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Interview with William Stiles, November 29, 1973

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Title:
Interview with William Stiles, November 29, 1973
Creator:
Stiles, William ( 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 98 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN-ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. William F. Stiles
INTERVIEWER: Dr. John Mahon
DATE: November 29, 1973


SUMMARY
William Stiles, curator and field man for the
Museum of the American Indian, discusses experiences
and friends gained since his first contact with the
Seminoles in 1929. Describing the Tamiami Trail he
travelled that year, Stiles mentions Indian hospital-
ity and food. Throughout the interview is scattered
information regarding Seminole women, employment,
attitudes toward wealth and property, state reservations,
and the Green Corn Dance. He also discusses
reasons for Seminole acceptance and rejection of cer-
tain anthropologists and of white people in general.


INDEX
alligator hides, 7-8
Billie, Chestnut, 6-7, 10
Cedar Key stratified shell mound, 16
character traits; no stealing, 7-8
employment, 8
food; Indian hospitality, 2-5
wild bananas, 5-6
Green Corn Dance, 3, 13-14
Osceola, Corey, 11
Seminole, Miccosukee, Creek relationship, 11-12
State reservation property, 12-13
Stiles, William F.
anthropological trip, 5
changes in Indians since 1929, 17
travel on Trail 1929, 1-2,4
wealth; Indians show distinction of, 18-19
women (Indian), 10-11
transcultural contacts
Stiles' attitude, 8-10, 15-16
racism, 17
whites abuse Indian women, 19


S: My name is William F. Stiles, curator and field man for the
Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
M: Well now, Mr. Stiles, you've been down talking to Seminoles,
I understand. Would you make some observations about what you've
seen and so on...whatever?
S: I see a great many changes in the Florida Seminole picture.
I first came to the state by car with a group of friends
in 1929, shortly after my father died; it was shortly after
the Tamiami Trail [U.S. highway 41--Naples to Miami] opened.
I insisted they drop me off in the town of Naples. Naples at
that time was a sleepy little town west of Miami on the Gulf of
Mexico. The only landmark as the south-bound trail turned east
was an old-fashioned western-type bar. Just north of that bar
on the Trail there was an Indian family camping--I would say
it was roughly three miles north of the turn. I understood
it to be the camp of one of the Osceolas. That was my first
contact with Seminole Indians, and for that reason I was deter-
mined to leave my friends and let them go on their way. I was
just a kid with a pack on my back, as I drifted east on the
Trail from Naples.
M: On foot?
S: Yes, on foot. There was no traffic; I don't think I saw three
cars a day crossing the Trail. When darkness came and I hadn't
seen any more camps, I became a little concerned because it was
a long way to Miami, so I just found high ground and slept.
The next morning I continued on and finally reached another
camp along the Trail, which incidentally still exists, at Royal
Palm Hammock--it is at the old road turnoff down to Marco Island.
There's a fire ranger station a little to the west of that point,
and a commercial complex--a gasoline station and so forth. Across
the Tamiami Trail from the gasoline station is a camp that then
existed. I don't know whose camp it was, but it is now occupied
by Ruby Clay and other families. An Indian man came out with a
big grin to greet me. We began to talk about one thing and anoth-
er; he spoke a little English. And I asked him if there were
other camps, and he said they were further to the east.
I continued east, and arrived at another camp. Across from
it is the first airboat station on the west Trail which did not
exist in 1929, but I believe the store did. On arrival I found
it empty, so I did not stop but continued east.


2
M: What were you eating at this time you're walking across there?
The Indians feeding you, or how did you eat?
S: I had some food with me. I usually carried a little staple in
my bag, and I've always had a bad habit of just eating anything
wild that looked edible. In fact I regretted that some years
later. I became very ill with a bad case of chronic indigestion;
nearly died in Venice hospital from eating what I found along the
way. I'm not much of an eater; in those days less than now. I
could go a full day without pangs of hunger. The water in the
canal was drinkable. At this point I had no concern, and finally
arrived at an intersection where the road that runs from Ever-
glades City to Immokalee crosses the Tamiami Trail.
M: Then there was a road in those days there?
S: It was a dirt road then. Tamiami Trail was at that time two-
lane, and it was surfaced. But the roads that left the Trail
were dirt roads. Accessible mostly by wagon. People living
back from the Trail were pretty primitive. I'm speaking of the
whites and the Indians. At the intersection just beyond where
the present state information station is--which did not exist
then--on the northeast corner was Frank Charlie's camp. Beyond
that camp, about a mile I would say, was another camp on the south
side of the Trail belonging to Tommy Tiger Tail. I visited both
camps and continued east. I believe there were about fourteen
camps between Ft. Myers and Miami on the Trail in 1929.
I became friendly with the Osceolas. Ingraham Billie and
Josie Billie lived in camps east of the Immokalee/Everglades
City intersect; I would say east of Ochopee. Those camps were
on the south side of the Trail. The first one on the north side
of the Trail beyond Tommy Tiger Tail was where John and Frank
Osceola were living. I don't know whether that was John's camp
or not. I've always been of the impression that it was John's
camp, but in recent conversations I have been told it was a John
Poole camp--he recently died, drowned in the canal--and John
and Frank Osceola lived there.
East of that camp, on the north side of the road, was the
camp of Chestnut Billie. Chestnut Billie and I became freinds
immediately. None of my stays at these camps were of long dura-
tion...just overnight. I'd go in and sleep there, no questions
asked.
M: Did they offer you something to eat?
S: No, never. Indians don't seem to do that. I've travelled all
over the country...unless an Indian has had some formal training
in our culture they do not offer you food.


3
M: Didn't do it?
S: No. You're expected to have your ownfood or if you don't have
any you would ask for it. I don't think you'd be refused. Even
if you come at a meal time and they're eating I've never been
offered anything to eat. Unless you arbitrarily sit down and
eat with them--that's what you're expected to do. If you don't
eat, I presume that's your fault. I've eaten all kinds of things,
even alligator eggs and garfish.
M: Raw, or cook them?
S: They boil the alligator eggs.
M: You've eaten those?
S: I've eaten those. They're strong, and fishy.
M: Very nourishing?
S: I would think so. I haven't eaten any for a long time. They
roast the garfish in their skin in the hot coals.
M: Well you read sometimes that those people would have a sofkee
pot sitting by the fire. Was this true?
S: Oh yes. Sofkee is a stew, and the big wooden spoon is called a
sofkee spoon.
M: Did you ever go over and ladle out any for yourself?
S: Oh sure. I've done that at the Green Corn Dances because that's
when food is there for visitors and everybody else. But you
should have your own bowl; then you ladle it into your bowl and
carry it off to eat it. Or you can eat from the spoon if you
wish.
One of their mainstays at that time, 1929, was fish. In
fact I was very interested to see on my last visit, they were
roasting some of the garfish. The garfish is about eighteen
inches long. When it is cooked they just break it off like you
would a french bread, and dig out the flesh, which is white and
very good flavor.
I caught some large grouper off the coast, and always take
my catch into the Indian camps, the nearest ones I can get to
readily from Naples. Ruby Clay, who is a very good friend of
mine--in fact she's Ruby Billie, one of Chestnut Billie's daugh-
ters--and Corey Osceola get most of my catch.


4
M: Now when are you talking about--now, or on your last trip?
S: Within the last year.
M: You've just been down there?
S: Yes, within the last few days. I took her this large grouper.
She was delighted with it, but she pointed over to the cook
chickee, and said she had fish. I went over and they had two or
three gar roasting there. The kids had speared them during the
day. I was very happy to see that still being done.
Getting back to the 1929 Trail...I continued on to Miami
and finally met my friends; we drove back across the Trail, made
a few stops, and picked up a few anthropological specimens. Of
course in those years money was not too available, and I was un-
able to take advantage of the collecting potential.
They left me in Punta Gorda, and I took a job at a ranch
up Peace Creek, the Bar RB ranch I believe. They were just
bringing in the Brahmas for the first time. I worked there for
about three months and then left. That was pretty rough work.
M: When working on this ranch, were there any Seminoles there?
S: No, there was a lot of antagonism between the Indians and the
ranchers at the time. That is one of the reasons I left.
M: What was the occasion for it?
S: The ranchers claimed that the deer tick was injuring the cattle,
and they were slaughtering deer by the thousands. When we were
out on the range at roundup time, I've seen piles of deer horns
that would fill this room. Of course the Indians were very angry
about the slaughter because at that time they relied a good deal
on deer hides. They were still tanning deer hides then.
M: And on the deer meat I presume?
S: And on the deer meat for food too, yes.
I'll finish the 1929 experience. From the ranch, I went
up to Venice and took a job at an orange grove for three or four
months, and [then] returned to New York. My interest in Indians
had further developed, and in 1936 I joined the Museum of the
American Indian staff. That year George Heye, the founder of
MAI, sent me on an archeological field trip in New York State
which was rather successful.
Then in the fall of '37 or '38, one of our board members
was going south, and George Heye asked me if I'd like to drive


