Citation
Interview with Gene Begay, July 11, 1973

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Gene Begay, July 11, 1973
Creator:
Begay, Gene ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

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

Notes

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

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Seminoles' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
SEM 96 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Gene Begay
INTERVIEWER: Tom King
DATE: July 1973
DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION


SUMMARY
Gene Begay, employed with the USET, discusses in
this interview the rationale, organization, functions,
and membership of the USET. He gives background for
any observations he makes concerning tribal conflicts
between Seminoles and Miccosukees. In detail he con-
siders the problem of alcoholism, mental health and
juvenile delinquency of the Indians. Insights into
tribal leadership and politics are also provided.


INDEX
education (needs of tribe), 15-16
juvenile delinquency, 14-15
mental health and alcoholism, 9-13
Medicine Man (development of), 13-14
USET (United Southeastern Tribes),
functions, 2,3
membership, 4-6
Miccosukee/Seminole relationship, 7
organization of, 1, 3-4
Tiger, Buffalo, 4, 7-9


I
K: Mr. Begay, can you begin by telling me something about the origin
of the United Southeastern Tribes.
B: The United Southeastern Tribes had its beginning in the minds and
in the ideas of the chairmen of the principal tribes, particularly
the recognized tribes, located in the southeastern part of this
country, back in the late 1960s. The idea was that coordinated
efforts must be developed to respond to federal programs and
federal priorities for Indian communities nationwide. They felt
that by developing their coordinated efforts and especially setting
down some basic guidelines and criteria for tribal re-organization
required some getting together. So, in the late 1960s, the
tribes met together informally and discussed possible reasons for
organization and priorities as an affiliation or a federation
or a coalition of tribes, perhaps a coalition of tribes initially.
Out of those initial meetings emerged the idea and consensus
among the tribal leaders that there was a need for organization
much more than just to coordinate efforts, but to be service-
oriented to the tribes.
K: Well, you mentioned a moment ago one of the problems that you e
attempted to take up, tribe re-organization. Would you go into
that a little bit more?
B: What I really meant was that perhaps more of their worry was
tribal re-organization, total community development, including
the development of economic enterprises, economic development
on the reservations, the Health Care Delivery System as being
provided by Indian Health Service,youth development, over-
coming certain social and educational disadvantages, the whole
issue of tribal government in relationship to counties and
states, and the whole issue of environmental health, housing and
basic health services, the maintenance of whole broad spectrum
of what I call community development, essentially.
K: Now, I know that the Seminole Tribe has a lot of people on the
staff of the tribal government who fulfill functions similar
to the ones you just delineated. I'm wondering how USET differs
from them, why it was considered necessary that USET be or-
ganized when at least within the Seminole Tribe (I don't know
about the other tribes involved) there are people who are


2
in the same areas that you just told me about, such as Mental
Health, Resource and Development, and so on. I think that
there's perhaps a slight degree of redundancy here. Could
you clear that up for me?
B: Well, actually, there's really no small degree of redundancy
except that the USET Organization, as such, gives and belongs
to the tribe. This office here in Sarasota is under the control
of a Board of Directors made up of the type of panel that we
set up, the seven tribes in the southeastern part of the
country, and we serve several functions in Sarasota and in
relationship to the tribes. Number one is that we provide training
for the service programs on the reservations. We provide
training for administrators, for counselors, for leadership,
and for general employees of the tribe in whatever area they
might be working. We provide training for them. Another
function that we provide is in the area of advocacy and
congressional liaison. What I mean by that is that we advo-
cate at an area level on behalf of all the tribes, the United
Southeastern Tribes. Advocacy to whatever resource may be
available for the needs of the tribe and for some of the
problems; we provide technical assistance in that respect,
programs, service programs on the reservations, technical assis-
tance and professional consultation in program development.
Congressional liasionwise, we serve as a central voice for
all the tribes in broadscope issues of housing, health services,
alcoholism and mental health, which in many cases had been
administered by the federal government on a regional basis
anyway. The H.U.D. programs are regionally orientated. The
health programs are regionally orientated. In fact, the
Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service are
regionalized by areas. They have area offices in Albuquerque
and various other places, Portland, and they also have one
down here in the Southeast, which is in Sarasota. So we respond
to federal agencies on an areawide basis and provide a congressional
liaison, as I said before, with various key governmental
people serving on various committees in the House and in the
Senate, especially the Senate sub-committee on Insular and
Interior Affairs, for example. In both houses, those members
of those committees, we address ourselves to some of the needs
and to the response of some of the issues that may affect
the tribes in the Southeast. A third function that we provide
is what some people call Services. Perhaps, it more realistically
can be called the Development of Community Resources. By that
I mean that once programs are established on the reservations--


3
say Mental Health or Alcoholism or social services of any
kind, or Youth Development--we certainly want to investigate
and begin to co-operate with the local programs near the
reservation of a like nature, to develop co-operative
efforts, and even to establish some support from the surround-
ing agencies or communities that are near the reservation.
The state has vocational rehabilitation programs that have
resources avilable to the tribe. So, we provide the resource
development assistance to the tribe, sort of like door-openers.
Most recently, a fourth kind of function we see that USET
can provide--however, we haven't really gotten into that
area yet fully, although there's been some planning--and that
is that USET will also do research for the tribes, by which
I mean that we could do feasibility studies, conduct various
pilot projects of an innovative nature in education. We could
do innovative things in mental health therapy, using Indian
Medicine Men. The research would be to document and substantiate
kinds of innovative services that could be developed in a vast
variety of areas, not only in education and health but also
in housing, family therapy, juvenile delinquency, and some of these
things. It's very difficult for reservation communities to
participate in the services available to the counties and the
state. Their jurisdiction is sometimes different as a federally
controlled and recognized community entity as opposed to the
counties and municipalities.
K: You indicated at the beginning of the interview that USET came
into existance when the leaders of several major tribes in the
southeastern United States got together and decided that they
needed an organization to provide these services. Could you be
a bit more specific and give me the date that USET was actually
organized? I would also be interested in finding out who was
the moving force behind it, who got the individual leaders
together to begin with, who was the driving force, in other
words, to bring this thing into existance?
B: O.K., the principals were Mr. Emmett York, who has since
deceased, who was at that time the chairman of the Mississippi
Band of Choctaws, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He was
one of the prime motivators of the USET concept. He was
assisted by one of the Chairman of the Tribal Council of


