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Interview with Mary Frances Johns, August 16, 1972

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Mary Frances Johns, August 16, 1972
Creator:
Johns, Mary Frances ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

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

Notes

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
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
SEM 58 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Mary Frances Johns
INTERVIEWER: Tom King
DATE: August 16, 1972
DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION


SUMMARY
Mary Frances Johns gives a coherent account of the
tribal division following the formation of the Indian
reservations in South Florida. She specifically attributes
the division, forming the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes
to attitudes regarding education and the traditional way of
life. The sanction against education is traced to an oral
tradition involving a prophetess. She mentions the conflict
between traditional and Christian religion as another source
of division. This religious clash is particularly evident
with respect to the Green Corn Dance which she is able to
describe in some detail.


INDEX
Education (sanction of), 4-5, 10, 13-14
Green Corn Dance, 10-13
Handcrafts, 2
Oral traditions, 4-7, 14
Religion (Christian-traditional clash), 8, 10, 12-13
Reservations (formation), 3-4
Tribes (three-way division), 7-9


K: Mary Frances, can you tell me give me a brief sketch of the
history of your life, where you were born, when, and so on...
who your parents were...
M: I was born in Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Florida, and
my mother was Elizabeth Billy she married after I was born.
My father was someone from the Tamiami Trail, too. He passed
away not too long ago. His name was Henry Billy. I was given
the name of my mother's maiden name; Buster. When my mother
married my stepfather, they adopted me, and I was given the
name of Billy. As of now, my name is not registered right in
the vital statistics in Jacksonville. We've been trying to
correct that, but we haven't.
K: Is that a problem with other Indians out here as well?
M: Yes. Some of them who were born in the woods don't have any
birth certificates, so they have to get an affidavit signed by
their parents or someone who knew them all their life. And
with someone older, it's pretty hard to find out where and what
year they were born, you know. You have to investigate a lot -
to get these things from someone older than they are.
K: What is this information usually used for? Social security,
licenses, or what?
M: Yes, when a person reaches a certain age, he has to put in ap-
plication for welfare, social security or...and they need proof
of birth in the United States for some reason...this is kind of
hard.
K: And they won't just take the word of an Indian?
M: No, you have to have several signed statements in order to get
this over on these social security, vital statistics people.
The Census Bureau sometimes are wrong and you have to go back
and...in order to find out how old this person is. It is very
hard. Anyway, my mother...she went to school a little bit up
in Cherokee, so she spoke enough English to go to work. She
worked in an ice house you know, the old-fashioned ice houses
they used to have. I believe it was Borden Company, because I
remember seeing those trucks, and they had ice cream, and when-
ever I'd go visit them, they used to give me ice cream. Well,
this was down in Jeromes Mills, right on the other side of
Immokalee, and the town isn't there anymore, it's just a little
mill town where they process lumber and everything. Well, after


2
that, I think I was about three or four years old, we moved
into this new camp, and that was up there on the other side
of Naples, about 15-20 miles outside of Naples, and it's
right at the terminal to Marco Beach and U.S. 41. We used
to live there in that trading post, and...
K: You know why your family made the decision to move over there?
M: Well, my uncle needed a place to stay, and he traveled from
his place back to his wife's family's place just a little
bit above Dade County line over there on the Tamiami Trail.
So when they needed to go back, they didn't have anybody to
watch over the camp, you know, when the tourists would come
through. That meant his living, so he needed somebody who
would be there all the time to sell his stuff for him.
K: While we're talking about that, I'm interested in finding
out when the Seminoles first started selling souvenirs to
tourists that were not manufactured by Seminoles. Did your
uncle sell only those things manufactured by Seminoles?
M: Yes, he made handcrafts himself, or he'd buy them from some
other people who did this for a living or his wife, you know,
who would sew, and my grandmother. That's how they came by
those things. The only things that they sold were handmade
by themselves or the people that lived there you know, their
neighbors.
K: Do you know when the Seminoles started this current practice
of selling things that are not made by Seminoles?
M: I really don't know. That was something that sort of creeped
up lately. This is not a very old thing, because before, I
remember we used to just sell the things we made ourselves.
Selling those things from other tribes or overseas or something
like that has just been very recent. Well, after we moved
over there we stayed there for a long time, and I don't really
know how old I was, but it was in the 50's and they started
talking about helping the Indians and trying to see what we
were going to do about our way of living. And my uncle, he
was one of those that attended these meetings very often. I
used to go there with my grandmother, and these people just
talked about what they were going to do, whether they were
going to go along with the government.


3
K: What did the government want to do at that time?
M: Well, the government was trying to convince these people to
move onto reservations if possible, because they could get
help. They could also live there free of real estate taxes
and things like that. I don't know what they finally de-
cided on that I guess I remember my uncle, he made an
agreement with the landlord where we were staying, and the
landlord said that since they had been living there for so
long, they practically owned the land that they lived on any-
way, so they might as well keep on living there as long as
they wanted to. I don't know if there were any papers or
legal documents involved or not, but he managed to stay on
his place. I think that was about the same way it went all
along the Tamiami Trail. Just the landlords being thought-
ful enough to just leave the Indians at their camps, because
they were there before the white people got there. This was
a very old camp that we moved to, and people used to live
there for years and years. I guess there was a camp where
people had to stay when the canal was going through.
K: Were they working on the canal?
M: Probably, some of them. For some reason, that camp had been
there. And it's been there for years. So after...well, be-
fore and after this talk...
K: Before going on, can you remember any of the people involved
in the talks?
M: Yeah, Timmie Tiger, Buffalo Tiger, Jim and another Jim, Willie,
I don't remember his first name and Willie McKinley, and Jimmy
Billy, my uncle, Tom Buster and Clay, Jack Clay, and Charlie
Billie, and there must have been two or three more, Jimmy Tiger's
brothers, and some of these people were educated, and they in-
terpreted all these government papers that came out and trans-
lated back to the Indians. Back then not too many people spoke
English. I know my uncle did because he had a job as far as
I know, he's always spoken English. I guess he learned it...
he went to school a little bit down here in Brighton and then
my grandmother was down here she was married to one of these
guys over here at one time.
K: Do you know who the leader of that group was? The most important
man?


