The tape of this interview as received by the Oral History
project was incomplete. Ms. Chaudhuri provided a written tran-
script of the missing portion of the interview, which is the
beginning. The following transcript combines Ms. Chaudhuri's
transcript with the transcript derived from the taped portion
of the interview. At the point in this combined transcript
that the taped portion begins, a note to that effect has been
I: What clan do you belong to? I am Bear Clan.
S: I am a Wildcat Clan.
I: I guess your mother is a Wildcat. How are we related?
S: I really can't tell you.
I: Since we both belong in the animal kingdom, do you think we
would be brothers and sister?
S: If you don't get them mad at you.
I: Do you know any of your stories or legends that you might have
heard from your grandmother?
S: Well, I know some of the characters in there, but I don't know
I: Name the characters.
S: Well, there's a lion and a rabbit...has something to do with fire.
There's...that's all I can think of. There are many different
animals in them, but like I said, I forgot them. It has been
a long time.
I: People will tell us that since we are Indians we should know
our history. One part of history relating to religion--did
the Seminoles have many gods or just one god?
S: Long time ago they believed that there was only one.
I: What was he called?
S: Hesaketemesee. It means 'God'.
I: Talking to the elder men, they believed that there was God
in everything. Is this true--in the water, fire, everything?
S: Well, if He wasn't around, we wouldn't have the things we do
I: What sort of things did the Great Spirit, or God, do?
S: Well, provided the food, shelter, and also brain so we can
I: Yeah, that's right. Did our religious leaders search for God
in visions or dreams? Did the Seminoles have dreams about God?
S: They must have, but I really can't tell you.
I: Some of the medicine men I have talked to said the reference or
respect for the Holy Spirit was the body, keeping the body good,
keeping your mind good. And when you go through the sweat
baths, this helps clear out all the evil things in your body
and this will help you reach God, or the Great Spirit. Do you
think this is true?
S: Very much so.
I: When they said reverence for the body, how did they take care
of the body?
S: What do you mean by that?
I: Did they eat the right food, drink the right drink, running to
keep in shape? Were the Seminoles like this at one time? They
tell me that you had to go to bed early, get up early in order
to be ready for the hunt. And also, so you could get used to
the different seasons of the year, you would have to get up
early in the morning and dip yourself in cold water so you would
know different temperatures of life.
S: They used to, back in the old days. They were not afraid of
discipline back then, but now I.guess is wearing off, 'cause
you don'g see young people doing this anymore. They do as they
please, you know--stay out all night, things like this. But
when I was growing up, we never got to do all that.
I: Why do you think we have lost all of this?
S: Well, I guess you would call it "generation gap".
I: Would an Indian call this "generation gap", or is this what
you have learned from the white man?
S: I guess you could say white man.
I: He is always doing things like that, isn't he?
What I was getting at was they did that a long time ago, but
now the kids go to school. Long time ago they didn't have to
go to school. They stayed home,and mamma and daddy did the
work, and now they have to get up and go to work, and now the
parents don't have time to teach the kids all that. I think
that's why we lost it.
I: Like some of our dances, because the parents are working, and
there isn't much time to tell them about our traditional
dances and our stories and things of this sort. Is this what
you are saying? How do you think we could teach the young
S: I don't know. I'll have to think about that for a while.
I: Why are the Miccosukee's and Seminole-Creek languages so different?
S: I can tell you one reason. I can understand one, but I can't
understand the other. The Creek sounds are all together dif-
ferent from the Miccosukee. The Miccosukee sounds Spanish.
I guess they got it from the Spanish.
I: 'Yeah, they have a lot of Spanish words. Like "horse"...how
do you say "horse" in Miccosukee?
S: Kowiya, I think.
I: It's almost close to daballo which is "horse" in Spanish. But
there are a lot of Spanish words, aren't there?
Yeah, like "cow" is wagi (wagee?) I heard them talking about it
one time on the school bus. We had a Mexican boy, Spanish boy
I guess, went to school in Okeechobee, and he sat in the back
of the school bus with us, and he asked what the Miccosukee
word was like, and one of the boys sounded a word. He said
it sounded about like his word.
I: I was just wondering, because I was talking to one man and he
said one of the words the Indians used for chief was cacique,
which means "chief" in Spanish. Have you heard the word? I
was talking to one old man who is quite active in the Green
Corn Dances. How old were you when you started school?
S: I was about seven, I believe.
I: Did you know English then?
S: Not very much. When my father used to work for this rancher,
I used to go there about every day. -That was before I
went to school. He had a boy who, I guess, was just hanging
around there. That is where I picked up my English.
I: What did you think of the Esteehatkee (white men) when you
started associating with them?
S: It wasn't too bad, 'cause I was already started associating
with this boy I told you about. He was a good friend of mine.
At first it was kind of bad, but after you got to know him,
I started trusting him. He came out to be pretty good.
I: Have you ever wanted to be a medicine man yourself?