4
Cherokee, North Carolina, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
That is Mr. Johnson Catolister, who is no longer
Chairman of the Tribal Council, but still lives and resides
in Cherokee, North Carolina, and he sort of represented the
Cherokee leadership in USET with the USET idea. A young
tribal leader, who was at that time Chairman of the Seminole Tribal Business Enterprise,
a fellow by the name of Mr. Joe Dan Osceola, and also Mr. Buffalo Tiger from
the Miccosukee Tribe
was also one of the motivators of the USET concept. It is
interesting, though, to become aware of what the whole idea
was of USET. Some of the smaller tribes like Seminole and
Miccosukee were interested primarily in initial program develop-
ment. Up until that time, which has been several years ago,
the Seminoles and the Miccosukees had just become federally
recognized. Well, I want to make a correction when I say
federally recognized tribes. The Seminoles have always been
a federally recognized tribe since the 1950s. However, my
correction is the word "federally recognized" really means
when the tribes began to get involved with the Bureau of Indian Affairs
and Indian Health Service in terms of receiving
federal programs. Now, USET was incorporated in the State of Georgia in 1969,
and subsequently has become incorporated
in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina,
and the District of Columbia.
K: The question that I asked you before had to do with the motive
force behind it and you had told me that it was...
B: O.K., the interest of the smaller tribes like the Seminole
and Miccosukees was for the purpose of receiving assistance
through an inter-tribal organization such as USET in
developing programs and gaining experience and expertise in
developing and administrating federal programs by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The largest tribes, like the Cherokees
and the Choctaws, who already had a long experience of
developing and administering federal programs, were interested
in sharing their experience with the other tribes of USET.
Initially, there were four: Seminole, Miccosukee, Cherokee, and Choctaw.
Since then, the Seneca Nation of;New York
has become a member of USET; the Chitimacha Tribe of southern
Louisiana has become a member of USET; and currently the
Coushetta Tribe of southern Louisiana near Elton, Louisiana,
has currently submitted papers and has requested to become a
member of the United Southeastern Tribes. Since the organiza-
tion began, we've discovered that the kinds of needs that were


5
to be met by the organization and subsequently submitted
for federal funding, a lot of times, the amount of money
available to fund these programs was not at all substantial
to meet the entire needs of various tribal communities. So
there has always been an issue within USET of the allocations
of federal program money to the tribe based either on per
capita or on need or on geographical location or any other
numerous ways that we have tried to come up with to justify
priorities for the tribe.
K: Whenever such an issue comes up, how is it decided?
B: Usually decided by discussion amongst the tribal chairmen
who are the principal leaders on the Board of Directors.
Many times consultants are brought in. Specialists are
brought in for USET work on a consultation basis. Certainly,
staff members in USET here in Sarasota provide the resource
materials and also provide some consultation, and then, also,
we negotiate with the federal agencies.
K: Who provided the money initially to set up USET, to set up
the offices and to pay the salaries of the people that were
employed?
B: The tribes themselves.
K: Can you tell me how that was done? Was it done on a per
capita basis or what? How was it decided who would pay how
much?
B: I'm not really sure, but I'm positive that the tribes pay
an equal amount of tribal membership to be a part of USET,
which is a very small amount, but I don't know the amount.
K: Can you tell me if there has ever been a referendum within
the individual tribes concerning whether or not they would
belong to USET, or whether or not they would continue to
pay USET, to pay salaries and so on?
B: No, there's never been a referendum that I know of.
K: Then, it's entirely up to the tribal leadership? Is that
right?
B: Tribal Council.


6
K: Tribal Council.
B: Right. The process is that any tribe can apply for member-
ship, such as the Coushattas are doing right now. They
have to approach the United Southeastern Tribes Chairmen
and request time on the agenda at the next board meeting.
They have to come prepared to submit their Articles of
Incorporation, their application that they are a federally
recognized tribe, and their by-laws and any other corporate
papers. Then, duplicate copies are made of their documents,
and the chairmen take back these documents to each of their
Tribal Councils, and the Tribal Councils vote, individually,
either yea or nay, for allowing this tribe to become a member
of USET. Then it goes back to the USET Inter-Tribal
Council table again and its votes are counted, and it's usually
unanimous both in tribes and men.
K: Do the leaders of the individual tribal councils get
together to decide who is to be hired to USET? Let's take
your position as being open. Does Osley Saunook just
appoint someone else to fill it, or would it be up to the
leaders of the Tribal Councils to decide who would take your
position?
B: Administrators and managers and personnel are the responsi-
bility of Executive Director, except in cases where certain
programs are of a special nature or constitute a high pri-
ority within the whole USET organization. For example, all
of the personnel currently working for United Southeastern
Tribes were hired by the Executive Director except in my case.
I was hired by the Board of Directors as Director of the
Mental Health team. However, I was instructed and told by
the board that I would be under the administrative authority
of the Executive Director.
K: All right. I would like to ask you some questions that
deal directly with the Seminoles and the Miccosukees, since
that is my major field of interest. I know that in the past
the two tribes have not gotten along well together, at least
on a political level. There was quite a bit of dissension
in the late 1950s and early 1960s. What I would like to
know is has this surfaced within the United Southeastern Tribes?
Has the conflict been carried over to, shall we say, arguments
over payments of the different tribes, and on what basis
they would be paid and things like that?


7
B: I think, first of all, it should be understood that when
any two tribes or any two separate tribal governments
reside together, even in the same state, there is a certain
amount of competitiveness and resourcefulness, individual
resourcefulness in securing services and developing
programs. In order to answer your question on the Seminoles
and the Miccosukees, I would say that the kinds of not
negative relationship, the kind of...maybe, perhaps the
best word is the kind of competitive nature of both the
Miccosukees and Seminoles. In that respect, the leaders,
Mr. Tiger and Mr. Tommie, are both dynamic and aggressive tribal
leaders, both in their own way and representing their own
people in a particular way. They are stalwart in the fact
that their history has somewhat of a bearing upon it. The
Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, which Mr. Tiger is chairman of,
was originally a group of Indians that resided within parts
of southern Florida, in the Everglades, and the separation
came some years ago, at the time of the Christian missionaries
coming in among the so-called Seminole Tribe of Florida.
At that time, they were all called the Seminole Tribe.
The Miccosukee Tribe, though, was not then the Miccosukee
Tribe. It was that group of Seminole Indians who chose not
to accept Christianity or to become a part of the missionary
movement and broke away from the main Seminole Tribe; the
ones now that live along the Tamiami Trail and sprinkled
in the various family groups along the Everglades, people
as far west as Naples and as far north as Fort Meyers.
The Miccosukee Tribe today is very traditional, much more
than the main band of Seminole Tribes of Florida. They
have very little Christian influence, very few converts in
the Miccosukee Tribe. All belong to the traditional religion,
the religion of the Seminoles, or the Miccosukees, rather.
The Seminoles, on the other hand, have adapted, more or less,
to the Christian religion. Most of the Seminole people are
members of a Baptist church. There are Baptist congregations
on all three of the Seminole reservations: Big Cypress,
Brighton, and the Hollywood reservations. In fact, one of
the tribal leaders, who was a tribal chairman at one time,
was ordained Baptist preacher or pastor or chaplain,
however you call it. That's right. So, the two communities
are separated in that respect, historically. They both main-
tain that type of awareness and so there has never been any
of the kinds of things that would promote a real getting
together. You know what I mean? However, on the other hand,
they do work together co-operatively on various programs.


