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Interview with Robert D. Mitchell, March 26, 1975

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Title:
Interview with Robert D. Mitchell, March 26, 1975
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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

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

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Seminoles' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
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SEM 119 ( 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: ROBERT D. MITCHELL
INTERVIEWER: JOHN K. MAHON
DATE: March 26, 1975


M: This is an interview between Mr. Robert D. Mitchell, a long-time
friend of the Indians and extremely knowledgeable about them, with
me, John K. Mahon, taking place on 26 March 1975 at his home, on
the shores of Lake Jessamine. Is this in the city limits of
Orlando?
RM: It's outside of Orlando.
M: Would you please, Mr. Mitchell, just comment a little bit about
how you got to Florida, and so on, when you first started?
RM: My mother's people are from New York state, my father's also.
My father's health was bad and we came down here in 1910.
Mother's people were of Mohawk Indian descent, and as a kid
I was always interested in Indians. As I grew up, I felt that
they had a pretty lousy deal, and they were still getting it.
So as years went by I was very much interested in the Miccosukees
and the Seminoles, but they had nothing to do with whites what-
soever.
M: Did you get into the nursery business at the very start when you
came here?
RM: No. My father died, and later my mother married a man who was a
horticulturist; he had been an ornithologist. I became interested
in the nursery business through the fact that he was. I got a
scholarship and I went to Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington
University in St. Louis. I'd lost one year in the service in
World War I. I came back and finished. I stayed up there for a
number of years, and then I came back down here in 1928.
* In the course of this interview, the informant will occasionally
say something in the Seminole language. Such passages cannot
e transcribed and will be indicated by [Seminole words].


2
Before I left here, I had made a friend in Fort Myers by
the name of W. Stanley Hanson [W. Stanley Hanson, Sr.]. Stanley
was probably the only white man at that time, that the Miccosukees
had any confidence in. I talked him into taking me down there.
For a long time I couldn't persuade him to do it. He had the
idea that my interest was idle curiosity, and he wouldn't do it.
zFinally he did, and he vouched for me. He told the Indians that
ithis young man was different than the whites that they had known
-i and that I didn't lie, I didn't steal, and I wouldn't bother
(their women. Those are the prime requisites if you want to get
along with the Indians. So, from that time on I became very
friendly with them.
I came back here to live, as I say, in 1928. I started
going down there again and for twelve years I never missed a
year but what I spent at least a month living with them. I even-
tually learned"tfieMiccosukee language, much of which, I'm sorry
to say, I've forgotten now. But my interest in these people has
been primarily to help them.
M: When you would spend thirty days down there, what did you do?
RM: Well, there never was a dull moment as far as that's concerned.
Many times, we'd have our own camp, but other times we'd just
live right with them.
M: When you say we, who was with you?
RM: W. Stanley Hanson.
M: You went with him regularly?
RM: Yes. Later years, why he died, and I went by myself.
You'd get up in the morning at daylight, and you'd have
your breakfast, and usually the women would have work to do. The
men would sit around and talk for awhile, or if they needed food,
they'd go hunting, and many times I'd go with them.
As a rule, they don't like to hunt with white people, because
. s they say they make too much noise. Indians say that you can hear
them a mile off. I was quite successful in hunting with them. I
didn't make any noise--at least not much more than they did, be-
cause they were able to kill game with me along. Much of the
time, we just rested, talked, did anything that we wanted to do.
For my part, I admired the country.
It was a beautiful country. There weren't any white men in
it at that time, and it hadn't been cut in any way. There were
no fences. From Fort Myers to Immokalee was just a wilderness.


3
There were no roads at that time at all--you could go places,
but you went through the woods taking any course that you could
to get there. Much of the time, you got stuck, but you could
always get out. I had thirty days or more to fool around with,
so if I got stuck in any one place, I just made camp there. Sooner
or later some Indian would come by, and we'd get out.
M: What were you driving?
RM: I had an old Ford car that I had fixed up to go through that
country--an old Model T. It wasn't much to look at, but it
got me places.
I always enjoyed it. You know, it was never a dull time
about it, because the country wasn't...I call it killed. Later
on white men completely killed the country. In places where I
*o used to go, there was lots of game. You'd see turkeys---it wasn't
uncommon to see two hundred in a flock. Plenty of deer, I've
seen as many as twenty-seven in one herd. You'd wake up in
the morning, and you'd see them feeding around the cypress.
The Indians would never kill a deer close to their camp;
they just didn't like to do that. They'd go off and kill one.
One day I asked old Charlie Cypress how many deer there
were right around camp. He said [Seminole words] ("nine deer")
in here. Later on I asked his son, John, "How does your father
know there's nine deer in here?"
He said, "He knows there's nine deer. Their tracks are a
little bit different, and he knows there are nine deer in here."
There were, it seemed to me, millions of pond birds, egrets,
wood ibis, all kinds of wading birds. Now you go down there
and you don't see anything but cattle egrets. The country's
entirely different.
I remember one time we were camped, three or four of us, and
we decided to move camp and go to another place. When we got
to that place, I could hear something way off that sounded like
a drum, and I asked the Indians what that was. They told me
frogs [Seminole word]. I said [that] I would like to hear that.
They said, "Alright," so we walked three or four miles where this
was taking place.
Their families came up here and they spent ten days with me,
and we had a ball. They put their tents out there--their mosquito
bars. They brought all their chickens, their pigs, and I don't
know how many alligators, but a lot of little ones they intended
to sell.


4
When they got through, Whitney Cypress wanted to know, he
says, "Where do we put them? We don't sell them, we don't want
to take them back."
I said, "Just dump them in the lake." There were about forty
of them, so they dumped all forty of them in the lake.
We had a real good time. I asked them, "Why do you bring
all this chicken and sookee [suckling] pigs and stuff up here?"
They said, "Well, we leave them home, white man come in and
he steal them." Now this was 1932, and the worst of it was--I
found out later when I went down to visit them. Old Charlie
Cypress had a beautiful camp, whopping big house, and he called
it Camp Florida. And white hunters had come in there--he lived
' *on the edge of the Big Cypress--and they had cut his floor up.
He had a split log floor, and they had taken the logs out and used
them for fire wood.
M: Going back to when you were talking about the drumming off in the
woods. Would you go ahead with that?
RM: It sounded like a great big drum and I wanted to see that. Now
around my camp, in the rainy season years ago, you couldn't carry
on a conversation such as we're carrying on, because you couldn't
hear each other--too many frogs. I have no idea how many differ-
ent kinds, but plenty of them. So, we walked over there to this
place. It was a great big swale or pond, with cypress growing
around it, and it was shallow in the middle. I never heard such
a racket in my life. We couldn't talk to each other at all. There
were all sorts of different types of frogs--frogs that grunted and
frogs that peeped and I have no idea how many different kinds.
But the whole thing, when you got a little ways away from it, had
a regular rhythm to it. It sounded like an enormous, great big
drum.
That evening when I got back to camp I was thinking about that,
and I thought, "You know, that thing impresses me. That is the real
heart of Florida. Just as a heart would throb, that thing drummed."
And today it's all gone.
f The white men have drained the country. If anybody has
,~ ever killed anything, they sure have killed Florida--the part that
(I knew. The game is pretty much gone. Those Indians that lived
the way they used to, off the land, have a rough time making
a go of it. The turtles are gone. Always, years ago, there was
water running through the Big Cypress, clear streams of water, big
open pools in there. The place was loaded with fish. There were
( alligators, otters...you name it, it was there. In many places
there'd be sandbars around these ponds, and the birds would come
in there in the evening just by the thousand, but that's all gone


5
now.
I don't know what it is in the Everglades, but just as sure
as the Lord made little apples--if they don't stop over-draining
this country down there, that Big Cypress, and if the government
doesn't take it over, you can kiss that Everglades National Park
good-bye as we know it today. Because that's a main feeder for
that park.
M: Did a lot of those men make their living hunting 'gators and
hunting egrets when you first knew them?
RM: From the time I knew them, they didn't make a living hunting al-
ligators, and they killed no egrets except to eat.
M: They didn't get them for plumes?
RM: Not then. It had been outlawed, and that was before the time
I went in there. Old Billy Bowlegs told me one time that he
had hunted plumes when he was a young man, and at that time they
paid eight dollars an ounce for them. Of course, it was out-
lawed and it eventually stopped.
They never exterminated anything. For example, I met four
Indians one time on the edge of the saw grass: John Cypress,
his brother Frank, whos been dead a long time; there was Ingraham
Billie, that's Josie's brother, and Frank Billie, his son.
They had been out in the saw grass and they had hunted alligators
."and they had fifteen or twenty hides. Now, they hunted alligators
/j when somebody wanted a new rifle, or they needed cloth or something.
f They'd go get alligator hides, take that many into Fort Myers, sell
them, and they wouldn't hunt alligators again for a long time.
M: What were the hides worth in those days? Do you happen to recall?
I mean, it was by the foot, I suppose?
RM: No, I don't remember. But at the time that they outlawed them
here recently, the poachers were getting six dollars a foot
for them, and they pretty well cleaned them out, too. Now this
lake here runs for two miles when you get around this point, and
I'll bet you we had 3,000 alligators right in this end of it. You'd
go down there at night, you'd see them everywhere.
The woods used to always flood in the summertime down there,
and in the wintertime the open prairies would be dry. Of course
there was always water in the cypress stands. Now that's completely
gone. Even if you cross the Tamiami Trail--those places where the
water would run under the bridges that they had across the Trail--


6
bone dry, no water there at all. Now they had a little water
east of Forty Mile Bend [The point forty miles west of Miami
where the Tamiami Trail bends N.W. toward Naples]. Enough to
run air sleds, but not anything at all compared to what they used
to have.
M: When you first knew the Indians down there, you were getting around
in a Ford. What was their mode of moving from place to place,
camp to camp?
RM: Some of them had old ramshackle cars that they'd gotten, and they
would go and they'd push them out when they got stuck. But for
the most part, every camp would have anywhere from one to four or
five dug-out canoes, pulled up.
M: Did you ever see any of the Indians using oxen to pull a covered
wagon?
RM: No, I never did. I've been on several of those old oxen roads,
you know. There's one that goes over into Thigahatchee Strand,
to Billy Bowlegs's old camp. It's all grown up now, but eight
or ten years ago Josie Billie and I went over there, and we
found his camp and we followed this old oxen road. It had
trees in it, of course, but you could tell that the trees were
smaller and it had been a road there. They went in with oxen,
of course.
M: How about the bigger game, did you see panthers in the early days?
RM: I never happened to see one animal itself, but I have seen the
tracks around my camp, and I have followed behind a panther when
the water was just running into his tracks.
M: Have you ever heard them? I guess that's an unearthly sound. I'd
love to hear it.
RM: Yes. If it's daytime, it's something, but if it's night, it
will scare you to death. I came in with some Indians one time
who had killed a buck--this was many years ago--and a panther
followed us, and they didn't pay any attention to him. I
did. I was the last one in the procession there, and I proceeded
to get up in the middle. But he followed us and actually close
enough so that when they stopped for anything, you could hear him
stop too. He didn't bother us, never would have. As far as I
know, the only time they ever bother anybody is when they're


7
mating, possibly, or when they have kittens. Then, don't mess
with them at all.
M: How about bears? Did you ever encounter bears?
RM: Yes. In the Kissimmee Billy Strand, three miles from where my
camp used to be, there were a number of bears. According to the
Indians, there were eight panther lived in that area there.
M: Are there any left that you know of?
RM: Oh yes. I think there are panther in there now.
M: And bears, still?
RM: Yeah. Still bears down there. But when you dry a place up
and it burns over, it ruins the country. When you dry it up
the snakes disappear, and the things that live on those things
disappear and the things that live on those gradually die out.
It's a chain reaction there.
M: Did Indians ever eat 'gator at all, known to you? Were you
ever present?
RM: Yes, I've had 'gator tail with them three or four times when I
was with them. I remember the last time, it was a piece of al-
ligator tail about eighteen inches to two feet long. They stuck
a stick in it, and then a stick in the ground and balanced it over
the fire, cooked it. Personally, I don't care for it.
M: What you call pond birds, and you mentioned they killed egrets
to eat them. What other birds did they eat of this type?
RM: Alright, I'll enumerate the birds I've eaten down there. Years
ago, I have eaten sandhill crane down there. Occasionally, they
kill one.
M: They're quite delicate, aren't they?
RM: They're good, yeah. Then they eat wood ibis, [Seminole word] they
call that, and they eat the white ibis. I believe that's curlew,
but they don't eat black curlew. There's a form of curlew that
looks exactly like the other except that it's a dark, sooty black.
M: Why don't they eat it? Do you have any idea?
RM: Yes, I do but I'm not at liberty.... I think the main reason,
really, that they don't eat it is that somebody years ago ate


8
some, and they said that it made them sick. So they don't
eat it any more. Also, they don't eat rabbits and they don't
eat squirrels and they don't eat frogs.
M: What other birds?
RM: They eat, of course, wild turkey occasionally, and they eat both
of the ibis and they'll eat egret and, let's see....
M: How about the anhinga?
RM: There's two months of the year that you can eat that.
M: Have you ever tasted any?
RM: Yeah, and I didn't like it. It tasted fishy to me, but this par-
ticular time, evidently, he killed it one of the months when
it wasn't any good. Because he asked me how I liked it. I
said, "I don't like it."
He said, "Why don't you like it?"
I said, "It tastes fishy."
He said, "You don't like [Seminole word] fish?"
I said, "Yeah, I like fish."
He said, "Then why don't you like this?"
I said, "I just don't like it."
Yeah, they occasionally eat it. But I'll tell you, the tail
is much sought after. They use it in their ceremonies. It's the
only bird that I know of that the two top tail feathers are fluted
on the outside. I had a tail here that I've had for years and I
kept it for that, but I had a friend of mine, a Navajo,here about
ten days ago, and he spotted that. He really wanted it, so I
gave it to him. They use this tail; I don't actually know just
what purpose. I asked him, "What do you want this for? What do
you use it for?"
He said, "We like to make fans."
But that's not the whole story, because one of the Indians
had three of these tails down there. They were fresh and he was
sending them to some Indian in a tribe in the North. He said that
they use them to make medicine. Now when an Indian says he wants
to make medicine,that dosen't always mean that he's going to make
a medicine that you take orally. Do you understand what I mean?
M: Sure, I understand.
RM: Now, when I was down there this last time there were three car-
loads of Indians came in. They were all relatives of the family
of Jimmie Billie.


9
M: From where, Oklahoma?
RM: No, these are from Florida, and they had the old religion. In
other words, they believed in God and the son of God, but they
also worshipped through the Corn Dance, and the believed the old
way. They carried out the rituals and the old Indian beliefs.
And Josie made medicine for these people.
Well, I knew all these people. Their father was a close friend
of mine, one of the few Indians that I know that was in training
for a medicine man. He had, I think, a couple of years more to go
and he had some trouble. One of the Indians fell in love with his
f-wife. It's a long story, but he had warned this man a number of
times and finally he killed him, and the sheriff came up. They
called me in the middle of the night, and told me about it and
said, you don't have anything to worry about, because all he's
got to do is plead self-defense.
M: When was this? What year?
RM: I don't know, I can't tell you. But at any rate, the sheriff was
a friend of his, and the judge was a friend. He was a very high-
type Indian. So, the sheriff asked him if this boy didn't come
,home and he was told by his people there was bad blood between
, the two of them. So he went up and he asked Jimmie.
I Jimmie said, "Yes, I killed him. I buried him in a good,
dry place. He won't have to get wet."
When it came to trial, I talked to Buffalo Tiger and I said,
"You try him in the tribal council. You don't allow white men
to interfere in this. This is Indian business."
He said, "We can't do that. The clan is too big, and before
i the trial would come up some of the other man's clan would kill
\ him."
s So the judge couldn't do anything else. He wouldn't plead
-" self-defense. He wouldn't lie. He said, "No, if he didn't stop
t bothering my wife I intended to kill him." He said,"I won't lie."
M: What was the outcome?
RM: 7They sent him to Raiford for life. He was only up there about two
v years, just a short time, and he hunghimelf. The pitiful part
of it was that Doug Hendry, the sheriff;the judge; and the super-
intendent; four of them down there for those Indians; and myself;
and one or two other people were instrumental in working for him
to get him out, and we would have had him out of there inside of
a year.


10
Some of the Indians wanted to know if I'd take him up here
until the thing had quieted down. I said yes, I'd take him. He
could stay here with us but he hung himself before that time. It
was a pitiful thing because he was one of their finest men.
Now today they have four men in training for a medicine man.
You see, they don't have any of them left. There's [Seminole
word], that's Ingraham Billie and Josie Billie, [Seminole word].
\'They are the only two real medicine men among the Miccosukees
today. William McKinley Osceola was a medicine man; he died. His
brother Corey is running the Corn Dance, but Corey is not a trained
medicine man. But he is running that dance so the people can go.
Now I don't think--I don't know, I didn't ask Josie, but I believe
"that Corey very likely has William McKinley's medicine bundle.
Without these medicine bundles--it's the life of the tribe as
L" / far as the old people are concerned--and without it, the tribe
'will die out. That's their belief. I don't know, maybe they
are right. But at any rate, they started out with eleven men,
and they have selected four now, and out of that four they will
select one.
Now when I go down there again, I'm going to suggest to these
two old medicine men that they train two instead of one. Then if
anything happens--one of them dies or something happens to him--
they will have at least one trained medicine man. Now when you
say medicine man, a lot of people think this is just a lot of
malarkey, but it isn't. They have to learn the use of all of the
- herbal medicines that Ithey use, and there are probably two hundred
Tor over. They have to learn all of the legends. It's a seven
year deal; it takes them seven years.
M: Well, now, are those Trail Indians? Now you're talking about Buffalo
Tiger's Tribe, primarily.
RM: Miccosukee, that's right.
M: Then Corey Osceola is really detached from that, isn't he?
RM: He is in this way: when the tribe was organized and incorporated,
many of the Indians, the Miccosukees, would not come in and sign
<{up as a member of that tribe. They didn't trust the government,
w' ?for which I don't blame them. They're still Miccosukees, but
they don't belong to the organized tribe, that's all. Many of
those, some of them at least, who refused to join, such as
Willy Jim, they lived off the land, and it's getting pretty
darn slim pickings. The white men have moved in and it's just
a bad deal.


