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Interview with Ernest Lyons, September 1973

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Title:
Interview with Ernest Lyons, September 1973
Creator:
Lyons, Ernest ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
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 93 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Ernest Lyons
INTERVIEWER: R. T. King
DATE: September 1973
DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION


SUMMARY
Ernest Lyons relates in this interview his observations
(dating from about 1913) of the Seminoles Indians
around Stuart. He discusses their temperament, trading
customs, hunting and trapping practices, drinking and
religion. With some specific examples he considers the
racism in the town at that time.


INDEX
Ashley, John, 15-16
camps (Seminole, nomadic), 5-6, 13
drinking and Indian moonshine, 11-12
employment, 12
gardening, 12-13
hunting and trapping, 3-5
Pitching, Walter, 7, 10
religion (missionaries), 15
Seminole temperament, 1, 2, 7
trade (Seminoles in Stuart), 7-11, 13
transcultural contacts (racism), 14-16


L: I was of the impression that the Seminoles were a dour,
brooding, unexpressive people, largely because when I
contacted them in town, in early Stuart, from the period
from about 1913 to about 1920, there always seemed to be
a gulf between the white people and the Seminoles. This
impression was radically changed one morning when I was
about fourteen years old. I happened to be hunting out in
the Allapattah Flats and had two or three 'coons that I
had killed, and I came to a very wide slough where old
Tom Tiger Tail Trail crossed the slough. I suppose it was
almost an eighth of a mile wide at this point. I happened
to sit down, just maybe an hour after daylight, and I heard
dogs coming. A large pack of hounds of various mixed breeds
hit the water on the far side of the slough and started
swimming, and then along came some little Seminole boys.
I'd say they ranged from four or five years old to seven or
eight, riding ponies, stark naked, and having one hell of
a fine time. They were just enthusiastically happy as they
came racing across this slough on their ponies, and behind
them came a number of bucks, as we called them back then,
dressed in their Seminole shirts. They, too, seemed to be
very happy. Following these came a number of the little
horse-drawn, gypsy-style wagons that the Seminoles used at
that time, with the women and the old folks in the wagons
and bundles of otter pelts and 'coon hides also in the
wagons.
The dogs passed me, and the little boys on their ponies,
and I stood up from where I had been crouching down in the
palmettoes, and all of a sudden, the entire atmosphere changed.
The spirit of unrestrained happiness that was so strong you
could feel it, and emotional climate...just all of a sudden,
the expressions on everyone's face changed, and the whole
group stopped. I pointed out to one of the braves where my
father was camped several miles on, gave them the 'coons, and
asked them if they would drop them off at our camp, where I
would skin them later on.
I have never gotten over the impression that the Seminoles
we saw in the wilds and those whom we occasionally met while
hunting were not Seminoles in their happy state by themselves,
with no white man around. For instance, I know that I have
been hunting and had a Seminole drop into my camp and ask me
for a shotgun shell, or even to use my fire, but there was never
any particular feeling of comradeship. In fact, one time I


2
remember Little Tom Tiger stopped at my camp when I had run
out of provisions and all I had was a piece of corn bread.
In fact, I believe I'd eaten the last that morning. I gave
him two "oo" buckshot shells, and was amazed when I saw him
reach inside his rainbow shirt and pull out a venison steak.
He put the venison steak on a stick. He started cooking over
my bed of coals, and I was half-starving, salivating with
the odor of this red meat. After he had cooked it well
enough to eat, he ate every last bit of it, picked up his
gun, and walked off into the woods.
K: And you gave him the buckshot?
L: Yes, I gave him the buckshot.
K: And nothing in return?
L: Right. He gave me nothing in return. Yet, on this same
incident that I speak of, I think I had four 'coons that
I gave to the Indians and asked them to leave with my father.
Well, when I got to my father's camp (our camp) later that
day, Dad said, "The Indians came by and sold me four 'coons."
I said, "What'd you give them for the 'coons?"
"Well," he said, "I just had a couple of fifty-cent
pieces, and I had some black cloth and gave it to them."
I said, "Well, those were my 'coons."
I think it was a mis-apprehension on my father's part.
I think that he did not understand they were giving the
'coons, but as long as he insisted on giving them the two
fifty-cent pieces and the colored cloth, they were happy to
take it.
K: Did they speak English, the Seminoles that brought the 'coons
to your father's camp?
L: No, no. With the exception of a few small phrases or words,
they were very uncommunicative. I never heard any of them
give full sentences in English. I'd like to mention one
thing about the spirit of our time, not exactly hostility,
but a spirit of strong competition that existed between the
white people who made their living in the woods and the
Seminoles. The word would go around town that the hunting
season--I mean deer hunting--was bound to be real poor because
the Indians were coming, and there was always the feeling that
it wasn't much use going to certain areas if the Indians had
been there first.
Now, to get just a little picture of the way this country


3
was back then, there wasn't a barbed wire fence between the
coast and Lake Okeechobee. It was all a big, wide-open
hunting ground, which extended from the lake almost to the
coast. It was a country of stands of pine, cabbage palmetto
hammocks, and extensive shallow sloughs. Every slough or
small pond had deeply rutted game trails out around them,
and 'coons and otter were an important part of the financial
mainstay of a number of the white people.
I remember one hunt that we went on when I was quite
a young man, in which we were camped out around Tom Tiger
Tail Hammock. The Indians were also in that area. Although
we found abundant game, I was with old man Roebuck, and we
were deer hunting, and we joined a camp of trappers headed
by a man named Lee. We were on a pine stand with about two
hundred 'coon hides tacked square to dry on the pine trees.
We had possibly ten or fifteen cased otter pelts in the
camp, and we had deer--a young buck we had killed that
morning, which had been skinned and wind drying. We had
a number of fox squirrels which had been skinned and were
wind drying, and that afternoon I had found a pond just
loaded with black bass...making money real fast off the furs.
Well, that afternoon there was a very strong wing blowing.
We began to hear the Indians fire hunting. The way they
fire hunted was to set fire to a long hammock; they would get
to the far end and shoot the deer or any other game that
might come up. We began to get a bit worried as the wind
increased and there were several expressed, "Those damn
Indians gonna set fire to us if we aren't careful." Pretty
soon that happened. At least, whether they did this deli-
berately, I don't know, but I do know that the flames reached
our pine stand and began reaching toward us. I'll never
forget the tremendous rush to try to get the wagon loaded,
to get all our gear out before the fire reached our camp,
and the conclusion of the story is a bit dramatic. After
we had safely reached a point that the fire couldn't get
to, Old Man Roebuck took a box of kitchen matches, got on
his horse, and said to me, "Those damn Indians want fire,
I'm gonna give 'em fire." I kept watching his progression--
these great big black circles going over several miles as
he set fire to all the woods around, hoping, I am sure, that
he would burn out the Indian's camp just as our camp had been
burned out.
K: You mentioned that the Indians used fire as a method for
getting game. Was that the standard hunting procedure for
Seminoles at that time?


