yes. I wanted to, so I never did come home.
E: The first summer when you came back, what did you do that summer?
J: I was driving a tractor out there on Brighton. I was disking some ground. We
were planting some grass in some of the pastures up there.
E: Was that paying?
J: Yes, I was getting paid for that.
E: From the Tribe?
J: Yes, from the Tribe. I was working for the Tribe, yes. I was working for a guy by
the name of Dick Bower. When I came home that summer, he asked me if I
SEM 263 page 33
wanted to drive the tractor. I told him, yes, I want to drive the tractor. So, I went
to work driving the tractor. I think I was making $0.75 an hour or something like
that, $0.50 an hour maybe.
E: Which was probably handy when you went back. Did you save any up?
J: Yes, I saved enough to buy me some clothes to go back to school in. Then,
when I got to school, like I said, I never did come back [any] no more. I just
stayed there the whole time. After I graduated, I stayed there that summer. See,
in my junior year, I stayed there that summer, and then I stayed there all summer
after my senior year. Then in September when the kids started coming back,
that is when I came home. I stayed there two summers.
E: You mentioned earlier when you were talking about Okeechobee, before you
went up to Shalako, you said that you left tenth grade, did not finish tent grade in
Okeechobee, so you had to redo tenth grade up in Shalako.
E: Why did you leave tenth grade? Do you remember?
J: The thing was it looked like we were going to have to be switched from
Okeechobee to Moore Haven, and the Moore Haven school never did actually
want the Indian kids going to school there. They had never wanted us to go over
there. That was why we had started going to school in Okeechobee. I guess
they were pretty much prejudiced toward the Indians there at Moore Haven.
Anyway, we had been going to Okeechobee for ten years, that I know of, but
what the deal was going to be was, like, the federal government was going to
start paying subsidy money for the Indian kids. Moore Haven, since we lived in
SEM 263 page 34
their country, [wanted] was-wanting that money. That was the only reason. They
did not care that we [did not go to their schools] went to school not in their
schools, but they wanted that money. I just did not like the way we were being
used, like a bunch of bought and sold animals. I just had enough pride about me
that I did not want to be a part of that, so I quit school. I said if we are going to
have to go to Moore Haven, I will just quit.
E: What year was that, do you know?
J: I cannot remember what year that was.
E: It was in the 1960s.
J: Yes, it was in the early 1960s. Yes, it was tough being Indian back then.
E: Do you know people who then did go to Moore Haven?
J: Yes, I know a bunch of them who went. There [were] was a lot of people who
went to school at Moore Haven.
E: In your class?
J: Yes, some of them were in my class.
E: What kind of experience did they have?
J: I guess from what they told me, it was just kind of like they jumped up a step
because the school was a lot smaller. So, they kind of jumped up a step and
went on, but I just did not like the principle of the whole thing. It kind of ticked me
off, so I just quit. I had about been full of school then, anyway, but after I worked
the rest of that year and all that summer, I decided, man, I had better get back
E: What did you do that year, what kind of work?
SEM 263 page 35
J: I was working for some guy named Douglas Thompson up there in
Hammock. I was working cattle. I was a cowboy.
E: In Hammock? I am not sure where that is.
J: That is up there north of Okeechobee, up there off of Road 60. They give you a
horse to ride and they feed you and give you a place to stay, and they pay you a
little bit. So, that is why I worked there.
E: After about nine months or so, you....
J: Well, then Old Meadows got a hold of me and asked me if I would like to go back
to school. I told him, no, I did not want to go to Moore Haven. He said, well, they
have a school out there. He was telling me about the Indian school, Shalako.
He get- totelling [told] me about that, and I thought, wow, that sounds pretty
good. So I thought, 'Well hell, I will go there.'
E: How did you know Meadows?
J: He was working as an adult education teacher. He was some kind of teacher out
there. I cannot remember exactly what his position was, but he lived out there on
the reservation. We used to go over there when we were younger and
everything. He had a bunch of weights and stuff, and we would go over there
and pick up on his weights and watch him while he lifted weights and stuff like
that. He got to be pretty good buddies with most of us kids around here. We
would go over there and talk with him and everything. That is when he asked me
about it, and I told him, 'Yes, I [would] w-ll go.' There were several of us who
picked up and went out there and went to school out there.
E: A couple of minutes ago, just in passing you said it was hard to be an Indian in
SEM 263 page 36
the 1960s out there.
J: Well, there was a lot of prejudice back in those days. You know, before the civil
rights and all that, a lot of people looked down on you because of the fact you
were Indian. If you were aware of it, it kind of worked on you, but a lot of the
guys did not even seem to know it existed.
J: They just did not realize it was there, but I was very quite aware of it.
E: Were they not aware of it, or were they just blocking it out?
J: I do not know. I do not think they were really aware of it, but I knew what was
E: Was it all over, or was it just at Moore Haven?
J: It was pretty much all over.
E: What kinds of things. I mean, I understood some about the school issue, but
where would you really encounter it the most? Was there some type of situation
where you would see it, like a football game or a grocery store?
J: It was pretty much all over. You could tell, you know, you were second rate
whenever you come over there to talk to somebody or something. I mean, that
was just the way. You could tell that was just the way people treated you, like
you were insignificant or something. I mean, it is not really like that [now]. Every
now and then, you encounter it but not as much as you used to.
E: Did older people ever talk to you about that, about how to handle it?
J: No, I never had anybody really tell me anything about it. I just kind of had to
work it out on my own, you know, however I thought it was, but I never did really
SEM 263 page 37
have anybody, kind of, counsel me on it or anything like that.
E: I am guessing, but I suppose that would be an incentive to go off to school in
Oklahoma, to go off to Shalako.
J: Yes, especially to an Indian school, you know? I just never really fit in too well
there at Okeechobee. Never really did. I do not think any of the Indian kids [did].
We were more or less kind of shoveled off to the side, kind of held off over there.
That is kind of the way we were treated. Like I said, most of the kids were not
really aware of what was going on, but I kind of knew what was happening.
E: Do you get the impression it is kind of different these days?
J: Yes, it is different.
E: How is it different?
J: Well, they are more accepting now than they used to be, and they are not as
different, culturally, as we were then. In other words, the kids today [are more or
less] kind of more or less are just about the same as anybody else, other than
they [are a] got different color. But, back then, we were different. We were
different. I mean, our outlook, everything was different, our languages. We were
different. Just like all the Cubans who come over from Cuba, the first bunch that
came in here, they were different. The second generation kind of more or less
infiltrated, and they were kind of more or less the same, and they kind of more or
less lost their identity. That is kind of where we are at now.
E: That is interesting. That is sort of going along with these changes in the Green
Corn Dance and the changes in language. People are also...
SEM 263 page 38
E: Did your mom go to school?
E: Did she have any education?
J: She never went to school.
E: Did she speak English?
J: Not very much. She could understand it, pretty much. She could speak, but it
was real broken.
E: Your aunts. Did they...?
J: The one who raised me, it was broken English, but she could communicate with
E: Do you know if she had any education, like school education?
J: No, I do not think they ever had any education.
E: How about your Uncle Garfield? Did he?
J: I am not sure about him. If he did, it was very little.
E: So, when you went to Okeechobee, you went there without knowing English, and
you came from a family where the older people of your parents generation... How
about your father, did he...?
J: My father was a non-Indian.
E: What was his name?
J: I never knew him.
E: So you do not know whether or not he had education?
J: I do not know anything about him.
E: He would not have played any kind of role?
SEM 263 page 39
E: What I was wondering was, you came from a family where your parents=
generation, your mom, her sisters, and your uncle, they may not have gone to
school and they may have spoken some English. Why did you end up going to
first grade at Okeechobee? Who pushed you out the door?
J: My aunt, the one who raised me, was the one who wanted me to go to school,
and she would push me to go to school. My older sister was going to school, and
then I had a bunch of older cousins who were going to school, so I just kind of
followed in their tracks and went on.
E: They were all going out to Okeechobee?
J: Yes, everybody was going to Okeechobee, so that is where I went.
E: Did you want to go because they were all going?
J: At first, I wanted to go, yes. But, after about a week of it, I had me a belly full.
E: Enough of that, right?
E: But, they evidently kept pushing you out the door to go.
J: Yes, my aunt would always stress to me that I needed to go. She would get on
me and everything, you know, if I did not go or whatever. She would always
push me to go.
E: Why? What would she say?