4
M: Well, there wasn't a certain leader they just got together
and sort of held council; and that involved anybody that
wanted to come in and listen to what was happening. And
those that were translating, and those that were talking
about the traditions, how things used to be and how they
would like it. It was sort of...Well, one set of people
were saying what they thought should be, and one set was
saying what could be, if we did so-and-so, and the other
group, the community people, rather, were just sitting there
listening to what was going on; if they thought something
should be said, they were free to speak up. Speak to the
interpreters or the people, you know, who were voicing their
opinions.
K: Were all of these people Miccosukees or were there some Creeks
involved?
M: They were all Miccosukees. I don't know if there were any
Creeks in there, but speaking of leaders, I believe there was
Bill Osceola and Billy Osceola, Frank Billy and Laura Mae
Osceola, Betty Mae Jumper and I don't think Howard Tiger was
there as yet. There was a whole bunch of people I thought
I could remember all of them. They would just talk and talk,
back and forth. Finally my uncle and some of the people de-
cided that they would stay uneducated like they had been in
the past, and since I was with them, I wasn't allowed to go
to school. My mother had a hard time trying to convince my
grandmother that I should go to school, because that's the
way things are. My mother had left them she had left since
we left Jerome's Mill, and she got married around 1948 or
something like that, and she left to come to Big Cypress.
She was making her home there. She became a Christian, and
I remember the names they called her and everything.
K: Can you tell me why the older people, the ones that decided
to remain uneducated and to remain living in the way they had
lived before, can you tell me why they did not want to become
educated why they did not want their children to become
educated?
M: Well, it had to do with an old prophesy or an old legend.
K: Good, I'd like to hear about that.
M: And, they said if you were educated and the communists came


5
into the United States, they would cut off your tongue to
keep you from speaking, voicing your opinions, or speaking
of other people. If you didn't speak nothing but your own
language, and your language was not written, then they wouldn't
worry about it.
K: This was about 1948?
M: No, this was later, in the 50's.
K: Early 50's.
M: But my mother did leave back in 48, or 49 somewhere. She had
been to school so she knew what it was like to be able to
speak to white people.
K: Do you have any idea how this idea got started, that the com-
munists would cut your tongue out if you could speak English
when they took over the United States? What I'd like to know,
why did the Seminoles believe that the communists would take
over the United States who had told them this?
M: I think it was an old lady not an old lady she was a young
lady at the time. Well they said when she was about two or
three years old, they said she had left her home and went to
live with the little people.
K: Who were the little people?
M: That's what they were called the little people.
K: Is it the equivalent of what we call leprauchans?
M: Yes, something like that, but they lived in the trees. Every
day or every other day she would leave for so many hours, and
she would come back. And after this had been going on for a
long time with these little people, the little people had been
teaching her something about, you know, how to see the future.
She was learning how to see into the future. She was around
12 years old when this was finally over with. And they said
she sat and stirred "sofki" [Seminole doughy food] with her
hand. They said that if she felt the pain, then she wasn't
the prophetess or the mystic or whatever you want to call it,
that she was supposed to have been. But if she could cook her
food without burning herself, then she would be considered a
prophetess. So, she went through the test and she said some-
thing about feeling a slight burning sensation like a hot


6
sunlight or something, you know, on her hand, but after she
got through with this, they said two big humps came up on her
shoulder. They said she lived to be quite an old lady. She
used to talk about the atomic age and...
K: Before it ever occurred?
M: Yeah. This was way back before the war or something like that.
K: She also talked about communists?
M.: Yes and she also talked about she didn't say communists really.
The popular term for it is "mig-il-ishi". That's what they call
it.
K: Do you know what that means?
M: I don't know usually people say it's "communist".
K: Do you think it could mean just any foreigner?
M: It could mean any foreigner. She has predicted quite a lot of
things that have come to be. And people say they think this
will come true, too, one of these days. That America will
finally have war with somebody or give way to somebody by the
year 2000. So, after the year 2000, they say that things will
be unknown they don't know nothing about history it will
start repeating itself or something. They said this will be a
very interesting time, because from that day on, mankind could
have fifty years or five thousand years, or 5,000,000. It
would all depend on the man himself. She said that was as far
as she could see to the year 2000. Anyway, her predictions
have proven to be pretty true. So this is the reason why they
kind of talked that down. Her prediction of cutting off the
tongue and things like that would come true, too. This is
the reason why they didn't want to be educated.
K: Well, that was very interesting. I'm glad you told me that.
M: I don't know. This type of thing goes with the people here.
They have a lot of the same things we have the Miccosukee
or the Seminole tribe. A; lot of people don't know about this
sort of thing. I was taught by my grandmother and my great
aunt, my grandpas, and my great aunt's brothers, and some of
my grandmother's cousins. We called them all by grandpa because


