SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
"Florida's Indians--The Last to Surrender"
A Florida Public Radio Program by Mark.Bass
B Mark Bass
C Billy Cypress
D Kathy Deagan
F Dr. Fairbanks
J Danny Jumper
K Tom King
JDO Joe Dan Osceola
JO Judy Osceola
T Lee Tiger
Tu Jan Tuveson
B: The following program is a production of Florida Public Radio.
F: I think there are a number of reasons why they Seminole are
one of the most interesting Indian groups in the country.
There are a lot of things we stand to gain in our knowledge
about the way in which human society's cultures work, but it
shouldn't be that it is just that we study the Seminole to
find out things for our advantage. As we understand how the
Seminole culture works, we will be able to help the Seminole
as well as ourselves.
B: This is the story of Florida's Indians--the Seminoles and
Miccosukee--the last tribes in North America to surrender.
For the next hour we'll explore the history and the culture
and lifestyle of these people as told in their own words and
the words of concerned whites who've lived and worked and
studied with them.
F: Osceola, of course, was born in Alabama, and was the offspring
of an Indian woman and a trader...or is believed to be, what
little we really know about him. He came into Florida as a
teenager, a juvenile with his mother, as part of the refugees
from Andrew Jackson's Creek War of 1814. He was temporarily
captured while camped in the vicinity of the Suwannee River
crossing, more or less Fannin Springs area, and released and
and so on. I'm sure that a good deal of Osceola's opposition
to white Americans were these traumas of the Creek War, which
he lived through as a teenager or a child, and then the Florida
years were again a period of oppression and persecution by
United States Army, and settlers, and so on.
B: Dr. Charles Fairbanks is a professor of anthropology at the
University of Florida in Gainesville.
F: There were two major groups: the central Georgia ex-Creek Indians
who were here in the Alachua area under the leadership of Cowkeeper
principally, and the Tallahassee area people in the British dominion
in Florida under Tonaby, who came from the lower Chattahoochee.
And then after the Creek War of 1814--Andrew Jackson against the
Creeks in central Alabama--the leaders of that Creek war and their
families refugee down here to join Creek relatives that were already
here. But in the meantime...from 1720 or thereabouts, there began
to be appreciable bodies of Indians once again in North Florida.
They were pretty remote from the organized towns of the Creek
along the Chattahoochee then in central Alabama. So their re-
lationship was not as formal as it had been when they were
back in their original homeland in central Alabama along the
K: I'm sure that most Seminoles would disagree with practically
everything that I would say about their history. For instance,
I ran into a number of Seminoles--the great majority of them--
who believe that they are not descendants of the Creek confederacy.
They believe that they are a separate tribe completely apart from
the Creeks; have never been a part of the Creek confederacy; have
always occupied peninsular Florida. You see things such as that.
Now, anthropologists and historians will tell you differently.
B: R. T. King lived near the Brighton Seminole reservation for one
year as part of his work with the Oral History Project at the
Center for the Study of Southeastern Indians now located at
the state museum in Gainesville. The Oral History Project has
collected the tape-recorded recollections of many Seminoles and
K: I'm not so sure that the oral history broke down. I don't know...
I think it may have been selective perception. You know, you be-
lieve what you want to believe. Now, how many people of our genera-
tion actually know what happened during World War II? You know,
our version of it differs very much from the truth.
D: Until the Seminole Wars when Andrew Jackson was here, there were
several settlements of Seminole, particularly in Central Florida
around Gainesville. They traded with the whites. I was working
on the Oral History Project with Dr. Proctor [Samuel Proctor] inter-
viewing a man in Central Florida near Wacahoota, who had remembered
pioneer days. His grandmother remembered when the Seminoles were
living in that area just a few miles south of Gainesville, and
traded huckleberries for milk with his grandmother. He had in the
family a basket that the Seminoles had made--it probably dated to
about 1830--which they passed down. He donated it to the museum.
So there was some pioneer interaction.
B: In the early nineteenth century white settlers moved into Seminole-
held lands in ever increasing numbers. Andrew Jackson was sent to
quell the increasing tension between Indians and white settlers.
In 1823 the Seminoles signed a treaty agreeing to stay in central
on a reservation there. Nine years later federal officials pro-
ceeding under the Indian Removal Act began forcing bands of cap-
tured Seminoles to move to Oklahoma. Bands led by Osceola and
others refused, and headed for the swampy no-man's-land called
the Everglades. It cost the U.S. government twenty million
dollars and over three thousand lives to flush the small bands
of determined Seminoles from their own land.
JDO: They would hide down in the Everglades by lying down on the
grass, and there'd be a sawgrass up to about the waist high.
