Title: Old Seminole Man: On Values
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Title: Old Seminole Man: On Values
Series Title: Old Seminole Man: On Values
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SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA



In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida



JEAN CHAUDHURI MONOLOGUE















INDEX




Brighton Indian Reservation, 1

Churches, 5, 7

Clans, 1

Delegation of labor, 3-4

Dress, 2-3

Drugs, 7

Education, 2, 7

Family relationships, 4

Food, 5-6

Fort Pierce, 1

Honesty, 4

Hospitality, 5

Language
Creek [Muskogee], 1
English, 1
Miccosukee, 1

Punishment, 4, 7

Reservation life, 6-7

Sex, 3-4

Stealing, 5

Television, 7

Tribal law, 7




















This tape I have translated the material from Creek phonetics
into English. I will first read the material in English, and
then translate it into Creek.

July 13, 1971, I interviewed an old man who was about seventy
years old. He belongs to the Tiger Clan. I spent several
hours with him, just talking. I wanted him to record for me,
but he was somewhat hesitant to do so. He also asked me not
to mention his name. He did not mind talking with me, but
preferred that I do not tell who he is, since he felt it was
enough for him to talk to me, and it was not necessary for
the white people to know who he is. He began his conversation:
"I was born at Fort Pierce; then my family moved to Brighton
Indian Reservation, and I have been here since. I have always
spoken Creek and Miccosukee. As a child growing up I had
no interest in learning English. My mother and father used to
say if I want to know why I am being cheated by the white men,
I had better learn English. This is what motivated me to
learn some English, even though I refused to speak it.
"Before we get started, I ask one thing of you. Please
do not mention my name. I believe what you are doing is good,
and, as you said, it is important that we as Seminoles must
preserve some of our traditional ways. It is true that the
white man writes down everything that he does, and so must
the Seminole. It is not that I do "hot trust you, but so
many times we have people to come to our reservation and spend
hours accumulating material, but once they've gathered what
they need, we never see them. Later on we discover they
have made money off of us. Some of the things I am telling you
I would not dare tell a white man. Please promise not to tell
them who I am." I promised this man I would not say who he
was, and he was satisfied. Then he began his conversation again.
"There were several important developments that were em-
phasized in my family. They were to learn English, to under-
stand the white man's ways, and to adopt a religion. We were
urged to keep away from the white man's wrong influence."
I'd like to stop and comment right now. This man was
very pleased that an Indian was getting the information on
the Seminoles, and he commented on that more Seminoles should
get interested in their own cultural system, and study it. So,
he was quite pleased, and then he began his conversation again.















He said, "A white person does not see things as the
Seminole sees them; therefore, they tend to misinterpret
or exaggerate what the Seminole is saying. For example,
the white man really thought the Indians gave them all the
land. Now, the Seminoles have nothing but a small amount
of land." Then the old man laughed.
Then he said, "A person who is studying about a particular
group of people such as the Seminoles should have a certain
knowledge of the language, which will enable a person to in-
terpret the values and the significance of that culture as
clearly as possible. In order for anyone to fully understand
our values and its significance depends on our usage of the
language, gestures, and how we relate to things. The white
person must be aware of our habitual behavior. We are not
just objects to be observed, then taken into classrooms to
be studied and discarded until the next time. We are a living
people. We live, feel, and think. A person who is studying
the Seminole must be sensitive to the naturalized behavior of
the Seminole. Our way of thinking is different from the white
man.
"There are certain things we value a lot more than the
white man; therefore, the Indian finds himself of a dilemma
of which two worlds he should choose from. Since the in-
trusion of the white man, we have been in a transitional
stage. We have been torn between our old ways and those
that were imposed on us by the missionaries, teachers, and
public health workers. Often, we are in a state of con-
fusion, because there is a conflict of interest. It is dif-
ficult to adjust. What was an accepted standard of behavior
among our people is not accepted in the white man's world.
When there is a strong disagreement about how one is to
behave, problems come out of it. It is perfectly alright with
us if a child does not want to attend school. We feel that
he wants to be near his family. It does not seem like a big
thing to be concerned about to us. But with the school officials
it is the contrary. Take me, for an example. In the manner
of dressing, what was an accepted standard of dressing in my
father's day or mine are not accepted today.
"I remember once some of these young men were laughing
at some of the white people with long hair. They thought
this was funny, because most of the white people we had seen
wore their hair short. For the first time when we started
seeing white men with long hair, we called them women. Well,
in my days, when I was growing up, it was not unusual to see
a man, a Seminole man, wearing dresses. My uncles, grandfathers















