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Interview with Louis Capron, August 31, 1971

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Title:
Interview with Louis Capron, August 31, 1971
Creator:
Capron, Louis ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Seminole Indians
Seminoles -- Florida
Seminole Oral History Collection ( local )

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Funding:
This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Seminoles' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
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SEM 30 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: LOUIS CAPRON
INTERVIEWER: SAMUEL PROCTOR
DATE: June 28, 1971


P: We are going to record an oral history interview this afternoon with
Mr. Louis Capron. We are here in his home in West Palm Beach. Mr.
Capron and I are going to talk about his early life and his interest
in the Florida Seminole Indians. Mr. Capron, I want to start off by
asking you where you were born.
C: I was born in one of the suburbs of Albany, New York in the town of
Colonie, [Menands]....At a very early age, the family moved to Oneonta,
New York, which is in the Cooper country, and, of course, alive with
Indian lore. There was a family friend [in Oneonta] by the name of
Willard Yager, who had been a journalist, and had retired. [He] had
laid aside enough to support him and was devoting his life to a study
of the Indians of the upper Susquehanna Valley. And we kids, under
his tutelage, used to go out and hunt the fields, and bring our arrow-
heads and whatever we might find into Yager, and he would take what
he wanted. But he also filled us with stories of the Indians and in-
terest in the Indians, and at that time my collecting of books on
the Indians really began.
P: Did you get your elementary and high school education there?
C: Well, that had to do me--hunting the fields around there--until I
went to college. [He went to the public schools in Oneonta and to
St. John's Manlius, a preparatory school located in Manlius, New York.]
P: You went to Yale?
C: Went to Yale. I was taking a course in chemistry, but I found that
there was a great deal of Indian interest around there. There were
the shell heaps along the river, and we used to go out to those shell
heaps and dig and collect whatever material we could-potsherds and
things of that kind.
P: This was for the Peabody Museum?
C: Well, this was before my connection with the Peabody Museum. George
Grant McCurdy was the very famous anthropologist who was at the head
of that branch of the Peabody Museum there, and I managed to inveigle
him into letting me sit in--I was an undergraduate/not entitled to sit
in, but he had two graduate courses in American archaeology, and
he kindly allowed me to sit in with a couple of divinity students. Al-
though I got no credit for it, I increased my connection with the shell
heaps, and so forth, and my interest in the Indians.


2
While I was still at Yale, another fellow and myself were appointed
to make an archaeological survey of the Connecticut River Valley for the
Yale Peabody Museum, and that increased my connection. But all this time,
I was collecting materials and information, so that before I got through
I had a pretty good basic knowledge of Indians and what their beliefs
were; what their daily lives were like. Mostly, I found that I was
interested in their esoteric life.
In 1925 I came to Florida.
P: What brought you to Florida?
C: Well, the Boom as much as anything else. I had been in the mercantile
game, and it looked like a chance to advance myself if I came to Flo-
rida.
P: When you left Yale with your degree, you went back to New York?
C: I went back to Oneonta, and I was really going into the journalistic
field. But when I came to Florida, I went into the mercantile end of
it.
P: Did you come directly to West Palm Beach?
C: Came directly to West Palm Beach, to the old Palm Beach Mercantile
Company there.
P: What brought you here rather than to any other place in Florida?
C: Because [of] W.H. DaCamara, the head of the Mercantile Company. His
wife was my mother's great friend. They came up [north] and spent
the summer before I came down here with us in Oneonta, and I came down
to join the Palm Beach Mercantile Company.
P: Now, what was this? Wholesale-retail?
C: This was a wholesale-retail, a general [department store.]
[Here is a break in the narrative.]
C: The thing is that the older Indians preferred a simple life, and they
didn't ask for much. Since they didn't ask for much they didn't have
to have much money, nor did they. What they were afraid of was that


3
the children, if they were educated in a white school, [would want]
to live like white people, and they didn't want to change their way
of life. They wanted few things, and they were willing to get along
with few things to have the independence to live as they wanted to.
P: They felt that the children getting educated would begin moving away
from Indian tradition?
._ v/ C: Well, they felt that to educate the children would be to draw the
children away from them.
P: And that this was bad, then?
C: Oh, yes. Because they didn't want to change their was of life.
P: Well, how did the few children then go to school if there was resent-
ment on the part of the elders?
C: Well, most of them didn't. They kept them close to themselves. But a
few...for example, some of the Indians in the tourist camps like
[Musa Isle, in Miami] and places like that, those Indians might go
,,to school. Now, Tony Tommie went one year to Carlisle [Indian School
in Pennsylvania.] Well, he taught two of his brothers to write Eng-
(lish and to talk English; that was Sam Tommie and the Brownie Tommie.
I have letters from both of them. But the main thing is that the older
t,/Indians were satisfied with their life as they lived it. In other
words they had their...I don't know what kind of a culture you want to
call it, but it was a naturalistic culture, and our efforts right
[along] have been to inoculate them with the germ of a materialistic
culture. Once you do that, they're gone.
P: Mr. Capron, during this early period when you were forming your begin-
ning friendships with Sam Tommie and the others, were you coming to
the reservation to visit them...
C: Yes.
P: ...on the days that you had off? Were there any special occasions other
than the Sun Dance [West Palm Beach annual tourist attraction and cele-
bration] planning that you were involved in with these Indians?
C: Well, of course there was the powwow that they have annually 'up at
Brighton [Indian reservation] on the cattle business up there.
P: Now, this is after 1935--after they set up the cattle industry?
C: Yes.


P: What were these owows like? Can you explain one of those?
^-' P: What were these powwows like? Can you explain one of those?
C: Well, they had a pie eating contest, and a beauty contest and baby
contest and all those kinds of things.
P: Sounds like these were all white man's innovations.
C: It was copied from...well, that's really what it was. They were getting
away from their own festival into a white festival, mainly because they
wanted the whites to come.
P: These were public affairs? Whites came to these things?
C: These were public affairs. The whites came, and they had a barbecue,
and the Indians sold their handiwork and charged so much for meals
and so f6oirth'.
P: What about the Indian festivals themselves--not the ones that were
set up to attract whites, but the traditional Indian festivals?
C: Well, there were two. One was the Green Corn Dance, and that was held
every year. What the Green Corn Dance was...the point of it was to
i keep the medicine alive and keep the Indian healthy. Now, the medicine
/ is the crux of everything. The medicine is the sacred medicine in the
medicine bundle, or the medicine bundles. At any rate, it is something
alive that controls everything that is good for the Indians. For example,
there's a little stone in the medicine which is the same as the stone
that is used in the sweat,-bath [a men's cleansing ceremony at the Corn
* Dance], and that stone in the medicine is alive. That stone tells all
stones of that kind everywhere how to function to make the sweat-bath
healthful. If that stone died--the one in the medicine bundle--sweat-
baths would no longer be healthful.
P: Well, the dance then maintains the life of...?
C: It maintains the life of the medicine. The point of it here is the con-
nection of the medicine.
P: They are symbolic things which...?
C: They're not symbolic. They're controlling things. They're not symbols.
They're things. They're alive. I don't know how to explain it beyond
that. Here is a bundle of [six or] seven hundred different articles,
and each one of them is alive...although there are some that are dead,
that have died for some reason or other.


5
P: The dead ones are kept within the bundle?
C: [Yes.] But the Green Corn Dance is to keep that medicine alive, and it's
done by the faith of the Indians.
P: When is the Green Corn Dance held?
C: It's held at different times. There are three Green Corn Dances. The
Green Corn Dances on the Tamiami Trail and that group around there are
held based on the seven stars...Pleiades [when they make their reappear-
ance.] But the Cow Creek Green Corn Dance is held the last new moon in
June or the first new moon in July, whichever comes nearest that time.
P: Does it mean it's being held approximately now?
C: It's being held now.
P: The third group, then, would hold its dance when? You said there was a
third Green Corn Dance.
C: Well, there are two on the Trail, and each one of them has its own
medicine man and his assistant.
P: And these are in...the constellation determines the times for these?
C: For the two, although I'm not dead certain just how they figure it.
But theirs always come before the Cow Creek Dance.
P: I see. Now where would the Cow Creek Green Corn Dance be held?
C: It'll be held up near Fort Drum [thirty-five miles north of Lake Okee-
chobee.]
P: Is it always held in the same place?
C: No. It had to be moved this year because the land was sold. It's been
moved two or three times. I think once it was moved because the medi-
cine man died at it.
P: And that was a bad omen or something?
C: [Yes.]
P: Who determines where it's going to be held?
J/ C: The medicine man.
P: He is the spiritual leader of the tribe?


6
C: [Yes.]
P: And it's his decision alone?
C: Well, no. He interprets the signs in the heavens.
P: I see. So he becomes the spokesman, then?
C: [Yes.]
P: As the spiritual leader, he's the spiritual interpreter?
C: Yes.
P: Now, how large an area do they need for the dance?
C: Well, they need quite an area. I mean a good many acres. The dance circle
is about forty feet across, and then I'd say the clan camps....The Ind-
...' ians are camped by clans like spokes of a wheel out from the dance circle,
- and they may be 150 feet or something like that from the dance circle.
P: Do the Indians bring their own food and other supplies with them?
C: fYes, except that on Picnic Day [third day of the Corn Dance ceremony]
the medicine man must provide the meat. He provided a deer, I suppose,
in the old days, but now he provides a steer. For the rest, the indiv-
\iduals bring their own food.
P: They come as family units?
C: Yes.
P: Men, women, and children?
C: [Yes.]
P: And they travel by car, I guess, now?
C: Yes, today.
P: How long do the ceremonies last?
v/ C: About five, six days.
P: So it's a week's activity by the time they come and depart?


7
C: They may not come early in the game, but somebody has to come, be-
cause the first part of it they're putting the place in shape. You
see, they only use it during the Green Corn Dance, and they have to
rethatch the houses [chickees], and clean up around the grounds.
P: So the grounds are left? They're relatively permanent, and they're
only used for this purpose?
C: Yes.
P: Are they out so that the public will not intrude on it...
C: Yes.
P: ...during the year? Do they maintain any guard over...
C: No.
P: ...this property at all, since it's sacred property?
C: No, because there's nothing there to [guard.] But it's not sacred then.
P: It's only sacred at the time that the medicine bundles are there?
C: At the time they're there, [yes.]
P: Where are the medicine bundles kept during the interim?
C: Nobody knows. They're in charge of the medicine man, but he has two
assistants, and one of them may be taking care of the medicine bundles.
P: And it's their responsibility to bring these to the Green Corn Dance?
C: No, the medicine man produces them.
P: Now, I wanted to ask you, Mr. Capron, how you first became interested
in [the] Florida Seminoles.
C: Well, I'd been interested in Indians, of course, and here in Florida
there were some live Indians--I didn't have to study them in books or
in their artifacts. I [could] study the Indians themselves and make a
connection with them.
P: What was your first physical contact with them?
C: My first physical contact was after the hurricane of 1926. I had been
-' j working with the [American] Legion here, getting supplies down to the


8
hurricane area in Hollywood and Miami, and at the end of the week they
were making up packages of relief material to go down to scattered set-
tlements in that section. There were ten bundles there that were headed
for the Indians at Dania, and I grabbed on to those as my job to find
)those Indians and take [those] supplies to them. At that time they were
'in a field between Hollywood and Dania. The Indians, although I didn't
know it then, probably had their village where the village was later,
when they fixed up the reservation out there [at Dania.]
The Indians had come in and taken possession of a shed--it was a
large shed, and it didn't, as I remember, have any windows, but it was
protection. They had their clothes hanging out on all the bushes around.
Tony Tommie was back there at that time. At any rate, they received the
clothes and things that were in the ten packages very gladly, and they
were trying them on and [parading] around with them.
P: Who was Tony Tommie?
C: Tony Tommie was the one who went to Carlisle [Indian boarding school in
Pennsylvania], and he was the one Tommie boy with the best education.
For a long time he was their leader there...certainly in their contacts
with the whites.
P: Not a chief--just sort of a liaison man?
C: Right. He was the one who interested his brothers...in fact, he taught
Sam Tommie and Brownie Tommie to read and write. He taught them to read
and write, so that when I met Sam Tommie he was very articulate, and
he could write and we could correspond. At any rate, they were glad to
get the clothing and things [that had been] brought in. That was my first
contact with them.
P: They obviously had weathered the hurricane without much difficulty.
C: Oh, yes. A hurricane didn't make a great deal of difference to the In-
dians, particularly in those days, because they could rehabilitate
themselves in a day and rebuild their houses. A hurricane really meant
very little to them.
P: That was your first contact with the Indians?
C: That was my first direct contact.
P: How did you build up a lasting friendship with them?
C: Well, that really came when I was working on the Sun Dance for the West
Palm Beach committee.