J: She just wanted me to get an education, I imagine. She said I probably needed
SEM 263 page 40
J: Because, she said, you know, without this reading and writing, it is no good; you
need to learn all that. I guess she figured I needed to learn how to do all that so I
could along in life, because she knew what a disadvantage she was at because
she was not able to do it. I guess that is why she was pushing me, pushing us,
to go on to school.
E: Yes. Looking back, does it make sense, her pushing you to go to school?
J: Yes, it makes sense because I know she was at a heck of a disadvantage. She
realized it, so that is why she probably was wanting us to go on to school, so we
would not have to go through the same kind of mode of life that she had to go
through. Things were changing fast back then, too. They hardly ever came in
contact with non-Indians in their lifetime until they got older, and then it just
seemed like the population exploded. I remember we used to travel up and
down the road, go to Fort Pierce or something. And they used to say, you know,
we used to say right there, and there would be a big old store or something there.
We used to stay right there, or camp right there, while everybody did their
trading or shopping or whatever. There would be a parking lot with a big old
store there, you know. I remember them mentioning, pointing out, things like
E: Could you imagine it when they were pointing those things out?
J: No. I mean, I thought, well, so now they have a store there. That really did not
make that much difference to me back then. You know, when you are young,
things like that do not really impress you. Then, the older you get, that is when
you start thinking about that.
SEM 263 page 41
E: How about when you moved to Brighton from Okeechobee? Were you first living
in a camp at Brighton?
J: Yes, we were living in a camp. We had several chickees there. It was a pretty
good size camp. There were about five, six different families that lived there in
E: When you say families, do you mean...?
J: I am talking about mama with a bunch of kids here, and a bunch of kids
E: It was your mother's family.
J: Right. We all grew up in one camp there. We all kind of got out of the tent
situation whenever everybody started getting into bigger houses and stuff. That
is when we starting really losing a lot, right there and then.
E: Do you remember what year that was?
J: No, I have no idea. I could not even begin to guess.
E: Was it before you went off to Shalako or after you came back?
J: It was before I went over there, I think. Yes.
E: Did you build the houses in the same place where you had the came?
J: No. We moved into houses where they built them for us.
E: Who? The BIA?
J: I do not really know who it was, the Housing Authority or something like that. It
was some kind of federal housing authority. Up there in Brighton, they built the
houses out there on what they call the horseshoe. I never knew until years later,
but what they had done was [that] they gave that part of the property up from the
SEM 263 page 42
reservation and gave it to the housing authority so they could build the houses
there. Then, it was a kind of non-discriminating type situation there. They were
little old cheap houses that they built, and everybody started moving into them.
That is when all the camps started busting up, because everybody used to live in
camps. There used to be federal camps up there in Brighton, but everybody
lived in camps until the individual housing came about. Then, the little houses
right there around that horseshoe, they were the first houses that were built
there. I think there were five regular houses that were built out there before that
horseshoe came out. Tom Bowers had a house; Ollie Jones had a house; Dick
Bowers had a house. Who else [had one]? I think Archie Johns had a house,
and there was one more. I cannot remember who it was. Maybe it was four.
But, they were the first houses that were built out there, until those other houses
came in and they came in probably around 1969, 1970, maybe somewhere
E: That is when the rest of the houses were built?
E: So, where your camp was, where you lived after you moved from Okeechobee,
what is there now?
J: Howard Mico lives there.
E: So, a house is there.
J: Yes. That was the first location of our first camp when we got there. But, later
on, we moved on out past the water tower. Do you know where the water tower
is on Brighton?
SEM 263 page 43
J: Where Connie lives?
E: I am not sure where her place is.
J: It is right there as you are going south past the water tower, it is that first place
almost under that water tower. That [is the] house, there. That is where we
ended up. That is where our big camp was.
E: Was there a road there at that point?
J: Yes, there was a road there.
E: [route] 721 was...?
J: Yes, 721 was there, and it was paved. Yes.
E: What got me asking those questions, --was [that I was] thinking about what you
said about people pointing out to you, over at Fort Pierce and so on, there used
to be a camp here and there is nothing but parking lot or building. And,
it was difficult to imagine that. I am wondering if, you know, you point this stuff
out to your kids?
J: Yes. Lke, I used to point out to my kids all the time, you kenow,[that] we used to
do this and that and -allthat, the same way I do with these two little guys I [have]
got with me now. which I need to go check on them because they are supposed
to be going on our country safari. I need to go make sure they are ready to go.
E: Do we need to wrap this up now?
J: Well, I need to go get them right now.
E: Yes, so I guess we have to. I guess I will just put a stop on this. [End of Side 2,
SEM 263 page 44
E: Today is June 27, and we are continuing the interview we started a couple of
days ago with Timmy Johns in his office at Big Cypress Citrus. I guess what we
should do is maybe pick up and talk about some of the economic stuff. So, right
now, your primary occupation is running BC Citrus. What is your official title?
J: I am Gcaling [called] the acting director, for the BC Citrus groves.
E: What is included within the groves? What kind of territory are we talking about?
J: We have 505 tree acres that are growing in here, and we have a 200-acre
reservoir that we are responsible for. Our whole responsibility here is just trying
to grow as much fruit as we can to sell to make a profit.
E: And it is mostly oranges?
J: We have got 379 acres of round oranges. We have 161 acres of Hamlins, which
is an early variety, and all that we usually normally try to go with juice. Every
now and then, we will come up with a clean crop, which we will pack, especially if
the fresh fruit price is bringing more money than the juice price, which normally,
as a general rule, it will on the earlies. But, with the Valencias, we have got 218
acres of them, and those we just go ahead and try to juice out all the time
because of the premium price that is usually given per pound solid on the juice of
the Valencias. They are considered kind of like a premium orange for juice, so
they use a pretty good many per pound solid. We have fifty-two acres of red
grapefruit, which we call the Flame Reds. We usually grow them for the fresh
fruit market, and if things go right, we usually do pretty [well] good with them.
Last year, we had Hurricane Irene come through here and kind of mess up the
cosmetic look of the fruit, and we had to end up juicing a bunch of them because
SEM 263 page 45
they were so scarred up and everything. We have thirty-seven acres of the
Murcotts, and the Murcotts were under the same deal as the flames were. They
were so scarred up that they did not really want to try to pack any. They came in
here and picked some, and then they decided they did not really need them. So,
we went ahead and ended up juicing a big part of the crop there.
E: Who processes these things? Where you do the juicing?
J: We got an outfit which is a co-op, called Golden Gem, and we have been dealing
strictly with them ever since we started picking in this grove. The best way to sell
this fruit is on a strict cash market, but with the slump in the industry, there has
not been a cash market out there, so what we do is we sell it to them under what
they call the Participation Plan. That is where, as they sell the fruit juice or
whatever, they will pay you the money back, in form of food payments.
E: So, you essentially give over the crop to them, they sell it, and they pay you in
installments or something.
J: Basically that is the way it works. Once they come in here and they pick the fruit
and everything, they [have] got the whole control of it and you just do not really
have any say-so whatsoever.
E: Oh, so they do the picking also?
J: Yes, they do the picking, and what they do is they will front you the money. They
will pay for the picking and everything else, and then they will take their money
out of returns that the fruit gets back. They will take their money out, and then
they will give you what is left over. That way, you do not have to put out any
capital for picking, roadside hauling, which is usually around $2.50 a box to do
SEM 263 page 46
that, which gets to be pretty steep sometimes.
E: Yes, I can see that adding up. So, you said it was a cooperative. It is a
company, or is it a...?
J: Yes, well, it is a co-op. What that means is it is an outfit that, once they go threw
a year of juicing and packing fresh fruit and once they go through the operating
year, whatever money is left over is always supposed to be kind-of more or less
given back to the stockholders. [They] who are the growers who furnish the fruit
for that outfit. New [The way] they normally determine it is they usually give you
what they call equity. You will have so much equity in the company, like last time
that we had an update on the equity, we had something around $205,000 worth
of equity built up in there. So, as you sell the juice and everything, they figure out
how much equity they need to take out on you, and then they go ahead and take
it out. It is kind of a complex process, and if I sit there and try to tell an
accountant, it just messes their minds up because they have never heard of
business being done this way before. But always as a general rule, we have
always been able to get a little bit more money back on our return for the fruit by
going with this company, except for this past year. There was a little mess up
there and we really took a beating, but I think they have kind of got everything
straight now. We will probably do a little bit better.
E: So, the mess up was something in the company?
J: The company had
E: But, you mentioned there was a slump in the market right now?
J: Well, I really do not know what the deal is. It is the supply and demand. There is
SEM 263 page 47
more supply than there is demand, I guess. Our breakeven point is about $1 a
pound, but like this past year on our earlies, we sold them for $0.62 a pound.