5
with him to the Seminole country. I was delighted; left New York City with F. K. Seward,
the grandson of William Seward, and
settled in Venice, Florida. I immediately left Venice for points
south, into the area I was familiar with--Punta Gorda, and south.
I met a man there in the service of the Department of Agriculture,
who was out searching in that area for the boll weevil in the wild
cotton...in the 'Glades and tidewater area.
M: I didn't even know there was wild cotton.
S: Oh yes.
M: And boll weevils in it?
S: Yes. Well, they claimed at the time that the boll weevil was
coming from the wild cotton...at least that was my information.
So they sent out teams in the thirties to find and destroy all
the wild cotton in that part of the state..
I assumed that a man in that field would know the 'Glades
area pretty well, and might know of some mounds and archeological
sites. So I went with him on two or three occasions. I knew
the area pretty well myself, so we made a good team. We scouted
Charlotte Harbor up through what is now Englewood--it was just
a wilderness there at that time.
We located a beautiful burial mound of white sand south of
Punta Gorga on Alligator Creek. It is a shame that it was ravaged;
looked like an ice cream cone in a dish. I never saw anything
like it in my life. The most magnificent mound I've ever seen.
Pure white sand with a few cabbage palms on it; it lay out in the
tidewater swamp. To get to it I had to park my car and walk a-
bout a mile and a half through scrub palmetto and general under-
growth there. You could only get to this mound at low tide because
at high tide the water would cover about two feet of the base of
the mound; it was also hidden by mangroves.
As beforementioned I had a bad habit of not taking much food
with me, and drinking swamp water. So I ate little red and black
beans that I found near the mound. Later I was told they were
narcotic. I also ate wild limes and oranges, and I was gorging
myself on little wild bananas, which I was dubious about, but I
could see that racoons had eaten them, and I thought if the 'coons
ate them, they were edible. The long and short of it was I became
deadly sick while examining the mound, getting worse.
I managed to get back to the car. On the road north of
Punta Gorda I left my car as I was unable to drive further, and
attempted to get a lift...which failed. Managing to get to a
gas station near the El Jobean turnoff on foot, and collapsed.
They rushed me to Venice Hospital, where the doctors about gave


6
me up. They didn't know, and I didn't know what I had eaten to
make me that sick. But I found out from an Indian later on that
it was the bananas.
I was in the Venice hospital about six weeks, and I wanted
to be released. I was tired of laying in bed, as by that time
I was feeling better. I imposed on a neighbor of ours to take
me back to the 'Glades area again. December 25, I left the hos-
pital.
She drove to the Immokalee/Everglades City Intersection,
where she left me. It was almost dark, and she continued on to
Miami to visit friends. I asked her to look for me on the road
when she came back, and that was to be a week later. Shortly
after she left, one of those Florida squalls came up. Oh, it
rained something fierce. My gear bag was full of water. I stum-
bled around in the dark through the 'Glades. Of course in those
years when it rained that hard the road was just covered with
swamp creatures. I finally found a little road heading north off
the Trail, and I assumed it to be to an Indian camp, so struggled
along it and finally arrived at the camp.
It was dark, and I didn't know whose camp it was, but I
wasn't going to stay out on the road. I saw a flickering fire
in the kitchen chickee, and I walked to it. I was wet and bitter
cold...it was December 25th, Christmas Day. As I sat near the
fire, I could hear the Indians grunting back and forth to one
another, so I just stayed there and tried to get dry. Awakening
in the morning to find it was Chestnut Billie's camp...the man
I had made friends with several years before.
M: When you first got there, they weren't aware you were there?
S: They had retired. They knew I was there, but didn't know who
I was. They didn't choose to do anything. I accept those things.
I mean, that was the hospitality in those days. I'm thinking
back pretty near forty years. The Indian attitudes were completely
different then than they are now.
At any rate, the next morning at sunup, he [Chestnut Billie]
came to me, and I scrounged a little food from him. We sat around
and renewed old acquaintances. He was delighted, and I was de-
lighted. He said he was going out alligator hunting that day,
and he asked me if I wanted to go. I said, "Yes, I'd like to
go with you."
He said, "I don't want you to take your camera--leave it
right here."
M: Why not take a camera, was it against the law?
S: Indians didn't like cameras then.


7
Finally, I said to him, "Well, Chestnut, I've got some very
expensive equipment in that bag--is it alright to leave it here
right in camp like this?"
In those days I used to wear my hair long...I didn't wear
it like the kids do today, but I wore it much longer than the
average person. And I used to wear a silk band, like the Navahos
wear, around my hair. He said, "Just leave everything right where
it is, my friend, no one will take it; there isn't a white man
around here for miles." And I looked at him, and he smiled and
said, "No one will touch your stuff. The only people I would be
afraid of stealing would be white people."
So I left my bag with my camera attached to it, and took
my silk band off and tied it on to the strap of my bag, then we
went off into the swamp in his dugout. We were gone all day and
returned with two gators, each about six feet long. In those
days they were selling hides when they could get them as part of
their income.
M: Was there any technique to gator hunting worth talking about?
S: No. Just shoot them, that's all. You had to find their lair
and roust them out with a pole and shoot them in the head.
M: What kind of weaponry did he have--what kind of gun, do you re-
call?
S: He had a rifle, high powered.
M: Relatively modern?
S: I would say his gun probably was ten or fifteen years old. It
might have been a .30-.30 or something like that. Frankly, I
don't remember.
M: Have you got any idea what two hides would have been worth at
that time?
S: Well, it seems to me they used to get a dollar and a quarter a
running foot.
M: Yes, I wouldn't be surprised. But I don't think the traders
counted the underbelly or anything?
S: No.
M: They just counted the tail to head [back]?
I


8
S: Yes, just measure off the length and give them a dollar and a
quarter a foot.
When we returned I went to my gear bag, to find my silk
scarf was missing. So I said, "Chestnut:, my scarf is gone."
He was pretty upset, and said, "You come back tomorrow."
I came back the following day, and the scarf was tied on
a stick stuck in the ground right in the middle of the camp entry.
I didn't say any more about it. I just took it, tied it around
my head, and that was the end of the matter.
He had two daughters, Maggie and Ruby; I don't know how many
other children. While in the area, I renewed my friendship with
John, Frank and Corey Osceola, Ingraham and Josie Billie, Frank
Charlie and Abiagee, who was one of the old medicine chiefs. He
died shortly after I left the area in '37; he was about eighty-
seven at the time.
Most of the Indians from the camps at that time were working
when the seasons allowed as itinerant pickers. Some of them
worked on the ranches, but not too many, as by now they had a
general open warfare with the ranchers. They were shooting at
each other whenever the opportunity arose. It became touch and
go for a while. I don't know if anybody was killed or injured,
but it stands to reason that there was some bloodshed. I don't
know how it abated; it was later, during a period I was not in
Florida.
M: Well, I guess that's preservation anyway, isn't it?
S: Oh yes. It was open range in the south of Florida. Cattle was
running all over the place at that time. As long as you owned
property you could graze them where you wanted. There wasn't a
stock fence in south Florida.
M: What was the basis of friendship you would establish with these
people? Did they take a liking to you?
S: I don't think all Indians liked me. I think that it is under-
standing between peoples. So many people approach another ethnic
group with an attitude of reserve. There is no knitting of minds
when they go into a camp; they're either reluctant or they're
afraid that, "Oh, these people are beneath me, or they're too
dirty, or I'm too smart, or they're too stupid, or something
else."
It's like meeting a.new person in the neighborhood. If you
go up and shake his hand and say, "I'm so and so, how are you to-
day, it's good to see you, I've never seen you before," you can
build a rapport. Human beings are human beings, it doesn't matter
who they are, they will often respond.


9
M: Yes, I understand that; I think that probably explains it very
well. So many people plainly look down on their culture.
S: Exactly. And another thing, a lot of people give the impression
to others that they're out to get something. There are certain
manners in our culture;: there are certain manners in Indian cul-
tures. If you can sort of adjust your way of thinking to their
way of thinking, then you become part of the culture. If you try
to maintain your cultural ideas against theirs, it doesn't work.
I'll give you an example: The fact that the head band was mis-
sing, and I told Chestnut Billie it was missing, and it was returned.
Rather than make a big issue about its return or rather than say,
"You told me Chestnut, that there was no white man around here;
there must have been a white man," and make a point of it...I
might have aggravated him. He might have said, "Well, it hap-
pened, why does he push this thing?" The scarf was returned,
I said nothing about it; when it was lost, I only said it was
gone, and he accepted that as being a friendly gesture probably.
That was all there is to it. Little things like that count more
than big things.
M: Yes. I understand now, I see that.
S: Another thing, Frank Speck was a marvelous man with linguists.
He could be with a group of Indians and within a week's time
speak the language sufficiently to carry on a conversation. In-
dians think that's wonderful.
M: Sure, I can understand it.
S: Another thing--Frank could very easily go into a camp, a real
dirty camp, lay on the floor and go to sleep with them. I've
never spoken to an Indian that knew Frank Speck that didn't think
he was the greatest person that ever lived. There are other an-
thropologists that go in to a camp or village, and the first
think they do is get a new tent and set it up away from the Indians.
They have the luxury of a gasoline stove, folding bed, and all
this sort of gadgets. Indians resent this and often will not
cooperate. The best way is to go to an Indian and say, "Can I
come in and stay with you?" And literally stay with them. If
you're going into an Indian camp, don't find a chair to sit on,
but sit as they do, right up on the platform. Or on the ground.
M: Well, did you ever find this almost unbearably dirty, or do you
care to comment on it?