9
P: Tell us about that project.
C: Well, back in the old days the [tourist] season was relatively short.
It lasted after the holidays until Washington's birthday, and after
Washington's birthday, the season was over. With the idea of lengthen-
ing that season, the West Palm Beach people--Palm Beach County people--
inaugurated a festival which they called the Sun Dance. That was to come
on after the regular season had ended. It was based on the Indian motif,
and there were Indians brought in for that--and they established a camp
that was one of the features of the [Sun] Dance. Then they put on [Ind-
ian] dances. They also had a festival--a white festival there with merry
-go-rounds and things of that kind. That lasted for four or five days.
Well, that had been discontinued the year I came down. I came down in
the late fall of 1925. Everybody had been so busy trading in real estate
that when it came time to plan for the Sun Dance festival, everybody was
all [involved] in real estate, and so they dropped it.
When I first came to town there was a big sign about the Sun Dance,
and I was looking forward to having it when I was here. But they didn't
put it on that year. It went along several years without any Sun Dance,
and then they decided to revive it. What started it was a nurses' organ-
ization or something of that kind was going to put on a parade, and they
were going to call it the Sun Dance. But a couple of us had talked them
into reviving the old Sun Dance; and I volunteered to handle the Indian
end of it. That plan finally went through, and I went down to Dania where
I contacted Sam Tommie. Sam Tommie and I and Oscar Johns from Brighton
spent every weekend that winter going around to the different Indian camps
and getting the Indians to promise to come in for the Sun Dance.
P: Where were the Indian camps then located?
C: Well, there were a number of them at Indiantown and up in that section;
and where the Brighton Reservation is now, up in there; and then there
was the one down there at Dania. Of course, there were others down in
Miami. By that time the Pirates's Cove had become a sightseeing place in-
stead of a trading post.
It's interesting how those sightseeing parks down there originated.
In the old days, the Indians up the Miami River used to come down to do
their trading along the Miami River in Miami. In order to take care of
them while they were there, the different people that ran these trading
posts established camps that were for the convenience of the Indians
who came in to trade. It got to be one of the sightseeing events of
Miami to go out to these camps and see the Indians. When the trading end-
ed, and they no longer brought their skins in and so forth, these trading
posts maintained their Indian villages as sightseeing villages. They in-
duced the Indians to come in and live in these huts. That was how these
[places] like the Musa Isle and Pirate's Cove and so forth became sight-
seeing places.


10
P: Now, on the Sun Dance, you were able then to bring these people together
for the first revived Sun Dance. This is in the early 1930's?
C: Yes. Yes, and we put on the real Indian dances. Up to that time, they'd
been more or less artificially manufactured; it was just something to
see the Indians dancing around, but there was nothing authentic about
it. But when our Sun Dance came on, the Indians did their authentic
dances. I got to know them very well, because I was in charge of every-
thing [concerning the Indians.] I took care of their finances and their
food; I brought their food in; and in all.things I took care of the In-
dian angle of it.
P: Where were these Sun Dances held here in West Palm Beach?
C: Well, that one was held down on [Phillips] Point, if I remember correctly.
P: And the Indians camped right there?
C: They had their camp. Of course, there were seats lined up and a platform
...an area for shows to be put on, and there were other shows besides
the Indian dances. I know one thing that surprised me was the amount of
food those Indians could eat.
P: Mr. Capron, the first real friend, then, that you had among the Indians
was Sam Tommie?
C: Yes.
P: He was your first contact. What kind of a man was he?
C: Well, he was a very sincere man; very sincere. He was interested in
their culture, and he probably knew as much about their esoteric life
as anyone outside of the actual medicine men and their helpers. He
later became a Christian, and he was just as sincere a Christian, but
he still was a wonderful source of information on their customs and be-
liefs.
P: Can we talk a little bit about their customs and beliefs now? I think
that probably you, as much as any other person, know about their dances
and so on. We talked about both the Green Corn Dance and the Hunting
Dance when I was here before. I wonder if you could describe the Hunt-
ing dance first of all, because I know there's not too much known about
that.
C: (Well, the(Hunting Dancewasn't held every year. The purpose of it was to
a / bring succss-inEhunting and to prevent the Indians from being struck by
( rattlesnakes. It was also called the Snake Dance.
The dance is supposed to be held at the full moon in September, but
t


11
it doesn't always conform to that rule. It's held at a convenient place
--not at the Green Corn Dance [ground]--a place where there are perman-
ent camps in an arrangement that makes for the convenience of the dance
itself. The dance ground is more or less like that of the Green Corn
Dance, except that there is no tchoc-ko thloc-ko. There is a circular
i'dance ground, but the important things are the posts. There are four of
./ these at some distance from each other, and it is around these posts
that the Snake Dance is danced.
The first days of this (it's a matter of five or six days), as in
the case of the Green Corn Dance, have to do with getting the dance
ground in shape and so forth. The men set out on one day toward the end
of the dance [ceremony] to devote their whole day to hunting. Every man,
V in order to take part in the dance, must contribute some kind of food.
Even the little boys contribute fish or something [which] they can ac-
quire easily. Two days before the end of the dance, the men start out
in the morning, bunting. As they bring game in, and the boys bring their
fish in, and [small] things like that, they're placed on a platform made
of palmetto logs. I would say that platform was about eight feet square,
and [of] heavy logs. Adjacent to it there are two small cooking fires--
at least in the one I have in mind there were two small cooking fires.
(As meat is brought in, it's cooked in these fires, and then thrown up
on this table made of the palmetto logs. Under this table, there is a
smudge fire burning to keep the flies off. So all day long, the Indians
are hunting, and the next day, they're bringing in what they have captured
to be cooked and put on the platform.
.*' Every night up to this time there has been dancing and a ball
,game--there's a ball game pole at the dance ground. They have a ball
-game and they dance until this last day when the men are all hunting.
The food is piled up on this table with the smudge fire under it, and
finally on the last day the men get up on the table and break up the
meat that's up there, and put it in burlap sacks.
Directing all this there are two boys, two heralds if you want to
call them that. They're known as the hod-chee sha-ka-lee--the deer tail
bearers. Each one of them has a wand (which he carries against his right
,f i shoulder) about ten feet long, and from the end of it hang two rings,
one below the other. Finally, below the last ring, a deer tail. They sig-
,nify the snake. While these boys are in their official capacity they
carry these poles against their right shoulder.
Come evening, the ceremonies are transferred to the dance ground,
and there's a ball game. Finally, led by the heralds, they begin to
(bring the meat over to the dance ground and pile it near the logs that
Fare there for seats. Then the men start the dance. They line up first.
The posts are there around which they are going to dance, and they start
out and dance in [a] figure eight around the first two posts--the one to
the right of the men's seats there; and the one beyond it. They dance a
figure eight around [the first post], and as more men join, of course,
they go on to the next post. Finally they're dancing figure eights a-
round the first post and the second post, and then they're dancing fig-
ure eights around the second post and the third post.


12
After about twice around, the women come in and begin to join the
dance. The rattles on their legs begin to give more cadence to the dance
itself. In the old days they were bundles of turtle shells, with seeds
or something in them. But it's come to the point now where they're con-
densed milk cans with seeds or something inside. By the way they move
their legs, they can give cadence to the beat.
So finally they're dancing around three posts, and then finally
they're dancing around four posts. At the dance that I have in mind,
there were about forty or fifty dancers, so that it was pretty hard for
them to make the rounds of two posts at a time. But they did it, and
kept in order until they had gone around the post the requisite number
of times, and they were going around the four posts at the same time
in the same round. They didn't break up; in fact, they stayed in line,
right along through, and the boys (the heralds) took pails of water
down the line so that they could refresh themselves. This went on and
on.
f" Finally, at midnight, they started the feast. I don't believe I've
mentioned how they brought it over. Before all this dancing started, the
men at the meat platform had climbed up on it and were breaking up the
meat into small units. A piece of deer meat might be divided into sever-
al units, and probably some small birds or something like that would be
on spits making one unit. At any rate, these were put into burlap sacks
and carried over to the dance ground. Finally, at midnight, they started
the feast, and come morning the dance was over.
That was the Hunting Dance. Its purpose had been to insure good
- hunting for the Indians during the coming year, and safety from any
snake bites.
P: Mr. Capron, is there any specific number of days that these dances were
held, or was this varied?
C: Well, I would say in the Green Corn Dance it was five or six days, and
maybe in the Hunting Dance it would only be four or five days.
P: Was this a specified number of days? Every Hunting Dance would be four
or five days?
C: Well, I'd probably say yes. Although of course in the old days there
were dances down on the Trail, then dances in the Cow Creek country,
so they might differ that way.
(P: Do the medicine men have anything to do with the Hunting Dance?
C: Nothing at all. It's entirely somebody who is recognized as to his
ability to put it on. In fact, at this dance in question, the medicine
man wasn't even there.


13
P: Why is it that the danceis-held so irregularly, as compared to the
Green Corn Dance?
C: Well, if it's a full moon in September, that isn't [irregular.]
P: It's held every time there is a full moon in September?
C: No. Opinions differ very much on how often it is held. Some people say
it should be held every four years; some people tell you it should be
held every year.
P: I just wondered why it was less of a continuity to the Hunting Dance as
compared to the Green Corn Dance.
C: Well, because the Hunting Dance isn't held every year and the Green Corn
Dance is. And the Hunting Dance is not as important a ceremony as the
' Green Corn Dance. You must remember the Hunting Dance has only to do
with actual hunting, and that one phase of their life, whereas the Green
Corn Dance is every phase of the Indian's life.
P: Who determines when the Hunting Dance is going to be held?
C: I imagine it's some man who is recognized as an authority on it. He
knows how to put it on, and what is necessary. Billy Stewart, I believe,
did it for several years. It all depends on this man, or somebody like
that who will start it off, as far as I know.
P: Does the Hunting Dance in any way have as one of its purposes to bring
young people together so that they can meet?
C: No.
P: It has no mating significance?
C: No. No mating significance. Purely a hunting proposition.
P: Sort of an economic type of thing?
C: Yes.
P: Can we go from there now to the Green Corn Dance, and describe it, and
move from it into the religious significance of it?
C: Well, of course, the Green Corn Dance is the great ceremony of the Sem-
inole Indians and the Miccosukee Indians, and if you go back of that,
the Creeks and allied tribes. It is based on the sacred medicine. When


14
the Indians came up out of the ground, es-te fas-ta, the "give" person,
the mediary between God and man...I'11 go back of that. For the Indian,
before the Indians came up [out of the ground] este-mattee, who was
)known as the "find" person went around picking up things. He didn't
.i know why he picked them up, except that he made a big collection of
)things. Later, these things were given to the Indians by God through
es-te fas-ta, the bring person. They were given to man through es-te
fas-ta as the sacred medicine. Now, this medicine is alive. It has
.been transformed (if you want to put it that way) from the inanimate
things that este-mattee picked up into a collection of items which are
K alive. Each one of them has an element of importance for the Indians.
When you take them in the aggregate--that is when you take them all
together--they represent and include everything there is for the good
' of the Indian.
Items in the medicine control the items that they represent in
(the world itself. For example, there is in the medicine a stone which
i is the same stone as is used in sweat baths. That stone, which is liv-
ting, is in control of all the stones of that kind. That stone influences
every stone of that nature to function properly in its purpose for the
Indian. Now, if that stone in the Green Corn Dance which is alive died,
no longer would the sweat bath be efficient. It could no longer bring
health to the Indians.
I hope I've made it clear that medicine is of extreme importance.
In fact, it's invaluable to the Indians as controlling everything that
is for their good, and it must be kept alive. That is one of the two
purposes of the Green Corn Dance. The first purpose is to keep...the
act of faith on the Indians' part, in putting on the dance and going
*through this purification and all that, keeps the life in the medicine.
/If they neglected the Green Corn Dance, the medicine would die; the
-Indians would die; and in fact, the world would come to an end. So,
the Green Corn Dance is important in order to keep the medicine alive,
< C-nd the second importance of the Green Corn Dance is to keep the In-
dian healthy. Those two purposes are the purposes of the Green Corn
Dance. Everything in the Green Corn Dance is aimed at achieving [those]
purposes. And one important think is it's a great purification dance...
it's the dance in which the Indians purify their [bodies] and purify
their lives.
P: I'd like you to tell me the role of the medicine man--how he assumed
the responsibility.
C:f The medicine man has been trained by his predecessor--by the medicine
t man who preceded him--for seven years. He has to devote his life when
young to seven years of study and [preparation] with an accredited med-
icine man. At that time, after a certain ceremony that he goes through
with the medicine man himself, he has become a full-fledged medicine
man. But he has to learn; he has to learn all. Every piece of medicine


15
'has a purpose and a song that goes with it that the young medicine man
w,- must know. He must know all about herbs and things of that kind, and
thow to use them, and the song for them.
One thing that occurs to me here is the fact that the years when
the young fellow has to be studying to be a medicine man are the years
today when he has to go to school, which shows why there are going to
be no new medicine men--simply because the modern culture that the In-
dians are adopting makes it impossible.
P: Their culture, then, is dying?
C: That's the price they pay for a material culture.
P: Won't this bring about their destruction? Because they will not be able
to maintain the Green Corn Dance, which is vital to their perpetuity.
C They will maintain a Green Corn Dance of a kind, but it will be imposs-
ible to maintain a Green Corn Dance in the form and in all the implicat-
tions in which it's been held all these years, simply because there won't
( be an actual, real medicine man.
P: The medicine man serves as a spiritual leader; is he also a physician?
You say he has to know herbs.
C: Well, he does, but the herb doctor is a different thing. He has to
study under an herb doctor, and that is four years of study. After he
has served with an herb doctor for four years he himself can become an
herb doctor. Most of the medicine men--I think all the medicine men--
are also herb doctors, but not all herb doctors are medicine men.
P: Now, the medicine men--who are the religious leaders, the spiritual
leaders--they get their information, their knowledge, by training
under a medicine man?
C: Right.
P: This is part of the oral tradition; it passes on from one to the other?
C: Yes. Right.
P: There are no written records...
C: No.
P: ...that they must maintain? Now, they keep the medicine bundle. Would
you explain the medicine bundle?