Then, on our Valencias, we only sold them for $0.74 a pound. So, you can see
right there that we were falling short of our breakeven point of producing the stuff.
E: And that is a market issue?
J: That was what they paid us on our fruit this year.
E: That is interesting. Normally, it is a pretty profitable enterprise, citrus?
J: It is kind of like a volume type thing. The more that you got, the better off you
are. But, if you got just a limited amount like we do, it is kind of hard to play in
the commercial field. [That is] because you have got so many people out there,
so many big boys out there, who have thousands and thousands of acres of this
stuff, where we only got, all total, 505 acres. That is all we have, so we cannot
compete with these big boys in their own playing field. So, what we have to do,
and we have been working on this, is get our niche market. What we are
probably going to start doing this coming year is we-are-qgotg to start taking our
own fruit, picking them and cleaning them up, waxing them, whatever, and start
selling them in our BINGOs or whatever outlets we have. That way, I think we
can realize more return. But, we have what they call a rolling three-year contract
with Golden Gem, so even when we break contract with them, which we will do in
the month of July, they still got two more years on the fruit. That is the way they
wanted the contract, and that is the way we signed it.
E: So, what do you do? How do you do that, then?
J: What I will do is, I have forty acres of Hamlins and twenty acres of Valencias that
SEM 263 page 48
I did not sign up, so I will use that. But, the rest of it, they have got under
contract. But, that twenty acres and that forty acres can probably get us started
on a limited amount. We can go to one of our outlets, and we can buy some half-
bushel bags and four-bushel bags. They will probably take about six, seven
navel oranges to fill up one of those quarter-bushel bags, and we can probably
sell them for $3. Where, if we take a ten-box bin, that is probably worth $80. So,
you get $3 and you sell ten of them, you are going to make $30. There are
probably going to be about fifty of those bags in that doggoned ten-box bin,
which you are only going to get $80 for. We do it this way, and we can probably
double or triple our money out of those boxes by selling this way, if people will
buy it, and I think they will.
E: So, are you looking at this initial phase starting in July as kind of an experiment
period to figure out how to market it?
J: The way the contract is with Golden Gem is, if I break the contract, it has to be in
the month of July. The reason it is done in the month of July is because that is
when they start doing their inventory and estimates, so they will kind of have an
idea of how much fruit that they are going to have coming into their plant. That is
when they start doing their estimations on the crop. So, in July, I will have to tell
them, well, we are going to go ahead and do something else with the fruit; we are
going to break contract. When we do that, they still [have] got this year, and then
they [have] got two more years. So, it will be 2003 before we can get out from
under the contract. By then, we will have other things going that we are gearing
ourselves up to, which I hope will come in place and we will be able to handle all
SEM 263 page 49
the fruit that comes off this place. We are too small for the commercial deal, and
we are too big for the niche deal.
E: So, when you tell them in July, am I mistaken that there will be this sixty acres
that you will be able to work with right away this coming year?
J: Yes, I have sixty acres I can play with.
E: We talked about this before, a couple of weeks ago, just in conversation, and I
think you said at the BINGO halls and other places, you were going to try...
J: Yes, like the Safari over here or I am sure they would probably buy a
bag or two to take home with them, and then the BINGO halls. Then, there is a
place right down the road here called Shell Station, which belongs to
Miccosukee. We are going to get with them and see if we could not get us a little
stand there. We went down there and did a survey, and there are 335 cars an
hour that come in and out of there. So, I am sure maybe one of [those] them
cars will stop and buy a bag of fruit. And, we are also talking about juice, too.
You know, it is Florida. If you have some fresh orange juice, they drink it. If they
like it, they will drink it and buy some to take with them. That way, we could
utilize most of our fruit. That is what the plan is: we want to utilize all our fruit
within the Tribe, doing it ourselves instead of giving the control over to somebody
else and letting them do it for us.
E: Right. So, right now with your deal with Golden Gem, is it possible for Safari to
buy your citrus, or do they have to buy it from...?
J: No, they would have to buy it from Golden Gem because it is under contract.
Once it leaves here, Golden Gem has got the control of it. In other words, I am
SEM 263 page 50
left floundering out here wondering what they are going to do. I hope they do not
give it away, you know? If they want to, I guess they could, but I am hoping they
are going to give me a good price for it.
E: Right. So, when you got this price last year, the $0.74 for the Valencias, that is
what they negotiated? That is what they came up with?
J: Well, I was surprised they came back up on the pool. That was what the payoff
was, and that was not just for us. That was for all the growers.
E: So, right now, when your citrus goes out, it comes with a little sticker on it that
says Golden Gem? It comes out in boxes that has Golden Gem on the side, or
does it say Seminole, Big Cypress, or something?
J: No, it says Golden Gem.
E: When you start marketing, is it going to be called...?
J: We are probably going with a name. We are going to call it Seminole Gold. That
is [how] what we are going to probably start labeling our fruit as. It is going to
take us a couple of years to get everything lined up because, right now, we are
under a-quarantine with the other grove over here, the lemon grove where they
grow lemons and grapefruit. Over there, in that locale over there, is where we
want to put our little packing shed, but it is under a quarantine area. There has
been a quarantine because of canker. They found canker over there in some of
the grapefruit boxes over there. It being quarantined, we are not able to sell fruit
that we packed in a quarantined area in the state, and that is where we want to
sell our fruit, here in the state, and we are not able to. So, it is going to take us a
couple years to get out from that quarantine. Once we get out from that
SEM 263 page 51
quarantine, we will go ahead and get that little packing shed built, and then we
will go ahead and start packing it ourselves. Right now, the plan is we have a
little packing shed over there in Immokalee that we are going to haul to and let
him pack for us, or let him run them for us, and then we will start bagging them
ourselves and putting them through our distribution points.
E: But the lemon grove and those grapefruit groves that you were talking about over
there, that is under the board?
J: That is under the board corporation.
E: And this is under the Tribe?
J: This is under the council, yes.
E: Do they have an arrangement? Are they selling to Golden Gem, also?
J: They try to sell everything on a cash market, but then [for] the lemons, what they
usually do is try to get some experienced packers because lemons are a little bit
different packing than regular citrus. So, they try to get experienced packers to
go in there and pack them. Then, they will usually do it under what they call an
account sell. What they will do is they will pack them, handle them, and sell
them. Then, as the money comes in, then you get your part of it, and they will
get theirs for the packing and the handling of it. It is a pretty complex deal,
selling this citrus. But, the grower always loses control of his fruit any time he
goes this commercial route. By doing it this way, we will be able to control our
E: Which should be good.
J: Yes, I think it would be a lot better than what we are going through right now.
SEM 263 page 52
E: Yes, it sounds like you will learn quite a bit with the first sixty acres you have to
J: Yes, we will see. It will be interesting to see how it works. If we are going to
have to have more fruit than what we have got, with the acres that we have got
allocated to this, we will have to go out and buy some. We will not be able to use
this fruit because, like I said, it is still under contract. So, we will not be able to
use it. Like I said, I am going to break contract with them this year. As a matter
of fact, in July, I will call the man up and tell him, we are going to go ahead and
break contract. Still, we will not be able to get out of the contract until 2003
because of the way the contract is set up.
E: So, in a sense, it is not really breaking the contract, or is it?
J: Well, I will break the contract and let them know, but they got what is called a
rolled three-year contract. The reason they did that was because they spent a lot
of money going from concentrated juice to what they call non-concentrate, which
is, like, they just go in there and just juice, and then they pasteurize it and they
sell it fresh juice. It is not like the old type concentration where they went in
there and they put them in those little cans, and you had to add water to bring it
back up to drink and all that. That way kind of went by the wayside. Everybody
wants that fresh juice. It is more profitable to go that way. So, they had it aligned
there to do not from concentrate, and they spent a pile of money doing that.
While they were doing that, they wanted to be assured that they were going to
have enough fruit, so they went from a year to year contract like they had, and
then they went with a rolling three-year contract. That way, if somebody breaks
SEM 263 page 53
contract with them, not satisfied with what they are doing, they still got two more
years on the fruit. That will give them a chance to go look around somewhere
else to get more fruit to cover what they are going to lose when the contract
broke through. Golden Gem is a good company, and they deal with the small
growers a lot, you know, people who have ten, fifteen, twenty acres. They deal
with them a lot. Like I said, down here, we got these conglomerates that have
thousands and thousands of acres, and there is no way you can really compete
E: Who is your major competitor right around here? There are groves all over the
place, I see.
