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Interview with Fred Monsteoca, December 4, 1972

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Title:
Interview with Fred Monsteoca, December 4, 1972
Creator:
Monsteoca, Fred ( Interviewee )
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English

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

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

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Seminoles' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
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SEM 76 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
Interviewee: Fred Monsteoca
Interviewer: Tom King
Date: December 4, 1972


SUMMARY
Fred Monsteoca, associated from 1936 to 1971 with
the Seminole tribe, through either the United States
government or the University of Florida, was intimate-
ly involved with the Seminole cattle program. Begin-
ning with the first arrival of Oklahoma cattle to
Fort Bassinger, he discusses the history of the pro-
gram, focussing especially upon the evolution made
from governmental to private ownership.
Mr. Monsteoca explains why the government initially
sent the cattle, what measures were taken by the tribe
under his direction to build up the cattle and to achieve
profitable private and tribal ownership. He considers
pasturage, breeding, and Seminole cowboy expertise.
Although Mr. Monsteoca mostly details the Brighton Reservation program,
he is considerably informative
about Big Cypress and Dania reservations, as well.
Throughout the interview, he mentions Seminole leaders
who supported and furthered the cattle program.


INDEX
Billie, Josie, 17
cattle program
Big Cypress Reservation, 5-6, 9
breeding, 10
Brighton Reservation, 2-3, 14
initiation of, 1-2
ownership, 6-11, 13-15, 18-20
pasturage, 9-10
purpose of, 13
tribal organization, 4-6, 11-12, 15-16
Gopher, Willy, 3, 4
Jones, Sam, 17
King, Willy, 4-5, 17
leadership, 16-17
Micco, Charlie, 3-4, 7, 17
Monsteoca, Fred (career of), 1
Osceola, Richard, 17
Shore, Frank, 1, 3


K: The following is an interview with Fred Monsteoca. It was con-
ducted on Monday, December 4th, 1972, at two o'clock p.m.
I interviewed Mr. Monsteoca in the house on his ranch...which
in north of Lorida, Florida. Mr. Monsteoca's address is Box 206,
Lorida, Florida.
Fred Monsteoca was born in Osceola County on September 9, 1906.
He was associated with the Seminole tribe from 1936 through 1971.
He held various positions, all of them either with the United States
government or with the University of Florida. Each of these posi-
tions had something to do with the cattle program on the Brighton
Reservation, or the cattle program of the Seminole tribe as a
whole.
Fred first became associated with the Seminoles in 1936 as
a stockman for the United States government. He was in charge
of seeing that the cattle which were turned over to the Seminoles
in 1936 were properly utilized by them. He then became agricultural
extension agent for the government. Later, he was under contract
as an agricultural extension agent for the University of Florida.
Fred tells me that the University of Florida took over the agri-
cultural extension program from the government for a period of
time. Later on, Fred once again went back into the government
as Livestock and Range Manager for the B.I.A. [Bureau of Indian
Affairs]. I believe this was in 1968.
Fred retired in February of 1971, and upon retirement was
given several mementos by the Seminoles. He was given a plaque
inscribed with his name and the service that he had contributed
to the Seminoles, and he was given a shotgun and a few other
things.
Fred was a University of Florida student, and also a student
at Florida Southern University, where he graduated with a degree
in animal husbandry.
I had been referred to Fred by Frank Shore, the medicine man
on the Brighton Reservation. Some time ago I had interviewed Frank
Shore concerning the cattle program on the Brighton Reservation.
Frank had given me as much information concerning the program
as he could, but he told me that the man to see was definitely
Fred Monsteoca. Frank, and some of the other Seminoles with whom
I had spoken on the Brighton Reservation hold Fred Monsteoca in
high esteem. They claim that he did quite a lot for them and for
the cattle program for the Seminoles. The interview begins with
Mr. Monsteoca's comments about the first cattle shipment received
by the Seminoles.


2
M: In '35 they shipped quite a few cattle by rail out of the drought
stricken areas of the southwest.
K: Who shipped these cattle?
M: The government. The way the Indians got involved, it was the
time that this drought.... I don't suppose you recall it, but
way back in the 30's they had a terrible drought in the southwest,
and the government had to buy up a lot of these cattle for economic
reasons on the rancher's part, because they were just going broke.
So the Bureau of Indian Affairs thought it might be a good idea
to get the Indians, on different reservations, in the cattle
business...that were interested in becoming cattle men. They
sent some to the Seminoles. They sent these cattle into the
Brighton Indian Reservation by rail, and they were unloaded at
Fort Bassinger. At the same time, they sent some to a smaller
reservation they had in Dania. They only had about 455 acres in
the Dania Reservation--that's in Broward County--and they sent
some down there. When they got these cattle to Bassinger, they
unloaded them from the railroad cars, they were carried 'cross
country by trail--across the country to the reservation, which
was about twenty miles. These cattle were in such poor condition
that a lot of them died en route.
K: What kind of cattle were they?
M: Mostly Hereford cattle, all Herefords that came in on the train.
These cattle were trailed over to the Brighton Indian Reservation
by some Indian boys that they just got together that knew a little
bit about cattle work. At that time, the Brighton Indian Reser-
vation had not all been acquired, so there was only two sections.
These cattle had to be minded there on those two sections for
quite awhile, until we got fences up on some of the other land in
order to support the cattle.
We immediately got involved in the cattle program in 1937.
That's when we really got started with the program. We got these
cattle situated over the range lands, and I went down. I was
supervising the cattle program at that time. I had been recom-
mended to the University of Florida as what you probably call a
stockman or herdsman, and I went down there and took charge of
this program and worked with the Indians. Of course, we didn't
have any Indian cowboys. We only had about four Indians that
knew anything about cattle at that time. They had worked out with
individual private cattle ranchers and gotten some experience.


3
K: Who were those four?
M: Frank Shore, Charlie Micco, Naha Tiger and Willy Gopher had some
experience, and I believe we had another one that we would get
part time. He was still employed as a cowboy with a private con-
cern. That was Willy Tiger. Frank Shore didn't help us very much
at that time. He wasn't too friendly towards the program, because
when they moved the cattle in there, some way or other the super-
intendent had fouled up his pay. He didn't get his pay for quite
a while, so he had very little to do with the Indian program there
for awhile. I finally got his money for him, and got him straightened
out, and we got him interested. He was a great help to us in our
program, and so was his brother, Charlie Micco.
Now, Charlie Micco was a brother to Frank Shore, he was my
main leader as a cow man in the beginning of the program. We
started out with our program, and I moved the cattle from Dania--
that was a very small reservation, and the range conditions
weren't too good, so I moved them to Brighton.
K: How did you bring them over?
M: I trucked them from Dania Reservation to Brighton. I got all the
Indian cattle that was left, which was about 500 head, I guess,
or less...it was probably less. I got them all on one reservation,
and I began immediately to try to grade them up and build them up.
We began to buy minerals of course, and I constructed mineral
boxes. We constructed windmills throughout the reservation for
watering purposes, and fenced the pastures to where we could
rotate the cattle grazing and more or less control our breeding
program. I never will forget--at our first roundup with these
cattle we marked seventy-five calves in all. That was the entire
calf crop.
All the time we were working these cattle.... It was back
in the days of screwworms, and the screwworms were terrible; they
were just absolutely eating the cattle up, you might say. I got
some younger boys in, and our younger boys become very proficient
in roping these cattle, and treating them for screwworm. Of course,
all the Indian people, particularly the Seminoles that I know about,
they's good horsemen. Most of them have a love for livestock of
any kind. It wasn't too hard to train cowboys. It took a little
time, but with the help of such men as Frank [Frank Shore] and
Charlie Micco, and the older ones, it wasn't too long getting
some of these boys trained where we could really do a good job
for the cattle.


4
After we had these cattle there a couple years, we realized
that we had to form some kind of a tribal enterprise, or something
that we could justify...operating this program. We had a meeting,
and in this meeting, of course, we had to elect some trustees.
In electing the trustees, Charlie Micco was one of them, and Willy
Gopher. As I said in the beginning, Willy never had much exper-
ience.
K: Let me interrupt you for a second. I'm curious as to who it was
that elected these trustees. How many people were allowed to vote?
What were the criteria for voting?
M: All the people were allowed to vote. I was going to get to that,
because we had this big meeting in the school house, and I tried
to explain to them how you conducted the election, you know--that
you had to nominate people. Then I stressed the importance of
having somebody nominated that knew something about the cattle,
as much as they could, and that you could only vote one time.
We finally got across to the Indians that they could do this.
At that time, we had a missionary in this country by the name
of Willy King. He could speak English, and he was a great help
to us in our program, because he would explain to the Indians
what I would say, or what any other government official would say.
K: Was he a Seminole or a Creek?
M: He was an Oklahoma Creek, I think.
K: Was he a Baptist?
M: He was a Baptist. And he was a great worker among the Seminoles.
He assisted me a great deal in trying to carry on meetings and
trying to get over what my program was to the Indian people.
I explained to Willy how this had to be done, and he explained
to them. They finally caught on, and they come up with these
nominations. Of course, Charlie Micco was one--he was the cattle
man; he was one of my main leaders. They nominated Willy
[Willy Gopher]. Well, there was one or two others in there that
was older men that knew a little more about cattle at that time
than Willy did. After the meeting the school teacher there--which
was Mr. Boehmer [William D. Boehmer]--and myself asked Charlie
and some of the others that could speak a little English, "How
come you didn't nominate or elect so-and-so?" Well, they said