Cl qTY- 16
C: Well, originally there was probably one medicine bundle; but during the
[Seminole] War, war parties needed some sacred medicine with them on
their trips. So the medicine was divided so that...
Of course, some of these bundles were lost after battles and so
forth, but at the end of the big war (1835 to 1842) [The Second Seminole
War] the remaining medicine was made up into three bundles. Then there
were individual Indians who had individual pieces of medicine. These
three bundles then came in charge of three medicine men, so that today
there are three bundles. They speak of them as war medicine, among other
things. There are three bundles for three medicine men.
I say today...back forty or fifty years ago there were three bundles,
each with a medicine man, and each medicine man had two helpers. Now you're
beginning to get into the clan system. A medicine man had to be Panther
clan or Tiger clan, depend[ing] on whether he was Cow Creek or Miccosukee.
P: In order to be a medicine man?
C: In order to be a medicine man, he had to be a Tiger or a Panther.
P: Are these special kinds of tribes? Are these select clans?
C: No. Now you're getting into a different thing. There were clans before
the Indians came up out of the ground. For example, there was the Wind
clan and there was a Tiger clan, Panther clan, and they came up out of
the ground. The Panther clan, the head was too large to get through the
hole they were coming out of, so the Wind clan blew through and enlarged
it and let the Panther clan out. At any rate, there were most of the clans
that now exist at the beginning of things there, and they were divided in-
to two classifications. One was headed by the Panther clan; the other was
headed by the Wind clan. They were given two functions. The Panther clan
contained the medicine men; and so they wouldn't be too powerful, the
Wind clan was given the dance ground. In other words, you had a material
and a religious group. The religious group was headed by the Panther clan,
and the material group headed by the Wind clan. The Green Corn Dance it-
self was owned by the Panther clan, but the dance grounds [were] owned by
the Wind clan.
Now, to go back of that, the clan was passed on by the woman. All
of her children belonged to her clan. But of course, it was a rule that
they could not marry in their own clan.
P: Could you repeat that?
C: Yes. They must marry in their clan, and a man must go and live with his
wife in his wife's clan. But he maintained his own clan. In this way,
no medicine man would be succeeded by his son. That also resulted in a-
f'nother thing. The father had no claims on the children whatsoever. Nor
=. / did he have anything to do with training his children. His children were


tC/"P^. "" 17
X trained by his wife's brothers; that is, a boy was trained by his uncle,
! not his father.
P: Who disciplined the children? Was it the father, or would the uncle dis-
cipline...?
C: Well, the uncle would if his mother didn't. In other words, he's not act-
V- ually, from a clan standpoint, related to his father at all. He's related
to his uncle.
In the same way, the clans themselves are divided into two types--one
of them headed by the Panther clan; the other one headed by the Wind clan.
Those are the principal clans, but they each have nephew clans. For example,
the Panther clan would have the Wildcat clan, or clans of that nature, that
would be its nephews. The Wind clan would have its own nephews, and practic-
ally all clans were so divided.
P: Mr. Capron, because the relationship between a boy and his uncle is so
close, what was the boy's attitude toward his own father?
C: Well, he loved his father, but his father really had no authority over
him.
P: So the male figure, then, for the child, is the uncle rather than the
father?
C: [Yes.] And any training that would be done would be done by the uncle
and not by the father.
P: What is the father's role in the family, then?
C: Just to procreate the children, I suppose. Of course, he has the further
job of providing food and so forth.
P: He'd go hunting and bring...?
C: Yes. He has to go hunting and [carry on] the agriculture.
P: He has no role as far as the clans activities are concerned? He is not a
part of the governing body at all of the clan?
C: No.
P: He makes no decisions on where or what or how?
i C: That's right. His wife and children do. He has nothing to say about that.


18
P: And if his wife doesn't like the kind of living that he's providing, how
does she get rid of him?
C: Well, it's generally accepted--she just throws his things out of the chick-
ee, and that's that.
P: She's divorced as of that action. Can she then take another husband?
C: After a reasonable time, yes.
P: And what happens to him?
C: He goes back to his own family.
P: I see. He can acquire another wife, after a reasonable amount of time?
C: Yes. But he goes back to his own mother, you see, and his own clan.
P: Is there much of this? Is this the way things go today?
C: Oh, it's all changed now; everything's changed.
P: Can we talk about the religious part of the thing? I'm anxious to get back,
if possible, to the Indian attitude toward death and the Indian attitude
toward God, that is I'm anxious to have that on tape.
C: Well, that's a little bit different, because from the very beginning
there has been proselyting on the part of the Christians. So that in
some ways it's very difficult to separate the original religion, and so
f forth. But the main thing...the supreme being is sa-kee tom-mas-see,
{ the master of breath. He is God. But he is not in direct communication
'with the human being. For example, to show you what I mean by that, my
introduction to this angle of religion was one morning Sam Tommie and
I were out on an alligator hunt, and we had just finished breakfast, and
were sitting around talking, and Sam said, "Did I ever tell you how Jesus
Christ came to the Seminoles?"
I said, "No." And he told me the story of es-te fas-ta.
'" To the Indian mind, Christ had the same relation to God that es-te
| fas-ta, the "give" person, had to sa-kee tom-mas-ee, the master of
,.breath. And that, in one way, has paved the way for so much Christianiz-
ing of the Indians, because they identified Christ with es-te fas-ta. The
Indians have said, so many times to me, "There is only one God. The white
'" man's God and the Indian god are the same."
The picture I'm going to give you now is based on information
given me by Josie Billie. Now, Josie Billie is a very articulate


/- (t. 19
19
Indian who has been west to the Seminoles in Oklahoma, and is well-
acquainted with Creek legends and so forth, but he has the only ex-
planation of this that Ihave been able to discover. To start with,
you'll take the individual as the center of a circle. The circle is
roughly some distance from the individual, who is the center of it.
The Indian idea seems to have certain aspects of the Egyptian. That
[is, there are three parts of an individual. There is the individual
himself; he has a soul and he has a ghost. When you dream, your soul
is away from the body. If for any reason the soul can't get back,
you're dead. When you are sick, your soul leaves the body and goes
north. The color of north is black. The soul is followed by the med-
Aicine man trying to call him back to the body. Finally, he gets to
the circumference of the circle, with the medicine man still trying
to call him back. When he gets to the circle itself, he turns toward
*the east. And the medicine man is still trying to call him back. But
Ihe goes around on the circle until he gets to a point directly east
of the center. If he reaches that point, the medicine man loses, and
Lhas to return. Then the soul goes across the bridge into the west.
Now, whether he crosses on the Milky Way or what, I don't know, but
the main thing is that the soul is attacked by birds that try to tear
him away. But he makes the journey in safety; he gets to the west and
happiness.
P: Would that be the counterpart of heaven?
C: That would be the counterpart of heaven. What its nature is, I can't
tell you.
Now you come to the ghost. When a person dies, his or her family
i must stay with the body for four days. During that time, no one must
leave, even to get food. Friends have to bring in the food. At the end
i of four days, the body is taken to some place far away from anybody
where it's hidden. It's hidden on a low, narrow chickee, with a thatch-
/ i ed, pitched roof. The body is placed in there, and with the body are
i placed utensils and things that the Indian might use in the after life,
but they are broken so they will be killed just as he is dead. So that
Vhe can take them, use them, with him.
Along these lines, when I was with Sam Tommie in New York we look-
ed at the Indian exhibits in the Museum of Natural History. Sam came to
mushrooms and he said, "You eat them things."
And I said, "Yes."
"Well," he said, "that ghost food. Ghosts eat that and those itty-
bitty bugs you see around corpses, around dead people."
P: Do the Indians have a counterpart of the Christian hell, where the evil
people go?


20
C: I haven't heard of any. Of course, you must understand it's next to
impossible to get any of this material. It's the most difficult chal-
lenge there is. And most of the Indians, I don't think, have much of
a conception of it themselves.
P: Do the Indians have any way of atoning for sin, for evil things that
they have done? Can they make up for this in any way?
C: Not that I know of. But as a.rule, they are very tolerant of people
who have sinned, or broken rules...who have repented of it.
P: Sin is quickly and easily forgiven, then?
C: Most things, yes.
v''P: What about individuals who have badly misbehaved; who have taken a
human life, or murdered?
C: Well, then they can be executed. I can't give you his name, offhand,
but this one man had killed several Indians in the Tiger clan when
he was drunk. Each time, of course, he owed his life then to the
Tiger clan. And the Tiger clan had forgiven him in the hopes that he'd
reform; but he didn't reform. Finally, he beat up a pregnant woman.
This time, the Tiger clan decided he must die.
The head of the Tiger clan [John Osceola] went to the medicine
man and told him that the clan had decided the man must die. So the
medicine man gave him tobacco to smoke, because you must remember
that when you kill anybody, you have committed a serious crime, whether
you killed him legally or not. The medicine man agreed that he [John
Osceola] should kill this fellow, and gave him tobacco to smoke so that
he wouldn't lose his own [senses.]
The murderer lived at Musa Isle. Old [John Osceola] was a cripple,
but his son drove outside Musa Isle and they called this fellow out.
He came out and faced the medicine man, standing by his truck outside
"with a shotgun, and this fellow walked up to him and took the shotgun
;charge in his chest. They left him there because no Indians would bury
'him.
P: He had done such a dishonorable thing...?
C: Well, it was a perfectly legal execution. He was an outlaw.
P: Now, would this type of action be taken under a criminal code, or is
this a part of a religious code?


21
C: Well, actually, civil and religious, they're interwoven. I mean, he had
committed a sin by killing somebody.
P: In the religious part of the activity, is there any counterpart of the
trinity? Is there a Jesus figure, is there a Holy Ghost figure? Or is
God just a single figure rather than the tri-part god?
v' C: Oh, God is a single figure, and es-te fas-ta is his emissary.
P: Does his emissary have a divine quality?
C: I would say not.
P: The emissary then is a counterpart of Jesus?
C: Yes.
P: Is there a counterpart of the Holy Ghost?
C: Not that I know of.
P: So, under the Indian religion it's a sort of a shared kind of thing,
although the emissary operates only at the behest of the supreme being?
C: [Yes.]
P: Mr. Capron, I wonder if you have given us the purpose of the Green Corn
Dance, if you could describe the dance?
C: Well, the Cow Creek dance is held at the new moon coming the last of June
or first of July. There are two more Green Corn Dances down on the Trail.
Those come before that, and have to do with the seven stars [Pleiades.]
The medicine man, having determined from the conditions of the heavens,
announces when the Green_ Corn Dance will be.
The(Green Corn Dance'itself lasts for about five or six days. Be-
fore the new moon, the Indians gather at the dance grounds. Now, the
dance grounds are not held at any permanent camp. They're a separate
camp used only at the Green Corn Dance. About five days before the new
moon, the Indians begin to gather. The first thing to do...of course,
the chickees have not been used for a year, and most of them aren't
thatched. The Indian brings in a canvas to stretch over the poles as a
' rule, but he has to clean up. They have to..clean up.. the grounds and so
forth, and the first of the GreenCorn Dance is devoted to that--build-
ing up the wood pile, and clearing the grounds; building up the clan
camps. At the Green Corn Dance the Indians do camp by clans.