J: Yes. Well, everybody is a competitor, but on the same token, we are all in it
together because we have got to have the volume in order to keep the industry
viable. Otherwise, the people...particularly Brazil because they own 58 percent
of the juicing company in the state now and they control the futures market in the
orange juice. So, we have got to have some kind of volume, and it takes all the
growers together to take a volume. We are just not able to compete with the
Brazilian boys because they can do it cheaper, and they have a lot of acres down
E: That is interesting. I did not even know about that.
J: Yes, and they have been coming here, they started coming in here about three or
four years ago. They started buying up these major juicing plants that we had
here. One of the first ones that went was the one they used to call Minute Maid
[juicing plant located in Auburndale, Florida]. I am sure you have seen Minute
SEM 263 page 54
E: Oh yes.
J: Okay, it used to be owned by the Coca-Cola people. Well, it was sold to the
Brazilians. One Brazilian family bought the whole thing, bought the whole
shebang, and now they call it the Catrale. That was the family that bought [it],
the Catrales. Then, there have been some more juice plants that have been
bought by the Brazilians. They are coming in here and buying them up, and now
they own better than half of the juicing plants here in the United States or in the
E: I had no idea about that.
J: Yes, they say that the Brazilians own 58 percent of the juicing facilities here in
the state. Nobody knows what that means, whether that is good or bad, but
everybody is expecting the worst.
E: How did you personally come to get involved with the citrus industry?
J: Well, I had always been a cowboy. That is what I always wanted to be, work with
cattle and everything. I was working with the Brighton cattle owners. I worked
with them for about ten, eleven years as a cattle foreman up there. Then, I had a
wreck with a horse one time, and it kind of messed me up. It cracked my pelvic
bone, and I got to where I could not ride a horse anymore. It hurt me, so I got to
looking around to see what else was out there. At the time, those old citrus boys
were getting plum rich with this doggoned citrus deal because there were a lot of
freezes going on. It was about 1981 or 1982 that I got into it. There were a lot of
freezes going on, and it was a short supply. They were getting anywhere from
SEM 263 page 55
$1.50 to $2.10 a pound solid. I do not care what you had done. You could do
everything wrong you wanted to, and you were still going to make money with the
citrus. They were grossing $5,000 an acre, netting probably anywhere from
$12,000 to $18,000 an acre. It looked pretty good, so I figured, well, maybe I can
grow a doggoned orange tree. So, I pulled around there and got into, and I kind
of enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I still enjoy it.
E: This is when you were still at Brighton?
E: So, you started growing on what sort of a scale? How much money did you have
to work with when you first started?
J: I was working with another boy with another outfit called Stone Beads Land and
Cattle Company. It is a Creek word they called It means money, and
'stone beads' kind of means money. Anyway, this guy here had a cigarette shop,
selling a lot of cigarettes down there in Hollywood and making pretty good
money, and he reinvested in the orange grove. Well, he invested it in some
cattle and some land up there around Lake Placid, but then he decided he was
going to get into citrus because citrus, like I said, was pretty lucrative at that time.
E: Who was this?
J: His name was Joe Lester Johns. I worked with him, and that is how I got started.
We got to talking about citrus and everything, and he leased about 160 acres
from the Tribe. We went in there and planted it, and I took care of it and
everything for him for awhile. Then, after awhile, I came down here and started
working down there. I have been here ever since.
SEM 263 page 56
E: When you got into it, when you and Joe Lester Johns got into it, did it prove to be
as profitable as it looked in the early 1980s, when you first looked into it?
J: I am sure it did. I have never seen the returns or anything, but I am pretty sure it
was. He was making pretty good money off of that little grove he had there.
E: So, you were helping him out.
J: Yes, I helped him put the grove in and everything. Then, after I got the grove put
in, I went on. Then, I got into cutting some sable palms for wholesale sell. I did
that for a couple of years. Then, I was offered this job down here to put this
grove in. I came down, and what I was supposed to have done was just come
down here for three years and put this grove in, but I have been down here this
coming October it is going to be fourteen years that I have been here.
E: It was 1986 when you came down here?
J: October 1987, when I got down here.
E: Up at Brighton, what was it you started growing? Was it oranges?
J: Yes. He probably has about 40 percent Hamlins and about 60 percent Valencias
E: Is that a good ratio?
J: Yes, that is a good ratio because you can go ahead and pick your Hamlins
before the dangers of frost and kind of more or less make your cash flow, you
know, make your payments on whatever you have outstanding. Then, whenever
the Valencias get ready, which is a late variety and it has to go through all
dangers of frost and everything else, if it makes it, you pick it and then
That is a pretty good deal.
SEM 263 page 57
E: That venture in Brighton, was that a tribal enterprise?
J: No that was an individual endeavor there. He was using his own money. He
used tribal land, but he was paying rent for the use of the land. He used his own
money to put in a grove and everything.
E: That is sort of what happens with cattle. You can lease land.
J: The cattle deal is a little bit different. The way it is set up is everybody is kind of
an individual owner, but they all stay as a co-op for the buying power that more
cattle generates. In other words, the more volume you got, the less you have to
pay. So, we kind of stay as a co-op, and when we buy, we have a bigger buying
power. Where, if you get-[have] forty individuals going out there and buying fifty
bags of mineral at one time, you can go ahead and get a whole truck load at one
time at a pretty good savings. That is one of the reasons why they stay kind of
like a co-op, and they pay fees to run the business. Like, they pay bull fees,
which pays for the bulls and the Tribe supplies the bulls, and vet fees whenever
they brand and vaccinate and whatever, worms, whatever. That pays for the
medicine and everything. They pay for that. Then, they pay what they call a
grazing fee for the cattle to be on the land.
E: So, there is a cattle and range or a cattle and land office down here, and up there
is cattle and land...
J: There is one here and there is one up there in Brighton.
E: That is like the co-op office?
J: Yes. They call it land use. Land use is the one that takes care of the land.
Then, they [have] get the cattle program, [in] which they take care of the cattle
SEM 263 page 58
E: I see. So, if somebody has cattle and they decide they want to sell off the cattle
and start growing sugarcane, they are going to...
J: No, they cannot do that because the way it is set up is you have got what is
called a revocable permit, and the revocable permit only works for grazing. If
there are going to be any other endeavors attempted out there, it has to revert
back to the board. Then, the board will decide whether they want to do it or not,
unless an individual goes to the board and gets that property for something like
that, which some of our boys up there around Brighton have done. You know,
we have had a couple guys here recently, just went in there and took their cattle
pastures and went to the board council and went through the rigmarole to do
sugarcane. But, whenever you got cattle out there, you cannot just take pastures
you got and start doing something else because you have got a grazers
agreement that you have to sign, which is a contract on how you will act under
the board. That is one of the deals, like if you want to go start lifting sod off your
pasture, well, you cannot do that. Whenever you start doing anything other than
grazing cattle in the pasture, it reverts back to the board. In other words, I guess
it gives the board the first chance to do whatever they want to do with it.
E: Right, sort of central coordinating of how the lands are used.
J: Yes, but you can go and make a deal with the board and go ahead and do
different things with it, but you have got to go back to the board first and get their
permission. Thenthe- [The] reason for that is because, anything you do things
like that, we-are-all [is] monitored by the BIA, which is the Bureau of Indian
SEM 263 page 59
Affairs. They just kind of give us a little rope, throw it around our necks, and then
they just kind of twiddle us around out there. Every time they want us to not do
something, they give a big yank. Anything we do here on this reservation here or
any of the reservations, it has to go and be approved by the BIA, and if the BIA
does not approve it, we cannot do it. That is why a lot of times, some deals
come up that could be pretty lucrative but it would be messed up because of the
red tape that is involved and the lengthy process of going through the red tape.
A lot of times, you have to make a decision on doing something right there and
then to do it, otherwise it does not work. That is why we cannot ever get to
capitalize on any split-second decisions, because we are not allowed to.
E: So, that is where sovereignty runs up against government bureaucracy. You
cannot just run off and make a decision. It has to go through this channel.
J: Yes. Well, the sovereignty is...
E: So, when you started growing this citrus up in Brighton, what procedure did you
go through? It was Joe Lester Johns= company, the Stone Bead company that
was doing it, but you were right there with him. Was that land that had been
previously grazing land?