and father wore them. It was customary. Even I wore them
until my grandchildren embarrassedme from wearing them, be-
cause they said, "Today, no one wears a dress unless they are
women." I fully realized that the days of wearing long dresses
were gone, and for the sake of my grandchildren I gave up wearing
long dresses. What was the customary thing in my days are
now gone. I don't see anything wrong with dresses for men.
In fact, I felt more comfortable in them, but when the pressure
of a different society is thrust upon your shoulders, one
must conform.
"The days of fighting for our rights and our land have
passed with the wind. In those days it was a mortal right
to defend what was ours, but since losing them, we have to ac-
cept and become like white people, at least on the surface.
If there was any hint of approval of wearing dresses I would
be strutting around in one. If a white man was to hear me
say this, he would label me as a homosexual. The white man has
a name for everything and everyone."
At this point I asked him if the Seminoles had homosexuals
within their group. He answered me by saying, "The Seminole
held sex as a very sacred thing, and it was not to be abused.
Sex was only for a woman and a man to experience together, and
they had to respect it because it was a holy thing. But if
a man desired another man for sexual purposes, this was not
accepted'in Indian society. Yet, I have seen this practiced
among the white people."
Then I added that I had heard when men were prone to homo-
sexuality that they were put with the women. I asked this old
man if this was true. Then he asked me, "Who told you that?
Whoever told you that must have been sex crazy and just wanted
to see such sickness."
I told this man that no one had told me, that I had read
it somewhere in a book. He nodded, and he said, "Oh, I see.
A white man told you. If you read what he has written, it
is the same as he telling you." I smiled. Then he continued,
"Probably what the white man is confused about is that a long
time ago, in the days of my father and his relatives, it was
customary that in the Indian society, everyone carried their
share of work. Men went on hunts. They fought in war games.
They partook of the ceremonies. They spent a great deal of
time in the sweat house, and kept in top physical shape. The
men had their role to play, but occasionally there would be
a young man who didn't have any interest in what the men were
doing. He preferred not to go on hunts or to go on war
parties. He felt more at ease around the camp, and assisted the
women in their work. He usually did the heaviest work, such as















carrying water from the spring and cutting wood. If a
young man chose this kind of living he was not frowned
on. People accepted him.
"Some of the reasons for the young men not wanting
to join the activities of the men were because he could
not stand to kill another living thing, nor could he raise
a hand to do another harm. If these reasons met the ap-
proval of his uncle, the person was free to do his chores
with the women. It was not because the young man was ef-
feminate.
"Some of our values are so distinctly Seminole, that,
at times, these are the saving grace that keeps the Seminole
from getting into trouble. Most Seminoles thus far have not
been deeply influenced by the white man's value system. He
clings to the old traditional teaching. Some of the young
people desperately try to sway from the Seminoles' way of
life, but some of their actions are instinctively character-.
istic of the Seminoles. At one time, lying was controlled
to a great extent. Nowdays, many of our young people have
learned to lie like the white man. They no longer respect
the truth. In the past, in our society, lying could cause
a person to lose face with his relatives and friends. At
times, a person could be ostracized. The thought of losing
public trust was demoralizing. The sure way to lose this
trust of the people was to lie.
"Before any punishment, like banishment from the tribe,
would become a pronounced sentence on an individual, counseling
had to be done through the uncle. If the uncle felt that
the person he was defending had justification for lying,
such as lying in order not to hurt someone's feelings, the
uncle had it in his power to influence those who were in
judgment to dismiss the case. But if the individual who had
committed this act was to go to his uncle again, his sentence
was not light. Then the council could banish him from the
village. The banishment meant completely giving up all of
the inherent rights of the tribe, and to be sent away, never
to return or come near the area where the Seminoles lived.
Our laws were rigid, as a rule. We did not entertain lying.
At times we exaggerated our stories. Thus, the more detailed
and action-filled story, the better the story. It was not
customary to lie, and it was not encouraged.
"We learn what we are taught. Lying, stealing, cheating,
drinking, cursing, begging, we learned well from the white
man. None of these vices could hardly be found in our life-
style as true Seminoles. Telling the truth was a virtue. But
we did not know that we were telling the truth, because it was






