SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: D.T., A Miccosukee Housewife
INTERVIEWER: JEAN CHAUDHURI
DATE: MAY, 1971
Alligator wrestling, 8
Brighton Reservation, 1, 5
Education and drop-out rate, 11-12
Green Corn Dance, 5
Hollywood Reservation, 1
Hospitality, 7, 10
Hunting and fishing, 4-5
Indian stickball game, 6-7
Jackson, Andrew, 2-3
Land ownership, 3-5
Creek [Muskogee], 1
teaching of, 12
Medicine men, 10
Osceola, 4, 7, 9
Seminole meaning, 2
Seminole War, 3
Tamiami Trail, 1, 13
I: Are there a lot of Otters [Otter Clan] living here?
I: Have you always lived here at Hollywood reserve?
S: No, I come from the Tamiami Trail.
I: Can you marry into your own clan?
S: Because we're brothers and sisters, all of the people that
belong to that clan. They can marry outside the clan.
I: You're a Miccosukee yourself?
S: Uh huh.
I: All right, let's say you belong to the Otter Clan with the
Miccosukee tribe--could you marry an Otter tribe of the
S: I don't know what the difference is between Seminole and
Miccosukee. To me they're all the same.
I: How about the languages? Is it a little bit different?
S: No, the same.
I: The same, the languages? Miccosukee and Seminole language, or
Creek--how do you distinguish?
S: Well, Seminole, Miccosukee, and Creek is different.
I: Uh huh. So, Seminole and Miccosukee are the same, but the
Creek is different?
I: Like Brighton Creeks are different from the Seminole-Miccosukee?
I: Most history books tells us that Seminole means "runaway or
untamed people." Is this what you hear among your people?
S: Well, the word means "wild".
S: Uh huh, "something wild."
I: Is it a Miccosukee word or a Creek word?
S: Miccosukee. It's really pronounced seminoli.
I: Have you ever heard any stories where the Seminole came from?
S: No, I never heard, but in school they tell us that they were
around Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.
I: Have you ever heard of the character.of Andrew Jackson?
S: Uh huh.
I: What sort of person was he?
S: Well, he was an enemy.
I: An enemy of the Creek?
I: To the Seminoles, uh huh. You said he was an enemy. Was he
a good enemy or a bad enemy?
S: An enemy.
I: An enemy.
S: A real bad....
I: O.K. What sort of tactics did he use in order to move the
Indians from.out of this area?
S: Well, I think he tricked them, from what I've heard, and lied
to them, and stuff like that.
I: They also tell me around 1818 and '19, Andrew Jackson was
trying to get more land for the United States, and the only
way he could get this land was from Spain. Spain in 1819
owned Florida, they tell me, and this is the way the United
States got Florida...because Spain gave it to them. Do you
believe that the land belonged to Spain--this land, Florida?
S: Well, I believe that the Indians were here first.
I: You said a phrase a while ago. What did you mean by that?
S: First come, first serve, and the land belongs to the Seminoles.
I: At one time the government, whenever they wanted to force
the Seminoles to make them move to Oklahoma they had promised
them that they would get good farmland, they would get good
education, they would get some money to get started in business,
and then the white man will never bother them again. How
come the Seminoles didn't take this opportunity to go to
S: They lied to them before, so must be they thought they were
lying to them again. That's why they fought back so much to
I: Do you think Osceola was a great war hero?.
S: Yes, I think that he was.
I: Can you tell me a little bit about him?
S: Well, I've heard that he was so...like, he wasn't afraid. He
was so brave, he outsmarted the white man all the time, and
finally they captured him.
I: How was he captured?
S: Well, I think they lied to him, and the way that our grandmothers
tell it is that they lied to him, and that's the only way
they could get him.
I: Over a seven year period, do you know how much the United
States paid for the Seminole War?
S: Well, in history they tell us 20 million dollars and 15,000 men.