8
K: I've been told by some people within the Seminole Tribe of
Florida and your own Executive Director that a fellow by
the name of John Adams exercises a great deal of influence
on Chairman Buffalo Tiger of the Miccosukee Tribe. Could you
comment on that?
B: Well, I think I could comment on that in terms of the
situation, in terms of the background principles involved, but not
in terms of the individuals mentioned, personality-wise.
First of all, it must be understood that in the effort of
any tribe--and in this particular instance, we're talking
about the Miccosukee Tribe--because of hundreds of years
of paternalism and a tremendous amount of influence by a
host of non-Indian well-wishers and benefactors, the Indian
people have undergone a cultural change and are still under-
going a cultural change. The kind of Indian people that
the society in general imagines has still a place in their
minds from reading about the great Americans and reading
about history, about Indian people. It's just not realistic
in today's society. Indian reservations and communities
are by necessity involved in the economic struggle and are,
by necessity, involved in developing educational oppor-
tunities. However, the kinds of leadership that are emerging
in the reservation communities are not the kind of leader-
ship that emerges in other communities. Number one, the
leaders are not selected by the charismatic method or by
an academic background or by, in many cases, outward popular-
ity. They are selected, many times, with a great influence
by Indian Medicine Men who, although they do not get involved
in politics, exert a tremendous influence in the political
life-style and affairs of the community. A lot of times
tribal leaders, like Mr. Buffalo Tiger, will come into
office simply because he was endorsed by the Medicine Men
who, in their own respect, are leaders in the tribe.
Consequently, because there is a lack of really strong ori-
entated leaders, a lot of times, professional expertise, re-
sources for developing contacts, you know, are utilized by
tribal chairmen. A lot of times these people are non-Indian
people, and the kinds of resources in these kinds of people
are usually people who come to the tribe or come in contact
with the chairman because they have a certain amount of the
desire to be of some use to Indian people. The problem that
arises is that the community in not thoroughly understanding
this reacts adversely, not to the non-Indian provider of
services or assistance, but to their own Tribal Chairman.
Consequently, a struggle begins on the part of the Tribal


9
Chairman, who maintains most of his staff, whether they be
Indians or non-Indians, and it's a constant struggle. I
don't think this is any different on Indian Reservations than
it is in any other situation.
K: In your personal opinion, just a subjective opinion, how much
influence do you think that Mr. Adams exerts on Buffalo
Tiger?
B: I don't think that Mr. John Adams exerts any influence
whatsoever on Buffalo Tiger. I've known Mr. Tiger for a number
of years now, and I know that he's a man of his own decision
and I know that he does not act hastily when making decisions.
I know that he's a dedicated man, and he's struggling for
the claim of sovereignity of his tribe, dignity of his
people, and he's a very humble man. John Adams, I know, has
a certain amount of dedicatedness, feeling for his job, and
I think that the kind of problem that may seem to be on the
Miccosukee Reservation is really something that is social,
well, maybe not social, but a consequence of the tribe's
position within itself. We've had this whole cultural
change, the kind of thing that I spoke to you about. This
is not particularly Miccosukee at all, it is in all reserva-
tions.
K: I was talking to Chairman Tiger several months ago and he
told me about a project bringing a gas pipeline into 48,000
acres of land that is--I was about to say "owned" by the
Miccosukees, but it isn't, I don't know what you call it--
held in trust for the Miccosukees next to Big Cypress Seminole
Reservation?
B: I don't know a thing about it.
K: Oh, I was going to ask you about the cooperation on it.
B: No.
K: All right, well, I'd like to move on then, and ask you some
questions in the field relevant to your job, which is that
of mental health and alcoholism. Is that correct?
B: That's correct.
K: During the year I spent next to the Seminoles on the Brighton


10
Seminole reservation (I've been down there doing some research),
I became aware of the fact that there had been and perhaps
still is a considerable problem with alcoholism, with
gasoline sniffing, and with glue sniffing. I don't know
whether this problem extends to the Miccosukees as well,
but it does exist within the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Could you comment on that? Particularly, I'd like your opinion
on how this problem got started, what the causes for it are,
what you think they are, and what is being done and has been
done to alleviate it.
B: First of all, it must be understood that Indian reservations
are no different from any community that is isolated and
that is dealt with in a paternalistic manner by government.
Because Indian people have been stereotyped and made novel-
ties of, and have been for so long subjected to cultural
debasement, young people today, especially Indian people,
are torn between an allegiance to the traditional lifestyle
and between getting into the mainstream to get an education,
to break away, and to get into the whole mainstream of
American society, economically and many other ways. So,
there is a certain amount of frustration that prevails on
Indian reservations. The high incidence of suicide, for
example, on Indian reservations, the statistics are there,
but I think some of the background reasons are different,
the same way with the glue sniffing. Because of this long
history of cultural debasement, there is a low index of self-
acceptance among the Indian people because the history books
have just not revealed the true history, at least not the
true history of some of their gallantries and some of their
victories that Indian people maintain. The history is usually
written in terms of American victories, United States cavalry
victories, and Indian people have been stereotyped as the
villains in the whole struggle. Even today, you can turn
on television, you know, and Indian people are stereotyped.
Whenever there is a villian depicted on a cartoon or something,
it's usually a dark-skinned person, you know, or something
like that. So, I think the children and young people and,
usually, adult people have existed through this frustration
for so long that their attitude is, you know, "What's the use?"
So, consequently, there is really no motivation for really
doing something about the problem. And the Indian people
for so long also have been a very spiritually oriented kind of
community and they profess thier religion and maintain their
religion that never had to be preached. It was accepted in-
herently; taught to young people and there was a lot of mysticism and


11
was a lot of ceremonial and ritualistic kinds of things
involved with their religion that through the centuries, I
suppose, have made Indian people very receptive to mysticism
and dreams and these kinds of things. So that, perhaps
alcohol which has an intoxicating effect or glue sniffing
are really kinds of things that are to traditional people
today rather difficult to deal with, in a true sense, or maybe
they're the kind of social problems that need to be dealt
with in a different manner, having treatment programs of
these kinds of things. The old warrior instinct amongst tribes
for example. All right, for example: when Indian people
are depicted as being very patriotic and volunteering into
the armies of the First World War, when actually
they were exempt, and the American public bestowed upon
them the distinction that all Indians were brave and strong
and they were that way because of the old warrior clan,
warrior instinct among Indians. Well, I think that a
certain amount of that really being able to go into the army,
to get away from the reservation, was indicative of getting
out of this adverse environment. It was a chance to enlist
in the army and go away. A lot of times, I think, the
gallant battles that were fought, where an Indian threw him-
self on a hand grenade to save his buddies, really--psycholo-
gically or maybe in his sub-conscious mind--was suicide,
because in their minds was the idea, I don't really want to
go back to that reservation" and a lot of them didn't. In
fact, it was after that Second World War that a lot of
Indians didn't go back to the reservations; they remained
in the service. Consequently, today, we have approximately
fifty percent of almost a million Indians living in the
United States that live in urban areas. The federal
government, at this time, is continuously under the frustra-
tion of how to deal with the urban Indian, although a lot
of them are members of the tribe, enrolled member. So, the
kind of problems in drug abuse and alcoholism, the background
for it, needs to be explained and understood. Now, the
problem of treatment, for example, is that most of the treat-
ment methods, rehabilitation methods, that are being funded
by federal grants, their guidelines for receiving a
federal grant and for administering a program is based on
experience learned in treating alcoholics from non-Indian
communities. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous has been
somewhat successful and one of the first organizations with
a breakthrough in providing sobriety for alcoholics. The
whole philosophy behind Alcoholics Anonymous is that of group


