Interviewee: Nancy Shore
Interviewer: J. Ellison
8 November 1999
E: It is Monday, the 8th of November, I am Jim Ellison, and I am sitting in Brighton
reservation with Nancy Shore, and we are going to do an interview. It is kind of
late in the day so we are going to try to cram this into as little time as we can. I
think a fair amount of this we might have in a previous interview, but is Nancy
Shore your full name?
E: Were you born here in Brighton?
E: This has been your home?
E: Do you have a Creek name, a Seminole name?
E: Could I ask you what it is?
E: Would you know how to spell that in English?
S: No. [Laughter.]
E: Does that have a particular meaning?
S: I never did ask my mom what it meant. She would probably tell me but I never
did ask her. It seems like it means go out.
E: Do you know who named you that?
S: My great grandmother, Lucy Tiger.
E: Do you know where it came from? Did it come from somebody else who had
S: Oh, I doubt that I would know.
E: Do you use that name much?
E: In any particular contexts?
S: My mother uses it a lot.
E: She will call you by that?
S: Yes. Now, that she calls me that, my nephew and the other younger one knows
E: So, they have picked it up?
E: Outside of that, do other people know it?
S: Some of them. Some people do, yes.
E: Would you more often go by that or by Nancy?
S: Probably by Nancy.
E: And you have children?
E: Do they have Seminole names?
E: Did your mother name them?
S: No, my great grandmother.
E: And do they use them?
S: Yes. They use them.
E: They get called that around the house?
S: Yes. Once in a while we do, but it is sometimes in English, sometimes the other
language, Creek language. Most of the kids, they know their own name. If you
ask them, they will tell you.
E: Is Creek your first language?
E: Do you also speak Mikasuki?
S: I can understand it but I cannot really speak it fluently. Just a little bit, not much.
E: I have heard some to hear how different they are.
S: Yes. But if you sit and listen to them talk, you can really pick up what they are
talking about. That is what I go by, listening, because it is almost like our
language. That is how I pick up what they are talking about.
E: Do your kids speak Creek?
S: They understand it.
E: Are they fully grown? How old are they?
S: My daughter is fully grown. She is twenty-nine. She can understand. She can
understand better than some of these others that hang around here. I take care
of a little boy who is eight years old. He does not speak fluently, but he speaks
some, whenever he wants to. He knows.
E: He knows it but he is reserved?
S: Yes. We want him to speak, so I always speak in my language to him. And he
understands pretty good. He knows what you are talking about. And he answers
you back in that same language if he wants to, just not all of the time.
E: It is sort of up to him and what he is thinking?
E: You said that some other people around maybe do not know it as well as your
S: Yes, anybody in that age group, anyway.
E: You mean, in their twenties?
E: They speak more English, those people?
S: Yes. They speak English more.
E: Did your kids go to school up here?
S: Yes. Okeechobee.
E: Which is all English language instruction?
E: They were grown up before they had the culture program going on here?
S: Yes. Yes.
E: But still you feel like Creek is probably their first language?
E: You probably know a fair amount about Seminole history and the history of
Native Americans in Florida.
S: Yes, some.
E: Did you pick that up in school or did you pick it up from ...
S: I think, mostly from school. I think you begin to start asking questions later on, as
you get older, with your people; [I did] with my momma and my great
grandmother. But, I think they told you a little bit of things back when you were
growing up, probably about most areas. The hearing, just from the people,
because it is not a written language-so most of it is written in English-you get it
E: Did you go to school in Okeechobee?
E: And they taught some about Seminole history in school?
S: Probably about fifth or sixth grade, or some point around there, when they were
talking about the Florida state, about then is when they had mentioned it.
E: Was what they were teaching pretty different from what you knew, or did it
S: They never did go into the war or anything. It was just that we existed. Florida
state was what the history was all about. But then you would get into the
background of what actually happened.
E: They did not talk about the wars?
E: That is kind of surprising.
S: Not that I know of, not that I recall, did they talk about it.
E: When you were growing up, did people talk about the wars?
S: My people?
E: One of the reasons I was asking about the name and also about this question is
that I find that some people have names that refer to that time, the wars.
S: I think that is where my great grandmother picked it up. When my grandmother
gives her names out to her grandkids-she did not do that until my great
grandmother passed away. She used to live over there; that is why I kept
pointing over there. After she passed away, then it was her turn to start picking
the names. I will tell you about the history of my family. My great grandmother,
she was 109 years old when she passed away. Her mother, Polly Parker, is in
some history. You hear about her every once in a while, but not much. Anyway,
she was one of those that got on the ship to go to Oklahoma, and she and the
other people on the ship were going to get some medicine for the people that
were on the ship because they were getting sick. So, they got permission to get
off and gather some herbs and stuff like that but instead of going back they left.
There are lots of stories, like that they had to sleep during the daytime and travel
at nighttime. How they survived was picking some berries and some fruit, to
survive on, to get back over here. I think it was her aunt and one of her cousins
who escaped from that ship and came back. The story goes on like that. My
mother kind of visions how they were back in those days. Like she referred [to]
that story, that is how she gives names out to her grandchildren, she refers to my
great grandmother's escape.
E: That is remarkable. And is it a way to pass on that knowledge about what
S: Yes. Like in that case, she said they were scared, and I guess you would have
to be scared, so she named one of the kids [a name] that means scared,
E: What did that mean?
S: Ingalee, scared. And they said they had to keep turning around, looking back to
see if anybody was coming, and she named some of her kids Ahichakitag,
looking back. And that is what she named most of the people.
E: Do the kids eventually learn that this is what the names mean?
S: Yes. She tells them. She tells us what she is referring to, so it is usually back to
Polly Parker being in the state. That is what she tells. All the kids know. The
mothers know that the name came from that story.
E: So, Polly Parker, you are related to Polly Parker through your mother's family?
S: Yes, my mother's family.
E: What clan do you belong to again?
E: So, she was probably a Bird Clan, Polly Parker?
E: So, it is a really different way of talking about history than they do in the schools.