4
L: I wouldn't say that it was the standard hunting procedure.
No. I would say that they didn't hestitate to do it if
they thought that that was the way to make the game go.
If they found hammocks they thought it would work in, they
did not hesitate to do it. Of course, the white hunters
also were notorious for setting fires--not so much to fire
hunt as to cause a burn where new grass would come up for
the deer and turkey, and later for hunting on.
K: How successful were the Seminoles at hunting? Could you
compare them to the white hunters?
L: Well, in the opinion of the white hunters, they were
probably much more successful. I always wondered a great
deal about the success of the Seminoles, and how easy things
looked. I noticed wherever I found camps, at the remnants
of their camps there were fewer evidences of game than there
were evidences of gopher turtles and garfish and the type of
food that we did not consider edible.
K: Well, apparently, from what you've told me already this
morning, ammunition was in pretty short supply for the
Seminoles.
L: Yes, I think it was.
K: What about firearms?
L: I don't think they were in short supply on firearms, although
the favorite weapon that I remember was usually a single shot
weapon--single barrel, single shot shotgun.
K: What other weapons did they use for hunting other than the
shotgun or rifle?
L: Frankly, I don't know of any other weapons. They used spears,
I am sure.
K: What about bows and arrows?
L: I never saw a Seminole with a bow and arrow around here.
K: Did they do much trapping?
L: Yes, they did quite a lot of trapping.
K: Can you tell me how they went about that? Did they use white


5
man's traps or did they have a method of their own?
L: Well, I believe they used white man's traps. A favorite
trap of that time was the Blake Number Four, which was a
square-pan tooth trap, and I believe those traps were
carried by the store here, and quite often they'd be part
of the merchandise that they would trade furs for.
K: Earlier, you mentioned that you had come across a group
of Seminoles who were traveling by horse-drawn gypsy wagons.
Do you know whether they lived out of these wagons, or whether
they pitched a sort of semi-permanent camp at different places?
I'm wondering what they used these wagons for other than....
L: In this part of the country, I have never run into a permanent
Seminole camp.
K: That's very interesting. Could you expand on that some? I'm
very interested in this. I'd like as much detail as you could
give me about it.
L: Well, I know they had some permanent installations up in
what's now St. Lucie County. They had some permanent
installations out near Indian Town, but as between Indian
Town and the coast, they did not seem to bother to put up
their chickees. Most camps were simply the wagon wheel spoke
type of fire they used, in which they would push the spokes
closer in all the time with the fire in the center. I per-
sonally am not familiar with any Seminole camps which were
more than a very transient nature. Will that answer your
question?
K: I'm wondering if you can go into some more detail on these
wagons? I'm really curious as to whether or not they lived
out of the wagons the way gypsies would, and just traveled
all around and maybe made camps for no more than two or
three days at a time anywhere they went, or whether the wagons
were used primarily to transport their goods.
L: It had the appearance to me of the wagons containing every-
thing necessary for living, but the camp itself being of a
very brief tenure at each place. In other words, they might
not spend more than a week or so at a camp while they were
hunting around it, and I do not know whether they lived in
the wagons or whether they simply slept on the ground like
most of us did, with palmetto branches for a bed.


6
K: What about domesticated animals? Did they keep any cattle,
hogs, goats, anything like that?
L: Well, frankly, I don't know. At that time, we had lots of
wild hogs. Wild hogs where the white man would notch their
ears to claim them. I don't know of the Indians making any
such claims on the hog population, and the cattle population
here at that time was very sparse. There were very few
ranchers in the sense that we regard a man as a rancher now.
K: You've mentioned the name Tom Tiger Tail several times. Could
you tell me who he was? I understand he had a hammock and a
trail named after him. Was he still alive when you were a boy?
L: No, he had died. My only knowledge is of the name.
K: The incident that you mentioned wherein the Seminoles set
fire to a hammock, that eventually caught the hammock that
you had your skins pegged out to dry in on fire.... You
said that this Mr. Roebuck went down and set fire and tried to
burn out the Seminoles as well. Was this type of retaliatory
activity standard procedure whenever anybody considered that
the Seminoles had done anything to them unjustly?
L: I don't know that there was any such realistic retaliation
unless a similar incident occurred. I don't think, for
instance, that the white people would deliberately set fire
knowing there was an Indian camp in the vicinity that the fire
might reach. Neither do I know that the Seminoles began a
practice of doing things in white men's camps, nor do I know that
they deliberately set the fire that caught our camp. All I do
know is that the group I was with considered that the Indians had
done it.
K: When the Seminoles came to town, in what numbers did they come
into town?
L: I'd say the group that came in here might consist of as many
as twenty-five and as few as a dozen. These were the same
Indians that came into Joe Bowers's Trading Post at Indian
Town and into Bowers's Trading Post at Jupiter. Their transactions
were usually with Walter Kitching, who had a fairly large grocery
store and goodly stuff to trade with the Seminoles. When they
came into town, they were usually complete families; it was
very rarely that we ever saw just a few Seminole men. I do re-
member, of course, that the squaws wore these tremendously heavy