10
S: Well, Indians are like anybody else. You've got good, bad, and
indifferent as far as cleanliness is concerned. I've seen white
mountain shacks that were on a par with any dirty Indian camp,
so that you can't look in one direction. My Indian brother was
Fred Ninham, a Seneca Indian; he claimed to be Seneca, he wasn't,
he was probably Wappinger. Being blind and poor, his family lived
in unsanitary surroundings. I always felt comfortable when I
stayed with them. Then there are other Indians who are of the
same generation who have fine houses, TVs and cars, et cetera,
and you would really not know you were away from your own en-
vironment.
M: In the twenties and the thirties did you find that the women in
the camps were rather aloof?
S: They still are. Except those that have been schooled. Now the
younger ones are more outgoing. I found within this last three
months that the women, even the most conservative women, are
beginning to come out of their shell a little. Last year, the
older women stayed in the background.
It isn't good practice for a stranger to go into camp when
there are no men there; it's not proper. It's all right to go
into their shop or whatever they might have for the public, but
not into the camp. Rarely are the men in the camp during the
day, unless it's an elderly man...it's all right then to go in
there. But if the women are alone in the camp, and a non-Indian
stranger, particularly a man, comes in, he won't find anybody
there. They've gone hiding somewhere. They have left the camp,
but they're watching you. However, with a friendship it's a lit-
tle different. If you know them well, it's all right to go in.
M: In Chestnut Billie's camp, for instance, would the women take
part in whatever association you had, or were you just dealing
with him...?
S: With him.
M: Or his sons, if he had any?
S: Yes...or any male members of the family.
M: The women would be withdrawn and in the background?
S: They would either stay in the chickees, or they'd be working
around camp, and they were more or less unapproachable. You
might wave to them, and they might wave back, but that's all.


11
I'm speaking now about forty years ago. I found that still ex-
isted four or five years ago, to a degree. Not quite so severe.
You see a lot of changes. For instance, I talked to Corey
Osceola the other day, whom I've known for years--we're old friends.
All of his family is comfortable. And they have been progressive...
he has sent the children to school; his son John is in business.
Corey is a fine fellow. He works hard, he has a nice camp, and he
owns his own land.
M: Oh, he doesn't live on any reservation?
S: He owns his land. He bought three or four acres along the Trail
in East Naples. It's the first year that I've seen his wife come
out from the camp. She was sitting in the store recently and I
had quite a discussion with her.
M: Well now does he maintain a connection with what you would call
the tribe?
S: Oh yes.
M: You know where the headquarters is? The Miccosukees now have
a new....
S: Well, he says he's not a Miccosukee. He says he's Seminole.
M: Oh, is he a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida?
S: Yes.
M: But he's a Miccosukee speaker?
S: He speaks Seminole, and he says the Miccosukee speak Seminole,
too. I asked him about the Hitchitis, and he said there were
no Hitchitis left. The Cow Creeks, of course, speak a different
language. They need an interpreter sometimes when speaking to
other groups in council. This is the first time that I've been
aware that there is such a thing as a Seminole, that is, a "Sem-
inole" Seminole. I've always assumed that the Cow Creeks, and
the Miccosukees were members of a family of Seminoles, which is,
of course, basically Creek. Corey put me down the other day, and
he said no, he was a Seminole.
M: Well, of course, the secession took place in 1961, in which that
little group under Buffalo Tiger over there...
S: In the east.


12
M: ...seceded. And they got federal recognition.
S: There's a strange situation. You have your Dania group, and your
Brighton group, I understand from Corey. They are essentially
Cow Creek.
M: Yeah, I think that's so. I don't know about Dania, because the
headquarters is there, but....
S: Big Cypress is essentially Seminole, and the Miccosukee are in
the Miccosukee area, just west of Miami with Buffalo Tiger.
There are a lot of Indians from East Florida: for instance,
Osceola's son John is there. There are a lot of Indians there
that are, from Corey's statement, Seminoles...in the Miccosukee
area. Now you have three major areas set up for them. But still
outside of those areas, you have some Indian camps around Ochopee
which are not included in the government settlement. And there
are two very nice camps in the Collier State Park, which should
be preserved. The Indians in those camps are first rate, and
very productive, very sober. Those camps have been there for
a long time. One presently is being maintained by Bobby Clay,
who is the son of Ruby Clay, who is the daughter of Chestnut
Billie. Ruby is a widow; her son Bobby is an automobile mechanic,
speaks pretty good English, speaks Seminole, and was the man that
fought the federal and state governments on this educational
matter, and won his case.
M: Oh yes, I remember that.
S: Not that I'm particularly in favor of that approach, but I've
always felt that, if that's what they want, that's what they
should have. I think it's only a matter of time when they'll
change their attitude. I also think that those two camps should
in some way be guaranteed to them. They're not taking up that
much room, and I think they're an asset rather than a liability.
M: I have the impression there's a very substantial state reserva-
tion, 80,000 acres, that adjoins the Big Cypress, and it's not
used much, and it's possible those camps are on that.
S: No, it is the state reservation property that you're talking
about. The only thing that the Indians use it for is ceremonial
[purposes] and burial grounds. I don't think they're occupying
it for residence. I've been very unhappy about the two before-
mentioned camps, because I have a feeling that as that area de-
velops in South Florida the developers are going to try to push
the Indians aside unless the new state law stops them.


13
M: These camps are actively lived in right now?
S: Yes. Bobby Clay, son of Ruby Clay, is.the acting headman of
one of those camps at the moment. He told me the other day that
there's a little money coming in for the people of his camp. I
don't know where it's coming from--probably federal money that's
due them which he's banking. They're not using any of it. I
don't think it's a large amount. I think with two or three sig-
natures it can be withdrawn.
I have been told that Maggie Buster's [the former Maggie
Billie, now deceased] oldest daughter, who just married, is going
to take over the leadership of that camp soon, relieving Bobby
Clay. I have in writing that Collier State Park is allowing the
Indian camps to stay just as long as they are held by the same
family...so I presume they'll make sure to keep it in the family
some way; thus the switch from Clay to Buster. Frankly, I think
they should have more security.
M: The way they trace lineage, it passes through the women I take
it?
S: It's quite obvious, although I never have been told.
M: In that connection, with the women in the background, so far as
dealing with the white man is concerned, do you ever see any evi-
dences of matriarchal power in Indian affairs?
S: Now you're speaking in terms specifically of the Seminoles?
M: Yes, that's where our interest is.
S: Yes. However, it's been such a tight society that I have always
been careful about asking questions. I was told by an Indian
a long time ago, when I started asking questions, "Bill, you're
a nice fellow, but you talk too much." Now he didn't mean I
talked too much, he meant I asked too many questions. Even when
I ask a question of people that I know very well they often change
the subject rapidly. I haven't been able to come up with any an-
swers of that sort, even with Corey Osceola. I'll ask him a point-
blank question: for instance, I'll ask him who keeps the medicine
bundle, and there's no response. And I don't further it.
M: But the medicine bundle is still in existence...that is as far as
you know?
S: There must be a medicine bundle with the Cow Creek. I've never
seen it in use. It is supposed to be brought out at the Green
Corn Ceremony; legally from their standpoint it should be.


14
M: Did you in the past attend some Green Corn Dances?
S: Oh yes. I attended one three or four years ago north of Brighton,
somewhere in the swamp.
M: And was it still a ceremonial affair, or had it become a tourist
attraction by this time?
S: Oh, very definitely. I was the only white person there.
M: Can you comment on the Green Corn Dance, or would this be a
violation of their...?
S: I don't think it would be a violation. It was pretty rough
getting in there; I had parked my car a long distance from the
ceremonial ground and had to walk through the swamp to reach
it, and I was a little concerned about the baggage in my car,
as I had to leave the car on the road. Frankly, I can't pinpoint
the area. It seems to me it was north of Brighton. It was a
Cow Creek ceremony, but some of the Miccosukee were attending
and they invited me to be with them. They played a ball game--
the Seminole ball game.
M: Mix it?
S: Yes...the boys and girls played the game together.
M: With the stick and all that?
S: With two sticks, yes. They also had a palmetto torch-light dance
which was led to the tune of a rough chant...there was no music.
Of course, the women wore leg rattles.
M: But no drums?
S: No drum. They danced clockwise with palmetto torches. It was
dark. That sequence went on for some time. I arrived at sunup
and I stayed all day at the camp. I ate with them and I watched
the ball game and a few other things that occurred; then they
had this dance and I left. I understand that function was going
to last upwards to nine days.
M: Well, you had the impression that there was still some of the
old tribal forgiving....
S: I'm sure. As the entire sequence was to take place during the
nine-day period, I just did not have the time to stay. Had my
car been safely put away, I probably would have stayed longer.