11
M: Are those people not practicing Christians? Up at Brighton they
nearly all are Baptists, I think.
RM: aA long while ago around 1940, I believe it was, the Creeks sent
a missionary down here--an old man by the name of Willie King, who
( was a Baptist. He was a fine old man. Well, he came to Brighton.
He converted some of the Seminoles.
,- Now the Seminoles are not Miccosukees. They're Muskogees.
v JThey're offshoots, you might say, of the Creeks; they speak the
fCreek language. And they had a cattle program up there, which was
very successful. Fred Monsteoca, who is now dead, started that,
and Ken Marmon, who was their agent at the time.
You see, originally that Big Cypress reservation was gotten
for the Miccosukees, not the Seminoles, and the Miccosukees
lived there, they had a few camps scattered there. Then when
the reservation was opened up, they got W. Stanley Hanson [Sr.]
to go down there because of his influence with the Indians. The
Indians wouldn't come on that reservation, so Stanley came down
and he told them: "They're gonna fence this. It's gonna be yours
and you might just as well earn that money fencing it and doing
what work is necessary to develop it." So they trusted him,
and they came in there.
You can believe it or not, but there was no road in there
whatsoever, and that first road that's laid off around that head-
quarters--Stanley and I laid off that first curve over there. I
had four years of engineering, which I didn't want, but I had to
take it with the course that I had, so we laid that curve off, and
they dug the ditches and threw it up in the center, and that was
it.
But, what was I going to...?
M: The religion, you were talking about they converted.
RM: Yes. They converted some of these people and they joined the
church. At one time there were thirty-two camps on that reservation.
Well then a man was in the Smithsonian Institute [Institution] and
he had a son that needed a job, so they proceeded to kick Stanley
out, as a political deal, and put this man in. And when they did,
those Indians scattered, they left there. There were still some
camps there, but to make a long story short.... Some of these
\/ people were converted, and at the time of their conversion, they
were in close association with the ones along the Trail and all
down through there as far as Cape Sable.


12
Well, when they accepted this religion, the people south of
there were so angry. Well, Josie, for example, they kicked him
V I off the tribal council, took his medicine sticks away from him,
\ and he came up there to live on the reservation. A number of them
did. There was a time when you couldn't get one of them to go
down on the Trail; they were afraid to go down there. I know,.
because I was going down and tried to get some of them to go with
me. They wouldn't go.
f- At any rate, as years went by they started this cattle pro-
." gram there, and more of the Indians were converted. Those Indians
/who were on the Big Cypress Reservation and were converted when
/the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida was organized, incorporated,
signed up as members of that tribe. Although they're Miccosukees,
they belong to the Seminole Tribe. And as that cattle thing pro-
gressed, they sent members from Brighton who knew about the cattle.
They learned about it. Morgan Smith, for instance, was the first
one sent over there. He was a great big Indian and he was sent
over there for the cattle, and they established a little church
down there, and they went.
The next man that came down here came down on his own.
Willie King got sick, and this man came down, and his name was
zStanley Smith.-- He was a holy terror. He did everything in the
'book- that was wrong.
I remember Ken Marmon asking me to come to Fort Myers. He
wanted to talk to me, so I went down there. He told me, "This
man has stolen an engine out of one of our trucks. I just found
it out. He's had it in his car for three months. He's got
these people up here eating out of his hand. He's the emissary
of God, and if they don't do what he wants them to do, he'll have
them punished."
M: I've heard that. He's still living I think, out in Oklahoma,
I guess.
RM: Well, that's where I hope he is. He told a lot of the girls and
a lot of their husbands that God wanted them to get down to Cope-
land and work--leave their families here, it's all right, but go
down to Copeland and work. And, in my opinion, he always selected
the husbands of the best looking women, and then he proceeded to
get some of them pregnant. Of course, the old belief is when a
girl gets pregnant that's all there is to it, if she isn't married.
If something like that happens, they've had it.
So, Ken didn't know what to do. I told him, "Declare the
place off limits to him."
Well he said, "He's got these Indians eating out of his hand,
and if I do, then I'm in trouble there."


13
One thing he did...he told them not to punish their children.
Of course, the Indians don't punish the way that we do. He said
that he'd punish them all when he came down once a week. He'd
take them and he'd beat the tar out of them, which is something
they don't do.
He wanted to introduce peyote down there. Moses Jumper--
who's still alive and lives down in Hollywood now--got in an ar-
gument with him about it, and Moses took him to the cleaners, beat
the devil out of him. So the next time he came down there, after
he got so he was able, he had three of those Indians that belonged
to his church hold Moses. And he took a strap about two and a
half inches wide and about a quarter to a half inch thick, and he
beat him so badly that Moses could just crawl off, and that's all.
Now, Ken Marmon told me this. I didn't see it, but he had the
strap hanging up in his office. He said, "That's what he beat
him with."
I said, "Well, perhaps Moses will have the good judgement
to kill him." But this didn't happen.
He tried to sneak into the Corn Dance one time. Ingraham
is a pretty sharp cookie. He had some of the Brighton Indians
take him down there and Ingraham, I don't know how he knew it, but
he knew it. He sent men out around, and they caught him. And he
he told him, "If you ever cane back in my country again, I'll
kill you." I didn't hear Ingraham say this, but I got it via
the grapevine.
Well, I'm not especially a saint, but if I know somebody's
gonna get bumped off, even if I feel that it's the right thing
to do, I would feel guilty myself if I didn't go tell them about
it. I attended the Corn Dance that year, and I knew this, so
when I went back, I went by way of Brighton, and I stopped in and
I told him. I said, "I want to tell you something. You go back
into their country again, they're gonna kill you. For my part,
I hope they do, but I am relieving my conscience by telling you
this."
He had his windows all boarded up; he had his door boarded up.
He said, "I'm not going into their country again."
I said, "Well personally I hope you do, but I've told you.
Now that's it." So I went on home.
That is how the Big Cypress Reservation eventually became
V fa Seminole Reservation instead of a Miccosukee. The Miccosukees
Iwho believed the old way pulled out of there, and they went back
( down the Trail, and they didn't have anything to do with those
Indians that were Christians. Now it's different. Now they're


14
trying--they have established a little church down there among
the Miccosukees on the Trail, which is fine. I have no argument;
I believe in the Bible passage- "Go you into all the world and
preach the gospel of Jesus Christ." That's fine. I respect the
missionaries for what they're doing, but I don't like the way
that they do it. I'm ashamed to say this, but wherever you found
illegitimate children you found them among those who had taken
up our religion. You never found any when they lived the old way,
because if they had any, that was taken care of.
M: Are you aware of any penalties that were ever inflicted? How
extreme were they?
RM: Well, if they deemed it necessary, death. Josie and Ingraham and
the other members of the council had the same powers as our
Supreme Court justices.
M: Within your memory, to your positive knowledge, have they, by tribal
law or whatever you want to call it, executed people?
RM: Twice, and I don't want to go into detail, but it was perfectly
Vr~ fair. They had it coming to them, and if we would do more of
the same, we'd have less crime among our people.
M: But, they haven't executed anybody in a good while. I guess the
law has slipped out of their control.
RM: Well, that's it. The last thing that I remember, their having
real trouble with whites. Some years ago, I had a friend down
there by the name of Chestnut Billie, and he weighed about 260.
He was a very muscular, powerful man. I hadn't seen him for some
time, and I went down.
We were having some trouble with the game wardens. At that
time I was president of the Seminole Indian Association, and it
befell me to try to straighten it out. The Indians had given me
a list of seven wardens that they wanted gotten out of that part
of Florida--either moved or fired, gotten out of their hair--es-
pecially those down along the Trail. I called this meeting
down there, and Chestnut was there. I called it for the pur-
pose of finding out what the story was and what they wanted done.
I saw Chestnut, and he had lost a hundred pounds; he looked
terrible. I said, "Chestnut, what in the world has happened to
you?"
He says, "I have what you call diabetes. I take 'em shot
every morning." Well, he'd been drinking, and he was pretty well


15
inebriated.
I said, "Look. You're doing the worst thing you can do." He
was just feeling good; he wasn't really drunk. So I told him,
"Look. If you keep on drinking you're gonna die."
"Well," he said, "If I can't have a little something to drink
once in a while, when I want it and eat some of the things I want,
I'd rather be dead." That's the statement that he made.
I said, "Well, you've got a good start." I came home and
about two weeks later he was dead. In the meantime...
M: How old a man would he have been?
RM: Oh, he was in his fifties, maybe early fifties. It's pretty
hard to tell, but a very powerful, active man.
In the meantime, Mike Osceola, who was William McKinley's
oldest son.... I probably shouldn't say this, because whenever
we meet it's always, "how are you, buddy, buddy," but I never
felt that way about him. He's one of the few Indians that I
didn't feel that way about. They were getting ready for the
Corn Dance. Chestnut was a man who had white friends; people
liked him. He took a man over there, a friend of his, when they
were building the houses over there, getting ready for the dance.
And some of the Indians, especially Jessie Willie, didn't like
it, a white man being around there at all. He didn't know him
and he didn't like it. So they had a little argument and a little
scuffle. It didn't amount to anything, and they went on working.
Chestnut was working, helping them, too, and all of a sudden he
had this spasm, or whatever you call it, and he became unconscious.
M: Chestnut Billie?
RM: Yeah. So they took him back to his camp and from there to the
hospital. I think it was in Hollywood, but he died.
The next thing we knew--I was told that Mike Osceola had gone
to the sheriff and said that he had been killed at the Corn Dance.
So the Indians called me and told me, and they wanted something
done about it. They didn't want any trouble with whites--this
was Indian business. I said, "Was he?"
They said, "No, he was not," and they explained what had
happened.
So I called up Dave Star here, the sheriff who was a friend
of mine, and I said, "Dave, do you know anything about this? Have
you heard anything from the governor's office about it?"
He said, "Yes, they're sending a man down there by the name
of Smiley. A special investigator."


16
I said, "Well, how do I get in touch with him?"
"Well, he's over in Tampa."
So I called Tampa, and he'd left and he was at a judge's
office over in Miami. I called over there and I got him, and I
told him what had happened. He said, "How do you know so much
about this?"
I said, "Well, the Indians have told me. I know this man."
And he didn't believe me at all. So I said, "Well, I'll tell you
what you do. You be at John Poole's camp tomorrow morning at
nine o'clock. The members of the tribal council will be there and
they will tell you about this. Personally, I don't feel it's
any of your business. It's Indian business."
He didn't like that too much either, but a day or two after
that he called me up and he said, "I attended that meeting." You
see, the Indians had called and asked me to have him there. He
said, "You are absolutely right. I'd like to make a suggestion.
I'm pulling off the case entirely. I'd like to make a suggestion:
Whenever they have Indian business, let them settle it their own
way and don't say anything to whites about it."
I said, "That's my idea exactly, but when you've got an
Indian like this one, that wants to stir up trouble, what are you
going to do?"
He said, "Well, you can't do anything else, I guess, but
get the truth out. That's all."
M: Now reverting to the Green Corn Dance, I suppose Brighton, when
it had one, always had its- own.
RM: Yeah. They still have it. The only medicine man at Brighton
is Frank Shore.
M: Dania doesn't have any, but do the ones still clustered around
Buffalo Tiger's place still have an annual Green Corn Dance?
RM: Yes, they go to Ingraham Billie's, Josie's brother.
M: Which is off the Trail or on Big Cypress?
RM: It's north of the Trail. It's off the Big Cypress.
M: So there are still annually a couple of Green Corn Dances a year.
RM: Oh yes, three. Ingraham Billie has one, usually starts in the little
moon of June. A little before that, as a rule, William McKinley


17
had his, and then Frank Shore has his. Now during the time when
Ingraham didn't have his for a couple of three years, they went
all the way up to Frank Shore's. Well, I know why they didn't go
to William McKinley's, but that's another story. They'd go up
to Frank Shore's, quite a long ways.
The miss onaries, as I say, I respect what they're trying to
/do, but I don't go along with they way they're doing it. They
)try to discourage all of the old culture. The Corn Dance is the
/work of the devil to them, and that's a lot of poppy-cock to me.
I don't care how you worship--that's your business. It's enough
that you do it.
Some time ago, I don't think this is news, I don't think any-
body knows about it much, but I was told by one of his sons that
..Ingraham had been told, and I believe him, that if he had the
Corn Dance,he couldn't stay on the reservation. He certainly couldn't
come to church. Well, he was very much upset about it, that he
couldn't stay on the reservation, so Frank told me about it. I
said, "That's a lot of bunk. This is a reservation. It's his
just as much as any one of the Indians. He's got every right
to stay here the same as anybody else, and nobody can put him
off--nobody. If he wants to go to church, I certainly think it
wouldn't be much of a missionary if they wouldn't welcome him."
Jimmie Tiger saw me. I was down there at a meeting, and he
told me about it. He said, "Do you go to the Big Cypress?"
I said, "From here I go to the Big Cypress, and I stay one
week."
He says, "You talk to Ingraham. We want to have the dance.
A lot of the old men think the tribe is not doing well. We've had
several Indians die. We've had two or three commit suicide, even
i more than that. And to not use the medicine bundle is not right.
i The old people that worship the old way, they're worried."
So I went and I talked to Ingraham. And I got to one of his
sons.... Now I can speak Miccosukee to a certain extent, at
that time I could speak it pretty good, but I got him to interpret
so there would be no chance of any misinformation, and I told
him this. The next year they had the dance. And I intended to
go, pick up Josie and go, but I couldn't go. We had sickness in
the family and I just couldn't go. They've had it ever since
then. Ingraham strictly believes the old way and he's a fine
man, and he does not do the work of the devil. If he does it, I
do it along with him.


18
M: As far as you know, are there three medicine bundles in existence?
R/ M RM: Three medicine bundles that I know of at the present time.
M: Now another point that I wanted to ask you about, historically,
flor any other way you want to talk about it, what's the big
distinction between the Miccosukees and the Seminoles? I
'~ { understand they speak different tongues, they all came out of the
t-basic Creek culture.
RM: No. According to the old medicine men, which I go by rather than
historians, because so many of the histories have got things
balled up. For example they'll tell you that Osceola's name
means "rising sun", it means "black drink", it means this and the
other thing. Actually according to the medicine men, his name
was Asan Yahola. Yahola in Seminole--he was a Seminole, a
Muskogee--Yahola means "head man, the king of the works". Asan
is "moss." "The king of the moss." I asked Josie one day, "Why
do you call him a strange name?'!
"Well," he said, "moss is everywhere. You can't fight, you
can't whip moss." Now this is what he told me. Asan Yahola, and
literally, in our language that's what it means. It doesn't mean
black drink.
It's like the word Seminoli. So many people will tell you
it means runaway. Now they don't like that. It does not mean
"runaway". Seminoli means "wild" and where that originally
, comes from, there are a lot of different pronunciations of it.
Today if you say "wild hog" you say "Seminoli", or you say deer
[Seminole word], "wild deer."
You see, at one time there were thousands of Creek Indians
down here hunting these people. You know that, and some of these
people, these Indians haven't forgotten that,especially the
Miccosukees. And I know that several Indians, friends of mine,
belong to the Indian club here (and there's one in Kissimmee)
a full blooded Comanche.... [They] have gone down there, and they
have not been received by the Miccosukees. And they came back
to me and said, "That's the first time I went into a brother's
camp or another Indian, that I wasn't received." It's handed down
from great-grandfather to father and so on that they were hunted
by these other Indians, and they don't cotton to them.
M: Well, according to the medicine men, what is the basic distinction,
historically or any other way you want to put it, aside from language?