12
therapy perhaps, where people with similar problems get
together and discuss and share problems, and to tell your
tales of woe, you know, about your drinking past. Attempts
to try to promote alcoholism programs on Indian reservations
have been somewhat unsuccessful.
K: Has that been attempted on the Seminole and Miccosukee
reservations?
B: Right, it has and still is all the time.
K: Alcoholics Anonymous?
B: Right. This is not to debase Alcoholics Anonymous, but the
point here is that it has not really made an effective impact
on Indian communities.
K: Has any program made an effective impact on the Seminole
and Miccosukees then?
B: Well, the Alcoholism and Mental Health Program has.
K: What's your approach?
B: Our approach is to utilize Indian Medicine Men for treatment.
K: Well, sir, can you go into that somewhat?
B: It started out in Oklahoma. For example, there are cases of
individuals that could be classified as chronic alcoholics,
severe cases of alcoholism, who have been subjected to medical
treatment, psychological treatment, psychiatric treatment,
social treatment, by the law enforcement bodies. They have
just not been able to maintain sobriety, but these cases have
been through the Mental Health and Alcoholism Program, the
USET Programs on the reservations. They have maintained total
abstinence for four months by going to the Medicine Man. He
does simply two things; he prescribes a herb drink plus some
counseling on spiritual matters. I really don't know what
the counseling consists of, but there are some rituals that
they're teaching to us, performed. But the length of sobriety
is only for four months. Now, the number four in the Seminole
religion has some significance. The number four has some
significance.


13
K: I don't know anything about this, can you tell me what
significance it has or do you know?
B: I don't know either. I don't know either what significance
it has, but in the ceremonials and rituals of a social treatment
nature, four keeps cropping up all the time in the Seminole
religion, in working with the Medicine Man. So, that's one
innovative way that we're trying to overcome the problem working
with chronic alcoholics. Secondly, we're moving strongly
into preventive education and working principally with the
young, with the youth, and basically what we're trying to
do here is to promote a positive cultural awareness. We
begin to teach history that is of a positive nature about
the Seminole Tribe for example, telling the young people
that Osceola was actually a great leader, more so than was
even said in the history books, and that the Seminole Nation
has many things to be followed. That as Indians, they have
many things to be followed and that things that are written
in the history books are written only to promote the great
melting pot idea of American society, and that they do not
have to blend into the American society, that they can be
contributers to the overall welfare of America, but at the
same time be distinctly and uniquely Seminole Indians or Indian
people. They also need to be aware that non-Indians have
got to begin to learn that they didn't have nothing to teach
Indian people about religion or spirituality because Indian
people were more intensely religious and spiritual even
before Christianity, but those that professed Christianity
and believe in it, did, and practiced it.
K: It would seem that it would be in the interest of your office
as well as in the interest of many of the other offices
within the Seminole Tribal government to do something about
maintaining the craft of the Medicine Man. I know that
a program was just recently funded by the federal government
for that end. Are you having anything to do with that? Is
your office having anything to do with that?
B: Indirectly.
K: Have they had any success? What I'm getting at is have you
been able to recruit anybody? Are any of the younger Seminoles
showing any interest in becoming Medicine Men?
B: Yes. First, the maintenance of a Medicine Man and the


14
continuation of the Medicine Man on the Indian reservations
here in USET has always been an ongoing thing. It has not
been declining. There are a lot of young Indian people
today who are studying to be Medicine Men, but it's not
the kind of program that is known by the general public.
It's not publicized or that kind of thing.
K: Do you know if there are any within the Seminole Tribe? I'm
asking this because I don't know of any, personally. I talked
to Frank Shore and Josie Billie. There are some in the
Seminole Tribe? CAn you give me an indication of how many?
I won't ask you who they are.
B: Oh, I would say there must be at least a half a dozen on
all the three reservations. You have to understand that
the development of a Medicine Man is not a course of instruc-
tion over a period of time. It's something that's lived and
is done at the expediency of the Medicine Man himself and,
well, this kind of thing.
K: Well, since you are involved in Mental Health, I would assume
that you have something to do with juvenile delinquency
too. Is that true? I'm particularly interested in the correla-
tion between the traditional Indian Boarding School System,
and I understand it's undergoing some change at this time.
It appears to me, from what I've learned from the Seminoles,
that it has frequently been used as the reform school,
more or less, rather than an educational institution. Is
that correct?
B: Yes.
K: Do you personally believe that it's had anything to do with,
shall we say, developing juvenile delinquency? Do you think
that any of the children who have been sent to these boarding
schools come back with delinquent tendencies?
B: I believe that they come back with delinquent tendencies inasmuch
as they are involved in a life experience that does not
promote self-sufficiency and self-awareness. Indian Boarding Schools
are very institutionalized and regimentized. The
bell rings in the morning and you get up. Your dinner is
served and you go to school. Your dinner is served again
and you go to school and have supper and then they have
certain time to wash their clothes. They come out of boarding schools


15
a lot of times, institutionalized, much like a convict would
come out of a penal institution after being there for ten
or fifteen years; he just hasn't had the experience to cope
with everyday society. Consequently, he has a lot of anxiety,
a lot of frustration, and a lot of depression which in many
instances results in the young people just retaliating
and being unable to cope, being put down for so long in a
boarding school. The boarding schools try very desperately
to supress the language of Indians in a boarding school--you
are punished for it--and to make Christians out of them.
The early boarding schools were promoted and developed by
Christian missions, Protestant Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
So, they tried to Christianize the young Indian
people, and those that didn't abide or didn't play the game
were punished. That still goes on today or up until a few
years ago, at a big boarding school in Utah and Intermountain School
with several thousand Navajo students. On Sunday
morning, if you didn't participate in the Mormon Church Services
or one of the Christian Church services, if you
belong to the Indian religion, you couldn't just sit in
your room in your dormitory while the other kids went to the
Christian Church, you were forced to clean up or do something,
not just sit in your room. It was kind of like a punishment
for not going to Church, yet many of these students were very
ardent believers and professors of the traditional religion
of the Navajos, but there's been this debasement that's
been going on at these boarding schools for so long. I think
a lot of the frustrations we have today are caused by it,
people who are adults today and leaders who went to the
boarding schools.
K: Is any alternative to the boarding school system being
offered within USET? I know that there's been an attempt
that failed within the Seminole Tribe to take over the school
out at Big Cypress Reservation, and I think that there's
a movement afoot to try to do something about high school
education, administered by Seminoles. Is this attitude wide-
spread in USET, or is it a uniquely Seminole attitude?
B: I would think it's relevant on every reservation, on most
reservations anyhow. If the educational system does not
meet the needs of a particular minority group, and it's not
only true of Indians but blacks or Chicanos and Asian Americans
and whoever they are. There is first of all a
problem of communication in educational systems. Things
that are said in Caucasian languages, in English; when the


16
similar things are said in the Indian language for understanding,
well, they have a different feeling or method or attitude
or idea, so there's a lack of communication to begin with.
So, I think that the education system for Indian people needs
to begin with administrators on the existing BIA education
system and they must begin to realize that Indian people are
not inherently low intellectually, but that the education
system must by necessity be made to be relevant. The
whole idea of making plumbers and masons and carpenters out
of Indians is entirely wrong because Indians really would
be more receptive to the professions than anyone else that
I know because of the very fact of their very nature. Secondly,
about the communication, also, is that the ideal situation
would be to have Indian-controlled schools on reservations
with Indian teachers. The problem is that we don't have any
Indian teachers. We don't have a supply of them to meet the
needs of all the reservations. Indian-controlled communities
need to have a physical support system built in the community
to support the school system. There is no taxation at all
on the reservation because of the low economic status and
because of the type of government and it's relationship to
the federal government. Ideally, that sort of beginning for
improving the education system should begin with administra-
tion and with the community.