15
M: Well now, when you got back this time...you've just come from
down there, haven't you? Did you see some of the people that
you have seen these forty years ago? Are some of them still
living?
S: Abiagee is dead. He died shortly after my trip in '37. He was
a very fine old Indian, and he's mentioned in that little article
I wrote for our museum.
I saw Frank Charlie, who is still alive. He and I were good
friends. His wife died many years ago. She was a fine woman--
her name was Homiapee. He lives at Big Cypress. He doesn't
remember me. He had a serious operation a year or so ago, some-
thing with his chest or his lung. We built up a good rapport
again; I visited him for awhile.
Tommy Buster, Maggie Billie's husband, is living with his
new family at the Big Cypress.
Ingraham Billie and I had a talk about old times. He remem-
bers me, and he asked me to go and see his brother Josie. I
couldn't find him at that time.
These are some of the Indians that I knew years ago: Tommy Buster,
Frank Charlie, Josie Billie, and Ingraham Billie are
living. I didn't know Tommy Buster in the early years; I've known
him for about twelve years. Corey Osceola is living on the Trail
in East Venice. Maggie Billie...Maggie Buster,.is dead about
three years. And Ruby Clay.. ..Ruby Billie, is still alive and quite
active. Tommy Tiger Tail, who I knew, died in 1937, and when he
died they abandoned the camp--everybody moved out, left as if the
plague had hit them.
M: Well now, when you come back to a scene, like with Corey Osceola,
and you've been gone a long time, have you got the basis for a
conversation? My own experience with Indians is, they don't say
a great deal.
S: Our meeting after many years and recognition of each other shows
that we had a real friendship. Now with Ruby Clay, she remembers
me as a young man, and I remember her as a young girl.
M: But what have you got to talk about with an Indian? Do you just
sit there and smoke a cigar with him or what?
S: Sit there and have a smoke; you talk about the old days.
M: You do?
S: Yes, you talk about...when we were young together: "You remember
the time so-and-so happened? Like when I was at John Osceola's


16
Camp and you were there. You remember Jimmie Billie, he had
those sharp eyes that looked right through you? He was some-
thing else, that fellow." And he'd laugh and say, "Oh, yes, he
was a tough man." Conversations of that sort. Talk about how
things have changed over the years, and how good the old times
were, or how bad they were, or whatever....
M: What was the occasion for your trip this year?
S: I wanted to go to New Mexico, but it was a little too far, and
you folks had encouraged me to come to the University.
M: You just came to see some Indians?
S: I came down to do some fishing and see some Indian friends.
M: No archeological work in this case?
S: No. Incidentally, talking about archeology, I went to Cedar Key
on my way here. I don't know how much if any archeological work
has been done out there, but this might be worth investigating
if it hasn't already been done. Out near the state museum, there's
a little point of land that juts into tidewater area. It's used
by the fishermen; they launch their boats at that point. There's
a double strata shell mound which is the better part dirt. Most
of these shell mounds are the better part shell. It's a strati-
fied shell mound and not very high--right on the water and might
warrant investigating.
M: I imagine the archeology/anthropology boys have a good line on
it. I don't know. You know, that's not my bag.
S: I picked up some pot sherds there; I know it's Indian. A strati-
fied shell mound is not too common.
M: Sure. Well now, your first connection with these Indians began
about forty-five years ago, as I figured in my head. This was
1929 or something, wasn't it?
S: '29 was my first contact. My full contact was about '37 or '38.
M: Well anyway, thirty, thirty-five years?
S: Yes.
M: And so now, off and on in the years, and particularly this year,
you've seen a few of them, and you suggested to me that you notice


17
a great many changes. What strikes you especially? I know you
didn't come down here to study it, but are there things that
especially you view about the Indians?
S: Well, the Indians have become a little more aware of their poten-
tial in commerce. The Miccosukee camps towards Miami are very
certainly active. They're really out to make a dollar. It's
quite commercialized. However, they do retain their reserve.
All the commercialism is a facade, it's all in the front. And
if you get back out of the shop into the camp, you'll find it's
pretty much the way it was forty years ago. The difference is that
the young girls who have been schooled speak English and are a
little more outgoing. You'll get a smile from them or a comment...
I'm talking about the Trail Indians, and not the reservation In-
dians. I don't know too much about the reservation Indians.
The camps to the east, with the exception of Corey's, are still
pretty much as they were in 1937, except for the fact that they
have electric lights and cars and other conveniences. But even
in 1937 some of those Indians had trucks and cars.
M: In these families, do you observe anymore miscegenation, inter-
breeding, or are they still pretty pure Indians? Do you detect
any white strains or black strains?
S: There are white strains in the Osceola family. Black of course
is pretty hard to say, but possible, because when I first came
down there were still a few slaves amongst the Seminoles.
M: Oh, is that so?
S: I recall Seminole slaves. Some of those old, old people had been
slaves, and of course eventually became part of the band. So
there's no doubt in my mind there's some African blood amongst
them. It doesn't show too frequently.
M: Do they show in your presence some race prejudice? I mean par-
ticularly against blacks, have you ever detected it?
S: They're aloof. I've never seen a black person in an Indian camp.
I've seen white men in Indian camps, and often they're rascals.
They ply the Indian with whiskey or beer, and they get the women
drunk. I saw this on two occasions on this last visit.
M: Do you feel that the old legend or whatever you want to call it,
about Indians being especially susceptible to liquor is true or
not? I mean physiologically, do you think they react more?


18
S: People have asked me that question many times. I don't know
whether it's the fact that Indians don't drink frequently that
causes them to get nasty, or whether it's inbred antagonisms
that come out. I rather think it's the latter. I've never been
in the company of drunken Seminoles. They've always been friendly
to me, and sober. I only had trouble once, and that was with a
drunken Seminole. He was in New York for the World's Fair. I
soon embarrassed him because I told him if he didn't behave him-
self I'd tell his uncle-about his behavior. He was very upset
when he found out I knew his uncle. I have found amongst the
Mohawks for instance (I lived with the Mohawks for over a year),
they drink. They are heavy drinkers, and when they are drinking
they'll start talking about the whites; they've perfectly good
reasons to.
I remember one case after World War II. I was sitting in
the house of a Mohawk Indian friend of mine. There were a number
of Indians in another room. They were cussing the whites, and I
said, "Hey!" One Indian came into the room and said to me,
"Present company excepted. You're no Goddamn white man--you're an
Indian." So there is antagonism. There were no obvious reasons
at that moment for that antagonism to surface other than they'd
been drinking.
M: I have one more question to ask you, then I think we've talked
long enough that probably both of us are getting a little tired.
How do Seminoles show distinctions of wealth? Do you observe
that some are richer than others? Have some got more property
than others, and if so, what's the property? I've never seen
a Seminole driving a big Cadillac for instance...maybe some have
them. And they certainly don't live in pretentious houses. They
don't own intangible assets do they, stocks and bonds? Do you
know?
S: The only thing I can tell you is this: many years ago when I
was observing more specifically, I made a comment about the e-
normous number of necklaces that the women wore around their
necks, and I was told that the more beads a woman wore, the
higher standing she had in the tribe.
M: You don't see that any longer though do you, that great mass of
beads?
S: Occasionally.
M: Still?
S: Yes, I think that they wear their wealth. It's like the Navajos,
the more silver they have on, the wealthier they are.


19
M: Now your friend Corey Osceola has bought land. He's got real
estate, which the reservation people don't have unless they go
outside and buy it.
S: Right. They don't.
M: Does he drive a big car?
S: No, but they have several cars in the family.
M: They have several?
S: Yes, Bobby Clay has a new truck. They have televisions, refrig-
erators, and a pool table in camp. Those aggressive, sensible-
living Indians have more than the drinkers and the carousers.
You can usually go into a camp and tell off-hand whether the men
are industrious or drinkers. The camps around the hunting areas
are the ones that are hit hardest by that. It seems to me that
the white hunters get a thrill causing Indians to get drunk.
Once an Indian starts to drink, it's pretty hard for him to stop.
M: The interview formally ended with what has come before, but there
is an item I would like to add, which Mr. Stiles told me as we
walked from Peabody Hall to the Florida Museum. He said that he
had visited a camp during this present trip to Florida, that is
in November 1973, and that he had without any previous heralding
entered it. Two white men were there, and three or four Indian
women. Also one Indian man whom he represented as pretty far gone
in liquor. The white men and the Indian women were drinking,
and his interpretation of the scene was that the white men were
plying the Indian women with liquor, with the intention to couple
with them sexually when they were sufficiently softened up. He
said one of the women was badly swollen and bruised in the face,
and his belief was that she had been struck by one of the white
men. This conversation had been triggered by my commenting that
from our tapes we sometimes got reference to the rape of Indian
women by white troops during the Seminole wars, but that this
sort of abuse does not appear at all in the written record, printed
or manuscript. He said that he was disposed to believe their old
tradition. He thought that at present, hunters frequently plied
the Indians with liquor, and sometimes when the male members of
the camp were acting as guides, hunters used the opportunity to
get the women drunk and cohabit with them.