7
beads around their neck and down their bosoms; looked like
they were carrying a tremendous load of these beads. They
were bare-footed--in fact all of them were bare-footed. The
women's dresses were almost completely to the ground and they
were very voluminous. The women and the children, whom we
called pickaninnies, usually brought in berries, which they
called blueberries, but I'm afraid they were a berry looking
like a blueberry.
K: They told me that they were huckleberries.
L: Yes.
K: People down here eat them, and the Seminoles say they do.
L: Yes, huckleberries. Well, they would sell these from house
to house around town.
One little incident that I remember vividly--back in
Stuart in those times, everyone came down to the square down-
town to meet the evening train. One evening I found a little
Seminole boy--I imagine he was about three or four years old.
He had become lost from his parents and he was crying. I took
it on myself to try to comfort him, and sort of took care of
him, and finally reunited him with his parents.
The sequal to this happened over on the west coast of
Florida. Four or five years later, I happened to be employed
in a commissary at Everglades City--before the Tamiami Trail
had been complete, and when Everglades City was a very isolated
area, and the Seminoles came in by dug-out from the Everglades,
down what we call Barron's River. The dug-outs would have
usually just one brave, a squaw or two, and the children. The
brave would stop the dug-out two or three hundred feet away
from the commissary, and then they would walk the bank. I
always thought this was rather unusual--why they didn't all
come together? Then, when they got into the commissary, the
squaws and the children would get into one corner of the
commissary and would tell the brave what they wanted, and he
would do all the trading, one item at a time. As I was the
newest employee of the commissary, I got the job of doing
business with the Indians. It would often take one whole
morning just to transact a moderate amount of groceries, spools
of thread, and oddly enough, Oneida silverware, which the
Indians seemed very fond of, silverplate and....
K: Do you know what they would do with it, whether or not they
would use it?


8
L: I often wondered what they would do with it, and I could see
how tarnished it would become from pitch-pine fires and so on
and from their form of cooking.
Anyhow, the incident I was speaking about, coming back
to this little boy who was lost in Stuart and whom I reunited
with his parents. One day at Everglades City in the commissary
an Indian buck recognized me and managed to convey to me that
he was the father of the little boy that I had reunited with
him, though it must have been four years earlier. It took a
long while to convey this information because the boy happened
to be there. He was about eight or nine years old instead of
four years old, and when the Seminole would refer to "pickaninnie,"
I couldn't quite place it, but eventually he got the message
through to me. As an incident of Seminole appreciation, which
I'd been rather skeptical about following the shot-gun shells
and the venison, this Indian rewarded me with a very beautiful
beaded belt in appreciation for having reunited the little boy
with his family. I think that just about sums that up.
K: All right then, I'd like to ask you some questions about the
conduct of the Seminoles in Stuart when they came into town.
L: I'd like to interject something before you do that, that might
be of interest. I have often wondered why the family that I
had known in Stuart--which I had thought never went down into
the deep Everglades--had actually been down into the Everglades.
It was not only a part of our culture up here, but also
apparently had a much wider territory than I envisioned these
Indians of having.
K: Do you know whether or not the Indians who lived around here
[Stuart] were Miccosukees or Muskogees?
L: I don't know. I think they were of the Gopher family and of
the Tiger family, but I don't know.
K: Clans are interchangeable. Both the Miccosukees and the
Muskogees have the same clans. There is no way of....
L: Clans are interchangeable?
K: Right.
L: No. I don't know then.
K: I imagine they were a part of the Muskogee, or what they call
Cow Creek speakers around here, but they have quite a lot of


9
problems about what Miccosukees and Muskogees have in common.
L: I understand.
K: Right. So, there may be some Miccosukees in this area too,
and if they were Miccosukees, that would explain what they
were doing down there in the deep Everglades. You mentioned
a few moments ago that when they went into a trading post to
buy goods for the family the male would buy the goods, but he
was given the order by the women.
L: Yes, yes.
K: That's interesting. Are there any other instances of female
authority that you can think of? Would it appear to you--I'm
just asking for subjective opinions--would it appear to you
that the woman more or less controlled the family, or that the
men did?
L: It appeared to me that the buck was keeping the women in a sub-
servient position, since he was the actual authority. They
said what they wanted, but he considered himself the only one
able to conduct the transactions. The women did walk around
and sort of inspect the store before they retreated to the
corner, but we dealt with only one person in the crowd, and
that was the man.
K: Did he usually pay off in goods or in money?
L: In Everglades City he paid off in money, but you completed
each transaction at the time, no matter whether it was a
spoon or a spool of thread. You completed the transaction;
he paid for it; he got whatever change was due him; and then
he went back to the women, and came back, and you were on
another transaction.
K: When they came into town, to Stuart, was there ever any friction
between the Seminoles and the white population?
L: I never heard of any friction of any kind, except occasionally
there would be a feeling that they were not being given a fair
price for their pelts, and they would go on strike--more or
less refuse to trade. In one instance of that kind, the Seminoles
had come in their wagons and were parked down on Flagler Avenue
near the river. That goes back to your thought as to whether
they did live in their wagons. I believe...well, almost confirm


10
they did when they were in town.
Anyhow, it became widely known through town that the
Indians were refusing to trade at Walter Kitching's store.
Walter Kitching's son-in-law, John Taylor, did most of the
trading. By the way, the Indians would:not take paper--
mostly half dollars, quarters, and silver dollars if they
were available. John Taylor decided to try to break the
strike, so he went down among the Indians. The usual custom
was throwing half dollars up in the air and catch them as they
came down, but this time he went with twenty dollar gold pieces,
and began tossing up twenty dollar gold pieces. It was not
long before the Indians agreed to trade. They were very much
aware of the value of gold, and when they saw that they could
get gold instead of silver, they traded even though they
thought the price was too low.
K: Do you think that feeling was well-founded?
L: Well, I would say with language difficulties and not knowing
about white man's ways, that it was quite probable that they
had been cheated on counterfeit paper money. A great many
white people were very skeptical of paper money and the
Indians actually refused to have anything to do with it,
which would indicate that somewhere down the line they'd
probably been burned.
K: What about the feeling that they had been shortchanged on the
price of furs? Is there any...?
L: Well, I'd say their feeling they'd been shortchanged on the
price of furs might have been a bit unfounded. The fur market
changed from year to year. Very often the bottom would drop
out of the price of pelts to such an extent that the white
people wouldn't even buy, wouldn't even bother to go after
the pelts. It's probable that the Indians, not being acquainted
with current markets and so on, might come into town and find
they're only offered twenty-five cents per 'coon hide instead
of fifty cents, and feel that they were being robbed. But the
white trader, on the other hand, knew the market had collapsed
in St. Louis, and that he couldn't make any money at fifty cents.
I do not believe that the traders in the town deliberately cheated
the Seminoles. I do believe that there were some white people...
in fact it was common knowledge that when furs were high some
white people would set out into the back country with loads of
half dollars, hoping to meet Indians who had not learned that
the prices were very good, and buy the furs before they got to
town.


