Interviewee: Teresa Jumper
Interviewer: J. Ellison
8 November 1999
E: I am Jim Ellison and today is the 8th of November. It is Monday and I am at the
Ahfachkee School with Teresa Jumper. We are here to talk just for a few
minutes, because we are between classes, about the culture and language
program. Is Teresa Jumper your full name?
E: Let's just jump right in. When I came, you had somebody in here and you were
finishing up a quilt that she was doing.
J: Yes. She is one of my high school students and she just finished her class and
today was her last day.
E: And you had a whole group of people in here before.
E: Were they sewing also?
J: Some of them were and some of them are waiting. The boys go to the museum
for wood carving class, but today they did not have anybody over there, so they
did not go. So, they were pretty much [on] free time.
E: So, the boys go to do wood carving?
J: Right, at the museum.
E: And the girls come here and do sewing?
J: Sewing, bead working, doll making, patchwork. Sometimes I will have them here
altogether and we do the language. We go over some sentences, like asking
questions, or body parts, or whatever they want to know. The high school, I
pretty much leave it up to them what they want to know and go from there. They
are older, and some of them know more about culture than the little ones.
E: And by that point they have more questions, probably.
E: I see on the board here there are sentences and questions written out. So, the
boys go to the museum and they learn carving from ...
J: From Ingraham, Junior.
E: Do they do other things in addition to carving?
J: I think it is pretty much like carving. Sometimes we get people in here as
consultants to talk to them, as the whole group, [about] how it was back then and
how it is now, and that they need to stay in school and get their education.
E: What you were doing with these high school students is a part of the regular
curriculum, it is a part of their daily [schedule]?
E: How long have they been doing this? How long have you been working with the
high school students doing that kind of thing?
J: Let's see, I came back, this is my third year, and I think they started two years
before. One year they did not have anybody to teach culture, and then they
called me because I used to work here-I do not know how many years, twenty
five years?-and I left to work somewhere else. They called me up and asked
me if I wanted to come back and do culture again. I told them I really did not
want to, but then I said, well, I guess I will try again. And that is when I came
back, three years ago.
E: So, they thought that you were the person to do it. You had been here before.
And you were reluctant to do it?
J: Yes, because I wanted to try other things. I had been here like twenty-five years,
on and off, so I wanted to try other areas to see how things go.
E: Where had you gone?
J: The first time I left I went back to school. I went to a cosmetology school and got
my certificate and license for that. Then I worked as a cosmetologist for maybe
two years. Then I went back [to] working for the tribe as a tobacco shop
manager. And then, this last time I left, I went to work at Billie Swamp Safari,
working with the public, the tourists. I liked it there; you get to meet a lot of
different people, and they are interested in culture, too. So, it was still culture,
but you were dealing with adults [rather] than kids. And that was good, too.
E: When you were doing the cosmetology, where was that?
J: I went to school in Belle Glade, it is part of West Palm Beach. I took my test in
Winter Haven, and I thought I was not going to pass, but I passed. [Laughter]
Tests kind of give me-I get nervous.
E: They are tests.
J: Yes. [Laughter.] After that I went to work in Clewiston.
E: Were you living here at the time, at Big Cypress?
J: Yes, I lived here.
E: When you taught here before, before you left to do that, were you teaching a
culture program, or were you teaching just regular [classes]?
J: I was a teacher's aide for I do not know how many years. And then they asked
me if I wanted to do culture. That was when they had that Title VII, I believe it
was.1 That was how I got into culture, the bilingual program.
E: Was that before you left to do things?
1 U.S. Government Bilingual Education, Language Enhancement, and Language Acquisition Programs,
also known as the Bilingual Education Act, in which Section 7104 concerns Native American and Alaska
Native Children in School.
E: So, this kind of culture program is a pretty recent development?
J: Maybe seven years, I think. I am not sure. Because somebody else had it and
then I came back to it.
E: Who was here before?
J: Before, Celeste Billie. She was doing it. And Monica, I am not sure if it is Billie; it
used to be Johns but she got married, and I am thinking that she uses Billie.
They had it.
E: You do not just work with high school students, you work with grade school, the
J: Yes, from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
E: That is a big range of students.
J: Yes, it is.
E: You have to change gears seriously to teach them?
E: What are the differences? I mean, obviously, there is an age difference with the
grade school and the high school, but is there a difference where kids a certain
age maybe know more, or you have to really do things differently with the
younger kids than the older kids to get them to think about the language and
J: High school, some of them, not all of them, they know more. I think they know
more than I do. [Laughter.] Well, maybe a couple, because their parents are full-
blooded and I think they tell them things, this and that. But, the other ones, the
language is almost gone, I think.