Full Text

PAGE 1

INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: INTERVIEWER: Gene Begay Tom King DATE: July 1973 DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION

PAGE 2

SUMMARY Gene Begay, employed with the USET, discusses in this interview the rationale, organization, functions, and membership of the USET. He gives background for any observations he makes concerning tribal conflicts between Seminoles and Miccosukees. In detail he con siders the problem of alcoholism, mental health and juventle delinquency of the Indians. Insights into tribal leadership and politics are also provided.

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INDEX education (needs of tribe), 15-16 juvenile delinquency, 14-15 mental health and alcoholism, 9-13 Medicine Man (development of), 13-14 USET (United Southeastern Tribes), functions, 2,3 membership, 4-6 Miccosukee/Seminole relationship, 7 organization of, 1, 3-4 Tiger, Buffalo, 4, 7-9

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K: Mr. Begay, can you begin by telling me something about the origin of the United Southeastern Tribes. B: The United Southeastern Tribes had its beginning in the minds and in the ideas of the chairmen of the principal tribes, particularly the recognized tribes, located in the southeastern part of this country, back in the late 1960s. The idea was that coordinated efforts must be developed to respond to federal programs and federal priorities for Indian communities nationwide. They felt that by developing their coordinated efforts and especially setting down some basic guidelines and criteria for tribal re-organization required some getting together. So, in the late 1960s, the tribes met together informally and discussed possible reasons for organization and priorities as an affiliation or a federation or a coalition of tribes, perhaps a coalition of tribes initially. Out of those initial meetings emerged the idea and consensus among the tribal leaders that there was a need for organization much more than just to coordinate efforts, but to be service oriented to the tribes. K: Well, you mentioned a moment ago one of the problems that you 0 attempted to take up, tribe re-organization. Would you go into that a little bit more? B: What I really meant was that perhaps more of their worry was tribal re-organization, total community development, including the development of economic enterprises, economic development on the reservations, the Health Care Delivery System as being provided by Indian Health Service,youth development, over coming certain social and educational disadvantages, the whole issue of tribal government in relationship to counties and states, and the whole issue of environmental health, housing and basic health services, the maintenance of whole broad spectrum of what I call community development, essentially. K: Now, I know that the Seminole Tribe has a lot of people on the staff of the tribal government who fulfill functions similar to the ones you just delineated. I'm wondering how USET differs from them, why it was considered necessary that USET be or ganized when at least within the Seminole Tribe (I don't know about the other tribes involved) there are people who are 0

PAGE 5

2 in the same areas that you just told me about, such as Mental Health, Resource and Development, and so on. I think that there's perhaps a slight degree of redundancy here. Could you clear that up for me? B: Well, actually, there's really no small degree of redundancy except that the USET Organization, as such, gives and belongs to the tribe. This office here in Sarasota is under the control of a Board of Directors made up of the type of panel that we set up, the seven tribes in the southeastern part of the country, and we serve several functions in Sarasota and in relationship to the tribes. Number one is that we provide training for the service programs on the reservations. We provide training for administrators, for counselors, for leadership, and for general employees of the tribe in whatever area they might be working. We provide training for them. Another function that we provide is in the area of advocacy and congressional liaison. What I mean by that is that we advocate at an area level on behalf of all the tribes, the United Southeastern Tribes. Advocacy to whatever resource may be available for the needs of the tribe and for some of the problems; we provide technical assistance in that respect, programs, service programs on the reservations, technical assis tance and professional consultation in program development. Congressional liasionwise, we serve as a central voice for all the tribes in broadscope issues of housing, health services, alcoholism and mental health, which in many cases had been administered by the federal government on a regional basis anyway. The H.U.D. programs are regionally orientated. The health programs are regionally orientated. In fact, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service are regionalized by areas. They have area offices in Albuquerque and various other places, Portland, and they also have one down here in the Southeast, which is in Sarasota. So we respond to federal agencies on an areawide basis and provide a congressional liaison, as I said before, with various key governmental people serving on various committees in the House and in the Senate, especially the Senate sub-committee on Insular and Interior Affairs, for example. In both houses, those members of those committees, we address ourselves to some of the needs and to the response of some of the issues that may affect the tribes in the Southeast. A third function that we provide is what some people call Services. Perhaps, it more realistically can be called the Development of Community Resources. By that I mean that once programs are established on the reservations-

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3 say Mental Health or Alcoholism or social services of any kind, or Youth Development--we certainly want to investigate and begin to co-operate with the local programs near the reservation of a like nature, to develop co-operative efforts, and even to establish some support from the surround ing agencies or connnunities that are near the reservation. The state has vocational rehabilitation programs that have resources avilable to the tribe. So, we provide the resource development assistance to the tribe, sort of like door-openers. Most recently, a fourth kind of function we see that USET can provide--however, we haven't really gotten into that area yet fully, although there's been some planning--and that is that USET will also do research for the tribes, by which I mean that we could do feasibility studies, conduct various pilot projects of an innovative nature in education. We could do innovative things in mental health therapy, using Indian Medicine Men. The research would be to document and substantiate kinds of innovative services that could be developed in a vast variety of areas, not only in education and health but also in housing, family therapy, juvenile delinquency, and some of these things. It's very difficult for reservation communities to participate in the services available to the counties and the state. Their jurisdiction is sometimes different as a federally controlled and recognized connnunity entity as opposed to the counties and municipalities. K: You indicated at the beginning of the interview that USET came into existance when the leaders of several major tribes in the southeastern United States got together and decided that they needed an organization to provide these services. Could you be a bit more specific and give me the date that USET was actually organized? I would also be interested in finding out who was the moving force behind it, who got the individual leaders together to begin with, who was the driving force, in other words, to bring this thing into existance? B: O.K., the principals were Mr. Emmett York, who has since deceased, who was at that time the chairman of the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He was one of the prime motivators of the USET concept. He was assisted by one of the Chairman of the Tribal Council of