And they would not make a move. Yeah, 'cause the enemies was
only like a few yards away from them, and if they was to be
even.... If a baby was to make a noise or cry...it's a many
babies have died, because it's a Indian philosophy was this--
it's a best to go ahead and kill that child, whereas if they
didn't, then the whole tribe would a got killed. Back in the
old days most babies didn't survive in the wilderness.
F: Osceola certainly seems to have been deeply opposed to Anglo-
Americans. He certainly seems to have been a charismatic leader.
He was able to gather followers behind him, and lead them and
so on. In the reservation period between the treaty of Moultrie
Creek  and the outbreak of the Second Seminole War 
they weren't that nomadic. There probably were bands of maybe
a couple of hundred individuals moved out of...in Osceola's
case, this general Appalachee or Alachua area down into the reser-
vations south of Ocala. And there was a clan organization which
was not confined to a particular band, so that he would have clan
kin in other bands, who would be accustomed to cooperate with him,
with whom he could communicate on a family basis.
JDO: Well, the Indian tales that this was over the first recorded
history of a guerrilla war, where you would hide until your
enemies comes up, and you would attack them and go on again.
Of course, we had to in this case, because we were outnumbered
like eight to one; in many, many cases ten to one. So this
is why.... Osceola had led in this war, and he went up against
the people had went to, and generals that they went to army
schools, or West Point, and there were graduates from that.
These Indians that lived in the woods all their lives, they knew
which way to go. Even the wind would tell them which way to
go. Just being able to live in the wilderness all their lives--
that's what saved us.
F: He [Osceola] had some experience with two cultures. His Indian
mother's culture, and to the extent that he had any contact with
his father--the father was resident in the Creek country for some
years, at any rate, and so on. So he could benefit by some know-
ledge of both cultures. He was fighting on his own land, and so
on. There are many ways in which the Second Seminole War resembles
the Viet Nam War--atrocities, guerrilla warfare, organized military
units at a loss to compete with the local people on their
own ground, and so on.
JDO: But we're talking about knowing what the enemies was like,
because this is supposed to be the most civilized country,
and yet Indians had a bounty on their head. Like, a warrior
have $300, and a woman and child's $150, so they were gonna
get killed anyway, because they didn't bring the warriors
and the people in; they'd bring in the scalps for a bounty.
This is where a lot of people mistaken about the scalping--
they think the scalping came from the Indians, but this isn't
so, it came from the white people first. Then the Indians
saw that the brothers been scalped, being scalped already,
and said, "Well, the white people gonna scalp, we could too."
And this is how they retaliated by start scalping the white
B: The Indians who refused to leave Florida were eventually driven
onto reservations in the Everglades near Miami. They were known
collectively as Seminoles, but were actually a combination of
Miccosukee and Creek. To this day the Miccosukee maintain
that they are a separate tribe, and do not want to be called
Seminole. Billy Cypress is vice chairman of the Miccosukee
C: The Seminole Tribe and Miccosukee Tribe are different in the
ways of thinking, and sometimes they're similar. But the last
thousand somewhat different too, as I pretty sure you noticed
when you were on their reservation. There are differences and
similarities. I can't say we're totally separate. Sometimes
we count on one another to help one another, and this is what
an Indian should do. I hope that one of these days their be-
liefs may be different, and our beliefs may be different, but
when one's down and needs help that the other one will come to
aid the other.
B: R. T. King of the Oral History Project at the Center for the
Study of Southeastern Indians says the distinctions are further
blurred by intermarriage between the two groups.
K: Two thirds of the Seminole Tribe of Florida are Miccosukees
[Miccosukee-speakers.] There are probably only three hundred
Miccosukees who are represented by the Miccosukee Tribe of
Florida. So the Miccosukees who are represented by the Miccosukee
Tribe of Florida, which is located on the Tamiami Trail, are by
far the more traditional group. They're not as affected by all
of this as are the other Indians. But the Miccosukees living
on the Big Cypress reservation, and those living on the Hollywood
reservation, are becoming just as acculturated as the Cow Creeks,
or the Muskogee-speaking Seminoles, from Brighton.
B: The Miccosukee Tribe under the leadership of their chairman
Buffalo Tiger have made an effort to resist abandoning the
old ways. The Miccosukee language is taught in schools main-
tained by the tribe, and English is taught as a second lan-
C: You got to practice your customs; you got to practice your
belief. If you don't do that, it's lost. It's a loss to
you, and it's a loss cause for your future descendants that
come after you. Because you were foolish enough not to prac-
tice your customs, it's gone forever. There's nobody that's
gonna say, "Hey, you know, there's a custom here for you guys."
There's no way; this only can be taught by practice, and they
say practice makes perfect.
T: The way to live the true...the real way to live is in harmony
with the land, which is Indian philosophy to live with nature
as one with the earth. My feeling would be that I would have
to say that I liked the Indian philosophy of living with the
earth in harmony. There's not too much you can do nowadays
since...Indian culture has more to do with what's happening
in the environment nowadays in America.