11
K: Was there ever any problem with drinking on the part of the
Seminoles in town?
L: I'd say there was very little problem with drinking with the
Seminoles in town, largely because Stuart was a very dry town
and it was very hard for them to get anything to drink.
K: Oh, I'd forgotten, you're talking about prohibition now, the
era of prohibition, aren't you?
L: No, this was before prohibition, but they had Temperance ladies
in town who managed to get a local ordinance or two. However,
when you found the Seminole camps out in the back country, there
was always evidence that there had been a certain amount of
drinking...empty bottles. Interesting in this respect, I think,
is the fact that some moonshiners found the Indians good customers,
but finally the moonshiners felt they had been cheated. They
found evidence that the Indians down in the Everglades had found
a way to make their own by building their own moonshine stills.
K: Do you know whether or not the Seminoles who lived in this area
ever did any saltwater fishing or going after saltwater crabs
or shellfish or anything like that?
L: No, I don't. I do know that on occasions in the early days
they sailed dug-outs on the Indian River. I don't know where
they came from or where they were going. I would assume from
the abundance of seafood at that time that they must have used
it, but I do not know of them deliberately doing any saltwater
fishing.
K: Do you know if any Seminoles ever worked as manual laborers
for whites, or in any capacity for whites at that time?
L: The group that made a permanent camp up in St. Lucie County
did have some men who worked for cattlemen and early grove
men. I've never known of any Seminoles in this Martin County
area working.
K: I'm curious about Seminole gardening practices. Now, from what
you've told me, apparently they didn't have any gardens because
they moved around so much. Is that a reasonable...?
L: Well, they did have a very interesting deal. They planted in
some hammocks what we call Indian pumpkin--a species of squash.
These pumpkins are very long-lived--that is to say the fruit
does not deteriorate very rapidly. I do know that I have gone


12
into a number of hammocks in early Martin County where there
was evidence that the Indians had planted these pumpkins.
K: Can you give me an indication of how they went about planting
them. Was there any cultivation involved?
L: No. I never found any indication of cultivation.
K: Just went out and put seeds in the ground?
L: Yes.
K: Did they buy any food from the trading post in town?
L: Yes, they did buy some food from the trading post. As I recall,
it was mostly staples, such as grits or an occasional slab of
bacon. I think the grits were for the food they called sofki,
which is sort of mush. I just don't know. To begin with, my
knowledge of the Seminoles is largely sketchy. All that I am
able to say about them is simply as they appeared to a boy and
young man who happened to live in the town they came in to trade
and encountered them out in the woods.
K: Do you know where this particular group of Seminoles went for
their Green Corn Dance?
L: I think this was part of the group that eventually settled at
Brighton, but before they had any real home, these Indians were
strictly nomadic. They had no really large village, not in this
area at least. They moved and camped on such places as Hungryland Slough,
which is to the southwest. Through all the hammocks,
it seemed to me that they were continually on the prowl. We
never really saw them, except in the hunting season. I don't
know where they stayed in the summer.
K: What leadership was there among them? Do you know whether or
not there were any designated leaders?
L: I don't know a thing about that.
K: What about medicine? Do you know if they had any medicine men?
L: I don't know.
K: Well, I'm afraid that pretty well covers it. I don't think
that there is much more that I could ask you that you could


13
tell me about, but if you could think of anything at all to
add to this, I'd certainly appreciate it.
L: There are always conjectures you can make, and so on, but what
I've given you is strictly my objective few contacts that I've
had with them.
K: Was there ever any evidence of racism on the part of either
Seminoles or whites in this community? Were there certain
proscriptions?
L: Yes, that there were.
K: Could you give me an example of some of these?
L: Well, the only examples that I can give you are the common
sayings. I don't know whether they were true or not true,
but a Seminole woman who had a child by a white man would
be killed. Now, that was a common saying around the town.
I don't know whether it was true or not. It was common
knowledge, and physically evident in some cases, that there
was an infusion of Negro blood in the tribe, apparent more
in some individuals than in others. We did have one case
in the county where a white man was tried in court and later
acquitted on charges brought by the Seminoles that he had
raped a Seminole squaw. As I say, the man was acquitted.
It was generally known that there was a strong sexual barrier.
There were no hints of promiscuity and no desire on the part
of any white people I ever saV--unless you would get down to
the lowest bracket--that there would be a sexual mixing. I
have been told by R. L. Wall, Sr., who was the only white man
I ever knew of who was actually accepted into the Seminole tribe,
that there was exceptional sexual promiscuity at the
time of the Green Corn Dance when everybody got drunk and got
tied specifically to trees. It was at the Green Corn Dance
that the sexual activity got pretty strong in the camp among
the Indians.
K: In town, was there anything that the Indians were not allowed
to do, orany building that they were not allowed to enter?
Any place they were not allowed to congregate that was any
different from...?
L: No, I think that they took care of that pretty well themselves.
They did not attempt to mix freely. They more or less formed
a homogeneous little group of their own.


14
K: Was there any missionary impact in this area among the
Seminoles?
L: We had a rather strange case here, when some of the Seminoles
who had been sent to Oklahoma became strong Protestant
evangelists and returned to Stuart. One of them was a Seminole
named the Reverend Mr. Harjo, and he organized a missionary
effort out of Stuart into where the Seminoles had settled
slightly more strongly near Indian Town. These Seminole
missionaries would leave here by wagon and proselytize in the
interior. I never heard whether they did any good with it or
not. I do know that the case of Christianized Seminoles trying
to convert Florida Seminoles did go on.
K: About what period was this?
L: I imagine that would have been around 1917 to 1920. In fact,
I talked to Rev. Mr. Harjo's daughter here about three months
ago, and she told me about how they would be gone in their
wagons for weeks trying to convert the native Florida Seminoles.
From what she told me, they were very successful at it.
K: Do you know whether or' not they were Baptists?
L: Yes, I think surely they're Baptists.
A very, very interesting thing occurred that was thoroughly
relevant, in those days, of the general nature of the Indians,
which was most common in the West. That is the saying that a
dead Indian is a good Indian. I think that a case that illustrates
that is John Ashley's murder of De Soto Tiger for his furs.
It started the Ashley saga of bank robbing and train hold-ups.
The attitude of the people at that time was that John had not
committed any big crime in murdering De Soto Tiger for his fur,
which he later disposed of at a trading post in Miami. While
John admitted that he had killed the Seminole, he said he had
done so in self-defense--that the Seminole had been drinking,
and that the Seminole had become angry and threatened to shoot
him for not giving him more whiskey.
Now, however, what I'm getting to is that when this
Ashley saga had reached its climax of train robbery and bank
robbery, and John was being tried for murdering the Indian, a
remark of the time was, "All this fuss over just one damned
Indian." I don't know of any other case of the murder of Seminoles
by white men, but I do know that John was not regarded by the
pioneer people as really being a murderer, because, after all,
he had only killed an Indian.