7
they were elderly. They would always have a little piece of
history for you, and legends, and fairy-tales. I used to just
sit there with them at night and listen to them, and they'd
make it very interesting. Anyway, after they had decided what
they were going to do, and they divided the Seminole tribes into
three different sections, I believe, the Seminole Tribe of
Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, and another. They
go under the same name of Seminoles, but they don't consider
themselves part of the organization.
K: Who did this dividing?
M: The Seminoles did this themselves. There were three arguments.
The Seminole tribe thought that we should progress.. live like
the white people. That don't necessarily mean that you have to
give up tradition and the customs that we were used to, or the
language. But they thought that we should have walled houses
and be educated and be able to work with the white man in what
he does. So this Miccosukee tribe wanted to have some of these
modern conveniences, you know, but they wanted to stay where
they were. They didn't want to move on to the reservation.
They just wanted to do whatever they could to get by. If they
figured they needed education, they would educate their children
and so forth. They've come along. They have houses now and
they also have schools for the "head-start" schools, elementary,
and they even go to high school, and maybe some go to college.
This other faction of the Seminoles just decided that they would
stay the way they had been for hundreds of years, and so they
still do. The only thing they depend on are jobs from the outside.
As I was going to say before we were interrupted, they have
arts and crafts stores along the Tamiami Trail where they make
and sell arts and crafts. I guess they hunt for some of their
food still, and do their grocery shopping in the towns nearby.
They still live that way; most of them still live in chickees.
K: Something I'm interested in here, I know that all of the Creeks,
all of the Muskogee speakers, are parts of the Seminole tribes
of Florida, and a good number of the Misccosukees are those
who live at Big Cypress are. What I'd like to know is were
there any conflicts, any sort of tribal or clan conflicts between


8
the Miccosukees and the Creeks, or was it just sort of a cul-
tural decision on the aprt of just a small number of the Mic-
cosukees to remain outside of the Seminole trive as a whole?
What I want to know is why some of them chose to stay outside
and why others became part of the Seminole tribe. Did it per-
haps have anything to do with religion, or with language dif-
ferences or cultural differences? Just why some chose to do
it and some did not?
M: As far as I know, there wasn't any differences of any kind...
just differences of opinion between certain families. One
group of families decided to do this, and one group of fami-
lies decided to do another, and another group decided to do
another. So some of them had already gone in to the reser-
vations by then. And religion had already been introduced.
So this is how my mother had become a Christian and they had
been calling her names and all. But there wasn't anything
wrong with it they just didn't like the idea, so it was
just a matter of opinion who you went with. I guess the
smallest of them decided not to join any organization, and
a larger portion of them decided to form their own Miccosukee
tribe, and the Seminole tribe went on to Hollywood, Big Cypress,
and here. And they decided to form the Seminole Tribe of
Florida, and I would say two-thirds of this, if not more, are
Miccosukee-speaking Indians.
K: Two-thirds of the Seminole Tribe?
M: Yes, and just this reservation here speaks Creek. All the
others along the Trail speak Miccosukee also.
K: Do you know if there are any Creek speakers that decided to
join the Miccosukees who would not become part of the Seminole
Tribe? Were there any Creek speakers who moved off the reserva-
tion?
M: Not that I know of.
K: Do you know why? Do you know why none of the Creeks would do
that? Just give me your own impressions?
M: It was just the few people that lived in Hollywood, you know,
Ft. Lauderdale, on around the coast, up to the Ft. Lawrence
area there, and the people spread out through there in the
swamplands there at Big Cypress. People used to live out there.
When Billy Osceola and them decided that they would move:onto


9
the Federal lands They did it first over at Hollywood, and
then they made these other few reservations later. So when
they moved in I don't know who built their houses, but some-
body built them some houses, or brought in some used houses
or something, and they were living there and they sent their
children to school, and most of them were educated. They wanted
these people over here to join them so that we could have the
same privileges. Some people decided to, and just went on in
and moved into the reservation.
K: Did the people who did not live on the reservation at that
time, did they feel underprivileged? Did they feel as if they
were deprived of anything?
M: No, most of them felt like they were more superior to these
people that moved to the reservation. This was just a matter
of a personal opinion, or family opinion.
K: Is there anything in the history of the Miccosukees, anything
in their history or cultural heritage that you think would
make them react to a situation like this differently from the
way the Creek-speaking Seminoles do? I mean the Creek-speaking
Seminoles have they historically been more ready to adapt
to the white man's way than the Miccosukees?
M: No, I imagine they were alike. You know, they fought the U.S.
Army the same way, and then after the wars they ahd banded to-
gether and just decided to live together because there weren't
that many Indians left. This explains also the reason why
everybody is mixed, you know. Now you can't tell who's full-
blooded Creek or who's full-blooded Miccosukee. There's inter-
marriages all along and the thing that makes this reservation
easier, I think, adapt to new things is because they have lived
with white people long enough. They lived in Indiantown, and
were more used to them.
K: Most of the people who came to this reservation, then came from
the Indiantown area, and did not come from South Florida?
M: Right. Those down in South Florida, well, tempers sort of...
they were having a dispute as to what they were going to do,
and after these disputes were settled, three organizations
came out of this. I don't know how Brighton happened to get
into the Seminole Tribe, but that's what happened. After they
settled all of this, well, tempers sort of cooled down, and my


10
mother was able to convince my grandmother that I should be
educated. My uncle was the hardest one to sway, but they
finally took me back then to Big Cypress, I guess when I was
about ten years old. I had a hard time getting used to those
people down there. Their way of life was sort of different.
K: Can you tell me how it was different?
M: Well, for one thing, they went to church. They were very
religious. They didn't believe in bickering. Well, nobody
ever believed in bickering with each other really. Their
political dispute was something else. They were bickering
back and forth about who's right and who's wrong. Well,
they didn't do this it was sort of a harmonious family
type of living out there. It was very unusual, to me, to
go to church and hear people singing, and this was something
else they called them crazy or going mad or something back
where I come from, when they start singing in church and
praising God and all that. So this was all very odd, and
the first church that I went to down in Big Cypress was
Baptist organization, and they had the church way out in
the swamp, and the only way to get over there was by foot
or by buggy. I guess you could also take a horse if you
had horses, but I don't think anybody did at the time.
K: Did white men run the church?
M: No, I imagine this Stanley Smith from Oklahoma that was
staying there at the time, or Sam Tommy.
K: Were they both Creeks from Oklahoma?
M: No, Sam Tommy was one of the earliest Christians. Sam Tommy
and Billy Osceola and Henry Cypress were one of the first
Indian preachers from here and I guess they were some of
the ones that got educated first. Somebody was preaching
here at the time. I don't really remember who it was because
I didn't pay too much attention to it, you know. I wasn't
taught that way and I didn't think too much of it. So after
I came back, things were pretty normal. Every year we would
go to a corn dance and...
K: Can you remember the first corn dance that you went to?
M: Yeah. I must have been five or six years old. I've been to