22
The dance ground itself consists of a dance circle, about forty feet
across, that is cleared. Maybe inside, but usually just outside [the
dance circle], there is a tall pole about twenty feet high, which is the
ball game pole. On the west side of the dance ground is the tchoc-ko
. thloc-ko, the big house, and that's where the men sit. That is forbidden
for the women. That is on the west side of the dance circle facing the
east. Then, a distance of fifty to seventy-five to a hundred feet from
the dance ground are the clan camps at various points around. Leading
to the clan camps from the dance circle are paths through the palmet-
tos.
Now, as I say, the first days are devoted to putting the place in
shape and clearing the ground and fixing up the chickees that have not
been used for a year. Then, every night they have a ball game. Do you
want a description of the ball game?
P: Yes. Who participates in the ball game?
C: Well, the ball game is danced around a pole about twenty feet high, with
a plume still at the top. In the old days it used to be played between
different camps and then it was a knock-down and drag out affair. But
today it's played by the women against the men. Or rather, the boys
against the girls. The rackets have small (I would say about eight inch)
pockets at the end, and handles about two feet long. The ball is a deer-
skin ball, about four inches in diameter. The boys must pick it up. Each
one has two rackets, and he must pick up the ball with that, and throw
with that--he can't touch the ball himself. But to make things evener,
the women can pick up the ball with their hands and throw it. It results
in the two being pretty well matched.
,J- The idea is to throw the ball so that it hits the pole. That results
in a group of boys and a group of girls--two mixed groups on opposite
sides of the pole from each other. As it's thrown from one side to the
other, the other side picks it up and throws it back. When the score is
made, the score is kept on theplaces that have been scooped out on the
ball game pole. They play ball until along early in the evening.
P: The ball game starts after supper?
C: [Yes.] Then theydance their fun dances, which are generally over about
9:00, and then they break up and go back to the clan camps.
P: What do you mean by fun dance?
C: Well, as opposed to ceremonial dancing. Like, the Corn Dance itself is
a ceremonial dance; and the Feather Dance is a ceremonial dance. But the
Catfish Dance and the Drunk Dance, things like that, are fun dances. They


23
have no significance except they're good fun to dance. They dance those
until about 9:00, and then it breaks up.
P: Do both the men and the women participate in the fun dances?
C: Yes. But the dancing is after a certain fashion. I spoke of the tchoc-ko
thloc-ko--that's the men's house. As a rule, the dance starts with the
men lining up in front of the tchoc-ko thloc-ko. The women are not allowed
in the tchoc-ko thloc-ko, but they're out sitting around in the palmetto
scrub. After the men start their chanting, they turn to the right and
start to dance around the dance circle. This is regulated by a dance boss,
who knows the dances and is good at prodding people to dance. He goes
around with a little switch in his hand as the mark of authority. He calls
the dance, and the men line up in front of the tchoc-ko thloc-ko facing
the fire. They start the dance with their rattles and the song; then they
turn to the right and start to dance around the circle. As they start to
dance around the circle, the women come in from the palmettos where they
have been sitting, and make an outer circle around them so that they're
dancing in pairs.
P: What provides the rhythm for the dance?
C: It's the rattles. You see, before the women come in, it's the
c'rattles in the men's hands. And then when the women come on,
those rattles that are tied to their legs, form a rhythm as they
move their legs.
P: There's no kind of drum beat or anything like that?
C: No. There's one dance where the medicine man does have a drum, but
for the most part it's simply the rattles and the human voice.
P: Let's get the Green Corn Dance itself, now; the ceremony leading up
to it.
C: Well, the preliminary goes on until you come to what is known as
Picnic Day. And up to this time, every day has been [spent] putting
the place in shape and getting everything fixed up--getting the wood
pile built up--and finally you come to Picnic Day, which is a great
day for the men to eat.
P: Now, the food has been brought in as the family and clans arrive? There's
no hunting that goes on during this period?
C: No. But now something happens. The medicine man has to provide a
beef. I suppose in the old days he provided a deer for the feast. Anyway,


24
they cook that, and the women cook at the camps and bring the food down.
They can't come into the tchoc-ko thloc-ko, but they leave it [the food]
on the edge of the tchoc-ko thloc-ko and the men eat all day long. When
- They're not eating, they're sleeping. So that it's a day when men just
.stuff themselves because they're going to fast for thirty hours afterwards.
P: Do they take any liquids with the food?
' C: Oh, sofkee [a thin gruel made from ground roasted corn and water.]; and,
of course, coffee.
P: Who prepares the sofkee?
C: The women in the camps, and bring it down.
P: So there's no ritual to the sofkee?
C: No.
P: It's just prepared. And hot coffee is drunk?
C: [Yes.] That goes on all day, and all day the men feast. Of course, they
have their dance just the same, and the ball game. Finally, at midnight
the women come down and wrest any food that's left from the men, and the
V- men then start their fasts.
P: They abstain from solid food, or do they abstain from everything?
C: They abstain from solid food. They can drink anything, but they can't
eat anything.
P: But sofkee and coffee and so on, they can have that?
C: Yes. As far as I know, they can have coffee. Yes. I'm sure.
As I say, at midnight.the fasting starts. Everybody goes back to
their camps, and to sleep. Up to this time, there has been no evidence
of the medicine at all although the medicine is the basis of the Green
Corn Dance.
P: Now, the fast had started at midnight?
C: The fast had started and the next day is what the white man knows as Court
Day, but actually, to the Indian, it's No Eat-Day. It is the most impor-
tant day of the whole Green Corn Dance. The first thing in the morning,
the medicine man goes down to the...there's always a pond or water near
the Green Corn Dance [ground.] He goes down there and washes himself all


25
over, and prays that [he may] handle the medicine without it hurting
/' him. And then he begins the Black Drinks. Then he goes off to the
east and disappears somewherfe'"i the distance. In the meantime, his
assistants have been making the Black Drink. There are two Black
?-Drinks at this point. One is an infusion of the button snakeroot, and
L the other is an infusion of the inner bark of willow.
P: What was the first drink?
C: /Snakeroot. Those are cold infusions, and the Indians are taking those.
~ They are powerful emetics and purgatives, and they are taking them be-
cause...speaking of purgatives, you see, one important purpose of the
Green Corn Dance is purification. Finally, the medicine man appears in
the distance, and he ha-s'th'e:medicine bundle with him.
P: He's brought it back?
C: He's gone off there wherever he had it hidden, and has picked it up and
is bringing it back. He brings it back to the Green Corn Dance ground.
Choosing his location, which is on the west side of the dance ground,
opposite the tchoc-ko thloc-ko, he opens it and spreads it.
Now, the medicine bundle, by the way, is a packet in a deerskin
with the skin on the outside. A packet, I'd say about two and a half
feet long, three feet long; about a foot and a half wide, and about
nine or ten inches thick. It's folded inside this deerskin. He opens
the deerskin and begins to separate the medicine and so forth; and fin-
ally, after he has spread out the medicine, he picks up the bundle by
the legs so it's in a loose mass and he hangs that on a forked stick
that has been driven back of his seat at the edge of the dance ground.
They begin some of the scratching. Now, the scratching is done with
j little blocks of wood with-needles through it. Six or seven needles are
a driven through these little blocks of wood and scratching is done by
*- *j drawing those needles across the skin of the forearms and the upper arms,
the upper legs and the lower legs; across the chest and across the back.
, Every male must be scratched.
P: Who does the scratching?
C: Some of the older Indians and some of the younger ones; it doesn't seem
to make much difference. But even the Indian babies have to-be scratched--
male babies. Sam Jones, the medicine man, once saidb'to me, "You just
scratch iem a little...don't hurt 'em any." But the main thing now is
purification, and watching the medicine man undo the medicine bundle and
hang it up. [They are] not using the sweat bath yet. The men can't eat,
so as a rule they go to the tchoc-ko thloc-ko and stay there, or else
they go to their own places and sleep. They do an awful lot of sleeping
on that day.


26
P: Mr. Capron, is the scratching done each year? Every man gets scratched
annually?
C: Every man must be scratched every year. That's essential. You see, the
('bleeding is part of the purification ceremony. The men are scratched so
/' j that they bleed, but it's not necessary for the women to be scratched,
! because they bleed normally. So that part of the purification which pur-
ifies the bloodof the men, the women purify themselves by.
P: So the purification process is a blood purification?
C: That's part of it. It purifies the blood.
P: Do you know of any particular religious significance associated with that?
C: I don't know what you mean by...it's all religious.
P: Well, I just wonder. It's all religious, but I wondered why the blood
rather than something else.
C: I don't know what else it'd be.
P: Well, I don't either. I'm just wondering if there was...
C: No. It would be the blood; that would be the only thing of that nature.
Of course, you do get the sweat [cleansing] in the-sweat baths. Now,
there are some dances that may be danced--the Feather Dance might be
danced this day--but as a rule everything goes along till noon.
P: Let me back up and ask you two questions, Mr. Capron: The scratching--
is it going on all the time, or does it take place at a particular
time?
C: Well, there's more scratching done the next morning than there is that
day. It's mostly the small children that are scratched--the boys. Be-
cause some of the babies must eat, and so they scratch them. And some
of the small boys get scratched then. But for the most part, the scratch-
ing is done the next day.
P: All right, now I want to ask you one other question. You mentioned the
Feather Dance. Could you just break in here and describe the Feather
Dance and note its significance?
C: Well, the Feather Dance, I don't know what its particular significance
is, but it's danced, they say, every four years. When the Feather Dance
~ is danced, it's danced four times on Court Day; that is, two times in


27
the morning, and two times in the afternoon. It's danced with wands about
V(_eight or nine feet long with feathers on them. It's danced only by the
men, and it's a ceremonial dance. What the purpose is, I can't tell you.
It's not danced every year; it's danced every so often.
And then at noon comes court. That's the white presentation of it.
The point of a Court Dayis this: the older men have gathered in the
tchoc-ko thloc-ko, and also there are often delegations or delegates
from the other Corn Dances. There may be some up from the dances on the
Trail (Corn Dances) at the Cow Creek dance. Things are talked over that
have to do with the good of the tribe. At that time, the punishment is
meted out for any infractions of the rules. Boys are given their names,
/ and things of that kind. The marriages are announced, and so forth. At
Many rate, that's at noon, and that is the important political day. The
important political business is taken care of at that time. The after-
noon, as a rule...what I've seen mostly is the Indian men sleeping.
P: Before we go on to the afternoon: are women disciplined on Court Day, too,
for any infractions of the rules they might be involved with?
C: (Yes. There have been cases where they've been ordered to walk off (at
II/ least I understand [so]) to walk off into the distance and die when
they infracted the rules. But I don't know of any particular case that
I can tell you about.
P: Now, these are not minor infractions of the rules, which would be taken
care of by a family or a clan. These are major things that might happen.
C: No. Major infractions.
P: Well, you say the afternoon is given over to sleeping mainly.
C: Mostly. You see, the men are...there's nothing that they can eat, and
they're just about danced out, so they just sleep. Then in the evening
the big Black Drink is made up by the medicine man. He and his helpers
have hunted all around to gather the herbal.curatives that they can
find. And all of these go into the final big Black Drink which is made
up and put on the fire in the early evening.
After the ball game, the medicine man takes his place opposite the
tchoc-ko thloc-ko on the west side of the dance ground. He builds his
little fire there, and behind him he spreads the medicine on its deer
skin. Then any of the Indians that have medicine of their own--Nahaw
Tiger had piece of medicine of his own--they bring it and put it with
the tribal medicine, because tonight is the night when the life goes in-
to the medicine. Finally, they start the dances themselves.
Now, early in the evening only fun dances are danced. And all this
time, the medicine man has been going through his ceremony. All of this


28
time the Indians are sitting in their tchoc-kothloc-ko, and the medicine
man is sitting opposite them, and the dance boss is going around with his
little wand, telling them what to dance. The women are sitting out in the
palmettos, waiting to join the dance when it's reached a certain point.
The dancing starts during the early part of the evening. It's all fun
dances.
Then finally, at midnight, the big pot is brought out--I mean, the
v one that has all the medicines that are going to do good for the Indians
during the coming year. They dance, and they dance for the first time the
e Green Corn Dance itself. That is, they dance for the green corn as opposed
to the whole ceremony of the Green Corn Dance. That goes on all night
, long. They dance that dance interspersed with fun dances. Finally, when
morning comes the medicine man begins to go through his medicine, because
during the night if sa-kee tom-mas-see decides the Indians need any new
medicine, sometime during the night es-te fas-ta reaches down and puts
that new medicine in with the medicine of the tribe. Come morning, the
medicine man goes through his medicine to see if he got a new medicine
from es-te fas-ta the night before.
, And then the real purification begins,-the-real scratching. The
Black Drink--the two Black Drinks I mentioned--are copiously drunk, and
Ithe sweat bath tent .is erected, which is simply an imprevious cloth
over a franwork of saplings. The men go in there--strip down and go in
there. They go through a sweat bath, and then finally they break out
and head for the water near there, where they may wash off their scratches.
The medicine man is going through his medicine to see if he got anything
new; and when he finishes, he puts it all together, and doesit up in
' afresh deerskin. Then the men as they finish go and sit in the tchoc-ko
thloc-ko, and the medicine man, having gone through all his medicine
does up the medicine bundle as it was before--that is, in a neat packet
with the skin outside--and walks off into the east. His chief helper
stands there watching.
The women bring down the food, because after this the men can eat
the green corn. They bring down all the food and put it at the edge of
the 'dance ground. The men carry it in, but they just sit there until
the watcher--and it's supposed to be just at sunrise--the watcher looks
Y ( off to the east, and the medicine man appears there and he signals that
Lthe Green Corn Dance is over, and they start their feast.
P: Why is it called the Green Corn Dance?
C: Mainly because the green corn can't be eaten by the men until after it.
It has to do with the green corn. That's not the Indian name for it.
The Indian name for it is "No Eat Day." It's a fast.
P: Now, let me get into this question that I raised earlier, which we didn't
get on the tape. Let's get some of the social significance of the Green
Corn Dance. First of all, it's obviously a time for visiting and renew-
ing acquaintances and so on.
,...- -` .....


