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Interview with Billy Osceola, July 27, 1972

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Billy Osceola, July 27, 1972
Creator:
Osceola, Billy ( 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 59 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Billy Osceola
INTERVIEWER: Tom King
DATE: October 1, 1972
DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION


SUMMARY
Billy Osceola remembers his early life, in this interview.
He tells about his family, travels on and off the
Brighton Reservation, their farming and hunting. Employment
and income are discussed, particularly the Indians
work for the C.C.C. Finally, Billy tells how his wife was
chosen for him and what constituted their marriage ceremony.


INDEX
Agriculture (farming), 6
C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps), 8-10
clans, 11
Education, 6-8
Employment and income, 1, 3-4, 8-10
Green Corn Dance, 11
Rituals (marriage, divorce), 10-12
Transcultural contacts, 4-5
Travel, 3


K: Billy, we'd appreciate it if you could tell us the story of
your life. Could you start off by telling us when you were
born, and where, and who your parents were, and so forth?
0: I was born here in this county way back in 1921, and we
stayed here 'til I grew up a little bit older and then my
daddy travelled to Big Cypress for hunting and fishing. So
we went to Big Cypress once in a while. Well, I want to
give you my daddy and my mother's name. My daddy is Jimmy
Osceola, and he died round about 118 years old. My mother,
I don't know her name in English, but Josie Billy--another
old man living today--said her mother was named Nancy,
Nancy Osceola. He's the only person to tell me that and so
I might believe it. So I guess it's it. Her name was Nancy,
Nancy Osceola. So we lived here in Glades County for a
long time, but before we had this Indian reservation we
have to go different areas to hunt some games. Well, my
daddy is and my mother, she don't live long after I was
born.
K: Billy, when were you born? What date?
O: 1921.
K: OK. Thank you.
O: And so, after my mother died, my father not stay much with
us. He's a Miccosukee. He's from Big Cypress, but when he's
married to my mother, he was living among us and on Glades
County. But he went back to Big Cypress all the time for
make his living for hunting and do little garden. He raised
corn and pumpkin, lot of pumpkins, and sometimes they raises
sweet potatoes. So, when he raise all these vegetables, he
want us to come and spend with him and harvest that vegetables.
And so, we did long time. I don't know what year, but during
the hunting season, most of my people travel to Indiantown
and when I become, remember well, and I was at Indiantown
and we lived nearby the Indiantown. Well, Indiantown is
little place. We put a temporary camp close by there and
we went over there and play with the white boys sometimes.
And maybe sometime we play all the Indians. They live six,
seven miles away from us and there's some boys and we want
to play with them and so we walk over there once in a while.
So back and forth like that, and we run by where the wild


2
bees make their living in the hollow of a tree and we know
that they may have some honey. So next time we come by, we're
going to bring the little axe and chop it down and get some
honey and several boys said, OK, let's do that. And so we
went back, next day, and we have to bring some axe and some
bucket, and next morning we chop them down, but the bees chase
us off and we just can't get that honey. We thought we
were going to have some honey but the bees, a lot of bees
there, so we just couldn't get any. We just left them on
the ground, and we went and told them about it, and
some adult people came and got some and we brought it home
and we ate it. That time I don't know how many years old
I was but something like about twelve, about eleven or twelve
year old.
K: That was in Indiantown?
0: Yeah. Right close by Indiantown.
K. You say that when your mother died, your father went back
to Big Cypress. Did he go back there to live or to visit
or what?
O: He just going back to grow some gardens.
K: Did he leave you when he went back? You and the rest of
your family.
0: We have to stay here. Sometime we go with him. We go with
him when my mother living, but after she died we have to
stay home. This is our home, Brighton Reservation. That
time, we don't have any reservation. We just live out here
about five miles. About three miles, I mean four miles.
And that's a long Indian resident there, and so while I was
brought up and so after about fifteen years old. And I
got several brothers; I used to have several brothers, but
two living now and one sister. My sister named Mary Huff
and my oldest brother that's living is Harjo Osceola and
Robert Osceola. There's only three of us left. There used
to be about five, six, but the rest of them died. I remem-
ber that two of them got automobile accident and they died
not too many days later. And so, there's only three brothers
living and one sister. So when he want us to go with him,
we had to go with him to harvest when he raise corn and
pumpkins and potatoes and things like that. So we had lot