11
earlier ones, but this was the first one I remember.
K: What part did the girls play in the corn dance?
M: Well, they danced and they cooked, and well, the little girls
usually just joined in with their mothers, grandmothers, who-
ever, doing the cooking.
K: The girls are not scratched are they?
M: No.
K: Do you know why?
M: Well, they say you can if you want to, but it's not necessary,
because for the boys, they use medicine, and this is the rea-
son why they have to be scratched.
K: The scratching cleanses them, purifies them, doesn't it?
M: Uh huh. It's some kind of blood purification. They used the
hot houses. They built little huts out of skins and wood,
and they steam themselves. This was another way of cleansing
your body. After you used all the medicines all night long,
all day long you didn't eat, you use the medicines and you
dance all night. And then you go in the steam houses. In
the last part, they had the buffalo dance and...
K: And the girls and the women are more or less left out of this?
M: You're not required to go in the dance grounds while they are
having the White Feather Day when they don't eat. When they
don't eat, they have a certain dance, and they use rouge of
some kind on their face and the feathers on their head, you
know, they put one white feather on the top of their head.
And they had one or two feathers on the end of a stick and
they'd dance with them. And they'd call the day as belonging
to the white bird and they'd call it a white day. They'd
dance all day and dance all night and use the medicine. Then
they have a big old medicine bag, you know, it would be hang-
ing there, usually hanging from the east side of the buffalo
dance ground and it's a big old deer-hide with a lot of medi-
cine in it. And during the night while there's dancing going
on, they open the medicine and doctor it; and they close it
up at the end of the dance. They said that the spirit of the


12
medicine gets up and looks around and sees how his people are
doing and if they're pretty healthy, he decided fine. And
then that's sort of a traditional attachment to the medicine
you have to take care of yourself, you know, your body. You
get doctored on by the medicine man if you get sick and...
K: The Christians all go to the corn dances too, don't they?
M: Some of them do, some of them don't believe in them.
K: I wondered how they reconciled the differences between the
old way of life and Christianity. I know that orthodox Christians
would not believe that the spirit could be in the medicine man,
and that he could look over his people and tell them that they
were well or not, and they would not believe in the power of
medicine. This is just orthodox Christians I am talking about.
I don't know how the Seminole Christians coped with that. I
was wondering how they do it.
M: I don't know. My stepfather he's pretty good believer in this
medicine, and from what I heard is that God gave us our medicine
for the sake of our health while we're on this earth. We have to
observe the ritual that he gave to us with the medicine. Like,
we have to go through the corn dance, as a get together thing so
that the medicine can make us over. That's what we're supposed
to do because this was something that was to do us good. This
corn dance it wasn't a religious thing we didn't worship medicine
or anything. It was just a matter of being there to dance
and to watch other dancers, and to stay up all night with the
medicine for the young men and the old men, too, for the men to
use. Itwas just something that was observed year after year
like you would observe Independence Day. All year, you would be
raising your crops and what have you, whether it would be pigs,
or... If you would go hunting, you would dry your meat, things
like that, and then at the corn dance, the corn is green in the
springtime, and they would come and have all this medicine before
they eat the corn. The following day they eat the corn. That's
why they call it the corn dance, because you have to do all this
before you eat the fresh corn. Because they say that the corn
was some kind of a person before it became corn.
K: They don't have any trouble with any conflict between Christianity
and the green corn dance?


13
M: Yes, there is static now and then. They think that the corn
dance should go out and Christianity should be the thing. Some
people don't believe in it I for one don't believe that. I
believe that the corn dance and all that was supposed to have
been good for us. Well, this is just the way I was brought up,
I guess. I was told that God gave us what we have, to use for
ourselves. So this is what I believe. I believe in God, I
believe it too, and I'm sort of Christian, but I don't like to
say get rid of it because it is something of the devil. I
won't say that because I don't believe that way. I know some
person around here that would tell you the corn dance was a
god to be worshipped, and I disagree with him fully, because
I don't believe it was a god to be worshipped. God has always
been in heaven, as far as I was brought up, and God is always
the one to provide for us as long as we live on this earth.
And I was told he would look after everything. So much for
the corn dance, I guess.
K: We were up to the point where you were finally going to church
at Big Cypress, and found it to be a little strange.
M: Well, after I went back for a little while, I came back and. lived
at Big Cypress and finally I went down to Hollywood. My aunt
was down there. She was one of those that married into the
Seminole Tribe and I guess she was involved a bit in the Seminole
tribe too. We would come and visit them and see all the people
we used to know, and I was finally introduced to some of the
older folks who lived there. Annie Mae was there, the Seminoles
called her Tampa. Anyway, I was introduced to her and some of
the educated people that live down there. Those people could
go outside and hold a job, or something like that. This was
sort of a different community too, because in Big Cypress, they
had religion and believed in prophecy, religion and all. Most
of them didn't speak English and down in Hollywood they did. I
guess just the younger people spoke English too People my own
age, and just now having children you know they were the type
who could speak English. The older ones like their parents,
well, they spoke English, I guess. The town was close by. This
was the first place I had been where the town was real close by.
The children went to school every day.
K: Did you go to school then?
M: No.