E: With the younger ones?
J: Yes, with the younger ones. Well, maybe second grade to, I would say, maybe
fourth grade. Kindergartners, the pre-school and kindergartners, the ones that
are coming in, they are good. They are getting it. They are speaking it.
E: Are the ones who are coming in from pre-school now getting it more than the
ones who came in, say, two years ago when you were first starting?
E: Why is that?
J: They are doing good with them, I think, over there at the Head Start. Whoever is
teaching there, they are teaching them the numbers, the alphabet, the colors, the
animals, because you play a game with them and they know it, most of them
E: Head Start, is that where Louise [Jumper] is?2
J: Yes, that is where Louise is.
E: So, they are coming here now with that background, that foundation.
E: Does that let you do more with them in terms of teaching language; can you build
more with that? Was it harder with the other ones?
J: It was harder with the other ones, and it is easier with the ones that are coming
now, from there, the pre-school, because they already know it. That means that I
really do not have to get into that. I have to go to the next step, teaching them
sentences, like, may I go to the bathroom?, or, I need a pencil, or, may I get
water?, and things like that.
2 See SEM 254.
E: Basic conversation?
E: But the ones who are second to fourth grade, that window there, you have to do
a lot more basic [work]?
J: Yes. I have to do a lot from the beginning.
E: But these people who are in high school now, do you get the feeling that they-
you said that they sometimes know as much as you do. So, is it in that time
range where things really started changing, do you think?
J: I think so. I think so. I think it has changed, it has started to change a little bit
there. But, some of the parents, some of them, they know the language, they
can speak it and all of that, but I think in order for them to get along in this, the
white world-I might be saying it wrong-in order to achieve, get along, they
need to speak English more. I think that is what they are thinking. That is why
they really did not teach them their native tongue.
E: Is your first language Mikasuki?
J: Yes. I had no choice because my parents did not know how to speak or write, so
I learned it. I did not know English when I went to first grade. I remember when I
first started going to school, I was scared. I did not-all I know-I remember
saying, Momma. That was all I knew, I guess. So, I do not even remember how
I learned it, how I learned the English.
E: Where did you start school? Was it here?
J: No. It was in Dania. And then I went to school in Hollywood. Then my parents
moved to Big Cypress when I was about thirteen, and then I started going to
school in Clewiston.
E: Do you remember about what year that was?
J: I am not sure. A long time ago, though. [Laughter.]
E: Your parents had not gone to school?
J: No. They never had.
E: Did they want you to go to school?
J: Yes. My dad was for it. He was the one who pushed us, I think. If you do not-
he told us that it is changing, the world is changing, more white people are
coming here, so you need to learn; you need to go to school. If you want to work
in an air-conditioned place, you need to get your education, because on the
weekends, if we needed extra money, we went working in the fields, like picking
tomatoes, cucumbers, things like that. My dad worked for the tribe, but there
were seven of us, so altogether, plus my dad and my mom, there were twelve of
us, and he was the only one that was working. My mom did not work. She just
stayed home and took care of the kids.
E: Did she do agricultural work?
J: She did doll making and patchwork to sell on the side, but the main one was my
E: He worked for the tribe, after 1957, after the formation of the tribe?
J: Yes. So, if we needed extra money, then we went to the fields and worked.
E: What was your dad's name?
J: My dad's name was Henry Jumper.
E: And your mom was?
J: Rosie Jumper.
E: And so, your dad was saying that you needed this education because otherwise
you were going to be out working in the fields.
J: For the rest of your life, if you do not get your education.
E: And your mom was for it, too?
E: You say your mom was doing things like basket making and doll making?
J: That was how I learned my basket making and all that. I learned it from her.
E: Does it seem like a lot of your peers, when you were going to school, it was the
same sort of thing, their parents-people were being encouraged to go to school
because of the encroachment of white society and the necessity to have
J: I think so. Yes, I think so, because my cousins, my dad's brother's kids, they
were in the same situation, too. I remember him telling us, go to school, every
day. He would tell us that, my uncle. He was for it, too.
E: And so other people were having the same situation.
E: Do you have children.
J: Yes. My kids are bilingual.
E: English and Mikasuki?
E: Do they speak any Creek?
J: No, just Mikasuki and English. Now, my grandkids, I have two girls, but they do
not speak it, maybe just to ask, may I go to the bathroom? Just a little bit, yes
and no and things like that, but not to sit there and speak fluently. They cannot
E: Can they speak in English?
J: Yes. They speak English.
E: Would you say their first language is English at this point?
J: Yes, their first language is English.
E: And your kids, they are bilingual?
J: They are bilingual.
E: Would you say their first language is Mikasuki?