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4 Cherokee, North Carolina, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. That is Mr. Johnson Catolister, who is no longer Chairman of the Tribal Council, but still lives and resides in Cherokee, North Carolina, and he sort of represented the Cherokee leadership in USET with the USET idea. A young tribal leader, who was at that time Chairman of the Seminole Tribal Business Enterprise, a fellow by the name of Mr. Joe Dan Osceola, and also Mr. Buffalo Tiger from the Miccosukee Tribe was also one of the motivators of the USET concept. It is interesting, though, to become aware of what the whole idea was of USET. Some.of the smaller tribes like Seminole and Miccosukee were interested primarily in initial program develop ment. Up until that time, which has been several years ago, the Seminoles and the Miccosukees had just become federally recognized. Well, I want to make a correction when I say federally recognized tribes. The Seminoles have always been a federally recognized tribe since the 1950s. However, my correction is the word "federally recognized" really means when the tribes began to get involved with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service in terms of receiving federal programs. Now, USET was incorporated in the State of Georgia in 1969, and subsequently has become incorporated in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. K: The question that I asked you before had to do with the motive force behind it and you had told me that it was B: O.K., the interest of the smaller tribes like the Seminole and Miccosukees was for the purpose of receiving assistance through an inter-tribal.organization such as USET in developing programs and gaining experience and expertise in developing and administrating federal programs by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The largest tribes, like the Cherokees and the Choctaws, who already had a long experience of developing and administering federal programs, were interested in sharing their experience with the other tribes of USET. Initially, there were four: Seminole, Miccosukee, Cherokee, and Choctaw. Since then, the Seneca Nation of .. New York has become a member of USET; the Chitimacha Tribe of southern Louisiana has become a member of USET; and currently the Coushetta Tribe of southern Louisiana near Elton, Louisiana, has currently submitted papers and has requested to become a member of the United Southeastern Tribes. Since the organiza tion began, we've discovered that the kinds of needs that were

PAGE 8

5 to be met by the organization and subsequently submitted for federal funding, a lot of times, the amount of money available to fund these programs was not at all substantial to meet the entire needs of various tribal communities. So there has always been an issue within USET of the allocations of federal program money to the tribe based either on per capita or on need or on geographical location or any other numerous ways that we have tried to come up with to justify priorities for the tribe. K: Whenever such an issue comes up, how is it decided? B: Usually decided by discussion amongst the tribal chairmen who are the principal leaders on the Board of Directors. Many times consultants are brought in. Specialists are brought in for USET work on a consultation basis. Certainly, staff members in USET here in Sarasota provide the resource materials and also provide some consultation, and then, also, we negotiate with the federal agencies. K: Who provided the money initially to set up USET, to set up the offices and to pay the salaries of the people that were employed? B: The tribes themselves. K: Can you tell me how that was done? Was it done on a per capita basis or what? How was it decided who would pay how much? B: I'm not really sure, but I'm positive that the tribes pay an equal amount of tribal membership to be a part of USET, which is a very small amount, but I don't know the amount. K: Can you tell me if there has ever been a referendum within the individual tribes concerning whether or not they would belong to USET, or whether or not they would continue to pay USET, to pay salaries and so on? B: No, there's never been a referendum that I know of. K: Then, it's entirely up to the tribal leadership? Is that right? B: Tribal Council.

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6 K: Tribal Council. B: Right. The process is that any tribe can apply for member ship, such as the Coushattas are doing right now. They have to approach the United Southeastern Tribes Chairmen and request time on the agenda at the next board meeting. They have to come prepared to submit their Articles of Incorporation, their application that they are a federally recognized tribe, and their by-laws and any other corporate papers. Then, duplicate copies are made of their documents, and the chairmen take back these documents to each of their Tribal Councils, and the Tribal Councils vote, individually, either yea or nay, for allowing this tribe to become a member of USET. Then it goes back to the USET Inter-Tribal Council table again and its votes are counted, and it's usually unanimous both in tribes and men. K: Do the leaders of the individual tribal councils get together to decide who is to be hired to USET? Let's take your position as being open. Does Osley Saunook just appoint someone else to fill it, or would it be up to the leaders of the Tribal Councils to decide who would take your position? B: Administrators and managers and personnel are the responsi bility of Executive Director, except in cases where certain programs are of a special nature or constitute a high pri ority within the whole USET organization. For example, all of the personnel currently working for United Southeastern Tribes were hired by the Executive Director except in my case. I was hired by the Board of Directors as Director of the Mental Health team. However, I was instructed and told by the board that I would be under the administrative authority of the Executive Director. K: All right. I would like to ask you some questions that deal directly with the Seminoles and the Miccosukees, since that is my major field of interest. I know that in the past the two tribes have not gotten along well together, at least on a political level. There was quite a bit of dissension in the late 1950s and early 1960s. What I would like to know is has this surfaced within the United Southeastern Tribes? Has the conflict been carried over to, shall we say, arguments over payments of the different tribes, and on what basis they would be paid and things like that?

PAGE 10

7 B: I think, first of all, it should be understood that when any two tribes or any two separate tribal governments reside together, even in the same state, there is a certain amount of competitiveness and resourcefulness, individual resourcefulness in securing services and developing programs. In order to answer your question on the Seminoles and the Miccosukees, I would say that the kinds of not negative relationship, the kind of maybe, perhaps the best word is the kind of competitive nature of both the Miccosukees and Seminoles. In that respect, the leaders, Mr. Tiger and Mr. Tommie, are both dynamic and aggressive tribal leaders, both in their own way and representing their own people in a particular way. They are stalwart in the fact that their history has somewhat of a bearing upon it. The Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, which Mr. Tiger is chairman of, was originally a group of Indians that resided within parts of southern Florida, in the Everglades, and the separation came some years ago, at the time of the Christian missionaries coming in among the so-called Seminole Tribe of Florida. At that time, they were all called the Seminole Tribe. The Miccosukee Tribe, though, was not then the Miccosukee Tribe. It was that group of Seminole Indians who chose not to accept Christianity or to become a part of the missionary movement and broke away from the main Seminole Tribe; the ones now that live along the Tamiami Trail and sprinkled in the various family groups along the Everglades, people as far west as Naples and as far north as Fort Meyers. The Miccosukee Tribe today is very traditional, much more than the main band of Seminole Tribes of Florida. They have very little Christian influence, very few converts in the Miccosukee Tribe. All belong to the traditional religion, the religion of the Seminoles, or the Miccosukees, rather. The Seminoles, on the other hand, have adapted, more or less, to the Christian religion. Most of the Seminole people are members of a Baptist church. There are Baptist congregations on all three of the Seminole reservations: Big Cypress, Brighton, and the Hollywood reservations. In fact, one of the tribal leaders, who was a tribal chairman at one time, was ordained Baptist preacher or pastor or chaplain, however you call it. That's right. So, the two communities are separated in that respect, historically. They both main tain that type of awareness and so there has never been any of the kinds of things that would promote a real getting together. You know what I mean? However, on the other hand, they do work together co-operatively on various programs.

