Citation
Interview with Elizabeth Billie, April 29, 1973

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Elizabeth Billie, April 29, 1973
Creator:
Billie, Elizabeth ( 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 106 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Elizabeth Billie
(Interpreted by Mary
Francis Johns)
INTERVIEWER: Tom King
DATE: April 29, 1973
DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION


SUMMARY
This interview with Elizabeth Billie was interpreted
by Mary Francis Johns. The Seminole Wars is the primary
topic; the origin of the war, migration and deportation of
the Indians, Indian leaders, treaties and Indian life
during periods of peace are details given. The origins
of the separate Miccosukee and Muskogee tribes is explained.
Finally, an account is given of the influences upon the
Seminoles by the early Christian missionaries.


INDEX
Bedell, Deaconess, 15
cosmology (creation of universe and man), 1
Jumper, Charlie (Seminole leader), 11
King, Willie (missionary), 14
Osceola (chief), 11
religion (missionaries), 14-16
Seminole Wars, 3-4, 6-8
leaders (miccos), 5-6
living patterns during peace, 12-14
treaties, 8-10
tribal origins (Miccosukee, Muskogee and Creek), 2-3


K: The old Seminole version of the Creation of the universe;
the creation of man and of the world, the sun and the moon
and everything?
J: She says she hadn't been thinking all about it for a while
so she forgets some parts of it, and I do too. But we'll tell
you what we do know about it. How did it start, Mama? How did
they make the world and how did the people get on the world?
About the Garden of Eden and all that. No, this is something
like...God planted seeds or something. Or is that just a fairy
tale. Correct me if I skip something, Mama. She said that the
first time they met Jesus was when they were taking shelter
from the storm here. They had a real bad thunderstorm and they
were sitting around and they didn't have anything to eat. They
were sitting around not knowing what to do and this tall, big,
handsome guy came in and he said there will be bread tomorrow.
So, they went to sleep that night, and when they woke up the
next day, there was lots of bread just all over the ground and
they picked a whole bunch up and ate it that day. After that
day they had bread, they went to sleep that night and the next
morning the bread had turned into mushrooms and they couldn't
eat them. So, that's about as far as she remembered about it.
K: Could either of you remember back farther than that to the
creation of the Seminole people?
J: She said it's the same as in the Bible.
K: God created one man and the woman was taken from him?
J: Yes, it's the same.
K: Well, after man had been created, how did he progress from
one stage to the next? I mean, the Bible tells us that man
was created and lived in the Garden of Eden and then was
thrown out, and that things happened to him after that. There's
a whole long history. Is there a history of the Seminole peo-
ple as well, that begins at the beginning of time?
J: She said there really is no difference between what the
Bible says and what the Indians used to tell. There just
really isn't too much difference at all, just that then the
people were multiplying, you know, and the flood, the story of
the flood and Babylon, where that languages were changed.
K: Have the Seminoles always lived in Florida?


2
J: No.
K: Where did they live before?
J: (But did they always live in the North Carolina Hills?)
B: Somewhere, you know, I don't know what place now.
K: How long ago was that? What I'm getting at is how long ago
did they come to Florida?
J: Well, she said that during the settlement of the white people
they were living over in the North Carolina hills, somewhere
along there in the hill country. It might not be in North
Carolina really, but it was in that area that they were living
when the white people came along and started pushing them
towards this way.
K: There are some people who say that the Seminoles were once
Creek Indians. How do you feel about that?
J: The Creeks are just recent members of the Indian Tribe of Florida.
They weren't always here.
B: They were here, somewhere along in Okeechobee, they find two
persons.
J: So, the only thing that she remembers about the origin of the
,Creek Indians is that they found two people around Okeechobee
Lake somewhere. Since there weren't so many people left to the
Seminole Tribe, well, they decided they would take, you know,
i the Miccosukee. Well, they decided they would take these people
/ in and adopt them as part of their own. They didn't speak the
same language. They had a little difficulty, but eventually
they did learn each others languages. So, that's how that came
to be two parts to the Miccosukee.
K: Well, these two people that were taken in, did they originally
become the people on this reservation..whoare called either
Cow Creeks or Muskogees?
J: As far as she knows, they are.
K: And that then would account for the similarity between languages,
between the Muskogee language and the Creek language.
J: Yes, and the clanships.


3
K: Are the clanships the same as Creek or the same as Miccosukee?
J: They're the same as Miccosukee.
K: Yes, but the language is the same as the Creek? Good.
J: Yes, but the Miccosukee...
K: The Miccosukee are in no way related to the Creeks, is that
what you told me?
J: No, they were just adopted into the Miccosukee Tribe.
K: All right, can you tell me the origin of the word Seminoles,
since Miccosukees don't consider themselves as Seminoles, do
they?
J: The Miccosukees have named themselves Seminoles.
K: Oh, they are Seminoles then. That's confusing.
J: It's confusing because I know in this day and age when you
study Indian history, they say that the Creeks were the ones
that named themselves Seminoles. But as far as I know, as far
as I've heard, the Miccosukee is the one that have named
themselves Seminole, and that's how she knows it, too.
K: Well, today there are many Miccosukees who don't want to be
known as Seminoles.
J: No.
K: Why is that?
J: Cause of the political division that happened back in the 1950s,
I would say. What do you say? Well, they didn't want to be part
of us, you know, the Seminole Tribe, that is now today the
Seminole Tribe of Florida.
K: All right. I'd like to go back now to the question I asked about
where you lived before you came to Florida. You said that the
Miccosukees or the Seminoles were pushed down into Florida by the
white settlers. Is there any story concerning the beginning of
the Seminole Wars with the white people? Do you know how they
started?
J: (Why did they decide that the settlers were villians and so
forth?...that was the first one, huh?) She said that one man