19
RM: I-Well, all right. The Miccosukees were always here. They didn't
break away from anything; they lived in north Florida. They
/ j spoke a different language. They were different Indians and the
! character of the Indian is different. I know the two groups. Of
course, I've know the Miccosukees much more intimately than I have
the Seminoles, but they will tell you that they never sat down
to any peace table with the whites. Now you can say that the
1Seminoles have never made a peace treaty with the whites--never
signed peace. They signed a lot of them--the only difference was
the whites never kept them. Now the last treaty they made was
not ratified by Congress; so as far as the whites were concerned,
it didn't amount to anything, but to the Indians it did.
M: So, it's the belief of the Miccosukees that they are aborigines.
RM: .7They were here. That's what they believe.
When we went to a meeting of the board of directors of the
Florida State Indian Commission, a while back, we flew in there
and we took a taxi to where the meeting was going to be held, in
one of those buildings. We passed a sign that said Miccosukee,
with an arrow on it; a little town apparently. I called Buffalo's
<"attention to it. He said, "Yeah, my people live up here at one
time. Then we have to keep moving farther and farther and farther
G.to get away from the white people."
Years ago the Miccosukees were considered the Big Cypress
Indians. They lived south of Lake Okeechobee almost entirely,
and from there all the way down to Cape Sable. When the park
came into existence they were made to move out. The only Indian
living in the park today is Jimmie Tiger. Jimmie has special
dispensation to live there because he spent a lot of money on his
camp--got it on his trading post, and they permit him to stay
there.
But to me, they have no reservation. They have a state
reservation, approximately 68,000 acres. The Seminoles have
the other part of it, but now the Seminoles have gotten theirs
put under federal jurisdiction. And it's what the Miccosukees
should do, too, because if it becomes more valuable, you know,
somebody could jerk it out from under them. It's been done before.
M: That's just held in trust, isn't it?
RM: Yeah, but they could take it away from them.
Don't think for a minute they wouldn't do it either. But
the Seminoles have theirs now under federal jurisdiction, and that's
safe.


20
But years ago it was always considered.... The Seminoles
were called--one name was the cabbage woods Indians, because they
lived at Brighton, and that's all cabbage forest, most of it; it's
beautiful. And the Big Cypress Indians--they were just two dif-
ferent people.
The first time I ever heard any difference or ever knew any-
thing about it, was at Okeechobee. There were a group of Indians
up there, and John Cypress was there, and John could understand
a joke, you know. And this real pretty girl came by...
M: Indian?
RM: Yeah. Of course they never let you know,. Marriages are
made by the families and the boys never would let you see them
ogle a girl the way we do. The girls were very bashful, timid.
Stanley poked John and he said, "Now there's a pretty girl."
John said, "No. No talk like we do."
Stanley said, "What do you mean, she doesn't talk like we do?"
He said, "She not talk same language."
That's the first it was ever known. And in those days it
was considered that three quarters of all the Indians in the
states were Miccosukees, and one quarter were Seminoles. Now
they've intermarried, and of course, there are a lot of Miccosukees
that have--not many Miccosukees as much as Seminoles that have
Miccosukee wives. Joe Dan Osceola, his wife's a Miccosukee.
M: He was a Seminole though.
RM: Yeah, he's a Seminole; Richard Osceola was his oldest brother.
Now let me get this straight. Richard Osceola was Billy Osceola's
older brother, then came Billy, then Harjo, and then Robert. Their
father was the head medicine man and a very good one. Now, Joe
Dan Osceola's father was Richard Osceola, Billy's older brother.
That's the way that was. Joe has a Miccosukee wife. Billy
Osceola had Alice, she's a micco, and Robert Osceola has a
Miccosukee wife. I knew these girls when they were young kids,
you know, young teenagers. But at any rate, they were all, the
wives were Miccosukees and the men were Muskogee.
M: Now you're talking about Billy Osceola who died a couple of three
months?


21
RM: Yeah, that's right.
M: He had diabetes too, bad. It's pretty prevalent, isn't it?
RM: It has become that way in later years. Now years ago, I never
heard of it.
I know two Indians that had TB, three. Jimmie Osceola had
it; they sent him out there, and he came back, went to work in
the tomatoes, got it again, went back out there and he stayed long
enough to forget his own language. He came back and told me he
couldn't talk to his own people, but he said, "I learned it
pretty fast." And there was Wilson Cypress'swife, Rubie. She
had it and she did what the medicine men told her and she got
over it. And there was John Cypress'syounger brother Frank
Cypress. Frank died--he wouldn't stay put. The doctors told
him to rest and told him what to do, and he wouldn't do it.
He went ramming all over and he died.
M: What do you know about the rift, or schism or separation, when the
tribe that Buffalo Tiger now runs got separate federal recognition?
Were you in on that story at all?
RM: Yeah.
M: Is there any history of that that's interesting to...?
RM: Well, it's interesting in this way: They never would have any-
<(thing to do with the government. They distrusted the government.
~ They couldn't get anything done and they couldn't get anything
tout of the state. And the state people--I'd go to Tallahassee
and talk and all the answer I got was they'd send somebody
down here. And then they'd tell me, "Well, they don't know what
they want. This group wants this and that group wants that. They
don't know what they want."
For years I urged those people, "Do something. Get together.
Organize a central body." Now that cuts the medicine men out,
i because the way the government organizes this thing, they want
; it incorporated and the officers elected. The medicine men of
i each tribe held their offices by dint of brains and brawn. They
were the outstanding leaders of the tribe. Now, without mentioning
any names, in the past they've had elected officers that were not
leaders. Anybody can run for office. If Buffalo wasn't elected
I don't know what they'd do. They have no one who is capable
of taking his place. Now the other Indians, I think they have other


22
people that could take Howard Tommie's place. Betty Mae Jumper
made a good one, and Billy Osceola was good, but Betty Mae Jumper
was a Tiger. I mean, her name was Betty Mae Tiger before she
married this man, Moses Jumper.
M: Weren't those people in the Buffalo Tiger area under the juris-
diction of the Seminole Tribe at any time? Because the Seminole
Tribe was incorporated along about 1957, I think, wasn't it?
RM: It was earlier than that, I think; it was '47 if I'm not mistaken.
At any rate, no they weren't involved.
But you know so many funny things happen over the years.
Years ago it used to be one superintendent over the whole business,
but he had very little jurisdiction over the Miccosukee because
,they didn't go for that. But that was his job. And then they
/J< started having separate superintendents and that worked pretty
' good, especially with those Indians that wanted to cooperate.
They had a superintendent by the name of Glenn; he was a
preacher. They called him "preacher Glenn" and personally,
I had no use for the man, but he probably had no use for me either.
He got hold of Secretary of the Interior Ickes. Ickes came down
here, and he sold Harold Ickes a bill of goods. He got some of
the Indians, now none of these Indians were leaders. He got
a meeting and he had Ickes there and he got a treaty up, and
Ickes accepted it. Ickes didn't find out that it was a phony and
the head of the tribe had nothing to do with it until sometime later.
When he did, he was pretty well put out.
Over the years so many things have happened. They've had
different superintendents--some of them good, some of them no good.
Had one, won't mention his name, he's probably still alive, but
he stold everything he could get his hands on. Of course, this
guy, Stanley Smith...the last I knew of him he wound up in Miami,
got drunk, got in a fight with somebody, and the guy hit him,
and broke his jaw. They put them both in the hospital. They
X-rayed his jaw and they found about two-and-a-half inch piece of
steel knife blade that's been in that bone. Some Indian out
in Oklahoma put it in there years ago.
M: Did you ever have anything to do with Harrington when he was a
superintendent?
RM: Yeah, Virgil, a very fine man.


23
M: They seemed to like him.
RM: Very fine. They liked Virgil. Virgil became a good friend of
mine.
Right off the bat, though, Virgil started something. For
years we've tried to keep the whites off that reservation, you
k know. They poach, they do all kinds of things. Stanley and I
fought to keep that reservation clear of white hunters killing
rout the game. Well, damn it, as soon as Virgil got here, he
started permitting hunting on that reservation. He gave permits
to the county commisioners, and the the members of the Indian
service that worked down there.
We had a meeting down at Big Cypress. Some of the Indians
got on the telephone and asked me to come down there, so I
went. I was still head of the Indian association; I was very
active at the time. They had this meeting, and Billy Osceola
was there. And I asked him about this. He said, yeah, the
commissioner had been very nice to them and they thought it was
a nice thing to do.
So I said, "Well, Billy, you're an old friend of mine, so
I don't want you to take offense at what I'm gonna say, but, you
say you think it's a good thing to do. I say, I think it's a
bad thing to do. You shouldn't do it. These white people come
in here, they'll clean this game out in no time flat. If you
want somebody to hunt on a reservation, have them hunt on your
own reservation. Don't come down here and cram it down the
throats of these people."
I said, "How many of you people want white hunters on your
land? Raise your hand." A whole bunch raised their hand, so I
said, "You tell Virgil Harrington for me, will you?" I'd never
met him.
So I stopped by Fred Monsteoca's place on the way home in
Moore-Haven and I told Fred. Fred said, "Well, they shouldn't
have done that. They made a bad mistake. It never should have
been done."
I said, "Well, I wish you'd tell Virgil Harrington for
me that I'm very much disappointed to think that they'd do a
thing like that. Tell him I'd like to see him." So sure enough,
about a week later, here came Virgil.
M: Here?
RM: Yeah. Came up to see me. He was a nice guy.
Well, at any rate, he brought Billy Osceola, and I've forgotten


24
who else he brought with him, but I met him, and he said, "Now
what's all this ruckus?"
I said, "Well, it's a hell of a note. You've done something
that Stanley Hanson, when he was alive, and I have tried to prevent
,-for years. And that's the whites stealing Indian game, coming
on this reservation and killing whatever they wanted to. This
.<.-- t is food for these people. If some of them get hungry, they don't
have meat, they can go out here and kill a deer if they want
it. If the whites steal it all, there's nothing there for them
to kill."
He said, "Where I come from--the reservation that I was in
charge of---we permitted hunting. They paid three dollars for
an Indian guide." Or whatever it was. I forget what he said the
amount was, but at any rate, they paid the Indian to act as a
guide and they hunted.
I said, "Well, these people that live on the edge of here,
they don't need any Indian guide. They know this country. I
want to go anyplace down here, I don't need a guide. I know how
to get where I want to go." So we talked and I said, "Virgil,
they'll kill that game out of there, before you can say Jack
Robinson. They'll get their friends, and the people who've
poached in there, the minute that they hear that you have given
permits to these people, they'll go in there."
K" Well, he said, "I didn't realize it. We'll stop it." They
( recalled all the permits and that ended that.
But Virgil was liked by all of the people. I liked him. He
was an honest, hard-working guy. And do you know he's out in....
M: He lives in Muskogee.
RM: Yeah, fifteen tribes under him.
M: Not any longer, he's retired.
RM: Well, he can tell you a lot about those people down there because
he worked very closely with them.
M: Well, you don't have to comment about any of them if you don't
want to, but did you know R.C. Quinn?
RM: Rex Quinn, yeah I knew him very well. Rex Quinn is a good man.
That's the only comment I can make on Rex Quinn. He was sent
down here, and they'd had a lot of trouble with two of the


25
people down here and one of them was this Italian, Ferraca.
Well, I didn't like what he did. The Indians hated his guts,
you know. They had no use for him.
M: One of them broke his arm or something, didn't they?
RM: Well, they worked him over a little bit.
M: In a tussle?
RM: No, he just walked over and smacked him. He got in an argument
with him and he hauled off and pasted him. There was a big waste
paper basket over there like a garbage bucket--knocked him so hard
he fell into that and his feet stuck up and hands stuck up and he
couldn't get out. So this Indian had a good heavy ring on him.
As I understand it, I've never met the man, he was bald-headed.
He just took his head like that, and he did just that with that
ring, good on that bald head and fixed him up but good.
But the things that he did.... I don't believe in giving
beer parties for the Indians; you know, I don't believe in
that. He came down to Big Cypress, and he layed the law and order
down to them there; you do this with your children, you do that
with your children, and those children cannot go farther than this.
He made them all mad. You can't get along with Indians that way.
I don't know the man--I probably shouldn't say anything derogative
about him at all. I never met him, so all I know is hearsay, but
Rex Quinn, the first thing he did when he was down here was
to get fid of Ferraca.
M: I didn't know that connection. Ferraca, of course, is still with
the BIA.
RM: Oh yes. Got transferred, you know.
M: He's in Washington.
RM: Another thing he did was get rid of Jim Hale. Now Jim Hale was
one of the most personable, likeable men you've ever met. A very
nice young fellow.
M: What was his line?
RM: He was the head of land development, and he had big ideas. He had
a meeting that I attended down there. He told the Indians that
anything he did will be talked over with them first; "I was notified


26
by the agent that I can do nothing, but you can." He said,
"They're up in arms down at the Big Cypress. He has spent
$30,000 of their money without any say so to them and they're
mad."
Well, after a series of haggles back and forth and a lot of
talk, Jim came here to Orlando, and we had a meeting at the San
Juan Hotel. Mr. Florey of the office of Land Operations came
down here from Washington, and Jim Hale was here, the superinten-
dent was here, and one or two others. Well, at any rate, I
like Jim Hale. He's a fine young man, but he didn't do what he
said he'd do. He told me, "I'm getting grey hairs over this thing.
What can I do?"
I said, "Well, that's to my mind very simple what you can
do. You can pack your bags and get the hell out of there,
or else you can go down there and eat crow. Go down there and
tell these people you've made a mistake, you realize it, you're
sorry, you'll cooperate with them and it will not happen again."
So he stayed on till Quinn came, and after that Quinn got him
transferred or fired, I guess probably transferred somewhere else
because there wasn't anything he could do to fire him. I mean,
he hadn't done anything criminal, you know. He broke his word to
the Indians, but...
M: Well, Quinn got pretty high in the BIA, you know. At one time he
was a fairly significant central figure.
RM: Well see, what cooked him down here, what really got the Indians
down on him: Virgil Harrington told me at one time [that] he said,
"If I had four or five men like Bill Osceola, not Billy but Bill
Osceola...." A Miccosukee. He said, "He is one of the best business
men we've got. He's sharper than a two-edged sword when it comes
to business."
Well, I guess Bill was pretty much for Bill, but at any rate,
for some reason or other--they're all friends of mine--they got
down on Bill. Quinn worked with Bill, and when they voted against
Quinn and wanted to get him out, they were really voting against
Bill. Now, I like Quinn. I flew to Tallahassee with him and we
talked about it. He didn't know anything about it. I told him,
"Well, this is what's happened down here, and I think if you could
get rid of a couple of these guys, why you'd make everybody happy."
And that's one of the first things he did; get rid of them.


27
v?" M: Now Quinn's successor, if I'm not mistaken, was Gene Barrett. Did
you know Barrett? ..
RM: Oh yes, I knew Barrett. Now they've got [Duane] Moxon.
M: Do you care to comment about Barrett?
RM: Well, as far as I know he was a very good man. I don't know
what the Indians thought about him.
M: I've got a tape from him, and it's pretty hard; he talks awful
straight.
RM: Well, I don't know how they felt about him. I never questioned
them about Barrett. I always liked Barrett. Of course, Barrett
was quite critical of some of the leaders that they elected. I
was down there in his office one day. He said, "They go out and
they elect somebody. They're not leaders."
I said, "Well, this is what you're gonna have as long as
you got this system. Now when you got the old system, you got
leaders, mister, and they ruled with an iron hand, and those
tribal laws were enforced. Now [if] you did something you
shouldn't have done, if it was anything important or serious, you
got punished sufficiently. You never did it again."
M: In the past they've had somebody who transmitted the history
?'orally, since they didn't have any written language. Is it
" C% still carried on to a degree?
RM: Down through the medicine men. I don't think that there are a lot
, of things that the medicine men know that the rank and file don't.
Now for fifteen years, oh, it's longer that that; Josie has been
giving me all the legends, the religion and this part of their life.
The medicine,no. He would tell me anything that I asked him, and
I know a lot of it because I'd carry him out to.... I have four-
wheel drive out there and I can get there much easier than walking.
This Upjohn business that he sold the tranquilizer, I carried him
out whenever I was down there, and I carried him out the first
time to get it for him. So I used to write these all down.
There are many things that they believe that a white man would
not believe, but they do believe it. It was told to me in
strict confidence, so I don't repeat it, but I wish I could tell
you. You would immediately see where the Indian could believe it,
but if told a white man, he'd laugh his head off. So we just don't
say anything about it.


28
M: But you have over the years written down some reminiscences,
legends and stuff?
RM: Got a world of it.
M: What are you gonna do with it in the long run?
RM: Bury it when they bury me.
M: Well, if you ever decide differently, you might consider depositing
it with us, with restriction for....
RM: Well, if I ever do deposit it, it wouldn't be with any restric-
tion on it.
M: Because it is a piece of the history and...?
RM: That's right. The things that I can't give out are those things
that are told to me in confidence. Many times I would ask some-
thing and I'd get this answer, "Okay. This for you. Not for
white man, you don't tell white man this." And they would tell
me. You know they have many strange beliefs. Of course, on the
other hand, you go up in the Dutch area around Johnstown, Pennsylvania,
and up in there; they have many strange beliefs about their hexes
and one thing and another. The Indian has things much the same.
M: They never eat rattlesnake, do they?
v RM: No, only white men eat rattlesnakes.
M: Have you ever eaten it?
RM: Nope. We have a friend right across the lake there. He's an
orthopedic surgeon, and I never go into the woods down there but
what if Joe knows it, he'll always say, "Well, on your way home,
if you should see a rattlesnake be sure and bring it to me now.
Don't just kill it and throw it away." But I never did taste it.
I've skinned plenty of them and their meat is very white.
l,/ M: Have you got any explanation of why they don't eat squirrels
and rabbits?
RM: Yes, I do have, but it's something that I can't tell you.
M: Okay. They have the rabbit in a lot of their legendry, I know
that.