3
of food that time.
K: Would you bring the corn and the food and potatoes back to
Brighton?
0: Yes. Sometimes, some corn and potatoes and pumpkins. Some-
time he was raise up here, but his home is in Big Cypress
and that's where he want to be, I guess.
K: How did you travel between Brighton and Big Cypress and back?
0: Well, we had to travel by foot and we had to walk from here
to Palmdale and have to catch the train into Miles City.
We walked from here to Palmdale. I don't know have the exact
figure, but we had to walk straight through. It was about
twenty-five miles where we can catch the train and when.we
catch on the train on down to, the train went down to
Everglades City. But about ten miles on this side of
Everglades City, they call that Miles City where a lot of
colored people make headquarters in work--they work on
farms and cut some trees, different workers, I guess--
and where we get off and then we have to walk again about
round ten or fifteen miles where he lived. And so, that's
the way we traveled, and we don't have any car or nothing.
My daddy used to have a canoe, but I don't think we can't
find the water all the way up there. He got a nice dugout
canoe, but he ain't never did ride up here. So he just used
it down there, I guess.
K: How did you bring the corn and produce back? Did you bring
it back in sacks?
0: They have to carry it on their backs, and what they can't
carry and that's all we bring and not much.
K: You told me that your daddy hunted for a living. You said
he had to go out and hunt for a job. What kind of hunting
did he do?
0: He was hunting for, well, way backwards, about around
early 1900s, about 1900, I guess, and that time the white
people wanted to buy some alligator skin, alligator, coon,
and otters. I think those three fur that they sell them,
you know. My father can sell them and get a little money,


4
but mostly depend on the vegetables that he raise.
K: Did he ever sell any vegetables, or were they just for family
consumption?
0: Just for family, for the family food.
K: Did you and your brothers help your father hunt?
0: Yes, oh yeah.
K: At what age did you start hunting with your father?
0: I wasn't very young at that time, I might say about thirteen
years old. Thirteen or fourteen years old, and when we want
to hunt with him and we'd have to go with him sometime.
Later when my brothers become a young man and they get, when
they wait for my daddy to come home, when they come home,
when we go to Indiantown, we do a lot of hunting over there,
too. My oldest brother, named Richard Osceola, and the
younger brother they went. When we went to Indiantown, the
rest of the family stay home, but they went out for the hunting
in the season, I think, every winter that white traders wanted
to buy some hides they went out for maybe two weeks sometimes
or three weeks. They had to stay way out in the woods
hunting and kill some otter. Mostly it was otters
and so when they brought it back and sell it and I think
that the traders can come to the Indians, where the Indians
are and buy some hides. So after he sell those hides, my
oldest brother wanted to go into town, West Palm Beach,
to buy a used vehicle, so him and dad went to West Palm
Beach. They said we're going to look around, see if we
can't find some good used car. So they went to West Palm
Beach on the train. They got on the train from Indiantown
to West Palm Beach and they got out to West Palm Beach and
they look around and they purchase one old Model T Ford
the same afternoon. And, we don't know how long they're
going to be gone. We think they might be gone for a whole
week. They start back that same afternoon after they buy
that old Model T to come home. It was very dark, round
about eleven, I mean about nine or ten o'clock, I guess,
at night. But at the old Indian camp they did build a fire,
especially in winter. They warmed themself up and sat around
the fire and we saw the light coming and we wonder what it
is, maybe some white folks might come and see us. My sister


5
and my grandmother was with us, you know, and so, there's
some white people coming to see us late at night and they
scare us, you know, and so we got to hide in the dark. We
just don't know what's going to happen. So we just get
back in the dark, several children of us, and finally they
come closer and closer, and it was a car but we don't know
that it was him, you know, and so we very scared. Finally
he stop right close to that camp and he got out and when we
saw that it was my brother and my daddy. Several children
of us and my brothers, we think that the car is a great
thing, and we went over there and we look and look all the
way around. We finally go to sleep after that but I can't
sleep. I just, how in the world that car run? And so, I
like to ride.
K: Billy, you told me that when you saw the car coming up
through the dark at night you thought it might be white
people coming out to visit you and you were afraid. Did the
white people give you a hard time back then? Did they
ever come out to Indian camps and cause problems for
the Seminoles?
0: No, not much. But not that happen before but, you know, we
hadn't see much people at night, you know, and we wondering
what's going to happen. We don't know wh6 it was, you know,
and that's why we scared. And we went to bed that night
and early the next morning and we wanted to ride that car.
We begged and begged for my brother, Richard, to take us
around in that car. We had to ask him to drive around. He
said well, a little while but this car is run on gasoline,
we have to buy some gas to use it. After we find out it
costs some money for run it, we quieted down, but he take
us around, he take us around for a little while. Then my
other two brothers and my sister went to town and they wanted
to get some groceries. Well, they left about the middle of
the morning and they dome back about twelve o'clock and
buy some groceries and a few other things that we needed.
And we lived there about, sometime, let's see, January,
February, March, when it's time for us to plant some corn
in March or they have to clear it, clean it up for the farm,
you know, so they have to come back, all come back. There's
a few other families living with us. I mean we had a whole
Indian camp. So they come back, and we come back the next,