4
at the Bear Clan and the other man at the Snake Clan were
one of the first ones to get interested in the white man's
ways. They joined the soldiers and they were learning how
to speak English, but the Indians didn't mind. You know,
everybody had a right to do what they pleased to do, so they
didn't care. They were just doing what they wanted to do. They
thought, you know, and there was really peace between the
tribe of Indians and the settlers, but these two guys sold
out the Indians to slavery.
K: They took Indians and they sold them into slavery to whites?
J: No, not twice.
K: I said to whites.
J: Oh, yeah, to the whites. I'm sorry. The Indian leaders found
'out that this had happened. The white people came after them,
\ you know, to take them back for their slaves. Well, they decided
that no one was to be made a slave, so they just gathered up all
their people and started pushing back this way.
K: Toward Florida?
J: Yes, and the white men chasing them came into Florida. That was
one of the first things that happened to start the Seminole
Wars.
K: What were the names of the Seminole leaders?
B: I don't know the Indians, white names.
K: You said Osceola and Wildcat didn't you? Who were the others?
Can you say them more distinctly?
B: Os-she-o-la.
J: Os-she-o-la, that was Osceola, wasn't it? Eventually named
Osceola? Was that Panther's Tail...Tiger's Tail? Yes, that's
Tiger Tail. Charlie Harjo. Was there a guy named, what was it,
government something? When we studied the Indian history now,
this really confused me on this part because they didn't tell
it right.
K: How did it really happen?


5
J: Like she says there were just a few of the Indian leaders:
the ones she named a while ago. They're called chiefs. Yeah,
they were kings or chiefs or whatever you want to call it,
but our term of micco was a term for king rather than chief.
That was the rank wasn't it? So, they had to get together and
hold council.
B: Once a year they do that in the Corn Dance. Willie Charlie
died there in prison.
K: Who is that?
J: Willie Jumper was one of the leaders that came down.
B: They caught him too.
J: Yeah, they caught him and he died in prison there.
K: How did he get captured?
J: She said they weren't awares, you know, they weren't watch-
ing out for the soldiers and they surrounded them; that's
how they caught them. Each clan had sort of a king that would
represent all of the people at council meetings, like when
ithey have Corn Dance. About once a year they would have coun-
cil meetings and discuss everything that goes on within their
own clans and decide what they were going to do. So, that's
how they decided that they were going to run rather than be-
come slaves.
K: These chiefs or miccos, how did they get their authority?
J: She said they had ways of training these young men to be-
. I come Medicine Men. They must serve so many years apprentice-
' ship to the medicine. After their years were over and they
saw that he was fit to take over the leadership of his peo-
ple, that's when they elected him. So, each clan must have
had a Medicine Man capable of training these youngsters.
v" K: Then each clan would have one micco and one Medicine Man?
J: Something like that, yes.
K: Could there be more than one in each clan?
J: Yes, there could be more than one. There were some Elders or
former miccos or chiefs could have done this. At each gathering
n


6
of the people and during the Corn Dance, they would have
ceremonies to put these people in office. There was four
years of a sort of fasting in living under the orders of
the Elders and then, after his four years were up, they
would have him be working with the medicine during the
Corn Dance time of the year. As he progresses, they would
find a rite for him, and, depending on how well he manages
himself and how well he learns, they put him up for lead-
er. He had nothing to do with his own future. Everything
was decided for him and how well he buckled under the
leadership of the elders was the way that he was judged
as a leader.
K: Once he became a leader, how much power did he actually
have? Could he go out and tell people what to do and ex-
pect them to do it?
J: Well, his decision was made on the basis of his people's
I wishes, but once the decision was made everyone stuck by
\it. She said that his training and that of the President
of the United States weren't too much different. You know,
you have to have several years of college, be an army of-
ficer or something like that, you know, and it was like that.
K: Well, now, you said that the first Seminole War with the
white people started because some Seminoles tried to sell
some of their fellow Seminoles to white men as slaves, and
that the white men came to get them. Did the Seminoles re-
sist with weapons then?
J: Yes, they did fight back but they moved away from them ra-
ther than have an outright fight.
K: Did the whites follow them down into Florida, the white army?
J: Yes.
K: What happened then? Can you tell me how the First Seminole
War with the white people went?
J: When they first came down from North Carolina, did they
settle in Pensacola then?
B: Yes.
J: Yes, they did follow them down here, and after they settle
someplace, you know, she thinks it was in Pensacola. I sup-
pose it was, wasn't it?


7
K: Yes, that's what the white textbooks say. They say that the
tribes of native Seminoles were settled from Pensacola all
the way across to the east coast, all along the northern
border of Florida.
J: After they settled down, you know, they settled in big camps
here and there, didn't they.
B: Yes.
J: Is your tape run out?
K: No, not yet. You've got a little bit longer.
J: After they settled down, they would set up their gardens and
start to raise animals again. They go about minding their own
business, but there's the white people who would come after
them again because they had been sold once and they wanted
their money's worth, I guess. They come after them again and
they would eventually start skirmishes here and there. They
would fight back or go ahead and move on to another place,
things like that.
K: During this First War did the Seminoles ever raise an army?
J: ;/The only way that they could fight back was by knives and by
isneaking up during nighttime when the sailors were asleep. They
, didn't have any weapons of any kind. So, they really didn't
i have an army; it was just an organized--how would you call it?
They were just...
K: I would like to know if everybody was under a single leader or
if there were individual bands or small bands of Seminoles, you
know, just how the organization was.
J: Well, she says that some people say that there was one command,
but she thinks that the true version of it would be that each
clan leader would have youngsters in his group that were able
to fight. When they get these youngsters together, they had
, enough, and each clan leader would, you know, sit together and
decide what they were going to do. They fought like that, and,
after that was over with, they just split up into separate ways.
K: The white books on the subject written by white historians
always indicate that there were three separate and distinct
Seminole Wars. What's the Seminole point of view on that?