29
RM: Yeah, they do, rabbits. Now the younger Indians are getting over
this--they eat some squirrels now and then. I don't know about
the rabbits, but I attended a meeting and we had the dinner down
at the restaurant, and the Indian right ahead of me, they had
everything you could imagine in the way of wild game. This
was entertainment; the government members of the BIA were guests
of the tribe, and they tried to have everything that was nice,
you know, that they thought they'd like. They had frog's legs
and this Indian reached over when he came to that big pile of
frog's legs and he took five or six of them. So I gave him a
poke in the back. I said, "You gonna eat this?"
He said, "I'm not supposed to, but I'm a bad boy. I like them."
And he ate them.
M: They don't eat frogs ordinarily.
RM: No.
M: Any explanation for that, that you can give?
RM: Yeah, they have a legend about it. I think all
as far as whites are concerned, they're edible.
Ace certain things taboo that they just don't eat.
way--they don't eat crabs.
of these things,
But they have
Crab's the same
M: With regard to legendry, there is on file up there in the P.K.
Yonge Library of Florida History the text of a little talk you
gave down here before the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1947.
You speak about the rattlesnake, the little legend of the rattle-
snakes' teeth, and the matter that where God walked around the
world, the coontie and the palmetto, the cabbage palm sprang up.
RM: That's right.
M: I'd never heard that one before.
Where we get any of the legends, we put them down. I'd
like to ask you; some of them puzzle me, because in the Aesop
fable tradition, these things usually have a moral, but I've
never been able to pick much out of the Indian ones. For instance,
let me mention one: The bear and the rabbit are having a bean
dinner and they haven't got any fat to cook the beans. The bear
is host, so the bear rips off a little of his excess fat, throws
it in the pot, and they have these nice beans. Then the rabbit
later has to-return the courtesy and there's no fat. He hasn't


30
got much, but he takes off a little and throws it in the pot, and
it makes him very sick. So the bear goes out to get medical help
and he gets the buzzard or the wolf, whatever, and the upshot is
that the buzzard or the wolf eats the rabbit up. Now, what goes
on .here, where does that go?
RM: I don't know. I don't see any more point to it than you do. A
lot of them you don't.
M: Well, there must be some explanation in their culture, isn't
there?
RM: I suppose there is. They have some strange, strange beliefs.
M: Is there any one specially startling legend that you would be
at liberty to tell me?
RM: You know, I've got a world of them written down, but half of them
I can't remember. This has been over a period of some twenty-odd
years. More than that.
M: We were talking about the Indians and liquor. Do you think the
Indian metabolism has any particular sensitivity to liquor?
RM: / I'm sure that it does. I'm sure that it must, because so many
Indians, when they drink, they get mean. Men that when they're
sober, are kind and just as nice as they can be; but when they
get drunk, they get mean. They lose all perspective--an Indian
gets drunk, he'd just as soon jump on three good, big people
as one. It doesn't make any difference to him, he doesn't
care.
M: Now you mentioned earlier that at some time they had a drug
problem down there.
RM: They do. They have it now.
M: It was fundamentally marijuana?
RM: Marijuana and I don't know how much of the hard stuff, but I
know that they do have it on all three reservations. Just recently
I came back from there.... I know that they still have it.
When I was there this last time, we were at.this camp and
Ingraham came over. There were a number of us sitting around
there, and he talked, and he talked fast. He was upset :i ^:


31
about something. I don't know and I couldn't understand what
he was saying. I'd get a word now and then, but he was just
talking fast and I can't...
M: He was talking in Miccosukee?
RM: Yeah. I can't understand it when they talk fast; I can talk it
better than I can interpret it.
It seems that one of the Indians had brought him there.
I made a movement of that sort to indicate to him that I didn't
know what it was all about. He went outside and motioned to me
to come out there and I went out.
He said, "Ingraham's granddaughter..." He has a granddaughter
that he's very fond of, and she'd gotten old enough to get married.
It's Frank's little girl, adopted little girl, and she spent a
lot of time with her grandfather--as I say, she's just about his
idol. She married a very nice boy and someone had come in there
and gotten that boy smoking marijuana. Ingraham had just found
it out, and he was plenty burned down about it. Of course, if
that boy's real smart, he'll stop that before the Corn Dance.
You can bet on that.
M: In reading your talk in '47, you speak:about there being 700
Indians pretty much in Florida at the time. Any idea what the
population is at this time?
RM: ( Yeah. I would say just roughly, without looking at their census,
/ .... I'd say around sixteen, seventeen hundred. But you know, there
are about two thousand in this area, from all different tribes--
right around Orange County, Osceola and Seminole, about two
thousand Indians. We've got a lot of them.
M: Say, that brings up another question up. You spoke about the
Orlando Seminole Indian, or Indian Association...?
RM: Seminole Indian Association of Florida.
M: Yeah, but you spoke about a local...
RM: Oh yes. The American Indian Club of Florida in Orlando.
M: What's that? Tell me something about that if you're willing to.
RM: It's a club originated by some Indians. The object of the club


32
was to help other Indians that came in here and needed
help, and to eventually establish an American Indian Center
here.
By the way, while I think about it there's something I want
to give you from Buffalo Tiger. I don't know that you can
possible funding sources with it or not, but you might run into
somebody who might be interested to want to help them.
They put on a very good play here. They had it in Sarasota,
Tampa, they had it here, and then they went up and had it in
Tallahassee. But they didn't give me eonugh notice here. I
found a place for them to have it, and I found a good place for
'em all to put up. They had the western dances, and songs. It
was very nice. They want to have this down there and make a
yearly thing out of it just the same as the Seminoles put on
their powwow. Have it down there on the Trail. So, if you
hear of anybody, would know of anybody connected with any
foundation that could be of any help to them, it would be a
good thing.
M: In that little talk you gave thirty years ago, you spoke about
the Indians buying a lot of savings bonds in World War II. Now,
what I want to ask you about, not many of the Indians were inducted--
Florida Indians, were they?
RM: -No, and I'll tell you what happened. They were going to draft
~ a lot of these Indians and Stanley Hanson knew the head of the
'-draft board in Tallahassee. He knew the colonel and he went
up there and he told him the Indians were quite upset about
it. He said, "If you try to draft these people, any of their
fyoung men, they're gonna disappear in the swamp. It's not that
Ithey're afraid to fight, but they don't know the government; and
1-'/ what dealings they've had with the government haven't been good,
Kand they'll disappear into the swamp. Furthermore, you would only
have a comparative handful, and most of those are young men
whose families are dependent upon them."
And after he'd explained this to him, he said, "Well, we
just cross them off. We'll just forget the whole thing." So
<they were not called upon to go, but during World War I, whole
i tribes enlisted. If the whites had enlisted as the Indians did,
they never would have had to have had the first draft.
M: Do you know any of the Indians of your acquaintance that served
in World II?
RM: Down here you mean?
M: Yeah, anywhere. I mean Florida Indians.


33
RM: Oh yeah, sure. Don Osceola....
M: Well, he volunteered, I take it.
RM: Oh yes. Let me see, Howard Tiger.
M: Did he serve in World War II?
RM: I think he did. A number of them served. I don't remember just
which ones.
M: Now going back to this Orlando American Indian Club, do they have
periodical meetings where you try to gather the Indians of various
tribes?
RM: Second Saturday night of every month.
M: How much of a turnout do you get?
RM: Well, we haven't been getting very much lately. We need a bigger
membership. We started out, we had about 150, and it dropped off
and dropped off. I just don't understand why it has. We had
about sixteen tribes represented. Now, it's a little hard core
that come all the time. You haven't got as many full bloods as
you have half breeds and we've got a number of people like myself,
of Indian lineage. We have a pot luck supper every second Saturday
and we get quite a little turn out. Now we had American Indian
Day last fall, and the president of the thing is a Cherokee, a
retired navy officer, and he got the place out at the naval base
training center to use. We had a dinner out there and dances,
and the place was packed. White people came all over.... We
ran out of food, and we had a heck of a time, but it was a big
success.
M: You mentioned the figure 2,000 Indians around here. What do they
do? I mean, how do they live?
RM: Well, some of them are in business. For example, one I know has
a gift shop in Maitland and Eddie Whitewolf lives in Kissimmee and
he has a business. Jerry Howard is an Oglala Sioux from Pine
Ridge, where they had Wounded Knee. Jerry was formerly sales
manager for a big corporation, making around $50,000 a year. He
had retired from the service, and he lives up in the forest now;
he's taken a job up there. He liked it so well up there he wanted
to live. He chucked this job that he had.


34
M: In the Ocala National Forest?
RM: Yeah, up near Alexander Springs. And, he works at Umatilla in that
fruit company there.
M: Well now, do you think that you've got a heavier concentration
of Indians here than anywhere else in Florida? I mean urban
Indians. Let's call it that.
RM: I believe we have.
M: I wonder why?
RM: I don't know, but so many of the Indians that you meet are not
interested in being associated with their people; they're doing
very well. This girl, this Winnebago that has this shop, she
does. Her husband was a technical advisor to Eastman Kodak
company. Very talented. They have a kiln and she does an
awful lot of art work, but she is in contact with her people
all of the time and she does everything under the sun. If
two Indians come in here and they don't have a place to stay,
they take them right in.
M: There's a grapevine and the Indians that show up in this area
know of some place to go?
RM: Apparently. I don't know how. This Navaho that came here; he's
one of the finest silversmiths in the west.
M: He moved in with you?
RM: No. He moved in with them. He just came to visit me. And
he brought his wife. He had three daughters and two sons and
two cousins with him, and he had a trailer camper, and a good
one, a real fine one. But the work that he does is beautiful.
M: Are there any Florida Indians living around here that have gone
off and left the tribal structure?
RM Quite a lot of them.
M: Are they what we could call, in white terms, fairly "successful"?
RM: They are, yeah, but the ones that have it rough are the ones that


35
come down here.... Well, for example, here's an Eskimo comes
down here from Alaska; he's a nice guy, he can't find any work.
M: Hasn't got any skills, I suppose, that are marketable around here.
RM: No, he can't find a job. He doesn't know where to go to get
any help. So, the club heard about him. When we heard about
him he was down here in jail.
M: On what account, vagrancy?
RM: No, you'll laugh when I tell you about it. Joann heard about him--
that's this Winnebago. She went down there and got him out. He
didn't know about our club--he didn't know anything about anything.
M: Could he talk English?
RM: Oh yes. He'd had three days he hadn't eaten anything, so he went
into one of the best restaurants in town. He ordered the biggest
meal he could get, sat down, and when he got through with it he
went up there, he said, "I was hungry so I ordered a big meal, but
I don't have any money to pay for it. Can I work it out?"
The manager-canme. It made the manager mad, and he said, "No,
you can't work it out." And he gave him a fit, called the police
and threw him in jail.
Now, if I'd been in that restaurant, I'd have said, "Now
wait a minute, I'll pay this. If this guy is hungry, feed him.
I'll pay for it." But the manager wouldn't pay for it. He was
scum to him, and yet the guy was a nice little guy. He'd never
done anything wrong. He was just hungry, that's all.
M: Do you find among the white people, anti-Indian prejudice in
general?
RMH Not here, no. People in the state of Florida in general, are
friendly to the Indians, friendly to the Seminoles and Miccosukees.
We have several Indians on the police force here.
M: Not Florida Indians.
RM: No. And we had one expressman work the express office; he was a
Creek, a very articulate guy. He had a sense of humor, but he
was a full blooded Indian.
There's so many that come down here and they can't find work.
M:: Would your local club ever think of setting up an office to which
people like this could come?


36
RM: Yeah, if we had the money we would.
M: It would take money, of course.
RM: We don't have the money. I'll tell you, our big trouble with
our club. We've got two factions in it, and I think one thing
that's disgusted some of the Indians.
I know Pawnees, two families of Pawnees who are very active.
They're professional dancers and they were with Silver Springs
for a long time....
M: You mean professional Indian dancers?
RM: Yes sir! Well, they were at Six Gun Territory up there for a
long time. Now their cousins are up there, and they're back
in Oklahoma where they wanted to be.
I don't know, for some reason or other there's always some-
body that's disagreeing in there. It seems to be a trait of
Indians not to agree. Tribal councils down there talk things
over, and they agreed, and when that decision was made that's
all there was to it. Anybody out here disagreed, that's too
bad--it's already done, that's it. But with these people, I
don't know. A lot of Indians that have come and haven't stayed.
M: Do you know of any other communities that have got an Indian
club like this in Florida?
RM: No, I don't. I think it's a fine thing. When Jerry Howard was
president of this--this is Oglala Sioux--he went out here and
he found a man that lived on Chickasaw Trail, just out east of
Orlando. And he had ten acres out there of raw land, pines,
palmettos, beautiful piece of property. This man was part
Cherokee and very sympathetic to Indians. He also worked for
the school system here. I don't know what his job was, but he
had a pretty good one. He was gonna retire in a few years,
and he told Jerry, "Now you can have this land for its current
value," which was $30,000. He says, "There's ten acres of it,
and you don't have to pay a dime down on it for three years,
and if at the three year period, you still can't pay anything on
it, all I want is the interest on that money. Now I'm retiring
at such and such a time, and I want this as a supplement to
my retirement."
So we got the land and we couldn't raise the money. I can't
understand why we can't raise it, damn it. If a church wants money,
they get out here, if somebody wants something they get out here,
and they raise $100,000--no trouble. We couldn't raise it for
some reason or other. It came due.


37
One of the Indians, a Cherokee.... Jerry said the deal was
if we did not use it he did not want us to resell it, but we
give it back to him. So that was the deal. This young man
said, no, he wouldn't go along with giving it back. He said,
"We had it. We had the deed to it; it was clear. Let's find
somebody that'll buy part of it and give us the other part."
I said, "No. You made a deal with that man; if we did not
use it to return it, deed it back to him, and that's the only
way I'll go along with it."
Jerry was present. He said, "That's the deal. That's the
only way I'll go along with it." So we overruled him and we
gave it back to him.
But why in the world we couldn't...I don't know. We
couldn't find the money to finance that thing and build a nice
Indian center there. A cultural center was what we wanted to do.
"7 M: Does there still exist a Seminole Indian Association of Florida?
RM: It's practically inactive. It was organized in 1913, and it
had some most illustrious and prominent people interested in
it. It's still in being; it's a corporation. The point was,
they organized the tribe and there wasn't much we could do for
them. Now while this was still active we did a lot of things.
Stanley, in the name of the Association, got these Indians ex-
empted from the draft.
When I was head of it, the U.S. Engineers took the whole
state reservation, and ran their line right down the west line
of that state reservation--we were all under water. We were
under water part of the time anyway, but they were gonna make
that their reservoir, Central and South Florida Flood Control.
We had a meeting. I set it up here; it took me over a year to
get the whole thing set together. I had the head of every bureau
in the state here, with few exceptions. I had the officers of
the area office over in Muskogee here. I had the lieutenant
governor here; the governor could not come. Mr. Florey was here
from the Washington office, and the engineers were here, the
district and from the head office in Jacksonville. And we got
them:to move that over.
,, I See, that's seven miles wide, that state reservation; ap-
j proximately twenty miles long. They were taking the whole thing.
So we made an agreement with them that they would move it over
three miles, that they would dike that, they would put in pumping
stations, and if the Indians needed water on the federal reser-
vation they could let it out. If they got flooded, they could
pump it back over there.
Sounds fine on paper--it doesn't work, not to my satisfaction.


38
I said, "Mr Florey, I would like to ask who is going to see to
it that the U.S. Corps of Engineers do what they're promising to
do?"
This engineer got up and he said, "Mr. Mitchell, apparently
you don't think very much of the engineers."
I said, "Mr. Richardson, I don't think a damned thing of you,
not a thing. I think that you'll do anything that you think is
necessary to attain your own ends. I don't have any faith in
you whatsoever."
It didn't gather any friends, but the gist of the whole thing
was that they went ahead with this. Mr. Florey said, "Well, we'll
see that they do." They ran that ditch and dike within twenty-
five hundred feet north of the main ditch that flows out of the
federal reservation. That year we had excessive rains, and that
dumped that whole bit of water down there into that reservation,
reversed the flow of the ditch, and did them twenty thousand
dollars worth of damage on their pastures.
I raised the dickens about it and the engineers finally said
that they had other funds that they would use for this, left
over from other work projects. Only they didn't do anything.
And finally I got the Association of American Indian Affairs in
behind them and they had to threaten to sue them, and only then
did they carry that out. If they'd just carried it past that
ditch another three thousand feet--that's not far--they wouldn't
have done that damage. But, that's the way it goes.
M: Now, with regard to these governor's councils, did Kirk set up
the first one? Were you on that?
RM: Yeah.
M: Have you been on it ever since?
RM: Yeah, till Mr. Askew came in and then he selected his own men.
M: But you're on it now, aren't you?
RM: Well, yes, I'm on it now, but the way that thing worked--he selected
men that the Indians didn't know, and that didn't know the Indians
or care anything about them, apparently. The Indians didn't
like it, so they went to Tallahassee and they insisted that right
then, he have his secretary write letters to ever one of these
men, informing them that they were no longer on the commission,
and that they put me back on.
When we had our first meeting up there, he attended the meeting


39
and he came around and he spoke to me and was very nice. He
said, "I want to congratulate you on all the years that you
have worked to help these people." And he was very nice. He
also said that he was from Oklahoma and they are aware of the
Indians. He's very sympathetic and he had researched this back
a number of years, this situation here, and found that there'd
been an awful lot of talk, but nothing ever done.
M: Is that true?
RM: Yes, it's true.
He said, "I hope with this commission we'll be able to do
something for them." But to date, there's been a lot more talk.
M: Well, it's not financed by state funds, anyway.
RM: Yes it is. This is funded.
M: I thought it wasn't.
RM: Well, this is the first time they've ever done anything for the
Indians, as far as I know. Oh, they give them license tags,
you know, but that's like, me giving you"a 'Tunch oftapes and
r.then taking something a thousand times of more value from you.
This was funded. Under Kirk we had some 34,000 odd dollars
funded to start a law enforcement deal.
M: Appropriated money?
RM: <I don't know where it came from, but at any rate, this was the
, start to buy equipment and to train Indians as law officers to
lwork on their own reservations. We were gonna train them so
that when they got through they'd be second to none, but Kirk
went out; we did not get.hthe-money.
We had a meeting down on the trail, and our representatives
from the state were there. The commissioner was there, United
States Commissioner, and this was brought up. I asked these men
from Tallahassee, I said, "Now, $34,000 was promised. We were to
get it on November the first. Do you know anything about this?"
They didn't know anything about it, and they had previously
said, "We want to help the Indians in any way we can. We'll do
anything we can to help them."
Fine. That's a lot of bull. You could shovel that out with
a shovel as big as a steam shovel. So I said, "Well, how much
can we expect now from you?"