E: Your kids went to school over in Okeechobee?
S: Yes. Okeechobee.
E: Did they learn about Seminole history and did they get some of that in school
too? They must have if you were getting it.
S: They probably heard a little bit here and there but not the whole thing or the
E: And now you have this person you are raising. He is eight years old?
S: Eight, my nephew.
E: Is he in school in town?
S: Yes. He is in school in town. He goes to school in Okeechobee.
E: Now they have the culture program, the language program in the Okeechobee
E: Does he get into that? Is he part of it?
S: Sometimes he does and then sometimes he wants to go to the art or music and
then he goes to that one. But usually he goes to the language class.
E: When you were in school, they did not have that language class?
E: When your kids were in school they did not have that?
E: It is pretty recent thing?
E: Do you think it is an important thing, a good thing to have?
S: Yes, it is important. It is a good thing.
E: I wonder about that because you mentioned that there might be a couple of
people around who do not speak Creek but they speak English much better. I
wonder two things: I wonder why it is that some people around may not speak
Creek that much, and then the other thing is what there is to do about it.
S: I think when they started speaking English, they really thought it was something,
speaking in another language. So, they just got used to speaking English all of
the time. And then at school you hear it in English, and on TV you hear in
English. So, even the parents, they said they were trying to improve their English
by speaking English to their kids. It is their way of learning that language at that
time. They did not know that they were going to forget their own language, but it
happened that way.
E: It just gradually did?
E: When did you first learn English? Did you know English before you went to
S: I did not even know English until I was in the first or second year, in my first
grade. I did not know a word of English when I went to school.
E: That must have been hard.
S: It was. And I failed that first year. I had to repeat the first year.
E: How were the teachers about that? Did they have any understanding at all that
there was a language issue?
S: No. They were mean. The teacher I had, she was the meanest teacher, not just
[to] me but other people comment on that, because I knew an old lady that use to
be a teacher there and she talked about that teacher. She said, oh, she was the
meanest teacher I have ever seen, or I ever heard of. And I said, I believe it
because I was in her class at one time. She said she would never treat the kids
real good. But the second year teacher, she was real nice. I got along with her. I
think there is a difference when your teacher is mean and you cannot get
anywhere with them. Eventually, I finally learned how to speak English.
E: Were you in the same classes with other people from the reservation?
E: They probably had a similar situation?
S: They knew English when they went.
E: They did?
S: Yes. Some of them knew a little bit of English when they went.
E: Well, how did they know it?
S: Maybe they were a year or two older than me. We used to go to school out here,
and I think they were going there, and I was the youngest one and the last one
that went to school there.
S: To the Brighton Day School that they used to have. I was just getting started
when we went to Okeechobee so I never did learn [English here].
E: At the Brighton Day School, what language did they use to teach?
S: They used English. But that was their priority. That was their goal, for us to
speak English, at that time, when there was a teacher there.
E: Whose goal was it?
S: Probably the government. [Laughter]
E: Assimilation, right?
S: Yes. Yes.
E: Your dad was alive then?
E: And your mother?
E: What did they think about that? Did they really want you to go to school? Did
they think it was an important thing to do?
S: Yes, I think my dad did.
E: Did they talk about it at all? Did you ever ask them, how come I have to go to
S: No, we never did really talk about it. But I think at that time he thought that that
was best for us, to go on to school, learn to read and write, and stuff like that,
because he never did know. Even though we were not grown, he always
encouraged us. He was not really strict on us going to school or anything like
that. All he asked was that we graduate from high school. Finish the high school
is what he told us.
E: He wanted you to do that?
E: Why do you suppose he wanted you to do that?
S: Because he had a lot of friends that knew things and he had to ask them what to
read and, if he got anything, what to do, like banking, and he was in the cattle
business. He wanted to know all the stuff that had to do with living and he
thought that his kids should learn how to do all that stuff instead of relying on
other people like he did.
E: So, was it maybe two purposes, one was to help him out when he faced some of
E: And the other was so you would be self-sufficient?
S: Yes. Independent, so you would not have to rely on people. But he had good
people that guided him and told him, advised him, but then he always thought
that-but he was a smart man, too, himself. So, he just thought it was best that
we learn how to do a lot of things like that.
E: His name comes up in a lot of places and he seems like he was a pretty sharp
S: Yes. He was a lucky man to choose the friends that he had, to guide him, tell
him what to do, like with his buying a car, because we were really young, we
would not know anything about that. But he had some friends that knew a lot of
things like that. So, he was fortunate that he had friends like that.
E: Had he gone to school?
S: Dad? No, he had never been to school.
E: And your mom? Had she ever been to school?
E: So, you were the first generation to go off to school?
E: Were you excited about that?
S: Going to school?
E: Yes. I mean, before you got the mean teacher and realized how bad it could be.
S: No, I did not really know what was going on at that time. But they were telling us
to go on to school, because I remember my brothers were going and then when I
became of age they wanted me to go to school. I was kind of following in their
steps, so I just went.
E: Was there ever a question that your kids were going to go to school? Or was it
pretty much certain that they were going? It was not even an issue?
E: Did they know English before they went to school?
S: My kids? Yes. Yes.
E: Had you taught them English, or had they picked it up?
S: Well, they knew just, you know, like kids starting. My oldest daughter lived with
my mother most of the time because she wanted to stay with my mom and so I
let her. That is where she picked up her language, with my mom. My mom did
not really throw an English word to her so she had to pick it up. And she picked it
up. My son, he is twenty-three, he has Down Syndrome but he knows a little bit
of the language here and there. But he does not really speak fluently.
E: So, he has a harder time with some of those things?
S: Yes. But he does his sign language and he knows a bit of our language, a little
bit of the other language. He tries to communicate every now and then.
E: You have always lived up here in Brighton?
E: When you were growing up did you live in a CBS house, a concrete block house,
or did you live in chickees?