I: And that's a lot of lives and a lot of money. Do you think if
Osceola was alive today, he would be happy that he made the
U.S. government pay that much money and to loose that many
S: I think so.
I: Osceola was a young man, probably in his twenties or so, and he
was not a chief, either by election or by inheritance. Why?
Why did they choose him as a leader, since he wasn't elected
or he wasn't a chief by inheritance? What was so unique about
him that they wanted him as a chief?
S: Well, they didn't elect him as a chief, as you say, but I think
he loved his people, and that showed. They could tell, and
he loved his people that much to go that far.
I: And so you think he was sort of a protector for his people?
Do you think he protected them pretty well?
S: Uh huh. I think so.
I: In what ways?
S: Well, he wanted to keep this land, not for himself, but for
the whole tribe.
I: And a long time ago, do you think most Indians saw the land as
private property, or did it belong to the tribe?
S: I think to the tribe. Nobody ever wanted this and that for
themselves. I think they for the whole tribe. They
stuck together, and what belonged to one person belonged to
the whole tribe. I think that's the way they were.
I: Now, for the Indian to go fishing in those days, before the
white man, have you heard stories that they have to have
fishing license or hunting license?
S: I don't think so.
I: How about today?
S: Today they still don't.
I: They still don't?
S: On the government land reserve, they don't need license.
I: On all government lands, or just the reservation?
S: On all of the government property, because I know wherever you
go you don't need a license if you're on Indian land.
I: Oh, just on Indian land?
S: On Indian land.
I: I started to say, what if you go to state property?
S: I don't know, really.
I: But just Indian land, you know that?
S: I know for sure that they don't need a license.
I: A long time ago if they were going to have a Green Corn Dance
or maybe a big ceremony of some sort, how did they make
communication work? How did they, for example, if you lived
here in Hollywood, how would you get over to Brighton, your
message? You all didn't have any phones or telegraphs or
anything. How would a person get a message over?
S: You mean when we still lived in the swamp?
I: Uh huh.
S: Well, they would send...there was somebody on foot, send
S: Oh, I don't know if they went that far, but I know they used a
lot of canoes for transportation.
I: So today I understand that you all use radio?
I: This is....
I: Right. But some of the reservations don't have that many
phones, so radio is just as good.
S: Uh huh.
I: Can you tell me a little bit of the Indian stickball game?
Have you ever attended any of the Indian stickball games?
S: Yes, I've participated in a few, and I know it's rough.
I: How long does it last?
S: I'm not sure, but I think they...the first team they gets so
many points, I think wins.
I: Oh, so it doesn't make any difference if you play a half an
hour or an hour?
S: I don't think so, because when we played,' I don't know if.it's
like the olden games, but they put a notch on the tree every
time you score, and then you get maybe say like ten notches
on your side and then you've won.
I: Is that what they usually start out with--ten notches?
S: I think so.
I: What sort of tribal dresses do you wear when you're playing?
S: Long skirts.
I: Are there any markings that you put on your costume to show
that you're a different team?
I: How do you know who's on your team?
S: Well, usually the men play the women.
I: Oh, so you can really tell who's who. Who usually wins?
S: Oh, the men probably, because it's pretty rough.
I: Also, during the Indian stickball game, when do you all play it?
Do you play it like basketball or baseball, or do you do it
during a ceremony, or...?
S: We play it for fun.
I: Do they play Indian stickball game around here?
S: Sometimes at the powwows they do.
I: You just said powwow. I understand you all have a skit on
Osceola every year. Can you tell me about the skit?
S: Well, it's like people acting out what happened, kind of.
I: What does Osceola do in this skit?
S: Well, he was captured under the flag of truce. It shows how
he rejected signing the peace treaty, and then how he was cap-
tured, and how the soldiers...how they hit him.
I: I'm just curious. The name here is Osceola. Are you descendants
of Osceola, or do you know?
S: Well, my husband might be somewhere along the line.