K: Well, you know there has been this recent attempt to recover
it, but in some cases it's too late. I hope that some of the
tapes that we have made will be of value to them.
B: R. T. King and other anthropologists involved with the oral
history project are making an attempt to help save Seminole
and Miccosukee culture.
K: It has preserved the language, and in many cases it has preserved
stories. It's preserved history; there's some cultural preserva-
tion. So there's that. And there's also the fact that as a non-
literate people without a written history...then it's not possible
for us to write the history of our own society as it applies to
them. You know, they're an integral part of American society.
It's not possible for us to write their history with any degree
of accuracy without having some sort of oral input from them.
It's necessary to do it through an oral history approach simply
because these are nonliterate people.
Once they become literate peoples...for instance, once the
Seminole becomes fully literate, he is no longer entirely a
Seminole. And I think I can say this without risking any offense
to the Seminoles themselves, because they're perfectly well aware
of this--that is the basis for most of the opposition that they
had toward allowing their children to go to white schools.
They knew perfectly well that once their kids learned to
read and write and speak English, that they were no longer
entirely Seminoles. But as nonliterate peoples they have
not recorded their own history--they haven't recorded their
culture, their heritage, nothing. They have passed it down
from generation to generation through stories, as I indicated
before. It's all been through oral transmission.
JO: As far as a discipline, we have to...they were really strict.
They didn't spank us. Like, my mother...when she was gonna
punish me, she'll take a needle and take me to a my grandfather,
and my grandfather was the one that scratched my body...
B: Judy Osceola lives in the Seminole Indian village at U.S. 441
and Sterling Road in Hollywood, Florida.
JO: ...on my arms and my legs. That's all they'd do on a girl,
but on a boy they'd do it all over the body. After you go
through that, I tell you, you learn to respect your elders.
Today our kids have it easy...to me they do. I tell my two
children, I say, "You have to stay in school," because now
it's harder for them to live. Once they get out of school
they gonna have it harder than I ever did. This is why I
try to tell my kids to stay in school, and that they need to
know the education in order to take care of themselves.
B: As more and more Seminole and Miccosukee children enroll in
public schools, tribal members fear a breakdown of their
cultural traditions. Most important tradition in the raising
of children is the watchful attention of clan members--relatives
who guide the young members of the tribe. Removing children
from this pattern impacts on the entire tribe.
C: In the clan system everything goes on the mother's side.
My wife, kids are automatic take the title of my wife's clan.
So then there are...like, they have Bird clans, and they
become Bird clan. When that happens there are certain people
or elders in there that supposed to correct and discipline the
children of that system. So each clan system is reinforced to
make sure that their people grow up as respectable people.
They try to teach them as much as possible, those who are
willing to learn. Those who don't learn it will show up in
time as they grow old--they will have no respect, and that
shows up. They said these people just didn't learn, or they
will say, well, their uncles just didn't take the time to teach
them. So it's all the pride of the elderly, and if somebody's
accused of doing something wrong, and then somebody else
say, well, you know their uncle didn't teach 'em right, or
didn't take the time, it's an embarrassment.
JO: Back in our age they made us respect our elders. We never
talked back. This is what's different today about our child-
ren, you know. They don't respect their elders; they talk
back, they stand up to their parents, you know. I see all
that today. When I see that, I say to myself that discipline
back in the old days was good.
C: Youngsters have asked me, "Why is books about Seminole tribes,
books about Miccosukee...how come the non-Indians always
I say, "That's not our way of life. Your way of life is
word of mouth, not by books."
B: The oral tradition has largely been replaced by books and the
electronic media. Increasingly, Seminoles and Miccosukee are
finishing high school and college.
JDO: Even as late as 1950, the Indians here in the state of Florida
couldn't even go to a public school. In order to go to school
you had to go 1,000 miles away, which is in Cherokee, North
Carolina, to go to school--a boarding Indian school. So this
is the kind of a system that we came through. And this is why
we do not have any attorneys and medical doctors yet.
J: In those days I remember we had to get up and wash with maybe
a pan or something, because we didn't have the adequate sani-
tary facilities--not even an outhouse, I don't think, in those
days. So that made a lot of difference with my association with
the teachers themselves. How they looked at me, I think, made
a lot of difference, and it made a lot of difference in the way
they reacted to me and the way I reacted back.
JO: I think at this day and age you have to communicate with your
kids all the time, because it's so important. Once you lay
off that, then they go astray and on their own. I do know a
lot of the kids do have a problem, though. You know, a lot of
them probably think that they're not being loved, and a lot of
the Indian parents don't show affection. They do love their
children, but, you know, children do need affection. Like lots
of times...my daughter is bigger and taller than I am, but I
hug her and show her that I love her, and so my son.