15
K: Did the Indians attempt to get anything done about this
murder?
L: Yes. The Indians were very persistent in attempting to get
justice done. They got federal Indian Affairs assistance to
try to get justice done. They never did actually threaten to
retaliate physically. They seemed content to be able to leave
it as a court matter.
K: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Lyons.


Full Text

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INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: INTERVIEWER: Ernest Lyons R. T. King DATE: September 1973 DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION

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SUMMARY Ernest Lyons relates in this interview his observa tions (dating from about 1913) of the Seminoles Indians around Stuart. He discusses their temperament, trading customs, hunting and trapping practices, drinking and religion. With some specific examples he considers the racism in the town at that time.

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INDEX Ashley, John, 15-16 camps (Seminole, nomadic), 5-6, 13 drinking and Indian moonshine, 11-12 employment, 12 gardening, 12-13 hunting and trapping, 3-5 Kitching, Walter, 7, 10 religion (missionaries), 15 Seminole temperament, 1, 2, 7 trade (Seminoles in Stuart), 7-11, 13 transcultural contacts (racism), 14-16

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L: I was of the impression that the Seminoles were a dour, brooding, unexpressive people, largely because when I conatacted them in town, in early Stuart, from the period from about 1913 to about 1920, there always seemed to be a gulf between the white people and the Seminoles. This impression was radically changed one morning when I was about fourteen years old. I happened to be hunting out in the Allapattah Flats and had two or three 'coons that I had killed, and I came to a very wide slough where old Tom Tiger Tail Trail crossed the slough. I suppose it was almost an eighth of a mile wide at this point. I happened to sit down, just maybe an hour after daylight, and I heard dogs coming. A large pack of hounds of various mixed breeds hit the water on the far side of the slough and started swinnning, and then along came some little Seminole boys. I'd say they ranged from four or five years old to seven or eight, riding ponies, stark naked, and having one hell of a fine time. They were just enthusiastically happy as they came racing across this slough on their ponies, and behind them came a number of bucks, as we called them back then, dressed in their Seminole shirts. They, too, seemed to be very happy. Following these came a number of the little horse-drawn, gypsy-style wagons that the Seminoles used at that time, with the women and the old folks in the wagons and bundles of otter pelts and 'coon hides also in the wagons. The dogs passed me, and the little boys on their ponies, and I stood up from where I had been crouching down in the palmettoes, and all of a sudden, the entire atmosphere changed. The spirit of unrestrained happiness that was so strong you could feel it, and emotional climate just all of a sudden, the expressions on everyone's face changed, and the whole group stopped. I pointed out to one of the braves where my father was camped several miles on, gave them the 'coons, and asked them if they would drop them off at our camp, where I would skin them later on. I have never gotten over the impression that the Seminoles we saw in the wilds and those whom we occasionally met while hunting were not Seminoles in their happy state by themselves, with no white man around. For instance, I know that I have been hunting and had a Seminole drop into my camp and ask me for a shotgun shell, or even to use my fire, but there was never any particular feeling of comradeship. In fact, one time I

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2 remember Little Tom Tiger stopped at my camp when I had run out of provisions and all I had was a piece of corn bread. In fact, I believe I'd eaten the last that morning. I gave him two 11 00 11 buckshot shells, and was amazed when I saw him reach inside his rainbow shirt and pull out a venison steak. He put the venison steak on a stick. He started cooking over my bed of coals, and I was half-starving, salivating with the odor of this red meat. After he had cooked it well enough to eat, he ate every last bit of it, picked up his gun, and walked off into the woods. K: And you gave him the buckshot? L: Yes, I gave him the buckshot. K: And nothing in return? L: Right. He gave me nothing in return. Yet, on this same incident that I speak of, I think I had four 'coons that I gave to the Indians and asked them to leave with my father. Well, when I got to my father's camp (our camp) later that day, Dad said, "The Indians came by and sold me four 'coons." I said, "What'd you give them for the 'coons?" "Well," he said, "I just had a couple of fifty-cent pieces, and I had some black cloth and gave it to them." I said, "Well, those were my 'coons." I think it was a mis-apprehension on my father's part. I think that he did not understand they were giving the 'coons, but as long as he insisted on giving them the two fifty-cent pieces and the colored cloth, they were happy to take it. K: Did they speak English, the Seminoles that brought the 'coons to your father's camp? L: No, no. With the exception of a few small phrases or words, they were very uncommunicative. I never heard any of them give full sentences in English. I'd like to mention one thing about the spirit of our time, not exactly hostility, but a spirit of strong competition that existed between the white people who made their living in the woods and the Seminoles. The word would go around town that the hunting season--I mean deer hunting--was bound to be real poor because the Indians were coming, and there was always the feeling that it wasn't much use going to certain areas if the Indians had been there first. Now, to get just a little picture of the way this country

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3 was back then, there wasn't a barbed wire fence between the coast and Lake Okeechobee. It was all a big, wide-open hunting ground, which extended from the lake almost to the coast. It was a country of stands of pine, cabbage palmetto hammocks, and extensive shallow sloughs. Every slough or small pond had deeply rutted game trails out around them, and 'coons and otter were an important part of the financial mainstay of a number of the white people. I remember one hunt that we went on when I was quite a young man, in which we were camped out around Tom Tiger Tail Hammock. The Indians were also in that area. Although we found abundant game, I was with old man Roebuck, and we were deer hunting, and we joined a camp of trappers headed by a man named Lee. We were on a pine stand with about two hundred 'coon hides tacked square to dry on the pine trees. We had possibly ten or fifteen cased otter pelts in the camp, and we had deer--a young buck we had killed that morning, which had been skinned and wind drying. We had a number of fox squirrels which had been skinned and were wind drying, and that afternoon I had found a pond just loaded with black bass making money real fast off the furs. Well, that afternoon there was a very strong wing blowing. We began to hear the Indians fire hunting. The way they fire hunted was to set fire to a long hammock; they would get to the far end and shoot the deer or any other game that might come up. We began to get a bit worried as the wind increased and there were several expressed, "Those damn Indians gonna set fire to us if we aren't careful." Pretty soon that happened. At least, whether they did this deli berately, I don't know, but I do know that the flames reached our pine stand and began reaching toward us. I'll never forget the tremendous rush to try to get the wagon loaded, to get all our gear out before the fire reached our camp, and the conclusion of the story is a bit dramatic. After we had safely reached a point that the fire couldn't get to, Old Man Roebuck took a box of kitchen matches, got on his horse, and said to me, "Those damn Indians want fire, I'm gonna give 'em fire." I kept watching his progressionthese great big black circles going over several miles as he set fire to all the woods around, hoping, I am sure, that he would burn out the Indian's camp just as our camp had been burned out. K: You mentioned that the Indians used fire as a method for getting game. Was that the standard hunting procedure for Seminoles at that time?