J: Yes. It had previously been farmed for tomatoes. It was a truck-farming deal. It
was raw land, and they came in there and planted vegetables in there and
ditched it, diked it, whatever. Then, after they went through there and got their
SEM 263 page 60
crop out, then were required by the BIA Land Use and Tribe to go in there and
plant grass in there for the grazing. That is how it was utilized. Then, for years, it
was a pasture. Then, he went to the board and asked if he could lease it for
twenty-five years for citrus. They went through regular meetings and everything
and decided, yes, it should be all right, so they went ahead and leased him the
land for twenty-five years. He went in there, and he developed it as a citrus
grove. Now, he is growing citrus on it.
E: Did other people follow suit up in Brighton?
J: It is pretty costly to do that, and I do not think anybody has the money to do what
he did. Back then, it cost you about $3,000 an acre to put in a grove. Right now,
it is not very feasible to spend $3,000 an acre to do it.
E: So, he pretty much hit it at the right time.
J: Yes. The prices were high at the time he came in there. He is doing pretty well
with the grove he has up there. This grove here, this 500-acre grove we got here
was a grant that was given to the Seminoles from the ANA, which was the
Administration of Native Americans, which some kind of deal that was out and
about back then. They had direct control, direct access to Congress and
whatever. The monies that were allocated to different Indian tribes would go to
this office, and they would go ahead and allocate it out to different tribes for
economic endeavors or whatever, feasibility studies or whatever they needed.
We applied for a grant, [for] $1,500,000, and were awarded that grant. That was
how this grove came to be in place here, with an ANA grant.
E: And you were involved with that grant application?
SEM 263 page 61
J: No, I came in here just to develop the grove. The people who were strictly
involved applying for the grant and everything was a guy by the Jacob Osceola...
E: Okay, yes, he is over at...
J: He is over at Petrol Field now, yes. It was Jacob Osceola. He was probably
instrumental in pushing the issue, and then he had a girl by the name of Christine
Navacoria, though it used to be Christine Billie back then but she has gotten
remarried since. It was those two who were probably instrumental in
spearheading the grant and got the grant entered and got it awarded, and they
kind of administered it out. Jacob was here, and I was working under Jacob but,
like I said, my whole deal was to just go ahead and get it developed and planted
and then I was going to get out of here. But, when it was planted and everything,
there was nobody to run it, so I have been here ever since running it.
E: This was before he was at Seminole Farms?
J: Yes, this was before.
E: Was he in the council then?
J: I think, at the time, he was in the council when he spearheaded this thing.
E: So, this was four or five years after you had started that grove up at Brighton.
J: Well, I think we planted the trees up there in 1984, and this started in 1987.
E: So, just two or three years. At that point, the prices still looked good for citrus. It
J: Yes, it was looking good, but at the same token, everybody and his brother who
had some acres was putting citrus in just as fast as they could.
E: They had the same lesson that you all had up in Brighton.
SEM 263 page 62
J: Yes, they had seen what kinds of monies were being realized with citrus. Even
some of these big outfits were going into citrus big time. Instead of planting
hundreds of acres, they were planting thousands of acres. Like U. S. Sugar over
there, they got what they call the Southern Vision right over there, which is just a
little ways from us. They have 18,000 acres over there.
E: That is the Southern Gardens?
E: I have driven past some of their groves, and I have seen they have that citrus
processing plant up on...?
J: 833 and 30, right? That is probably one of the newest processing plants that is in
the state, and it is supposed to be the state of the art. They sure run a lot of
citrus through there. That is the way to do it. If you are going to raise citrus with
a suppressed economy like it is right now, if you cannot make it growing your
fruit, you know you are going to make it on your processing of it or selling of it. I
mean, you have to be in that way in order to realize the full effect of it. You own
it all the way through. Otherwise, like I said, you grow it and then you give it up
to a processing plant, and then you are at their mercy. Then, they do whatever
they think is right.
E: Of course, they have 18,000 acres. That is a pretty big...
J: Well, they [have] got more than that. That is just one little cow that they got
18,000 acres on.
E: Wow. And they are a division of U. S. Sugar?
SEM 263 page 63
E: So, yes, they have very different worries.
J: Yes, they are big in the sugarcane and they are big in the citrus. They used to
be big in the cattle, but they sold all their cattle holdings out down here. I
understand they still [have] got cattle up in Mississippi, I think, or somewhere up
in there. I understand they still [have] got a lot of cattle up there. I am not sure.
E: So, when Jacob started this, was it the same sort of deal? It was a private
venture, or was it, because he got this grant, under the Tribe itself?
J: It was under the Tribe, yes. It was a tribal venture. That is what it was. It was
going to be done in three years because of the way the money was allocated out.
We were supposed to put in 200 acres a year for three years. That way, we
were supposed to have enough money to play with putting it in. The first year, I
think we got the full $500,000. Then, the second year, we were supposed to
have gotten another $500,000, but it was not the full $500,000 that we got. You
know, things were kind of playing out, things were getting tough in the federal
government, and they did not have the money, so we were shorted some. The
Tribe had to kick in the money to go ahead and do the second phase, because
this was done in three phases. Then, at the same time, we had made no
provisions for drainage or anything. We were going to go ahead and pump out
and pump in these ditches and let it go to the flood control canals or whatever
because the state had no jurisdiction on the water on the reservation. They
could not really tell us what to do with the water. We could do it, kind of, like we
wanted to do it as long as we just did not drown our own selves out. That was
SEM 263 page 64
how it was set up. But in 1987, the Tribe signed a water compact with the state
giving them limited jurisdiction. We were kind of promising the state we would
kind-of more or less do like they wanted us to do. And they could kind of monitor
us with a direct line with our liaison that we were going to put in place within our
tribal structure. In 1987, that is what we did. So, before the three of the
development process was up, the tribal water management system was in place,
and we had to come back in. We had to go in and make a reservoir, which we
did not have any monies [for] in the grant fer. We had made no allowance for a
reservoir in the grant, and we have a 197-acre reservoir sitting over there that
cost us a pile of money to do, which is supposed to fall under the special location
of the state. The way that reservoir works is [that] we pump the water off [of] the
trees and pump it into that reservoir. And there is a water discharge pipe that
lays right there on the south end and goes under the West Road and
goes onto that Cowboy Canal and goes onto a flood control canal. Okay? But,
we have got a thirty-six inch pipe laying there, and instead of a thirty-six inch
force of water going through there, we have got an aluminum plate on the face of
that culvert that blocks it. The only thing we have got there is a twelve-inch wide
window. It is twelve inches wide and eighteen inches long, and that is the only
water that goes through there. I do not know why we had to put such a big pipe
in there because it is just a trickle that goes through there. When we go ahead
and start pouring water in there and everything, we get up to the level of three
feet. Up there on the north end, we have got some sixty-four inch pipes, which
are overflow pipes. Whenever we get past that pipe, the level of the water gets
SEM 263 page 65
past the head of those pipes; the water goes back into the pipes. It will go back
around, and we will pump the same water over and over again until there is
enough water let out that water discharge for us to start pumping water out of the
So, this system is supposed to be geared up to handle the twenty-
five year storms that we have. In other words, they knew every twenty-five
years, you have a storm like a hurricane or something where you have a
dramatic impact of water, and it supposed to be able to handle that.
E: Does it?
J: Yes. There was a time or two where we have had to pump our own water round
and around until it goes out, and then we will start getting rid of it.
E: So, like three years ago, was it, when we had the off-season rains that were real
J: Probably. I cannot remember when we had some, but heck, like last summer we
had twelve inches of rain in three days. That was when we were pumping water
round and around. In other words, we were pumping into the reservoir, and it
was going up there and...
[End of Side 1, Tape B.]
E: ...with that agreement with the state and the federal government, this was part of
that was it called, East Big Cypress Settlement, that...?
E: Yes, and that was not planned for in that initial grant, so then that consumed
some of the grant money from...
SEM 263 page 66
J: No, the Tribe paid to have the reservoir put in place, because whenever you get
grant money, you know, everything is kind of more or less earmarked out. You
cannot use it for something else. Then, the third year, I think we only got maybe
about half of the money that was supposed to have been promised to us, so the
Tribe had to catch up the brunt of that as well as the reservoir.
E: Now, it was largely because the recession was beginning then?
J: Well, yes. It was because the government was just having a rough time. You
remember when they were talking about, well, the federal government is going to
have to shut down, all the federal employees may be out of a job midnight
tonight, and all that. You remember those deals? Well, that was back in those
days there. They just did not have the money to allocate to us. Even though
they had told us they would do it, they never have done it. They never did give
us the money that they had promised us, and we just had to let the Tribe go
ahead and come up with the money to do it with. Even though we had
$1,500,000 grant, we might have gotten $1,200,000, if that much. I cannot
remember exactly what it was. We got a little bit over half of it out of it, but the
Tribe had to catch up the rest of it.