K: The children from Brighton began attending school in the city
of Okeechobee, and then finally there was a hassle between
Glades County, of which Moore Haven is the county seat, and
Okeechobee County over who would get the Indian children.
This humorous incident...I don't know exactly what happened,
I don't know the details to it, but I do know that there were
federal funds involved, and that initially although the Indians
lived in Glades County they were not allowed to attend school
in Moore Haven, the county seat of Glades County. But as soon
as it became apparent that there was federal money involved,
Moore Haven wanted "their" Indians back.
B: There is a large high school dropout rate among the Seminole
and Miccosukee. And very few tribal members graduate from
college. The blame lies not with intelligence, but rather
with their tradition of staying close to home.
K: Without mentioning any names, I can tell you that I know a
number who were to one degree or another college-educated,
but very few of them have actually gotten degrees. Interestingly
enough, part of the problem, part of the reason they have not
gotten college degrees is that they don't like staying away
from home for that length of time, the time that it requires.
It doesn't have anything to do with intellectual capacity--
they're perfectly capable intellectually of achieving just as
much as anybody else. But most of them return. A great num-
ber of them have been in the military, have been three and
four years away, have seen a great deal of the world, and have
chosen to return to that little plot of land that is not neces-
sarily the most attractive land in the world. You know, it's
left over; it's land that whites didn't want. Nonetheless,
they come home. There are very, very strong family ties, cul-
B: The battle to retain their cultural heritage is one more battle
the Indians seem destined to lose in time. The odds have been
stacked against them since the Seminole Indian wars and the
Indian Removal Act. The Seminoles who remained in Florida, saw
their villages broken up, and the remnants of the tribe scattered
into roving bands. The traditional feasts and ceremonies were
impossible to perform. Among the Seminoles and Miccosukees today
a rodeo held at the Seminole reservation in Hollywood has replaced
their winter religious festival. When Seminoles and Miccosukees
speak of retaining their culture, they mean what is left of their
culture, the values that have enabled them to survive with racial
integrity despite the best efforts of innumerable government
agencies and religious denominations to remake the Indians in
their own image.
One of the most easily recognizable elements of Seminole
culture is the chickee--the four-sided thatched house, its sides
open to the wind. Before the Seminole Indian wars few if any
Seminoles lived in this type house; it was developed out of
necessity. It symbolizes one of the strongest qualities of
the Seminoles and Miccosukee, their adaptability.
T: Lots of people still live in chickees, yeah. And these people
there, like my uncle down at the village down there, he lives
in chickees and he'll probably always live in a chickee. Just
about all my aunts and uncles, the older ones, they all live in
chickees. They don't want to change; they want to live in chickees,
because that's the way they were born out here, and lived in
chickees all their life, and they'll probably stay like that.
F: When they came down here in North Florida, they developed new
housing styles partly borrowed from frontier American housing
styles--stick and clay chimneys, and stuff like this. Then
when they were pushed down into the Everglades in a real new
environment, subtropical wet, hurricanes and so on, they had to
develop a new house style, and that was the chickee.
T: Now, when I was a younger boy some of the chickees didn't have
electricity in it. We used to use a flashlight and mosquito
nets, and the old ice box with ice in it, and that wasn't too
long ago. I'm only twenty-six, and I was about twelve years
old then. My uncle had it real good, because he had a generator,
and that was a big thing. He had a TV in his chickee, and a
regular refrigerator, so he was more advanced at that time.
Most of them didn't, though. They would live in a...just use
a flashlight, and wouldn't have no TV.
Indians don't like houses. A lot of the older people
won't live in houses. Some of the young people will-- they can
adapt to them. But the older can't live in houses for the reason
they don't like to be having walls around them.
F: Of course, without the pressure of the Indian Bureau...their
change in house style was the result of other changes that were
already taking place in the culture. After the Second Seminole
War their loss of population down to 300 individuals, the fact
that they were hiding out from the United States Army meant that
even if they hadn't been threatened with hurricanes--and I don't
know how long it took them to find out about hurricanes down
there--but even if they hadn't been hiding out, they couldn't
afford to put a lot of time, effort into elaborate housing, and
it wouldn't have suited the subtropical situation.
B: Since the days when they fled south to avoid being removed to
Oklahoma, Florida's Indians have called the subtropical Everglades
their home. They were left pretty much alone by whites until the
1950s. At that time the first roads were built in the Big Cypress
reservation. Local agricultural interests began draining fringe
areas of the swamp to be planted, and the ecology of the area be-
gan to change. The Indians had thought that a guarantee on paper
from Washington would insure them and their descendents an unspoiled
natural setting removed from white society where they could control
their own lives. Highway and canal projects through the Everglades
brought an ever increasing number of tourists and travelers through
their lands. Since they had never been given title to the land,
the Seminoles and Miccosukees had no legal recourse.