Full Text

PAGE 1

SOUTHEASTERN , INDIAN ORAl HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: Mr. William F. Stiles INTERVIEWER: Dr. John Mahon DATE: November 29, 1973

PAGE 2

SUMMARY William Stiles, curator and field man for the Museum of the American Indian, discusses experiences and friends gained since his first contact with the Seminoles in 1929. Describing the Tamiami Trail he travelled that year, Stiles mentions Indian hospital ity and food. Throughout the interview is scattered information regarding Seminole women, employment, attitudes toward wealth and property, state reser vations, and the Green Corn Dance. He also discusses reasons for Seminole acceptance and rejection of cer tain anthropologists and of white people in general.

PAGE 3

INDEX alligator hides, 7-8 Billie, Chestnut, 6-7, 10 Cedar Key stratified shell mound, 16 character traits; no stealing, 7-8 employment, 8 food; Indian hospitality, 2-5 wild bananas, 5-6 Green Corn Dance, 3, 13-14 Osceola, Corey, 11 Seminole, Miccosukee, Creek relationship, 11-12 State reservation property, 12-13 Stiles, William F. anthropological trip, 5 changes in Indians since 1929, 17 travel on Trail 1929, 1-2,4 wealth; Indians show distinction of, 18-19 women (Indian), 10-11 transcultural contacts Stiles' attitude, 8-10, 15-16 racism, 17 whites abuse Indian women, 19

PAGE 4

S: My name is William F~ Stiles, curator and field man for the Museum of the American Indian in New York City. M: Well now, Mr. Stiles, you've been down talking to Seminoles, I understand. Would you make some observations about what you've seen and so on whatever? S: I see a great many changes in the Florida Seminole picture. I first came to the state by car with a group of friends in 1929, shortly after my father died; it was shortly after the Tamiami Trail [U.S. highway 41--Naples to Miami] opened. I insisted they drop me off in the town of Naples. Naples at that time was a sleepy little town west of Miami on the Gulf of Mexico. The only landmark as the south-bound trail turned east was an old-fashioned western~type bar. Just north of that bar on the Trail there was an Indian family camping--! would say it was roughly three miles north of the turn. I understood it to be the camp of one of the Osceolas. That was my first contact with Seminole Indians, and for that reason I was deter mined to leave my friends and let them go on their way. I was just a kid with a pack on my back, as I drifted east on the Trail from Naples. M: On foot? S: Yes, on foot. There was no traffic; I don't think I saw three cars a day crossing the Trail. When darkness came and I hadn't seen any more camps, I became a little concerned because it was a long way to Miami, so I just found high ground anp slept. The next morning I continued on and finally reached another camp along the Trail, which incidentally still exists, at Royal Palm Hammock--it is at the old road turnoff down to Marco Island. There's a fire ranger station .a little to the west of that point, and a commercial complex--a gasoline station and so forth. Across the Tamimni Trail from the gasoline station is a camp that then existed. I don't know whose camp it was, but it is now occupied by Ruby Clay and other families. An Indian man came out with a big grin to greet me. We began to talk about one thing and anoth er; he spoke a little English. And I asked him if there were other camps, and he said they were further to the east. I continued east, and arrived at another camp. Across from it is the first airboat station on the west Trail which did not exist in 1929, but I believe the store did. On arrival I found it empty, so I did not stop but continued east.

PAGE 5

2 M: What were you eating at this time you 're walking across there? The Indians feeding you, or how did you eat? S: I had some food with me. I usually carried a little staple in my bag, and I've always had a bad habit of just eating anything wild that looked edible. In fact I regretted that some years later. I became very ill with a bad case of chronic indigestion; nearly died in Venice hospital from eating what I found along the way. I'm not much of an eater; in those days less than now. I could go a full day without pangs of hunger. The water in the canal was drinkable. At this point I had no concern, and finally arrived at an intersection where the road that runs from Ever glades City to Innnokalee crosses the Tamiami Trail. M: Then there was a road in those days there? S: It was a dirt road then. Tamiami Trail was at that time two lane, and it was surfaced. But the roads that left the Trail were dirt roads. Accessible mostly by wagon .. People living back from the Trail. were pretty primitive. I'm speaking of the Whites and the Indians. At the intersection just beyond where the present state information station .is--which did not exist then--on the northeast corner was Frank Charlie's camp. Beyond that camp, about a mile I would say, was another camp on the south side of the Trail belonging to Tommy Tiger Tail. I visited both camps and continued east. I believe there were about fourteen camps between Ft. Myers and Miami on the Trail in 1929. I became friendly with the Osceolas. Ingraham Billie and Josie Billie lived in camps east of the Immokalee/Everglades City intersect; I would say east of Ochopee. Those camps were on the south side of the Trail. The first one on the north side of the Trail beyond Tommy Tiger Tail was where John and Frank Osceola were living. I don't know whether that was John's camp or not. I've always been of the impression that it was John's camp, but in recent conversations I have been told it was a John Poole camp--he recently died, drowned in the canal--and John and Frank Osceola lived there. East of that camp, on the north side of the road, was the camp of Chestnut Billie. Chestnut Billie and I became freinds immediately. None of my stays at these camps were of long dura tion just overnight. I'd go in and sleep there, no questions asked. M: Did they offer you something to eat? S: No, never. Indians don' t seem to do that. I've travelled all over the country unless an Indian has had some formal training in our culture they do not offer you food.

PAGE 6

3 M: Didn't do it? S: No. You're expected to have your own.food or if you don't have any you would ask for it. I don't think you'd be refused. Even if you come at a meal time and they're eating I've never been offered anything toeat. Unless you arbitrarily sit down and eat with them--that's what you're expected to do. If you don't eat, I presume that's your fault. I've eaten all kinds of things, even alligator eggs and garfish. M: Raw, or cook them? S: They boil the alligator eggs. M: You've eaten those? S: I've eaten those. They're strong, and fishy. M: Very nourishing? S: I would think so. I haven't eaten any for a long time. They roast the garfish in their skin in the hot coals. M: Well you read sometimes that those people would have a sofkee pot sitting by the fire. Was this true? S: Oh yes. Sofkee is a stew, and the big wooden spoon is called a sofkee spoon. M: Did you ever go over and ladle out any for yourself? S: Oh sure. I've done that at the Green Corn Dances because that's when food is there for visitors and everybody else. But you should have your own bowl; then you ladle it into your bowl and carry it off to eat it. Or you can eat from the spoon if you wish. One of their mainstays at that time, 1929, was fish. In fact I was very interested to see on my last visit, they were roasting some of the garfish. The garfish is about eighteen inches long. When it is cooked they just break it off like you would a french bread, and dig out the flesh, which is white and very good flavor. I caught some large grouper off the coast, and always take my catch into the Indian camps, the nearest ones I can get to readily from Naples. Ruby Glay, who is a very good friend of mine--in fact she's Ruby Billie, one of Chestnut Billie's daugh ters--and Corey Osceola get most of my catch.