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4 L: I wouldn't say that it was the standard hunting procedure. No. I would say that they didn't hestitate to do it if they thought that that was the way to make the game go. If they found hammocks they thought it would work in, they did not hesitate to do it. Of course, the white hunters also were notorious for setting fires--not so much to fire hunt as to cause a burn where new grass would come up for the deer and turkey, and later for hunting on. K: How successful were the Seminoles at hunting? Could you compare them to the white hunters? L: Well, in the opinion of the white hunters, they were probably much more successful. I always wondered a great deal about the success of the Seminoles, and how easy things looked. I noticed wherever I found camps, at the remnants of their camps there were fewer evidences of game than there were evidences of gopher turtles and garfish and the type of food that we did not consider edible. K: Well, apparently, from what you've told me already this morning, ammunition was in pretty short supply for the Seminoles. L: Yes, I think it was. K: What about firearms? L: I don't think they were in short supply on firearms, although the favorite weapon that I remember was usually a single shot weapon--single barrel, single shot shotgun. K: What other weapons did they use for hunting other than the shotgun or rifle? L: Frankly, I don't know of any other weapons. They used spears, I am sure. K: What about bows and arrows? L: I never saw a Seminole with a bow and arrow around here. K: Did they do much trapping? L: Yes, they did quite a lot of trapping. K: Can you tell me how they went about that? Did they use white

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5 man's traps or did they have a method of their own? L: Well, I believe they used white man's traps. A favorite trap of that time was the Blake Number Four, which was a square-pan tooth trap, and I believe those traps were carried by the store here, and quite often they'd be part of the merchandise that they would trade furs for. K: Earlier, you mentioned that you had come across a group of Seminoles who were traveling by horse-drawn gypsy wagons. Do you know whether they lived out of these wagons, or whether they pitched a sort of semi-permanent camp at different places? I'm wondering what they used these wagons for other than L: In this part of the country, I have never run into a permanent Seminole camp. K: That's very interesting. very interested in this. give me about it. Could you expand on that some? I'm I'd like as much detail as you could L: Well, I know they had some permanent installations up in what's now St. Lucie County. They had some permanent installations out near Indian Town, but as between Indian Town and the coast, they did not seem to bother to put up their chickees. Most camps were simply the wagon wheel spoke type of fire they used, in which they would push the spokes closer in all the time with the fire in the center. I per sonally am not familiar with any Seminole camps which were more than a very transient nature. Will that answer your question? K: I'm wondering if you can go into some more detail on these wagons? I'm really curious as to whether or not they lived out of the wagons the way gypsies would, and just traveled all around and maybe made camps for no more than two or three days at a time anywhere they went, or whether the wagons. were used primarily to transport their goods. L: It had the appearance to me of the wagons containing every thing necessary for living, but the camp itself being of a very brief tenure at each place. In other words, they might not spend more than a week or so at a camp while they were hunting around 'it, and I do not know whether they lived in the wagons or whether they simply slept on the ground like most of us did, with palmetto branches for a bed.

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6 K: What about domesticated animals? Did they keep any cattle, hogs, goats, anything like that? L: Well, frankly, I don't know. At that time, we had lots of wild hogs. Wild hogs where the white man would notch their ears to claim them. I don't know of the Indians making any such claims on the hog population, and the cattle population here at that time was very sparse. There were very few ranchers in the sense that we regard a man as a rancher now. K: You've mentioned the name Tom Tiger Tail several times. Could you tell me who he was? I understand he had a hammock and a trail named after him. Was he still alive when you were a boy? L: No, he had died. My only knowledge is of the name. K: The incident that you mentioned wherein the Seminoles set fire to a hammock, that eventually caught the hammock that you had your skins pegged out to dry in on fire You said that this Mr. Roebuck went down and set fire and tried to burn out the Seminoles as well. Was this type of retaliatory activitystandardprocedure whenever anybody considered that the Seminoles had done anything to them unjustly? L: I don't know that there was any such realistic retaliation unless a similar incident occurred. I don't think, for instance, that the white people would deliberately set fire knowing there was an Indian camp in the vicinity that the fire might reach. Neither do I know that the Seminoles began a practice of doing things in white men's camps, nor do I know that they deliberately set the fire that caught our camp. All I do know is that the group I was with considered that the Indians had done it. K: When the Seminoles came to town, in what numbers did they come into town? L: I'd say the group that came in here might consist of as many as twenty-five and as few as a dozen. These were the same Indians that came into Joe Bowers's Trading Post at Indian Town and into Bowers's Trading Post at Jupiter. Their transactions were usually with Walter Kitching, who had a fairly large grocery store and goodly stuff to trade with the Seminoles. When they came into town, they were usually complete families; it was very rarely that we ever saw just a few Seminole men. I do re member, of course, that the squaws wore these tremendously heavy