6
after them, and we get back here in Glades County where we
gonna make some farm, raise some vegetable--corn, especially,
for the Green Corn Dance.
K: Was this before Brighton became a reservation?
O: Yes. It was way before. And we all come back and start
helping our parents and the folks for cleaning the farms.
That's what we do. We help them to burn it out sometimes.
The weeds is kind of high, and then we have to burn it or
the weeds, not too much weeds, we have to pull them by hand.
I saw that place they're using cattle, cattle grazing now.
One of the big palm hammock, that high ridge where we raise
corn. We don't use any fertilizer, nothing. We just plant
some corn, need water, but sometime rain help us out, you
know, so we raise real nice corn.
K: How big would the corn be?
O: Well, there's a fellow named Billy Stuart and Charlie Micco
and Billie Bowlegs, these three men that are farming next
to each other, and it was, I don't know maybe close to
thirty acres, I guess. We have to chop the trees down
and do that all the time, and so we cleared out one of the
big hammocks. I saw that best location that had some cattle
on that, and I saw that every time I passed by, and I still
remember these old times. And so, we have to chop them
down and two, three years later all the stubs that rotting
away and so the farm was very nice, lets the grass grow,
you know. We don't have any tractor or nothing, so we
just have to do it by hand. And we built a fence all the
way around, a log fence, and they do it by hand. In these
modern days I came by and see that spot there, and it
was nearly thirty acres, I guess, but the men built a fence
by logs laying like this, you know. I remember that well.
So, that's it. When I was young, I went to Indiantown for
a while and we came back, and sometime we go to Big Cypress
and came back, and we stay home most of the time. We not
get away most of the time, go around and see the world or
nothing. We just live there.
K: Billy, when did you first start going to school?
O: About sixteen years old when I went to school.
K: What school was that?


7
0: It was operated by the government. The government has a
school on the reservation. And the school put up here on
the Brighton Indian Reservation and the superintendent
made a speech one time. I remember that, even today, I
still remember that. He said, we trying to help the Indians
in all the United States that I never hear an Indian that
wanted school but the Brighton group which is my brother,
Richard Osceola, he's the one that requested school in 1936
and the school was built and finished in 1938.
K: Did the Indians build the school?
O: No. They help out some, but the contractor did.
K: The school was finished in 1938. Is that when
you started attending?
O: Yes. But it's not a day school. When I started working
with the government, eighteen years old, I have to work
day time, and we requested a teacher at night school. And
they start it, and I went to night school.
K: Could you speak English before you started going to school?
O: No.
K: You learned in school?
O: Yes.
K: Who taught you? Did someone who could speak Miccosukee,
was it an Indian or a white man or what who taught you to
speak English?
O: White man.
K: Could he speak Miccosukee?
O: No.
K: How did he teach you English if he could not speak Miccosukee?
O: What's that?
K: You said that your father was Miccosukee, right?
O: Yes.


8
K: I assume that you spoke Miccosukee.
0: No.
K: Oh, you spoke Creek.
0: Yes. I spoke Creek.
K: Oh, I see. And did the white man who taught you English,
did he speak Creek too?
0: No, he don't speak Creek. He just taught us it in English.
K: So, it must have been rather difficult.
O: Yes. It was difficult.
K: I can imagine. Would he draw pictures on the blackboard
and give you the name for them?
0: Yes.
K: That's a very slow and difficult way to learn a language.
0: Yes, that's right. Especially when you grow a little older.
If you start young you can learn easy, but when I was sixteen
years old and finally learn how to read and write, it was
difficult for an Indian trying to learn the English.
K: You told me that you worked for the government at that time
during the day. Can you tell me what yourjbb was?
0: Yes. In that time, I don't know what it means but C.C.C.
K: Ah, yes. My father was in that.
0: And that was something like this, that's what they said.
And they hired those Indians to help. Well, they started
off with the Indian families if they want some farm, this
is a lot of hammock on the Brighton Reservation. So each
man, each head of the family, if they want a certain size
of the farming, farming on the Brighton Reservation. So
I want this hammock, so I want how many acres, and they put
all the boys in there, and they pay them to cut the trees