S: We lived in chickees. When they started building these, my parents did not really
come over here to stay or anything, except my brother got blind-Jim Shore-he
got blind, and he was coming home and my mother came into this house and
stayed here with him. That is how they ended up moving up here. But my dad
had stayed out at the old camp for all those years. He would come up here every
once in a while and then, when he got just a little bit older, he just moved in here.
I do not know if we would have ever moved in if it were not for my brother.
E: She came back and she moved in here, your mom moved in here?
S: Yes. My mom moved in with him. Then we all moved here with them.
E: Were your grandparents around? Were they living with you?
S: Yes, my great grandmother lived with us out there too, in that old camp, for a
long time. She had a little bitty house, though, that she lived in and then later on
she moved over here. That was my great grandmother. My grandmother and
her husband lived up the road. But they lived kind of in a chickee. I think
grandma lived in a chickee for a long time and then they finally built her a house,
and she lived there for a while until she passed away.
E: Just over here, not too far?
E; But your great grandmother had a house out where you had a camp?
E: Like a wood frame house?
S: Yes. She lived in a chickee for a little bit and then I think my parents ended up
getting her a little house that was already built, and they were moving or
somebody was moving it. So, they moved it over there. She lived there.
E: I am going to come back to that education thing a little bit. Do you think that this
culture program that they are doing at the schools nowadays, do you think that is
an important thing for them to be doing?
S: Yes, I think so. Yes.
E: You ended up graduating from Okeechobee?
S: I graduated from Moore Haven.
E: You went to grade school in ...
S: I was up to ninth grade in Okeechobee and then I graduated in Moore Haven
when they transferred us over to Moore Haven.
E: Oh, they transferred everybody?
E: How come?
S: Well, we are living in Glades County and Moore Haven is in Glades County, but
they did not accept us, or they would not accept us. So, when Mr. and Mrs.
Boehmer came down and started teaching the class, they negotiated with
Okeechobee County to see if they wanted us going over there. They did not
have a problem with us so that is where we ended up going. It has something to
do with money all of the time. So, then, Glades County decided they wanted us
because they were going to get some little bit of impact money. At that time we
did not know-I do not think my parents knew what was really going on. So, we
all transferred over there. There was nothing that anybody could say because
that was just the way it was. Back in 1980 or maybe 1982, the parents got
enough education that they wanted to switch back to Okeechobee school. So,
they went back to Okeechobee school.
E: Why did they want to go back to Okeechobee?
S: They did not like the school system in Glades County and they did not think that
school was big enough to offer things that the kids needed.
E: What did you think when you went over? Was ninth grade part of high school at
S: Yes, high school.
E: So, you had already started high school in Okeechobee.
E: What did you think about Moore Haven?
S: I really did not like it. There were not that many choices of subjects that you
could take. You just had to take what they gave you. We had about nine
hundred-not nine hundred, that was the whole school-I think we had, maybe,
a little over a hundred students, and when I got over there, there was only thirty
E: That is a big difference.
S: Yes, it was. And the courses were not that many. Like I said, you had to take
what they gave you. And you took it. I do not think we were ever happy about us
going over there all these years. So, when one parent said, why don't we see if
we can get our kids back over to Okeechobee schools, there is a bigger school
and maybe they have bigger classes or [more] subjects that they can offer, we
started working on that. We left and went to Okeechobee, then after that Glades
County still wanted us. They said, well, first and second and third can come over
here and later on, eventually, get all of them back. And we said, no, we just do
not want to stay over there. We did not want to go over there. I think at that time
we got tired of people telling us what to do so we had to go to court and
everything, get the commissioner of education from Tallahassee to come in and
sit in on the hearing for us, with Glades County and Okeechobee County and the
Seminole Tribe. But the Seminole Tribe was all prepared because they had their
own court reporter and they had all of the things to back them up, like the reading
program and the psychological testing. We had a psychiatrist there to speak on
our behalf, for us to go to Okeechobee, and Glades County did not have
anything, they did not have anything to offer.
E: So, you had a much stronger case?
S: Yes. So, Betty Castor, she was the commissioner of education at that time, said
the Seminoles can choose any school that they want to.
E: This was in the 1980s?
S: Yes. It was in the 1980s, but it was a long process. They let us go, and then no,
they did not want us to go, they wanted us to come back over here. Then they
finally said, first, second, and third [grades] can come over here, and eventually
we will get others coming in, and stuff like that. Because we were in Glades
County, they wanted us. We lived in their county so we should go to that school.
But we told them that it was not our choice to be in this county, they put us here.
So, we feel like we could go wherever we wanted to go. They kind of left us
alone, they do not say anything too much about it now.
E: This was when you had kids in school?
E: So, you had a stake in this and it really mattered?
S: Yes. But the parents were all together. They really wanted their kids to go to
school back in Okeechobee. But at that time, the first time we were transferred
to Moore Haven, there was hardly any yes or no. It had to be just done, because
we lived in Glades County we had to go over there. I think that was just what it
was. But this time around it was really tougher.
E: Were you happy with that outcome? Okeechobee was a good choice?
E: Down in Big Cypress they have the Ahfachkee School right on the reservation.
Is there anything analogous to that up here, anything similar to that? There is no
reservation school here.
E: I guess the last thing would have been the day school?
E: Do you know anything about that Ahfachkee School?
S: No, I do not know. All I know is they have a school there, that their kids can go
E: I guess still some kids go off reservation and some go on.
S: Yes, that is what my question always was. They have their own school right
there on the reservation but yet they want to go away somewhere else. That is
what I did not used to understand over there. But that is their thing. So, I never
E: I am not really sure, myself, why some people do one or the other. What I do
know is that at the Ahfachkee School they have teacher's aides in every
classroom and the teacher's aides do lessons in, in this case, Mikasuki language.
They also have a culture class that all of their grades go through, where they go
and they learn crafts or language. That is one of the things I was thinking about
when I was asking about a school up here. Do you think there would be a need
for that kind of thing, if you are looking at your nephew who is in school now, and
if there were a school on the reservation here that had that kind of structure,
where they were teaching Creek language lessons, or do you think it is enough
what is going on in Okeechobee with the language program?