In recent times both tribes' lawyers have been working on
getting title to the land on which the tribes live. To a culture
unaccustomed to buying and selling land, increasing development
in and around the Everglades looks like another attempt to drive
them out, or to make their lands unlivable. The Seminoles and
Miccosukee are understandably concerned and angry. When a massive
jet port was planned for the Everglades, lawyers and Indian-hired
environmental experts were successful in blocking its construction.
Here's how some of them feel about their homeland:
J: For some reason I can think back when I was little, maybe about
eight or nine when, you know, when my parents were telling me
that for some reason that never a trust a non-Indian with your
land. I don't know where it ties in with what I'm thinking today,
but there's a lot of things that maybe I think about. Then
there's a force that sometimes makes sense, but most of the time
it doesn't make sense, and it's a force called the federal govern-
ment. They have a right to do anything they wish, it seems like,
but it's supposed to be a spokesman for the United States, as I
understand. And I think the people that...the way I try to under-
stand them, they have a history, and they have a right to a lot
of things that are still here. But it sometimes versus the federal
government's interests, and it's usually on a matter of land.
C: That cannot be avoided. It's like a bad cold--once you're in con-
tact with the viruses there, you catch it, and there's no way you
can avoid it. I'm not saying that all the non-Indians are bad.
It's just that some things that Indian can benefit with, and some
things they can't benefit with. So there ain't all good and bad.
I can't sit here and pick out what is good and what is bad, because
here again my point could be good for certain things, but the next
guy might say, well, the certain points I point out are bad things.
Here again, this has to be on a individual.
B: Judy Osceola and her family lived in the Everglades until she was
six years old. She remembers what the tropical wilderness was
like before highway and canals were cut through it:
J: To me it was like a free world; it was free. We could run
around in the woods, in the hammocks, and when I say the hammocks
it's all this cypress trees, all, you know, all bunched up to-
gether. And where they have orchard trees growing. I don't even
remember mosquitoes biting me or anything. But I guess it's the
same way over there, 'cause they survive, you know...we survived.
B: The Indians have survived largely because they've been gradually
able to adapt the ways of American society to their own needs.
A case in point is the request before the Indian Claims Commission
asking reimbursement for lands taken from them. University of
Florida anthropologist Dr. Charles Fairbanks was an expert witness
for the U.S. government during the 1950s case. Dr. Fairbanks was
asked to determine how much of the land relinquished to the U.S.
government by the Seminoles in 1823 had been occupied by the
Seminoles from time immemorial. Both the Seminoles in Florida
and descendants of the tribe living in Oklahoma claim that their
ancestors had received unconscionably low considerations for the
F: I was hired by the United States Department of Justice to provide
a report on what Indians were in Florida, what happened to them,
what is the Seminole basis of claim to lands in Florida. The
Indian claims case like most American legal situations is based
on an adversary. The defendants have a lawyer and the plaintiff
has a lawyer and so on. I can't really say that they ever did
make any substantive issues of a favorable position for the
United States government. They did do such things...my original
draft, I repeatedly referred to the Seminole "nation." Well,
they made me take that out, because the Seminole nation wasn't
legally constituted until 1854 as a result of some Oklahoma treaty
or war department action or something. So lawyers have...and these
were all lawyers, not anthropologists.
B: The settlement totalled sixteen million dollars to be divided be-
tween three groups--the Seminoles in Oklahoma, descendants of
those driven west during the Indian Removal Act; the Seminoles
in Florida; and the Miccosukee in Florida. The Miccosukees sur-
prised the government by refusing to take any share of the repara-
F: Well, they say that they don't sell land for money, that they
want the land to use in an Indian fashion. And they regard it,
it seems to me, as a betrayal of the land in their trust to take
a financial settlement for it. Temporarily it's hit a road-
block. The Indian Claims case was decided that "yes, the
Seminoles were gypped out of land." Then they hired a series
of experts in land, property values, real estate type people
to evaluate how much was coming to them. Then the Bureau of
Indian Affairs decided how much of that was due to the Indian's
lawyers who carried all of this on credit for all these years,
all the court action...they hadn't been paid because the Indians
didn't have it.
Then there was a question of how this would be distributed.
And it involved two groups, the Florida Seminole and the Oklahoma
Seminole. There are more Oklahoma Seminole than there are
Florida Seminole, so they would like to see it divided on a popu-
lation basis. At least many Florida Seminole, of course, say,
"Well, we're the guys that still stayed here; we should get more
than a per capital division." And of course everybody hopes that
it will not be distributed as cash per capita--that it will be
held in trust for not only this generation but for future genera-
tions to benefit by it.
B: Although Dr. Fairbanks's account of Seminole ethnohistory was
agreed to and duplicated by experts on the Indians' side, his
participation in the case has inhibited his communication with
some tribal members ever since.