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7 beads around their neck and down their bosoms; looked like they were carrying a tremendous load of these beads. They were bare-footed--in fact all of them were bare-footed. The women's dresses were almost completely to the ground and they were very voluminous. The women and the children, whom we called pickaninnies, usually brought in berries, which they called blueberries, but I'm afraid they were a berry looking like a blueberry. K: They told me that they were huckleberries. L: Yes. K: People down here eat them, and the Seminoles say they do. L: Yes, huckleberries. Well, they would sell these from house to house around town. One little incident that I remember vividly--back in Stuart in those times, everyone came down to the square down town to meet the evening train. One evening I found a little Seminole boy--I imagine he was about three or four years old. He had become lost from his parents and he was crying. I took it on myself to try to comfort him, and sort of took care of him, and finally reunited him with his parents. The sequal to this happened over on the west coast of Florida. Four or five years later, I happened to be employed in a commissary at Everglades City--before the Tamiami Trail had been complete, and when Everglades City was a very isolated area, and the Seminoles came in by dug-out from the Everglades, down what we call Barron's River. The dug-outs would.,hav:e usually just one brave, a squaw or two, and the children. The brave would stop the dug-out two or three hundred feet away from the connnissary, and then they would walk the bank. I always thought this was rather unusual--why they didn't all come together? Then, when they got into the connnissary, the squaws and the children would get into one corner of the corrnnissary and would tell the brave what they wanted, and he would do all the trading, one item at a time. As I was the newest employee of the commissary, I got the Job of doing business with the Indians. It would often take one whole morning just to transact a moderate amount of groceries, spools of thread, and oddly enough, Oneida silverware, which the Indians seemed very fond of, silverplate and ..•. K: Do you know what they would do with it, whether or not they would use it?

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8 L: I often wondered what they would do with it, and I could see how tarnished it would become from pitch-pine fires and so on and from their form of cooking. Anyhow, the incident I was speaking about, coming back to this little boy who was lost in Stuart and whom I reunited with his parents. One day at Everglades City in the commissary an Indian buck recognized me and managed to convey to me that he was the father of the little boy that I had reunited with him, though it must have been four years earlier. It took a long while to convey this information because the boy happened to be there. He was about eight or nine years old instead of four years old, and when the Seminole would refer to "pickaninnie;" I couldn't quite place it, but eventually he got:the message through to me. As an incident of Seminole appreciation, which I'd been rather skeptical about following the shot~gun shells and the venison, this Indian rewarded me with a very beautiful beaded belt in appreciation for having reunited the little boy with his family. I think that just about sums that up. K: All right then, I'd like to ask you some questions about the conduct of the Seminoles in Stuart when they came into town. L: I'd like to interject something before you do that, that might be of interest. I have often wondered why the family that I had known in Stuart--which I had thought never went down into the deep Everglades--had actually been down into the Everglades. It was not only a part of our culture up here, but also apparently had a much wider territory than I envisioned these Indians of having. K: Do you know whether or not the Indians who lived around here [Stuart] were Miccosukees or Muskogees? L: I don't know. I think they were of the Gopher family and of the Tiger family, but I don't know. K: Clans are interchangeable. Both the Miccosukees and the Muskogees have the same clans. There is no way of L: Clans are interchangeable? K: Right. L: No. I don't know then. K: I imagine they were a part of the Muskogee, or what they call Cow Creek speakers around here, but they have quite a lot of

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9 problems about what Miccosukees and Muskogees have in common. L: I understand. K: Right. So, there may be some Miccosukees in this area too, and if they were Miccosukees, that would explain what they were doing down there in the deep Everglades. You mentioned a few moments ago that when they went into a trading post to buy goods for the family the male would buy the goods, but he was given the order by the women. L: Yes, yes. K: That's interesting. Are there any other instances of female authority that you can think of? Would it appear to you--I'm just asking for subjective opinions--would it appear to you that the woman more or less controlled the family, or that the men did? L: It appeared to me that the buck was keeping the women in a sub servient position, since he was the actual authority. They said what they wanted, but he considered himself the only one able to conduct the transactions. The women did walk around and sort of inspect the store before they retreated to the corner, but we dealt with only one person in the crowd, and that was the man. K: Did he usually pay off in goods or in money? L: In Everglades City he paid off in money, but you completed each transaction at the time, no matter whether it was a spoon or a spool of thread. You completed the transaction; he paid for it; he got whatever change was due him; and then he went back to the women, and came back, and you were on another transaction. K: When they came into town, to Stuart, was there ever any friction between the Seminoles and the white population? L: I never heard of any friction of any kind, except occasionally there would be a feeling that they were not being given a fair price for their pelts, and they would go on strike--more or less refuse to trade. In one instance of that kind, the Seminoles had come in their wagons and were parked down on Flagler Avenue near the river. That goes back to your thought as to whether they did live in their wagons. I believe well, almost confirm

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10 they did when they were in town. Anyhow, it became widely known through town that the Indians were refusing to trade at Walter Kitching's store. Walter Kitching's son-in-law, John Taylor, did most of the trading. By the way, the Indians would:not take paper-mostly half dollars, quarters, and silver dollars if they were available. John Taylor decided to try to break the strike, so he went down among the Indians. The usual custom was throwing half dollars up in the air and catch them as they came down, but this time he went with twenty dollar gold pieces, and began tossing up twenty dollar gold pieces. It was not long before the Indians agreed to trade. They were very much aware of the value of gold, and when they saw that they could get gold instead of silver, they traded even though they thought the price was too low. K: Do you think that feeling was well-founded? L: Well, I would say with language difficulties and not knowing about white man's ways, that it was quite probable that they had been cheated on counterfeit paper money. A great many white people were very skeptical of paper money and the Indians actually refused to have anything to do with it, which would indicate that somewhere down the line they'd probably been burned. K: What about the feeling that they had been shortchanged on the price of furs? Is there any .•. ? L: Well, I'd say their feeling they'd been shortchanged on the price of furs might have been a bit unfounded. The fur market changed from year to year. Very often the bottom would drop out of the price of pelts to such an extent that the white people wouldn't even buy, wouldn't even bother to go after the pelts. It's probable that the Indians, not being acquainted with current markets and so on, might come into town and find they're only offered twenty-five cents per 'coon hide instead of fifty cents, and feel that they were being robbed. But the white trader, on the other hand, knew the market had collapsed in St. Louis, and that he couldn't make any money at fifty cents. I do not believe that the traders in the town deliberately cheated the Seminoles. I do believe that there were some white people in fact it was common knowledge that when furs were high some white people would set out into the back country with loads of half dollars, hoping to meet Indians who had not learned that the prices were very good, and buy the furs before they got to town.