S: You know, that is kind of hard to say. As I get older, I see a lot of good things in
both ways. When they go to Okeechobee school, they see more what is going
on in the outside world, and they get to mingle with other students that are there.
If they lived on the reservation and went to school, they would not have that
opportunity. But, it is just-I would not know.
E: Yes, I guess there is that trade off.
S: Yes. But you also want your kids to learn your own language too. If they had a
school here, I do not know if it would be-when you think about what is going to
happen to them in school, then you want them to be on the reservation and go to
school. With all this shooting and all these other things that are coming around
you kind of get scared of things like that.
E: Do you feel like if they were in the community it would be different?
S: Yes. It would be different. I hope. [Laughter.] But it is like you said, in thirty
years things have really changed, and it has changed. Not just us, but the world,
too. Your main concern is to protect your kids, that is what it comes down to.
E: Do people talk about that? I mean, about there being maybe a community
school on the reservation? Or is there not really much call for that?
S: No, not that I know of. But, one year, I home schooled my grand daughter in
kindergarten, which was okay. She picked up a little bit. She knew just as much
as the kids in town. It did not really hurt her any. In fact, she passed all of her
tests when she had to be tested to get back into school. She tested pretty high,
so she did good.
E: And then you did too.
S: Yes. [Laughter.]
E: Your father practiced-he knew medicines. Your father was a medicine man?
E: Are there still people around who practice medicine? There are still medicine
men and medicine women around?
E: And people still go to medicine men and medicine women with health problems?
E: What would you see as some of the biggest health issues that people face here
in Brighton today?
S: I think their sugar. Sugar is about the main thing that is causing them [ill health].
E: Like Diabetes?
S: Yes, diabetes.
E: Where do people go to get treated for that?
S: They have a clinic right up there. So, they go to clinic.
E: Are there some things that people do, some illnesses that people would have
where they would go automatically to the clinic and others things they would
automatically start by going to a medicine man or a medicine woman?
S: I think they go to both.
E: It does not really depend on ...
E: Do Christianity or the churches say one thing or another about which medicine
S: No. They used to a long time ago, but I think they gave that up and they see that
the medicine men help them out, too. So, they kind of eased up on the
Christianity thing, because they were really gung-ho back in the 1960s or the
1950s, or whatever it was. But they are not anymore. I see them going back in
to the medicine men.
E: That is, in fact, what some people that I was talking with before said about the
Green Corn Dance. It used to be, early on, that the Christian missionaries would
come in and say, well, you cannot do this and this and this because those are the
old ways and now if you do Christianity, you have to eliminate those things. But
then gradually that changed.
S: Yes, that is coming back.
E: Is that similar up here?
E: Is it possible to be a Christian and go to the Green Corn Dance?
E: And they still have Green Corn Dance here?
S: Yes. We also believe that the corn dance, after all of the celebration that we do
out there, that is to praise him for all the good things that he has [done] for our
health. Especially the planting, that is where the corn comes in, so we bless the
corn and all of that stuff, that is like a gift from him. So, we praise him for that,
and that is just the way we believe. But some people never did really understand
how that worked. So, as you get a little bit older, you find out all this stuff.
E: So, in essence, the corn dance, when you say him, are you are talking about the
same Christian God?
S: Yes. We all have one God. People do not believe that, though.
E: So, the Green Corn Dance really works with what is going on in the church, in
S: Not in the Baptist Church because they are still really against it.
E: Are you a Baptist?
S: At that time, when my uncle was taking me to church and all that, at that time, but
now, at this point, I am non-denominational, the way I feel. I just go wherever I
am free to go. And I go to Methodist if I want to, and I go to Church of God if I
want to, and I go to corn dance. And I like going to corn dance. That has been
part of my life all of these years. So, I cannot say I am not going.
E: You grew up going to corn dances and knew somebody who was running them.
S: A lot of people used to ask my dad if that was against God's will and all of that,
but he never argued with anybody. All he would say is that he is the one who
gave us this for us to do. So, that is why he did that. A lot of things they quote
from the Bible is what we heard through him or what he said in the scripture.
You could always tell when you heard those words before and when you read
your Bible or when you looked through, you would see some of it in there. It just
comes from the same man, from the same God. That is the way we believe.
E: And the medicines had to come from someplace.
S: Yes. But it is not only us Indians that are using the herbs. A lot of white people
are doing the same thing too.
E: Everything from aspirin, which comes from plants, to white people who are trying
to learn more specific herbal medicines.
S: Yes. Even when my dad, when he was alive, the men from church would ask
him to come to church and he went because they asked him. But then, he just
never did go into it, what they were doing or anything.
E: Did he ever join the church?
E: You say you used to go with your uncle. Who was that?
S: Tom Bowers.
E: Was that your mother's bother?
E: What was your mom's maiden name?
E: So he was from the Baptist Church?
E: And you would go to that some when you were growing up. What about your
kids, do your kids go to the Green Corn Dance?
S: Yes. They expect to go every year. [Laughter.] We are ready every year.
E: Has it changed much since you were a kid, when you were growing up? It is
E: How is it different? I mean, in things that you can talk about or feel comfortable
S: He said that when a lot of Christianity was in, hardly anybody was going. I think
they were confused at that time or somebody gave them the wrong direction to
go. They quit going and then all of a sudden when their kids grew up, they are
going out there now. The ones that quit going, they said, it is not like it used to
be. They are not doing it right. You know why they are not doing it right?
Because they did not tell their kids what to do. Their kids are the ones that are
not doing it right because they did not go. But our kids, and us, the ones that
have been going out there, we know what to do, what goes on, because we have
been there. We know what to do. But these other people that quit and their kids
are going out there they do not know what is going on.
E: Does that influence the whole ceremony or just parts of it where they are
E: Just where they are doing something?
S: Yes. Just where they are doing-where people do not know what they are
supposed to do.
E: Otherwise, is it pretty similar to what was?
S: Yes. Yes.
E: And they have started again having it down in Big Cypress?
S: Yes. They did.