9
down and pile it up and burn it up and build a fence
around. When they finish it, they go to the next hammock,
another Indian want this land. And on and on and on, that
gives a job for around about pretty close to ten years.
We have to clean that up.
K: Did all the land go to Indians?
0: Yes.
K: That's good. I was wondering, not any white men got it after
the Indians had cleared it.
O: No, the Indian families started farming.
K: And the government paid you to do so?
O: Yes.
K: Can you remember how much you were paid?
0: Oh, yes.
K: Or how little you were paid, perhaps.
0: Well, it was a dollar and a half a day.
K: I know that in other Civilian Conservation Corps camps--
that's what you belonged to, the C.C.C.--in other C.C.C.
organizations at that time, the boys and the men who worked
for the C.C.C. were frequently kept in barracks as if they
were in the military. They were taken pretty far away from
their homes and kept in barracks, and they had to march and
do certain drills and things like that. Were the Indians
treated this way?
0: No.
K: You were allowed to stay at home and lead a normal life?
0: Yes, that's right. We go home every night and then we come
back next morning to get our tools and the men drive the truck
to haul the men over there and they place them where they
supposed to work all day. That's the way you do that.
K: After you finished working for the C.C.C., where did you go,


10
what did you do next?
0: Well, on this reservation, I think we have to build some
roads, too.
K: Is this why you were in the C.C.C., building roads?
0: Yes. And after we finish clean up the farm land for the
families, then they bought some equipment and we going to
build the roads. So, that's the next thing, we build the
roads. I don't know how many years of that, and they're
still there now and they still want roads for a certain
area and they still build them, even today. They got
pretty good pay now. But way back in my early life, it's
only $7.50 a week, that's all we make. I don't remember
who it was, I tell him about my wages when I started working
and I earned $7.50 a week. I thought I got lots of money
and it was, too. We can buy some groceries and some new
clothes, and we got a little money left over. We didn't
get paid but once a month, I guess, or every two weeks. I
don't remember that, every two weeks, I guess.
K: Were you married then?
0: No.
K: When did you get married?
0: I got married in 1943. No, 1940. When I was twenty years
old, and I don't have any idea that I'm going to get married.
My oldest brother wanted me to get married. And so, he
find a girl for me in Big Cypress which I never met. I
never did see her in all my life, but that the girl that
she want me to get married and she's the one that picked
my wife and we married that time. That's the way they do
it, the Indian custom.
K: Do you know how your brother happened to pick her instead
of somebody else?
0: I don't know. I don't know how he picked her.
K: Did he talk with her family and make some sort of an
arrangement?
0: I guess so. I guess they did.


11
K: Did her family know you?
O: No. They lived on Big Cypress, and I never did see them
except once. There was only one time, and that's it. I
never did get acquainted with them or nothing.
K: Can you tell me how the ceremony was performed?
0: Yes. He arranged that too. Sometime they do it in the
Green Corn Dance area where they dance and celebrate for
the season, you know about that. I was married in the Green
Corn Dance in that time, but I was married in the home not
in public. I was married in the home.
K: Was it in the girl's home, in Sally's home, or in your own
home?
O: No. In my home.
K: Your home. Here on Brighton?
0: No. It was Green Corn Dance.
K: Oh, you put homes around the Green Corn Dance area?
0: Yes.
K: Oh, I didn't know that.
0: And the Bird Clan has to build a home and Tiger Clan,
they have to build another home, and Deer Clan, and Otter
Clan, and the Snake Clan, and so on, all the homes that
each separate location. So, that's the way he arrange it,
I guess. He try to get one old Indian man, he name Wilson
Cypress. He from Big Cypress, you know. He want him to do
it but he said, no, I do the wedding before but maybe I
might no do it right. When I give the marriage these two
couples and they don't live together anymore for a few years
later. They separate, and when I see that, it not going
to be that way. They have to stay together all the time,
but I saw that happen before so maybe I'm the one that doing
it. The marriage might be not handling in the right way.
So I don't want that thing happen again with these couple
that you ought to made to marry him, so let somebody else
do it. And so, he said, OK. And he went to the next person


12
who is my dad and he talking to him and he marry my brother
to one other girl and he sit there for a moment and he said,
yes, I was more than glad to.
K: Your father married you?
0: Yes. And so, he said, go get the girl, which girl it is.
Yes, I want to marry. So, my brother go get--well, he
already arrange that, you know, before that time, I guess,
and I didn't know it--but we come to him and he had a very
good talk. He said, you all going to marry each other and
live for from now on. The marriage is going to be like
that, and you all have to live together and love and help
one another in sickness or in good health. You have to
support her and she has to help you. He was talking to
us about round forty-five minutes or one hour and he said,
if you say yes, you all married. So after he finish talking,
I say yes and she say yes and so we got married. We go married
for Indian custom way back there in 1940.
K: Is there any way for Indians to get a divorce, are there
Indian customs?
O: No.
K: So, they must live together all their lives?
0: Yes. That what they believe.
K: So, suppose that one member of the family, either the husband
or the wife, leaves the other one and then is divorced to
all intents and purposes and will not live with he or she
anymore, can the other partner get married again?
0: Yes.
K: Does anybody have to decide on that? Is there somebody in
authority who can decide whether or not it is legal under
Indian customs for the two partners to remarry?
O: No. I never heard that, and that might be, but I don't know.
K: OK. Well, I think we're going to stop now. It's been quite
a long tape. In a later interview, we'll take up where we
left off here with you getting married. Thank you very much,
Billy. I really appreciate it.