F: And in one case I know that one of the tribe's lawyers pointed
out to one of them, "Well, he was the guy that was the justice
department witness." And a cooling of a relationship which I
think's understandable. Our adversary court situation.... Well,
if I testify for the driver of one car, the other driver is not
happy about me, so that's the kind of thing that's happened.
There is this: Since 1965 or thereabouts I think there's been
a general greater participation and willingness to meet Anglo-
Floridians and talk with them than there was before that. This
is as they participate more in the business and industry and so
B: But increased contact with whites from Florida has brought new
problems. Many who enter the reservations have no respect for
the law or the Indians. Because of this each tribe has set up
its own police force.
JDO: Well, we really have to have law and order on the reservations.
Not just that, but even the people...the so-called hunters
would go out into the reservation and the 'glades and kill off
not just the games, but the deer. That part we don't mind, but
when they start killing our livestocks like steers and bull pro-
ject what the tribe has worked very hard in trying to make a good
successful business of, and the hunters doesn't give us a
chance. Instead of killing the deers they would slaughter
our steers and the bulls, and use that for a their feeding
their families, or whatever. This is something we don't
appreciate. So that's why the tribe has been trying to get
law and order established on the reservation, so they can
keep law and order on maintained.
J: Sometimes I see myself looking at non-Indians in a trouble-
some way. And they do so themselves, you know, to us. But we
gotta understand that we do come from different ethnic back-
grounds, and that we do have different practices. I think we
do have to somewhat understand the situation that we do come
from different backgrounds. We should maybe respect each other
because of that reason, and look at each other as human beings.
I think that eventually whatever happens, it's gonna happen
to the Indian people whether they disseminate into the mainstream
of society...if that's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. I guess
there's nothing that you can do to keep that.
As far as what were're doing right now is, I think we're
saying that we know who we are, and we know who we're all about,
because we have a pretty good back history as far as being Indians
are concerned. And as far as we're concerned, we're gonna do
as much as.... We think it's good for us to do our own thing
in the future as long as we can, without having nobody interpret
or do our thing for us*
C: One of the reasons why the American people that landed survived
here, because people took them in while they were in need of aid.
And then they turned around as the population grew, and then
they tried to exterminate them out, terminated them. So now I
am from the younger generation, but the generation before me were
always leery of the of the non-Indian people because what had
happened to them. You help people, and they'd turn around and
try to kill you. You have to try to be peaceful, but just know
where you are and never forget.
B: The threat of extermination and promises broken by the governments
of the United States and the state of Florida have been a way of
life for the Seminoles and Miccosukee for as long as they've been
in Florida. The tradition has followed them even into modern times.
K: What is now the Everglades National Park was originally state
reservation; it was guaranteed by the state of Florida to the
Seminole Indians. The state of Florida later decided, "Well,
actually, we ought to turn this thing into a park." So they
took it back and they gave, I think, 63,000 acres of land in
return to the Seminoles. And this 63,000 acre reservation is
in the worst part of the Everglades. There is nothing, literally
nothing but sawgrass and water in the section of land that was
turned over to the Seminoles in return for the Everglades National
Park. Now, as you know, the Everglades National Park is...although
it's a spectacular wilderness, nonetheless it does have varying
terrain in it; it does support life. Whereas the reservation that
was given to the Seminoles in return for it doesn't support a damn
thing except frogs and minnows. There's nothing there.
B: Jan Tuveson is the co-director of the governor's council on Indian
affairs. She too laments the condition of the sea of grass known
as the Everglades.
Tu: From a purely environmental viewpoint it's tragic; if you go down
into the Everglades, you see the tracks that the airboats have
made. You see the actual hunting facilities down there, which
are illegal. Nothing's being done about it and the Indians have
tried for ages. It's just...I think of people up here in northern
Florida, central Florida--they actually see what's happening to
the Everglades, they would just be appalled. The situation has
gotten so out of hand that we're not going to have an Everglades
pretty soon; it's going to be gone. In fact, right now...I went
down there one time with one of the old Indians, and he showed
me around the Everglades itself, which was the first time for me.
I saw maybe two birds, and that was all. And he began to tell
me what it used to be like. And it's something that I could
hardly imagine, because there's no evidence of it at all. It's
tragic; it's horrible.
T: My uncle lives out there. He lives out there part of the time.
And it's not very consistent, the water level's not consistent.
You can't really rely on the land anymore. Seeing that Miami's
moving in and the west side's moving in, so we're kinda getting
surrounded with the...water getting messed up like this with all
the canals, different things. The growth of all these towns
needing the water is up...is kind of bothered the natural resources.
The Indians been here a long time, and a lot longer than the
United States has been in existence. They didn't destroy the air
or the water. It was all handled nicely, and no problems. Now
we're getting problems. So I would say I would like to see people
do some research on it and find out what how the Indians did it.