I: But you don't know for sure?
I: Hospitality. I know talking to different ones this seems to
be a thing that the Seminoles liked to show, was hospitality.
Can you tell me what.they did in the olden days? Have you
heard stories about it?
S: Well, when I lived out in the Everglades, I know if they had
visitors...like out in the Everglades, they used to live far-
apart from each other, and:they would travel maybe days to get
there, and so they would really treat them good and cook for them
and prepare a place for them to sleep, and really make them
I: Do you cook your own traditional Indian food? Do you cook
pumpkin bread and sofkee and things of this sort?
S: Uh huh.
I: How would you prepare swamp cabbage?
S: Well, usually fry it, because any Indians, I think, they
like fried foods.
I: Could you tell me how you first start preparing the swamp
cabbage, from the time you pick it off from the tree until
the time you eat it?
S: Well, you just chop it up. You can either eat it like that, or
some people boil it. I don't really care for swamp cabbage much.
I: So you probably don't cook it?
S: No, not too much.
I: How about your meat? What is your favorite dish?
S: How do I cook meat?
I: Uh huh.
S: Well, mostly beef.
I: How about turtle--have you ever tried turtle?
S: Uh huh.
I: I really like it. How do you prepare your turtle?
S: I like it baked, you know, real well done.
I: How about alligator tail?
S: No, I've never had that. I don't think I could eat that.
I: Many of these are traditional dishes, you know, the way they
used to eat.
S: That's what I heard, but looking at the alligator, I don't
decide to eat it.
I: Talking about alligator, have you ever known anyone in your
family who might have wrestled with alligators?
S: Yes, my father is a professional alligator wrestler.
I: I imagine it took a lot of patience and practice, didn't it?
Can you tell a little of how your father wrestles alligators?
S: Yeah. I know it takes a lot of courage.
I: Did he just learn this on his own, or did he learn it from his
father or somebody?
S: I think somebody in the family showed him.
I: Alligator wrestling--is it sort of a traditional wrestling
thing that they did? Has it been handed down for many years?
Did the Seminoles always wrestle alligators?
S: Well, not to the public. They did it mainly as a sport, I think,
rather than for a living,livelihood.
I: For punishment--have you ever heard anyone say how people were
punished if they lied?
S: Uh huh.
I: Can you tell me?
S: My grandmother said that they used to, you know, they had
different punishments for different reasons, but most of the
time they used the safety pin or the needle to scratch the
arms and legs for punishment. And then, for going back, this
is going back a long, long time ago, they used to cut maybe
part of the ear off, or, I think, sometimes they say that they'd
thrown the person out of the tribe. They would send him....
I: He would be an outcast. They'd probably just send him out
in the wilderness.
S: Yeah, something like that.
I: How about if a person stole something?
S: I don't really know which punishment goes with what, but I
know they were punished real severely.
I: A lot of people are saying Osceola was part white. Do you
S: I don't really know. I've heard a lot of things about saying
he was half white, but from Indians I've never heard that it
wasn't true or it was true.
I: Among many Indians, honor and honesty was one of the things they
they always honored. Do you ever remember old people talking
about how honest you have to be, and truthful?
S: Uh huh. In order to go, you know, when you die, in order
to get to the happy hunting ground, say, you have to live
a life telling truth and not lying to anybody or steal or
I: You know, we're saying one of the virtues of the Indians was
hospitality and another virtue which we didn't touch on was
to sort of have your religious prayers. Have you ever heard
medicine men talk about when to meditate and when not to meditate?
S: Well, I've never heard that the Seminoles meditating or praying
like you say, but I know that the medicine man--my grandfather's
one of the medicine men, and he sang songs only when he's making
I: Your grandfather was a medicine man, did you say?
S: He is a medicine man.
I: Oh, he is! He's still here? One of the things they said a
good Seminole should be was to be a good relative. Is this
S: I think it is.
I: Can you tell me, in what way does one become a good relative?