40
"Oh, we don't have any money."
I said, "How in the hell are you gonna get any work done
with no money to do it?" Well, they didn't know. They didn't
know anything about the other and they didn't think we had any
money up there.
Well, at any rate, Osley Saunook, the chairman of this, and
Buffalo Tiger and the rest of them, got this thing funded, and it's
out. I believe it's the last of June or some time right along
in there. And we hope to get it put back on an additional amount.
The Indians have used that land down there for years--
conservation area three. In 1959 we were in Tallahassee. I was
trying to get 200,000 acres of land for them; saw grass, it was
under water, nobody used it. And the governor agreed to give it,
and the cabinet went along with it. And that was fine. Come
back in June and the thing will be consummated and everybody
was happy. We all went home feeling good. We went back in
June, and they had decided not to give it.
Well, I don't work for the government and I don't work for
the state, so I feel that I am at liberty to say what I think.
I may not make any friends by it, but damn it, that's what I think.
I had surmised that this was gonna happen because via the grapevine--
I have some relatives in Miami--I had heard that the Sportsman's
Club down there and the Airboat Club were raising the devil, didn't
want the Indians to have this. So when they said they were sorry
but things had come up and they just couldn't go ahead with this,
I made the remark, "Well, when we were here in April you told us
that it was settled, that we could have it, that the Indians could
have it, and you had newspaper coverage. This was in all the
papers. Now we come up here to consummate the thing, and finish
it up, and you tell me you've changed your mind, you don't want to,
you just can't do it. If a man's word's no good,the man's no good.
Now, you can take it any way you want."
The governor got mad. He says, "Do you mean to call me
a liar?"
f"- I said, "You can take it any way you want it. The fact re-
mains that this is what you did. You gave your word and now you're
not going ahead with it. Now, what would you call it?"
We talked to him afterwards in his office. He'd cooled off
and I'd cooled off a little bit, and I told him, "They've worked
on this damned thing for Lord knows how long. I don't have much
money, but I've spent some of it I shouldn't spend on this thing,
and it's a bitter disappointment to me."
Well, in 1960 we got a written paper on usage of it, for them
to control it. They didn't give it to us. But, you see, right
after this happened the governor appointed a committee. He ap-
pointed Mr. Pennycamp on the paper down there.
He appointed


41
Louis Capron, and he appointed judge somebody to check in on this
thing to see if the Indians were to have this land. Damn fools,
and they decided that he wasn't and Capron went along with it.
When I saw Louis I told him, "Louis, why in hell did you sell
these people down the river?"
Well, he said, "I was outnumbered."
I said, "I don't give a damn if you were outnumbered a
thousand to one. You could have gone on record as saying they
were ready to have it, and they should have it." Well, he
felt badly enough so the guy actually had tears in his eyes.
M: Did you know any of the old Indian traders? Did you know
Frank Stranahan?
RM: I never knew him. I knew his wife very well.
M: Did you ever know any of the Browns?
RM: Frank Brown?
M: Yeah.
RM: I've met him with Stanley Hanson, Stanley was a friend. Oh,
what's his name, he was a great friend of Frank Brown, Josie
[Billie]. Frank had the first trading post out there at the
Point of Cypress--not the Point of Cypress, but the old boat
landing. That was always water there. They went to Miami through
there. It's dead now, dried up.
M: You had something to do, did you, with Billy Bowlegs when he
was alive?
RM: Oh yeah. I knew him; I never knew him as I did the Miccosukees.
I knew Billy and I respected him.
M: Was he a Creek, a Muskogee?
RM: Yeah, well, he was part Negro. His mother was a slave, and
years ago, they looked down on these people. I don't know if
they ever did Billy. I've got pictures of him. He doesn't look
any more Negro than I do.
M: Handsome old man.
RM: Wasn't he? Fine looking.
M: Did you know Albert DeVane?


42
RM: Yes, I knew Albert DeVane. Albert was a good friend of the Indians.
Too bad they don't have more like him. I never knew her [Mrs.
DeVane] real well. I knew Albert, he never knew anything about
the Miccosukees.
M: But she has valuable stuff there. Well, she's got a lot of
artifacts and then she's got that ceremonial stuff that Billy
Bowlegs wore so much. That turban which Albert made out of
foam rubber for him.
There's just one thing that I want to ask you, and you
don't have to answer it if you don't want to, but we have
received through certain interviews statements of the fact that
Josie Billie had, himself, killed a woman in the dim past. Do
you care to comment on that, and that he was subject to
tribal discipline for it?
RM: No comment on that. He was a close friend of mine. The only
comment I can make would be that if he did anything like that
it was just.


Full Text

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SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: ROBERT D. MITCHELL INTERVIEWER: JOHN K. MAHON DATE: March 26, 1975

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M: This is an interview between Mr. Robert D. Mitchell, a long-time friend of the Indians and extremely knowledgeable about them, with me, John K. Mahon, taking place on 26 March 1975 at his home, on the shores of Lake Jessamine. Is this in the city limits of Orlando? RM: It's outside of Orlando. M: Would you please, Mr. Mitchell, just comment a little bit about how you got to Florida, and so on, when you first started? RM: My mother's people are from New York state, my father's also. My father's health was bad and we came down here in 1910. Mother's people were of Mohawk Indian descent, and as a kid I was always interested in Indians. As I grew up, I felt that they had a pretty lousy deal, and they were still getting it. So as years went by I was very much interested in the Miccosukees and the Seminoles, but they had nothing to do with whites whatsoever. M: Did you get into the nursery business at the very start when you came here? RM: No. My father died, and later my mother married a man who was a horticulturist; he had been an ornithologist. I became interested in the nursery business through the fact that he was. I got a scholarship and I went to Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University in St. Louis. I'd lost one year in the service in World War I. I came back and finished. I stayed up there for a number of years, and then I came back down here in 1928. * In the course of this interview, the informant will occasionally say something in the Seminole language. Such passages cannot e transcribed and will be indicated by [Seminole words].

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2 Before I left here, I had made a friend in Fort Myers by the name of W. Stanley Hanson [W. Stanley Hanson, Sr.]. Stanley was probably the only white man at that time, that the Miccosukees had any confidence in. I talked him into taking me down there. For a long time I couldn't persuade him to do it. He had the idea that my interest was idle curiosity, and he wouldn't do it. Finally he did, and he vouched for me. He told the Indians that this young man was different than the whites that they had known and that I didn't lie, I didn't steal, and I wouldn't bother their women. Those are the prime requisites if you want to get along with the Indians. So, from that time on I became very friendly with them. I came back here to live, as I say, in 1928. I started going down there again and for twelve years I never missed a year but what I spent at least a month living with them. I eventually learned "ihe Miccosukee language, much of which, I'm sorry to say, I've forgotten now. But my interest in these people has been primarily to help them. M: When you would spend thirty days down there, what did you do? RM: Well, there never was a dull moment as far as that's concerned. Many times, we'd have our own camp, but other times we'd just live right with them. M: When you say we, who was with you? RM: W. Stanley Hanson. M: You went with him regularly? RM: Yes. Later years, why he died, and I went by myself. You'd get up in the morning at daylight, and you'd have your breakfast, and usually the women would have work to do. The men would sit around and talk for awhile, or if they needed food, they'd go hunting, and many times I'd go with them. As a rule, they don't like to hunt with white people, because they say they make too much noise. Indians say that you can hear them a mile off. I was quite successful in hunting with them. I didn't make any noise--at least not much more than they did, because they were able to kill game with me along. Much of the time, we just rested, talked, did anything that we wanted to do. For my part, I admired the country. It was a beautiful country. There weren't any white men in it at that time, and it hadn't been cut in any way. There were no fences. From Fort Myers to Immokalee was just a wilderness.

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3 There were no roads at that time at all--you could go places, but you went through the woods taking any course that you could to get there. Much of the time, you got stuck, but you could always get out. I had thirty days or more to fool around with, so if I got stuck in any one place, I just made camp there. Sooner or later some Indian would come by, and we'd get out. M: What were you driving? RM: I had an old Ford car that I had fixed up to go through that country--an old Model T. It wasn't much to look at, but it got me places. I always enjoyed it. You know, it was never a dull time about it, because the country wasn't...I call it killed. Later on white men completely killed the country. In places where I ~o used to go, there was lots of game. You'd see turkeys---it wasn't uncommon to see two hundred in a flock. Plenty of deer, I've seen as many as twenty-seven in one herd. You'd wake up in the morning, and you'd see them feeding around the cypress. The Indians would never kill a deer close to their camp; they just didn't like to do that. They'd go off and kill one. One day I asked old Charlie Cypress how many deer there were right around camp. He said [Seminole words] ("nine deer") in here. Later on I asked his son, John, "How does your father know there's nine deer in here?" He said, "He knows there's nine deer. Their tracks are a little bit different, and he knows there are nine deer in here." There were, it seemed to me, millions of pond birds, egrets, wood ibis, all kinds of wading birds. Now you go down there and you don't see anything but cattle egrets. The country's entirely different. I remember one time we were camped, three or four of us, and we decided to move camp and go to another place. When we got to that place, I could hear something way off that sounded like a drum, and I asked the Indians what that was. They told me frogs [Seminole word]. I said [that] I would like to hear that. They said, "Alright," so we walked three or four miles where this was taking place. Their families came up here and they spent ten days with me, and we had a ball. They put their tents out there--their mosquito bars. They brought all their chickens, their pigs, and I don't know how many alligators, but a lot of little ones they intended to sell.

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4 When they got through, Whitney Cypress wanted to know, he says, "Where do we put them? We don't sell them, we don't want to take them back." I said, "Just dump them in the lake." There were about forty of them, so they dumped all forty of them in the lake. We had a real good time. I asked them, "Why do you bring all this chicken and sookee [suckling] pigs and stuff up here?" They said, "Well, we leave them home, white man come in and he steal them." Now this was 1932, and the worst of it was--I found out later when I went down to visit them. Old Charlie Cypress had a beautiful camp, whopping big house, and he called it Camp Florida. And white hunters had come in there--he lived on the edge of the Big Cypress--and they had cut his floor up. He had a split log floor, and they had taken the logs out and used them for fire wood. M: Going back to when you were talking about the drumming off in the woods. Would you go ahead with that? RM: It sounded like a great big drum and I wanted to see that. Now around my camp, in the rainy season years ago, you couldn't carry on a conversation such as we're carrying on, because you couldn't hear each other--too many frogs. I have no idea how many different kinds, but plenty of them. So, we walked over there to this place. It was a great big swale or pond, with cypress growing around it, and it was shallow in the middle. I never heard such a racket in my life. We couldn't talk to each other at all. There were all sorts of different types of frogs--frogs that grunted and frogs that peeped and I have no idea how many different kinds. But the whole thing, when you got a little ways away from it, had a regular rhythm to it. It sounded like an enormous, great big drum. That evening when I got back to camp I was thinking about that, and I thought, "You know, that thing impresses me. That is the real heart of Florida. Just as a heart would throb, that thing drummed." And today it's all gone. f" The white men have drained the country. If anybody has ,~ \ ever killed anything, they sure have killed Florida--the part that (,I knew. The game is pretty much gone. Those Indians that lived the way they used to, off the land, have a rough time making a go of it. The turtles are gone. Always, years ago, there was waterr running through the Big Cypress, clear streams of water, big open pools in there. The place was loaded with fish. There were l alligators, otters...you name it, it was there. In many places there'd be sandbars around these ponds, and the birds would come in there in the evening just by the thousand, but that's all gone

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5 now. I don't know what it is in the Everglades, but just as sure as the Lord made little apples--if they don't stop over-draining this country down there, that Big Cypress, and if the government doesn't take it over, you can kiss that Everglades National Park good-bye as we know it today. Because that's a main feeder for that park. M: Did a lot of those men make their living hunting 'gators and hunting egrets when you first knew them? RM: From the time I knew them, they didn't make a living hunting alligators, and they killed no egrets except to eat. M: They didn't get them for plumes? RM: Not then. It had been outlawed, and that was before the time I went in there. Old Billy Bowlegs told me one time that he had hunted plumes when he was a young man, and at that time they paid eight dollars an ounce for them. Of course, it was outlawed and it eventually stopped. They never exterminated anything. For example, I met four Indians one time on the edge of the saw grass: John Cypress, his brother Frank, whos been dead a long time; there was Ingraham Billie, that's Josie's brother, and Frank Billie, his son. They had been out in the saw grass and they had hunted alligators .. and they had fifteen or twenty hides. Now, they hunted alligators I when somebody wanted a new rifle, or they needed cloth or something. t They'd go get alligator hides, take that many into Fort Myers, sell a them, and they wouldn't hunt alligators again for a long time. M: What were the hides worth in those days? Do you happen to recall? I mean, it was by the foot, I suppose? RM: No, I don't remember. But at the time that they outlawed them here recently, the poachers were getting six dollars a foot for them, and they pretty well cleaned them out, too. Now this lake here runs for two miles when you get around this point, and I'll bet you we had 3,000 alligators right in this end of it. You'd go down there at night, you'd see them everywhere. The woods used to always flood in the summertime down there, and in the wintertime the open prairies would be dry. Of course there was always water in the cypress stands. Now that's completely gone. Even if you cross the Tamiami Trail--those places where the water would run under the bridges that they had across the Trail--

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bone dry, no water there at all. Now they had a little water east of Forty Mile Bend [The point forty miles west of Miami where the Tamiami Trail bends N.W. toward Naples]. Enough to run air sleds, but not anything at all compared to what they used to have. M: When you first knew the Indians down there, you were getting around in a Ford. What was their mode of moving from place to place, camp to camp? RM: Some of them had old ramshackle cars that they'd gotten, and they would go and they'd push them out when they got stuck. But for the most part, every camp would have anywhere from one to four or five dug-out canoes, pulled up. M: Did you ever see any of the Indians using oxen to pull a covered wagon? RM: No, I never did. I've been on several of those old oxen roads, you know. There's one that goes over into Thigahatchee Strand, to Billy Bowlegs's old camp. It's all grown up now, but eight or ten years ago Josie Billie and I went over there, and we found his camp and we followed this old oxen road. It had trees in it, of course, but you could tell that the trees were smaller and it had been a road there. They went in with oxen, of course. M: How about the bigger game, did you see panthers in the early days? RM: I never happened to see one animal itself, but I have seen the tracks around my camp, and I have followed behind a panther when the water was just running into his tracks. M: Have you ever heard them? I guess that's an unearthly sound. I'd love to hear it. RM: Yes. If it's daytime, it's something, but if it's night, it will scare you to death. I came in with some Indians one time who had killed a buck--this was many years ago--and a panther followed us, and they didn't pay any attention to him. I did. I was the last one in the procession there, and I proceeded to get up in the middle. But he followed us and actually close enough so that when they stopped for anything, you could hear him stop too. He didn't bother us, never would have. As far as I know, the only time they ever bother anybody is when they're

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7 mating, possibly, or when they have kittens. Then, don't mess with them at all. M: How about bears? Did you ever encounter bears? RM: Yes. In the Kissimmee Billy Strand, three miles from where my camp used to be, there were a number of bears. According to the Indians, there were eight panther lived in that area there. M: Are there any left that you know of? RM: Oh yes. I think there are panther in there now. M: And bears, still? RM: Yeah. Still bears down there. But when you dry a place up and it burns over, it ruins the country. When you dry it up the snakes disappear, and the things that live on those things disappear and the things that live on those gradually die out. It's a chain reaction there. M: Did Indians ever eat 'gator at all, known to you? Were you ever present? RM: Yes, I've had 'gator tail with them three or four times when I was with them. I remember the last time, it was a piece of alligator tail about eighteen inches to two feet long. They stuck a stick in it, and then a stick in the ground and balanced it over the fire, cooked it. Personally, I don't care for it. M: What you call pond birds, and you mentioned they killed egrets to eat them. What other birds did they eat of this type? RM: Alright, I'll enumerate the birds I've eaten down there. Years ago, I have eaten sandhill crane down there. Occasionally, they kill one. M: They're quite delicate, aren't they? RM: They're good, yeah. Then they eat wood ibis, [Seminole word] they call that, and they eat the white ibis. I believe that's curlew, but they don't eat black curlew. There's a form of curlew that looks exactly like the other except that it's a dark, sooty black. M: Why don't they eat it? Do you have any idea? RM: Yes, I do but I'm not at liberty.... I think the main reason, really, that they don't eat it is that somebody years ago ate

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8 some, and they said that it made them sick. So they don't eat it any more. Also, they don't eat rabbits and they don't eat squirrels and they don't eat frogs. M: What other birds? RM: They eat, of course, wild turkey occasionally, and they eat both of the ibis and they'll eat egret and, let's see.... M: How about the anhinga? RM: There's two months of the year that you can eat that. M: Have you ever tasted any? RM: Yeah, and I didn't like it. It tasted fishy to me, but this particular time, evidently, he killed it one of the months when it wasn't any good. Because he asked me how I liked it. I said, "I don't like it." He said, "Why don't you like it?" I said, "It tastes fishy." He said, "You don't like [Seminole word] fish?" I said, "Yeah, I like fish." He said, "Then why don't you like this?" I said, "I just don't like it." Yeah, they occasionally eat it. But I'll tell you, the tail is much sought after. They use it in their ceremonies. It's the only bird that I know of that the two top tail feathers are fluted on the outside. I had a tail here that I've had for years and I kept it for that, but I had a friend of mine, a Navajo,here about ten days ago, and he spotted that. He really wanted it, so I gave it to him. They use this tail; I don't actually know just what purpose. I asked him, "What do you want this for? What do you use it for?" He said, "We like to make fans." But that's not the whole story, because one of the Indians had three of these tails down there. They were fresh and he was sending them to some Indian in a tribe in the North. He said that they use them to make medicine. Now when an Indian says he wants to make medicine,that dosen't always mean that he's going to make a medicine that you take orally. Do you understand what I mean? M: Sure, I understand. RM: Now, when I was down there this last time there were three carloads of Indians came in. They were all relatives of the family of Jimmie Billie.