S: I never gave it a thought.
I: A long time ago, who taught the children to hunt? Did they
teach both boys and girls, or just boys?
S: I would say just boys, because if they taught women anything,
they ought to teach them to stay home and cook.
I: And take care of the garden?
S: That's right--take care of the house and everything. That's
what they should do anyway.
I: Long time ago, when they were teaching the boys to hunt, did
they have to go through discipline--taking care of their bodies,
go in sweat houses and things of this sort?
S: Some of the tribes, they did. But I don't think the Seminoles
really done that. I don't think they were that disciplined
about it. When they learned to hunt from the parents, from
the father when he went hunting, they took their sons along
with them, and this is where the young man picked up most of
his hunting tips.
I: To come to the present, today the statistics talk about the
Indian taking first place when it comes to alcoholism. Do
you think this is true on the reservations around here?
S: I don't know how they would really say that, because there
isn't really that many Indians as there are whites. We've
been outnumbered by the white people among the alcoholics.
But there are quite a few around here. Including me.
I: Do you drink beer, or hard liquor?
Anything he can get ahold of.
S: I'm kind of choosy about my drinks, so I just stick to beer, and
if I feel up to it, I drink a little bit of whiskey. As long
as I don't overdo it.
I: Nationally, suicides are high among the Indians. Now the Seminoles...
there aren't many of them--about 1,500, I think. Do you know
any cases of suicides here?
S: No, there isn't any suicides down here in the Seminole Tribe,
which I hope there never will be.
I: How about low income? What kind of skills do people have here?
Tell me about low income first.
S: Back then we really didn't have much money to live on, and
stuff like that. Today you have to work to meet some of the
things, like clothing, rent, electric for you home. Young
guys like me, we sort of go into trades. We have some car-
penters; we have some iron workers; we have operators in theaters.
Different kinds of trades. Like I said, they are making it
I: You are talking about young men like yourself. You are in your
early twenties, I see. Where do you go to school to get
S: Mostly to Miami. The headquarters are in Miami. But, like union
halls, they have one close by, like in Fort Lauderdale. But if
you go into a trade, you have to be in there (the trade school)
anywhere from three to five years. Then you get your card
for whatever trade you're in, and therefore you are qualified
for the job.
I: Sometimes, when you think about it, were you better off before
all these modern houses have gone up around here, or do you
think this is for the best for the Seminoles?
S: I really think it is the best for the Seminoles. I mean, before
the modern houses.... I know before we lost a lot of old people.
It was all right, you know, but everything is changing, and you
have to change along with the times.
I: When you say "change" does this mean giving up your language
and giving up your traditions?
[The remainder of this transcript is derived from the recorded
S: No, not really. What I mean by change is, like, you can't live
in a chickee forever around here, you know? You gotta have
something else over your head, you know, so you gotta find
better jobs, try to stay with the time, like I said.
I: And even though you're changing, you don't feel as though that
you should forget your language, or forget your customs?
S: No, you shouldn't forget.
I: And how many languages do you speak?
S: Well, I speak two. I used to speak three, but I don't really
I: And what happened to the third one.
S: Well, like when I was in Germany, I learned German, but I didn't
have no use for it in the United States, so I just dropped it.
I: Well, I'm wondering if you have children...or if you do have
children, do you teach them your language?
S: Well, everybody should, because if you don't they won't even
understand what the grandparents are saying, because there's
a lot of grandparents that don't even speak English. And
there's some that doesn't even understand the kids today,
because most of them speak English.
I: If the children speak their language, do they listen to their
grandparents telling stories and legends and things of this
sort, or has that art of story telling been lost?
S: Well, it's slowly fading away, I'd say, but there's still a few
that still carry this on.
I: I think it's a wonderful thing to maintain your language, be-
cause there's a sort of a universal saying that a man that
knows two languages is worth two men, and the more languages
you know, the better man you are. Do you believe this?
S: Well, in a way I would say yes. Then again, it's according
to how you look at it, really. It's according to how you
use it. There may be some speaking about things they may
not even think we know, you know? They might even be talking
about you, and they themselves don't even know that you know
what they're saying. You can always defend stuff that way.
I: A long time ago, whenever a person went on a hunt, they would
say a prayer on the medicine, saying,"If I'm going to kill a deer,
please give me strength and give me protection for my tribe,"
and then each time they were going to get a swamp cabbage they
would say to the tree, "I'm taking this; thank you for giving
me this". Do you think that these sort of prayers are nec-
essary for today? Should we remember to give thanks or is
this just part of old Indian way? Is it gone?
S: Well, I would say it's already gone, because that's the first
time I heard of it. Maybe they used to do that a long time
ago, but, like I said, I think everything is going out with the
times. And also, they don't hunt that much anymore. If they
want something to eat, they just run to the store and pick it
up and come back. Back then you couldn't do that. The store
was about thirty, forty miles away.
I: You mean Indians had stores a long time ago, before the white man?