E: So, the money that gets raised by the citrus, by these groves, gets kicked back,
and the tribal council controls these groves, and it is separate from the lemons.
E: They were not always separate, were they?
J: Yes, they have always been separate. This here was started by the Indians and
then owned by the Indians ever since it has been in place, but the lemon and
SEM 263 page 67
grapefruit grove that is down there, there were two different outfits that came in
here. One was called S & M. They came in there and farmed some tomatoes,
and they have come back to the tribe and leased the land for twenty-five years
specifically for citrus. They came in there and planted some grapefruit and
planted some lemons. It was called Scott Matson, and a guy by the name of
Leslie Scott was the engineer behind that. As their contract was coming to an
end, the Tribe went in there and bought the lease back from under them and
brought it back under tribal control in 1988. Then, there is another 450-acre
grove down there they call Garden Groves that was owned by another outfit. So,
they went ahead and bought the lease back from the two different companies
and made one big deal out of it, which was something like around 1,200 acres.
There [were] was-about 800 acres of lemons and about 400 acres of grapefruit.
They went ahead and bought the lease back from them, and then they started
doing it as a tribal venture, under the board.
E: You said you enjoyed where you went up to school because it was real hands-on
J: Yes, up there at Shalako, out in Oklahoma.
E: Did that contribute to your being able to do some of this stuff?
J: Oh yes, definitely. I mean, if you get to where you know the basics of growing
anything, it is all the same. You know, it is just different amounts of the different
types of the pesticides and different amounts of fertilization you [have] get to do,
but it is all basically the same thing. So, if you can grow something over there,
you can grow anything else over here, because you got the basics down pat.
SEM 263 page 68
You just got to know what the requirements are. Once you figure that out, there
is nothing to it. So, [for example] ike we used to grow wheat, corn, maize [and]
soybeans. Well, that really helped me because the instructors would make you
figure out, we need so many pounds of nitrogen on this crop right here, how
many pounds of fertilizer are you going to have to put on here, and stuff like that.
You learn how to do that, and it is the same. I do not care what crop you use. It
is all the same. Like on grass pastures, you know you normally use about fifty
pounds of a year, so you know 250 pounds of fertilizer to the acre is
going to be sufficient. But, like on citrus, you use somewhere around 200
pounds in a year, but any dummy, if you have been in agriculture, you know you
are not going to be able to put 200 pounds of nitrogen out there. So, you try to
put it out when they need it the most, and that is in the spring of the year when
they start blooming. Right before they start blooming, I like to put my fertilizer
out. I put out seventy pounds an end. Then, right after they bloom and then they
got the fruit starting to set and everything. The first time, I will put it out in
February, somewhere around there right before the bloom comes because they
are going to really need it. They are going to be hungry as hell. Then, around
May, I will go ahead and give them another seventy pounds. Then, they will go
on through the summer, and you do not want to put [any] Rn fertilizer out there in
the summer because all you are going to do is, you got all heavy rains, and it is
just going to leech out whatever. So, you just go ahead and go throughout the
summer without putting anything. Then, usually around October or November, I
will put out another forty. That will give me 200 of them a year. I will split my
SEM 263 page 69
application up in three different applications, and I still get 200 pounds of it in a
year, which is probably about the basic application rate most citrus growers use.
Different varieties require a little bit more. Like the mandarins, they want a little
bit more. The grapefruit, they do not need this much. You just kind of know this.
They got a new technology. Well, it is not real new. It has been around for
awhile, but they are using it a lot now. It is called foliage testing. They will take
leaves and test them, and they can tell you what you really need. If you really
want to be on the money, you can use that, that foliage testing, and just put out
what the tree needs.
E: How do you do this?
J: I do not know how you do it. You just take samples and give it to these
laboratories, and they are the ones that do the testing.
E: Where are the laboratories?
J: There are several laboratories throughout the state, Pioneer, Southern. But, the
way I do it, I just go to these fertilizer boys, the people I buy the fertilizer from,
and I let them do the soil testing and I let them do the foliage testing. They will
come back and say, well, here are the results. You know, this is what we need to
do this year. That is how we normally do it.
E: And that works pretty well?
E: It is really interesting how your education prepared you for this. At the same
time, it prepared you for something at this time where the opportunities were
becoming available in the Seminole Tribe to do this sort of stuff.
SEM 263 page 70
J: Right. Yes, I could not afford to do it myself, as an individual, but I had been a
tribal member. Then, the Tribe progressed and they were going into some of
this, and I was able to fall in and kindt-of more or less take the management end
of it and go along with it.
E: Do you still own cattle?
E: But they are up at Brighton?
J: Yes, they are up at Brighton. I am not able to get around too good anymore, so I
let my boy handle all of that. Yes, he does a pretty good job with it. He is pretty
knowledgeable about it, and he does pretty [well] good. If he needs help or
whatever, he will come to me and ask me, 'Dad, what do I need to do?' Or, 'Do
you reckon I ought to do this?' I mean, he asks for advice.
E: This is Alex?
E: Yes, I seem to remember seeing his name in the paper in regard to the rodeos,
J: Yes, he is pretty heavy in rodeos. I think he is kind of tapering off now.
E: In terms of the economic practices that the Seminole Tribe is engaged in, what
would you say, today, would be the most important economic practice that they
J: That is simple. Casinos.
E: And that is because the...
J: That is where the bucks come in.
SEM 263 page 71
E: I am curious. This Big Cypress BINGO that used to be the $1,000,000 BINGO
out here, when was that? When that was you were there, or was it when you
were up in ?
J: No, I was down here when it was going on. It was 1986, 1987, 1988, somewhere
around in there, I guess. See there was one outfit coming in there. They were
the ones who put everything in, and then they ran for awhile, and then they shut
down. Then, they had another group come in after they did. I guess they bought
the investment from the first investor, investment group. Then, they tried it, and I
guess they could not do it. I guess whenever you advertise you got $1,000,000
you are going to give away each go around, once a month or whatever, you have
got to draw a lot of people in here in order to generate $1,000,000 to justify given
$1,000,000 away. I guess we were just too far out the bushes and just could not
generate the interest. I really do not know what the deal was. I know a lot of
people came, but I guess they just could not make it.
E: Yes. But, the other casinos seem to be doing really well.
J: Yes, the other casinos were not saying they are going to give away $1,000,000
when they opened. They are doing pretty good. They are doing real good.
E: Obviously, the economic situation has changed considerably in the last fifteen,
J: Oh yes.
E: How would you describe that to somebody who just is not familiar with it?
J: Okay. I was a board director. I was voted as a board director back in the 1980s,
like about maybe 1981, 1982, somewhere around there. Our whole operating
SEM 263 page 72
budget was something like around $800,000, and that was for the full year, to
operate the board enterprise for the whole year. Now, I understand they got a
budget somewhere around $12,000,000. So, [it was] quite a difference.
E: That is a big difference. What year was that you were on the board?
J: I cannot remember what year, but it was in the 1980s, maybe around 1981,
1982, somewhere around there.
E: So, really, right after BINGO was beginning.
J: Well, the Bingo's had been here for awhile when I got on the board. I was a
board director for two years, and I hated it. I hate politics.
E: Why was that?
J: I do not know. I just do not like it. I mean, it just ties your hands up, it seemed
E: Why, because you always have to be dealing with all kinds of different problems,
J: Not really. It was just that you always have to be...you try to be straight, but you
always have to be telling little white lies to people in order to justify what you are
doing, and I did not like that. Politics is not my game. I am too direct. I was just
too direct, and I just did not like that. I did not like that at all.
E: So, you were on the board. You were appointed? How did that work?
J: I was elected by a popularity vote up there in Brighton. I was a board
representative from the Brighton Reservation for two years.
E: You did not want to...
J: I sure did not want no [any] more of it after I got out of that. I did not like it at all.
SEM 263 page 73
I just never did. I never did much of politics. I am not no [a] politician. Let's put it
E: Why did you run in the first place?
J: Well, we had a president who kind-of more or less had been in there so
doggoned long, he just kind of more- -rless got to be where he was kind of a
dictator. And the guys who had been running for the board of directors did not
seem to understand that they were supposed to be telling him what to do, not
him telling them what to do. So, I was going to get in there and straighten him
out. You know, I was going to tell him, you know, 'Hey, listen here, we are going
to start doing this thing right.' But, when he ran for re-election that year, he lost
out, and another feller got in there. So, I did not have a chance to do what I
really initially intended to do. The other feller, he was a good old feller and
everything else, but I tell you what, he had no business being in doggoned
politics, well, not in the business end of it anyway. He had no idea to imagine
what business was all about.