8
J: She doesn't know that either.
K: Do you look upon it as one war or as a series of wars that
went on for a long period of time?
f* J: Long series of wars for a long period of time.
K: Well, O.K., if it's a series of wars, then that indicates
that there was or that there were periods of peace in be-
tween these wars. Can you tell me anything about that? How
these periods of peace came about, whether it was through
treaty or because the whites simply started leaving the
Seminoles alone or perhaps the Seminoles won victories on
the battlefield, anything like that. I'm interested in
knowing how the peace periods came about.
J: After the first time they pushed the Indians down into the
state of Florida, cavalry had come after them and they were
traveling on horseback. But when they got into swampy parts,
after they came down off the hills, the horses were pretty
well tired out. They started to walk them, but the muddy
places they had to go through were too much on the men. So
they set up camp, not too far away from where the Indians
were, you know, where they had set up camp too. Well, this
man, their general, whoever was leading them at the time...
K: You don't know the name?
J: She couldn't remember the name, but she did say that he was
well known to the Indians. He was raised in this same area
that they were from. Since he knew the Indians, he knew that
they ate some type of plant that grows around here. They call
it conticut. It's a bulb type of plant. I don't know what you
call it.
K: I've heard it called coontie.
J: Yes, I think that's what it is, too. He told them that the
Indians eat these things, so they took these plants untreated
(and roasted them and ate it. Eaten like that, the plant is
K poisonous and it poisoned about two-thirds of, you know, the
cavalry. So, he got discouraged and went back and that's one
of the first, how would you say it, quiet that they had.
K: Well, there were a considerable number of treaties that were


9
signed between the United States government and the Seminole
leaders. Do you know anything about that? Most of these
treaties involved promises on the part of the government in
return for which the Seminoles would promise to confine
themselves to a certain area, either that or promise to leave
the state of Florida entirely and go to Oklahoma, and there
were a series of agreements such as this. I'm wondering if
you know any of the details of any of them. Also, I'd like to
know who signed them.
J: She said she really didn't know who signed those peace treaties,
except there was one man and they named him by an Indian name.
She doesn't really remember who that was, but what she does
:"remember of it is one of the ones that happened later when
most of the Indians were taken to Oklahoma. They brought over
food and materials and other things that the Indians would be
interested in, and the Indians at that time were gathered over
on the beach side somewhere. Pensacola, I think. She doesn't
know what the location of it was, but they were gathered and
they had brought these things over on ships. A lot of the
Indians decided that maybe it was better that they did go along
with them only to be put on reservations. Those that were left
were the ones that were out making their own gardens or out on
a hunting party.
K: Who were the ones who went to Oklahoma? What were their charac-
teristics?
J: There was no difference in their characteristics. They were
just Indians.
K: You said the ones who were left here in Florida were the ones
who made their own gardens and hunted and lived pretty well?
J: Yes, see, they were out tending their own gardens at the time.
K: Oh, I misunderstood. I see. So, the only ones who were left
were the ones who didn't find out about it, the ones who
didn't know that this agreement was in effect. Is that it?
J: ( They knew it, but they just didn't want any part of it and they
moved away. So, that was the only ones that were left in the
/ state of Florida. All they did was give them the food and the
stuff that they were going to need, and they decided that they
would go.


10
K: All right. Well, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has an attorney,
a fellow by the name of Roy Struble, who is representing the
Tribe in its suit against the Indian Claims Commission. Struble
and several other Seminoles with whom I have spoken have indicated
that the major legal reason that the Seminoles claim many of these
treaties were not legitimate is that the treaties were signed by
. Seminole men who, in reality, were not leaders in the Seminole
Tribe. Have you heard anything about that? Do you know the
stories concerning that?
J: No, the leaders wouldn't sign it. There was somebody else that
did sign it. It wasn't done by the leaders.
K: Who was it done by?
J: There was just too many names to remember.
K: Why would these people agree to sign these treaties?
J: I don't know, and she doesn't know either. She says she didn't
even know that they had signed the peace treaties. Another
thing about it was that some people wouldn't sign it and they
wanted to take pictures, but some people wouldn't let their
pictures be taken. The only one that knows that much about it
is her great uncle.
K: Is he still alive?
J: Yes.
K: Well, perhaps we can talk to him some day.
J: Ask her.
K: Would it be all right if we talk to your great uncle about that
some day?
B: Yes.
J: Josie Billie wouldn't talk to him. She thinks that grandpa
would tell you. She thinks that he'll tell you all about it.
Anyway, that's about as much as she knows about.the Seminole
Wars.
K: After the wars, what did the people who were left in Florida
do? How many were there to begin with, left in Florida?


11
J: They said it seems to them like it was less than a hundred
that was left after the last shipment.
K: Well, were these people all Miccosukees or were there Muskogees
among them? What was the racial characteristics of these people?
J: She said that they were all Miccosukees at the time, but they
hadn't found the two that spoke Creek yet. Then, it was after
the war and there weren't too many people left that they found
these two guys and adopted them.
K: Who was their leader after the war?
J: There were Wildcat and Osceola and Charlie Jumper left.
K: After the war?
J: Yes. They tried to take that Jumper's picture, but he wouldn't
photograph. Afterwards, Osceola was captured under the flag of
truce, wasn't he? And he died, but that was after the wars.
K: After the war.
J: It was after the wars.
K: Do you know who captured him? You don't know how it was done?
J: She doesn't know, but they said that they did something to his
picture after it was taken, that it would make him go sort of
out of his mind. That was how they finally managed to capture
him.
K: He died in captivity?
J: The people were separated, you know. Some of them came into the
swamp, and some of them still stayed back there along there,
Tampa, around that area somewhere. Well, wherever the soldiers
didn't find them, that's where they were. Well, after they
captured Osceola, they tried to use him as bait, you know, to
capture these other Indians. They were dragging him around all
over the place and, you know, they were even up Carolina ways.
Do you know about that? When they brought him back, he was pretty
sick, so, what did they do? They let him...Oh, yes, he did die
in captivity.
K: A natural death though, he wasn't killed by the whites?