Full Text

PAGE 1

INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: Billy Osceola INTERVIEWER: Tom King DATE: October 1, 1972 DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION

PAGE 2

SUMMARY Billy Osceola remembers his early life, in this inter view. He tells about his family, travels on and off the Brighton Reservation, their farming and hunting. Employ ment and income are discussed, particularly the Indians work for the C.C.C. Finally, Billy tells how his wife was chosen for him and what constituted their marriage cere mony.

PAGE 3

INDEX Agriculture (farming), 6 C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps), 8-10 clans, 11 Education, 6-8 Employment and income, 1, 3-4, 8-10 Green Corn Dance, 11 Rituals (marriage, divorce), 10-12 Transcultural contacts, 4-5 Travel, 3

PAGE 4

K: Billy, we'd appreciate it if you could tell us the story of your life. Could you start off by telling us when you were born, and where, and who your parents were, and so forth? O: I was born here in this county way back in 1921, and we stayed here 'til I grew up a little bit older and then my daddy travelled to Big Cypress for hunting and fishing. So we went to Big Cypress once in a while. Well, I want to give you my daddy and my mother's name. My daddy is Jimmy Osceola, and he died round about 118 years old. My mother, I don't know her name in English, but Josie Billy--another old man living today--said her mother was named Nancy, Nancy Osceola. He's the only person to tell me that and so I might believe it. So I guess it's it. Her name was Nancy, Nancy Osceola. So we lived here in Glades County for a long time, but before we had this Indian reservation we have to go different areas to hunt some games. Well, my daddy is and my mother, she don't live long after I was born. K: Billy, when were you born? What date? O: 1921. K: OK. Thank you. 0: And so, after my mother died, my father not stay much with us. He's a Miccosukee. He's from Big Cypress, but when he's married to my mother, he was living among us and on Glades County. But he went back to Big Cypress all the time for make his living for hunting and do little garden. He raised corn and pumpkin, lot of pumpkins, and sometimes they raises sweet potatoes. So, when he raise all these vegetables, he want us to come and spend with him and harvest that vegetables. And so, we did long time. I don't know what year, but during the hunting season, most of my people travel to Indiantown and when I become, remember well, and I was at Indiantown and we lived nearby the Indiantown. Well, Indiantown is little place. We put a temporary camp close by there and we went over there and play with the white boys sometimes. And maybe sometime we play all the Indians. They live six, seven miles away from us and there's some boys and we want to play with them and so we walk over there once in a while. So back and forth like that, and we run by where the wild

PAGE 5

2 bees make their living in the hollow of a tree and we know that they may have some honey. So next time we come by, we're going to bring the little axe and chop it down and get some honey and several boys said, OK, let's do that. And so we went back, next day, and we have to bring some axe and some bucket, and next morning we chop them down, but the bees chase us off and we just can't get that honey. We thought we were going to have some honey but the bees, a lot of bees there, so we just couldn't get any. We just left them on the ground, and we went and told them about it, and some adult people came and got some and we brought it home and we ate it. That time I don't know how many years old I was but something like about twelve, about eleven or twelve year old. K: That was in Indiantown? O: Yeah. Right close by Indiantown. K:' You say that when your mother died, your father went back to Big Cypress. Did he go back there'to live or to visit or what? 0: He just going back to grow some gardens. K: Did he leave you when he went back? You and the rest of your family. O: We have to stay here. Sometime we go with him. We go with him when my mother living, but after she died we have to stay home. This is our home, Brighton Reservation. That time, we don't have any reservation. We just live out here about five miles. About three miles, I mean four miles. And that's a long Indian resident there, and so while I was brought up and so after about fifteen years old. And I got several brothers; I used to have several brothers, but two living now and one sister. My sister named Mary Huff and my oldest brother that's living is Harjo Osceola and Robert Osceola. There's only three of us left. There used to be about five, six, but the rest of them died. I remem ber that two of them got automobile accident and they died not too many days later. And so, there's only three brothers living and one sister. So when he want us to go with him, we had to go with him to harvest when he raise corn and pumpkins and potatoes and things like that. So we had lot