Cr...j,^ <;t~29
C: Well, there's no question that the Green Corn Dance will go on, but there
is a great deal of question whether it will go on in its original form.
In the first place, I don't see how it can because it takes seven years
of a boy's life to learn to be a medicine man. And under this new mater-
ial culture that the Indian is developing, he needs that time...he's got
to go to school. So, obviously, when the present medicine men die, no
longer will there be anyone with the knowledge of the medicine--what it's
for, and the ritual and everything. But outside of that, it's a great
social event, because it's when everybody gets together, when you see all
of your friends. As we spoke earlier, it's a great mating. occasion.]
' Certainly, the women aren't going to see it fall into disuse because it's
too good a place to meet young, susceptible, prospective husbands. So
that there's no question in my mind that the Green Corn Dance will go
on, but it will go on as a social event rather than a religious event.
P: In the Indian culture, marriages are not arranged by the elders?
C: Well, in the old days the elders had a great deal to do with it, but
-today the elders have very little to do with it. Of course, even the
v; idea of not being allowed to marry within your clan is being neglected
today. Everything's changing in that sense because you weren't supposed
to marry within yourclan...and yet today some of them do it.
P: Young boys and girls meet each other at the Green Corn Dance--is there
much sexual permissiveness?
C: Well, there certainly didn't used to be. But I imagine there is more
today. I don't know. It's something that's hard to observe.
P: What is your own feeling about morality among Indians?
C: My impression of the Indian is that...the old Indian as I first knew
him was a very honest person. I've seen plenty of examples where he
went out of his way to be more than honest. And outside of his pre-
dilection for liquor, I don't think he had very many faults. All my
i friends have been good friends, and I can thoroughly trust them, and I
/ have a great respect for the old Indian. But to tell you the truth, I
. can't feel the same way toward [some of] the Indians of today. [They've]
lost that primitive culture--those primitive habits that made [the old
- Indian] such a wonderful character.


Full Text

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SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: INTERVIEWER: LOUIS CAPRON SAMUEL PROCTOR DATE: June 28, 1971

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P: We are going to record an oral history interview this afternoon with Mr. Louis Capron. We are here in his home in West Palm Beach. Mr. Capron and I are going to talk about his early life and his interest in the Florida Seminole Indians. Mr. Capron, I want to start off by asking you where you were born. C: I was born in one of the suburbs of Albany, New York in the town of Colonie, [Menands] •... At a very early age, the family moved to Oneonta, New York, which is in the Cooper country, and, of course, alive with Indian lore. There was a family friend [in Oneonta] by the name of Willard Yager, who had been a journalist, and had retired. [He] had laid aside enough to support him and was devoting his life to a study of the Indians of the upper Susquehanna Valley. And we kids, under his tutelage, used to go out and hunt the fields, and bring our arrow heads and whatever we might find into Yager, and he would take what he wanted. But he also filled us with stories of the Indians and in terest in the Indians, and at that time my collecting of books on the Indians really began. P: Did you get your elementary and high school education there? C: Well, that had to do me--hunting the fields around there--until I went to college. [He went to the public schools in Oneonta and to St. John's Manlius, a preparatory school located in Manlius, New York.] P: You went to Yale? C: Went to Yale. I was taking a course in chemistry, but I found that there was a great deal of Indian interest around there. There were the shell heaps along the river, and we used to go out to those shell heaps and dig and collect whatever material we could-potsherds and things of that kind. P: This was for the Peabody Museum? C: Well, this was before my connection with the Peabody Museum. George Grant Mccurdy was the very famous anthropologist who was at the head of that branch of the Peabody Museum there, and I managed to inveigle him into letting me sit in--I was an undergraduate/not entitled to sit in, but he had two graduate courses in American archaeology, and he kindly allowed me to sit in with a couple of divinity students. Al though I got no credit for it, I increased my connection with the shell heaps, and so forth, and my interest in the Indians.

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2 While I was still at Yale, another fellow and myself were appointed to make an archaeological survey of the Connecticut River Valley for the Yale Peabody Museum, and that increased my connection. But all this time, I was collecting materials and information, so that before I got through I had a pretty good basic knowledge of Indians and what their beliefs were; what their daily lives were like. Mostly, I found that I was interested in their esoteric life. In 1925 I came to Florida. P: What brought you to Florida? C: Well, the Boom as much as anything else. I had been in the mercantile game, and it looked like a chance to advance myself if I came to Flo rida. P: When you left Yale with your degree, you went back to New York? C: I went back to Oneonta, and I was really going into the journalistic field. But when I came to Florida, I went into the mercantile end of it. P: Did you come directly to West Palm Beach? C: Came directly to West Palm Beach, to the old Palm Beach Mercantile Company there. P: What brought you here rather than to any other place in Florida? C: Because [of] W.R. Dacamara, the head of the Mercantile Company. His wife was my mother's great friend. They came up [north] and spent the summer before I came down here with us in Oneonta, and I came down to join the Palm Beach Mercantile Company. P: Now, what was this? Wholesale-retail? C: This was a wholesale-retail, a general [department store.] [Here is a break in the narrative.] C: The thing is that the older Indians preferred a simple life, and they didn't ask for much. Since they didn't ask for much they didn't have to have much money, nor did they. What they were afraid of was that

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3 the children, if they were educated in a white school, [would want] to live like white people, and they didn't want to change their way of life. They wanted few things, and they were willing to get along with few things to have the independence to live as they wanted to. P: They felt that the children getting educated would begin moving away from Indian tradition? C: Well, they felt that to educate the children would be to draw the children away from them. P: And that this was bad, then? C: Oh, yes. Because they didn't want to change their was of life. P: Well, how did the few children then go to school if there was resent ment on the part of the elders? C: Well, most of them didn't. They kept them close to themselves. But a few for example, some of the Indians in the tourist camps like [Musa Isle, in Miami] and places like that, those Indians might go ~ ..to school. Now, Tony Tommie went one year to Carlisle [Indian School / in Pennsylvania.] Well, he taught two of his brothers to write Eng! lish and to talk English; that was Sam Tommie and the Brownie Tommie ..._ I have letters from both of them. But the main thing is that the older v ' ' Tndians were satisfied with their life as they lived it. In other words they had their I don't know what kind of a culture you want to call it, but it was a naturalistic culture, and our efforts right [along] have been to inoculate them with the germ of a materialistic culture. Once you do that, they're gone. P: Mr. Capron, during this early period when you were forming your begin ning friendships with Sam Tommie and the others, were you coming to the reservation to visit them C: Yes. P: on the days that you had off? Were there any special occasions other than the Sun Dance [West Palm Beach annual tourist attraction and cele bration] planning that you were involved in with these Indians? C: Well, of course there was the powwow that they have annually 1 up at Brighton [Indian reservation] on the cattle business up there. P: Now, this is after 1935--after they set up the cattle industry? C: Yes.

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4 P: What were these powwows like? Can you explain one of those? . . -~•,,..,.,, , .lo; _ ......,_.,.,_~ .. . -, _ '"7-,.. . , .J . , . ....... ._ ..... ~,,., C: Well, they had a pie eating contest, and a beauty contest and baby contest and all those kinds of things. P: Sounds like these were all white man's innovations. C: It was copied from well, that's really what it was. They were getting away from their own festival into a white festival, mainly because they wanted the whites to come. P: These were public affairs? Whites came to these things? C: P: These were public affairs. The whites came, and they had a barbecue, and the Indians sold theJ:i;,, .. handiwork and charged so much for meals and so forth." w ---What about the Indian festivals themselves--not the ones that were set up to attract whites, but the traditional Indian festivals? C: Well, there were two. One was the Green Corn Dance, and that was held ~ every year. What the Green Corn Dance was the point of it was to \ keep the medicine alive and keep the Indian healthy. Now, the medicine ) is the crux of everything. The medicine is the sacred medicine in the \ medicine bundle, or the medicine bundles. At any rate, it is something ,_ alive that controls everything that is good for the Indians. For exampl.e, there's a little stone in the medicine which . is . the same as the stone that is used in the . sw,eat..--ba~h [a men's cleansing ceremony at the Corn Dance], and that stone in the medicine is alive. That stone tells all stones o f that kind everywhere how to function to make the sweat-bath healthful. If that stone died--the one in the medicine bundle--sweat baths would no longer be healthful. P: Well, the dance then maintains the life of. ? C: It maintains the life of the medicine. The point of it here is the con nection of the medicine. P: They are symbolic things which ? C: They're not symbolic. They're controlling things. They're not symbols. They're things. They're alive. I don't know how to explain it beyond that. Here is a bundle of [six or] seven hundred different articles, and each one of them is alive although there are some that are dead, that have died for some reason or other.

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5 P: The dead ones are kept within the bundle? C: [Yes.] But the Green Corn Dance is to keep that medicine alive, and it's done by the faith of the Indians. P: When is the Green Corn Dance held? C: It's held at different times. There are three Green Corn Dances. The Green Corn Dances on the Tamiami Trail and that group around there are held based on the seven stars Pleiades [when they make their reappear ance.] But the Cow Creek Green Corn Dance is held the last new moon in June or the first new moon in July, whichever comes nearest that time. P: Does it mean it's being held approximately now? C: It's being held now. P: The third group, then, would hold its dance when? You said there was a third Green Corn Dance. C: Well, there are two on the Trail, and each one of them has its own medicine man and his assistant. P: And these are in the constellation determines the times for these? C: For the two, although I'm not dead certain just how they figure it. But theirs always come before the Cow Creek Dance. P: I see. Now where would the Cow Creek Green Corn Dance be held? C: It'll be held up near Fort Drum [thirty-five miles north of Lake Okee chobee.] P: Is it always held in the same place? C: No. It had to be moved this year because the land was sold. It's been moved two or three times. I think once it was moved because the medi cine man died at it. P: And that was a bad omen or something? C: [Yes.] P: Who determines where it's going to be held? C: The medicine man. P: He is the spiritual leader of the tribe?

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C: [Yes.] P: And it's his decision alone? C: Well, no, He interprets the signs in the heavens. P: I see. So he becomes the spokesman, then? C: [Yes.] P: As the spiritual leader, he's the spiritual interpreter? C: Yes. P: Now, how large an area do they need for the dance? 6 C: Well, they need quite an area. I mean a good many acres. The dance circle is about forty feet across, and then I'd say the clan camps The Ind{0 ians are camped by clans like spokes of a wheel out from the dance circle, and they may be 150 feet or something like that from the dance circle. P: Do the Indians bring their own food and other supplies with them? C: /Yes, except that on Picnic Day [third day of the Corn Dance ceremony] the medicine man must provide the meat. He provided a deer, I suppose, in the old days, but now he provides a steer. For the rest, the indiv \ iduals bring their own food. P: They come as family units? C: Yes. P: Men, women, and children? C: [Yes.] P: And they travel by car, I guess, now? C: Yes, today. P: How long do the ceremonies last? 1,., ... / C: About five, six days. P: So it's a week's activity by the time they come and depart?

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7 C: They may not come early in the game, but somebody has to come, be cause the first part of it they're putting the place in shape. You see, they only use it during the Green Corn Dance, and they have to rethatch the houses [chickees], and clean up around the grounds. P: So the grounds are left? They're relatively permanent, and they're only used for this purpose? C: Yes. P: Are they out so that the public will not intrude on it C: Yes. P: .•. during the year? Do they maintain any guard over C: No. P: this property at all, since it's sacred property? C: No, because there's nothing there to [guard.] But it's not sacred then. P: It's only sacred at the time that the medicine bundles are there? C: At the time they're there, [yes.] P: Where are the medicine bundles kept during the interim? C: Nobody knows. They're in charge of the medicine man, but he has two assistants, and one of them may be taking care of the medicine bundles. P: And it's their responsibility to bring these to the Green Corn Dance? C: No, the medicine man produces them. P: Now, I wanted to ask you, Mr. Capron, how you first became interested in [the] Florida Seminoles. C: Well, I'd been interested in Indians, of course, and here in Florida there were some live Indians--! didn't have to study them in books or in their artifacts. I [could] study the Indians themselves and make a connection with them. P: What was your first physical contact with them? 9: ( My first physical contact was after the hurricane of 1926. I had been 1,,.,.,f working with the [American] Legion here, getting supplies down to the I..

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8 hurricane area in Hollywood and Miami, and at the end of the week they were making up packages of relief material to go down to scattered set,.t:lements in that section. There were ten bundles there that were headed ( for the Indians at Dania, and I grabbed on to those as my job to find / those Indians and take [those] supplies to them. At that time they were ~in a field between Hollywood and Dania. The Indians, although I didn't know it then, probably had their village where the village was later, when they fixed up the reservation out there [at Dania.] The Indians had come in and taken possession of a shed--it was a large shed, and it didn't, as I remember, have any windows, but it was protection. They had their clothes hanging out on all the bushes around. Tony Tommie was back there at that time. At any rate, they received the clothes and things that were in the ten packages very gladly, and they were trying them on and [parading] around with them. P: Who was Tony Tommie? C: Tony Tommie was the one who went to Carlisle [Ind i an boarding school in Pennsylvania], and he was the one Tommie boy with the best education. For a long time he was their leader there certainly in their contacts with the whites. P: Not a chief--just sort of a liaison man? C: Right. He was the one who interested his brothers ..• in fact, he taught Sam Tommie and Brownie Tommie to read and write. He taught them to read and write, so that when I met Sam Tommie he was very articulate, and he could write and we could correspond. At any rate, they were glad to get the clothing and things [that had been] brought in. That was my first contact with them. P: They obviously had weathered the hurricane without much difficulty. C: Oh, yes. A hurricane didn't make a great deal of difference to the In dians, particularly in those days, because they could rehabilitate themselves in a day and rebuild their _ _ _ houses. A hurricane really meant very little to them. P: That was your first contact with the Indians? C: That was my first direct contact. P: How did you build up a lasting friendship with them? C: Well, that really came when I was working on the Sun Dance for the West Palm Beach committee.