PAGE 7

4 M: Now when are you talking about-,.-now, or on your last trip? S: Within the last year. M: You've just been down there? S : Yes, within the last few days; I took her this large grouper. She was delighted with it, but she pointed over to the cook chickee, and said she had fish. I went over and they had two or three gar roasting there. The kids had speared them during the day. I was verr happy to see that $till being done. Getting back to the 1929 Trail. .• I continued on to Miami and finally met my fr.fends; we drove back across the Trail, made a few stops, and picked up a few anthropological specimens. Of course in those years money was not too available, and I was un able to take advantage of the collecting potential. They left me in Punta Gorda, and I took a job at a ranch up Peace Creek, the Bar RB ranch I believe. They were just bringing in the Brahmas for the first time. I worked there for about three months and then left. That was pretty rough work. M: When working on this ranch, were there any Seminoles there? S: No, there was a lot of antagonism between the Indians and the ranchers at the time. That is one of the reasons I left. M: What was the occasion for it? S: The ranchers claimed that the deer tick was injuring the cattle, and they were . slaughtering deer by the thousands. When we were out on the range at roundup time, I've seen piles of deer horns that would fill this room. Of course the Indians were very angry about the slaughter because at that time they relied a good deal on deer hides. They were still tanning deer hides then. M: And on the deer meat I presume? S: And on the deer meat for food too, yes. I'll finish the 1929 experience. From the ranch, " I went up to Venice and took a job at an orange grove for . three or four months, and [then] returned to N.ew York. My interest in Indians had further developed, and in 1936 I joined the Museum . of the American Indian staff. That year George Heye, the founder of MAI, sent me on an archeological field trip in New York State which was rather successful. Then in the fall of '37 or '38, one of our board members was going south, and George Heye asked me if I'd like to drive

PAGE 8

5 with him to the Seminole country. I was delighted; left New York City with F. K. Seward, the grandson of William Seward, and settled in Venice, Florida. I innnediately left Venice for points south, into the area Iwas familiar with--Punta Gorda, and south. I met a man there in the service of the Department of Agriculture, who was out searching in that area for the boll weevil in the wild cotton ... in the 'Glades and tidewater area. M: I didn't even know there was wild cotton. S: Oh yes. M: And boll weevils in it? S: Yes. Well, they claimed at the time that the boll weevil was coming from the wild cotton at least that was my information. So they sent out teams in the thirties to find and destroy all the wild cotton in that part of the state., I assumed that a man in that field would know the 'Glades area pretty well, and might know of some mounds and archeological sites. So I went with him on two or three occasions. I knew the area pretty well myself, so we made a good team. We scouted Charlotte Harbor up through what is now Englewood--it was just a wilderness there at that time. We located a beautiful burial mound of white sand south of Punta Gorga on Alligator Creek. It is a shame that it was ravaged; looked like an ice cream cone in a dish. I never saw anything like it in my life. The most magnificent mound I've ever seen. Pure white sand with a few cabbage palms on it; it lay out in the tidewater swamp. To get to it I had to park my car and walk bout a mile and a half through scrub palmetto and general under growth there. You could only get to this mound at low tide because at high tide the water would cover about two feet of the base of the mound; it was also hidden by mangroves. As beforementioned I had a bad habit of not taking much food with me, and drinking swamp water. So I ate little red and black beans that I found near the mound. Later I was told they were narcotic. I also ate wild limes and oranges, and I was gorging myself on little wild bananas, which I was dubious about, but I could see that racoons had eaten them, and I thought if the 'coons ate them, they were edible. The long and short of it was I became deadly sick while examining the mound, getting worse. I managed to get back to the car. On the road north of Punta Gorda I left my car as I was unable to drive further, and attempted to get a lift •.. which failed. Managing to get to a gas station near the El Jobean turnoff on foot, and collapsed. They rushed me to Venice Hospital, where the doctors about gave

PAGE 9

6 me up. They didn't know, and I didn't know what I had eaten to make me that sick. But I found out from an Indian 1ater on that it was the bananas. I was in the Venice hospital about six weeks, and I wanted to be released. I was tired of laying fn , bed, as by that time I was feeling better. I imposed on a neighbor of ours to take me back to the 'Glades area again. December 25, I left the hos pital. She drove to the Immokalee/Everglades City Intersection, where she left me. It was almost dark, and she continued on to Miami to visit friends. I asked her to look for me on the road when she came back, and that was to be a week later. Shortly after she left, one of those Florida squalls came up. Oh, it rained something fierce. My gear bag was full of water. I stum bled around in the dark through the 'Glades. Of course in those years when it rained that hard the road was just covered with swamp creatures. I finally found a little road heading north off the Trail, and I assumed it to be to an Indian camp, so struggled along it and finally arrived at the camp. It was dark, and I didn't know whose camp it was, but I wasn't going to stay out on the road. I saw a flickering fire in the kitchen chickee, and I walked to it. I was wet and bitter cold ..• it was December 25th, Christmas Day. As I sat near the fire, I could hear the Indians grunting back and . forth to one another, so I just stayed there and tried to get dry. Awakening in the morning to find it was Chestnut Billie's camp the man I had made friends with several years before. M: When you first got there, they weren't aware you were there? S: They had retired. They knew I was there, but didn't know who I was. They didn't choose to do anything. I accept those things. I mean, that was the hospitality in those days. I'm thinking back pretty near forty years. The Indian attitudes were completely different then than they are now. At ariy rate, the next morning at sunup, he [Chestnut Billie] came to me, and I scrounged a little food from . him. We sat around and renewed . old acquaintances. He was delighted, and I was de lighted. He said he was going out alligator hunting that day, and he asked me if I wanted to go. I said, "Yes, I'd like to go with you." He said, "I don't want you to take your camera--leave it right here." M: Why not take a camera, was it against the law? S: Indians didn't like cameras . then.

PAGE 10

7 Finally, I said to him, "Well, Chestnut, I've got some very expensive equipment in that bag--is it alright to leave it here right in camp like this?" In those days I used to wear my hair long I didn't wear it like the kids do today, but I wore it much longer than the average person. And I used to wear a silk band, like the Navahos wear, around my hair. He said, "Just leave everything right where it is, my friend, no one will take it; there isn't a white man around here for miles. 11 . And I looked . at him, and he smiled and said, uNo one will touch your , stuff. ' The only people I would be afraid of stealing would be white people." So I left my bag with my camera attached to it, and took my silk band off and tied it on to the strap of my bag, then we went off into the swamp in his dugout. We were gone all day and returned with two gators, each about six feet long. In those days they were selling hides when they could get them as part of their income. M: Was there any technique to gator hunting worth talking about? S: No. Just shoot them, that's all. You had to find their lair and roust them out with a pole and shoot them in the head. M: What kind of weaponry did he have--what kind of gun, do you recall? S: He had a rifle, high powered. M: Relatively modern? S: I would say his gun probably was ten or fifteen years old. It might have been a .30-.30 or . something like that. Frankly, I don't remember. M: Have you got any idea what two hides would have been worth at that time? S: Well, it seems to me they used to get a dollar and a quarter a running foot. M: Yes, I wouldn't be surprised. But I don't think the traders counted the underbelly or anything? S: No. M: They just counted the tail to head [back]?

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8 S: Yes, just measure off the length and give them a dollar and a quarter a foot. When we returned I went to my gear bag, to find my silk scarf was missing. So I said, "Chestnut, my scarf is gone." He was pretty upset; and said, "You come back ; tomorrow." I came back the following day, and the scarf was tied on a stick stuck in the ground ri ght in the ' middle of the camp entry. I didn't say any more about it. , I just took it, tied it around my head, and that was the end of the matter. He had two daughters, Maggie and Ruby; I don't knowhow many other children. While in the area, I renewed my friendship with John, Frank and Corey Osceola, Ingraham and Josie Billie, Frank Charlie and Abiagee, who was one of the old medicine chiefs. He died shortly after I left the area in '37; he was about eighty seven at the time. Most of the Indians from the camps at that time were working when the seasons allowed as itinerant pickers. Some of them worked on the ranches, hut not too many, . as by now they had a general open warfare with the , ranchers. They were shooting at each other whenever the opportunity arose. It became touch and go for a while. I don't know if anybody was killed or injured, but it stands to reason that there was some bloodshed. I don't know how it abated; it was later, during a period I was not in Florida. M: Well, I guess that's preservation anyway, isn't it? S: Oh yes. It was open range in the south of Florida. Cattle was running all over the place at that time. As long as you owned property you could graze them where you wanted. There wasn't a stock fence in south Florida. M: What was the basis of friendship you would establish with these people? Did they take a liking to you? S: I don't think all Indians liked me. I thinkthat it is under standing between peoples. So many people approach anotherethnic group with an attitude of reserve . There is no knitting of minds when they go into a camp; they're either reluctant or they're afraid that, "Oh, these people are beneath me, or they're too dirty, or I'm too smart, or they're too stupid, or something else." It's like meeting a . new person in the neighborhood. If you go up and shake his hand and say, "I'm so and so, how are you to day, it's good to see you, I've never seen you before," you can build a rapport. Human beings are human beings, it doesn't matter who they are, they will often respond.

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9 M: Yes, I understand that; I think that probably explains it very well. So many people plainly look down on their culture. S: Exactly. And another thing, a . lot of people give the impression to others that they're out to get something. There are certain manners in our culture;. there are certain manners in Indian cul tures. If you can sort of adjust your way oL thinking to their way of thinking, then you become part of the culture. If you try to maintain your cultural ideas against theirs, it doesn't work. I'll give you an example: The fact that the head band was missing, and I told Chestnut Billie it was missing, and it was returned. Rather than make a big issue about its return or rather than say, "You told me Chestnut , that there was no white man around here; there must have been a white man," and make a point of it I might have aggravated him. He might have said, "Well, it happened, why does he push this thing?" The scarf was returned, I said nothing about it; when it was lost, I only said it was gone, and he accepted that as being a friendly gesture probably. That was all there is to it. Little things like that count more than big things. M: Yes. I understand now, I see that. S: Another thing, Frank Speck was a marvelous man with linguists. He could be with a group of Indians and within a week's time speak the language sufficiently to carry on a , conversation. In dians think that's wonderful. M: Sure, I can understand it. S: Another thing---Frank could very easily go into a camp, a real dirty camp, lay on the floor and go to sleep with them. I've never spoken to an Indian that knew Frank Speck that didn't think he was the greatest person that ever lived. There . are other an thropologists that go in to a camp or village, and the first think they do is get a new tent and set it up away from the Indians. They have the luxury of a gasoline stove, folding bed, and all this sort of gadgets. Indians resent this and often will not cooperate. The best way is to go to an Indian and say, "Can I come in and stay with you?" And literally stay with them. If you're going into an Indian camp, don't find a chair to sit on, but sit as they do, right up on the platform. Or on the ground. M: Well, did you ever find this almost unbearably dirty, or do you care to comment on it?