12
J: No.
B: It's yellow fever.
J: No, I'm not talking about that man's history, I'm talking about
our history. He died of a certain, you know, of a certain type
of illness.
K: I've heard stories that say that his head was cut off. Have
you heard anything about that?...Well, after the Seminoles
had been removed to Oklahoma and there were only a hundred left
in Florida, did the army continue to pursue them or did it leave
them alone?
i' J: As far as she's heard, they did leave them alone after these
little bit was left.
K: Did the Seminoles who were left in Florida live in camps after
that or did they continue to stay on the move?
J: Yes, they did move from place to place. It may not have been,
you know, so much like it was before but they did move from
place to place so that their position would be confusing. If
there was somebody looking for them they wouldn't be able to
find them in one place.
K: And what did they do for a living?
J: Just hunting and farming, that's the only way they made their
living.
K: How large were the gardens or the farms?
J: About the largest one I've ever seen was about as big as this
camp.
K: Which would be about an acre maybe, or do you consider from here
to the road a camp or just this here?
J: Just the clearing.
K: Probably, this would be only an acre then, wouldn't it?
J: It's more than that 'cause the house sits on two and a half
acres.


13
K: No. Well.
J: From over there to over here, two and a half acres, I'd say.
K: Oh, I see, you're counting all that. I was just, yes.
J: This would be something like five or six acres in here.
K: O.K. That's a pretty big garden. Would that be grown by only
one man?
J: Well, they left it done this way. The girl's mother would stay
with them. You know, like I told you before, any man that
married into the family was considered part of the girl's
family rather than the other way around. Well, that's how it
was and if a woman had one or more daughters and they were both
married or all married, well, they and their children would be
in one camp and they would make one farm; so, there was one or
more men working.
K: It was always by farming?
J: Yes.
K: Were there any clan gardens or gardens any larger than that?
J: No, it was by family.
K: By family alone?
J: Yes.
K: Were there ever any incidents of civilian whites, whites who
were not in the army trying to give the Seminoles a hard time
after that? Any fights between Seminoles and just ordinary
white men?
J: Yeah, there were civilians. They stayed away from each other
most of the time and eventually they both, you know. The whites
civilians and the Indians got to where they learned to trade
with each other and, you know, start making friends with each
other, I guess you'd say.
K: What did the whites want to trade?


14
J: Well, mostly they wanted pelts and deer skins, otter. For this
J they traded for traps and some staples and some of the things,
flour, and things like that; knives and beads, sewing machines
and what else? There was another thing you named...yes, materials.
K: Is this when that type of dress started being made?
J: The materials were kind of heavy woven material and they didn't
come in very attractive colors and the designs didn't come in
then cause there was just too much stitching by hand. So, as the
sewing machine became more popular, they made it a bit more
fancy.
K: What did the Seminole women wear before they started wearing
clothes made out of white man's fabrics?
J: Have you seen any pictures at all where some of these ladies
wear skirts that are long from here and then there's a little
ruffle down at the bottom? Well, those are the kind that they
wore, with the little short capes. Before they had the materials,
before they started trading, they wore--what is that--deer skin.
What do you call that? I forget the name of it. You know, deer
skin after it's been treated.
K: Chamois?
J: Yes, something like that...
K: Really soft?
J: Yes, that's it. That's what they wore. But the women didn't wear
it all the time, did they? During their menstrual period or
something like that, they would wear something else.
K: When did white missionaries first start trying to convert Seminoles
to the Christian faith?
J: I forget the name of the first person who came out to do this.
They were coming back from Oklahoma after they had been, you know,
turned Christians up there. They came down here to try to convert
these Indians. The second one was Willie King.
K: He was a Creek, wasn't he?


15
J: Yes, I think so. Well, anyway, one of the ones had gone up there
to Oklahoma. They say they are the children of the ones that left
here and had been converted into a Christian and had come back to
preach the Gospel to the Indians down here. Deaconess Beddell was
the other one. She was a white lady. I remember her.
K: She was down on the Trail wasn't she?
J: She was in Everglades City. She had a trading post there. She
traded Indian arts and crafts, and she arranged credit for the
Indians to go ahead and buy their groceries against whatever
they brought in and she would pay them.
,j, K: Was there any opposition on the part of the Seminoles to missionaries
coming in and trying to convert them to Christianity?
J: When the first two, you know, the couple that came down, the one
they were talking about, came down into Hollywood area where the
reservation is. It used to be called Dania Reservation and they
called it Big City then. When they first came down here, they
r didn't like it and they said they were crazy and they just gone out
of their gourds and there was talk of, you know, lynching and
killing. But, eventually, some of the Indians that stayed down in
\ f there, down, in the Hollywood area, became Christians there and
they started to believe in what they were preaching, so they
became Christians. It just started from there, you know, and it
-, just worked its way out to anyone became Christian.
K: Well, I have heard that Josie Billie is primarily responsible
for the many people on Big Cypress becoming Christians. The story
that I was told was that he was converted to Christianity, and
when he converted he brought twenty-two of his relatives with
him. So that all at once a lot of people were Christians. Since
he was a Medicine Man, he had influence on the reservation. A
lot of people would do what he was doing. Do you know about that
and if you do know about that, can you tell me any details to it?
J: No, you know, people were going to believe what was being taught
anyway, and they were going to go ahead and become Christians,
and he was one of the later ones that came along.
K: When was he converted?