5
the reason they elected Willy...he had a horse. They elected
him because he owned a horse.
K: And none of the others owned horses?
M: Some of them didn't own horses; that made him eligible for a
cattle director. Anyway, they'd vote twice....
K: Did he know hardly anything at all about cattle?
M: Very little at that time.
Where we had our trouble...the women would vote for every-
one, so we had a terrible time of ever getting it straightened
out. We finally got these men elected, and we operated with
these trustees--more or less just a legal..in order to carry out
the business. We could carry on the business, but you had to
have some justification for it.
We had this tribal organization, and we operated under that
for awhile until we got more experience. We kept with our cattle
program, and we started to improve and progress.
K: What was the title of that organization?
M: That title then was just called Seminole Cattle Program. Then
we went from that program to Brighton Indian Cattle Enterprise.
That's when we really got down to business and elected our trustees,
and operated the Brighton Cattle Enterprise. Then we had one for
Big Cypress. It was two separate enterprises. See,the first...
under this tribal thing, it was all one organization.
But then, along in about 1942 we realized we had to get some
kind of a program. The Indians began to get interested in Big
Cypress, so they wanted some kind of program, and we decided to
move some cattle down there. But in the meantime, the cattle we
had were mostly Herefords, and the Big Cypress was a real native
range, you know, and it was infested with mosquitos, and a lot
of water. It just wasn't a good ideal spot for cattle country
at that time. We also had the fever tick there at this time.
We hadn't gotten rid of the Texas fever tick, and we had to
select some kind of cattle that would survive down there. So
we bought original cattle that was native cattle--Florida cattle.
We bought some cattle, and moved down there; then bought some
Brahman bulls, which is more adapted to that particular type of
range, and that kind of country. We started our program at Big
Cypress with native cattle and Brahman bulls in order to breed


6
up a cow that would take that particular area, and that kind of
conditions. Later on, of course, the ticks were eradicated from
both reservations. We had to have a program of dipping cattle
every fourteen days for at least twelve to fourteen months, which
was a terrific job, but we got it done. Then, that eliminated
the cattle ticks, and that was the reason for forming the Big
Cypress Cattle Enterprise. Then we had one at Brighton.
Well, we went along with that type of program for a number
of years, and in the meantime, of course, the cattle were, we
were breeding them up all the time, following all the practices
that was recommended by the University of Florida, and carrying
on the program in the way we thought it should be carried on.
As our cattle began to grow, we began to talk about dispersing
the herds into private ownership. So then we eliminated this
cattle enterprise--Brighton Cattle Enterprise; Big Cypress Cattle
Enterprise--and set us up a Brighton Cattlemen's Cooperative As-
sociation. These associations were made up strictly of cattle
owners. The people that owned cattle, they formed their own
association, and it was more or less on a co-op basis where
these associations were formed. They purchased all their minerals,
their livestock neccessities, and their trucks, and...in other
words, they operated just like a big company, only it was a co-op.
They didn't buy things as individuals; they bought them as a
group, and Big Cypress was a separate co-op from Brighton.
K: Now you say that this was the first time that the cattle became
privately owned--is that correct?
M: Yeah.
K: Could you start right from the beginning again, and tell me only
about the character of ownership? Start right off, and tell me
who owned the cattle when they first came down. Did they belong
to the Seminole tribe, or did they...?
M: No. When they first come here, they were sent in here by the
government. The government paid for the cattle.
K: The government owned them, then?
M: The government owned them. Then they formed this tribal cattle
program that I told you about. They began to move along; the
cattle began to do good. The government wasn't allowed to stay
in the cattle business. They wanted to sell them to the Indians,
so they sold them to the tribe.


7
K: When did the government sell the cattle to the tribe?
M: This tribal organization was first started more less just as a
legal justification whereby the government could get out of the
cattle business, and turn it over to the tribe. In 1940, I would
say, the government sold the cattle to the Indians.
K: I want you to be very explicit about this--just exactly what
Indians was it that the government sold the cattle to? See,
there was no Indian tribal organization.
M: They sold them to the Seminole tribe. They didn't call it the
Seminole Tribe of Florida, they just called it the Seminole tribe.
K: Yeah. Who represented the Seminole tribe?
M: Well, the people that represented the Seminole tribe actually, at
that time, was none other than these trustees that I'm telling...
like Charlie Micco and those boys. See, it was a legal justification,
in order to get the cattle out of the government hands, over into
the tribes.
After they did this, it rocked along a little while, and then
they realized that there had to be some kind of organization.
They set up these two cattle organizations that I just told you
about.
At one time, they planned on these cattle being paid back
in kind. In other words, if they let you have ten head of cattle...
like we give Frank Shore ten head of cattle, and he was to pay
back eleven head--one for interest. Those extra cattle that they
paid back was supposed to go to some other Indian or some other
reservation that wanted cattle, but they figured that the climate
situation in Florida was so much different from in Oklahoma and
New Mexico, and that sort of thing.... You know, they just
didn't have any comparison whatsoever as to the range conditions,
or the climate for that matter, so they decided then--the govern-
ment, the government did this--they decided that the best policy
would be to pay back for the cattle at the prevailing market
price.
At that time, cattle had gone up. See, these cattle cost
the government, I would say, about thirty-five or thirty-six
dollars a head back in the depression days. Then these drought
conditions...and the cattle had gotten up then to where they
were worth.... I know we had an outside :appraiser come in and


8
appraise the cattle as we turned them over to the Indians them-
selves. But I'm getting a little ahead of my story. They sold
the cattle to the tribe at the prevailing market price, and of
course that price was quite a bit more than it was...some of them
seventy-five dollars a head, and maybe a little more.
All right. They sold them to the tribe on an eight year con-
tract. The prices kept going up, and the calf crop increased.
They paid for those cattle back a year-and-a-half in advance of
their contract. And then after they got these cattle payed for,
that's when we began to talk about private ownership.
We had money in the bank, plus these cattle, and so we started
issuing cattle to individuals. And up at Brighton, I think each
man was allowed up to at least thirty to thirty-five head. He
didn't have to take them, now, but he could. He could take ten
or fifteen--whatever he wanted. Well, most of them took the
maximum amount, and they sold them to individuals under the same
conditions--on the eight year contract at the prevailing market
price. Of course, the individuals at that time payed as high....
Those cattle were appraised by outside appraisers, and some of
them were appraised at 100 and 125 dollars a head.
Big Cypress, they had their cattle built up by this time, in
pretty good shape. Of course they didn't have as many down there.
They didn't give but about fifteen to twenty head to the man.
K: Why was that?
M: Well, they just didn't have the cattle to go around. There was
about thirty or thirty-five families at Brighton that wanted
cattle...thirty-six, I believe. And at Big Cypress there was about
twenty-five or thirty families wanted cattle. If you got too
many up there, some of them would have been left out. So we had
to cut it down some.
K: You said that any Seminole male at Brighton who wanted cattle could
have up to thirty head--is that correct? Who decided that Brighton
would get thirty and Big Cypress would only get fifteen?
M: Well, fifteen to twenty because they didn't have as many cattle
on Big Cypress Reservation at that time. So they just got less
cattle starting out, and then they bought some more cattle for
them later, and issued more. But at the first issue, they had to
give them just a certain amount of cattle because they didn't have
enough to go around.


9 .
K: I'm still confused, though, because of the disparity there. It
seems that.... Let's see, Brighton had more cattle than Big Cypress--
is that correct?
M: Yeah. What happened, though.... Now, after they formed these
associations, the way Brighton had more cattle than Big Cypress,
Brighton had to put some money into Big Cypress to help them get
one started, so they evened off. What they didn't have in cattle,
they made up in money.
K: What about pasturage? Did that have anything to do with it?
M: Pardon?
K: What about the quality of pasturage on Big Cypress?
M: Well, the pasturage at Big Cypress up until this time was very
poor.
K: Could it have sustained thirty head of cattle per man?
M: Well, it probably couldn't. No, not at that time, it couldn't
have sustained thirty head per man. But after we got the cattle
program started, Big Cypress caught on real well, and they were
doing a good job. They were doing a good job, so we got some
tomato farmers interested in farming that area. It was very
good tomato farming land, and truck crop land. In the meantime,
some of it had been drained. It had become more valuable as farm
land and grazing land. They started a farming operation. They'd
farm it one crop, move on to new land the next...and tomato farming
mostly. When they'd do this, we'd plant it in improved grasses.
In this program, of course, the government come in again with
what they call a Branch Land Operation that assisted in the pasture
deal. We established some of the best pastures in the country in
Big Cypress. We were doing this before we started on Brighton
with improved pasture, because the native range on Brighton was
fairly good, and we was getting along in pretty good shape. The
only thing, our calf crops were still low, you know, percentage
wise. As soon as we got Big Cypress going pretty good, we started
a pasture program on Brighton, doing the same thing with improved
grasses and clover.
K: Can you tell me about what year the program began on Big Cypress...
with allowing the tomato farmers to come in and improve the land?