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11 K: Was there ever any problem with drinking on the part of the Seminoles in town? L: I'd say there was very little problem with drinking with the Seminoles in town, largely because Stuart was a very dry town and it was very hard for them to get anything to drink. K: Oh, I'd forgotten, you're talking about prohibition now, the era of prohibition, aren't you? L: No, this was before prohibition, but they had Temperance ladies in town who managed to get a local ordinance or two. However, when you found the Seminole camps out in the back country, there was always evidence that there had been a certain amount of drinking empty bottles. Interesting in this respect, I think, is the fact that some moonshiners found the Indians good customers, but finally the moonshiners felt they had been cheated. They found evidence that the Indians down in the Everglades had found a way to make their own by building their own moonshine stills. K: Do you know whether or not the Seminoles who lived in this area ever did any saltwater fishing or going after saltwater crabs or shellfish or anything like that? L: No, I don't. I do know that on occasions in the early days they sailed dug-outs on the Indian River. I don't know where they came from or where they were going. I would assume from the abundance of seafood at that time that they must have used it, but I do not know of them deliberately doing any saltwater fishing. K: Do you know if any Seminoles ever worked as manual laborers for whites, or in any capacity for whites at that time? L: The group that made a permanent camp up in St. Lucie County did have some men who worked for cattlemen and early grove men. I've never known of any Seminoles in this Martin County area working. K: I'm curious about Seminole you've told me, apparently they moved around so much. gardening practices. Now, from what they didn't have any gardens because Is that a reasonable ..• ? L: Well, they did have a very interesting deal. They planted in some hammocks what we call Indian pumpkin--a species of squash. These pumpkins are very long-lived--that is to say the fruit does not deteriorate very rapidly. I do know that I have gone

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12 into a number of hammocks in early Martin County where there was evidence that the Indians had planted these pumpkins. K: Can you give me an indication of how they went about planting them. Was there any cultivation involved? L: No. I never found any indication of cultivation. K: Just went out and put seeds in the ground? L: Yes. K: Did they buy any food from the trading post in town? L: Yes, they did buy some food from the trading post. As I recall, it was mostly staples, such as grits or an occasional slab of bacon. I think the grits were for the food they called sofki, which is sort of mush. I just don't know. To begin with, my knowledge of the Seminoles is largely sketchy. All that I am able to say about them is simply as they appeared to a boy and young man who happened to live in the town they came in to trade and encountered them out in the woods. K: Do you know where this particular group of Seminoles went for their Green Corn Dance? L: I think this was part of the group that eventually settled at Brighton, but before they had any real home, these Indians were strictly nomadic. They had no really large vil.l.a!ge, not in this area at least. They moved and camped on such places as Hungry land Slough, which is to the southwest. Through all the hammocks, it seemed to me that they were continually on the prowl. We never really saw them, except in the hunting season. I don't know where they stayed in the summer. K: What leadership was there among them? Do you know whether or not there were any designated leaders? L: I don't know a thing about that. K: What about medicine? Do you know if they had any medicine men? L: I don't know. K: Well, I'm afraid that pretty well covers it. I don't think that there is much more that I could ask you that you could

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13 tell me about, but if you could think of anything at all to add to this, I'd certainly appreciate .it. L: There are always conjectures you can make, and so on, but what I've given you is strictly my objective few contacts that I've had with them. K: Was there ever any evidence of racism on the part of either Seminoles or whites in this community? Were there certain proscriptions? L: Yes, that there were. K: Could you give me an example of some of these? L: Well, the only examples that I can give you are the connnon sayings. I don't know whether they were true or not true, but a Seminole woman who had a child by a white man would be killed. Now, that was a common saying around the town. I don't know whether it was true or not. It was common knowledge, and physically evident in some cases, that there was an infusion of Negro blood in the tribe, apparent more in some individuals than in others. We did have one case in the county where a white man was tried in court and later acquitted on charges brought by the Seminoles that he had raped a Seminole squaw. As I say, the man was acquitted. It was generally known that there was a strong sexual barrier. There were no hints of promiscuity and no desire on the part of any white people I ever saw--unless you would get down to the lowest bracket--that there would be a sexual mixing. I have been told by R. L. Wall, Sr., who was the only white man I ever knew of who was actually accepted into the Seminole tribe, that there was exceptional sexual promiscuity at the time of the Green Corn Dance when everybody got drunk and got tied specifically to trees. It was at the Green Corn Dance that the sexual activity got pretty strong in the camp among the Indians. K: In town, was there anything that the Indians were not allowed to do, or any building that they were not allowed to enter? Any place they were not allowed to congregate that was any different from ? L: No, I think that they took care of that pretty well themselves. They did not attempt to mix freely. They more or less formed a homogeneous little group of their own.

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K: Was there any missionary impact in this area among the Seminoles? 14 L: We had a rather strange case here, when some of the Seminoles who had been sent to Oklahoma became strong Protestant evangelists and returned to Stuart. One of them was a Seminole named the Reverend Mr. Harjo, and he organized a missionary effort out of Stuart into where the Seminoles had settled slightly more strongly near Indian Town. These Seminole missionaries would leave here by wagon and proselytize in the interior. I never heard whether they did any good with it or not. I do know that the case of Christianized Seminoles trying to convert Florida Seminoles did go on. K: About what period was this? L: I imagine that would have been around 1917 to 1920. In fact, I talked to Rev. Mr. Harjo's daughter here about three months ago, and she told me about how they would be gone in their wagons for weeks tring to convert the native Florida Seminoles. From what she told me, they were very successful at it. K: Do you know whether oi not they were Baptists? L: Yes, I think surely they're Baptists, A very, very interesting thing occurred that was thoroughly relevant, in those days, of the general nature of the Indians, which was most common in the West. That is the saying that a dead Indian is a good Indian. I think that a case that illustrates that is John Ashley's murder of De Soto Tiger for his furs. It started the Ashley saga of bank robbing and train hold-ups. The attitude of the people at that time was that John had not committed any big crime in murdering De Soto Tiger for his fur, which he later disposed of at a trading post in Miami. While John admitted that he had killed the Seminole, he said he had done so in self-defense--that the Seminole had been drinking, and that the Seminole had become angry and threatened to shoot him for not giving him more whiskey. Now, however, what I'm getting to is that when this Ashley saga had reached its climax of train robbery and bank robbery, and John was being tried for murdering the Indian, a remark of the time was, "All this fuss over just one damned Indian." I don't know of any other case of the murder of Seminoles by white men, but I do know that John was not regarded by the pioneer people as really being a murderer, because, after all, he had only killed an Indian.

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K: Did the Indians attempt to get anything done about this murder? 15 L: Yes. The Indians were very persistent in attempting to get justice done. They got federal Indian Affairs assistance to try to get justice done. They never did actually threaten to retaliate physically. They seemed content to be able to leave it as a court matter. K: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Lyons.