14
K: You hadn't talked your grandmother into it?
M: Well, no we hadn't convinced grandma yet.
K: Have you never gone to school?
M: Yeah, I finally did. Back in 56, I guess, sometime, 55, 56,
one, I went to school Mother had enrolled me in Dania Ele-
mentary School and I went there for about a month and quit
and we went home. My mother bought me books and reading material.
I couldn't recognize my alphabet and some of the words
I couldn't remember, and some of the words I could work out by
myself, you know. Finally, after that year, when I first started to
school, I started talking to my grandmother about why we
couldn't go to school. She also told me about the day the Indians were
really educated and some blond Indians started living on this
earth and the end of the world could be near. She said things like
that and I went to stay with my mother for a while.


Full Text

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INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: INTERVIEWER: Mary Frances Johns Tom King DATE: August 16, 1972 DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION

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SUMMARY 'Mary Frances Johns gives a coherent account of the tribal division following the formation of the Indian reservations in South Florida. She specifically attributes the division, forming the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes to attitudes regarding education and the traditional way of life. The sanction against education is traced to an oral tradition involving a prophetess. She mentions the conflict between traditional and Christian religion as another source qf division. This religious clash is particularly evident with respect to the Green Corn Dance which she is able to describe in some detail.

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INDEX Education (sanction of), 4-5, 10, 13-14 Green Corn Dance, 10-13 Handcrafts, 2 Oral traditions, 4-7, 14 Religion (Christian-traditional clash), 8, 10, 12-13 Reservations (formation), 3-4 Tribes (three-way division), 7-9

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K: Mary Frances, can you tell me give me a brief sketch of the history of your life, where you were born, when, and so on who your parents were M: I was born in Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Florida, and my mother was Elizabeth Billy she married after I was born. My father was someone from the Tamiami Trail, too. He passed away not too long ago. His name was Henry Billy. I was given the name of my mother's maiden name; Buster. When my mother married my stepfather, they adopted me, and I was given the name of Billy. As of now, my name is not registered right in the vital statistics in Jacksonville. We've been trying to correct that, but we haven't. K: Is that a problem with other Indians out here as well? M: Yes. Some of them who were born in the woods don't have any birth certificates, so they have to get an affidavit signed by their parents or someone who knew them all their life. And with someone older, it's pretty hard to find out where and what year they were born, you know. You have to investigate a lot to get these things from someone older than they are. K: What is this information usually used for? Social security, licenses, or what? M: Yes, when a person reaches a certain age, he has to put in ap plication for welfare, social security or and they need proof of birth in the United States for some reason this is kind of hard. K: And they won't just take the word of an Indian? M: No, you have to have several signed statements in order to get this over on these social security, vital statistics people. The Census Bureau sometimes are wrong and you have to go back and in order to find out how old this person is. It is very hard. Anyway, my mother she went to school a little bit up in Cherokee, so she spoke enough English to go to work. She worked in an ice house you know, the old-fashioned ice houses they used to have. I believe it was Borden Company, because I remember seeing those trucks, and they had ice cream, and when ever I'd go visit them, they used to give me ice cream. Well, this was down in Jeromes Mills, right on the other side of Immokalee, and the town isn't there anymore, it's just a little mill town where they process lumber and everything. Well, after

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that, I think I was about three or four years old, we moved into this new camp, and that was up there on the other side of Naples, about 15-20 miles outside of Naples, and it's right at the terminal to Marco Beach and U.S. 41. We used to live there in that trading post, and 2 K: You know why your family made the decision to move over there? M: Well, my uncle needed a place to stay, and he traveled from his place back to his wife's family's place just a little bit above Dade County line over there on the Tamiami Trail. So when they needed to go back, they didn't have anybody to watch over the camp, you know, when the tourists would come through. That meant his living, so he needed somebody who would be there all the time to sell his stuff for him. K: While we're talking about that, I'm interested in finding out when the Seminoles first started selling souvenirs to tourists that were not manufactured by Seminoles. Did your uncle sell only those things manufactured by Seminoles? M: Yes, he made handcrafts himself, or he'd buy them from some other people who did this for a living or his wife, you know, who would sew, and my grandmother. That's how they came by those things. The only things that they sold were handmade by themselves or the people that lived there you know, their neighbors. K: Do you know when the Seminoles started this current practice of selling things that are not made by Seminoles? M: I really don't know. That was something that sort of creeped up lately. This is not a very old thing, because before, I remember we used to just sell the things we made ourselves. Selling those things from other tribes or overseas or something like that has just been very recent. Well, after we moved over there we stayed there for a long time, and I don't really know how old I was, but it was in the SO's and they started talking about helping the Indians and trying to see what we were going to do about our way of living. And my uncle, he was one of those that attended these meetings very often. I used to go there with my grandmother, and these people just talked about what they were going to do, whether they were going to go along with the government.

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K: What did the government want to do at that time? M: Well, the government was trying to convince these people to move onto reservations if possible, because they could get help. They could also live there free of real estate taxes and things like that. I don't know what they finally de cided on that I guess I remember my uncle, he made an agreement with the landlord where we were staying, and the landlord said that since they had been living there for so long, they practically owned the land that they lived on any way, so they might as well keep on living there as long as they wanted to. I don't know if there were any papers or legal documents involved or not, but he managed to stay on his place. I think that was about the same way it went all along the Tamiami Trail. Just the landlords being thought ful enough to just leave the Indians at their camps, because they were there before the white people got there. This was a very old camp that we moved to, and people used to live there for years and years. I guess there was a camp where people had to stay when the canal was going through. K: Were they working on the canal? M: Probably, some of them. For some reason, that camp had been there. And it's been there for years. So after well, be fore and after this talk K: Before going on, can you remember any of the people involved in the talks? 3 M: Yeah, Tinnnie Tiger, Buffalo Tiger, Jim and another Jim, Willie, I don't remember his first name and Willie McKinley, and Jinnny Billy, my uncle, Tom Buster and Clay, Jack Clay, and Charlie Billie, and there must have been two or three more, Jimmy Tiger's brothers, and some of these people were educated, and they in terpreted all these government papers that came out and trans lated back to the Indians. Back then not too many people spoke English. I know my uncle did because he had a job as far as I know, he's always spoken English. I guess he learned it he went to school a little bit down here in Brighton and then my grandmother was down here she was married to one of these guys over here at one time. K: Do you know who the leader of that group was? The most important man?