10
M: It was along about 1951, I would say. Approximately 1951. A
lot of these pastures were turned back yearly. As we got more
improved pasture, I reccommended to the boys myself that with this
Brahman breed of cattle, probably we should start out with an Angus
and get what we call a Brangus breed of cattle down there.
K: What had happened to the original Herefords now?
M: Your Herefords, you see, was on Brighton.
K: No Herefords on Big Cypress?
M: No Herefords on Big Cypress. You recall I told you that we had
to go out and buy native cattle for Big Cypress.
K: Yeah, you said that you had screwworm troubles, and so on.
M: And range conditions.... It was such a wet country, and so many
insects, about the only thing survived down there was range cattle
and Brahmans. I suggested after these improved pastures that we
get Angus bulls to breed to the cross Brahman cows we had. That's
what they still have there at this time--I think some of the finest
cattle you want to see anyplace.
At Brighton, now, we had all Herefords. We did breed some
of those Herefords to Brahman bulls to get Bradford type cattle.
In the meantime, when we got these improved pastures at Brighton,
which we started there along about 1955, we went back to straight
Hereford breeding, mostly Herefords, because we had the pastures
to support them. The Hereford makes a mighty good beef animal, if
he's got range to support him. So principally, they are all still
Herefords, with a smithering of Brahman blood.
That's the way the program started out, and then of course
these two enterprises I was telling you about, the cattle co-ops,
along about in 1967 or 1968 they disbanded them. The ownership
was all individual then. All owned their cattle within their own
rights, with the exception of maybe some of them owed a little
on their contract to the tribe.
When was the tribe...?
K: 1957 was when it was organized.
M: It was organized in 1957, and they took over the cattle program,
I think, about 1960 or 1961.


11
K: How did they manage that? Do you know any of details to the
takeover?
M: The way.... The individual cattleman operated just his own cattle
program, but the tribe took over in this manner: in order to con-
trol a group of people you have to have some sort of an organization;
and the tribe took over the responsibility of collecting the grazing
rights. They had to pay the tribe. See, the tribe was standing
the expense of all of this pasture improvement and irrigation,
and that sort of thing, so the individual Indian had to pay a
grazing fee. That grazing fee...I don't know what it runs today,
but I expect it's about $3.50 a head. It started off at about
$1.50 and kept going up as the ranges become better improved.
It cost money to do these things, so the tribe controlled
the selling of these cattle. We sold them as a group. The indi-
vidual couldn't go out and buy or sell cattle on his own. We
had to keep control of the sales.
K: Why?
M: Well, if you didn't keep control of the sales, how was you going
to collect your grazing fee, and your bull fee? The tribe still
furnished the bull, and you had to pay a bull fee and a grazing
fee. If you let one individual go out and sell to this band, and
this fellow goes,sells to that, pretty soon you've lost control
of the whole thing. Somebody had to be responsible for collecting
this money.
K: Is that the problem--if individual cattle owners sold their cattle,
they might not pay back what they...?
M: Well, that's true, you know. Might not pay back, and the tribal
organization acted as a collecting agency.
K: How would they get the money, then, for the contract?
M: They only collected their money at the time of the sales. When the
Indians sold cattle, they were sold under his name. Frank Shore,
fifteen head; Willy Gopher, so many; and right on down the line,
so much a head. That check was made out to the Seminole Tribe of
Florida. Then it was sent in to the office, and to the Seminole
Tribe, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs credit division. This
money was broken down. So much was taken out for grazing fees,


12
so much for bull fees, so much for minerals. They bought all that
out as one, just like you'd buy for a big ranch operation. Of
course you got a better price that way than you would buying
individually. They took out all of the operating expense, and then
give him the difference.
K: So from 1936 on through the 1940's, to have set up that type of
system on their own...
M: No!
K: Did they do it, or did the B.I.A. do it? Who did it?
M: We all had a hand in it--the B.I.A., and all the leaders.
After I got through as herdsman, I was put in as an agricultural
extension agent, and we all had a hand in working out some kind
of program for this type of thing.
K: How did you get the Seminoles to agree to it?
M: Through meetings, and through demonstrations of how it would work.
The Seminoles were pretty easy to catch on to what they think
would be a good idea.
We had to tell them--and they wouldn't be any different than
any other group of people--that if you let each man go his own way,
your program would have fell to pieces. I couldn't afford to
have a program set up, a breeding program, for instance, like I
was.... I'd set a goal; I'd say I want to improve these cattle,
and maybe straight Herefords, or maybe like down in Big Cypress,
we decided on the Angus bulls. Well, now if we'd had individual
ownership, and individual freedom to do what you want to, a man
could've brought a Jersey bull in there if he'd wanted to.
That's one thing we held--we controlled that bull part to the
point we only bought the type of bull that was recommended to do
the best job for the most people. And the Indians could see
that. They could see where a man could go out here and buy
a seventy-five dollar bull and get by,but his cattle would decrease
in quality. So that was one point.
Another thing--when you go to buying mineral for four to
fifteen thousand head of cattle, if you buy it all at one time,
in bulk, you get a much better price than if I went out here and
had to buy ten sacks, and John Jones had to buy five. This way
we get a cut-rate on a lot of things. Buying our equipment, and
buying our parts, and everything else--we got a little better
deal by having it where the tribe would be reponsible for that.


13
Then the individual would pay his pro-rata share, or whatever the
expense was. It worked out very good; in fact I think that's still
in operation. I know it is--it was that way when I left there.
Now those Indians, after all these years of building this
cattle program up, they've gotten it up to the point that I doubt
if there's very many of them owes a dime on their cows. Some
of them are making real good money.
Their primary purpose in the thing--or ours, and what I al-
ways preached to them--was to get them self-sustaining, to where
they could take their place in the community as real citizens,
and be a part of the community, and have the pride of real owner-
ship. That was the primary purpose of the thing--to help the
Indians. It was a better economic way of life, and I think it has
probably done it.
K: Initially the government owned the cattle, and the profit from
the cattle that were sold went to the government--is that correct?
In 1936?
M: When the tribe bought these cattle from the government, instead
of paying back in kind, they paid back in money, and they pai-d.i
back at the prevailing market price. Of course, the government
made money. Yeah.
K: The tribe did not buy the cattle at the rail-head? The govern-
ment owned them for a period of a year after that, right?
M: You see, the government put those cattle on the reservation. At
that time, the gentleman in head of all the extensions of the United
States [Bureau of] Indian Affairs was A.C. Cooley, and the live-
stock man under him was named John Montgomery, and then I went
to work with them on the Seminole. They had those men, and
through this program they worked up, and then they spearheaded it
to the point to where the government got out of the cow business
just as quick as they could. You see, their primary purpose in
it was to help the Indians, and at the same time help the people
back there that was losing all these cattle because they were in
this drought area.
K: So originally, the government in 1936 brought the cattle here and
started grazing them on the Seminole land on Brighton?
M: Yeah, that's right.


14
K: What was the arrangement for grazing cattle on Brighton? Were
they paying the Seminole tribes some sort of grazing fee?
M: At the time--I guess about 1933 or such--the Indian reservation
didn't consist of very much property in Florida. They had some
land over here in Indiantown [a small community to the east of
Lake Okeechobee]. That is, the Cow Creek Indians...that's
Brighton [Many of the Cow Creek Seminoles who settled on the
Brighton Reservation had been living in the Indiantown area.]
They made a deal with Howard Cole Land Company out of New York,
I guess, that owned this Brighton property--57,000 acres, what-
ever it is. They made a deal to buy that. I don't know what
they did with this land in Indiantown. They swapped it, I think,
got rid of it and tried to purchase enough land, or get enough
through the Reorganization Act [The Wheeler-Howard Act, or Indian
Reorganization Act of 1934 made provision for allotment of lands
to various tribes.] for the Indians to have a reservation. That's
how they come by a reservation in Brighton. And then, of course,
they owned this little piece of property in Broward County, and
they held on to it. They owned some in the Big Cypress area--
not very much, but they bought some more down there.
They were trying to get a place set up where they could have
these Indian reservations for the Indians, because it had come a
time when the white settlers were moving in, you know, and acquiring
this land that the Indians had more or less been squatters on
for all these years. Indians were getting in destitute circum-
stances. They didn't have any place to go, and a lot of these
white people wanted to develop this land. They was gradually
moving the Indians off, and the Indians didn't have any health
service or anything else, and they were on the decrease instead
of the increase. So the government come in and tried to provide
this land for them--a place that they could call home. They
moved the cattle in there because it was going to be an Indian
Reservation.
K: Who paid the Indian cowboys?
M: The government set up a certain amount of money to sustain these
cattle, 'till they could get started. They just couldn't throw
them out there and let them go. They had a little government
money that they had to put in that program. I don't know if it
were a gratuity fund, or whether they were paid back. Anyway,
they put in a certain amount of money, and then these boys were
paid out of that.