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8 K: I've been told by some people within the Seminole Tribe of Florida and your own Executive Director that a fellow by the name of John Adams exercises a great deal of influence on Chairman Buffalo Tiger of the Miccosukee Tribe. Could you comment on that? B: Well, I think I could connnent on that in terms of the situation, in terms of the background principles involved, but not in terms of the individuals mentioned, personality-wise. First of all, it must be understood that in the effort of any tribe--and in this particular instance, we're talking about the Miccosukee Tribe--because of hundreds of years of paternalism and a tremendous amount of influence by a host of non-Indian well-wishers and benefactors, the Indian people have undergone a cultural change and are still undergoing a cultural change. The kind of Indian people that the society in general imagines has still a place in their minds from reading about the great Americans and reading about history, about Indian people. It's just not realistic in today's society. Indian reservations and connnunities are by necessity involved in the economic struggle and are, by necessity, involved in developing educational opportunities. However, the kinds of leadership that are emerging in the reservation connnunities are not the kind of leadership that emerges in other communities. Number one, the leaders are not selected by the charismatic method or by an academic background or by, in many cases, outward popular ity. They are selected, many times, with a great influence by Indian Medicine Men who, although they do not get involved in politics, exert a tremendous influence in the political life-style and affairs of the community. A lot of times tribal leaders, like Mr. Buffalo Tiger, will come into office simply because he was endorsed by the Medicine Men who, in their own respect, are leaders in the tribe. Consequently, because there is a lack of really strong ori entated leaders, a lot of times, professional expertise, re sources for developing contacts, you know, are utilized by tribal chairmen. A lot of times these people are non-Indian people, and the kinds of resources in these kinds of people are usually people who come to the tribe or come in contact with the chairman because they have a certain amount of the desire to be of some use to Indian people. The problem that arises is that the community in not thoroughly understanding this reacts adversely, not to the non-Indian provider of services or assistance, but to their own Tribal Chairman. Consequently, a struggle begins on the part of the Tribal

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9 Chairman, who maintains most of his staff, whether they be Indians or non-Indians, and it's a constant struggle. I don't think this is any different on Indian Reservations than it is in any other situation. K: In your personal opinion, just a subjective opinion, how much influence do you think that Mr. Adams exerts on Buffalo Tiger? B: I don't think that Mr. John Adams exerts any influence whatsoever on Buffalo Tiger. I've known Mr. Tiger for a number of years now, and I know that he's a man of his own decision and I know that he does not act hastily when making decisions. I know that he's a dedicated man, and he's struggling for the claim of sovereignity of his tribe, dignity of his people, and he's a very humble man. John Adams, I know, has a certain amount of dedicatedness, feeling for his job, and I think that the kind of problem that may seem to be on the Miccosukee Reservation is really something that is social, well, maybe not social, but a consequence of the tribe's position within itself. We've had this whole cultural change, the kind of thing that I spoke to you about. This is not particularly Miccosukee at all, it is in all reserva tions. K: I was talking to Chairman Tiger several months ago and he told me about a project bringing a gas pipeline into 48,000 acres of land that is--I was about to say "owned" by the Miccosukees, but it isn't, I don't know what you call itheld in trust for the Miccosukees next to Big Cypress Seminole Reservation? B: I don't know a thing about it. K: Oh, I was going to ask you about the cooperation on it. B: No. K: All right, well, I'd like to move on then, and ask you some questions in the field relevant to your job, which is that of mental health and alcoholism. Is that correct? B: That's correct. K: During the year I spent next to the Seminoles on the Brighton

PAGE 13

10 Seminole reservation (I've been down there doing some research), I became aware of the fact that there had been and perhaps still is a considerable problem with alcoholism, with gasoline sniffing, and with glue sniffing. I don't know whether this problem extends to the Miccosukees as well, but it does exist within the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Could you comment on that? Particularly, I'd like your opinion on how this problem got started, what the causes for it are, what you think they are, and what is being done and has been done to alleviate it. B: First of all, it must be understood that Indian reservations are no different from any community that is isolated and that is dealt with in a paternalistic manner by government. Because Indian people have been stereotyped and made novel ties of, and have been for so long subjected to cultural debasement, young people today, especially Indian people, are torn between an allegiance to the traditional lifestyle and between getting into the mainstream to get an education, to break away, and to get into the whole mainstream of American society, economically and many other ways. So, there is a certain amount of frustration that prevails on Indian reservations. The high incidence of suicide, for example, on Indian reservations, the statistics are there, but I think some of the background reasons are different, the same way with the glue sniffing. Because of this long history of cultural debasement, there is a low index of self acceptance among the Indian people because the history books have just not revealed the true history, at least not the true history of some of their gallantries and some of their victories that Indian people maintain. The history is usually written in terms of American victories, United States cavalry victories, and Indian people have been stereotyped as the villains in the whole struggle. Even today, you can turn on television, you know, and Indian people are stereotyped. Whenever there is a villian depicted on a cartoon or something, it's usually a dark-skinned person, you know, or something like that. So, I think the children and young people and, usually, adult people have existed through this frustration for so long that their attitude is, you know, "What's the use?" So, consequently, there is really no motivation for really doing something about the problem. And the Indian people for so long also have been a very spiritually oriented kind of community and they profess thier religion and maintain their religion that never had to be preached. It was accepted in herently; taught to young people and there was a lot of mysticism and

PAGE 14

11 was a lot of ceremonial and ritualistic kinds of things involved with their religion that through the centuries, I suppose, have made Indian people very receptive to mysticism and dreams and these kinds of things. So that, perhaps alcohol which has an intoxicating effect or glue sniffing are really kinds of things that are to traditional people today rather difficult to deal with, in a true sense, or maybe they're the kind of social problems that need to be dealt with in a different manner, having treatment programs of these kinds of things. The old warrior instinct amongst tribes for example. All right, for example: when Indian people are depicted as being very patriotic and volunteering into the armies of the First World War, when actually they were exempt, and the American public bestowed upon them the distinction that all Indians were brave and strong and they were that way because of the old warrior clan, warrior instinct among Indians. Well, I think that a certain amount of that really being able to go into the army, to get away from the reservation, was indicative of getting out of this adverse environment. It was a chance to enlist in the army and go away. A lot of times, I think, the gallant battles that were fought, where an Indian threw him self on a hand grenade to save his buddies, really--psycholo gically or maybe in his sub-conscious mind--was suicide, because in their minds was the idea, "I don't really want to go back to that reservation" and a lot of them didn't. In fact, it was after that Second World War that a lot of Indians didn't go back to the reservations; they remained in the service. Consequently, today, we have approximately fifty percent of almost a million Indians living in the United States that live in urban areas. The federal government, at this time, is continuously under the frustra tion of how to deal with the urban Indian, although a lot of them are members of the tribe, enrolled member. So, the kind of problems in drug abuse and alcoholism, the background for it, needs to be explained and understood. Now, the problem of treatment, for example, is that most of the treat ment methods, rehabilitation methods, that are being funded by federal grants, their guidelines for receiving a federal grant and for administering a program is based on experience learned in treating alcoholics from non-Indian communities. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous has been somewhat successful and one of the first organizations with a breakthrough in providing sobriety for alcoholics. The whole philosophy behind Alcoholics Anonymous is that of group