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9 M: From where, Oklahoma? RM: No, these are from Florida, and they had the old religion. In other words, they believed in God and the son of God, but they also worshipped through the Corn Dance, and the believed the old way. They carried out the rituals and the old Indian beliefs. And Josie made medicine for these people. Well, I knew all these people. Their father was a close friend of mine, one of the few Indians that I know that was in training for a medicine man. He had, I think, a couple of years more to go and he had some trouble. One of the Indians fell in love with his r-wife. It's a long story, but he had warned this man a number of times and finally he killed him, and the sheriff came up. They called me in the middle of the night, and told me about it and said, you don't have anything to worry about, because all he's got to do is plead self-defense. M: When was this? What year? RM: I don't know, I can't tell you. But at any rate, the sheriff was a friend of his, and the judge was a friend. He was a very hightype Indian. So, the sheriff asked him if this boy didn't come home and he was told by his people there was bad blood between ? the two of them. So he went up and he asked Jimmie. Jimmie said, "Yes, I killed him. I buried him in a good, dry place. He won't have to get wet." When it came to trial, I talked to Buffalo Tiger and I said, "You try him in the tribal council. You don't allow white men to interfere in this. This is Indian business." He said, "We can't do that. The clan is too big, and before / the trial would come up some of the other man's clan would kill \ him." ! So the judge couldn't do anything else. He wouldn't plead -" self-defense. He wouldn't lie. He said, "No, if he didn't stop . bothering my wife I intended to kill him." He said,"I won't lie." M: What was the outcome? RM: /They sent him to Raiford for life. He was only up there about two v years, just a short time, and he hunghims.elf. The pitiful part of it was that Doug Hendry, the sheriff;the judge; and the superintendent; four of them down there for those Indians; and myself; and one or two other people were instrumental in working for him to get him out, and we would have had him out of there inside of a year.

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10 Some of the Indians wanted to know if I'd take him up here until the thing had quieted down. I said yes, I'd take him. He could stay here with us but he hung himself before that time. It was a pitiful thing because he was one of their finest men. Now today they have four men in training for a medicine man. You see, they don't have any of them left. There's [Seminole word], that's Ingraham Billie and Josie Billie, [Seminole word]. r 'They are the only two real medicine men among the Miccosukees today. William McKinley Osceola was a medicine man; he died. His brother Corey is running the Corn Dance, but Corey is not a trained medicine man. But he is running that dance so the people can go. Now I don't think--I don't know, I didn't ask Josie, but I believe ,that Corey very likely has William McKinley's medicine bundle. Without these medicine bundles--it's the life of the tribe as ~,, / far as the old people are concerned--and without it, the tribe <,,will die out. That's their belief. I don't know, maybe they are right. But at any rate, they started out with eleven men, and they have selected four now, and out of that four they will select one. Now when I go down there again, I'm going to suggest to these two old medicine men that they train two instead of one. Then if anything happens--one of them dies or something happens to him-they will have at least one trained medicine man. Now when you say medicine man, a lot of people think this is just a lot of Malarkey, but it isn't. They have to learn the use of all of the '/f herbal medicines that they use, and there are probably two hundred /.or over. They have to learn all of the legends. It's a seven year deal; it takes them seven years. M: Well, now, are those Trail Indians? Now you're talking about Buffalo Tiger's Tribe, primarily. RM: Miccosukee, that's right. M: Then Corey Osceola is really detached from that, isn't he? RM: He is in this way: when the tribe was organized and incorporated, many of the Indians, the Miccosukees, would not come in and sign up as a member of that tribe. They didn't trust the government, w for which I don't blame them. They're still Miccosukees, but -they don't belong to the organized tribe, that's all. Many of those, some of them at least, who refused to join, such as Willy Jim, they lived off the land, and it's getting pretty darn slim pickings. The white men have moved in and it's just a bad deal.

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11 M: Are those people not practicing Christians? Up at Brighton they nearly all are Baptists, I think. RM: A long while ago around 1940, I believe it was, the Creeks sent ,f la missionary down here--an old man by the name of Willie King, who ( was a Baptist. He was a fine old man. Well, he came co Brighton. He converted some of the Seminoles. .,Now the Seminoles are not Miccosukees. They're Muskogees. iThey're offshoots, you might say, of the Creeks; they speak the YCreek language. And they had a cattle program up there, which was very successful. Fred Monsteoca, who is now dead, started that, and Ken Marmon, who was their agent at the time. You see, originally that Big Cypress reservation was gotten for the Miccosukees, not the Seminoles, and the Miccosukees lived there, they had a few camps scattered there. Then when the reservation was opened up, they got W. Stanley Hanson [Sr.] to go down there because of his influence with the Indians. The Indians wouldn't come on that reservation, so Stanley came down and he told them: "They're gonna fence this. It's gonna be yours and you might just as well earn that money fencing it and doing what work is necessary to develop it." So they trusted him, and they came in there. You can believe it or not, but there was no road in there whatsoever, and that first road that's laid off around that headquarters--Stanley and I laid off that first curve over there. I had four years of engineering, which I didn't want, but I had to take it with the course that I had, so we laid that curve off, and they dug the ditches and threw it up in the center, and that was it. But, what was I going to...? M: The religion, you were talking about they converted. RM: Yes. They converted some of these people and they joined the church. At one time there were thirty-two camps on that reservation. Well then a man was in the Smithsonian Institute [Institution] and he had a son that needed a job, so they proceeded to kick Stanley out, as a political deal, and put this man in. And when they did, those Indians scattered, they left there. There were still some camps there, but to make a long story short.... Some of these \/ people were converted, and at the time of their conversion, they were in close association with the ones along the Trail and all down through there as far as Cape Sable.

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12 Well, when they accepted this religion, the people south of there were so angry. Well, Josie, for example, they kicked him v' j off the tribal council, took his medicine sticks away from him, \ and he came up there to live on the reservation. A number of them did. There was a time when you couldn't get one of them to go down on the Trail; they were afraid to go down there. I know,. because I was going down and tried to get some of them to go with me. They wouldn't go. At any rate, as years went by they started this cattle pro.'gram there, and more of the Indians were converted. Those Indians who were on the Big Cypress Reservation and were converted when / the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida was organized, incorporated, signed up as members of that tribe. Although they're Miccosukees, they belong to the Seminole Tribe. And as that cattle thing progressed, they sent members from Brighton who knew about the cattle. They learned about it. Morgan Smith, for instance, was the first one sent over there. He was a great big Indian and he was sent over there for the cattle, and they established a little church down there, and they went. The next man that came down here came down on his own. Willie King got sick, and this man came down, and his name was ,Stanley Smith., He was a holy terror. He did everything in the 'book thac was wrong. I remember Ken Marmon asking me to come to Fort Myers. He wanted to talk to me, so I went down there. He told me, "This man has stolen an engine out of one of our trucks. I just found it out. He's had it in his car for three months. He's got these people up here eating out of his hand. He's the emissary of God, and if they don't do what he wants them to do, he'll have them punished." M: I've heard that. He's still living I think, out in Oklahoma, I guess. RM: Well, that's where I hope he is. He told a lot of the girls and a lot of their husbands that God wanted them to get down to Copeland and work--leave their families here, it's all right, but go down to Copeland and work. And, in my opinion, he always selected the husbands of the best looking women, and then he proceeded to get some of them pregnant. Of course, the old belief is when a girl gets pregnant that's all there is to it, if she isn't married. If something like that happens, they've had it. So, Ken didn't know what to do. I told him, "Declare the place off limits to him." Well he said, "He's got these Indians eating out of his hand, and if I do, then I'm in trouble there."

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13 One thing he did...he told them not to punish their children. Of course, the Indians don't punish the way that we do. He said that he'd punish them all when he came down once a week. He'd take them and he'd beat the tar out of them, which is something they don't do. He wanted to introduce peyote down there. Moses Jumper-who's still alive and lives down in Hollywood now--got in an argument with him about it, and Moses took him to the cleaners, beat the devil out of him. So the next time he came down there, after he got so he was able, he had three of those Indians that belonged to his church hold Moses. And he took a strap about two and a half inches wide and about a quarter to a half inch thick, and he beat him so badly that Moses could just crawl off, and that's all. Now, Ken Marmon told me this. I didn't see it, but he had the strap hanging up in his office. He said, "That's what he beat him with." I said, "Well, perhaps Moses will have the good judgement to kill him." But this didn't happen. He tried to sneak into the Corn Dance one time. Ingraham is a pretty sharp cookie. He had some of the Brighton Indians take him down there and Ingraham, I don't know how he knew it, but he knew it. He sent men out around, and they caught him. And he he told him, "If you ever cane back in my country again, I'll kill you." I didn't hear Ingraham say this, but I got it via the grapevine. Well, I'm not especially a saint, but if I know somebody's gonna get bumped off, even if I feel that it's the right thing to do, I would feel guilty myself if I didn't go tell them about it. I attended the Corn Dance that year, and I knew this, so when I went back, I went by way of Brighton, and I stopped in and I told him. I said, "I want to tell you something. You go back into their country again, they're gonna kill you. For my part, I hope they do, but I am relieving my conscience by telling you this." He had his windows all boarded up; he had his door boarded up. He said, "I'm not going into their country again." I said, "Well personally I hope you do, but I've told you. Now that's it." So I went on home. That is how the Big Cypress Reservation eventually became ia Seminole Reservation instead of a Miccosukee. The Miccosukees who believed the old way pulled out of there, and they went back down the Trail, and they didn't have anything to do with those Indians that were Christians. Now it's different. Now they're

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14 trying--they have established a little church down there among the Miccosukees on the Trail, which is fine. I have no argument; I believe in the Bible passage"Go you into all the world and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ." That's fine. I respect the missionaries for what they're doing, but I don't like the way that they do it. I'm ashamed to say this, but wherever you found illegitimate children you found them among those who had taken up our religion. You never found any when they lived the old way, because if they had any, that was taken care of. M: Are you aware of any penalties that were ever inflicted? How extreme were they? RM: Well, if they deemed it necessary, death. Josie and Ingraham and the other members of the council had the same powers as our Supreme Court justices. M: Within your memory, to your positive knowledge, have they, by tribal law or whatever you want to call it, executed people? RM: Twice, and I don't want to go into detail, but it was perfectly V fair. They had it coming to them, and if we would do more of the same, we'd have less crime among our people. M: But, they haven't executed anybody in a good while. I guess the law has slipped out of their control. RM: Well, that's it. The last thing that I remember, their having real trouble with whites. Some years ago, I had a friend down there by the name of Chestnut Billie, and he weighed about 260. He was a very muscular, powerful man. I hadn't seen him for some time, and I went down. We were having some trouble with the game wardens. At that time I was president of the Seminole Indian Association, and it befell me to try to straighten it out. The Indians had given me a list of seven wardens that they wanted gotten out of that part of Florida--either moved or fired, gotten out of their hair--especially those down along the Trail. I called this meeting down there, and Chestnut was there. I called it for the purpose of finding out what the story was and what they wanted done. I saw Chestnut, and he had lost a hundred pounds; he looked terrible. I said, "Chestnut, what in the world has happened to you?" He says, "I have what you call diabetes. I take 'em shot every morning." Well, he'd been drinking, and he was pretty well

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15 inebriated. I said, "Look. You're doing the worst thing you can do." He was just feeling good; he wasn't really drunk. So I told him, "Look. If you keep on drinking you're gonna die." "Well," he said, "If I can't have a little something to drink once in a while, when I want it and eat some of the things I want, I'd rather be dead." That's the statement that he made. I said, "Well, you've got a good start." I came home and about two weeks later he was dead. In the meantime... M: How old a man would he have been? RM: Oh, he was in his fifties, maybe early fifties. It's pretty hard to tell, but a very powerful, active man. In the meantime, Mike Osceola, who was William McKinley's oldest son.... I probably shouldn't say this, because whenever we meet it's always, "how are you, buddy, buddy," but I never felt that way about him. He's one of the few Indians that I didn't feel that way about. They were getting ready for the Corn Dance. Chestnut was a man who had white friends; people liked him. He took a man over there, a friend of his, when they were building the houses over there, getting ready for the dance. And some of the Indians, especially Jessie Willie, didn't like it, a white man being around there at all. He didn't know him and he didn't like it. So they had a little argument and a little scuffle. It didn't amount to anything, and they went on working. Chestnut was working, helping them, too, and all of a sudden he had this spasm, or whatever you call it, and he became unconscious. M: Chestnut Billie? RM: Yeah. So they took him back to his camp and from there to the hospital. I think it was in Hollywood, but he died. The next thing we knew--I was told that Mike Osceola had gone to the sheriff and said that he had been killed at the Corn Dance. So the Indians called me and told me, and they wanted something done about it. They didn't want any trouble with whites--this was Indian business. I said, "Was he?" They said, "No, he was not," and they explained what had happened. So I called up Dave Star here, the sheriff who was a friend of mine, and I said, "Dave, do you know anything about this? Have you heard anything from the governor's office about it?" He said, "Yes, they're sending a man down there by the name of Smiley. A special investigator."

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16 I said, "Well, how do I get in touch with him?" "Well, he's over in Tampa." So I called Tampa, and he'd left and he was at a judge's office over in Miami. I called over there and I got him, and I told him what had happened. He said, "How do you know so much about this?" I said, "Well, the Indians have told me. I know this man." And he didn't believe me at all. So I said, "Well, I'll tell you what you do. You be at John Poole's camp tomorrow morning at nine o'clock. The members of the tribal council will be there and they will tell you about this. Personally, I don't feel it's any of your business. It's Indian business." He didn't like that too much either, but a day or two after that he called me up and he said, "I attended that meeting." You see, the Indians had called and asked me to have him there. He said, "You are absolutely right. I'd like to make a suggestion. I'm pulling off the case entirely. I'd like to make a suggestion: Whenever they have Indian business, let them settle it their own way and don't say anything to whites about it." I said, "That's my idea exactly, but when you've got an Indian like this one, that wants to stir up trouble, what are you going to do?" He said, "Well, you can't do anything else, I guess, but get the truth out. That's all." M: Now reverting to the Green Corn Dance, I suppose Brighton, when it had one, always had its. own. RM: Yeah. They still have it. The only medicine man at Brighton is Frank Shore. M: Dania doesn't have any, but do the ones still clustered around Buffalo Tiger's place still have an annual Green Corn Dance? RM: Yes, they go to Ingraham Billie's, Josie's brother. M: Which is off the Trail or on Big Cypress? RM: It's north of the Trail. It's off the Big Cypress. M: So there are still annually a couple of Green Corn Dances a year. RM: Oh yes, three. Ingraham Billie has one, usually starts in the little moon of June. A little before that, as a rule, William McKinley

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17 had his, and then Frank Shore has his. Now during the time when Ingraham didn't have his for a couple of three years, they went all the way up to Frank Shore's. Well, I know why they didn't go to William McKinley's, but that's another story. They'd go up to Frank Shore's, quite a long ways. The missionaries, as I say, I respect what they're trying to /do, but I don't go along with they way they're doing it. They )witry to discourage all of the old culture. The Corn Dance is the work of the devil to them, and that's a lot of poppy-cock to me. I don't care how you worship--that's your business. It's enough that you do it. Some time ago, I don't think this is news, I don't think anybody knows about it much, but I was told by one of his sons that <.Ingraham had been told, and I believe him, that if he had the ' Corn Dance,he couldn't stay on the reservation. He certainly couldn't come to church. Well, he was very much upset about it, that he couldn't stay on the reservation, so Frank told me about it. I said, "That's a lot of bunk. This is a reservation. It's his just as much as any one of the Indians. He's got every right to stay here the same as anybody else, and nobody can put him off--nobody. If he wants to go to church, I certainly think it wouldn't be much of a missionary if they wouldn't welcome him." Jimmie Tiger saw me. I was down there at a meeting, and he told me about it. He said, "Do you go to the Big Cypress?" I said, "From here I go to the Big Cypress, and I stay one week." He says, "You talk to Ingraham. We want to have the dance. / A lot of the old men think the tribe is not doing well. We've had several Indians die. We've had two or three commit suicide, even more than that. And to not use the medicine bundle is not right. The old people that worship the old way, they're worried." So I went and I talked to Ingraham. And I got to one of his sons.... Now I can speak Miccosukee to a certain extent, at that time I could speak it pretty good, but I got him to interpret so there would be no chance of any misinformation, and I told him this. The next year they had the dance. And I intended to go, pick up Josie and go, but I couldn't go. We had sickness in the family and I just couldn't go. They've had it ever since then. Ingraham strictly believes the old way and he's a fine man, and he does not do the work of the devil. If he does it, I do it along with him.