16
J: Well, it was after a lot of people had already been converted.
They didn't say exactly when. They just said that he likes to
give himself credit for having been one of the first, but he
wasn't. He didn't have anything to do with any of the conversions
that took place. It's just that he would like to think so. That's
how that came about.
K: How are things divided up now on this reservation? About what
percentage of the people are Christians and what percentage
of the people are not?
J: .'Around here, I only know a couple of families that aren't
Christians yet, two or three families. There's only about two
or three families left down there too that aren't Christians,
haven't been converted yet. Down on the Tamiami Trail or
Hollywood or somewhere like that there's quite a few people
that haven't been converted. In fact there's a whole lot more
out in Tamiami Trail. These two reservations, Brighton and the
other one, most of them are Christian families.
K: All right, I'd like to find out what you know about the 1957
problem, the fight between the Miccosukees. The argument
between the Miccosukees and the Muskogees concerning the
formation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
J: Not between the Miccosukees and the Muskogees but between two
factions of the Miccosukees.
K: Between one section-of the Miccosukees. That's right.
I


Full Text

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------~-----------------------------------------. INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: Elizabeth Billie (Interpreted by Mary Francis Johns) INTERVIEWER: Tom King DATE: April 29, 1973 DORIS DUKE FOUNDATION

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SUMMARY This interview with Elizabeth Billie was interpreted by Mary Francis Johns. The Seminole Wars is the primary topic; the origin of the war, migration and deportation of the Indians, Indian leaders, treaties and Indian life during periods of peace are details given. The origins of the separate Miccosukee and Muskogee tribes is explained. Finally, an account is given of the influences upon the Seminoles by the early Christian missionaries.

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INDEX Bedell, Deaconess, 15 cosmology (creation of universe and man), 1 Jumper, Charlie (Seminole leader), 11 King, Willie (missionary), 14 Osceola (chief), 11 religion (missionaries), 14-16 Seminole Wars, 3-4, 6-8 leaders (miccos), 5-6 living patterns during peace, 12-14 treaties, 8-10 tribal origins (Miccosukee, Muskogee and Creek), 2-3

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K: The old Seminole version of the Creation of the universe; the creation of man and of the world, the sun and the moon and everything? J: She says she hadn't been thinking all about it for a while so she forgets some parts of it, and I do too. But we'll tell you what we do know about it. How did it start, Mama? How did they make the world and how did the people get on the world? About the Garden of Eden and all that. No, this is something like God planted seeds or something. Or is that just a fairy tale. Correct me if I skip something, Mama. She said that the first time they met Jesus was when they were taking shelter from the storm here. They had a real bad thunderstorm and they were sitting around and they didn't have anything to eat. They were sitting around not knowing what to do and this tall, big, handsome guy came in and he said there will be bread tomorrow. So, they went to sleep that night, and when they woke up the next day, there was lots of bread just all over the ground and they picked a whole bunch up and ate it that day. After that day they had bread, they went to sleep that night and the next morning the bread had turned into mushrooms and they couldn't eat them. So, that's about as far as she remembered about it. K: Could either of you remember back farther than that to the creation of the Seminole people? J: She said it's the same as in the Bible. K: God created one man and the woman was taken from him? J: Yes, it's the same. K: Well, after man had been created, how did he progress from one stage to the next? I mean, the Bible tells us that man was created and lived in the Garden of Eden and then was thrown out, and that things happened to him after that. There's a whole long history. Is there a history of the Seminole peo ple as well, that begins at the beginning of time? J: She said there really is no difference between what the Bible says and what the Indians used to tell. There just really isn't too much difference at all, just that then the people were multiplying, you know, and the flood, the story of the flood and Babylon, where that languages were changed. K: Have the Seminoles always lived in Florida?

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2 J: No. K: Where did they live before? J: (But did they always live in the North Carolina Hills?) B: Somewhere, you know, I don't know what place now. K: How long ago was that? What I'm getting at is how long ago did they come to Florida? J: Well, she said that during the settlement of the white people they were living over in the North Carolina hills, somewhere along there in the hill country. It might not be in North Carolina really, but it was in that area that they were living when the white people came along and started pushing them towards this way. K: There are some people who say that the Seminoles were once Creek Indians. How do you feel about that? J: The Creeks are just recent members of the Indian Tribe of Florida. They weren't always here. B: They were here, somewhere along in Okeechobee, they find two persons. J: So, the only thing that she remembers about the origin of the reek Indians is that they found two people around Okeechobee Lake somewhere. Since there weren't so many people left to the Seminole Tribe, well, they decided they would take, you know, the Miccosukee. Well, they decided they would take these people in and adopt them as part of their own. They didn't speak the same language. They had a little difficulty, but eventually they did learn each others languages. So, that's how that came to be .. tw:o parts to the Niccosukee. K: Well, these two people that were taken in, did they originally become the people on this reservation who .. are called either Cow Creeks or Muskogees? J: As far as she knows, they are. K: And that then would account for the similarity between languages, between the Muskogee language and the Creek language. J: Yes, and the clanships.

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3 K: Are the clanships the same as Creek or the same as Miccosukee? J: They're the same as Miccosukee. K: Yes, but the language is the same as the Creek? Good. J: Yes, but the Miccosukee K: The Miccosukee are in no way related to the Creeks, is that what you told me? J: No, they were just adopted into the Miccosukee Tribe. K: All right, can you tell me the origin of the word Seminoles, since Miccosukees don't consider themselves as Seminoles, do they? J: The Miccosukees have named themselves Seminoles. K: Oh, they are Seminoles then. That's confusing. J: It's confusing because I know in this day and age when you study Indian history, they say that the Creeks were the ones that named themselves Seminoles. But as far as I know, as far as I've heard, the Miccosukee is the one that have named themselves Seminole, and that's how she knows it, too. K: Well, today there are many Miccosukees who don't want to be known as Seminoles. J: No. K: Why is that? J: Cause of the political division that happened back in the 1950s, I would say. What do you say? Well, they didn't want to be part of us, you know, the Seminole Tribe, that is now today the Seminole Tribe of Florida. K: All right. I'd like to go back now to the question I asked about where you lived before you came to Florida. You said that the Miccosukees or the Seminoles were pushed down into Florida by the white settlers. Is there any story concerning the beginning of the Seminole Wars with the white people? Do you know how they started? J: (Why did they decide that the settlers were villians and so forth? that was the first one, huh?) She said that one man