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9 P: Tell us about that project. C: Well, back in the old days the [tourist] season was relatively short. It lasted after the holidays until Washington's birthday, and after Washington's birthday, the season was over. With the idea of lengthen ing that season, the West Palm Beach people--Palm Beach County peopleinaugurated a festival which they called the Sun Dance. That was to come on after the regular season had ended. It was based on the Indian motif, and there were Indians brought in for that--and they established a camp that was one of the features of the [Sun] Dance. Then they put on [Ind ian] dances. They also had a festival--a white festival there with merry -go-rounds and things of that kind. That lasted for four or five days. Well, that had been discontinued the year I came down. I came down in the late fall of 1925. Everybody had been so busy trading in real estate that when it came time to plan for the Sun Dance festival, everybody was all [involved] in real estate, and so they dropped it. When I first came to town there was a big sign about the Sun Dance, and I was looking forward to having it when I was here. But they didn't put it on that year. It went along several years without any Sun Dance, and then they decided to revive it. What started it was a nurses' organ ization or something of that kind was going to put on a parade, and they were going to call it the Sun Dance. But a couple of us had talked them into reviving the old Sun Dance; and I volunteered to handle the Indian end of it. That plan finally went through, and I went down to Dania where I contacted Sam Tommie. Sam Tonnnie and I and Oscar Johns from Brighton spent every weekend that winter going around to the different Indian camps and getting the Indians to promise to come in for the Sun Dance. P: Where were the Indian camps then located? C: Well, there were a number of them at Indiantown and up in that section; and where the Brighton Reservation is now, up in there; and then there was the one down there at Dania. Of course, there were others down in Miami. By that time the Pirates's Cove had become a sightseeing place in stead of a trading post. It's interesting how those sightseeing parks down there originated. In the old days, the Indians up the Miami River used to come down to do their trading along the Miami River in Miami. In order to take care of them while they were there, the different people that ran these trading posts established camps that were for the convenience of the Indians who came in to trade. It got to be one of the sightseeing events of Miami to go out to these camps and see the Indians. When the trading end ed, and they no longer brought their skins in and so forth, these trading posts maintained their Indian villages as sightseeing villages. They in duced the Indians to come in and live in these huts. That was how these [places] like the Musa Isle and Pirate's Cove and so forth became sight seeing places.

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10 P: Now, on the Sun Dance, you were able then to bring these people together for the first revived Sun Dance. This is in the early 1930's? C: Yes. Yes, and we put on the real Indian dances. Up to that time, they'd been more or less artificially manufactured; it was just something to see the Indians dancing arourld, but there was nothing authentic about it. But when our Sun Dance came on, the Indians did their authentic dances. I got to know them very well, because I was in charge of every thing [concerning the Indians.} I took _ care of their finances and their food; I brought their food in; and in alL.things I took care of the In dian angle of it. P: Where were these Sun Dances held here in West Palm Beach? C: Well, that one was held down on [Phillips] Point, if I remember correctly. P: And the Indians camped right there? C: They had their camp. Of course, there were seats lined up and a platform an area for shows to be put on, and there were other shows besides the Indian dances. I know one thing that surprised me was the amount of food those Indians could eat. P: Mr. Capron, the first real friend, then, that you had among the Indians was Sam Tommie? C: Yes. P: He was your first contact. What kind of a man was he? C: Well, he was a very sincere man; very sincere. He was interested in their culture, and he probably knew as much about their esoteric life as anyone outside of the actual medicine men and their helpers. He later became a Christian, and he was just as sincere a Christian, but he still was a wonderful source of information on their customs and be liefs. P: Can we talk a little bit about their customs and beliefs now? I think that probably you, as much as any other person, kno~ about their dances and so on. We talked about both the Green Corn Dance and the Hunting Dance when I was here before. I wonder if you could describe the Hunt ing dance first of all, because I know there's not too much known about that. ----" '\ , / ' C: ( Well, the{fiunting _ _!) j lJlCe ) wasn't held every year. The purpose of it was to 1 1 bring suc~ nhunting and to prevent the Indians from being struck by \ rattlesnakes. It was also called the Snake Dance. \ ' The dance is supposed to be held at the full moon in September, but _\

PAGE 12

11 it doesn't always conform to that rule. It's held at a convenient place --not at the Green Corn Dance [ground]--a place where there are perman ent camps in . an arrangement that makes for the convenience of the dance itself. The dance ground is more or less like that of the Green Corn Dance, except that there is no tchoc-ko thloc-ko. There is a circular ( dance ground, but the important things are the posts. There are four of ./ / these at some distance from each other, and it is around these posts ;, that the Snake Dance is danced. The first days of this (it's a matter of five or six days), as in the case of the Green Corn Dance, have to do with getting the dance ground in shape and so forth. The men set out on one day toward the end of the dance [ceremony] to devote their whole day to hunting. Every man, in order to take part in the dance, must contribute some kind of food. Even the little boys contribute fish or something [which] they can ac quire easily. Two days before the end of the dance, the men start out in the morning, bunting. As they bring game in, and the boys bring their fish in, and [small] things like that, they're placed on a platform made of palmetto logs. I would say that platform was about eight feet square, and [of] heavy logs. Adjacent to it there are two small cooking fires~t least in the one I have in mind there were two small cooking fires. ) As meat is brought in, it's cooked in these fires, and then thrown up l , on this table made of the palmetto logs. Under this table, there is a i smudge fire burning to keep the flies off. So all day long, the Indians { are hunting, and the next day, they're bringing in what they have captured to be cooked and put on the platform. _ _ ..--, Every night up to this time there has been dancing and a ball J game--there's a ball game pole at the dance ground. They have a ball 'game and they dance until this last day when the men are all hunting. The food is piled up on this table with the smudge fire under it, and finally on the last day the men get up on the table and break up the meat that's up there, and put it in burlap sacks. Directing all this there are two boys, two heralds if you want to ( call them that. They're known as the hod-chee sha-ka-lee--the deer tail l bearers. Each one of them has a wand (which he carries against his right \/ / shoulder) about ten feet long, and from the end of it hang two rings, ) one below the other. Finally, below the last ring, a deer tail. They sig \ nify the snake. While these boys are in their official capacity they carry these poles against their right shoulder. Come evening, the ceremonies are transferred to the dance ground, and there's a ball game. Finally, led by the heralds, they begin to ( bring the meat over to the dance ground and pile it near the logs that : are there for seats. Then the men start the dance. They line up first. 'The posts are there around which they are going to dance, and they start out and dance in [a] figure eight around the first two posts--the one to the right of the men's seats there; and the one beyond it. They dance a figure eight around [the first post], and as more men join, of course, they go on to the next post. Finally they're dancing figure eights round the first post and the second post, and then they're dancing fig ure eights around the second post and the third post.

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12 After about twice around, the women come in and begin to join the dance. The rattles on their legs begin to give more cadence to the dance itself. In the old days they were bundles of turtle shells, with seeds or something in them. But it's come to the point now where they're condensed milk cans with seeds or something inside. By the way they move their legs, they can give cadence to the beat. So finally they're dancing around three posts, and then finally they're dancing around four posts. At the dance that I have in mind, there were about forty or fifty dancers, so that it was pretty hard for them to make the rounds of two posts at a time. But they did it, and kept in order until they had gone around the post the requisite number of times, and they were going around the four posts at the same time in the same round. They didn't break up; in fact, they stayed in line, right along through, and the boys (the heralds) took pails of water down the line so that they could refresh themselves. This went on and on. ,,-Finally, at midnight, they started the feast. I don't believe I've l mentioned how they brought it over. Before all this dancing started, the men at the meat platform had climbed up on it and were breaking up the meat into small units. A piece of deer meat might be divided into sever al units, and probably some small birds or something like that would be on spits making one unit. At any rate, these were put into burlap sacks and carried over to the dance ground. Finally, at midnight, they started the feast, and come morning the dance was over. , That was the Hunting Dance. Its purpose had been to insure good , ,/ i hunting for the Indians during the coming year, and safety from any L snake bites. P: Mr. Capron, is there any specific number of days that these dances were held, or was this varied? C: Well, I would say in the Green Corn Dance it was five or six days, and maybe in the Hunting Dance it would only be four or five days. P: Was this a specified number of days? Every Hunting Dance would be four or five days? C: Well, I'd probably say yes. Although of course in the old days there were dances down on the Trail, then dances in the Cow Creek country, so they might differ that way. Do the medicine men have anything to do with the Hunting Dance? Nothing at all. It's entirely somebody who is recognized as to his ability to put it on. In fact, at this dance in . question, the medicine man wasn't even there.

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13 P: Why is it that the dance i s : held so irregularly, as compared to the Green Corn Dance? C: Well, if it's a full moon in September, that isn't [irregular.] P: It's held every time there is a full moon in September? C: No. Opinions differ very much on how often it is held. ,it should be held every four years; some people tell you held every year. Some people say it should be P: I just wondered why it was less of a continuity to the Hunting Dance as compared to the Green Corn Dance. C: Well, because the Hunting Dance isn't held every year and the Green Corn Dance is. And the Hunting Dance is not as important a ceremony as the ,. . Green Corn Dance. You must remember the Hunting Dance has only to do with actual hunting, and that one phase of their life, whereas the Green Corn Dance is every phase of the Indian's life. P: Who determines when the Hunting Dance is going to be held? C: I imagine it's some man who is recognized as an authority on it. He knows how to put it on, and what is necessary. Billy Stewart, I believe, did it for several years. It all depends on this man, or somebody like that who will start it off, as far as I know. P: Does the Hunting Dance in any way have as one of its purposes to bring young people together so that they can meet? C: No. P: It has no mating significance? C: No. No mating significance. Purely a hunting proposition. P: Sort of an economic type of thing? C: Yes. P: Can we go from there now to the Green Corn Dance, and describe it, and move from it into the religious significance of it? C: Well, of course, the Green Corn Dance is the great ceremony of the Sem inole Indians and the Miccosukee Indians, and if you go back of that, the Creeks and allied tribes. It is based on the sacred medicine. When

PAGE 15

14 the Indians came up out of the ground; es-te fas..:.ta, the "give" person, the mediary between God and man I'll go back of that. For the Indian, ( before the Indians came up [out of the ground] este ..:. mattee, who was ) known as the "find" person went around picking up things. He didn't ._, c1' f know why he picked them up, except that he made a big collection of ) things. Later, these things were given to the Indians by God through l es-te fas-ta, the bring person. They were given to man through es-te fas-ta as the sacred medicine. Now, thismedicine is alive. It has ( been transformed (if you want to put it that w a y) ' from the inanimate / things that este..:.Iilattee picked up into a collection of items which are t alive. Each one of them has an element of importance for the Indians. When you take them in the aggregate--that is when you take them all . togetherthey represent and include everything there is for the good v of the Indian. Items in the medicine control the items that they represent in (' the world itself. For example, there is in the medicine a stone which l is the same stone as is used in sweat baths. That stone, which is liv L ing, is in control of all the stones of that kind. That stone influences every stone of that nature to function properly in its purpose for the Indian. Now, if that stone in the Green Corn Dance which is alive died, no longer would the sweat bath be efficient. It could no longer bring health to the Indians. I hope I've made it clear that medicine is of extreme importance. In fact, it's invaluable to the Indians as controlling everything that is for their good, and it must be kept alive. That is one of the two purposes of the Green Corn Dance. The first purpose is to keep the / ) act of faith on the Indians' part, in putting on the dance and going v ~ through this purification and all that, keeps the life in the medicine. / If they neglected the Green Corn Dance, the medicine would die; the ' "-I ndians would die; and in fact, the world would come to an end. So, the Green Corn Dance is important in order to keep the medicine alive, [-~nd the second importance of the Green Corn Dance is to keep the In dian healthy. Those two purposes are the purposes of the Green Corn Dance. Everything in the Green Corn Dance is aimed at achieving [those] purposes. And one important think is it's a great purification dance it's the dance in which the Indians purify their [bodies] and purify their lives. P: I'd like you to tell me the role of the medicine man--how he assumed the responsibility. C: ( The medicine man has been trained by his predecessor--by the medicine ( man who preceded him--for seven years. He has to devote his life when , / I young to seven years of study and [preparation] with an accredited med icine man. At that time, after a certain ceremony that he goes through with the medicine man himself, he has become a full-fledged medicine man. But he has to learn; he has to learn all. Every piece of medicine

PAGE 16

15 (has a purpose and a song that goes with it that the young medicine man ,.,.,,. J must know. He must know all about herbs and things of that kind, and lhow to use them, and the song for them. P: C: P: P: C: P: C: P: C: P: C: One thing that occurs to me here is the fact that the years when the young fellow has to be studying to be a medicine man are the years today when he has to go to school, which shows why there are going to be no new medicine men--simply because the modern culture that the In dians are adopting makes it impossible. Their culture, then, is dying? That's the price they pay for a material culture. Won't this bring about their destruction? Because they will not be able to maintain the Green Corn Dance, which is vital to their perpetuity. They will maintain a Green Corn Dance of a kind, but it will be imposs ible to maintain a Green Corn Dance in the form and in all the implicat tions in which it's been held all these years, simply because there won't be an actual, real medicine man. The medicine man serves as a spiritual leader; is he also a physician? You say he has to know herbs. Well, he does, but the herb doctor is a different thing. He has to study under an herb doctor, and that is four years of study. After he has served with an herb doctor for four years he himself can become an herb doctor. Most of the medicine men--1 think all the medicine menare also herb doctors, but not all herb doctors are medicine men. Now, the medicine men--who are the religious leaders, the spiritual leaders--they get their information, their knowledge, by training under a medicine man? Right. This is part of the oral tradition; it passes on from one to the other? Yes. Right. There are no written records No. P: that they must maintain? Now, they keep the medicine bundle. Would you explain the medicine bundle?