How did they do it; how did they keep everything in order?
F: Do they have any claim to Florida? Well the decision of the Indian
Claims Commission has been that they did have, and that they did
not receive proper compensation when they gave it up in these
various treaties--Moultrie Creek in 1823, Payne's Landing, and
others. So that they deserved compensation.
K: But I think that perhaps their attitude toward white society
in general would not have been as bitter as it is now had we
lived up to our treaties. We made a number of treaties with
the Seminole Indians in the nineteenth century and failed to
honor any of them. We are now paying the price as far as money
goes. But it's a very small small price for us to pay. There
was a sixteen and a half million dollar settlement for thirty-
two million acres of land which had a greater value then [1830s]
than sixteen and a half million dollars.
C: I guess, in a way, when you stop and think about it, that Indian
in general has been kind of a conservationist, and yet he is
known today in history books as a warrior type, a hostile, or
whatever vicious type of person. But then here again you're
gonna have to see on the other side of it, too, what he has to
preserve--what he's fighting for. So you base that in goals,
and anyone with common sense would realize why these people re-
acted they way they did. And yet people feel that the United
States was fair country. Here again, I'm no philosopher or
anything like that, but when you look back at the history you
can see there's some dents in it. In fact, the constitution that
they have say they're gonna give freedom to everyone because they
didn't like somebody pushing on them. When they were part of
England this is what happened--they were being pushed around, and
finally some of the people escaped or whatever to come to America,
or they were sent to America because they were some problems area.
And yet they turn around and try to dictate what they were trying
to get away from. So in a sense, today I don't know what to say.
B: The younger members of many other North American tribes feel the
answers can be found in pan-Indian movements like AIM [American
Indian Movement]. Despite the injustices cited by Florida's
Indians, they've avoided violent confrontations with government
and developers. Joe Dan Osceola, former chairman of the Seminoles:
JDO: I know the leaders, and that the AIM group visit to my house,
and I sympathize with the cause they're fighting. But I do not
agree in the tactics and the method they have took about the
Wounded Knee, because they have actually hurt the Indians on the
reservation, the older Indians especially, where they took over
the homes of the elderly group. This is not what the Indian
movements are supposed to have been all about. And this and also
they took over a Department of Interior here, where the Bureau
of Indian Affairs office are, and they have a destroyed many, many
documents, and also valuable pieces of a museum piece that can
never be duplicated again. So again, what kind of a group is that
when you're supposedly been fighting for the Indian rights, and
yet they going out and destroy the documents like this? I don't
agree in things like that. I believe in Indian movement where
the Indians can work as a in unity. But when you're doing this
to the Indians on the reservation, of course you're gonna have
the Indians gonna be against the younger group left, and the mili-
tant and the radicals, and of course you're gonna be branded there
as a militant radical to begin with, especially when you're actually
fighting the system.
The system, it says that when you go against like this, they
automatically brand you to begin with. I believe in fighting for
your rights, but I don't believe in going in the extreme, such as
what the AIM group have done for the past three or four years.
Another group was this Alcatraz that they took over. Matter
of fact, I visit the island when they first took over. I can see
taking over the island, because of a treaty with the Sioux Indians
that any surplus land belongs to United States government that it
will be turned back to the Indian tribes. They have done this
within the law. But then I couldn't get any support from the
Indians on the reservation, because the Indians....
You have to live as an Indian and go through the system in
order to know how much he can fight the system, and what you can't
do, things you can't change. But so that's why I said from the
beginning that all we asking is just what a normal person should
ask...would like to see happen within their own family. But they
being Indians, you are many, many times that your disadvantages,
because there have been more laws has been written against than
for the American Indians--more than any race of people in the
United States. So if you really want to get down to the problems
with American Indians, you know, I like to see one sometime two
or three hours devoted to the American Indian what news media
hasn't been able to fulfill. Because talking about the American
Indians is a sore spot or black mark against the United States
government, and nobody want to hear about the bad news, really.
I guess this is why people in Europe knows more about the American
Indians than the people here in the United States.
B: Those Indians who have studied "the system" and its history have
a different perspective on majority culture in America than does
the majority. Listening to the Indian perspective of Joe Dan
Osceola one can understand why the Seminoles and Miccosukee and
other tribes refuse to be assimilated by the majority and its
JDO: As you remember in your history books, Buffalo Bill and the other
heroes in the western times, in the western civilization, saying
that they make heroes out of them because they killed the buffaloes.