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------------------------------------------------~ 4 at the Bear Clan and the other man at the Snake Clan were one of the first ones to get interested in the white man's ways. They joined the soldiers and they were learning how to speak English, but the Indians didn't mind. You know, everybody had a right to do what they pleased to do, so they didn't care. They were just doing what they wanted to do. They thought, you know, and there was really peace between the tribe of Indians and the settlers, but these two guys sold out the Indians to slavery. K: They took Indians and they sold them into slavery to whites? J: No, not twice. K: I said to whites. J: Oh, yeah, to the whites. I'm sorry. The Indian leaders found /•out that this had happened. The white people came after them, you know, to take them back for their slaves. Well, they decided that no one was to be made a slave, so they just gathered up all their people and started pushing back this way. K: Toward Florida? J: Yes, and the white men chasing them came into Florida. That was one of the first things that happened to start the Seminole Wars. K: What were the names of the Seminole leaders? B: I don't know the Indians, white names. K: You said Osceola and Wildcat didn't you? Who were the others? Can you say them more distinctly? B: Os-she-o-la. J: Os-she-o-la, that was Osceola, wasn't it? Eventually named Osceola? Was that Panther's Tail Tiger's Tail? Yes, that's Tiger Tail. Charlie Harjo •. Was there a guy named, what was it, government something? When we studied the Indian history now, this really confused me on this part because they didn't tell it right. K: How did it really happen?

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I J: B: K: J: B: J: K: J: K: 5 Like she says there were just a few of the Indian leaders: the ones she named a while ago. They're called chiefs. Yeah, they were kings or chiefs or whatever you want to call it, but our term of micco was a term for king rather than chief. That was the rank-wasn It it? So' they had to get together and hold council. Once a year they do that in the Corn Dance. Willie Charlie died there in prison. Who is that? Willie Jumper was one of the leaders that came down. They caught him too. Yeah, they caught him and he died in prison there. How did he get captured? She said they weren't awares, you know, they weren't watch ing out for the soldiers and they surrounded them; that's how they caught them. Each clan had sort of a king that would represent all of the people at council meetings, like when l they have Corn Dance. About once a year they would have coun cil meetings and discuss everything that goes on within their own clans and decide what they were going to do. So, that's how they decided that they were going to run rather than be come slaves. These chiefs or miccos, how did they get their authority? J: She said they had ways of training these young men to bev ( come Medicine Men. They must serve so many years apprenticeK: J: K: J: ship to the medicine. After their years were over and they saw that he was fit to take over the leadership of his peo ple, that's when they elected him. So, each clan must have had a Medicine Man capable of training these youngsters. Then each clan would have one micco and one Medicine Man? Something like that, yes. Could there be more than one in each clan? Yes, there could be more than one. There were some Elders or former miccos or chiefs could have done this. At each gathering n

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6 of the people and during the Corn Dance, they would have ceremonies to put these people in office. There was four years of a sort of fasting in living under the orders of the Elders and then, after his four years were up, they would have him be working with the medicine during the Corn Dance time of the year. As he progresses, they would find a rite for him, and, depending on how well he manages himself and how well he learns, they put him up for lead er. He had nothing to do with his own future. Everything was decided for him and how well he buckled under the leadership of the elders was the way that he was judged as a leader. K: Once he became a leader, how much power did he actually have? Cduld he go out and tell people what to do and ex pect them to do it? J: ,Well, his decision was made on the basis of his people's .,,,,,.,: wishes, but once the decision was made everyone stuck by \ it. She said that his training and that of the President of the United States weren't too much different. You know, you have to have several years of college, be an army of ficer or something like that, you know, and it was like that. K: Well, now, you said that the first Seminole War with the white people started because some Seminoles tried to sell some of their fellow Seminoles to white men as slaves, and that the white men came to get them. Did the Seminoles re sist with weapons then? J: Yes, they did fight back but they moved away from them rather than have an outright fight. K: Did the whites follow them down into Florida, the white army? J: Yes. K: What happened then? Can you tell me how the First Seminole War with the white people went? J: When they first came down from North Carolina, did they settle in Pensacola then? B: Yes. J: Yes, they did follow them down here, and after they settle someplace, you know, she thinks it was in Pensacola. I sup pose it was, wasn't it?

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7 K: Yes, that's what the white textbooks say. They say that the tribes of native Seminoles were settled from Pensacola all the way across to the east coast, all along the northern border of Florida. J: After they settled down, you know, they settled in big camps here and there, didn't they. B: Yes. J: Is your tape run out? K: No, not yet. You've got a little bit longer. J: After they settled down, they would set up their gardens and start to raise animals again. They go about minding their own business, but there's the white people who would come after them again because they had been sold once and they wanted their money's worth, I guess. They come after them again and they would eventually start skirmishes here and there. They would fight back or go ahead and move on to another place, things like that. K: During this First War did the Seminoles ever raise an army? J: v0The only way that they could fight back was by knives and by (sneaking up during nighttime when the sailors were asleep. They ) didn't have any weapons of any kind. So, they really didn't / have an army; it was just an organized--how would you call it? 'They were just. K: I would like to know if everybody was under a single leader or if there were individual bands or small bands of Seminoles, you know, just how the organization was. J: Well, she says that some people say that there was one command, but she thinks that the true version of it would be that each clan leader would have youngsters in his group that were able ., to fight. When they get these youngsters together, they had enough, and each clan leader would, you know, sit together and decide what they were going to do. They fought like that, and, after that was over with, they just split up into separate ways. K: The white books on the subject written by white historians always indicate that there were three separate and distinct Seminole Wars. What's the Seminole point of view on that?