E: So, you go all the time to the Green Corn Dance?
S: Yes, every year.
E: Your nephew is going to be going?
S: Yes. He goes. We go way ahead of time and start planning, on weekends we fix
up our chickees and whatever needs to be worked. We go out there and work a
lot preparing for the whole thing.
E: What do you have to do to prepare? You have to fix up the chickee?
S: We have to fix up the chickee, and there is a lot of grass out there and we have
to cut that down, and then our tables. Each one of us has our own chickee: my
nephew has one; my mother has one; my sister has one; my other sister has
one; my other nephew has one. We have cooking chickees, an eating table. All
these have to be taken care of, so we have to go out there and do all that.
E: Your chickees are grouped with people in your clan?
E: But then you have your own family?
S: Yes, that is like your own room. Say you have your own room, but that is your
own chickee. So, you fix up your own chickee there.
E: How far in advance do you have to go out and start fixing things up? It happens
S: Yes, June sometime. Sometimes we get there the first week of May. But my
dad used to go out there like two weeks ahead of time and stay out there. He
would not come out here. He had a certain rule and that was his, where he was
not allowed to come back, or he did not want to come back. He wanted to stay
there. And he stayed there. We go back and forth, up to town or something like
that, but he stayed out there. He stayed out there, plus if people came by and
asked him some questions, he would be there to talk about what was going to go
on and stuff like that. So, that was why he used to go out there two weeks ahead
of time and stay out there. There were three weeks for us, when we were kids,
we used to go out there about three weeks.
E: You would stay out there for three weeks for the dance?
E: How about now? Is it still three weeks?
S: That was when my dad used to do that but the people that took over his
medicine, I do not think they go out there but .... We go out there maybe a
week early, me and my sisters and people in the camp. We go out there maybe
about a week early.
E: Out to stay?
S: Yes, to stay.
E: You probably have to get food together too. You take things out?
S: Yes, there is a lot of preparing to do.
E: So, you have to go out and sort of clear up the grounds and repair the chickees.
What other sorts of things?
S: Get some wood. We have to go chop some wood and take it out there.
E: Where do you chop the wood? [End of Tape Side A]
S: I really enjoy going out there. That is my sanctuary, going out to watch them. I
really get into cleaning up or going. I feel really good when I go out there. Most
people do not like to go out there because it is too isolated, but it does not matter
to me. That is just the way I was raised, I guess, being out there all the time. I
guess you could say that I am used to it.
E: So, you like to go out just to do the cleaning up?
E: Even as much as you like to go out for the ceremony itself?
S: Yes. Like I said, it is a lot of work. You go out there and do what you have to do.
Me and my sisters and my nephew and my brother usually go out there.
E: Is it still as big of a deal as it used to be, do you think, when you were growing
S: Yes. More so now because we are the ones that have kind of taken over now.
My mother is sick and she does not really go out there now. But we have to be
teaching our kids or our nephews and nieces what to do.
E: Is the Green Corn Dance a place where a lot of the cultural education would go
S: [In] our family, yes. I cannot say for the other people. My family, yes; they need
to know, they need to learn. They are the ones who are going to carry it forward
when I am gone. Even when we sit around, we just talk about a lot of things, we
sit around and I would say, well, you all remember this is what happened, and
they say, yes, we will. That is what they say. I do not know if they will or not but
you have to tell them, mention it, that it is important that they should know this
little chapter, sometimes. I do not know about what other people do. But, that is
just the way we talk because my aunts and uncles and distant aunts and uncles,
they are all there and I watch them, what they do. So, eventually, these little
ones will learn from us.
E: Is there formal instruction that goes on for everybody in the clan, from elders in
the clan, or does it tend to be your family at your chickees talking about fairly
specific things? Or is it a combination of the two?
S: Yes. But if we do not know and if something comes up that we see that is not
right, we will talk it over, me and my sisters, because we feel like we have been
out there all these years. We used to go out there with my dad when he would
go out there, so we used to know what is supposed to happen and what is not
supposed to happen. So, we basically know what to do. Some of the people
probably do not know, in our age group, because they were not really around.
But we were around all the time. Even my brother Jim, we called him up and
asked him a question or two and what he can remember. So, it is sort like a
reference. I always say, well, you all do not know anything, just ask me and my
sister, we will tell you. [Laughter.] That is what we usually say, because we saw
how my dad did it and we grew up all our life watching him.
E: Did he run the entire thing?
S: Yes, he did.
E: When you were growing up, did you learn medicines at all from your dad? Did
he do healing as well as do the corn dance?
S: Yes. He did. There were some that he did not do but he did a lot of other stuff.
E: Did you pick up some of that?
S: Just a little bit of songs, here and there. He used to sing for us whenever he said
it was important, or tell us a story, that is what he usually did when we stayed out
E: And then, of course, some of those things you have and you can pass those on.
S: Yes. Yes.
E: So, in a sense, the Green Corn Dance is a kind of a balance to what is going on
with the schools and the culture program. It is a totally different place where this
S: Yes. They always say they are going to bring a group of kids out there to know
about what is going on with the corn dance, but I do not feel comfortable with
that. I feel like it is the family that is supposed to do that. That is what we did
with our kids, our family, and I feel like I do not have a right to tell them what to
do because they are not my clan.
E: Who suggested they are going to do this? Who talks about bringing them out?
S: I think some culture people that were working around them, and they just thought
they would take a group of people, kids, out there. Maybe to learn how to dance
and stuff like that it is all right. But you cannot really teach them what we teach
our kids in the camp. It would seem like you cannot do that.
E: Is the knowledge different from each clan, do you think?
S: I do not think so. It should be pretty much the same.
E: But still, it is something that should take place in the families?
E: So, they have not done that, though; they have just been talking about it?
S: Not that I know of. They might have taken them out there to watch them dance
or something like that but not to spend the night because they have to spend the
night in their own clan camps. They do not have to but that is the way it should
E: That is where a lot of the instruction is done?
S: Yes. Yes.
E: I have got some questions, just in general, about cultural preservation issues.