PAGE 17

C: Well, originally there was probably one medicine bundle; but during the [Seminole] War, war parties needed some sacred medicine with them on their trips. So the medicine was divided so that Of course, some of these bundles were lost after battles and so forth, but at the end of the big war (1835 to 1842) [The Second Seminole War] the remaining medicine was made up irito three bundles. Then there were individual Indians who had individual pieces or medicine. These three bundles then came in charge of three medicine men, so that today there are three bundles. They speak of them as war medicine, among other things. There are three bundles for three medicine men. I say today back forty or fifty years ago there were three bundles, each with a medicine man, and each medicine man had two helpers. Now you're beginning to get into the clan system. A medicine man had to be Panther clan or Tiger clan, depend[ing] on whether he was Cow Creek or Miccosukee. P: In order to be a medicine man? C: In order to be a medicine man, he had to be a Tiger or a Panther. P: Are these special kinds of tribes? Are these select clans? C: No. Now you're getting into a different thing. There were clans before the Indians came up out of the ground. For example, there was the Wind clan and there was a Tiger clan, Panther clan, and they came up out of the ground. The Panther clan, the head was too large to get through the hole they were coming out of, so the Wind clan blew through and enlarged it and let the Panther clan out. At any rate, there were most of the clans that now exist at the beginning of things there, and they were divided inr -to two classifications. One was headed by the Panther clan; the other was headed by the Wind clan. They were given two functions. The Panther clan ) contained the medicine men; and so they wouldn't be too powerful, the { Wind clan was given the dance ground. In other words, you had a material " and a religious group. The religious group was headed by the Panther clan, and the material group headed by the Wind clan. The Green Corn Dance it self was owned by the Panther clan, but the dance grounds [were] owned by the Wind clan. Now, to go back of that, the clan was passed on by the woman. All of her children belonged to her clan. But of course, it was a rule that they could not marry in their own clan. P: Could you repeat that? C: Yes. They must marry in their clan, and a man must go and live with his wife in his wife's clan. But he maintained his own clan. In this way, no medicine man would be succeeded by his son. That also resulted in (~nother thing. The father had no claims on the children whatsoever. Nor ( did he have anything to do with training his children. His children were

PAGE 18

f trained by his wife's brothers; that is, a boy was trained by his uncle, I __ . .._.._,.,.. .., , ...... ..... ..,.. _ ,,_,, __ ., _ _ __ .. f not his father. '-,. P: Who disciplined the children? Was it the father, or would the uncle dis cipline ? C: Well, the uncle would if his mother didn't. In other words, he's not act v ually, from a clan standpoint, related to his father at all. He's related to his uncle. P: C: P: P: In the same way, the clans themselves are divided into two types--one of them headed by the Panther clan; the other one headed by the Wind clan. Those are the principal clans, but they each have nephew clans. For example, the Panther clan would have the Wildcat clan, or clans of that nature, that would be its nephews. The Wind clan would have its own nephews, and practic ally all clans were so divided. Mr. Capron, because the relationship between a boy and his uncle is so close, what was the boy's attitude toward his own father? Well, he loved his father, but his father really had no authority over him. So the male figure, then, for the child, is the uncle rather than the father? [Yes.] And any training that would be done would be done by the uncle and not by the father. What is the father's role in the family, then? v" ' C: Just to procreate the children, I suppose. Of course, he has the further job of providing food and so forth. P: He'd go hunting and bring ? C: Yes. He has to go hunting and [carry on] the agriculture. P: He has no role as far as the clans activities are concerned? He is not a part of the governing body at all of the clan? C: No. \ P: He makes no decisions on where or what or how? \,, ,<'' } ( C: That's right. His wife and children do. He has l .nothing to say about that.

PAGE 19

18 P: And if his wife doesn't like the kind of living that he's providing, how does she get rid of him? C: Well, it's generally accepted--she just throws his things out of the chick ee, and that's that. P: She's divorced as of that action. Can she then take another husband? C: After a reasonable time, yes. P: And what happens to him? C: He goes back to his own family. P: I see. He can acquire another wife, after a reasonable amount of time? C: Yes. But he goes back to his own mother, you see, and his own clan. P: Is there much of this? Is this the way things go today? C: Oh, it's all changed now; everything's changed. P: Can we talk about the religious part of the thing? I'm anxious to get back, if possible, to the Indian attitude toward death and the Indian attitude toward God, that is I'm anxious to have that on tape. C: Well, that's a little bit different, because from the very beginning there has been proselyting on the part of the Christians. So that in some ways it's very difficult to separate the original religion, and so ( forth, But the main thing the supreme being is sa-kee tom-mas-see, ( the master of breath. He is God, But he is not i~direct communication \ with the human being. For example, to show you what I mean by that, my introduction to this angle of religion was one morning Sam Tommie and I were out on an alligator hunt, and we had just finished breakfast, and were sitting around talking, and Sam said, "Did I ever tell you how Jesus Christ came to the Seminoles?" I said, "No." And he told me the story of es..;.te fas-ta. /"' To the Indian mind, Christ had the same relation to God that es-te { fas-ta, the "give" person, had to sa-kee tom..;.mas-ee, the master of,. breath. And that, in one way, has paved the way for so much Christianizing of the Indians, because they identified Christ with es-te fas-ta. The Indians have said, so many times to me, "There is only one God. The white V "' man's God and the Indian god are the same." The picture I'm going to give you now is based on information given me by Josie Billie. Now, Josie Billie is a very articulate

PAGE 20

Indian who has been west to the Seminoles in Oklahoma, and is well acquainted with Creek legends and so forth, but he has the only ex planation of this that Lhave been able to discover. To start with, you'll take the individual as the center of a circle. The circle is roughly some distance from the individual, who is the center of it. The Indian idea seems to have certain aspects of the Egyptian. That f is, there are three parts of an individual. There is the individual 1 himself; he has a soul and he has a ghost. When you dream, your soul .fl . is away from the body. If for any reason the soul can't get back, .! you're dead. When you are sick, your soul leaves the body and goes i north. The color of north is black. The soul is followed by the medicine man trying to call him back to the body. Finally, he gets to the circumference of the circle, with the medicine man still trying to call him back. When he gets to the circle itself, he turns toward , the east. And the medicine man is still trying to call him back. But f he goes around on the circle until he gets to a . point directly east t i . of the center. If he reaches that point, the medicine man loses, and has to return. Then the soul goes across the bridge into the west. Now, whether he crosses on the Milky Way or what, I don't know, but the main thing is that the soul is attacked by bi rds that try to tear him away. But he makes the journey in safety; he gets to the west and ~,, ,,.,happiness. P: C: P: Would that be the counterpart of heaven? That would be the counterpart of heaven. What its nature is, I can't tell you. ~ Now you come to the ghost. When a person dies, his or her family \ must stay with the body for four days. During that time, no one must J leave, even to get food. Friends have to bring in the food. At the end J of four days, the body is taken to some place far away from anybody \ where it's hidden. It's hidden on a low, narrow chickee, withathatch i ed, pitched roof. The body is placed in there, and with the body are it placed utensils and things that the Indian might use in the after life, but they are broken so they will be killed just as he is dead. So that ~ he can take them, use them, with him. Along these lines, when I was with Sam Tommie in New York we look ed at the Indian exhibits in the Museum of Natural History. Sam came to mushrooms and he said, "You eat them things." And I said, "Yes." "Well," he said, "that ghost food. Ghosts eat that and those itty bitty bugs you see around corpses, around dead people." Do the Indians have a counterpart of the Christian hell, where the evil people go?

PAGE 21

20 C: I haven't heard of any. Of course, you must understand it's next to impossible to get any of this material. It's the most difficult chal lenge there is. And most of the Indians, I don't think, have much of a conception of it themselves. P: Do the Indians have any way of atoning for sin, for evil things that they have done? Can they make up for this in any way? C: Not that I know of. But as a ,rule, they are very tolerant of people who have sinned, or broken rules who have repented of it. P: Sin is quickly and easily forgiven, then? C: Most things, yes. 1,,,,,.-'i>: What about individuals who have badly misbehaved; who have taken a human life, or murdered? C: Well, then they can be executed. I can't give you his name, offhand, but this one man had killed several Indians in the Tiger clan when he was drunk. Each time, of course, he owed his life then to the Tiger clan. And the Tiger clan had forgiven him in the hopes that he'd reform; but he didn't reform. Finally, he beat up a pregnant woman. This time, the Tiger clan decided he must die. The head of the Tiger clan [John Osceola] went to the medicine man and told him that the clan had decided the man must die. So the medicine man gave him tobacco to smoke, because you must remember that when you kill anybody, you have committed a serious crime, whether you killed him legally or not. The medicine man agreed that he [John Osceola] should kill this fellow, and gave him tobacco to smoke so that he wouldn't lose his own [senses.] The murderer lived at Musa Isle. Old [John Osceola] was a cripple, but his son drove outside Musa Isle and they called this fellow out. He came out and faced the medicine man, standing by his truck outside /"with a shotgun, and this fellow walked up to him and took the shotgun .,,.,,., ) charge in his chest. They left him there because no Indians would bury '--him. P: He had done such a dishonorable thing ? C: Well, it was a perfectly legal execution. He was an outlaw. P: Now, would this type of action be taken under a criminal code, or is this a part of a religious code?

PAGE 22

21 C: Well, actually, civil and religious, they're interwoven. I mean, he had committed a sin by killing somebody. P: In the religious part of the activity, is there any counterpart of the trinity? Is there a Jesus figure, is there a Holy Ghost figure? Or is God just a single figure rather than the tri-part god? ,/ C: Oh, God is a single figure, and es-te fas-ta is his emissary. P: Does his emissary have a divine quality? C: I would say not. P: The emissary then is a counterpart of Jesus? C: Yes. P: Is there a counterpart of the Holy Ghost? C: Not that I know of. P: So, under the Indian religion it's a sort of a shared kind of thing, although the emissary operates only at the behest of the supreme being? C: [Yes.] P: Mr. Capron, I wonder if you have given us the purpose of the Green Corn Dance, if you could describe the dance? C: Well, the .cow Creek d~n.~~ isc:held at the new moon coming the last of June or first of July.There are two more Green Corn Dances down on the Trail. Those come before that, and have to do with the seven stars [Pleiades.] The medicine man, having determined from the conditions of the heavens, announces when the Greea, Corn Dance will be. The (Green Corn Dan<;;.eJ itself lasts for about five or six days. Be fore the new moon, cne ... ,Indians gather at the dance grounds. Now, the dance grounds are not held at any permanent camp. They're a separate camp used only at the Green Corn Dance. About five days before the new moon, the Indians begin to gather. The first thing to do of course, the chickees have not been used for a year, and most of them aren't thatched. The Indian brings in a canvas to stretch over the poles as a rule, but he has to clean up. Theyhaye.to clean up,,,the._grounds and so forth, and the first of the Greeii''cori{ Dance is devoted to that--build ing up the wood pile, and clearing the grounds; building up the clan camps. At the Green Corn Dance the Indians do camp by clans.