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------------------10 S: Well, Indians are like anybody else. You've got good, bad, and indifferent as far as cleanliness is concerned . . I'ire seen white mountain shacks that were on a par with any dirty Indian camp, so that you can't look in one direction . . My Indian brother was Fred Ninham, a Seneca Indian; _ he claimed to be Seneca, he wasn't, he was probably Wappinger. Being blind and poor , his family lived in unsanitary surroundings. I always felt comfortable when I stayed with them. Then there are other Indians who are of the same generation who have fine houses, TVs and cars, et cetera, and you would really not know you were away from your own en vironment. M: In the twenties and the thirties did you find that the women in the camps were rather aloof? S: They still are. Except those that have been schooled. Now the younger ones are more outgoing. I found within this last three months that the women; even the most conservative women, are beginning to come out of their shell a little. Last year, the older women stayed in the background. It isn't good practice for a stranger to go into camp when there are no men there; it's not proper. It's all right to go into their shop or whatever they might have for the public, but not into the camp. Rarely are the men in the camp during the day, unless it's an elderly man . it's all right then to go in there. But if the women are alone in the camp, and a non~Indian stranger, particularly a man, comes in, he won't find anybody there. They've gone hiding somewhere. They have left the camp, but they're watching you. However, with a friendship it's a lit tle different. If you know them well, it's all right to go in. M: In Chestnut Bill . ie~s camp, for instance, would the women take part in whatever association you had, or were you just dealing with him ... ? S: With him. M: Or his sons, if he had any? S: Yes or any male members of the , family. M: The women would be withdrawn and in the background? S: They would either stay in the chickees, or they ' d be working around camp, and they were more or less unapproachable. You might wave to them, and they might wave back, but that's all.

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11 I'm speaking now about forty years ago. I found that still ex isted four or five years ago, to a degree. Not quite so severe. You see a lot of changes. For instance, I talked to Corey Osceola the other day, whom I've known ' for years--we're old friends. All of his family is comfortable. And they have been progressive he has sent the children to school; his son John is in : business. Corey is a fine fellow. He works hard, he has a nice camp, and he owns his own land. M: Oh, he doesn~ . t live on any reservation? S: He owns his land. He bought three or four acres along the Trail in East Naples. It's the first year that I've seen his wife come out from the camp. She was sitting in the store recently and I had quite a discussion with her . M: Well now does he maintain a connection with what you would call the tribe? S: Oh yes. M: You know where the headquarters is? The Miccosukees now have a new S: Well, he says he's not a Miccosukee. He says he's Seminole. M: Oh, is he a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida? S: Yes. M: But he's a Miccosukee speaker? S: He speaks Seminole, and he says the Miccosukee speak Seminole, too. I asked him about the Hitchitis, and he said there were no Hitchitis left. The Cow Creeks, of course, speak a different language. They need an interpreter sometimes when $peaking to other groups in council. This is the first time that:I've been aware that there is such a thing as a Seminole, that is, a "Sem-' inole" Seminole. I've always assumed that the Cow Creeks, and the Miccosukees were members of a family of Seminoles, which is, of course, basically Creek. Corey put me down the other day, and he said no, he was a Seminole. M: Well, of course, the secession took place in 1961, in which that little group under Buffalo Tiger over there S: In the east.

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12 M: seceded. And they got federal recognition. S: There's a strange situation. You have your Dania group,, ,and your Brighton group, I understand from Corey. They are essentially Cow Creek. M: Yeah, I think that's so. I don't know about Dania, because the headquarters is there, but S: Big Cypress is essentially Seminole, and the Miccosukee are in the Miccosukee area, just west of Miami with Buffalo Tiger. There are a lot of Indians from East Florida: for instance, Osceola's son John is there. There are a lot of Indians there that are, from Corey's statement, Seminoles in the Miccosukee area. Now you have three,major areas set up for them. But still outside of those areas, you have some Indian camps around Ochopee which are not included in the government settlement. And there are two very nice camps in the Collier State Park, which should be preserved. The Indians in those camps are first rate, and very productive, very sober. Those camps havebeen there for a long time. One presently is being maintained by Bobby Clay, who is the son of Ruby Clay, who is the daughter of Chestnut Billie. Ruby is a widow; her son Bobby is an automobile mechanic, speaks pretty good English, speaks Seminole, and was the man that fought the federal and state governments on this educational matter, and won his case. M: Oh yes, I remember that. S: Not that I'm particularly in favor of that approach, but I've always felt that, if that's what they want, that's what they should have. I think it's only a matter of time when they'll change their attitude. I also think that those two camps should in some way be guaranteed to them. They're not taking up that much room, and I think they're an asset rather than a liability. M: I have the impression there's a very substantial state reserva tion, 80,000 acres, that adjoins the Big Cypress, and it's not used much, and it's possible those camps are on that. S: No, it is the state reservation property that you're talking about. The only thing that the Indians use it for is ceremonial [purposes] and burial grounds. I don't think they're occupying it for residence. I've been very unhappy about the two before mentioned camps, because I have a feeling that as that area de velops in South Florida the developers are going to try to push the Indians aside unless the new state law stops them.

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----------------------------------------13 M: These camps are actively lived in right now? S: Yes. Bobby Clay, son of Ruby Clay, is.the acting headman of one of those camps at the moment. He told me the other day that there's a little money coming in for thepeople of his camp. I don't know where it's coming from--probably federal money that's due them which he's banking. They're not using any of it. I don't think it's a large amount. I think with two or three sig natures it can be withdrawn. I have been told that Maggie Buster's [the former Maggie Billie, now deceased] oldest daughter, who just married, is going to take over the leadership of that camp soon, relieving Bobby Clay. I have in writing that Collier State Park is allowing the Indian camps to stay just as long as they are held by the same family .•. so I presume they'll make sure to keep it in the family some way; thus the switch from Clay to Buster. Frankly, I think they should have more security. M: The way they trace lineage, it passes through the women I take it? S: It's quite obvious, although I never have been told. M: In that connection, with the women in the background, so far as dealing with the white man is concerned, do you ever see any evi dences of matriarchal power in Indian affairs? S: Now you're speaking in terms specifically of the Seminoles? M: Yes, that's where our interest is. S: Yes. However, it's been such a tight society that I have always been careful about asking questions. I was told by an Indian a long time ago, when I started asking questions, "Bill, you're a nice fellow, but you talk too much. " Now he didn't mean I talked too much, he meant I asked too many questions. Even when I ask a question of people that I know very well they often change the subject rapidly. I haven't been able to come up with any an swers of that sort, even with Corey Osceola. I'll ask him a point blank question: for instance, .I'll ask him who keeps the medicine bundle, and there's no response. And I don't further it. M: But the medicine bundle is still in existeri.ce that is as far as you know? S: There must be a medicine bundle with the Cow Creek. I've never seen it in use. It is supposed to be brought out at the Green Corn Ceremony; legally from their standpoint it.should be.

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14 M: Did you in the past attend some Green Corn Dances? S: Oh yes. I attended one three or four years ago north of Brighton, somewhere in the swamp. M: And was it still a ceremonial affair, or had it become a tourist attraction by this time? S: Oh, very definitely. Lwas the only white person there. M: Can you comment on the Green Corn Dance, or would . this be a violation of their ? S: I don't think it would be a violation. It was pretty rough getting in there; I had parked my car a long distance from the ceremonial ground and had to walk through the swamp to reach it, and I was a little concerned about the baggage in my car, as I had to leave the car on the road. Frankly, I can't pinpoint the area. It seems tome it was north of Brighton . .It was a Cow Creek ceremony, but some of the Miccosukee were attending and they invited me to be with them. They played a ball gamethe Seminole ball game. M: Mix it? S: Yes the boys and girls played the game together. M: With the stick and all that? S: With two sticks, yes. They also had a palmetto torch-light dance which was led to the tune of a rough chant there was no music. Of course, the women wore leg rattles. M: But no drums? S: No drum. They danced clockwise with palmetto torches. It was dark. That sequence went on for some time. I arrived at sunup and I stayed all day at the camp. I ate with them and I watched the ball game and a few other things that occurred; then they had this dance and T le:ft. I understand that function was going to last upwards to nine days. M: Well; you had the impression that there was still some of the old tribal forgiving S: I'm sure. As the entire sequence was to take place during the nine-day period, I just did not have the time to stay. Had my car been safely put away, I probably would have stayed longer.