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M: Well, there wasn't a certain leader they just got together and sort of held council; and that involved anybody that wanted to come in and listen to what was happening. And those that were translating, and those that were talking about the traditions, how things used to be and how they would like it. It was sort of Well, one set of people were saying what they thought should be, and one set was saying what could be, if we did so-and-so, and the other group, the community people, rather, were just sitting there listening to what was going on; if they thought something should be said, they were free to speak up. Speak to the interpreters or the people, you know, who were voicing their opinions. 4 K: Were all of these people Miccosukees or were there some Creeks involved? M: They were all Miccosukees. I don't know if there were.any Creeks in there, but speaking of leaders, I believe there was Bill Osceola and Billy Osceola, Frank Billy and Laura Mae Osceola, Betty Mae Jumper and I don't think Howard Tiger was there as yet. There was a whole bunch of people I thought I could remember all of them. They would just talk and talk, back and forth. Finally my uncle and some of the people de cided that they would stay uneducated like they had been in the past, and since I was with them, I wasn't allowed to go to school. My mother had a hard time trying to convince my grandmother that I should go to school, because that's the way things are. My mother had left them she had left since we left Jerome'sMill, and she got married around 1948 or something like that, and she left to come to Big Cypress. She was making her home there. She became a Christian, and I remember the names they called her and everything. K: Can you tell me why the older people, the ones that decided to remain uneducated and to remain living in the way they had lived before, can you tell me why they did not want to become educated why they did not want their children to become educated? M: Well, it had to do with an old prophesy or an old legend. K: Good, I'd like to hear about that. M: And, they said if you were educated and the communists came

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5 into the United States, they would cut off your tongue to keep you from speaking, voicing your opinions, or speaking of other people. If you didn't speak nothing but your own language, and your language was not written, then they wouldn't worry about it. K: This was about 1948? M: No, this was later, in the 50's. K: Early 50's. M: But my mother did leave back in 48, or 49 somewhere. She had been to school so she knew what it was like to be able to speak to white people. K: Do you have any idea how this idea got started, that the com munists would cut your tongue out if you could speak English when they took over the United States? What I'd like to know, why did the Seminoles believe that the communists would take over the United States who had told them this? M: I think it was an old lady not an old lady she was a young lady at the time. Well they said when she was about two or three years old, they said she had left her home and went to live with the little people. K: Who were the little people? M: That's what they were called the little people. K: Is it the equivalent of what we call leprauchans? M: Yes, something like that, but they lived in the trees. Every day or every other day she would leave for so many hours, and she would come back. And after this had been going on for a long time with these little people, the little people had been teaching her something about, you know, how to see the future. She was learning how to see into the future. She was around 12 years old when this was finally over with. And they said she sat and stirred "sofki" [Seminole doughy food] with her hand. They said that if she felt the pain, then she wasn't the prophetess or the mystic or whatever you want to call it, that she was supposed to have been. But if she could cook her food without burning herself, then she would be considered a prophetess. So, she went through the test and she said some thing about feeling a slight burning sensation like a hot

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~------~ -~------------------------------------6 sunlight or something, you know, on her hand, but after she got through with this, they said two big humps came up on her shoulder, They said she lived to be quite an old lady, She used to talk about the atomic age and .•. K: Before it ever occurred? M: Yeah, This was way back before the war or something like that. K: She also talked about communists? M.: Yes and she also talked about she didn't say communists really. The popular term for it is "mig-il-ishi". That's what they call it. K: Do you know what that means? M: I don't know usually people say it's "communist". K: Do you think it could mean just any foreigner? M: It could mean any foreigner. She has predicted quite a lot of things that have come to be. And people say they think this will come true, too, one of these days. That America will finally have war with somebody or give way to somebody by the year 2000. So, after the year 2000, they say that things will be unknown they don't know nothing about history it will start repeating itself or something, They said this will be a very interesting time, because from that day on, mankind could have fifty years or five thousand years, or 5,000,000, It would all depend on the man himself. She said that was as far as she could see to the year 2000. Anyway, her predictions have proven to be pretty true, So this is the reason why they kind of talked that down. Her prediction of cutting off the tongue and things like that would come true, too. This is the reason why they didn't want to be educated. K: Well, that was very interesting. I'm glad you told me that. M: I don't know. This type of thing goes with the people here, They have a lot of the same things we have the Miccosukee or the Seminole tribe, A: lot of people don't know about this sort of thing, I was taught by my grandmother and my great aunt, my grandpas, and my great aunt's brothers, and some of my grandmother's cousins. We called them all by grandpa because