E: He had a good heart, but he was not...
J: Oh yes, he was good-hearted. Everybody loved the hell out of him, but he just
was not a moneyman. He just had no idea what business was all about.
E: Yes that is interesting. So, with some of these changes... We talked about this
budget going from $800,000 a year to $12,000,000. Where have you seen the
biggest changes in just life, in general, with that kind of growth? You know, with
that kind of increase in budget the Tribe has to work with, where in your, sort of,
day to day life have you seen the most dramatic changes?
SEM 263 page 74
J: Well, it is probably with our people. You know, the Indian people are not noted
very strongly for their working habits. The guys will go out there and work and do
a good job and everything, but they are just not geared up to push time clocks or
take orders from people. They are pretty independent. So, most jobs that the
Indian people qualify [for] under is usually minimal jobs, which is probably
minimum wage, and they tend not to show up as often as they should. As a
matter of fact, they are liable to stay out. But even though they do not care much
about working or anything, they used to come here and they would get a job here
E: Here at the citrus...?
J: At the grove, yes. Now, I do not even get the Indian folks over here asking for a
job because of the dividends that they are getting. They probably do not really
need to work. Even if they need to, they figure, heck, they are not going to go
out there and bust their butts for peanuts. And that is what we pay them when
they come out here because we cannot afford anymore. So, most of the Indian
folks, they just do not seem to even try to work, and we have a lot of fellers
around here who can operate equipment, probably with the best of them on the
outside, but they have no desire to go anywhere to operate. If they cannot
operate here on the rez, right around here, they will just lay around.
E: How many people are on your staff here? How many people do you have?
J: I have got four.
E: Does it change seasonally?
J: No, we keep it pretty much steady. We need to have the same four.
SEM 263 page 75
E: Are any of those four tribal members?
J: The secretary is a tribal member. Then, the one operator we got is a tribal
member, but the other two are not tribal members.
E: That is
J: Yes that is Leroy Joe. One is an Italian, and the other one is a black guy.
E: When you do hire people here, you are like any other citrus grower around, right?
It is a company. You are going to pay a wage
J: Yes, you will have to pay minimum wage. You got to pay minimum wage. What
I normally try to do is...I cannot pay that much because we are making that kind
of money either, but we have got things that needs to be done once in awhile.
So, if I hire somebody, I might give them $6.50, you know. Minimum wage is
$6.15, but I will give them $6.50 to start them off with or something like that. Like
I said, the only thing I can do is tell them they can work as many
hours as they want and I will pay them straight time all the way through. But,
they usually [work] eight-, nine-hour days, and that is about it.
E: It is hard work.
J: Yes, it sure is.
E: You said when you started this, you would get people from the Tribe who would
work for you.
J: Right. Everybody I had working with me when I first started this thing... Well, let
me back up here a little bit, whenever the ANA granted us this money to put this
grove in, that is what it was for, to create jobs for the people here on the rez.
That was the sole intention. That was why when we first started out and
SEM 263 page 76
everything, it was all Indian people who put the grove in, pretty much, other than
maybe if we did not have the equipment, we would go ahead and contract it out
to subcontractors and let them do it. But, we tried to keep it as much Indian as
we possibly could.
E: What kind of staff are you talking about there? It sounds like it must have been
J: I had about twelve guys working with me at one time. We were planting trees.
We were doing everything in there, just about. Then, I had about eight guys on,
and we were all working. They were all Indian guys, but they were not very
productive because they would not show up a big part of the time and whatever.
In other words, I had to keep eight guys on just to be assured, maybe I was going
to get four any given day. I paid them by the hour so if they played out, I was not
losing anything, you know, as long as I had other guys coming in. But then, the
council kind-of more or less made the observation that they wanted to try to
generate as -much [many] funds as they could with this grove, rather than it just
being a place for employment for the people, kind of like it was set up to be.
They wanted to try to make it kind-of more or less like a moneymaking deal. So,
when I did that, we had to kind of mre -or -ess slim things down, and we had to
knock off a lot of people. So, we knocked off all the people, and then we are
down to the four that I have got now. The four, I have always had, ever since the
Tribe decided they wanted to try to make a moneymaker out of this thing.
Because you cannot keep a large staff and make do. And, we used to buy
tractors and stuff like that, but what we do now is we kind of more or less contract
SEM 263 page 77
all this stuff out so we do not have to spend them big bucks on tractors and
sprayers and stuff like that. We used to do everything ourselves, but now we
contract a lot of it out.
E: So, before, for tractors and sprayers and so forth, you would buy that stuff, and
you had a tribal member who would operate it?
E: Because there was talent around, people who were trained.
J: Yes, we got some good tractor drivers around here good equipment operators.
These Indian boys, they are good. Like I said, they are good workers when they
are here. The only thing is they got too many other things they got to do, so they
will not show up but, maybe, about three or four days out of the week.
E: So, a couple of things happened here, it seems like. At some point, the board
(was it the board or the council?) made the decision that, all right, this had to be
streamlined because it was going to be a competitive operation...
E: ...generating profits. And, the other change that you were talking about was that,
yes, maybe tribal members did not necessarily need that particular wage. They
do not have to get up at 6:00 and get down here.
J: Well, see, when this first started, they did not have the dividends, but now they
got the dividends. They do not really need to go out there and bust it. They can
stay home and still get paid.
E: Yes. So, did that make a huge difference? I mean, did you really see that
change take place that way?
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J: Yes, it did, but it is kind-of more or less leveling out now. I think they have kind of
more or less kind of adapted to it, all that free money that is coming to them now.
Before, they were just going wild and crazy, but it looks to me like it is kind of
tapering off now and they are getting a little bit more responsible with what they
do than they did at first. It was just, 'Wow, look!' You know, all this money.
Especially when they did not have a whole lot of money to begin with. Now, all of
a sudden, they are getting all this money.
E: So, the dividends did not begin as soon as BINGO began?
E: Because BINGO began, what, in the late 1970s?
J: I am not sure when it started, but I think it was somewhere in the late 1970s, yes.
I guess it was. It was about twenty years ago, I guess, right about the same time
James Billie came into office. I think the Bingo's started about that time he came
in office, and he has been there as long as twenty years. That was our biggest
moneymaker for awhile, and then they kind of set this casino deal in. Now, the
casinos are the big money makers.
E: The casino, it overshadows the BINGO?
J: Yes. I mean, do not get me wrong, we still make good bucks out of the BINGO.
I mean, there are still a lot of people out there who go to play BINGO, but most of
the money, the biggest money maker seems to be the casino.
E: So, the dividends started after that.
J: Yes, way after that. Shoot, it had not been all that long that the dividends had
been started given out, probably about the last four, maybe five, years.
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E: Oh really? [It was] That recent?
J: Yes. When they first started talking about dividends, everybody was kind of
wowed. I mean, it sounded like a farfetched plan, but it happened. Now,
everybody takes it for granted. Now, everybody counts on it, so it was never
stopped. It really hurt a lot of people.
E: Yes, it seems like it does a lot of things for people.
J: Yes. It lifted up the level of their livelihood from where it was, from where it was
five or six years ago. You see people driving cars when they used to be walking.
Like I said, when it first started, they just kind of went wild with it. But now I think
they are getting to the point where the biggest part of the population is getting
kind of more or less accustomed to it. And they are getting a little bit more
responsible with the monies that they get now than they were when they first
started getting this money. The thought was probably, 'Wow, look here, we are
getting some doggoned money. You know, let=s do something before it fades
out.' You know? As it kept coming in pretty steady, they kind of more r less got
to [started] using it more responsibly than they had. We still have some young
folks go out and buy a car and wreck it and stuff like that. I mean, that is going to
go on. But, as a general rule, they are getting more responsible where they are
handling it a little bit better than they did when they first started it. It was just a
wild party time when they first started.
E: Yes, it was just a windfall. So, what other sorts of changes have taken place with
that? There is this change you saw in your staff. What other areas did things
really radically change, first, after the BINGO and then the casinos? How has life
SEM 263 page 80
really changed beyond that?