15
After they got organized, and we began to sell a few cattle....
I remember I started selling cattle--the steers, for instance, and
old cows that you would want to cull out of the herd. At that
time, Florida was pretty hard up for bulls. We had these Hereford
bulls there that we raised on the reservation, and I sold them
for a pretty good price to other stockmen in the area. They was
better blood than what he had, so they'd buy them. We took that
money and put in this enterprise fund. Then we operated from that;,,
and we kept building our fund up.
As I was telling you about these co-ops and these enterprises,
they operated on their own money. In the very beginning, the
government put the money in there to help them get started. After
they got going, these enterprises--these cattle co-ops and things--
they supported themselves. They're self-sustaining deals. I was
a Bureau [B.I.A.]man, and I was an agricultural extension agent.
And then one time they turned the extension service over to Florida.
The Indian Bureau got out of the extension service, so I went
with the University of Florida as agricultural extension agent,
Indian work, and stayed there for ten years. Then the government
come back, along about 1957, when the Seminole Tribe of Florida
really got going. Then the Bureau hired me back as livestock and
range manager. I left the extension service, and went with them
back as livestock and range manager, and stayed with them until
February of 1971.
K: As I understand it, during the time that the cattle were under
trusteeship, trustees had been elected by the tribe, the cattle
were not individually owned--is that true?
M: No, they weren't individually owned. This trusteeship was formed
for the simple reason that the government would have somebody
to turn those cattle over to that would represent their tribe.
K: If they were not owned by individuals, and were indeed owned by
the tribe, how did the tribe divide up whatever profits it made
on the cattle that were sold for the trusteeship? Who got the
money?
M: Whenever they had this money in the bank, and they may have it
yet.... After these cattle were disbursed--and the Indians,
of course, didn't have money; they had to buy them on eight year
contracts--the remnant of that herd, and the cull from that herd,
were sold on the open market. That money was put in a fund--
the area enterprise fund. Then the tribe took that over, and
that was used to buy herd bulls.


16
K: In other words, all the profits went back into the cattle enter-
prises?
M: It all went back into the cattle business one way or the other.
K: So non-cattle-owning Seminoles did not benefit from this in any
way, did they?
M: Other than this grazing fee that the cattle owners have to
pay.
K: But you said that the cattle owners did not have to pay a grazing
fee until after 1957--after the tribe had organized.
M: Well, they didn't pay a grazing fee until after the tribe was
organized, that's the truth.
K: So for a period of about twenty years....
M: But when the boys was paying this money back to the tribe, that
money went into the tribe, and that went to help.... I said [to]
buy bulls...that's the truth. They improved the range; so all the
Indians derived some benefit from it, because it went into impro-
ving their reservation. Then, improving their reservation, the
grazing fees went up. The money that the cattlemen paid into
the tribe, it went back into tribal enterprises.
K: I want to get this grazing fee thing down now. Exactly when did
the Seminole cattlemen have to start paying grazing fees to the
Seminole tribe?
M: Well, it was right about the time the Seminole tribe was organized.
K: 1957, and perhaps later.
M: '57, '58, or somewhere around in there. It wasn't too long after
it was organized they started paying. All that money went back
into their reservation. They used it for their reservation, and
that's where the non-cattle-owners come in.
K: When you first started working out there at Brighton, who was the
most powerful leader among the Seminoles on the Brighton Reser-
vation? I don't mean necessarily a cattleman--I just mean the
most respected individual.


17
M: Whenever I first went there I would say the most powerful leader
probably--and he wasn't a cattleman--was Richard Osceola. But he
died. He got killed in a car wreck later on. He was one of
your main leaders--spokesman, or whatever you want to call it.
The most powerful man of the whole group when I went there--he
didn't live on the reservation, but they'd go see him--was Sam
Jones. That was Frank Shore's brother.
K: Why was he so respected?
M: Well, because he was the chief medicine man, and he was highly
respected. But I'm talking now as a spokesman. Richard Osceola
did a lot of that. He could talk a little English, you know.
But Sam Jones, in my opinion, was about the strongest man on
Brighton. The Big Cypress at that time, I would say, was Josie
Billie.
K: When the government dealt with the Indians on the Brighton Reser-
vation, I'm sure they would have to deal with an individual. You
can't deal with every single Indian; someone has to be chosen as
a representative of the group. Who was chosen as representative
of the Brighton Seminoles? Was he chosen by the government, or
by the Seminoles themselves?
M: When we first got started, we had group meetings, and Richard
would be a spokesman. As I said, Willy King was a great asset
to us, because he would interpret what we said, and then more
than likely give his opinion or his understanding. People like
old Charlie Micco, Richard Osceola, Dan Parker and fellows like
that--they more or less made up the nucleus of the older group
that the younger ones looked to.
The Seminoles themselves, they're a great respecter of age.
I don't know if they are now--of course, things have changed, but
used to be the elders was the ones that when they sat down and
talked, everybody listened. Sometimes that was more of a handicap
than it was an asset, because you have a program set up that you'd
want to put over, and it'd be something modern that was a change
from the old way of life, but it was awful hard to get it sold if
those old timers didn't see it just like you saw it.
I know one time when I first went there as the herdsman, I
saw the necessity for weaning the yearlings off of the cattle--
feeding the yearlings early, and weaning them off of the cows so
the cows have a better chance to survive and breed back. My
leader, Charlie Micco, didn't see it my way and I had to.... You


18
know how I overcame that? I took him and several others in
the car, and went around to neighboring ranchers where they
were doing that same thing. I'd show them the cattle, and let
them talk to the man, and then I got it done. But right in the
beginning, they wasn't for it at all. It was something that they'd
never heard of.
That was just an example, but now you take other things....
Some of it was a selling job, and an educational job, that you had
to do before you could get your job done.
K: Frank Shore told me when I interviewed him the last time that
you would spend a lot of time out there. You'd be out every
day showing them how to do things properly, and making sure that
they did them correctly. If they didn't do it right, then you
would straighten them out right away on it. He was pretty well
satisfied with that approach. He said that a lot of good had
come of it. He also told me that, in some way--I really don't
understand this exactly--he said that you could go around to
different cattle owners, individual cattle owners, and check
out the methods that they were using on raising their cattle;
and if they weren't doing it properly,. if they were lowering the
standards of the herd, or if they were just letting everything
go to pot, that you would terminate their contract. How did
you go about that?
M: I'd go around to a man, and I'd inspect his herd. Of course, you
could immediately tell whether it was on the up or on the down.
If his cattle didn't look up to par, or the grass he had, and if
his calves were not doing good, I'd go to him; and if he needed
more range, I'd give it to him; and then if it continued, I'd
look in his mineral boxes. If he didn't have minerals before
his cattle, or if his cows had lice on them, and he hadn't done
anything about it, I'd go to him then. I'd go to him about
three times--prevail on him--and then I'd go to whoever was in
charge, like the cattle foreman. Stanlo Johns was a great help
to me, because he was a smart boy, and he helped a lot. Old Frank
Shore was a good one, and maybe I'd get somebody to talk to him.
If he didn't do it, I'd go take him before the Tribal Board
[Board of Directors of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., the
business branch of the tribe.], which had all the power in the
world to either make him shape up or ship out. I'd put him
before the board, and if he didn't straighten up, they'd get rid
of him.
K: What would they do--just take the cattle away?


19
M: They'd get somebody to buy them. Buy him out, pay him out his
price, and then they'd resell them. Or they'd buy them, then
they'd resell them. They wouldn't take them away from him; he'd
get what his equity is in them. See, you couldn't take his equity
away from him.
K: Was there any way he could refuse to sell them?
M: Well, yes sir! He could refuse to sell if he'd move off the
reservation with them.
K: Did that ever happen?
M: No, but if he wanted...they're his at all times, they were told.
If they found a place better suited, or they thought they could
do it a little better that we were doing it on the reservation,
or more economical, they didn't have any strings attached. They
was their cattle; they could do what they pleased. But as long
as they stayed on that reservation, they had to adhere to the
rules and regulations, because we had a program to do--we was
building up our herd. You know, today they all appreciate that.
It would have went to pot if you hadn't ; you never would have
made it.
We had very few of them to ever sell out. What did sell
out wanted to do something else, you know. Now, we didn't ever
have to take too many out of business, because when you put the
thing to him, he knew he had to shape up. They was a lot of
them that shaped up.
K: You mentioned that the money would be sent to the tribe, and the
tribe would take out what each individual owner owed. It was,
you said, an eight year contract. How much money would the in-
dividual owner get from each sale if he owed money to the tribe?
Suppose he owed more money to the tribe than came from the sale
of the cattle--would he get any money at all?
M: In the beginning, it was a very discouraging program to some of
them, but I'd always prevail on them--if they would look after those
cows, and bear with them for a few years, the cattle would take
care of them. In the beginning, a lot of times when they paid
his grazing fee, his bull service fees, and all of his operating
expenses, and then the payment on his contract, maybe he couldn't
pay anything but the interest. They charged him a certain amount
of interest--not much, but 4 percent, or something like that.