S: Aunt Bess had one. (Family joke.)
I: Internationally, among the American Indians, they tell me
that 50 percent of them are high school dropouts in high
school age level. Is that true with the Seminoles here?
S: Well, we have quite a few dropouts, but if they really wanted
to, they could go back and finish. But like I say, we've got
quite a few dropouts. We shouldn't have that many.
I: Why shouldn't we?
S: Well, today one of the requirements for finding a better job
is a high school diploma. There's quite a few that try to
get a trade, but they can't. That's what holds them back.
I: Where were you raised?
S: I was raised on Brighton Reservation.
I: What does Brighton mean?
S: Brighton means Brighton.
I: In Indian. Does it have an Indian name?
S: The location itself, they call it Talekagha.
I: That's good. What does it mean?
S: Cracking cabbage trees, I guess. Talekagha.
I: And you were raised around there. Did you ever hear stories told
by the fireside, or anything?
S: Yes, quite a few times when I was younger.
I: Did you go swimming in Brighton area, or what did you do--
play Indian stickball game or anything?
S: No, I never did play in the stickball game, but...well, around
there, what do you mean, for sports and all this?
I: For sports. Do you know what I mean by Indian stickball game?
They have a pole with the cow head on it, they they have little
club sticks. How come you never played it? It's an exciting
S: Well, it gets pretty rough. That's when I was a kid when they
were playing that. Somebody would pull your hair out if you
don't watch them, scratch you, run over you.
I: Well, that sounds like a real good man's game.
S: Yeah, it is. But, the only thing you've got is a club, like
you said, and the women, they've got more on their side because
they can use a free hand, you know.
I: How about the men. Can the men use free hands?
S: No, they've got to use the sticks, the clubs.
I: What if they don't like you? What if the group of men don't
like you. Do they try to get you?
S: No. It's against the men and the women.
I: Against the men and women! Who usually wins?
S: Who do you think usually wins?
I: The women.
I: Why not?
S: We can't let them beat us.
I: What's the object of the game? When do you play it? Do you
just fool around?
S: No, it's during the Corn Dance festival. That's one of the
games they play in the afternoon.
I: And how many members to each side?
S: I really don't know. Every time I've seen one played, it doesn't
really matter. There's quite a few, I guess.
I: As many people as want to join in the game?
I: Now, what do they try to do--hit the ball over to one side of
the field, or do they try...?
S: They got two teams. One on one side of the pole and another
one on the other side. The pole is in the middle. There's
an imaginary line that separates the two sides. So they
toss the ball up and try to hit the tip of the pole. If
they miss, it goes right on to the other side, and they pick
it up and throw it back over. They all play like that.
I: What's on top of the pole?
S: There isn't anything on top of the pole.
I: With the Creeks, we have a cow head or a deer head.
S: That's what we have--just a regular pine.
I: So you just have to hit the top of the pole and you get a
I: And, so whoever makes the most points, they're the winners?
S: Right. That's right.
I: And what do you all do after the game? Do you all take showers,
or eat, or what do you do?
S: Well, it's a kind of lazy afternoon, so we just, like you said,
probably take a shower and eat. That's about the only thing
you could do. Then later on at night, that's when they start
I: Do you like the dances?
S: I like to watch them, but I never...I don't really care to dance.
I: You're not a leader then? You're not a stomp dance leader?
I: Do you know any of the songs?
S: No, I don't.
I: You know, the Creeks, they really get with it.
stays until three or four or five, six o'clock
Is this the same way with the Seminoles?
in the morning.
S: Well, they usually break up about ten o'clock, ten-thirty.
I: In the evening?
S: Yes, at night. But the last night of it, they stay up all
night until the next day.
I: And what do the people do--just dance and dance and dance?
S: That's all--just dance and dance and dance.
I: What are the age group of these people?
S: They vary. Anywhere from about four, maybe, to about...the
oldest one when I was there, I guess, was about seventy...maybe
seventy three or something like that.
I: Do you think this is good?
a certain age group for the
for the old people. Do you
all dance together?
Do you think there should be just
young people, or a dance set aside
think it's good that they should
S: Well, I think they should just go ahead and dance together, be-
cause that's what it is for--to enjoy, really.
I: And then, you know, some of these beautiful traditional Indian
dresses that these Indian ladies wear, do you think all the
Indian ladies should wear it?
S: I would say no to that.
S: Because the material they make it out of is pretty thick, you
know. It's real hot, and you can't see the figures on the
I: And why would you want to see the figure on a woman? Can't you
use your imagination?
S: I'd rather not answer that one.
I: Woudl you rather see your young Indian girls wear.... How
does that blouse...?
Brighton Reservation, 8
Dances, 3, 10-11
Drop-out rate, 8
[Green] Corn Dance, 8
Creek [Muskogee], 3
maintenance of, 7
Medicine and medicine men, 2, 4
Sports and physical fitness, 2
Stories and legends, 1, 7-8