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J: K: J: K: J: K: J: K: J: K: 8 She doesn't know that either. Do you look upon it as one war or as a series of wars that went on for a long period of time? Long series of wars for a long period of time. Well, O.K., if it's a series of wars, then that indicates that there was or that there were periods of peace in be tween these wars. Can you tell me anything about that? How these periods of peace came about, whether it was through treaty or because the whites simply started leaving the Seminoles alone or perhaps the Seminoles won victories on the battlefield, anything like that. I'm interested in knowing how the peace periods came about. After the first time they pushed the Indians down into the state of Florida, cavalry had come after them and they were traveling on horseback. But when they got into swampy parts, after they came down off the hills, the horses were pretty well tired out. They started to walk them, but the muddy places they had to go through were too much on the men. So they set up camp, not too far away from where the Indians were, you know, where they had set up camp too. Well, this man, their general, whoever was leading them at the time You don't know the name? She couldn't remember the name, but she did say that he was well known to the Indians. He was raised in this same area that they were from. Since he knew the Indians, he knew that they ate some type of plant that grows around here. They call it conticut. It's a bulb type of plant. I don't know what you call it. I've heard it called coontie. Yes, I think that's what it is, too. He told them that the Indians eat these things, so they took these plants untreated (~nd roasted them and ate it. Eaten like that, the plant is (poisonous and it poisoned about two-thirds of, you know, the / cavalry. So, he got discouraged and went back and that's one 'of the first, how would you say it, quiet that they had. Well, there were a considerable number of treaties that were

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9 signed between the United States government and the Seminole leaders. Do you know anything about that? Most of these treaties involved promises on the part of the government in return for which the Seminoles would promise to confine themselves to a certain area, either that or promise to leave the state of Florida entirely and go to Oklahoma, and there were a series of agreements such as this. I'm wondering if you know any of the details of any of them. Also, I'd like to know who signed them. J: She said she really didn't know who signed those peace treaties, except there was one man and they named him by an Indian name. She doesn't really remember who that was, but what she does ,/remember of it is one of the ones that happened later when ,,,,,-< most of the Indians were taken to Oklahoma. They brought over "food and materials and other things that the Indians would be interested in, and the Indians at that time were gathered over on the beach side somewhere. Pensacola, I think. She doesn't know what the location of it was, but they were gathered and they had brought these things over on ships. A lot of the Indians decided that maybe it was better that they did go along with them only to be put on reservations. Those that were left were the ones that were out making their own gardens or out on a hunting party. K: Who were the ones who went to Oklahoma? What were their charac teristics? J: K: J: K: J: There was no difference in their characteristics. They were just Indians. You said the ones who were left here in Florida were the ones who made their own gardens and hunted and lived pretty well? Yes, see, they were out tending their own gardens at the time, Oh, I misunderstood. I see. So, the only ones who were left were the ones who didn't find out about it, the ones who didn't know that this agreement was in effect. Is that it? f They knew it, but they just didn't want any part of it and they moved away. So. that was the only ones that were left in the state of Florida. All they did was give them the food and the stuff that they were going to need, and they decided that they would go.

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10 K: All right. Well, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has an attorney, a fellow by the name of Roy Struble, who is representing the Tribe in its suit against the Indian Claims Commission. Struble and several other Seminoles with whom I have spoken have indicated that the major legal reason that the Seminoles claim many of these ( treaties were not legitimate is that the treaties were signed by Seminole men who, in reality, were not leaders in the Seminole Tribe. Have you heard anything about that? Do you know the stories concerning that? J: No, the leaders wouldn't sign it. There was somebody else that did sign it. It wasn't done by the leaders. K: Who was it done by? J: There was just too many names to remember. K: Why would these people agree to sign these treaties? J: I don't know, and she doesn't know either. She says she didn't even know that they had signed the peace treaties. Another thing about it was that some people wouldn't sign it and they wanted to take pictures, but some people wouldn't let their pictures be taken. The only one that knows that much about it is her great uncle. K: Is he still alive? J: Yes. K: Well, perhaps we can talk to him some day. J: Ask her. K: Would it be all right if we talk to your great uncle about that some day? B: Yes. J: Josie Billie wouldn't talk to him. She thinks that grandpa would tell you. She thinks that he'll tell you all about it. Anyway, that's about as much as she knows about.the Seminole Wars. K: After the wars, what did the people who were left in Florida do? How many were there to begin with, left in Florida?

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11 J: They said it seems to them like it was less than a hundred that was left after the last shipment. K: Well, were these people all Miccosukees or were there Muskogees among them? What was the racial characteristics of these people? J: She said that they were all Miccosukees at the time, but they hadn't found the two that spoke Creek yet. Then, it was after the war and there weren't too many people left that they found these two guys and adopted them. K: Who was their leader after the war? J: There were Wildcat and Osceola and Charlie Jumper left. K: After the war? J: Yes. They tried to take that Jumper's picture, but he wouldn't photograph. Afterwards, Osceola was captured under the flag of truce, wasn't he? And he died, but that was after the wars. K: After the war. J: It was after the wars. K: Do you know who captured him? You don't know how it was done? J: She doesn't know, but they said that they did something to his picture after it was taken, that it would make him go sort of out of his mind. That was how they finally managed to capture him. K: He died in captivity? J: The people were separated, you know. Some of them came into the swamp, and some of them still stayed back there along there, Tampa, around that area somewhere. Well, wherever the soldiers didn't find them, that's where they were. Well, after they captured Osceola, they tried to use him as bait, you know, to capture these other Indians. They were dragging him around all over the place and, you know, they were even up Carolina ways. Do you know about that? When they brought him back, he was pretty sick, so, what did they do? They let him Oh, yes, he did die in captivity. K: A natural death though, he wasn't killed by the whites?