20
Whenever he couldn't pay it all, they'd ride along with him.
Sometimes those eight year contracts extend into ten years; but
they wasn't hard on them--they let them go. The tribe was in-
terested in the program too. They was interested in their people,
so they'd protect them.
As those cattle began to build up, and his herd began to
build up, and his calve's quality began to improve, and the price
of beef going up--when he was going to sell him a $50 or $60
calf, and he got to a $100, $150, $200--and then when the calf
percentage went say from 50 to 60 percent, and jumped on up
there around 80...85, then he began to put money in his pocket.
[It] began to pay off for him--what we'd told him all the time.
They never would take a man's cattle away from him because he
couldn't pay them. They'd just go along with him.
K: What would the individual cattle owner do for an income during
the time that he was paying off the debt?
M: Well, he worked.
K: Worked on the outside as well?
M: Outside, or on the reservation, or wherever he was. Yeah,
he had to work. He did a lot of sacrificing, the cattle owner
did, on those cattle, because he's just like anyone else starting
from scratch.


Full Text
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PAGE 1

SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida Interviewee: Interviewer: Fred Monsteoca Tom King Date: December 4, 1972

PAGE 2

SUMMARY Fred Monsteoca, associated from 1936 to 1971 with the Seminole tribe, through either the United States government or the University of Florida, was intimate ly involved with the Seminole cattle program. Begin ning with the first arrival of Oklahoma cattle to Fort Bessinger, he discusses the history of the pro gram, focussing especially upon the evolution made from governmental to private ownership. Mr. Monsteoca explains why the government initially sent the cattle, what measures were taken by the tribe under his direction to build up the cattle and to achieve profitable private and tribal ownership. He considers pasturage, breeding, and Seminole cowboy expertise. Although Mr. Monsteoca mostly details the Brighton Reservation program, he is considerably informative about Big Cypress and Dania reservations, as well. Throughout the interview, he mentions Seminole leaders who supported and furthered the cattle program.

PAGE 3

Billie, Josie, 17 cattle program INDEX Big Cypress Reservation, 5-6, 9 breeding, 10 Brighton Reservation, 2-3, 14 initiation of, 1-2 ownership, 6-11, 13-15, 18-20 pasturage, 9-10 purpose of, 13 tribal organization, 4-6, 11-12, 15-16 Gopher, Willy, 3, 4 Jones, Sam, 17 King, Willy, 4-5, 17 leadership, 16-17 Micco, Charlie, 3-4, 7, 17 Monsteoca, Fred (career of), 1 Osceola, Richard, 17 Shore, Frank, 1, 3

PAGE 4

K: The following is an interview with Fred Monsteoca. It was con ducted on Monday, December 4th, 1972, at two o'clock p.m. I interviewed Mr. Monsteoca in the house on his ranch which in north of Lorida, Florida. Mr. Monsteoca's address is Box 206, Lorida, Florida. Fred Monsteoca was born in Osceola County on September 9, 1906. He was associated with the Seminole tribe from 1936 through 1971. He held various positions, all of them either with the United States government or with the University of Florida. Each of these posi tions had something to do with the cattle program on the Brighton Reservation, or the cattle program of the Seminole tribe as a whole. Fred first became associated with the Seminoles in 1936 as a stockman, for the United States government. He was in charge of seeing that the cattle which were turned over to the Seminoles in 1936 were properly utilized by them. He then became agricultural extension agent for the government. Later, he was under contract as an agricultural extension agent for the University of Florida. Fred tells me that the University of Florida took over the agri cultural extension program from the government for a period of time. Later on, Fred once again went back into the government as Livestock and Range Manager for the B.I.A. [Bureau of Indian. Affairs]. I believe this was in 1968. Fred retired in February of 1971, and upon retirement was given several mementos by the Seminoles. He was given a plaque inscribed with his name and the service that he had contributed to the Seminoles, and he was given a shotgun and a few other things. Fred was a University of Florida student, and also a student at Florida Southern University, where he graduated with a degree in animal husbandry. I had been referred to Fred by Frank Shore, the medicine man on the Brighton Reservation. Some time ago I had interviewed Frank Shore concerning the cattle program on the Brighton Reservation. Frank had given me as much information concerning the program as he could, but he told me that the man to see was definitely Fred Monsteoca. Frank, and some of the other Seminoles with whom I had spoken on the Brighton Reservation hold Fred Monsteoca in high esteem. They claim that he did quite a lot for them and for the cattle program for the Seminoles. The interview begins with Mr. Monsteoca's comments about the first cattle shipment received by the Seminoles.

PAGE 5

2 M: In '35 they shipped quite a few cattle by rail out of the drought stricken areas of the southwest. K: Who shipped these cattle? M: The government. The way the Indians got involved, it was the time that this drought ...• I don't suppose you recall it, but way back in the 30's they had a terrible drought in the southwest, and the government had to buy up a lot of these cattle for economic reasons on the rancher's part, because they were just going broke. So the Bureau of Indian Affairs thought it might be a good idea to get the Indians, on different reservations, in the cattle business that were interested in becoming cattle men. They sent some to the Seminoles. They sent these cattle into the Brighton Indian Reservation by rail, and they were unloaded at Fort Bassinger. At the same time, they sent some to a smaller reservation they had in Dania. They only had about 455 acres in the Dania Reservation--that's in Broward County--and they sent some down there. When they got these cattle to Bassinger, they unloaded them from the railroad cars, they were carried 'cross country by trail--across the country to the reservation, which was about twenty miles. These cattle were in such poor condition that a lot of them died en route. K: What kind of cattle were they? M: Mostly Hereford cattle, all Herefords that came in on the train. These cattle were trailed over to the Brighton Indian Reservation by some Indian boys that they just got together that knew a little bit about cattle work. At that time, the Brighton Indian Reser vation had not all been acquired, so there was only two sections. These cattle had to be minded there on those two sections for quite awhile, until we got fences up on some of the other land in order to support the cattle. We immediately got involved in the cattle program in 1937. That's when we really got started with the program. We got these cattle situated over the range lands, and I went down. I was supervising the cattle program at that time. I had been recom mended to the University of Florida as what you probably call a stockman or herdsman, and I went down there and took charge of this program and worked with the Indians. Of course, we didn't have any Indian cowboys. We only had about four Indians that knew anything about cattle at that time. They had worked out with individual private cattle ranchers and gotten some experience.

PAGE 6

3 K: Who were those four? M: Frank Shore, Charlie Micco, Naha Tiger and Willy Gopher had some experience, and I believe we had another one that we would get part time. He was still employed as a cowboy with a private con cern. That was Willy Tiger. Frank Shore didn't help us very much at that time. He wasn't too friendly towards the program, because when they moved the cattle in there, some way or other the super intendent had fouled up his pay. He didn't get his pay for quite a while, so he had very little to do with the Indian program there for awhile. I finally got his money for him, and got him straightened out, and we got him interested. He was a great help to us in our program, and so was his brother, Charlie Micco. Now, Charlie Micco was a brother to Frank Shore, he was my main leader as a cow man in the beginning of the program. We started out with our program, and I moved the cattle from Daniathat was a very small reservation, and the range conditions weren't too good, so I moved them to Brighton. K: How did you bring them over? M: I trucked them from Dania Reservation to Brighton. I got all the Indian cattle that was left, which was about 500 head, I guess, or less it was probably less. I got them all on one reservation, and I began immediately to try to grade them up and build them up. We began to buy minerals of course, and I constructed mineral boxes. We constructed windmills throughout the reservation for watering purposes, and fenced the pastures to where we could rotate the cattle grazing and more or less control our breeding program. I never will forget--at our first roundup with these cattle we marked seventy-five calves in all. That was the entire calf crop. All the time we were working these cattle It was back in the days of screwworms, and the screwworms were terrible; they were just absolutely eating the cattle up, you might say. I got some younger boys in, and our younger boys become very proficient in roping these cattle, and treating them for screwworm. Of course, all the Indian people, particularly the Seminoles that I know about, they's good horsemen. Most of them have a love for livestock of any kind. It wasn't too hard to train cowboys. It took a little time, but with the help of such men as Frank [Frank Shore] and Charlie Micco, and the older ones, it wasn't too long getting some of these boys trained where we could really do a good job for the cattle.