PAGE 15

12 therapy perhaps, where people with similar problems get together and discuss and share problems, and to tell your tales of woe, you know, about your drinking past. Attempts to try to promote alcoholism programs on Indian reservations have been somewhat unsuccessful. K: Has that been attempted on the Seminole and Miccosukee reservations? B: Right, it has and still is all the time. K: Alcoholics Anonymous? B: Right. This is not to debase Alcoholics Anonymous, but the point here is that it has not really made an effective impact on Indian communities. K: Has any program made an effective impact on the Seminole and Miccosukees then? B: Well, the Alcoholism and Mental Health Program has. K: What's your approach? B: Our approach is to utilize Indian Medicine Men for treatment. K: Well, sir, can you go into that somewhat? B: It started out in Oklahoma. For example, there are cases of individuals that could be classified as chronic alcoholics, severe cases of alcoholism, who have been subjected to medical treatment, psychological treatment, psychiatric treatment, social treatment, by the law enforcement bodies. They have just not been able to maintain sobriety, but these cases have been through the Mental Health and Alcoholism Program, the USET Programs on the reservations. They have maintained total abstinence for four months by going to the Medicine Man. He does simply two things; he prescribes a herb drink plus some counseling on spiritual matters. I really don't know what the counseling consists of, but there are some rituals that they're teaching to us, performed. But the length of sobriety is only for four months. Now, the number four in the Seminole religion has some significance. The number four has some significance.

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K: I don't know anything about this, can you tell me what significance it has or do you know? 13 B: I don't know either. I don't know either what significance it has, but in the ceremonials and rituals of a social treatment nature, four keeps cropping up all the time in the Seminole religion, in working with the Medicine Man. So, that's one innovative way that we're trying to overcome the problem working with chronic alcoholics. Secondly, we're moving strongly into preventive education and working principally with the young, with the youth, and basically what we're trying to do here is to promote a positive cultural awareness. We begin to teach history that is of a positive nature about the Seminole Tribe for example, telling the young people that Osceola was actually a great leader, more so than was even said in the history books, and that the Seminole Nation has many things to be followed. That as Indians, they have many things to be followed and that things that are written in the history books are written only to promote the great melting pot idea of American society, and that they do not have to blend into the American society, that they can be contributers to the overall welfare of America, but at the same time be distinctly and uniquely Seminole Indians or Indian people. They also need to be aware that non-Indians have got to begin to learn that they didn't have nothing to teach Indian people about religion or spirituality because Indian people were more intensely religious and spiritual even before Christianity, but those that professed Christianity and believe in it, did, and practiced it. K: It would seem that it would be in the interest of your office as well as in the interest of many of the other offices within the Seminole Tribal government to do something about maintaining the craft of the Medicine Man. I know that a program was just recently funded by the federal government for that end. Are you having anything to do with that? Is your office having anything to do with that? B: Indirectly. K: Have they had any success? What I'm getting at is have you been able to recruit anybody? Are any of the younger Seminoles showing any interest in becoming Medicine Men? B: Yes. First, the maintenance of a Medicine Man and the

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continuation of the Medicine Man on the Indian reservations here in USET has always been an ongoing thing. It has not been declining. There are a lot of young Indian people today who are studying to be Medicine Men, but it's not the kind of program that is known by the general public. It's not publicized or that kind of thing. 14 K: Do you know if there are any within the Seminole Tribe? I'm asking this because I don't know of any, personally. I talked to Frank Shore and Josie Billie. There are some in the Seminole Tribe? CAn you give me an indication of how many? I won't ask you who they are. B: Oh, I would say there must be at least a half a dozen on all the three reservations. You have to understand that the development of a Medicine Man is not a course of instruc tion over a period of time. It's something that's lived and is done at the expediency of the Medicine Man himself and, well, .this kind of thing. K: Well, since you are involved in Mental Health, I would assume that you have something to do with juvenile delinquency too. Is that true? I'm particularly interested in the correla tion between the traditional Indian Boarding School System, and I understand it's undergoing some change at this time. It appears to me, from what I've learned from the Seminoles, that it has frequently been used as the reform school, more or less, rather than an educational institution. Is that correct? B: Yes. K: Do you personally believe that it's had anything to do with, shall we say, developing juvenile delinquency? Do you think that any of the children who have been sent to these boarding schools come back with delinquent tendencies? B: I believe that they come back with delinquent tendencies inasmuch as they are involved in a life experience that does not promote self-sufficiency and self-awareness. Indian Boarding Schools are very institutionalized and regimentized. The bell rings in the morning and you get up. Your dinner is served and you go to school. Your dinner is served again and you go to school and have supper and then they have certain time to wash their clothes. They come out of boarding schools

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15 a lot of times, institutionalized, much like a convict would come out of a penal institution after being there for ten or fifteen years; he just hasn't had the experience to cope with everyday society. Consequently, he has a lot of anxiety, a lot of frustration, and a lot of depression which in many instances results in the young people just retaliating and being unable to cope, being put down for so long in a boarding school. The boarding schools try very desperately to supress the language of Indians in a boarding school--you are punished for it--and to make Christians out of them. The early boarding schools were promoted and developed by Christian missions, Protestant Church and the Roman Catholic Church. So, they tried to Christianize the young Indian people, and those that didn't abide or didn't play the game were punished. That still goes on today or up until a few years ago, at a big boarding school in Utah and Intermountain School with several thousand Navajo students. On Sunday morning, if you didn't participate in the Mormon Church Services or one of the Christian Church services, if you belong to the Indian religion, you couldn't just sit in your room in your dormitory while the other kids went to the Christian Church, you were forced to clean up or do something, not just sit in your room. It was kind of like a punishment for not going to Church, yet many of these students were very ardent believers and professors of the traditional religion of the Navajos, but there's been this debasement that's been going on at these boarding schools for so long. I think a lot of the frustrations we have today are caused by it, people who are adults today and leaders who went to the boarding schools. K: Is any alternative to the boarding school system being offered within USET? I know that there's been an attempt that failed within the Seminole Tribe to take over the school out at Big Cypress Reservation, and I think that there's a movement afoot to try to do something about high school education, administered by Seminoles. Is this attitude wide spread in USET, or is it a uniquely Seminole attitude? B: I would think it's relevant on every reservation, on most reservations anyhow. If the educational system does not meet the needs of a particular minority group, and it's not only true of Indians but blacks or Chicanos and Asian Americans and whoever they are. There is first of all a problem of communication in educational systems. Things that are said in Caucasian languages, in English; when the

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16 similar things are said in the Indian language for understanding, well, they have a different feeling or method or attitude or idea, so there's a lack of connnunication to begin with. So, L think that the education system for Indian people needs to begin with administrators on the existing BIA education system and they must begin to realize that Indian people are not inherently low intellectually, but that the education system must by necessity be made to be relevant. The whole idea of making plumbers and masons and carpenters out of Indians is entirely wrong because Indians really would be more receptive to the professions than anyone else that I know because of the very fact of their very nature. Secondly, about the communication, also, is that the ideal situation would be to have Indian-controlled schools on reservations with Indian teachers. The problem is that ~e don't have any Indian teachers. We don't have a supply of them to meet the needs of all the reservations. Indian-controlled communities need to have a physical support system built in the community to support the school system. There is no. taxation at all on the reservation because of the low economic status and because of the type of government and it's relationship to the federal government. Ideally, that sort of beginning for improving the education system should begin with administra tion and with the connnunity.