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J: B: J: K: v/ J: K: J: K: J: K: J: 12 No. It's yellow fever. No, I'm not talking about that man's history, I'm talking about our history. He died of a certain, you know, of a certain type of illness. I've heard stories that say that his head was cut off. Have you heard anything about that? Well, after the Seminoles had been removed to Oklahoma and there were only a hundred left in Florida, did the army continue to pursue them or did it leave them alone? As far as she's heard, they did leave them alone after these little bit was left. Did the Seminoles who were left in Florida live in camps after that or did they continue to stay on the move? Yes, they did move from. place to place. It may not have been, you know, so much like it was before but they did move fDom place to place so that their position would be confusing. If there was somebody looking for them they wouldn't be able to find them in one place. And what did they do for a living? Just hunting and farming, that's the only way they made their living. How large were the gardens or the farms? About the largest one I've ever seen was about as big as this camp. K: Which would be about an acre maybe, or do you consider from here to the road a camp or just this here? J: Just the clearing. K: Probably, this would be only an acre then, wouldn't it? J: It's more than that 'cause the house sits on two and a half acres.

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13 K: No. Well. J: From over there to over here, two and a half acres, I'd say. K: Oh, I see, you're counting all that. I was just, yes. J: This would be something like five or six acres in here. K: O.K. That's a pretty big garden. Would that be grown by only one man? J: Well, they left it done this way. The girl's mother would stay with them. You know, like I told you before, any man that married into the family was considered part of the girl's family rather than the other way around. Well, that's how it was and if a woman had one or more daughters and they were both married or all married, well, they and their children would be in one camp and they would make one farm; so, there was one or more men working. K: It was always by farming? J: Yes. K: Were there any clan gardens or gardens any larger than that? J: No, it was by family. K: By family alone? J: Yes. K: Were there ever any incidents of civilian whites, whites who were not in the army trying to give the Seminoles a hard time after that? Any fights between Seminoles and just ordinary white men? J: Yeah, there were civilians. They stayed away from each other most of the time and eventually they both, you know. The whites civilians and the Indians got to where they learned to trade with each other and, you know, start making friends with each other, I guess you'd say. K: What did the whites want to trade?

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14 J: /Well, mostly they wanted pelts and deer skins, otter. For this they traded for traps and some staples and some of the things, flour, and things like that; knives and beads, sewing machines and what else? There was another thing you named yes, materials. K: Is this when that type of dress started being made? J: The materials were kind of heavy woven material and they didn't come in very attractive colors and the designs didn't come in then cause there was just too much stitching by hand. So, as the sewing machine became more popular, they made it a bit more fancy. K: What did the Seminole women wear before they started wearing clothes made out of white man's fabrics? J: Have you seen any pictures at all where some of these ladies wear skirts that are long from here and then there's a little ruffle down at the bottom? Well, those are the kind that they wore, with the little short capes. Before they had the materials, before they started trading, they wore--what is that--deer skin. What do you call that? I forget the name of it. You know, deer skin after it's been treated. K: Chamois? J: Yes, something like that K: Really soft? J: Yes, that's it. That's what they wore. But the women didn't wear it all the time, did they? During their menstrual period or something like that, they would wear something else. K: When did white missionaries first start trying to convert Seminoles to the Christian faith? J: I forget the name of the first person who came out to do this. They were coming back from Oklahoma after they had been, you know, turned Christians up there. They came do~m here to try to convert these Indians. The second one was Willie King. K: He was a Creek, wasn't he?

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15 J: Yes, I think so. Well, anyway, one of the ones had gone up there to Oklahoma. They say they are the children of the ones that left here and had been converted into a Christian and had come back to preach the Gospel to the Indians down here. Deaconess Beddell was the other one. She was a white lady. I remember her. K: She was down on the Trail wasn't she? J: She was in Everglades City. She had a trading post there. She traded Indian arts and crafts, and she arranged credit for the Indians to go ahead and buy their groceries against whatever they brought in and she would pay them. K: Was there any opposition on the part of the Seminoles to mission aries coming in and trying to convert them to Christianity? J: When the first two, you know, the couple that came down, the one they were talking about, came down into Hollywood area where the reservation is. It used to be called Dania Reservation and they called it Big City then. When they first came down here, they tdidn't like it and they said they were crazy and they just gone out r i of their gourds and there was talk of, you know, lynching and } killing. But, eventually, some of the Indians that stayed down in ',/ I there, down: in the Hollywood area, became Christians there and \ they started to believe in what they were preaching, so they became Christians. It just started from there, you know, and it just worked its way out to anyone became Christian. K: Well, I have heard that Josie Billie is primarily responsible for the many people on Big Cypress becoming Christians. The story that I was told was that he was converted to Christianity, and when he converted he brought twenty-two of his relatives with him. So that all at once a lot of people were Christians. Since he was a Medicine Man, he had influence on the reservation. A lot of people would do what he was doing. Do you know about that and if you do know about that, can you tell me any details to it? J: No, you know, people were going to believe what was being taught anyway, and they were going to go ahead and become Christians, and he was one of the later ones that came along. K: When was he converted?

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J: K: J: K: J: K: 16 Well, it was after a lot of people had already been converted. They didn't say exactly when. They just said that he likes to give himself credit for having been one of the first, but he wasn't. He didn't have anything to do with any of the conversions that took place. It's just that he would like to think so. That's how that came about. How are things divided up now on this reservation? About what percentage of the people are Christians and what percentage of the people are not? /'Around here, I only know a couple of families that aren't \ Christians yet, two or three families. There's only about two or three families left down there too that aren't Christians, haven't been converted yet. Down on the Tamiami Trail or Hollywood or somewhere like that there's quite a few people that haven't been converted. In fact there's a whole lot more out in Tamiami Trail. These two reservations, Brighton and the other one, most of them are Christian families. All right, I'd like to find out what you know about the 1957 problem, the fight between the Miccosukees. The argument between the Miccosukees and the Muskogees concerning the formation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Not between the Miccosukees and the Muskogees but between two factions of the Miccosukees. Between one sectionof the Miccosukees. That's right.