PAGE 7

4 After we had these cattle there a couple years, we realized that we had to form some kind of a tribal enterprise, or something that we could justify operating this program. We had a meeting, and in this meeting, of course, we had to elect some trustees. In electing the trustees, Charlie Micco was one of them, and Willy Gopher. As I said in the beginning, Willy never had much exper ience. K: Let me interrupt you for a second. I'm curious as to who it was that elected these trustees. How many people were allowed to vote? What were the criteria for voting? M: All the people were allowed to vote. I was going to get to that, because we had this big meeting in the school house, and I tried to explain to them how you conducted the election, you know--that you had to nominate people. Then I stressed the importance of having somebody nominated that knew something about the cattle, as much as they could, and that you could only vote one time. We finally got across to the Indians that they could do this. At that time, we had a missionary in this country by the name of Willy King. He could speak English, and he was a great help to us in our program, because he would explain to the Indians what I would say, or what any other government official would say. K: Was he a Seminole or a Creek? M: He was an Oklahoma Creek, I think. K: Was he a Baptist? M: He was a Baptist. And he was a great worker among the Seminoles. He assisted me a great deal in trying to carry on meetings and trying to get over what my program was to the Indian people. I explained to Willy how this had to be done, and he explained to them. They finally caught on, and they come up with these nominations. Of course, Charlie Micco was one--he was the cattle man; he was one of my main leaders. They nominated Willy [Willy Gopher]. Well, there was one or two others in there that was older men that knew a little more about cattle at that time than Willy did. After the meeting the school teacher there--which was Mr. Boehmer [William D. Boehmer]--and myself asked Charlie and some of the others that could speak a little English, "How come you didn't nominate or elect so-and-so?" Well, they said

PAGE 8

5 the reason they elected Willy ..• he had a horse. They elected him because he owned a horse. K: And none of the others owned horses? M: Some of them didn't own horses; that made him eligible for a cattle director. Anyway, they'd vote twice K: Did he know hardly anything at all about cattle? M: Very little at that time. Where we had our trouble .•. the women would vote for every one, so we had a terrible time of ever getting it straightened out. We finally got these men elected, and we operated with these trustees--more or less just a legal .. ~in order to carry out the business. We could carry on the business, but you had to have some justification for it. We had this tribal organization, and we operated under that for awhile until we got more experience. We kept with our cattle program, and we started to improve and progress. K: What was the title of that organization? M: That title then was just called Seminole Cattle Program. Then we went from that program to Brighton Indian Cattle Enterprise. That's when we really got down to business and elected our trustees, and operated the Brighton Cattle Enterprise. Then we had one for Big Cypress. It was two separate enterprises. See,the first under this tribal thing, it was all one organization. But then, along in about 1942 we realized we had to get some kind of a program. The Indians began to get interested in Big Cypress, so they wanted some kind of program, and we decided to move some cattle down there. But in the meantime, the cattle we had were mostly Herefords, and the Big Cypress was a real native range, you know, and it was infested with mosquitos, and a lot of water. It just wasn't a good ideal spot for cattle country at that time. We also had the fever tick there at this time. We hadn't gotten rid of the Texas fever tick, and we had to select some kind of cattle that would survive down there. So we bought original cattle that was native cattle--Florida cattle. We bought some cattle, and moved down there; then bought some Brahman bulls, which is more adapted to that particular type of range, and that kind of country. We started our program at Big Cypress with native cattle and Brahman bulls in order to breed

PAGE 9

6 up a cow that would take that particular area, and that kind of conditions. Later on, of course, the ticks were eradicated from both reservations. We had to have a program of dipping cattle every fourteen days for at least twelve to fourteen months, which was a terrific job, but we got it done. Then, that eliminated the cattle ticks, and that was the reason for forming the Big Cypress Cattle Enterprise. Then we had one at Brighton. Well, we went along with that type of program for a number of years, and in the meantime, of course, the cattle were, we were breeding them up all the time, following all the practices that was recommended by the University of Florida, and carrying on the program in the way we thought it should be carried on. As our cattle began to grow, we began to talk about dispersing the herds into private ownership. So then we eliminated this cattle enterprise--Brighton Cattle Enterprise; Big Cypress Cattle Enterprise--and set us up a Brighton Cattlemen's Cooperative As sociation. These associations were made up strictly of cattle owners. The people that owned cattle, they formed their own association, and it was more or less on a co-op basis where these associations were formed. They purchased all their minerals, their livestock neccessities, and their trucks, and .•. in other words, they operated just like a big company, only it was a co-op. They didn't buy things as individuals; they bought them as a group, and Big Cypress was a separate co-op from Brighton. K: Now you say that this was the first time that the cattle became privately owned--is that correct? M: Yeah. K: Could you start right from the beginning again, and tell me only about the character of ownership? Start right off, and tell me who owned the cattle when they first came down. Did they belong to the Seminole tribe, or did they ? M: No. When they first come here, they were sent in here by the government. The government paid for the cattle. K: The government owned them, then? M: The government owned them. Then they formed this tribal cattle program that I told you about. They began to move along; the cattle began to do good. The government wasn't allowed to stay in the cattle business. They wanted to sell them to the Indians, so they sold them to the tribe.

PAGE 10

7 K: When did the government sell the cattle to the tribe? M: This tribal organization was first started more less just as a legal justification whereby the government could get out of the cattle business, and turn it over to the tribe. In 1940, I would say, the government sold the cattle to the Indians. K: I want you to be very explicit about this--just exactly what Indians was it that the government sold the cattle to? See, there was no Indian tribal organization. M: They sold them to the Seminole tribe. They didn't call it the Seminole Tribe of Florida, they just called it the Seminole tribe. K: Yeah. Who represented the Seminole tribe? M: Well, the people that represented the Seminole tribe actually, at that time, was none other than these trustees that I'm telling like Charlie Micco and those boys. See, it was a legal justification, in order to get the cattle out of the government hands, over into the tribes. After they did this, it rocked along a little while, and then they realized that there had to be some kind of organization. They set up these two cattle organizations that I just told you about. At one time, they planned on these cattle being paid back in kind. In other words, if they let you have ten head of cattle like we give Frank Shore ten head of cattle, and he was to pay back eleven head--one for interest. Those extra cattle that they paid back was supposed to go to some other Indian or some other reservation that wanted cattle, but they figured that the climate situation in Florida was so much different from in Oklahoma and New Mexico, and that sort of thing You know, they just didn't have any comparison whatsoever as to the range conditions, or the climate for that matter, so they decided then--the govern ment, the government did this--they decided that the best policy would be to pay back for the cattle at the prevailing market price. At that time, cattle had gone up. See, these cattle cost the government, I would say, about thirty-five or thirty-six dollars a head back in the depression days. Then these drought conditions and the cattle had gotten up then to where they were worth.... I know we had an outside .appraiser come in and

PAGE 11

8 appraise the cattle as we turned them over to the Indians them selves. But I'm getting a little ahead of my story. They sold the cattle to the tribe at the prevailing market price, and of course that price was quite a bit more than it was some of them seventy-five dollars a head, and maybe a little more. All right. They sold them to the tribe on an eight year con tract. The prices kept going up, and the calf crop increased. They paid for those cattle back a year-and-a-half in advance of their contract. And then after they got these cattle payed for, that's when we began to talk about private ownership. We had money in the bank, plus these cattle, and so we started issuing cattle to individuals. And up at Brighton, I think each man was allowed up to at least thirty to thirty-five head. He didn't have to take them, now, but he could. He could take ten or fifteen--whatever he wanted. Well, most of them took the maximum amount, and they sold them to individuals under the same conditions--on the eight year contract at the prevailing market price. Of course, the individuals at that time payed as high Those cattle were appraised by outside appraisers, and some of them were appraised at 100 and 125 dollars a head. Big Cypress, they had their cattle built up by this time, in pretty good shape. Of course they didn't have as many down there. They didn't give but about fifteen to twenty head to the man. K: Why was that? M: Well, they just didn't have the cattle to go around. There was about thirty or thirty-five families at Brighton that wanted cattle thirty-six, I believe. And at Big Cypress there was about twenty-five or thirty families wanted cattle. If you got too many up there, some of them would have been left out. So we had to cut it down some. K: You said that any Seminole male at Brighton who wanted cattle could have up to thirty head--is that correct? Who decided that Brighton would get thirty and Big Cypress would only get fifteen? M: Well, fifteen to twenty because they didn't have as many cattle on Big Cypress Reservation at that time. So they just got less cattle starting out, and then they bought some more cattle for them later, and issued more. But at the first issue, they had to give them just a certain amount of cattle because they didn't have enough to go around.

PAGE 12

9, K: I'm still confused, though, because of the disparity there. It seems that Let's see, Brighton had more cattle than Big Cypressis that correct? M: Yeah. What happened, though Now, after they formed these associations, the way Brighton had more cattle than Big Cypress, Brighton had to put some money into Big Cypress to help them get one started, so they evened off. What they didn't have in cattle, they made up in money. K: What about pasturage? Did that have anything to do with it? M: Pardon? K: What about the quality of pasturage on Big Cypress? M: Well, the pasturage at Big Cypress up until this time was very poor. K: Could it have sustained thirty head of cattle per man? M: Well, it probably couldn't. No, not at that time, it couldn't have sustained thirty head per man. But after we got the cattle program started, Big Cypress caught on real well, and they were doing a good job. They were doing a good job, so we got some tomato farmers interested in farming that area. It was very good tomato farming land, and truck crop land. In the meantime, some of it had been drained. It had become more valuable as farm land and grazing land. They started a farming operation. They'd farm it one crop, move on to new land the next ... and tomato farming mostly. When they'd do this, we'd plant it in improved grasses. In this program, of course, the government come in again with what they call a Branch Land Operation that assisted in the pasture deal. We established some of the best pastures in the country in Big Cypress. We were doing this before we started on Brighton with improved pasture, because the native range on Brighton was fairly good, and we was getting along in pretty good shape. The only thing, our calf crops were still low, you know, percentage wise. As soon as we got Big Cypress going pretty good, we started a pasture program on Brighton, doing the same thing with improved grasses and clover. K: Can you tell me about what year the program began on Big Cypress with allowing the tomato farmers to come in and improve the land?