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7 they were elderly. They would always have a little piece of history for you, and legends, and fairy-tales. I used to just sit there with them at night and listen to them, and they'd make it very interesting. Anyway, after th~y had decided what they were going to do, and they divided the Seminole tribes into three different sections, I believe, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, and another. They go under the same name of Seminoles, but they don't consider themselves part of the organization. K: Who did this dividing? M: The Seminoles did this themselves. There were three arguments. The Seminole tribe thought that we should progress live like the white people. That don't necessarily mean that you have to give up tradition and the customs that we were used to, or the language. But they thought that we should have walled houses and be educated and be able to work with the white man in what he does. So this Miccosukee tribe wanted to have some of these modern conveniences, you know, but they wanted to stay where they were. They didn't want to move on to the reservation. They just wanted to do whatever they could to get by. If they figured they needed education, they would educate their children and so forth. They've come along. They have houses now and they also have schools for the "head-start" schools, elementary, and they even go to high school, and maybe some go to college. This other faction of the Seminoles just decided that they would stay the way they had been for hundreds of years, and so they still do. The only thing they depend on are jobs from the outside. As I was going to say before we were interrupted, they have arts and crafts stores along the Tamiami Trail where they make and sell arts and crafts. I guess they hunt for some of their food still, and do their grocery shopping in the towns nearby. They still live that way; most of them still live in chickees. K: Something I'm interested in here, I know that all of the Creeks, all of the Muskogee speakers, are parts of the Seminole tribes of Florida, and a good number of the Misccosukees are those who live at Big Cypress are. What I'd like to know is were there any conflicts, any sort of tribal or clan conflicts between

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the Miccosukees and the Creeks, or was it just sort of a cul tural decision on the aprt of just a small number of the Mic cosukees to remain outside of the Seminole trive as a whole? What I want to know is why some of them chose to stay outside and why others became part of the Seminole tribe. Did it per haps have anything to do with religion, or with language dif ferences or cultural differences? Just why some chose to do it and some did not? M: As far as I know, there wasn't any differences of any kind just differences of opinion between certain families. One group of families decided to do this, and one group of fami lies decided to do another, and another group decided to do another. So some of them had already gone in to the reser vations by then. And religion had already been introduced. So this is how my mother had become a Christian and they had been calling her names and all. But there wasn't anything wrong with it they just didn't like the idea, so it was just a matter of opinion who you went with. I guess the smallest of them decided not to join any organization, and 8 a larger portion of them decided to form their own Miccosukee tribe, and the Seminole tribe went on to Hollywood, Big Cypress, and here. And they decided to form the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and I would say two-thirds of this, if not more, are Miccosukee-speaking Indians. K: Two-thirds of the Seminole Tribe? M: Yes, and just this reservation here speaks Creek. All the others along the Trail speak Miccosukee also. K: Do you know if there are any Creek speakers that decided to join the Miccosukees who would not become part of the Seminole Tribe? Were there any Creek speakers who moved off the reserva tion? M: Not that I know of. K: Do you know why? Do you know why none of the Creeks would do that? Just give me your own impressions? M: It was just the few people that lived in Hollywood, you know, Ft. Lauderdale, on around the coast, up to the Ft. Lawrence area there, and the people spread out through there in the swamplands there at Big Cypress. People used to live out there. When Billy Osceola and them decided that they would move onto

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the Federal lands They did it first over at Hollywood, and then they made these other few reservations later. So when they moved in I don't know who built their houses, but some body built them some houses, or brought in some used houses 9 or something, and they were living there and they sent their children to school, and most of them were educated. They wanted these people over here to join them so that we could have the same privileges. Some people decided to, and just went on in and moved into the reservation. K: Did the people who did not live on the reservation at that time, did they feel underprivileged? Did they feel as if they were deprived of anything? M: No, most of them felt like they were more superior to these people that moved to the reservation. This was just a matter of a personal opinion, or family opinion. K: Is there anything in the history of the Miccosukees,, anything in their history or cultural heritage that you think would make them react to a situation like this differently from the way the Creek-speaking Seminoles do? I mean the Creek-speaking Seminoles have they historically been more ready to adapt to the white man's way than the Miccosukees? M: No, I imagine they were alike. You know, they fought the U.S. Army the same way, and then after the wars they ahd banded to gether and just decided to live together because there weren't that many Indians left. This explains also the reason why everybody is mixed, you know. Now you can't tell who's full blooded Creek or who's full-blooded Miccosukee. There's inter marriages all along and the thing that makes this reservation easier, I think, adapt to new things is because they have lived with white people long enough. They lived in Indiantown, and were more used to them. K: Most of the people who came to this reservation, then came from the Indiantown area, and did not come from South Florida? M: Right, Those down in South Florida;w~ll, tempers sort of they were having a dispute as to what they were going to do, and after these disputes were settled, three organizations came out of this. I don't know how Brighton happened to get into the Seminole Tribe, but that's what happened. After they settled all of this, well, tempers sort of cooled down, and my

PAGE 13

10 mother was able to convince my grandmother that I should be educated. My uncle was the hardest one to sway, but they finally took me back then to Big Cypress, I guess when I was about ten years old. I had a hard time getting used to those people down there. Their way of life was sort of different. K: Can you tell me how it was different? M: Well, for one thing, they went to church. They were very religious. They didn't believe in bickering. Well, nobody ever believed in bickering with each other really. Their political dispute was something else. They were bickering back and forth about who's right and who's wrong. Well, they didn't do this it was sort of a harmonious family type of living out there. It was very unusual, to me, to go to church and hear people singing, and this was something else they called them crazy or going mad or something back where I come from, when they start singing in church and praising God and all that. So this was all very odd, and the first church that I went to down in Big Cypress was Baptist organization, and they had the church way out in the swamp, and the only way to get over there was by foot or by buggy. I guess you could also take a horse if you had horses, but I don't think anybody did at the time. K: Did white men run the church? M: No, I imagine this Stanley Smith from Oklahoma that was staying there at the time, or Sam Tommy. K: Were they both Creeks from Oklahoma? M: No, Sam Tommy was one of the earliest Christians. Sam Tonnny and Billy Osceola and Henry Cypress were one of the first Indian preachers from here and I guess they were some of the ones that got educated first. Somebody was preaching here at the time. I don't really remember who it was because I didn't pay too much attention to it, you know. I wasn't taught that way and I didn't think too much of it. So after I came back, things were pretty nonnal. Every year we would go to a corn dance and K: Can you remember the first corn dance that you went to? M: Yeah. I must have been five or six years old. I've been to