5








a way of life. Exaggerating was another story. I remember
a white man coming to visit us. He was going hunting with
us. He was all dressed up to hunt. Being proud of the
way he was dressed, he turned around, looked at me, and
asked, 'Chief, I look pretty good, don't I?' Well, he
was not a nice-looking person, and I spoke the truth when I
told him, 'you look as ugly as you always did.' We both
laughed.
"These days, mixing with the white man, I found that lying
is an accepted thing, so I don't worry about it when white
people come to me and ask a few questions. I don't often tell
them everything they want to hear, because I have been conditioned
to think that a white man really does not have the Indians'
interest in mind. He has taken from the Indian all the time,
so why should I be like the deer that is taken to slaughter?
Just like you--I believe your heart is good in taking infor-
mation, but it will help the white man. We, the Seminoles,
live and die here with our secrets. It does me good to know
it is an Indian taking from us instead of a white man. I
would rather be done in by an Indian any day. Then I would
know that the Indian was crazy.
"Stealing is another white man's crime. It is condoned,
and it is a traditional value that the white man has. To
steal is to be prosperous. One of their beliefs is to steal
as long as you can get away with it. These concepts of white
man are self-evident. They took our land through lying and
treachery. But they do have some niceties that seem to com-
pensate for these evil values. Right now I don't know exactly
what they are. Some of their churches are good; however, most
of their churches also teach double standards. One way is for
the Indians and another way is for the white man. We cannot
condemn these white men for the way they act. They are only
living up to their value system.
"Some of our young Seminole men have taken up this habit
of stealing and cheating, because they have been roaming about
with white boys. More than likely their new company of friends
have been banished by their white society. They don't have
anything else to do but to irritate the ones who they think
forced them out of their society.
"The type of behavior that was prevalent among our people,
especially in my youth, was being generous, being hospitable,
showing affection and respect to the uncles, elders and med-
icine men. One's relationship to the relatives was very im-
portant. This relationship demanded moral obligations, and
they had to be fulfilled. Even though a young, married man
avoided speaking to his mother-in-law, if he caught a gopher
turtle or some other unexpected food, he would give this food















to his wife, and ask her to tell her mother he brought the
food for her. Showing respect to strangers,friends, and re-
latives was an honorable act. Politeness was adhered to.
Everyone did their part in the system of reciprocal rights
and obligations. If one did not reciprocate, then shame
would befall him. No relative in his good sense would speak
to or treat a person kindly who failed to return kindness to
others. Only his uncle could reinstate his standing among
the tribe.
"We were strict then. I remember one of my grandchildren
who wanted to be like a white person, because he thought their
way was better. He felt atrocities that befell the Seminoles
were done in the remote past. Since he was living in-the
twentieth century, he thought he would go white style all the
way. He moved away from the reservation, and was living in
a white man's town, surrounding himself with white neighbors.
All "his associates were white people.
"One day, after months went by, my grandson came back to
the reservation. We thought he was coming back to boast and
tell us how beautifully he was getting along in the white man's
world. As it turned out, he was unhappy. He was saddened by
the fact that the white man was not friendly at all, and that
he was fooled by the surface friendliness of the whites. When
they would say, 'Come on over,' my grandson would go over to
visit, but he could sense he was unwelcome, and they made
him feel as though he was an intruder. On many occasions, he
felt uncomfortable visiting his acquaintances. With Indian
homes, families visit families, and everyone has a person in
their age group to visit with, but with the white person you
need to have a special invitation to go into their homes. It
was a long wait for these invitations that never came. Meeting
people meant only people of a certain age group. He made a
few friends, but they were like the wind--they were gone. So
it was a hard lesson he had to learn.
"To go outside the reservation, and to live like whites, is
different. Since the low cost housing, many of the young people
can afford nice homes on the reservation. They feel secure,
but unfortunately, I'm afraid if they had to leave the reservation
and go where the hard-core, aggressive whites live, they could
not survive. The pressure of getting ahead would be too demanding.
On the reservation, if they get behind in their house payment,
it is so small in comparison to what it is to rent in the white
man's world, the Indian would be very poor. The reservation
provides a strong base for our young people. Because of the
fact they feel a need to give in to the white world and see what















it is all about, still it does not allow me to admire such
a search at all.
"We were taught that a man must be up before the sun's
up, and doing his chores. There was no room for laziness;
otherwise, people would not like him. The white man's world
has too many demands. I tell some of my children around here
they must mix with whites more so they can understand what ed-
ucation is needed to live comfortably, like the whites. Since
the white man goes around increasing the price on everything he
sees and touches, our people need education to help them find
jobs that will provide their basic needs. They need to adopt
the white man's ways in terms of education. Because security
in the white man's eyes is how much one has, I believe that
Indians for the future to come have to learn these ways. It
is good to hold onto traditional Indian ways, but it is far
more important to survive.
"It is another time and life. Fear and mistrust for the
white man should be enough to motivate any young man to meet
the challenges of today. Only the memories of the past linger.
What happened to our people did not happen to us. Even so, it
is not all right to wipe it out of our minds. So many changes
have taken place which affect us daily. Our people are in-
fluenced by television and the church. The violence on tele-
vision has poisoned the minds of our young people. Last sum-
mer there was an old lady who was beaten, stripped naked, and
thrown in the back trunk of a car. She could have died. Her
own son was one of the attackers. I cannot help but believe he
was taking drugs. Television programs show how that stuff
causes a person to go crazy. I believe that is what happened
to the young man. If tribal law was still active I know he
would have been punished severely."

[This ends the narrative in English. Ms. Chaudhuri goes
on to translate it into the Creek language,which cannot
be transcribed.]




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