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10 M: It was along about 1951, I would say. Approximately 1951. A lot of these pastures were turned back yearly. As we got more improved pasture, I reccommended to the boys myself that with this Brahman breed of cattle, probably we should start out with an Angus and get what we call a Brangus breed of cattle down there. K: What had happened to the original Herefords now? M: Your Herefords, you see, was on Brighton. K: No Herefords on Big Cypress? M: No Herefords on Big Cypress. You recall I told you that we had to go out and buy native cattle for Big Cypress. K: Yeah, you said that you had screwworm troubles, and so on. M: And range conditions.... It was such a wet country, and so many insects, about the only thing survived down there was range cattle and Brahmans. I suggested after these improved pastures that we get Angus bulls to breed to the cross Brahman cows we had. That's what they still have there at this time--I think some of the finest cattle you want to see anyplace. At Brighton, now, we had all Herefords. We did breed some of those Herefords to Brahman bulls to get Bradford type cattle. In the meantime, when we got these improved pastures at Brighton, which we started there along about 1955, we went back to straight Hereford breeding, mostly Herefords, because we had the pastures to support them. The Hereford makes a mighty good beef animal, if he's got range to support him. So principally, they are all still Herefords, with a smithering of Brahman blood. That's the way the program started out, and then of course these two enterprises I was telling you about, the cattle co-ops, along about in 1967 or 1968 they disbanded them. The ownership was all individual then. All owned their cattle within their own rights, with the exception of maybe some of them owed a little on their contract to the tribe. When was the tribe ? K: 1957 was when it was organized. M: It was organized in 1957, and they took over the cattle program, I think, about 1960 or 1961.

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11 K: How did they manage that? Do you know any of details to the takeover? M: The way The individual cattleman operated just his own cattle program, but the tribe took over in this manner: in order to con trol a group of people you have to have some sort of an organization; and the tribe took over the responsibility of collecting the grazing rights. They had to pay the tribe. See, the tribe was standing the expense of all of this pasture improvement and irrigation, and that sort of thing, so the individual Indian had to pay a grazing fee. That grazing fee I don't know what it runs today, but I expect it's about $3.50 a head. It started off at about $1.50 and kept going up as the ranges become better improved. It cost money to do these things, so the tribe controlled the selling of these cattle. We sold them as a group. The indi vidual couldn't go out and buy or sell cattle on his own. We had to keep control of the sales. K: Why? M: Well, if you didn't keep control of the sales, how was you going to collect your grazing fee, and your bull fee? The tribe still furnished the bull, and you had to pay a bull fee and a grazing fee .. If you let one individual go out and sell to this band, and this fellow goes,sells to that, pretty soon you've lost control of the whole thing. Somebody had to be responsible for collecti,;ng this money. K: Is that the problem--if individual cattle owners sold their cattle, they might not pay back what they ? M: Well, that's true, you know. Might not pay back, and the tribal organization acted as a collecting agency. K: How would they get the money, then, for the contract? M: They only collected their money at the time of the sales. When the Indians sold cattle, they were sold under his name. Frank Shore, fifteen head; Willy Gopher, so many; and right on down the line, so much a head. That check was made out to the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Then it was sent in to the office, and to the Seminole Tribe, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs credit division. This money was broken down. So much was taken out for grazing fees,

PAGE 15

12 so much for bull fees, so much for minerals. They bought all that out as one, just like you'd buy for a big ranch operation. Of course you got a better price that way than you would buying individually. They took out all of the operating expense, and then give him the difference. K: So from 1936 on through the 1940~s, to have set up that type of system on their own M: No! K: Did they do it, or did the B.I.A. do it? Who did it? M: We all had a hand in it--the B.I.A., and all the leaders. After I got through as herdsman, I was put in as an agricultural extension agent, and we all had a hand in working out some kind of program for this type of thing. K: How did you get the Seminoles to agree to it? M: Through meetings, and through demonstrations of how it would work. The Seminoles were pretty easy to catch on to what they think would be a good idea. We had to tell them--and they wouldn't be any different than any other group of people--that if you let each man go his own way, your program would have fell to pieces. I couldn't afford to have a program set up, a breeding program, for instance, like I was I'd set a goal; I'd say I want to improve these cattle, and maybe straight Herefords, or maybe like down in Big Cypress, we decided on the Angus bulls. Well, now if we'd had individual ownership, and individual freedom to do what you want to, a man could've brought a Jersey bull in there if he'd wanted to. That's one thing we held--we controlled that bull part to the point we only bought the type of bull that was recommended to do the best job for the most people. And the Indians could see that. They could see where a man could go out here and buy a seventy-five dollar bull and get by,but his cattle would decrease in quality. So that was one point. Another thing--when you go to buying mineral for four-to fifteen thousand head of cattle, if you buy it all at one time, in bulk, you get a much better price than if I went out here and had to buy ten sacks, and John Jones had to buy five. This way we get a cut-rate on a lot of things. Buying our equipment, and buying our parts, and everything else--we got a little better deal by having it where the tribe would be reponsible for that.

PAGE 16

13 Then the individual would pay his pro-rata share, or whatever the expense was. It worked out very good; in fact I think that's still in operation. I know it is--it was that way when I left there. Now those Indians, after all these years of building this cattle program up, they've gotten it up to the point that I doubt if there's very many of them owes a dime on their cows. Some of them are making real good money. Their primary purpose in the thing--or ours, and what I al ways preached to them--was to get them self-sustaining, to where they could take their place in the connnunity as real citizens, and be a part of the connnunity, and have the pride of real owner ship. That was the primary purpose of the thing--to help the Indians. It was a better economic way of life, and I think it has probably done it. K: Initially the government owned the cattle, and the profit from the cattle that were sold went to the government--is that correct? In 1936? M: When the tribe bought these cattle from the government, instead of paying back in kind, they paid back in money, and they paid,,.'t back at the prevailing market price. Of course, the government made money. Yeah. K: The tribe did not buy the cattle at the rail-head? The govern ment owned them for a period of a year after that, right? M: You see, the government put those cattle on the reservation. At that time, the gentleman in head of all the extensions of the United States [Bureau of] Indian Affairs was A.C. Cooley, and the live stock man under him was named John Montgomery, and then I went to work with them on the Seminole. They had those men, and through this program they worked up, and then they spearheaded it to the point to where the government got out of the cow business just as quick as they could. You see, their primary purpose in it was to help the Indians, and at the same time help the people back there that was losing all these cattle because they were in this drought area. K: So originally, the government in 1936 brought the cattle here and started grazing them on the Seminole land on Brighton? M: Yeah, that's right.

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14 K: What was the arrangement for grazing cattle on Brighton? Were they paying the Seminole tribes some sort of grazing fee? M: At the time--I guess about 1933 or such--the Indian reservation didn't consist of very much property in Florida. They had some land over here in Indiantown [a small community to the east of Lake Okeechobee]. That is, the Cow Creek Indians that's Brighton [Many of the Cow Creek Seminoles who settled on the Brighton Reservation had been living in the Indiantown area.] They made a deal with Howard Cole Land Company out of New York, I guess, that owned this Brighton property--57,000 acres, what ever it is. They made a deal to buy that. I don't know what they did with this land in Indiantown. They swapped it, I think, got rid of it and tried to purchase enough land, or get enough through the Reorganization Act [The Wheeler-Howard Act, or Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 made provision for allotment of lands to various tribes.] for the Indians to have a reservation. That's how they come by a reservation in Brighton. And then, of course, they owned this little piece of property in Broward County, and they held on to it. They owned some in the Big Cypress areanot very much, but they bought some more down there. They were trying to get a place set up where they could have these Indian reservations for the Indians, because it had come a time when the white settlers were moving in, you know, and acquiring this land that the Indians had more or less been squatters on for all these years. Indians were getting in destitute circum stances. They didn't have any place to go, and a lot of these white people wanted to develop this land. They was gradually moving the Indians off, and the Indians didn't have any health service or anything else, and they were on the decrease instead of the increase. So the government come in and tried to provide this land for them--a place that they could call home. They mov_ed the cattle in there because it was going to be an Indian Reservation. K: Who paid the Indian cowboys? M: The government set up a certain amount of money to sustain these cattle, ;till they could get started. They just couldn't throw them out there and let them go. They had a little government money that they had to put in that program. I don't know if it were a gratuity fund, or whether they were paid back. Anyway, they put in a certain amount of money, and then these boys were paid out of that.