They are questions about the annual fairs and rodeos and the powwows and that
sort of thing, and if those things serve any purpose in terms of cultural
preservation or if those are really different sort of things. Like, is a rodeo cultural
preservation? Does it preserve Seminole culture?
S: I cannot really say because I do not really go into the rodeo.
E: Do you have cattle?
S: My mom does.
E: And your Dad had cattle?
S: Yes. My dad did.
E: Did you work with the cattle when you were growing up?
S: Yes. I still do.
E: You work with cattle but do not do the rodeo, so it is different? Not everybody
who has cattle is doing the rodeos?
S: No. My daughter was getting into the rodeos. I do not know if she is still doing
that or not, but she was really getting into it, and then she had her kids getting
into it too. I think she stopped that. I do not know what happened, but she does
not [do that anymore].
E: Does she have cattle?
S: My daughter? No.
E: You still work the cattle?
E: Has the cattle industry changed a whole lot, say, since your dad was keeping
cattle, since you were a kid? Is it pretty different, cattle keeping practices?
S: Probably about the same.
E: I guess they changed the breeds some.
S: Yes. My dad was in a pasture with another owner, but now he is in there by
himself. My mother is, anyway. She is in there by herself. You all kind of had to
work together to mark, brand, and all that stuff, see whose is whose. But now
that she is there by herself, there is no need to do all that.
E: Because back then the cattle were all mixed together, those two owners' [cattle]?
S: Yes. They were all together.
E: What happened to the other owner's cattle?
S: I think he wanted to get in there with his son, so they just split. He went in with
his son, then my dad's cattle just went on their own. It was better that way
because that would [have been] three owners in the one pasture and there would
still be confusion. So, it was better that she be in one pasture by herself.
E: Do you hire people to work on it?
S: Yes, sometimes. My brother takes care of that.
E: What kind of cattle do you have most of?
S: I do not know what kind they are called.
E: Since we are talking about this whole generation, what do you think are some of
the most important economic practices people engage in today? Is it cattle?
People in the tribe as a whole.
S: Yes, the cattle.
E: Are people up here starting to do sugar cane?
E: But not too many?
S: I do not know. Some of them just got into it a year ago. So, I do not know how
the outcome would be. But they must be pretty good because I see a lot of
others around here putting up the sugar cane.
E: Do you ever think about it?
E: How did your dad come about getting cattle?
S: He was one of the earliest ones that took some of the cows when they were
being shipped over here.
E: That is what I thought. When you are working with the cattle, is there a lot of
difference between what the men do and what the women do in terms of working
with the cattle, or is it pretty similar?
S: I do not know what you mean by that.
E: Are there some things that only men do with the cattle, and other things that both
men and women do, or other things that only women do? Or does it pretty much
S: It does not matter. I think it is just like the men do what they have to do. But the
women, especially if they are the cattle owners, they always want to go out there
and see what is really going on so they can really get into what they are
supposed to do if they are by themselves in the pen. Back when my dad was
here, I used to work out in the pen a lot for him, and then my other sister would
be here cooking. Geneva and Mary Jane. And then I would go out to the pen or
something like that. I do go out to the pen, it is just an individual person thing,
whatever they want to do.
E: So, it does not depend on men or women; it is just whatever has got to be done?
S: Yes. But one thing men do not do is they do not cook. [Laughter.]
E: How come?
S: I do not know. Maybe it is not their place, I guess.
E: Do they know how and just do not want to?
S: They know how, but they are cowboys so they are going on to the cows while the
women do the cooking.
E: What if the women are working on the cows too?
S: That's women for you, though. They do anything and everything. [Laughter.]
They always say, what are you doing out here? You are supposed to be cooking
dinner. I say, I am not, my sisters are. They say, oh. That is what they always
E: While we are talking about men and women and gender, is the overall status of
women different now than it was thirty years ago or so? Or is it about the same?
I mean the jobs women do and their status in the community and that kind of
S: In general? It is about the same.
E: Is it different in the cattle business?
S: I think more women are more into the cattle business [now] than a long time ago.
E: Why is that?
S: I think either their parents left it with them or they do not have a spouse. Like my
mom, she does not have any spouse, and she has some cattle. And there are
some, like my sister, her husband died and she was by herself. And her sister-
in-law, her spouse is gone and the father left those cattle with her. Or some of
them are separated. I think a lot of women are just into their cattle business.
E: So, a lot of women came into the cattle business through inheritance?
S: Yes. Yes.
E: From people like your father who bought some of the first cattle.
E: I do not know if you know, but was your dad encouraged to get into cattle? Did
someone approach him and say, here is something you ought to do?
S: There probably was.
E: Do you suppose they went up to people like your mom and said, hey, here is
something you ought to do?
S: He probably just went ahead and took it. But my mom told me that he was into
the pig business. When they moved over here he had pigs all over the place.
He used to round those up and stuff like that, and then he went into the cattle
E: So, it made some sense to do that.
E: When they moved over, where did they move over from?
S: I do not know where they moved them from. I heard different stories.
E: Oh, where they moved the cattle from?
E: Where did they say in the different stories that the cattle came from?
S: Some of them said Texas or somewhere, driven out this way. I really do not
know how they got into it.
E: That is what I heard. And I heard some stories about them coming on the
S: Yes, on the railroad.
E: Have you ever gotten involved with doing things like manufacturing dolls or
clothing or that kind of stuff?
E: Did you sisters ever do anything like that?
E: Did your mom ever do that?
S: I do not know if manufacturing, but she used to sew a lot, and a lot of people
used to buy jackets from her, custom-made jackets. They would call or stop by
and want her to make some jackets and she used to do all of that stuff.
E: But, that is not anything you ever picked up yourself?
S: I do a little bit of it. I do a little bit of sewing and I do beadwork every now and
E: Do you sell that, or is it just for you or your family?
S: Yes, I sell some of it. Some of it is for something like a gift.
E: So, that does not sound like that has changed a whole lot, because your mom, it
sounds like she did it just occasionally and you do it just occasionally.