J: Mikasuki. I started them off with the Mikasuki, and then when they went to
school they started learning how to speak English.
E: And that is kind of like you.
J: Yes, the same way.
E: And then your grandkids. So, you can really see this change taking place.
E: Does it seem like a broader change, with other people's kids, too?
J: Yes. It is more.
E: Is this something you were seeing before you-I guess you had been teaching
here for a long time-was that one of the reasons you agreed to come back and
do the culture teaching?
J: Yes, so I can help, because it was changing. Things are changing now and they
need to learn their background, too, at the same time, the English way and the
Indian way, in order to get along in this world and go two ways. And it is not
going to hurt them to learn both ways.
E: They will probably be stronger.
J: Yes, I would say so.
E: Is this the only class where they have instruction in Mikasuki language?
J: No. Each aide has maybe forty-five minutes that they have it in their classroom.
They teach it in their classroom.
E: So, it is really being reinforced in the rest of the classes.
E: Do you teach things like doll making here? I saw you doing the sewing.
J: Yes. I teach doll making, basketry, beadwork, sewing, patchwork. With the high
school, I pretty much let them tell me what they want to learn and then I teach
them, and they are satisfied with it that way, instead of me telling them, hey, I
want you to do this. I want them to tell me what they want.
E: And they come with ideas?
J: Yes. They come up with good ideas.
E: Are they pretty enthusiastic about it, the high school students?
E: Are there any students who say, I do not want to learn this because this is ...
J: Maybe one. Maybe one out of the whole class. But, after they see what they are
doing and how it is turning out, they get into it, too. So, it is fun. It is nice. And I
get excited when I see them finish, the finished product, like Melissa a while ago
with her quilt. That was the first time she ever made a quilt and it turned out nice.
I mean, nice. I get excited about it.
E: Yes, I saw you take her next door to show it off.
J: Yes. And I took pictures of her and all this and that. That main person, Melissa,
she is good. She made a Seminole jacket, the first time, and it came out
beautiful. She even made a dress, too, and then this quilt.
E: She did those here, with you, in the class?
E: That is really exciting. You learned these things from your mother, and maybe
your grandmother also?
J: Mainly my mom, because I used to sit by her and watch her sew and ask her
questions. How do I do it this way or that way? That is how I learned it.
E: Do you find the students you have here, do any of them come already knowing
J: No. I think they learn it after they get here.
E: So, that is a really big change from the time when you were growing up when
people would pick it up from their parents, and now they have to learn it in
E: It is only a couple of years that you have been doing this, now, three years. You
have described that there is a change with the younger students coming in with
more language background. Do you see this program as being a pretty good,
effective way to preserve some of these practices and teach them?
J: I think so. But I think we need more people in the culture program.
E: How big is it?
J: Right now I am the only one in here, in this class. My daughter was my assistant
but she is pregnant and she is having trouble with her pregnancy, so I told her,
just stay home until you have your baby. So, she left. I am the only one in here
now. I think what we need in here is a male instructor that knows how to do
everything, carving, and what the males did back then, so that he could tell them,
and maybe another aide. Maybe three or four people in here and that would do
it, I think.
E: Do you think this is going to be a need, say, twenty years from now? The
question I am asking is, do you see this as being a kind of a permanent structure
for the education?
J: I think so. Yes. I hope it continues, even when I am dead and gone, that
somebody would take over and teach the kids because some of them are not
getting teaching outside the school. I hope they get more people involved in it.
E: Are there other ways that you see that kids could be, and probably or maybe will
be, getting some of this stuff?
J: I think, now, some people are thinking, hey, we should have taught our kids to
speak the language, and, where did I go wrong?, and, how come I did not teach
them this and that? I am thinking that the parents are now more aware that they
should have done this and done that, so I think it is going to be a little bit better.
Because some of them, even the parents, they come and ask me, if I come to
your class, can you show me how to do patchwork, or do this or do that? And I
say, well, come on. If you volunteer to work with me and help me work with the
kids, I will show you how to do it. They did have a community culture program
but it folded. I do not know what happened.
E: Is that the thing that Daisi was involved with for a time?
J: Yes, Daisi had it.
E: I have spoken with people up in Brighton who are involved with some different
types of culture programs.
J: Yes. That is what they had here, too. And I think also they have one in
Immokalee and in Hollywood. And here, too, they had the community [program].
I am strictly for the school.
E: So, people outside the school would have had that other opportunity?
E: Do you think there is a need for that again?
J: Probably, yes, I think so. I think so.
E: We have only just started, but you have to teach, so I am going to turn this off. It
is a really short interview, but I want to thank you very much for the time.
J: All right.