S: Well, by treating your in-laws real good--like, he's given
food to them, or whatever he has he shares with his in-laws.
I: A long time ago, did the son-in-law talk to his mother-in-law?
S: I don't know.
I: The Seminole, did he have an idea what God was like a long time
ago, or did he talk about God, or didn't he, or did he ever
think of God?
S: Well, to the Seminole there was a supreme being. They didn't
know him as God, but they knew that there.was a spirit some-
I: Did they give him a name? Did he have a name?
S: Must be. I think they kind of called it "Breathmaker", like.
I: Also, we're told that the Seminole saw God in everything, like
in the trees, in the rivers, in the water, in the fire--that he
even had the sacred fire. Do you know anything about this? Did
they see God in everything, or is this just a saying that
someone made up?
S: I don't know about them actually seeing God in everything, but
they knew that somebody had made these things, if that's what
I: Yeah, I think this would be the same thing. You know, movies
and televisions and novels are always talking about how bad
off the Indian is, and then they use statistics to show the
average badness of the Indian, and so I'm wondering.... This
is sort of something general. They said nationally Indians
have the highest alcoholism. Do you think this is true among
S: Well, I think so. There's more drinking than aren't.
I: Do you know any reason why they would be drinking? Are.they
just drinking to make themselves happy, or are they drinking
because they're sad, or what? Do you have any reasons you might
think why they would be drinking so much?
S: I don't really know the real reason, but I think they're just
doing it to go along with the crowd, like sex.
I: Also, we have high dropouts of high school students. Could
this be true with the Seminoles, too?
S: I think so.
I: Why would they be dropping out?
S: Well, I know a lot of them, their parents who are against
white man's way, and so I think it's brought out in the
I: Do you think it's important that our children have education,
S: I think it's important. I don't think it's the most important.
I: Do you think once they get educated that this gives them the
right to forget their languages and forget their "Indian-ness"?
S: No, I don't think so.
I: Do you think that even if they are educated, they can still
yet know about their Indian ways?
S: I think they should.
I: I think so too. You're probably too young to remember the
first tribal election, which was in 1957, and I was just
wondering over the years of free elections, have you had good
S: I would say so.
[The taped portion of the interview ends here. Ms. Chaudhuri
appended the written transcript which follows:]
I: Before 1957, I imagine all the reservations were filled with
S: I think so.
I: Did some of the Seminoles resist going into these modern homes--
especially the older people?
S: I think so. I think they kind of didn't want to, but they did.
I: I see that you are in one of the most modern homes. You have
a very beautiful home here. Are you teaching your children your
S: I am not teaching them as much as I should. I talk to them
everytime I remember to.
I: Do you ever tell them old Indian stories or about the Indian Wars?
S: Not the wars. I tell them how it used to be to live out in
I: I have no idea either. Can you tell me a little something about
S: It's just that the things you have in the home, you don't have
outside. You feel free when you are living out. You don't
have bathrooms, cleaning...I'm not against it.
I: I'm asking some of the others what they didn't have, and they
said they didn't have any taxes. There are lots of things you
have said you have done, and it sounds like great fun. How
about telling me about one of the dances you have done.
S: I have never really actually danced, myself, but I have watched
others on the Trail do the ceremonial dance.
I: Could you tell us about one of them?
S: Well, the shrimp dance in our language is shateegaleecheee,
and they do their hands like the shrimp moves. It looks like
fun. They go around the fire.
I: Would this be just women?
S: Men and women.
I: As couples?
S: Yes. They wear their best clothes. Each year they make their
clothes for this occasion. They wear a cape and the whole
costume. It is not a costume, but dress. When they dance
around the fire it is really pretty, with the women shaking
I: Do the dances take place in the daytime or the nighttime?
S: Most of them take place at night.
I: Why at night?
S: The corn dance they do at night. I don't know why. The snake
dance they do in the daytime, as far as I can remember.