S: Yes. Yes. She did it a lot, made a lot of jackets and sold some stuff, and she
used to go different places and sell them, but she does not do that anymore.
E: Did you ever do that?
S: No. I never did.
E: You have two daughters?
S: I have one.
E: Does she know how to do the sewing and the beadwork?
S: Yes, she sews.
E: About the same?
S: Yes. She is not really good, but she is just getting into it, so she sews skirts for
E: So, that means that they are probably learning too.
E: Does she know how to work cattle?
S: Yes, she probably does if she gets into it, but she does not really get into it now.
Just us older ones do that. Our younger generation has not really gotten into it
yet. But they will probably pick it up when I am on my last leg or something.
E: Why is that? Because you think they will be taking over the family herd?
E: Just to throw out an open question, what do you see as being some of the major
cultural changes that have taken place in the last thirty years or so? You have
talked some about language and economics.
S: I encourage some people-some kids-to learn the language. Do you know
why? Because I see some young people, like [those who are] in their thirties,
maybe between twenty-five to maybe thirty two, I see where they wished they
had picked up that language. I see them now and they always say, I wish my
parents spoke that language or I wish I learned that language when I was young.
And I always say, well, it is not too late to learn. You still can learn. That is what
I tell them. They need to learn it. That is what I tell some of the kids, I say, you
do not care if you learn it, probably, but you will wish that you did learn it when
you get a little bit older. Well, that is just like anything else. That is what I tell
E: It is in that age group, twenty-five to thirty-two, roughly, that they do not know it
S: Not really. And they wish they had learned. The ones up here, anyway. They
wish they would know how to speak their language.
E: How come people in that age group?
S: I guess they did not pick up the language, I guess the parents did not speak the
language to them. I have one girl, her mother speaks our language, but she
says, she has never said an Indian word to me ever since I was born. She has
never said one word to me in Indian. I said really? And she said, yes. She said,
I always get onto her. I wished she would have taught me or said stuff in our
language so I would know how. That is what she said.
E: And how old is she, the daughter?
S: She is about thirty-two or thirty-three now.
E: Does she have kids?
S: She has one now.
E: If she does not speak the language real well, how does she go about teaching
that to her daughter?
S: She probably can't because she does not know. Unless the grandmother now
decides to speak to her grandkids or something like that.
E: And that is how it would happen?
E: So, is that a major issue? I mean, is language really threatened?
S: Yes, I think so.
E: Is it less spoken? Is Creek less spoken these days than it was?
E: Why is that? I am trying to understand why it is that maybe fewer people speak
less Creek than thirty years ago or so.
S: I guess the parents did not speak to them. They say they can speak English,
they can get through to them in English better than they can in Indian. But it is
the other way around with me. I can put my point across when I am speaking in
my own language better than in English.
E: Why would they say that?
S: I do not know. That is just the way they feel, I guess.
E: Was there a time when people were-is there more pride now about being a
Seminole Indian, do you think, than there was thirty years ago?
S: Yes. Yes, it is now. Yes.
E: Why is that? How did that change?
S: I think now the people know who they are. A long time ago, everything was just
quiet. Now you hear it on TV, Indian by TV, and you hear it. You see it a lot
[more] now than you used to. [It] used to [be that] we did not see anything or get
to go, we were isolated. That isolation is not there anymore. They go anywhere
they want to go.
E: Is it that the economic situation is different?
S: Yes. It certainly is.
E: Because of things like bingo?
E: Is it because of the things like bingo and economic development and prosperity,
a little bit of prosperity, that there is the pride? I suspect it probably would be .
S: Yes. That and where they have come from, too, because they have finally
realized that they are a unique person. They know who they are now.
E: In relation to the bigger white society outside?
E: What about thirty years ago or twenty years ago? These people who are twenty-
five to thirty-two, when they were growing up and their parents were not teaching
them the language, was there a different feeling then, do you think, about being
S: Yes, probably. Yes. There are some few families that did not stay on the
reservation. They stayed off the reservation. Now they all want to come back to
the reservation. I see that coming around a lot.
E: That is what I hear too. And that is the economics and so on?
E: But then, it is also the pride issue, too, isn't it?
E: Is it different? Or do the economics and the pride really go together?
S: They probably really go together.
E: How has economic development changed things like language learning? Kids
are growing up, they are watching TV, they go to Okeechobee school where
language instruction is English. They listen to the radio, they are playing music
that is all in English language, and this kind of thing. But then, economic
development also does things, like they have the culture program where they do
the languages in school now.
E: Are we at a point of crisis with respect to language right now? Or are we at a
point where we have passed through a crisis and we are actually on a road to
recovery, in terms of language? Or is crisis not even in there?
S: Not yet. But it is on its way.
E: So, that is still ahead of us?
S: Yes. But now they are trying to teach it, and they ought to start when they are
real young. They do a little bit in Head Start and stuff like that. I think they are
really getting into it now for the language person to be there.
E: And that is for pre-school?
S: Yes. Head Start.
E: I spoke with some people down in Big Cypress who are doing that.
S: Yes. They are doing that.
E: Is that a good thing?
S: Yes. It is a good thing if the mother really wants them to do it. But then, in the
home, the parents should really talk to them, too.
E: I have another general question. In thirty years, what would you like to see if you
were sitting back as an elder, here in Brighton? What would you like to see the
Seminole tribe up here looking like? What would you like to see the kids who are
growing up then doing?
S: Well, for my kids and my nephews, my family, I hope that the corn dance is still
going on. And I hope they speak some of the language when they grow up. And
also, at the same time, [for there] to be something like a career that they can
have or they can work, not just sit back and [not] do anything. That is what I
would want for my kids. I do not know about everybody else's kids, the Seminole
tribe as a whole.
E: So, language would be important?
E: As well as the corn dance?
S: I think that will still be going on when I get older because our kids kind of pick it
up anyway, because they knew ever since they were infants, so they know what
to do. So, I think they will still continue. My nephew, he does not really speak
fluently, my other one, but he is picking it up. He talks every now and then. So,
that age group is really trying to get their language back.