PAGE 6

of food that time. K: Would you bring the corn and the food and potatoes back to Brighton? 3 0: Yes. Sometimes, some corn and potatoes and pumpkins. Some time he was raise up here, but his home is in Big Cypress and that's where he want to be, I guess. K: How did you travel between Brighton and Big Cypress and back? 0: Well, we had to travel by foot and we had to walk from here to Palmdale and have to catch the-train into Miles City. We walked from here to Palmdale. I don't know have the exact figure, but we had to wal~ straight through. It was about twenty-five miles where we can catch the train and when.we catch on the train on down to, the train went down to Everglades City. But about ten miles on this side of Everglades City, they call that Miles City where a lot of colored people make headquarters in work--they work on farms and cut some trees, different workers, I guess-and where we get off and then we have to walk again about round ten or fifteen miles where he lived. And so, that's the way we traveled, and we don't have any car or nothing. My daddy used to have a canoe, but I don't think we can't find the water all the way up there. He got a nice dugout canoe, but he ain't never did ride up here. So he just used it down there, I guess. K: How did you bring the corn and produce back? Did you bring it back in sacks? 0: They have to carry it on their backs, and what they can't carry and that's all we bring and not much. K: You told me that your daddy hunted for a living. You said he had to go out and hunt for a job. What kind of hunting did he do? 0: He was hunting for, well, way backwards, about around early 1900s, about 1900, I guess, and that time the white people wanted to buy some alligator skin, alligator, coon, and otters. I think those three fur that they sell them, you know. My father can sell them and get a little money,

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4 but mostly depend on the vegetables that he raise. K: Did he ever sell any vegetables, or were they just for family consumption? O: Just for family, for the family food. K: Did you and your brothers help your father hunt? 0: Yes, oh yeah. K: At what age did you start hunting with your father? 0: I wasn't very young at that time, I might say about thirteen years old. Thirteen or fourteen years old, and when we want to hunt with him and we'd have to go with him sometime. Later when my brothers become a young man and they get, when they wait for my daddy to come home, when they come home, when we go to Indiantown, we do a lot of hunting over there, too. My oldest brother, named Richard Osceola, and the younger brother they went. When we went to Indiantown, the rest of the family stay home, but they went out for the hunting in the season, I think, every winter that white traders wanted to buy some hides they went out for maybe two weeks sometimes or three weeks. They had to stay way out in the woods hunting and kill some otter. Mostly it was otters and so when they brought it back and sell it and I think that the traders can come to the Indians, where the Indians are and buy some hides. So after he sell those hides, my oldest brother wanted to go into town, West Palm Beach, to buy a used vehicle, so him and dad went to West Palm Beach. They said we're going to look around, see if we can't find some good used car. So they went to West Palm Beach on the train. They got on the train from Indiantown to West Palm Beach and they got out to West Palm Beach and they look around and they purchase one old Model T Ford the same afternoon. And, we don't know how long they're going to be gone. We think they might be gone for a whole week. They start back that same afternoon after they buy that old Model T to come home. It was very dark, round about eleven, I mean about nine or ten o'clock, I guess, at night. But at the old Indian camp they did build a fire, especially in winter. They warmed themself up and sat around the fire and we saw the light coming and we wonder what it is, maybe some white folks might come and see us. My sister

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5 and my grandmother was with us, you know, and so, there's some white people coming to see us late at night and they scare us, you know, and so we got to hide in the dark. We just don't know what's going to happen. So we just get back in the dark, several children of us, and finally they come closer and closer, and it was a car but we don't know that it was him, you know, and so we very scared. Finally he stop right close to that camp and he got out and when we saw that it was my brother and my daddy. Several children of us and my brothers, we think that the car is a great thing, and we went over there and we look and look all the way around. We finally go to sleep after that but I can't sleep. I just, how in the world that car run? And so, I like to ride. K: Billy, you told me that when you saw the car coming up through the dark at night you thought it might be white people coming out to visit you and you were afraid. Did the white people give you a hard time back then? Did they ever come out to Indian camps and cause problems for the Seminoles? O: No, not much. But not that happen before but, you know, we hadn't see much people at night, you know, and we wondering what's going to happen. We don't know wh6 it was, you know, and that's why we scared. And we went to bed that night and early the next morning and we wanted to ride that car. We begged and begged for my brother, Richard, to take us around in that car. We had to ask him to drive around. He said well, a little while but this car is run on gasoline, we have to buy some gas to use it. After we find out it costs some money for run it, we quieted down, but he take us around, he take us around for a little while. Then my other two brothers and my sister went to town and they wanted to get some groceries. Well, they left about the middle of the morning and they come back about twelve o'clock and buy some groceries and a few other things that we needed. And we lived there about, sometime, let's see, January, February, March, when it's time for us to plant some corn in March or they have to clear it, clean it up for the farm, you know, so they have to come back, all come back. There's a few other families living with us. I mean we had a whole Indian camp. So they come back, and we come back the next,