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earlier ones, but this was the first one I remember. K: What part did the girls play in the corn dance? M: Well, they danced and they cooked, and well, the little girls usually just joined in with their mothers, grandmothers, who ever, doing the cooking. K: The girls are not scratched are they? M: No. K: Do you know why? M: Well, they say you can if you want to, but it's not necessary, because for the boys, they use medicine, and this is the rea son why they have to be scratched. K: The scratching cleanses them, purifies them, doesn't it? M: Uh huh. It's some kind of blood purification. They used the hot houses. They built little huts out of skins and wood, and they steam themselves. This was another way of cleansing your body. After you used all the medicines all night long, all day long you didn't eat, you use the medicines and you dance all night. And then you go in the steam houses. In the last part, they had the buffalo dance and K: And the girls and the women are more or less left out of this? M: You're not required to go in the dance grounds while they are having the White Feather Day when they don't eat. When they don't eat, they have a certain dance, and they use rouge of some kind on their face and the feathers on their head, you know, they put one white feather on the top of their head. And they had one or two feathers on the end of a stick and they'd dance with them. And they'd call the day as belonging to the white bird and they'd call it a white day. They'd dance all day and dance all night and use the medicine. Then they have a big old medicine bag, you know, it would be hang ing there, usually hanging from the east side of the buffalo dance ground and it's a big old deer-hide with a lot of medi cine in it. And during the night while there's dancing going on, they open the medicine and doctor it; and they close it up at the end of the dance. They said that the spirit of the 11

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medicine gets up and looks around and sees how his people are doing and if they're pretty healthy, he decided fine. And then that's sort of a traditional attachment to the medicine you have to take care of yourself, you know, your body. You get doctored on by the medicine man if you get sick and K: The Christians all go to the corn dances too, don't they? M: Some of them do, some of them don't believe in them. K: I wondered how they reconciled the differences between the 12 old way of life and Christianity. I know that orthodox Christians would not believe that the spirit could be in the medicine man, and that he could look over his people and tell them that they were well or not, and they would not believe in the power of medicine. This is just orthodox Christians I am talking about. I don't know how the Seminole Christians coped with that. I was wondering how they do it. M: I don't know. My stepfather he's pretty good believer in this medicine, and from what I heard is that God gave us our medicine for the sake of our health while we're on this earth. We have to observe the ritual that he gave to us with the medicine. Like, we have to go through the corn dance, as a get together thing so that the medicine can make us over. That's what we're supposed to do because this was something that was to do us good. This corn dance it wasn't a religious thing we didn't worship medi cine or anything. It was just a matter of being there to dance and to watch other dancers, and to stay up all night with the medicine for the young men and the old men, too, for the men to use. Itwas just something that was observed year after year like you would observe Independence Day. All year, you would be raising your crops and what have you, whether it would be pigs, or If you would go hunting, you would dry your meat, things like that, and then at the corn dance, the corn is green in the springtime, and they would come and have all this medicine before they eat the corn. The following day they eat the corn. That's why they call it the corn dance, because you have to do all this before you eat the fresh corn. Because they say that the corn was some kind of a person before it became corn. K: They don't have any trouble with any conflict between Chris tianity and the green corn dance?

PAGE 16

13 M: Yes, there is static now and then. They think that the corn dance should go out and Christianity should be the thing. Some people don't believe in it I for one don't believe that. I believe that the corn dance and all that was supposed to have been good for us. Well, this is just the way I was brought up, I guess. I was told that God gave us what we have, to use for ourselves. So this is what I believe. I believe in God, I believe it too, and I'm sort of Christian, but I don't like to say get rid of it because it is something of the devil. I won't say that because I don't believe that way. I know some person around here that would tell you the corn dance was a god to be worshipped, and I disagree with him fully, because I don't believe it was a god to be worshipped. God has always been in heaven, as far as I was brought up, and God is always the one to provide for us as long as we live on this earth. And I was told he would look after everything. So much for the corn dance, I guess. K: We were up to the point where you were finally going to church at Big Cypress, and found it to be a little strange. M: Well, after I went back for a little while, I came back and. lived at Big Cypress and finally I went down to Hollywood. My aunt was down there. She was one of those that married into the Seminole Tribe and I guess she was involved a bit in the Seminole tribe too. We would come and visit them and see all the people we used to know, and I was finally introduced to some of the older folks who lived there. Annie Mae was there, the Seminoles called her Tampa. Anyway, I was introduced to her and some of the educated people that live down there. Thos•e people could go outside and hold a job, or something like that. This was sort of a different community too, because in Big Cypress, they had religion and believed in prophecy. religion and all. Most of them didn't speak English and down in Hollywood they did. I guess just the younger people spoke English too People my own age, and just now having children you know they were the type who could speak English. The older ones like their parents, well, they spoke English, I guess. The town was close by. This was the first place I had been where the town was real close by. The children went to school every day. K: Did you go to school then? M: No.

PAGE 17

K: You hadn't talked your grandmother into it? M: Well, no we hadn't convinced grandma yet. K: Have you never gone to school? M: Yeah, I finally did, Back in 56, I guess, sometime, 55, 56, one, I went to school Mother had enrolled me in Dania Ele mentary School and I went there for about a month and quit 14 and we went home. My mother bought me books and reading ma terial. I couldn't recognize my alphabet and some of the words I couldn't remember, and some of the words I could work out by myself, you know. Finally, after that year, when I first start ed to school, I started talking to my grandmother about why we couldn't go to school. She also told me about the day the Indians were really educated and some blond Indians started living on this earth and the end of the world could be near. She said things like that and I went to stay with my mother for a while.