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18 M: As far as you know, are there three medicine bundles in existence? RM: Three medicine bundles that I know of at the present time. M: Now another point that I wanted to ask you about, historically, f-or any other way you want to talk about it, what's the big distinction between the Miccosukees and the Seminoles? I I understand they speak different tongues, they all came out of the -. basic Creek culture. RM: No. According to the old medicine men, which I go by rather than historians, because so many of the histories have got things balled up. For example they'll tell you that Osceola's name means "rising sun", it means "black drink", it means this and the other thing. Actually according to the medicine men, his name was Asan Yahola. Yahola in Seminole--he was a Seminole, a Muskogee--Yahola means "head man, the king of the works". Asan is "moss." "The king of the moss." I asked Josie one day, "Why do you call him a strange name?' "Well," he said, "moss is everywhere. You can't fight, you can't whip moss." Now this is what he told me. Asan Yahola, and literally, in our language that's what it means. It doesn't mean black drink. It's like the word Seminoli. So many people will tell you it means runaway. Now they don't like that. It does not mean -"runaway". Seminoli means "wild" and where that originally . comes from, there are a lot of different pronunciations of it. ( Today if you say "wild hog" you say "Seminoli", or you say deer [Seminole word], "wild deer." You see, at one time there were thousands of Creek Indians down here hunting these people. You know that, and some of these people, these Indians haven't forgotten that,especially the Miccosukees. And I know that several Indians, friends of mine, belong to the Indian club here (and there's one in Kissimmee) a full blooded Comanche.... [They] have gone down there, and they have not been received by the Miccosukees. And they came back to me and said, "That's the first time I went into a brother's camp or another Indian, that I wasn't received." It's handed down from great-grandfather to father and so on that they were hunted by these other Indians, and they don't cotton to them. M: Well, according to the medicine men, what is the basic distinction, historically or any other way you want to put it, aside from language?

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19 RM: ,-Well, all right. The Miccosukees were always here. They didn't break away from anything; they lived in north Florida. They , spoke a different language. They were different Indians and the J character of the Indian is different. I know the two groups. Of course, I've know the Miccosukees much more intimately than I have the Seminoles, but they will tell you that they never sat down to any peace table with the whites. Now you can say that the /Seminoles have never made a peace treaty with the whites--never signed peace. They signed a lot of them--the only difference was the whites never kept them. Now the last treaty they made was not ratified by Congress; so as far as the whites were concerned, it didn't amount to anything, but to the Indians it did. M: So, it's the belief of the Miccosukees that they are aborigines. RM: .VZThey were here. That's what they believe. When we went to a meeting of the board of directors of the Florida State Indian Commission, a while back, we flew in there and we took a taxi to where the meeting was going to be held, in one of those buildings. We passed a sign that said Miccosukee, with an arrow on it; a little town apparently. I called Buffalo's
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20 But years ago it was always considered.... The Seminoles were called--one name was the cabbage woods Indians, because they lived at Brighton, and that's all cabbage forest, most of it; it's beautiful. And the Big Cypress Indians--they were just two different people. The first time I ever heard any difference or ever knew anything about it, was at Okeechobee. There were a group of Indians up there, and John Cypress was there, and John could understand a joke, you know. And this real pretty girl came by... M: Indian? RM: Yeah. Of course they never let you know,. Marriages are made by the families and the boys never would let you see them ogle a girl the way we do. The girls were very bashful, timid. Stanley poked John and he said, "Now there's a pretty girl." John said, "No. No talk like we do." Stanley said, "What do you mean, she doesn't talk like we do?" He said, "She not talk same language." That's the first it was ever known. And in those days it was considered that three quarters of all the Indians in the states were Miccosukees, and one quarter were Seminoles. Now they've intermarried, and of course, there are a lot of Miccosukees that have--not many Miccosukees as much as Seminoles that have Miccosukee wives. Joe Dan Osceola, his wife's a Miccosukee. M: He was a Seminole though. RM: Yeah, he's a Seminole; Richard Osceola was his oldest brother. Now let me get this straight. Richard Osceola was Billy Osceola's older brother, then came Billy, then Harjo, and then Robert. Their father was the head medicine man and a very good one. Now, Joe Dan Osceola's father was Richard Osceola, Billy's older brother. That's the way that was. Joe has a Miccosukee wife. Billy Osceola had Alice, she's a micco, and Robert Osceola has a Miccosukee wife. I knew these girls when they were young kids, you know, young teenagers. But at any rate, they were all, the wives were Miccosukees and the men were Muskogee. M: Now you're talking about Billy Osceola who died a couple of three months?

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21 RM: Yeah, that's right. M: He had diabetes too, bad. It's pretty prevalent, isn't it? RM: It has become that way in later years. Now years ago, I never heard of it. I know two Indians that had TB, three. Jimmie Osceola had it; they sent him out there, and he came back, went to work in the tomatoes, got it again, went back out there and he stayed long enough to forget his own language. He came back and told me he couldn't talk to his own people, but he said, "I learned it pretty fast." And there was Wilson Cypress'swife, Rubie. She had it and she did what the medicine men told her and she got over it. And there was John Cypress'syounger brother Frank Cypress. Frank died--he wouldn't stay put. The doctors told him to rest and told him what to do, and he wouldn't do it. He went ramming all over and he died. M: What do you know about the rift, or schism or separation, when the tribe that Buffalo Tiger now runs got separate federal recognition? Were you in on that story at all? RM: Yeah. M: Is there any history of that that's interesting to...? RM: Well, it's interesting in this way: They never would have anything to do with the government. They distrusted the government. / They couldn't get anything done and they couldn't get anything tout of the state. And the state people--I'd go to Tallahassee and talk and all the answer I got was they'd send somebody down here. And then they'd tell me, "Well, they don't know what they want. This group wants this and that group wants that. They don't know what they want." For years I urged those people, "Do something. Get together. Organize a central body." Now that cuts the medicine men out, < because the way the government organizes this thing, they want { it incorporated and the officers elected. The medicine men of each tribe held their offices by dint of brains and brawn. They were the outstanding leaders of the tribe. Now, without mentioning any names, in the past they've had elected officers that were not leaders. Anybody can run for office. If Buffalo wasn't elected I don't know what they'd do. They have no one who is capable of taking his place. Now the other Indians, I think they have other

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22 people that could take Howard Tommie's place. Betty Mae Jumper made a good one, and Billy Osceola was good, but Betty Mae Jumper was a Tiger. I mean, her name was Betty Mae Tiger before she married this man, Moses Jumper. M: Weren't those people in the Buffalo Tiger area under the jurisdiction of the Seminole Tribe at any time? Because the Seminole Tribe was incorporated along about 1957, I think, wasn't it? RM: It was earlier than that, I think; it was '47 if I'm not mistaken. At any rate, no they weren't involved. But you know so many funny things happen over the years. Years ago it used to be one superintendent over the whole business, but he had very little jurisdiction over the Miccosukee because ,they didn't go for that. But that was his job. And then they ,-< started having separate superintendents and that worked pretty good, especially with those Indians that wanted to cooperate. They had a superintendent by the name of Glenn; he was a preacher. They called him "preacher Glenn" and personally, I had no use for the man, but he probably had no use for me either. He got hold of Secretary of the Interior Ickes. Ickes came down here, and he sold Harold Ickes a bill of goods. He got some of the Indians, now none of these Indians were leaders. He got a meeting and he had Ickes there and he got a treaty up, and Ickes accepted it. Ickes didn't find out that it was a phony and the head of the tribe had nothing to do with it until sometime later. When he did, he was pretty well put out. Over the years so many things have happened. They've had different superintendents--some of them good, some of them no good. Had one, won't mention his name, he's probably still alive, but he stold everything he could get his hands on. Of course, this guy, Stanley Smith...the last I knew of him he wound up in Miami, got drunk, got in a fight with somebody, and the guy hit him, and broke his jaw. They put them both in the hospital. They X-rayed his jaw and they found about two-and-a-half inch piece of steel knife blade that's been in that bone. Some Indian out in Oklahoma put it in there years ago. M: Did you ever have anything to do with Harrington when he was a superintendent? RM: Yeah, Virgil, a very fine man.

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23 M: They seemed to like him. RM: Very fine. They liked Virgil. Virgil became a good friend of mine. Right off the bat, though, Virgil started something. For ,i years we've tried to keep the whites off that reservation, you vk know. They poach, they do all kinds of things. Stanley and I fought to keep that reservation clear of white hunters killing rout the game. Well, damn it, as soon as Virgil got here, he f started permitting hunting on that reservation. He gave permits to the county commissioners, and the the members of the Indian ' service that worked down there. We had a meeting down at Big Cypress. Some of the Indians got on the telephone and asked me to come down there, so I went. I was still head of the Indian association; I was very active at the time. They had this meeting, and Billy Osceola was there. And I asked him about this. He said, yeah, the commissioner had been very nice to them and they thought it was a nice thing to do. So I said, "Well, Billy, you're an old friend of mine, so I don't want you to take offense at what I'm gonna say, but, you say you think it's a good thing to do. I say, I think it's a bad thing to do. You shouldn't do it. These white people come in here, they'll clean this game out in no time flat. If you want somebody to hunt on a reservation, have them hunt on your own reservation. Don't come down here and cram it down the throats of these people." I said, "How many of you people want white hunters on your land? Raise your hand." A whole bunch raised their hand, so I said, "You tell Virgil Harrington for me, will you?" I'd never met him. So I stopped by Fred Monsteoca's place on the way home in Moore-Haven and I told Fred. Fred said, "Well, they shouldn't have done that. They made a bad mistake. It never should have been done." I said, "Well, I wish you'd tell Virgil Harrington for me that I'm very much disappointed to think that they'd do a thing like that. Tell him I'd like to see him." So sure enough, about a week later, here came Virgil. M: Here? RM: Yeah. Came up to see me. He was a nice guy. Well, at any rate, he brought Billy Osceola, and I've forgotten

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24 who else he brought with him, but I met him, and he said, "Now what's all this ruckus?" I said, "Well, it's a hell of a note. You've done something that Stanley Hanson, when he was alive, and I have tried to prevent ..for years. And that's the whites stealing Indian game, coming I on this reservation and killing whatever they wanted to. This -t, .is food for these people. If some of them get hungry, they don't have meat, they can go out here and kill a deer if they want it. If the whites steal it all, there's nothing there for them to kill." He said, "Where I come from--the reservation that I was in charge of---we permitted hunting. They paid three dollars for an Indian guide." Or whatever it was. I forget what he said the amount was, but at any rate, they paid the Indian to act as a guide and they hunted. I said, "Well, these people that live on the edge of here, they don't need any Indian guide. They know this country. I want to go anyplace down here, I don't need a guide. I know how to get where I want to go." So we talked and I said, "Virgil, they'll kill that game out of there, before you can say Jack Robinson. They'll get their friends, and the people who've poached in there, the minute that they hear that you have given permits to these people, they'll go in there." Well, he said, "I didn't realize it. We'll stop it." They C recalled all the permits and that ended that. But Virgil was liked by all of the people. I liked him. He was an honest, hard-working guy. And do you know he's out in.... M: He lives in Muskogee. RM: Yeah, fifteen tribes under him. M: Not any longer, he's retired. RM: Well, he can tell you a lot about those people down there because he worked very closely with them. M: Well, you don't have to comment about any of them if you don't want to, but did you know R.C. Quinn? RM: Rex Quinn, yeah I knew him very well. Rex Quinn is a good man. That's the only comment I can make on Rex Quinn. He was sent down here, and they'd had a lot of trouble with two of the

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25 people down here and one of them was this Italian, Ferraca. Well, I didn't like what he did. The Indians hated his guts, you know. They had no use for him. M: One of them broke his arm or something, didn't they? RM: Well, they worked him over a little bit. M: In a tussle? RM: No, he just walked over and smacked him. He got in an argument with him and he hauled off and pasted him. There was a big waste paper basket over there like a garbage bucket--knocked him so hard he fell into that and his feet stuck up and hands stuck up and he couldn't get out. So this Indian had a good heavy ring on him. As I understand it, I've never met the man, he was bald-headed. He just took his head like that, and he did just that with that ring, good on that bald head and fixed him up but good. But the things that he did.... I don't believe in giving beer parties for the Indians; you know, I don't believe in that. He came down to Big Cypress, and he played the law and order down to them there; you do this with your children, you do that with your children, and those children cannot go farther than this. He made them all mad. You can't get along with Indians that way. I don't know the man--I probably shouldn't say anything derogative about him at all. I never met him, so all I know is hearsay, but Rex Quinn, the first thing he did when he was down here was to get fid of Ferraca. M: I didn't know that connection. Ferraca, of course, is still with the BIA. RM: Oh yes. Got transferred, you know. M: He's in Washington. RM: Another thing he did was get rid of Jim Hale. Now Jim Hale was one of the most personable, likeable men you've ever met. A very nice young fellow. M: What was his line? RM: He was the head of land development, and he had big ideas. He had a meeting that I attended down there. He told the Indians that anything he did will be talked over with them first; "I was notified

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26 by the agent that I can do nothing, but you can." He said, "They're up in arms down at the Big Cypress. He has spent $30,000 of their money without any say so to them and they're mad." Well, after a series of haggles back and forth and a lot of talk, Jim came here to Orlando, and we had a meeting at the San Juan Hotel. Mr. Florey of the office of Land Operations came down here from Washington, and Jim Hale was here, the superintendent was here, and one or two others. Well, at any rate, I like Jim Hale. He's a fine young man, but he didn't do what he said he'd do. He told me, "I'm getting grey hairs over this thing. What can I do?" I said, "Well, that's to my mind very simple what you can do. You can pack your bags and get the hell out of there, or else you can go down there and eat crow. Go down there and tell these people you've made a mistake, you realize it, you're sorry, you'll cooperate with them and it will not happen again." So he stayed on till Quinn came, and after that Quinn got him transferred or fired, I guess probably transferred somewhere else because there wasn't anything he could do to fire him. I mean, he hadn't done anything criminal, you know. He broke his word to the Indians, but... M: Well, Quinn got pretty high in the BIA, you know. At one time he was a fairly significant central figure. RM: Well see, what cooked him down here, what really got the Indians down on him: Virgil Harrington told me at one time [that] he said, "If I had four or five men like Bill Osceola, not Billy but Bill Osceola...." A Miccosukee. He said, "He is one of the best business men we've got. He's sharper than a two-edged sword when it comes to business." Well, I guess Bill was pretty much for Bill, but at any rate, for some reason or other--they're all friends of mine--they got down on Bill. Quinn worked with Bill, and when they voted against Quinn and wanted to get him out, they were really voting against Bill. Now, I like Quinn. I flew to Tallahassee with him and we talked about it. He didn't know anything about it. I told him, "Well, this is what's happened down here, and I think if you could get rid of a couple of these guys, why you'd make everybody happy." And that's one of the first things he did; get rid of them.

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27 V M: Now Quinn's successor, if I'm not mistaken, was Gene Barrett. Did you know Barrett? RM: Oh yes, I knew Barrett. Now they've got [Duane] Moxon. M: Do you care to comment about Barrett? RM: Well, as far as I know he was a very good man. I don't know what the Indians thought about him. M: I've got a tape from him, and it's pretty hard; he talks awful straight. RM: Well, I don't know how they felt about him. I never questioned them about Barrett. I always liked Barrett. Of course, Barrett was quite critical of some of the leaders that they elected. I was down there in his office one day. He said, "They go out and they elect somebody. They're not leaders." I said, "Well, this is what you're gonna have as long as you got this system. Now when you got the old system, you got leaders, mister, and they ruled with an iron hand, and those tribal laws were enforced. Now [if] you did something you shouldn't have done, if it was anything important or serious, you got punished sufficiently. You never did it again." M: In the past they've had somebody who transmitted the history /orally, since they didn't have any written language. Is it " K still carried on to a degree? RM: I Down through the medicine men. I don't think that there are a lot .,i of things that the medicine men know that the rank and file don't. 'Now for fifteen years, oh, it's longer that that; Josie has been giving me all the legends, the religion and this part of their life. The medicine,no. He would tell me anything that I asked him, and I know a lot of it because I'd carry him out to.... I have fourwheel drive out there and I can get there much easier than walking. This Upjohn business that he sold the tranquilizer, I carried him out whenever I was down there, and I carried him out the first time to get it for him. So I used to write these all down. There are many things that they believe that a white man would not believe, but they do believe it. It was told to me in strict confidence, so I don't repeat it, but I wish I could tell you. You would immediately see where the Indian could believe it, but if told a white man, he'd laugh his head off. So we just don't say anything about it.