PAGE 23

22 The dance ground itself consists of a dance circle, about forty feet across, that is cleared. Maybe inside, but usually just outside [the dance circle], there is a tall pole about twenty feet high, which is the ball game pole. On the west side of the dance ground is the tchoc-ko , / ' ' thloc-ko, the big house, and that's where the men sit. That is forbidden for the women. That is on the west side of the dance circle facing the east. Then, a dilstance of fifty to seventy-five to a hundred feet from the dance ground are the clan camps at various points around. Leading to the clan camps from the dance circle are paths through the palmet tos. Now, as I say, the first days are devoted to putting the place in shape and clearing the ground and fixing up the chickees that have not been used for a year. Then, every night they have a ball game. Do you want a description of the ball game? P: Yes. Who participates in the ball game? C: Well, the ball game is danced around a pole about twenty feet high, with . Jl plume still at ~ the top. In the old days it used to be played between f different camps and then it was a knock-down and drag out affair. But J today it's played by the women against the men. Or rather, the boys l against the girls. The rackets have small (I would say about eight inch) pockets at the end, and handles about two feet long. The ball is a deer skin ball, about four inches in diameter. The boys must pick it up. Each one has two rackets, and he must pick up the ball with that, and throw with that--he can't touch the ball himself. But to make things evener, the women can pick up the ball with their hands and throw it. It results in the two being pretty well matched. The idea is to throw the ball so that it hits the pole. That results in a group of boys and a group of girls--two mixed groups on opposite sides of the pole from each other. As it's thrown from one side to the other, the other side picks it up and throws it back. When the score is made, the score is kept on the places that have been scooped out on the ball game pole. They play ball until along early in the evening. P: The ball game starts after supper? C: [Yes.] Then they dance their fun dances, which are generally over about 9:00, and then they break up and go back to the clan camps. P: What do you mean by fun dance? C: Well, as opposed to ceremonial dancing. Like, the Corn Dance itself is a ceremonial dance; and the Feather Dance is a ceremonial dance. But the Catfish Dance and the Drunk Dance, things like that, are fun dances. They

PAGE 24

23 have no significance except they're good fun to dance. They dance those until about 9:00, and then it breaks up. P: Do both the men and the women participate in the fun dances? C: Yes. But the dancing is after a certain fashion. I spoke of the tchoc-ko thloc-ko--that's the men's house. As a rule, the dance starts with the men lining up in front of the tc.hoc.,;.ko thloc-ko. The women are not allowed in the tchoc..,;.ko thloc-ko, but they'r;-out sitting around in the palmetto scrub. After the men start their chanting, they turn to the right and start to dance around the dance circle. This is regulated by a dance boss, v ' who knows the dances and is good at prodding people to dance. He . goes around with a little switch in his hand as the mark of authority. He calls the dance, and the men line up in front of the tchoc-ko thloc-ko facing the fire. They start the dance with their rattles and the song; then they turn to the right and start to dance around the circle. As they start to dance around the circle, the women come in from the palmettos where they have been sitting, and make an outer circle around them so that they're dancing in pairs. P: What provides the rhythm for the dance? C: P: C: P: C: It's the rattles. You see, t rattles in the men's hands. l those rattles that are tied move their legs. before the women come in, it's the And then when the women come on, to their legs, form a rhythm as they There's no kind of drum beat or anything like that? No. There's one dance where the medicine man does have a drum, but for the most part it's simply the rattles and the human voice. ,.,., .. t,,.,,,,•:;,,.,.,:r .. .,., , ... ,. ,.: _y.. !', "' ..... ... , Let's get the Green Corn Dance itself, now; the ceremony leading up to it. Well, the preliminary goes on until you come to what is known as Picnic Day. And up to this time, every day has been [spent] putting the place in shape and getting everything fixed up--getting the wood pile built up--and finally you come to !:!S !l!-~ . Day, which is a great day for the men to eat. P: Now, the food has been brought in as the family and clans arrive? There's no hunting that goes on during this period? C: No. But now something happens. The medicine man has to provide a beef. I suppose in the old days he provided a deer for the feast. Anyway,

PAGE 25

P: C: P: C: P: C: 24 they cook that, and the women cook at the camps. and bring the food down. They can't come into the tchoc~ko thloc-ko, but they leave it [the food] on the edge of the tchoc-ko thloc-ko and the men eat all day long. When [ they're not eating, they're sleeping. So that it's a day when men just stuff themselves because they're going to fast for thirty hours afterwards. Do they take any liquids with the food? Oh, sofkee [a thin gruel made from ground roasted corn and water.]; and, of course, coffee. Who prepares the sofkee? The women in the camps, and bring it down. So there's no ritual to the sofkee? No. P: It's just prepared. And hot coffee is drunk? C: [Yes.] That goes on all day, and all day the men feast. Of course, they have their dance just the same, and the ball game. Finally, at midnight the women come down and wrest any food that's left from the men, and the men then start their fasts. P': They abstain from solid food, or do they abstain from everything? C: They abstain from solid food. They can drink anything, but they can't eat anything. P: But sofkee and coffee and so on, they can have that? C: Yes. As far as I know, they can have coffee. Yes. I'm sure. As I say, .at midnigl:!t-~.the. , .fasting,.s.tar.ts. Everybody goes back to their camps, a~d -to -~i~ep. Up to this time, there has been no evidence of the medicine atall-althoughthe medicine is the basis of the Green Corn Dance. P: Now, the fast had started at midnight? C: The fast had started and the next day is what the white man knows as Court Day, but actually, to the Indian, it'sJfQ-~.at-Day. It is the most impor tant day of the whole Green Corn Dance. The first thing in the morning, the medicine man goes down to the there 1 s always a pond or water near the Green Corn Dance [ground.] He goes down there and washes himself all

PAGE 26

25 over, and prays that [he may] handle the medicine without it hurting .,,, , ,./ him. And then he begins the Black Drinks. Then he goes off to the east and disappears somewher"e '" ln ' thedistance. In the meantime, his assistants have been making the Black Drink. There are two Black r Drinks at this point. One is an infusion of . the button snakeroot, and (_ fhe other is an infusion of the inner bark of willow. P: What was the first drink? C: / Sn_~!:~i::9.9.t. Those are cold infusions, and the Indians are taking those. ) They are powerful emetics and purgatives, and they are taking them be-, ( cause speaking of purgatives, you see, one . important purpose of the Green Corn Dance is purification. Finally, the medicine man appears in the distance, and he fia~ 'n: ne ~ me'dicine bundle with him. P: He's brought it back? C: He's gone off there wherever he had it hidden, and has picked it up and is bringing it back. He brings it back to the Green Corn Dance ground. Choosing his location, which is on the west side of the dance ground, opposite the tchoc-ko thloc-ko, he opens it and spreads it. Now, the medicine bundle, by the way, is a packet in a deerskin with the skin on the outside. A packet, I'd say about two and a half feet long, three feet long; about a foot and a half wide, and about nine or ten inches thick. It's folded inside this deerskin. He opens the deerskin and begins to separate the medicine and so forth; and fin ally, after he has spread out the medicine, he picks up the bundle by the legs so it's in a loose mass and he hangs that on a forked stick that has been driven back of his seat at the edge of the dance ground. . . .. They begin some of the scratchj. _ g_g. Now, the scratching is done with f 1i t tle hlocks cff wood with needles through it. Six or seven needles are . \ driven through these little blocks of wood and scratching is done by \ ... / / drawing those needles across the skin of the forearms and the upper arms, J the upper legs and the lower legs; across the chest and across the back. (.,, Every male lll'!! .. t . J:> _ ~ -S..Tatched. P: Who does the scratching? C: Some of the older Indians and some of the younger ones; it doesn't seem to make much difference. But eye11 the __ In~ia11 b _ c1.t!_~ _ l=l _ ~~:7"~ __ !9 -be scratchedtn~!,~ ._ J) _ 9:g ,, =!:,es. Sam Jones, the medicine man, once saia to me, "You just scratch 'em a little don't hurt 'em any." But the main thing now is purification, and watching the medicine man undo the medicine bundle and hang it up. [They are] not using the sweat bath yet. The men can't eat, so as a rule they go to the tchoc-ko thloc-'-ko and stay there, or else ~ they go to their own places and sleep. They do an awful lot of sleeping on that day.

PAGE 27

26 P: Mr. Capron, is the scratching done each year? Every man gets scratched annually? C: Every man must be scratched every year. That's essential. You see, the (" bleeding is par _ t, of .. _. the " pur-i-f ication . ceremony. The men are scratched so that -' fne y' " fiie ~d, but it 1 s not necessary for the women to be scratched, because . they bleed normally. So that part of the purification which pur \ ifie~ the '" blo ' o ' cCo:C " the " men, the women purify themselves by. P: So the purification process is a blood purification? C: That's part of it. It purifies the blood. P: Do you know of any particular religious significance associated with that? C: I don't know what you mean by it's all religious. P: Well, I just wonder. It's all religious, but I wondered why the blood rather than something else. C: I don't know what else it'd be. P: Well, I don't either. I'm just wondering if there was C: No. It would be the blood; that would be the only thing of that nature. Of course, you do get the sweat [cleansing] in the_sweat baths. Now, there are some dances " fhat may " be " dancecf--theFe;ther Dance might be danced this day--but as a rule everything goes along till noon. P: Let me back up and ask you two questions, Mr. Capron: The scratchingis it going on all the time, or does it take place at a particular time? C: Well, there's more scratching done the next morning than there is that day. It's mostly the small children that are scratched--the boys. Be cause some of the babies must eat, and so they scratch them. And some of the small boys get scratched then. But for the most part, the scratch ing is done the next day. P: All right, now I want to ask you one other question. You mentioned the Feather Dance. Could you just break in here and describe the Feather Dance and note its significance? C: Well, the Feather Dance, I don't know what its particular significance ~ is, but it s ,_ a , ance"d, ' they say, every four years. When the Feather Dance i--r is danced, it's danced four times on Court Day; that is, two times in

PAGE 28

P: 27 the morning, and two times in the afternoon. It's danced with wands about V'r:" eight or nine feet long with feathers on them. It's danced only by the l men, and it ts a ceremonial dance . What the purpose is, I can't tell you. It's not danced every year; it's danced every so often. And then at noon comes court. That's the white presentation of it. The point of a .. Court _ , ]gY, •. , is this: the older men have gathered in the / ' tchoc-ko thloc :.:::i
PAGE 29

28 time the Indians are sitting in theit tchoc~kothloc-ko, and the medicine man is sitting opposite them, and the dance boss is going around . with his little wand, telling them what to dance. The women are sitting out in the palmettos, waiting to join the dance when it's reached a certain point. The dancing starts during the early part of the evening. It's all fun dances. v/ "' Then finally, at midnight, the big pot is brought out--I mean, the one that has . all the medicines that are going to do good for the Indians ,, . , during the coming year. They dance, and they dance for the first time the ) Green Corn Dance itself. That is, they dance for the green corn as opposed I to the whole ceremony of the Green Corn Dance. That goes on all night l., long. They dance that dance interspersed with fun dances. Finally, when morning comes the medicine man begins to go through his medicine, because during the night if sa-kee tom-mas-see decides the Indians need any new medicine, sometime during the night es-te fas-ta reaches down and puts that new medicine in with the medici~ of the tribe. Come morning, the medicine man goes through his medicine to see if he got a new medicine from es-te fas-ta the night before. ,,.-. And then the real purification , begins -,the real scratching. The >,, ,f ( Blac . k . . Drin k --t . h , e .. .. tw . . o . . Black Drinks I mentioned--are co~~ , ously drunk, and { the 9-~ ~? t la_s,h , }:.~B:J:: . _,. is . erected, which is simply an imj){;evious cloth over a framwork of saplings. The men go in there--strip down and go in there. They go through a sweat bath, and then finally they break out and head for the water near there, where they may wash off their scratches. The medicine man is going through his medicine to see if he got anything new; and when he finishes, he puts it all together, and does . it up in a , J);g _ deers.k.in. Then the men as they finish go and sft in the tchoc-ko thloc-ko, and the medicine man, having gone through all his medicine does up the medicine bundle as it was before--that is, in a neat packet with the skin outside--and walks off into the east. His chief helper stands there watching. The women bring down the food, because after this the men can eat the green corn. They bring down all the food and put it at the edge of the oance ground. The men carry it in, but they just sit there until _,,, the watcher--and it's supposed to be just at sunrise--the watcher looks v •'',..\ off to the east, and the medicine man appears there and he signals that L the Green Corn Dance is over, and they start their feast. P: Why is it called the Green Corn Dance? C: Mainly because the green corn can't be eaten by the men until after it. It has to do with the green corn. That's not the Indian name for it. The Indian name for it is "No Eat Day." It•s a fast. P: Now, let me get into this question that I raised earlier, which we didn't get on the tape. Let's get some of the social significance of the Green , Corn Dance. First of all, it's obviously a time for visiting and renew ~ ; ,r ... ing acquaintances and so on. . .,~, ~ -,, . ,-, ~-, ~ .,. ,., ,< r .. < . " ' .. ,. o ~ . , ; .

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29 C: Well, there's no question that the Green Corn Dance will go on, but there is a great deal of question whether it will go on in its original form. In the first place, I don't see ho w it can because . it takes seven years of a boy's life to learn to be a medicine man. And under this new mater ial culture that the Indian is developing, he needs that time he's got r ~o go to school. So, obviously, when the , present medicine men die, no 1 , longer will there be anyone with the knowledge of the medicine--what it's _ for, and the ritual and everything. But outside of that, it's a great social event, because it's when everybody gets together, when you see all , of your friends. As we spoke earlier, t1:.~.f =L ,? . : gr . ~lt _, mating_Joccasion.] \ ",,..( Certainly, the women aren't going to see . it fall into disuse be . cause it's too good a place to meet young, susceptible, prospective husbands. So that there's no question in my mind that the Green Corn Dance will go on, but it will go on as a social ey~nt rather than a religious event. " ' -~ ,..:-.~~: -;,.•_,.,, ~ . -. -.,, ., .. ' ~ -' " Ne',-;,. ~.;.., c"'-, ,, >-'>-! H' ..,., . .,. .. ; ~ P: In the Indian culture, marriages are not arranged by the elders? C: Well, in the old days the elders had a great deal to do with it, but { today the elders have very little to do with it. Of course, even the "' ( idea of not being allowed to marry within your clan is being neglected today. Everything's changing in that sense because you weren't supposed to marry withinyourclan •.. and yet today some of them do it. P: Young boys and girls meet each other at the Green Corn Dance--is there much sexual permissiveness? C: Well, there certainly didn't used to be. But I imagine there is more today. I don't know. It's something that's hard to observe. P: What is your own feeling about morality among Indians? C: My impression of the Indian is that the old Indian as I first knew him was a very honest person. I've seen plenty of examples where he went out of his way to be more than honest. And outside of his pre( dilection for liquor, I don't think he had very many . faults. All my i friends have been good friends, and I can thoroughly trust them, and I / have a great respect for the old Indian. But to tell you the truth, I / can't feel the same way toward [some of] the Indians of today. [They've] i lost that primitive culture--those primitive habits that made [the old \ . Indian] such a wonderful character.