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6 after them, and we get back here in Glades County where we gonna make some farm, raise some vegetable--corn, especially, for the Green Corn Dance. K: Was this before Brighton became a reservation? 0: Yes. It was way before. And we all come back and start helping our parents and the folks for cleaning the farms. That's what we do. We help them to burn it out sometimes. The weeds is kind of high, and then we have to burn it or the weeds, not too much weeds, we have to pull them by hand. I saw that place they're using cattle, cattle grazing now. One of the big palm hammock, that high ridge where we raise corn. We don't use any fertilizer, nothing. We just plant some corn, need water, but sometime rain help us out, you know, so we raise real nice corn. K: How big would the corn be? O: Well, there's a fellow named Billy Stuart and Charlie Micco and Billie Bowlegs, these three men that are farming next to each other, and it was, I don't know maybe close to thirty acres, I guess. We have to chop the trees down and do that all the time, and so we cleared out one of the big hammocks. I saw that best location that had some cattle on that, and I saw that every time I passed by, and I still remember these old times. And so, we have to chop them down and two, three years later all the stubs that rotting away and so the farm was very nice, lets the grass grow, you know. We don't have any tractor or nothing, so we just have to do it by hand. And we built a fence all the way around, a log fence, and they do it by hand. In these modern days I came by and see that spot there, and it was nearly thirty acres, I guess, but the men built a fence by logs laying like this, you know. I remember that well. So, that's it. When I was young, I went to Indiantown for a while and we came back, and sometime we go to Big Cypress and came back, and we stay home most of the time. We not get away most of the time, go around and see the world or nothing. We just live there. K: Billy, when did you first start going to school? O: About sixteen years old when I went to school. K: What school was that?

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O: It was operated by the government. The government has a school on the reservation. And the school put up here on the Brighton Indian Reservation and the superintendent 7 made a speech one time. I remember that, even today, I still remember that. He said, we trying to help the Indians in all the United States that I never hear an Indian that wanted school but the Brighton group which is my brother, Richard Osceola, he's the one that requested school in 1936 and the school was built and finished in 1938. K: Did the Indians build the school? O: No. They help out some, but the contractor did. K: The school was finished in 1938. Is that when you started attending? 0: Yes. But it's not a day school. When I started working with the government, eighteen years old, I have to work day time, and we requested a teacher at night school. And they start it, and I went to night school. K: Could you speak English before you started going to school? O: No. K: You learned in school? O: Yes. K: Who taught you? Did someone who could speak Miccosukee, was it an Indian or a white man or what who taught you to speak English? O: White man. K: Could he speak Miccosukee? O: No. K: How did he teach you English if he could not speak Miccosukee? O: What's that? K: You said that your father was Miccosukee, right? 0: Yes.

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K: I assume that you spoke Miccosukee. O: No. K: Oh, you spoke Creek. O: Yes. I spoke Creek. K: Oh, I see. And did the did he speak Creek too? white man who taught you English, 8 O: No, he don't speak Creek. He just taught us it in English. K: So, it must have been rather difficult. O: Yes. It was difficult. K: I can imagine. Would he draw pictures on the blackboard and give you the name for them? O: Yes. K: That's a very slow and difficult way to learn a language. O: Yes, that's right. Especially when you grow a little older. If you start young you can learn easy, but when I was sixteen years old and finally learn how to read and write, it was difficult for an Indian trying to learn the English. K: You told me that you worked for the government at that time during the day. Can you tell me what your_job was? O: Yes. In that time, I don't know what it means but C.C.C. K: Ah, yes. My father was in that. O: And that was something like this, that's what they said. And they hired those Indians to help. Well, they started off with the Indian families if they want some farm, this is a lot of hammock on the Brighton Reservation. So each man, each head of the family, if they want a certain size of the farming, farming on the Brighton Reservation. So I want this hammock, so I want how many acres, and they put all the boys in there, and they pay them to cut the trees