But you know the Indians couldn't make any heroes out of them like
that. As far as that goes, the white people have been unfortuantely
making heroes out like Billy the Kid, you know, who was Billy the
Kid that killed some innocent people in the bank robbery. And
even as late as 1920s and '30s, like in Chicago...of course you
know what happened there about the making the heroes out of gang-
sters and mobsters. So it's for some reason the things we value
the most is quite different than the American Indians than the
We wondered why the people often say that "my ancestors came
on the Mayflower and in the other six ships," but if they would
only realize what kind of people came on that ship.... It was
the outcasts from England, like a witchcraft, and the outlaws,
the people who had been in prisons, and even the prostitutes that
came on that Mayflower. The people try to impress you, saying
that their ancestors came on that ship long ago, but really it's
no great honor, because it's what you are and how much you want
to help your neighbor, and especially the minority group.
I wish the American Indians was in that category as a minority.
But with the law states that the American Indians is not in with
any minority group. But regardless, we try to help the chicanos,
the blacks, or whoever. But the American Indians again have been
disadvantaged, because we don't...like we only have one million a
Indians here in the United States. And unfortunately the Indians
do not have the formal education because of a system that we went
One of these days, that...well, this is why I would think the
public has been going to the Indian medicine, because we still have
the Indian medicines that does practice the medicines for the
Indians. And not just the Indians have been a using the medicine
man, it's blacks and even the whites has come to reservation and
asked for some kind of a remedy from the herbs and the roots of
certain trees in the Everglades. There's one thing, too--this
when the medicine man fix you a medicine, it does not have any
side effect. Some drugs in the drugstores, not knocking against
the drugs, but just a normal fact that we have the medicine men
with us, been with us for many hundreds of years than the doctors.
B: But each new generation is further removed from the cultural
and historical excesses of the past. They will borrow from the
majority culture more freely. Many of the more conservative
tribal members still try to discourage the process, watching as
their old ways are replaced by those of the mobile society of the
F: What's the influence of a TV? A lot of the houses down there now
have television. And so they're participating in Florida, American
non-Seminole culture more and more.
K: I can't think of anything that's had a greater impact than that.
And it's been twofold. Not only can they now pick from various
alternatives that they can see on the television screen, or hear
over radio, and see in the movies, but it has also to a very great
degree...to an immeasurable degree it has replaced the former oral
traditions that were handed down through the tribe. That has been
a great loss of their own heritage and history and culture, because
of the fact that the oral traditions, which were once almost as
much entertainment as education, have been replaced by the TV screen.
I mean, you don't sit around the fire and listen to stories anymore.
The medicine keepers, the elders, the people who achieve some
status in the tribe simply through an ability to tell stories,
and tell them well, don't have an audience anymore.
B: Many Seminoles and Miccosukee realize that the future for their
children is brighter as a result of the efforts of those who've
gone before, from Osceola to the present-day tribal members.
Modern teaching aids, scientific agriculture and cattle management
programs, an increasing awareness on the state and federal level
of the needs and accomplishment of Florida's Seminoles and
Miccosukee will ensure a more promising future for each generation
of Florida's Indians, the last to surrender.
C: What's here today is the future; it's the young people. And what
we teach our young people today of respect, as I mentioned earlier,
then the tribal customs will be continued, they'll be carried out.
So we hope to have nice successful young people taking over our
operations here. Now, maybe fifty years from now our operations
may be not as good as theirs when they look back and see us. But
then they'll have to see that we're the forefathers just getting
started. We won't be responsible for their mess-ups; we can only
make it so much, and from there they have to carry on.
F: It may not be a question of the Seminole accepting. It's a question
of will the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the United States Department
of Agriculture, Mr. Carter and so on--will they accept what we can
offer them as a result of study of not only the Seminole but other
Indian groups? As we better understand how culture...it isn't that
we want to control another people, but we simply want to be able
to say if you do it this way, this is what's going to happen, and
say it in such a way that they can understand that they have a
choice whether to get this resolved or that resolved.
T: Language, their ceremonial dances, their ceremonial ideas...all
this, I seen different tribes lose everything, and try and revive
it, try and look, try and find it. Once you lose the language,
it seems like it's going to be hard to get the culture back.
C: It's a matter of pride. You feel that you fall a long way, and
yet you're living today because you fight and fought what you
believed in, and you die for what you believed in. The truth
is always stronger than the other things that come as a evil
if they be known. If you do what's right, it will survive.
We're in the tip of Florida now; we can't go any further south.
We're here, and I think we'll be here tomorrow and the following
day as time goes on. But if you're asking me what the future
is today or for a young tribe, it's what we start today, plant
seeds, try to come up with a good information for young people
to look back on. And this could be a word of mouth, on paper.
Because I know youngsters have asked me why is books about
Seminole tribes, and books about Miccosukee tribes, how come
the non-Indians always writing that? I say that's not our way
of life. Your way of life is word of mouth, not by books.
B: Production funds for this program were provided by the Florida
legislature and administered by the State Department of Education.
Additional production funds provided by the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting and this public radio station. This is the Florida
Public Radio.. Network.