E: How old is he?
S: I think he is about twenty-seven.
E: So, they see that they are missing out on something?
S: Yes. They do. Right in that age group they know that they are missing [out] on
E: You are not too worried about the Green Corn Dance disappearing, you see that
as pretty strong?
E: But the language is an issue?
S: Yes. Yes.
E: What other things would you like to see done with the language to strengthen it?
Pretty much at home, that kind of thing?
S: Yes, probably at home.
E: Creek language TV?
S: You know, some people said they are trying to put it on a computer. I do not
know if they can do that. They are working on some lessons here in Brighton. I
do not know how that is going to come about.
E: Would that be a good thing?
S: It might be.
E: And the other thing you talked about was that they, in the next generation, would
also have good careers so that they would continue on with economic
development and prosperity and not lose these other cultural practices.
E: Well, I have already kept you for about forty-five minutes longer than I promised
you I would. Is there anything else that we have not talked about that you think
you would like to add?
S: I think another thing [is] that some of us are not really taking care of our elders. I
see that taking care of our own family. We used to be able to do that when we
were kids. Well, this is how we learned too, the same thing, because my mother,
she took care of her grandma and her mom. We saw her do it all that time, so
that is why we keep her here and take care of her. We will take care of each
other, and that is how it used to be. But I see that that is not going on among
some of the Seminole families that I see. That is happening.
E: Why is that? How is that happening?
S: I think it is just the way they were raised, maybe. I come from a real good family,
the way I see it, we were taught just observing while growing up. But I do not
see that happening with other families, because I hear them talking among each
other and I think, well, that is your family. But our family, me and sisters and
brothers, we help each other.
E: I spoke with a couple of people with the hot meals program down in Big Cypress,
and up here I talked with Alice Johns about working with elderly people. Elders
have a really different life now than elders did when you were growing up, do you
think? Being an elder is a different thing?
S: Yes, probably.
E: I read in a book about the change to the concrete block houses transforming the
E: I do not think they talked about elders per se, but I wonder if that has something
to do with it, that elders before were always around the family.
S: Yes. In my case, we always had elders in our family. Like I said, my great
grandma was 109 when she passed away. I thought she never was going to go,
I thought she was going to outlive me because she always there ever since we
were born. She was always around. It was kind of hard to believe when she left
us. But she knew she was going to go when she finally passed away, that was
what she told me, that she was leaving. Right around corn dance she said, I am
leaving, so whatever you all need to know, ask your momma, she will know
everything because I taught her. She has seen it, she has been there, you will
have to talk to here because I will not be with you all anymore. That is what she
said. So, when she got that really bad cold, that flu-it was not corn dance yet it
was right before-I knew she was going to pass away when that happened. She
was right. So, I told her, well, what are we going to do, you are leaving? She
said, well, you all go on like you always do. That is what she said. So, basically
that is what we do. But that is what she said, so she knew when she was going
E: And now you have your mom here with you?
S: This is her home. My home is back up the other way, but I come over here on
weekdays and stay with them. She has two nephews that live with her. The
mother is not here; she just left. She is an alcoholic. She comes back every
once in a while, but this time she left again. So, I stay over here with my mom on
weekdays and then my other sister comes up here on the weekends and takes
over. But if I need to go away or go somewhere, I tell them to come stay with
them, so she usually comes stay with her.
E: So, you have it worked out, you have this worked out kind of like it used to be.
She has people around.
S: Yes. And I see a lot of elders that do not have that, either. That is what we tell
her, that she is a lucky person to have us around because some people do not
have that much. But it is her, it is because of her that we are around. It was her
teaching, her ways that we learned from her.
E: And her mother?
S: Yes, and her mother.
E: I have heard that other people do not have that, that other people are isolated.
E: That seems like that will be a challenge too, in coming times.
S: Yes. I was working as an education counselor for about twenty-two years and I
thought I needed something else to do. I have my master's degree; I was going
to get my LCSW [Licensed Clinical Social Worker]. I was going to study for it and
then I would get into the medicine and learn about that. Then she got sick and I
just never got a chance to do it. I want to go back to work, but then I do not know
if I could handle that because I have three boys that I have to take care of, and of
course my mom. And my mom can be something else at nighttime, and I do not
want to be dragged in sleepy when I go to work. Somebody said, you have a full-
time job already. Everybody says, are you working? I say, yes, I am working for
my mom. [Laughter.]
E: What is your master's in?
S: Social work.
E: From where?
E: Right now you are not doing that?
S: I am not, I am working for her. We have a lady come in on Thursday and Friday
1 Barry University, A Catholic International University, 11300 N.E. Second Avenue, Miami Shores, Florida
to watch her while I go do what I have to do. I came back in and I was going to
cook and she said, you have to cook too? I said, yes, I am the head cook around
here. That is what I told her. At seven o'clock I have to take my nephew up to
college, up to Okeechobee.
E: Where did you get your bachelors degree?
S: The same place, Barry. And Miami-Dade Junior College is where I got my AA.2 I
am older now and I do not know if I could handle all that pressure when I do go
back to work and have to take care of her. Sometimes she gets real sick where
she really needs help twenty-four hours a day, but right now she is doing okay.
She can get in and out of her wheelchair and use the restroom if she wants to.
We have help with the boys. I just hate to-it is not fair to the company that I go
back to work and have to take a couple of days off. That is not fair to the
company. I worry about the company too. That is my company, if I ever work for
the tribe, because some people like to abuse it. I do not work that way.
E: Were you working for the tribe before?
E: And that is where you would go back?
S: Yes. I thought I might go back there, and then I thought I might get my license
and maybe do the individual [counseling]. Everything is on hold right now
because of her.
E: That does happen. Life steps in and has demands.
S: Yes. But I just live one day at a time with this group here.
E: That is a good philosophy to have about it.
2 Miami-Dade Community College.
E: Is there anything else you would like to add to this?
E: Well, I want to thank you very much.