J: Like I said, the people's livelihoods have changed, like the old folks on the rez or
whatever. They used to not have a real nice looking home and whatever. But
now, with the monies coming in and everything, they have got a company that
comes by and keeps up their landscaping around their houses and stuff, but that
had not really changed the people. The money has not really changed the old
folks all that much. They are kind-of more or less still the same bunch that they
were back when they did not have any money. Where probably it has changed
the most is [with] the kids. [That is] Because they never did de without. They
have always had they cannot relate without, so they probably would have a
rough time coping if this was all to be shut down. The younger generation would
probably have a harder time adjusting than the older folks would, because the old
folks did not have anything to begin with, and then all of a sudden, they [have]
got something. They kind-of more or less take care of it, but the younger folks;
they are just coming up always having it. So, they do not realize what it can be
like to not have anything. And if they would probably have a rough
time adjusting to it.
E: When you say younger folks, do mean, like, people who are in their teens?
J: Yes, I am talking about the little folks, you know, and it goes on up because
everybody gets that money. Even beggars. As long as you are an enrolled
member of the Tribe, you get that money. So, we have some guys who are five,
six, seven years old, they never knew what it was to do without.
E: So, it is not really an immediate problem, in that sense, but maybe fifteen years
SEM 263 page 81
from now, when they are old enough to be making decisions for themselves and
that kind of thing, if things were to change in that period, they would be faced
J: Right. That is what I am saying.
E: How about on a, sort of, community scale, how have things changed? I mean,
that is an individual level where somebody gets a personal income, and it
changes their economic status. They are guaranteed a middle class existence.
But, how about on a community scale? What sorts of things have changed?
J: Well, the kids and the older folks are pampered more. The money is there for
them to utilize.
E: Do you mean for, like, services?
J: For community services. So, everything is more upbeat. I mean, we are more or
less in line with the mainstream society, where before we did not have that. So
now, we are kind of where everybody else has been all these years. We finally
kind of attained a living where everybody has been all this time. Mainstream
society has always been kind of middle class, you know even though
they worked for it and everything. But, the Indian folks never did. When all this
money started coming in, their lifestyle changed a little bit. They are more, like I
said, in tune with the mainstream society than they were when they did not have.
When they did not have it, you know, they could not compete. So, you just kind
of fiddled around and just kind of did the best you could do. Now, it is there, and
a lot of people get demanding on this thing, but most of the folks realize that they
got to understand that it can be taken away from them overnight.
SEM 263 page 82
E: Something that has come up with other conversations I have had with people
that is a possibility. Whether or not it actually is, it is something people consider
as a possibility.
J: Yes. I mean, that is something that you have to consider everyday. I do not
know. The BINGO deal is pretty set. The only thing that would probably hurt the
BINGO is if the state of Florida was to go in there and change that statute from
where they got to keep the BINGO games within $100. Because under the
corporate charter of the Seminole Tribe, we can do whatever the state does, but
if the state does not do it, we are not allowed to. Therefore, there has always
been a big controversy about the gaming machines that we have got. They have
got the Lottery, which is supposedly a Class B gambling type situation, and we
have got the gaming machines, which we got hooked up as a Class B gambling
situation. So, we are still in line with the state of Florida. We have been trying to
negotiate with the state to where we can go ahead and probably build a Class A
gambling [center], which is the real rigmarole, like a Las Vegas type deal. But,
the state of Florida does not have it, so we cannot do it. The only way we can do
it is by the state of Florida letting us do it. So far, they have not let us do it. They
are always trying to put it out on referendum where they can get it. If they get it,
then we can go ahead and go on. We do not even have to talk to them anymore.
We can just go ahead and go on with it and do the Class A gambling. But, if
they get it, I do not know what kind of advantage we would have then. Then, I
was talking about the BINGO. They have got BINGO games throughout the
SEM 263 page 83
state, so that is pretty much pat. Their statute says they got [have] to keep their
games within $100 a game, and, see, being [since] we are on a federal
reservation, we do not have to worry about that. They get-[have] BINGO so we
can have BINGO, but we do not have to have the state regulation, so we can
play for big bucks rather than $100. That is why people come to our reservation
to play BINGO, where they can play for big bucks. But, if the state was to go up
there and change their statute and say, well, you can have a $5,000 game, I
think we would probably lose advantage in the BINGO. because People would
probably go right across the street and play for $5,000 pots rather than have to
go forty, fifty miles somewhere to go play for $100,000.
E: I suppose that is kind of a possibility.
J: Yes, they could always do that, and I imagine it has been hit upon a time or two.
E: It sounds like it. From what I hear, there is always somebody out there who is
J: Yes. We just kind of keep our fingers crossed and hope things kind-of go our
way. But, you know, history has proved to us that we have never been able to
come out on top, especially when you [have] got Congress dictating to you what
you can do and what you cannot do. So, you know how that is.
J: When you [have] got politicians running the show, they are going to listen to
whoever the big block of voters are, and I do not think it is the Indians. You
E: Yes. That is interesting. Is it recent enough where, do you get the impression
SEM 263 page 84
that younger people do not understand that, or are they too young to really
J: A lot of them are too young to really understand it, but there are some sharp
minds out there that grasp it pretty handy and understand what the whole
situation is. I mean, I have talked to some of the younger guys that they
understand what the deal is, and it surprised me that, as young as they were,
they were able to grasp the whole situation and understand how it works. But,
the majority of them do not really understand, and they do not really give a damn
as long as that money keeps coming to them.
E: Yes. That is interesting. Do you see any kind of change, in the same kind of
time frame, is there any kind of change in pride in being a Seminole Indian that
you see people express?
J: I think I see more pride, stiffer pride, being instilled in the Indian people today
because it is kind of an 'in' thing right now. I can remember back in the 1960s
and early 1970s, you know, before the civil rights movement and all that, it was
tough being Indian. And there were a lot of people that were out and about that
probably could have been enrolled in a tribe somewhere but, because they did
not have the Indian features and Indian looks, they just decided they would not
even let people know they were Indians. We have a lot of people who are coming
out of the woodwork now wanting to be Indians because, like I said, it is kind of
an 'in' thing now. It is kind of a popular thing to be an Indian right now, but it has
not always been that way. There has been a lot of prejudice and stuff. I
remember when I was a kid, there used to be a lot of prejudice and stuff. And
SEM 263 page 85
instead of trying to attempt to fight that, a lot of people (not specifically
Seminoles, but I am talking about other tribes) they went their way. And then,
now we get-[have] their descendants that come down that-,and say 'Well, you
know my grandfather was an Indian, [or] he was half Indian, you know, la la, and
I was just wanting to know, can I come back in?' Because he decided, hell, it
was easy for him to go somewhere else and not even claim he was an Indian
and just fit into the mainstream of society. We got a lot of people coming back. If
you ever pick up that Alligator Times or that Seminole Tribune, in the emails, you
will see a lot of people who are always asking about things like that.
E: I see that all the time, yes.
J: But, like I said it was tough. It was pretty tough being an Indian back in those
days, back before the civil rights movement and all that. But now, for some
reason, it is popular to be an Indian.
E: Why is that?
J: I do not know. I have no idea.
E: Is it the economics?
J: I do not know what it is. It is just kind of a trend, I guess. You know, this whole
country just goes on trends, so I guess maybe for this next five years, maybe the
'in' thing to be is be an Indian.
E: That is pretty interesting. That must feel kind of funny, to have lived through
these different times like that and to see it become kind of a popular thing when
you grew up and it was not necessarily.
J: Yes, I can remember when I used to always kind of hang back a little bit, and
SEM 263 page 86
now I do not even think nothing [anything] of it, you know, and go about my
business. If somebody does not like you, well, the hell with it, you know? Just
go on. But, I do not know what causes all this, but it is just that way.
E: So, there is that sort of perception thing from the way the people around who are
not Indians are looking at Seminoles or other Indian groups, saying, well, this is
an 'in' thing, it is popular. Do you see...kids growing up now; do they have a
different sort of sense?
J: I do not think they have any idea about what went on before. They are just
taking everything for granted and going on. I mean, that is the only thing they
E: That is good.
J: You know, hell, I am Indian. That is why I said awhile ago that people are getting
a little bit more stiffer pride in being an Indian, because, like I said, it is kind of the
'in' thing to be right now.
E: I assume that is a good thing.
J: I hope it is. It seems like it is, but I do not know. Maybe another five years from
now, they may be waRting [want] to put us off the face of the map again, you
know? History repeats itself.
E: Let=s hope it does not in that way. I do not see that coming. I do not know, do
you see it coming?
J: Well, it is like I said. That is why they call this land federal trust land, because we
are trusting in the Congress to look out for us. Because it has always been a
proven fact that as long as we keep our traditional fight in federal courts or
SEM 263 page 87
whatever, on the federal level, we have got a 50/50 chance, but if we ever
get...[End of Interview.]