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15 M: Well now, when you got back this time ... you've just come from down there, haven't you? Did you see some of the people that you have seen these forty years ago? Are some . of them still living? S: Abiagee is dead. He died shortly after my trip in '37. He was a very fine old Indian, and he's mentioned in that little article I wrote for our museum. I saw Frank Charlfe, who is still alive. He and I were good friends. His wife died many years ago. She was a fine womanher name was Homiapee. He lives at Big Cypress. He doesn't remember me. He had a serious operation a year or so ago, some thing with his chest or his lung. We built up a good rapport again; I visited him for awhile. Tommy Buster, Maggie Billie'~ husband, is living with his new family at the Big Cypress. Ingraham Billie and I had a talk about old times. He remem bers me, and he asked me to go and see his brother Josie. I couldn't find him at that time. These are some of the Indians that I knew years ago: Tommy Buster, Frank Charlie, Josie Billie, and Ingraham Billie are living. I didn't know Tommy Buster in the early years; I've known him for about twelve years. Corey Osceola is living on the ~rail in East Venice. Maggie Billie •.. Maggie Buster, : is dead about three years. And Ruby Clay:.: , Ruby Billie, is still alive and quite active. Tommy Tiger Tail, who I knew, died in 1937, and when he died they abandoned the camp--everybody moved out, left as if the plague had hit them. M: Well now, when you come back to a scene, like with Corey Osceola, and you've been gone a long time, have you got the basis for a conversation? My own experience with Indians is, they don't say a great deal. S: Our meeting after many years and recognition of each other shows that we had a real friendship. Now with Ruby Clay, she remembers me as a young man, and I remember her as a young girl. M: But what have you got to talk about with an Indian? Do you just sit there and smoke a cigar with him or what? S: Sit there and have a smoke; you talk about the old days. M: You do? S: Yes, you talk about .•. when we were young together: "You remember the time so-and-so happened? Like when I was at John Osceola's

PAGE 19

16 Camp and you were there. You remember Jimmie Billie, he had those sharp eyes that looked right through you? He was some thing else, that fellow. 11 And he'd laugh arid say, "Oh, yes, he was a tough man." Conversations of that sort. Talk about how things have changed over the years, and how good the _ old times were, or how bad they . were, or whatever ..•. M: What was the occasion for your trip this year? S: I wanted to go to New Mexico, but it was a . little too far, and you folks had encouraged me to come to the University. M: You just came to see some Indians? S: I came down to do some fishing and see some Indian friends. M: No archeological work in this case? S: No. Incidentally, talking about archeology, I went to Cedar Key on my way here. I don't know how niuch if any archeological work has been done out there, but this might be worth investigating if it hasn't already been done. Out near the state museum, there's a little point of land that juts tnto tidewater area. It's used by the fishermen; they launch their boats at that point. There's a double strata shell mound which is the better part dirt. Most of these shell mounds are the better part shell. It's a strati fied shell mound and not very high--right on the water and might warrant investigating. M: I imagine the archeology/anthropology boys have a good line on it. I don't know. You know, that's not my bag. S: I picked up some pot sherds there; I know it's Indian. A strati fied shell mound is not too common. M: Sure. Well now, your first connection with these Indians began about forty-five years ago, as I figured in my head. This was 1929 or something, wasn't it? S: '29 was my first contact. My full contact was about '37 or '38. M: WelL.anyway, thirty, thirty-five years? S: Yes. M: And so now, off and on in the years, and particularly this year, you've seen a few of them, and you suggested to me that you notice

PAGE 20

17 a great many changes. What strikes you especially? I know you didn't come down here to study it, but are there things that especially you view about the Indians? S: Well, the Indians have become a little more aware of their poten tial in commerce . The Miccosukee camps towards Miami are very certainly active. They're really out to make a dollar. It's quite commercialized. However, they do retain their reserve. All the commercialism is a facade, it's all in the front. And if you get back out of the shop into the camp, you' 11 find it's pretty much the way it was forty years ago, The difference is that the young girls who have been schooled speak English and are a little more outgoing. You '11 get a smile from them or a comment.. . I'm talking about the Trail Indians, and not the reservation In dians. I don't know too much about the reservation Indians. The camps to the east, with the exception of Corey's, are still pretty much as they were in 1937, except for the fact that they have electric lights and cars and other conveniences. But even in 1937 some of those Indians had trucks and cars. M: In these families, do you observe any more miscegenation, inter breeding, or are they still pretty pure Indians? Do you detect any white strains or black strains? S: There are white strains in the Osceola family. Black of course is pretty hard to say, but possible, because when I first came down there were still a few slaves amongst the Seminoles. M: Oh, is that so? S: I recall Seminole slaves. Some of those old, old people had been slaves, and of course eventually became part of the band. So there's no doubt in my mind there's some African blood amongst them. It doesn't show too frequently. M: Do they show in your presence some race prejudice? I mean par ticularly against blacks, have you ever detected it? S: They're aloof. I've never seen a black person in an Indian camp. I Ive seen white men in Indian . camps, and often they I re rascals. They ply the Indian with whiskey or beer, and they get the women drunk. I saw this on two occasions on this last visit. M: Do you feel that the old lege~d or whatever you want to call it, about Indians being especially susceptible to liquor is true or not? I mean physiologically, do you think they react more?

PAGE 21

18 S: People have asked me that question many times. I don't know whether it's the fact that Indians don't drink frequently that causes them to get nasty, or whether it's inbred antagonisms that come out. I rather think it's the latter. I've never been in the company of drunken Seminoles. They've always been friendly to me, and sober. L only had trouble once, and that was with a drunken Seminole. He was in New York for the World's Fair. I soon embarrassed him because I told him if he didn't behave him self I'd tell his uncle about his behavior. He was very upset when he found out I knew his uncle. I have found amongst the Mohawks for instance (I lived with the Mohawks for over a year), they drink. They are heavy drinkers, and when they are drinking they'll start talking about the whites; they've perfectly good reasons to. I remember one case after World War II. I was sitting in the house of a Mohawk Indian friend of mine. There were a number of Indians in another room. They were cussing the whites, and I said, "Hey!" One Indian came into the room and said to me, "Pres ent company excepted. You're no Goddamn white man--you're an Indian." So there is antagonism. There were no obvious reasons at that moment for that antagonism to surface other than they'd been drinking. M: I have one more question to ask you, then I think we've talked long enough that probably both of us are getting a little tired. How do Seminoles show distinctions of wealth? Do yoll observe that some are richer than others? Have some got more property than others, and if so, what's the property? I've never seen a Seminole driving a big Cadillac for instance ... maybe some have them. And they certainly don't live in pretentious houses. They don't own intangible assets do they, stocks andbonds? Do you know? S: The only thing I can tell you is this: many years ago when I was observing more specifically, I made a comment about thee normous number of necklaces that the women wore around their necks, and I was told that the morebeads a woman wore, the higher standing she had in thetribe. M: You don't see that any longer though do you, that great mass of beads? S: Occasionally. M: Still? S: Yes, I think that they wear their wealth. It's like the Navajos, the more silver they have on, the wealthier they are.

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19 M: Now your friend Corey Osceola has bought land. He's got real estate, which the reservation people don't have unless they go outside and buy it. S: Right. They don't. M: Does he drive a big car? S: No, but they have several cars in the family. M: They have several? S: Yes, Bobby Clay has a new truck. They have televisions, refrig erators, and a pool table in camp. Those aggressive, sensible living Indians have more than the drinkers and the carousers. You can usually go into a camp and tell off-hand whether the men are industrious or drinkers. The camps around the hunting areas are the ones that are hit hardest by that. It seems to me that the white hunters get a thrill causing Indians , to get drunk. Once an Indian starts to drink, it's pretty hard for him to stop. M: The interview formally ended with what has come before, but there is an item I would like to add, which Mr. Stiles told me as we walked from Peabody Hall to the Florida Museum. He said that he had visited a camp during this present trip to Florida, that is in November 1973, and that he had without any previous heralding entered it. Two white men were there, and three or four Indian women. Also one Indian man whom he represented as pretty far gone in liquor. The white men and the Indian women were drinking, and his interpretation of the scene was that the white men were plying the Indian women with liquor, with the intention to couple with them sexually when . they were sufficiently softened up. He said one of the women was badly swollen and bruised in the face, and his belief was that she had been struck by one of the white men. This conversation had been triggered by my commenting that from our tapes we sometimes got reference to the rape of Indian women by white troops during the Seminole wars, but that this sort of abuse does not appear at all in the written record, printed or manuscript. He said that he was disposed to believe their old tradition. He thought that at present, hunters . frequently plied the Indians with liquor, and sometimes when the male members of the camp were acting as guides, hunters used the opportunity to get the women drunk and cohabit with them.