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down and pile it up and burn it up and build a fence around. When they finish it, they go to the next hannnock, another Indian want this land. And on and on and on, that gives a job for around about pretty close to ten years. We have to clean that up. K: Did all the land go to Indians? O: Yes. 9 K: That's good. I was wondering, not any white men got it after the Indians had cleared it. O: No, the Indian families started farming. K: And the government paid you to do so? O: Yes. K: Can you remember how much you were paid? O: Oh, yes. K: Or how little you were paid, perhaps. O: Well, it was a dollar and a half a day. K: I know that in other Civilian Conservation Corps campsthat's what you belonged to, the c.c.c.--in other c.c.c. organizations at that time, the boys and the men who worked for the C.C.C. were frequently kept in barracks as if they were in the military. They were taken pretty far away from their homes and kept in barracks, and they had to march and do certain drills and things like that. Were the Indians treated this way? 0: No. K: You were allowed to stay at home and lead a normal life? 0: Yes, that's right. We go home every night and then we come back next morning to get our tools and the men drive the truck to haul the men over there and they place them where they supposed to work all day. That's the way you do that. K: After you finished working for the C.C.C., where did you go,

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what did you do next? O: Well, on this reservation, I think we have to build some roads, too. K: Is this why you were in the C.C.C., building roads? O: Yes. And after we finish clean up the farm land for the families, then they bought some equipment and we going to build the roads. So, that's the next thing, we build the roads. I don't know how many years of that, and they're still there now and they still want roads for a certain area and they still build them, even today. They got 10 pretty good pay now. But way back in my early life, it's only $7.50 a week, that's all we make. I don't remember who it was, I tell him about my wages when I started working and I earned $7.50 a week. I thought I got lots of money and it was, too. We can buy some groceries and some new clothes, and we got a little money left over. We didn't get paid but once a month, I guess, or every two weeks. I don't remember that, every two weeks, I guess. K: Were you married then? O: No. K: When did you get married? O: I got married in 1943. No, 1940. When I was twenty years old, and I don't have any idea that I'm going to get married. My oldest brother wanted me to get married. And so, he find a girl for me in Big Cypress which I never met. I never did see her in all my life, but that the girl that she want me to get married and she's the one that picked my wife and we married that time. That's the way they do it, the Indian custom. K: Do you know how your brother happened to pick her instead of somebody else? O: I don't know. I don't know how he picked her. K: Did he talk with her family and make some sort of an arrangement? O: I guess so. I guess they did.

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11 K: Did her family know you? O: No. They lived on Big Cypress, and I never did see them except once. There was only one time, and that's it. I never did get acquainted with them or nothing. K: Can you tell me how the ceremony was performed? O: Y.es. He arranged that too. Sometime they do it in the Green Corn Dance area where they dance and celebrate for the season, you know about that. I was married in the Green Corn Dance in that time, but I was married in the home not in public. I was married in the home. K: Was it in the girl's home, in Sally's home, or in your own home? O: No. In my home. K: Your home. Here on Brighton? O: No. It was Green Corn Dance. K: Oh, you put homes around the Green Corn Dance area? O: Yes. K: Oh, I didn't know that, 0: And the Bird Clan has to build a home and Tiger Clan, they have to build another home, and Deer Clan, and Otter Clan, and the Snake Clan, and so on, all the homes that each separate location. So, that's the way he arrange it, I guess. He try to get one old Indian man, he name Wilson Cypress. He from Big Cypress, you know. He want him to do it but he said, no, I do the wedding before but maybe I might no do it right. When I give the marriage these two couples and they don't live together anymore for a few years later. They separate, and when I see that, it not going to be that way. They have to stay together all the time, but I saw that happen before so maybe I'm the one that doing it. The marriage might be not handling in the right way. So I don't want that thing happen again with these couple that you ought to made to marry him, so let somebody else do it. And so, he said, OK. And he went to the next person

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12 who is my dad and he talking to him and he marry my brother to one other girl and he sit there for a moment and he said, yes, I was more than glad to. K: Your father married you? 0: Yes. And so, he said, go get the girl, which girl it is. Yes, I want to marry. So, my brother go get--well, he already arrange that, you know, before that time, I guess, and I didn't know it--but we come to him and he had a very good talk. He said, you all going to marry each other and live for from now on. The marriage is going to be like that, and you all have to live together and love and help one another in sickness or in good health. You have to support her and she has to help you. He was talking to us about round forty-five minutes or one hour and he said, if you say yes, you all married. So after he finish talking, I say yes and she say yes and so we got married. We go married for Indian custom way back there in 1940. K: Is there any way for Indians to get a divorce, are there Indian customs? O: No. K: So, they must live together all their lives? O: Yes. That what they believe. K: So, suppose that one member of the family, either the husband or the wife, leaves the other one and then is divorced to all intents and purposes and will not live with he or she anymore, can the other partner get married again? O: Yes. K: Does anybody have to decide on that? Is there somebody in authority who can decide whether or not it is legal under Indian customs for the two partners to remarry? O: No. I never heard that, and that might be, but I don't know. K: OK. Well, I think we're going to stop now. It's been quite a long tape. In a later interview, we'll take up where we left off here with you getting married. Thank you very much, Billy. I really appreciate it.