PAGE 18

15 After they got organized, and we began to sell a few cattle I remember I started selling cattle--the steers, for instance, and old cows that you would want to cull out of the herd. At that time, Florida was pretty hard up for bulls. We had these Hereford bulls there that we raised on the reservation, and I sold them for a pretty good price to other stockmen in the area. They was better blood than what he had, so they'd buy them. We took that money and put in this enterprise fund. Then we operated from that'!;, and we kept building our fund up. As I was telling you about these co-ops and these enterprises, they operated on their own money. In the very beginning, the government put the money in there to help them get started. After they got going, these enterprises--these cattle co-ops and thingsthey supported themselves. They're self-sustaining deals. I was a Bureau [B.I.A.]man, and I was an agricultural extension agent. And then one time they turned the extension service over to Florida. The Indian Bureau got out of the extension service, so I went with the University of Florida as agricultural extension agent, Indian work, and stayed there for ten years. Then the government come back, along about 1957, when the Seminole Tribe of Florida really got going. Then the Bureau hired me back as livestock and range manager. I left the extension service, and went with them back as livestock and range manager, and stayed with them until February of 1971. K: As I understand it, during the time that the cattle were under trusteeship, trustees had been elected by the tribe, the cattle were not individually owned--is that true? M: No, they weren't individually owned. This trusteeship was formed for the simple reason that the government would have somebody to turn those cattle over to that would represent their tribe. K: If they were not owned by individuals, and were indeed owned by the tribe, how did the tribe divide up whatever profits it made on the cattle that were sold for the trusteeship? who got the money? M: Whenever they had this money in the bank, and they may have it yet After these cattle were disbursed--and the Indians, of course, didn't have money; they had to buy them on eight year contracts--the remnant of that herd, and the cull from that herd, were sold on the open market. That money was put in a fund-the area enterprise fund. Then the tribe took that over, and that was used to buy herd bulls.

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16 K: In other words, all the profits went back into the cattle enter prises? M: It all went back into the cattle business one way or the other. K: So non-cattle-owning Seminoles did not benefit from this in any way, did they? M: Other than this grazing fee that the cattle owners have to pay. K: But you said that the cattle owners did not have to pay a grazing fee until after 1957--after the tribe had organized. M: Well, they didn't pay a grazing fee until after the tribe was organized, that's the truth. K: So for a period of about twenty years .•.. M: But when the boys was paying this money back to the tribe, that money went into the tribe, and that went to help .•.. I said [to] buy bulls ... that's the truth. They improved the range; so all the Indians derived some benefit from it, because it went into impro ving their reservation. Then, improving their reservation, the grazing fees went up. The money that the cattlemen paid into the tribe, it went back into tribal enterprises. K: I want to get this grazing fee thing down now. Exactly when did the Seminole cattlemen have to start paying grazing fees to the Seminole tribe? M: Well, it was right about the time the Seminole tribe was organized. K: 1957, and perhaps later. M: 1 57, '58, or somewhere around in there. It wasn't too long after it was organized they started paying. All that money went back into their reservation. They used it for their reservation, and that's where the non-cattle-owners come in. K: When you first started working out there at Brighton, who was the most powerful leader among the Seminoles on the Brighton Reser vation? I don't mean necessarily a cattleman--I just mean the most respected individual. _J

PAGE 20

17 M: Whenever I first went there I would say the most powerful leader probably--and he wasn't a cattleman--was Richard Osceola. But he died. He got killed in a car wreck later on. He was one of your main leaders--spokesman, or whatever you want to call it. The most powerful man of the whole group when I went there--he didn't live on the reservation, but they'd go see him--was Sam Jones. That was Frank Shore's brother. K: Why was he so respected? M: Well, because he was the chief medicine man, and he was highly respected. But I'm talking now as a spokesman. Richard Osceola did a lot of that. He could talk a little English, you know. But Sam Jones, in my opinion, was about the strongest man on Brighton. The Big Cypress at that time, I would say, was Josie Billie. K: When the government dealt with the Indians on the Brighton Reser vation, I'm sure they would have to deal with an individual. You can't deal with every single Indian; someone has to be chosen as a representative of the group. Who was chosen as representative of the Brighton Seminoles? Was he chosen by the government, or by the Seminoles themselves? M: When we first got started, we had group meetings, and Richard would be a spokesman. As I said, Willy King was a great asset to us, because he would interpret what we said, and then more than likely give his opinion or his understanding. People like old Charlie Micco, Richard Osceola, Dan Parker and fellows like that--they more or less made up the nucleus of the older group that the younger ones looked to. The Seminoles themselves, they're a great respecter of age. I don't know if they are now--of course, things have changed, but used to be the elders was the ones that when they sat down and talked, everybody listened. Sometimes that was more of a handicap than it was an asset, because you have a program set up that you'd want to put over, and it'd be something modern that was a change from the old way of life, but it was awful hard to get it sold if those old timers didn't see it just like you saw it. I know one time when I first went there as the herdsman, I saw the necessity for weaning the yearlings off of the cattlefeeding the yearlings early, and weaning them off of the cows so the cows have a better chance to survive and breed back. My leader, Charlie Micco, didn't see it my way and I had to .• You

PAGE 21

18 know how I overcame that? I took him and several others in the car, and went around to neighboring ranchers where they were doing that same thing. I'd show them the cattle, and let them talk to the man, and then I got it done. But right in the beginning, they wasn't for it at all. It was something that they'd never heard of. That was just an example, but now you take other things Some of it was a selling job, and an educational job, that you had to do before you could get your job done. K: Frank Shore told me when I interviewed him the last time that you would spend a lot of time out there. You'd be out every day showing them how to do things properly, and making sure that they did them correctly. If they didn't do it right, then you would straighten them out right away on it. He was pretty well satisfied with that approach. He said that a lot of good had come of it. He also told me that, in some way--I really don't understand this exactly--he said that you could go around to different cattle owners, individual cattle owners, and check out the methods that they were using on raising their cattle; and if they weren't doing it properly,. if they were lowering the standards of the herd, or if they were just letting everything go to pot, that you would terminate their contract. How did you go about that? M: I'd go around to a man, and I'd inspect his herd. Of course, you could immediately tell whether it was on the up or on the down. If his cattle didn't look up to par, or the grass he had, and if his calves were not doing good, I'd go to him; and if he needed more range, I'd give it to him; and then if it continued, I'd look in his mineral boxes. If he didn't have minerals before his cattle, or if his cows had lice on them, and he hadn't done anything about it, I'd go to him then. I'd go to him about three times--prevail on him--and then I'd go to whoever was in charge, like the cattle foreman. Stanlo Johns was a great help to me, because he was a smart boy, and he helped a lot. Old Frank Shore was a good one, and maybe I'd get somebody to talk to him. If he didn't do it, I'd go take him before the Tribal Board [Board of Directors of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., the business branch of the tribe.], which had all the power in the world to either make him shape up or ship out. I'd put him before the board, and if he didn't straighten up, they'd get rid of him. K: What would they do--just take the cattle away?

PAGE 22

19 M: They'd get somebody to buy them. Buy him out, pay him out his price, and then they'd resell them. Or they'd buy them, then they'd resell them. They wouldn't take them away from him; he'd get what his equity is in them. See, you couldn't take his equity away from him. K: Was there any way he could refuse to sell them? M: Well, yes sir! He could refuse to sell if he'd move off the reservation with them. K: Did that ever happen? M: No, but if he wanted they're his at all times, they were told. If they found a place better suited, or they thought they could do it a little better that we were doing it on the reservation, or more economical, they didn't have any strings attached. They was their cattle; they could do what they pleased. But as long as they stayed on that reservation, they had to adhere to the rules and regulations, because we had a program to do--we was building up our herd. You know, today they all appreciate that. It would have went to pot if you hadn't ; you never would have made it. We had very few of them to ever sell out. What did sell out wanted to do something else, you know. Now, we didn't ever have to take too many out of business, because when you put the thing to him, he knew he had to shape up. They was a lot of them that shaped up. K: You mentioned that the money would be sent to the tribe, and the tribe would take out what each individual owner owed. It was, you said, an eight year contract. How much money would the in dividual owner get from each sale if he owed money to the tribe? Suppose he owed more money to the tribe than came from the sale of the cattle--would he get any money at all? M: In the beginning, it was a very discouraging prog~am to some of them, but I'd always prevail on them--if they would look after those cows, and bear with them for a few years, the cattle would take care of them. In the beginning, a lot of times when they paid his grazing fee, his bull service fees, and all of his operating expenses, and then the payment on his contract, maybe he couldn't pay anything but the interest. They charged him a certain amount of interest--not much, but 4 percent, or something like that.

PAGE 23

20 Whenever he couldn't pay it all, they'd ride along with him. Sometimes those eight year contracts extend into ten years; but they wasn't hard on them--they let them go. The tribe was in terested in the program too. They was interested in their people, so they'd protect them. As those cattle began to build up, and his herd began to build up, and his calve's quality began to improve, and the price of beef going up--when he was going to sell him a $50 or $60 calf, and he got to a $100, $150, $200--and then when the calf percentage went say from 50 to 60 percent, and jumped on up there around 80 85, then he began to put money in his pocket. [It] began to pay off for him--what we'd told him all the time. They never would take a man's cattle away from him because he couldn't pay them, They'd just go along with him. K: What would the individual cattle owner do for an income during the time that he was paying off the debt? M: Well, he worked. K: Worked on the outside as well? M: Outside, or on the reservation, or wherever he was. Yeah, he had to work. He did a lot of sacrificing, the cattle owner did, on those cattle, because he's just like anyone else starting from scratch.