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28 M: But you have over the years written down some reminiscences, legends and stuff? RM: Got a world of it. M: What are you gonna do with it in the long run? RM: Bury it when they bury me. M: Well, if you ever decide differently, you might consider depositing it with us, with restriction for.... RM: Well, if I ever do deposit it, it wouldn't be with any restriction on it. M: Because it is a piece of the history and...? RM: That's right. The things that I can't give out are those things that are told to me in confidence. Many times I would ask something and I'd get this answer, "Okay. This for you. Not for white man, you don't tell white man this." And they would tell me. You know they have many strange beliefs. Of course, on the other hand, you go up in the Dutch area around Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and up in there; they have many strange beliefs about their hexes and one thing and another. The Indian has things much the same. M: They never eat rattlesnake, do they? V' RM: No, only white men eat rattlesnakes. M: Have you ever eaten it? RM: Nope. We have a friend right across the lake there. He's an orthopedic surgeon, and I never go into the woods down there but what if Joe knows it, he'll always say, "Well, on your way home, if you should see a rattlesnake be sure and bring it to me now. Don't just kill it and throw it away." But I never did taste it. I've skinned plenty of them and their meat is very white. / M: Have you got any explanation of why they don't eat squirrels and rabbits? RM: Yes, I do have, but it's something that I can't tell you. M: Okay. They have the rabbit in a lot of their legendary, I know that.

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29 RM: Yeah, they do, rabbits. Now the younger Indians are getting over this--they eat some squirrels now and then. I don't know about the rabbits, but I attended a meeting and we had the dinner down at the restaurant, and the Indian right ahead of me, they had everything you could imagine in the way of wild game. This was entertainment; the government members of the BIA were guests of the tribe, and they tried to have everything that was nice, you know, that they thought they'd like. They had frog's legs and this Indian reached over when he came to that big pile of frog's legs and he took five or six of them. So I gave him a poke in the back. I said, "You gonna eat this?" He said, "I'm not supposed to, but I'm a bad boy. I like them." And he ate them. M: They don't eat frogs ordinarily. RM: No. M: Any explanation for that, that you can give? RM: Yeah, they have a legend about it. I think all of these things, as far as whites are concerned, they're edible. But they have \7' certain things taboo that they just don't eat. Crab's the same way--they don't eat crabs. M: With regard to legendary, there is on file up there in the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History the text of a little talk you gave down here before the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1947. You speak about the rattlesnake, the little legend of the rattlesnakes' teeth, and the matter that where God walked around the world, the coontie and the palmetto, the cabbage palm sprang up. RM: That's right. M: I'd never heard that one before. Where we get any of the legends, we put them down. I'd like to ask you; some of them puzzle me, because in the Aesop fable tradition, these things usually have a moral, but I've never been able to pick much out of the Indian ones. For instance, let me mention one: The bear and the rabbit are having a bean dinner and they haven't got any fat to cook the beans. The bear is host, so the bear rips off a little of his excess fat, throws it in the pot, and they have these nice beans. Then the rabbit later has to-return the courtesy and there's no fat. He hasn't

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30 got much, but he takes off a little and throws it in the pot, and it makes him very sick. So the bear goes out to get medical help and he gets the buzzard or the wolf, whatever, and the upshot is that the buzzard or the wolf eats the rabbit up. Now, what goes on here, where does that go? RM: I don't know. I don't see any more point to it than you do. A lot of them you don't. M: Well, there must be some explanation in their culture, isn't there? RM: I suppose there is. They have some strange, strange beliefs. M: Is there any one specially startling legend that you would be at liberty to tell me? RM: You know, I've got a world of them written down, but half of them I can't remember. This has been over a period of some twenty-odd years. More than that. M: We were talking about the Indians and liquor. Do you think the Indian metabolism has any particular sensitivity to liquor? RM: / I'm sure that it does. I'm sure that it must, because so many Indians, when they drink, they get mean. Men that when they're sober, are kind and just as nice as they can be; but when they get drunk, they get mean. They lose all perspective--an Indian gets drunk, he'd just as soon jump on three good, big people as one. It doesn't make any difference to him, he doesn't care. M: Now you mentioned earlier that at some time they had a drug problem down there. RM: They do. They have it now. M: It was fundamentally marijuana? RM: Marijuana and I don't know how much of the hard stuff, but I know that they do have it on all three reservations. Just recently I came back from there.... I know that they still have it. When I was there this last time, we were at.this camp and Ingraham came over. There were a number of us sitting around there, and he talked, and he talked fast. He was upset i ;.

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31 about something. I don't know and I couldn't understand what he was saying. I'd get a word now and then, but he was just talking fast and I can't... M: He was talking in Miccosukee? RM: Yeah. I can't understand it when they talk fast; I can talk it better than I can interpret it. It seems that one of the Indians had brought him there. I made a movement of that sort to indicate to him that I didn't know what it was all about. He went outside and motioned to me to come out there and I went out. He said, "Ingraham's granddaughter..." He has a granddaughter that he's very fond of, and she'd gotten old enough to get married. It's Frank's little girl, adopted little girl, and she spent a lot of time with her grandfather--as I say, she's just about his idol. She married a very nice boy and someone had come in there and gotten that boy smoking marijuana. Ingraham had just found it out, and he was plenty burned down about it. Of course, if that boy's real smart, he'll stop that before the Corn Dance. You can bet on that. M: In reading your talk in '47, you speak:about there being 700 Indians pretty much in Florida at the time. Any idea what the population is at this time? RM: I Yeah. I would say just roughly, without looking at their census, / ? I'd say around sixteen, seventeen hundred. But you know, there are about two thousand in this area, from all different tribes-right around Orange County, Osceola and Seminole, about two thousand Indians. We've got a lot of them. M: Say, that brings up another question up. You spoke about the Orlando Seminole Indian, or Indian Association...? RM: Seminole Indian Association of Florida. M: Yeah, but you spoke about a local... RM: Oh yes. The American Indian Club of Florida in Orlando. M: What's that? Tell me something about that if you're willing to. RM: It's a club originated by some Indians. The object of the club

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32 was to help other Indians that came in here and needed help, and to eventually establish an American Indian Center here. By the way, while I think about it there's something I want to give you from Buffalo Tiger. I don't know that you can possible funding sources with it or not, but you might run into somebody who might be interested to want to help them. They put on a very good play here. They had it in Sarasota, Tampa, they had it here, and then they went up and had it in Tallahassee. But they didn't give me eonugh notice here. I found a place for them to have it, and I found a good place for 'em all to put up. They had the western dances, and songs. It was very nice. They want to have this down there and make a yearly thing out of it just the same as the Seminoles put on their powwow. Have it down there on the Trail. So, if you hear of anybody, would know of anybody connected with any foundation that could be of any help to them, it would be a good thing. M: In that little talk you gave thirty years ago, you spoke about the Indians buying a lot of savings bonds in World War II. Now, what I want to ask you about, not many of the Indians were inducted-Florida Indians, were they? RM: ,No, and I'll tell you what happened. They were going to draft ! a lot of these Indians and Stanley Hanson knew the head of the v' '-tdraft board in Tallahassee. He knew the colonel and he went up there and he told him the Indians were quite upset about it. He said, "If you try to draft these people, any of their young men, they're gonna disappear in the swamp. It's not that they're afraid to fight, but they don't know the government; and ,j~/ what dealings they've had with the government haven't been good, 'and they'll disappear into the swamp. Furthermore, you would only have a comparative handful, and most of those are young men whose families are dependent upon them." And after he'd explained this to him, he said, "Well, we just cross them off. We'll just forget the whole thing." So 'they were not called upon to go, but during World War I, whole it tribes enlisted. If the whites had enlisted as the Indians did, they never would have had to have had the first draft. M: Do you know any of the Indians of your acquaintance that served in World II? RM: Down here you mean? M: Yeah, anywhere. I mean Florida Indians.

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33 RM: Oh yeah, sure. Don Osceola.... M: Well, he volunteered, I take it. RM: Oh yes. Let me see, Howard Tiger. M: Did he serve in World War II? RM: I think he did. A number of them served. I don't remember just which ones. M: Now going back to this Orlando American Indian Club, do they have periodical meetings where you try to gather the Indians of various tribes? RM: Second Saturday night of every month. M: How much of a turnout do you get? RM: Well, we haven't been getting very much lately. We need a bigger membership. We started out, we had about 150, and it dropped off and dropped off. I just don't understand why it has. We had about sixteen tribes represented. Now, it's a little hard core that come all the time. You haven't got as many full bloods as you have half breeds and we've got a number of people like myself, of Indian lineage. We have a pot luck supper every second Saturday and we get quite a little turn out. Now we had American Indian Day last fall, and the president of the thing is a Cherokee, a retired navy officer, and he got the place out at the naval base training center to use. We had a dinner out there and dances, and the place was packed. White people came all over.... We ran out of food, and we had a heck of a time, but it was a big success. M: You mentioned the figure 2,000 Indians around here. What do they do? I mean, how do they live? RM: Well, some of them are in business. For example, one I know has a gift shop in Maitland and Eddie Whitewolf lives in Kissimmee and he has a business. Jerry Howard is an Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge, where they had Wounded Knee. Jerry was formerly sales manager for a big corporation, making around $50,000 a year. He had retired from the service, and he lives up in the forest now; he's taken a job up there. He liked it so well up there he wanted to live. He chucked this job that he had.

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34 M: In the Ocala National Forest? RM: Yeah, up near Alexander Springs. And, he works at Umatilla in that fruit company there. M: Well now, do you think that you've got a heavier concentration of Indians here than anywhere else in Florida? I mean urban Indians. Let's call it that. RM: I believe we have. M: I wonder why? RM: I don't know, but so many of the Indians that you meet are not interested in being associated with their people; they're doing very well. This girl, this Winnebago that has this shop, she does. Her husband was a technical advisor to Eastman Kodak company. Very talented. They have a kiln and she does an awful lot of art work, but she is in contact with her people all of the time and she does everything under the sun. If two Indians come in here and they don't have a place to stay, they take them right in. M: There's a grapevine and the Indians that show up in this area know of some place to go? RM: Apparently. I don't know how. This Navaho that came here; he's one of the finest silversmiths in the west. M: He moved in with you? RM: No. He moved in with them. He just came to visit me. And he brought his wife. He had three daughters and two sons and two cousins with him, and he had a trailer camper, and a good one, a real fine one. But the work that he does is beautiful. M: Are there any Florida Indians living around here that have gone off and left the tribal structure? RM Quite a lot of them. M: Are they what we could call, in white terms, fairly "successful"? RM: They are, yeah, but the ones that have it rough are the ones that

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35 come down here.... Well, for example, here's an Eskimo comes down here from Alaska; he's a nice guy, he can't find any work. M: Hasn't got any skills, I suppose, that are marketable around here. RM: No, he can't find a job. He doesn't know where to go to get any help. So, the club heard about him. When we heard about him he was down here in jail. M: On what account, vagrancy? RM: No, you'll laugh when I tell you about it. Joann heard about him-that's this Winnebago. She went down there and got him out. He didn't know about our club--he didn't know anything about anything. M: Could he talk English? RM: Oh yes. He'd had three days he hadn't eaten anything, so he went into one of the best restaurants in town. He ordered the biggest meal he could get, sat down, and when he got through with it he went up there, he said, "I was hungry so I ordered a big meal, but I don't have any money to pay for it. Can I work it out?" The manager-canme. It made the manager mad, and he said, "No, you can't work it out." And he gave him a fit, called the police and threw him in jail. Now, if I'd been in that restaurant, I'd have said, "Now wait a minute, I'll pay this. If this guy is hungry, feed him. I'll pay for it." But the manager wouldn't pay for it. He was scum to him, and yet the guy was a nice little guy. He'd never done anything wrong. He was just hungry, that's all. M: Do you find among the white people, anti-Indian prejudice in general? RMH Not here, no. People in the state of Florida in general, are friendly to the Indians, friendly to the Seminoles and Miccosukees. We have several Indians on the police force here. M: Not Florida Indians. RM: No. And we had one expressman work the express office; he was a Creek, a very articulate guy. He had a sense of humor, but he was a full blooded Indian. There's so many that come down here and they can't find work. M:: Would your local club ever think of setting up an office to which people like this could come?

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36 RM: Yeah, if we had the money we would. M: It would take money, of course. RM: We don't have the money. I'll tell you, our big trouble with our club. We've got two factions in it, and I think one thing that's disgusted some of the Indians. I know Pawnees, two families of Pawnees who are very active. They're professional dancers and they were with Silver Springs for a long time.... M: You mean professional Indian dancers? RM: Yes sir! Well, they were at Six Gun Territory up there for a long time. Now their cousins are up there, and they're back in Oklahoma where they wanted to be. I don't know, for some reason or other there's always somebody that's disagreeing in there. It seems to be a trait of Indians not to agree. Tribal councils down there talk things over, and they agreed, and when that decision was made that's all there was to it. Anybody out here disagreed, that's too bad--it's already done, that's it. But with these people, I don't know. A lot of Indians that have come and haven't stayed. M: Do you know of any other communities that have got an Indian club like this in Florida? RM: No, I don't. I think it's a fine thing. When Jerry Howard was president of this--this is Oglala Sioux--he went out here and he found a man that lived on Chickasaw Trail, just out east of Orlando. And he had ten acres out there of raw land, pines, palmettos, beautiful piece of property. This man was part Cherokee and very sympathetic to Indians. He also worked for the school system here. I don't know what his job was, but he had a pretty good one. He was gonna retire in a few years, and he told Jerry, "Now you can have this land for its current value," which was $30,000. He says, "There's ten acres of it, and you don't have to pay a dime down on it for three years, and if at the three year period, you still can't pay anything on it, all I want is the interest on that money. Now I'm retiring at such and such a time, and I want this as a supplement to my retirement." So we got the land and we couldn't raise the money. I can't understand why we can't raise it, damn it. If a church wants money, they get out here, if somebody wants something they get out here, and they raise $100,000--no trouble. We couldn't raise it for some reason or other. It came due.

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37 One of the Indians, a Cherokee.... Jerry said the deal was if we did not use it he did not want us to resell it, but we give it back to him. So that was the deal. This young man said, no, he wouldn't go along with giving it back. He said, "We had it. We had the deed to it; it was clear. Let's find somebody that'll buy part of it and give us the other part." I said, "No. You made a deal with that man; if we did not use it to return it, deed it back to him, and that's the only way I'll go along with it." Jerry was present. He said, "That's the deal. That's the only way I'll go along with it." So we overruled him and we gave it back to him. But why in the world we couldn't...I don't know. We couldn't find the money to finance that thing and build a nice Indian center there. A cultural center was what we wanted to do. M: Does there still exist a Seminole Indian Association of Florida? RM: It's practically inactive. It was organized in 1913, and it had some most illustrious and prominent people interested in it. It's still in being; it's a corporation. The point was, they organized the tribe and there wasn't much we could do for them. Now while this was still active we did a lot of things. Stanley, in the name of the Association, got these Indians exempted from the draft. When I was head of it, the U.S. Engineers took the whole state reservation, and ran their line right down the west line of that state reservation--we were all under water. We were under water part of the time anyway, but they were gonna make that their reservoir, Central and South Florida Flood Control. We had a meeting. I set it up here; it took me over a year to get the whole thing set together. I had the head of every bureau in the state here, with few exceptions. I had the officers of the area office over in Muskogee here. I had the lieutenant governor here; the governor could not come. Mr. Florey was here from the Washington office, and the engineers were here, the district and from the head office in Jacksonville. And we got them.to move that over. See, that's seven miles wide, that state reservation; apJ proximately twenty miles long. They were taking the whole thing. So we made an agreement with them that they would move it over three miles, that they would dike that, they would put in pumping stations, and if the Indians needed water on the federal reservation they could let it out. If they got flooded, they could pump it back over there. Sounds fine on paper--it doesn't work, not to my satisfaction.

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38 I said, "Mr Florey, I would like to ask who is going to see to it that the U.S. Corps of Engineers do what they're promising to do?" This engineer got up and he said, "Mr. Mitchell, apparently you don't think very much of the engineers." I said, "Mr. Richardson, I don't think a damned thing of you, not a thing. I think that you'll do anything that you think is necessary to attain your own ends. I don't have any faith in you whatsoever." It didn't gather any friends, but the gist of the whole thing was that they went ahead with this. Mr. Florey said, "Well, we'll see that they do." They ran that ditch and dike within twentyfive hundred feet north of the main ditch that flows out of the federal reservation. That year we had excessive rains, and that dumped that whole bit of water down there into that reservation, reversed the flow of the ditch, and did them twenty thousand dollars worth of damage on their pastures. I raised the dickens about it and the engineers finally said that they had other funds that they would use for this, left over from other work projects. Only they didn't do anything. And finally I got the Association of American Indian Affairs in behind them and they had to threaten to sue them, and only then did they carry that out. If they'd just carried it past that ditch another three thousand feet--that's not far--they wouldn't have done that damage. But, that's the way it goes. M: Now, with regard to these governor's councils, did Kirk set up the first one? Were you on that? RM: Yeah. M: Have you been on it ever since? RM: Yeah, till Mr. Askew came in and then he selected his own men. M: But you're on it now, aren't you? RM: Well, yes, I'm on it now, but the way that thing worked--he selected men that the Indians didn't know, and that didn't know the Indians or care anything about them, apparently. The Indians didn't like it, so they went to Tallahassee and they insisted that right then, he have his secretary write letters to ever one of these men, informing them that they were no longer on the commission, and that they put me back on. When we had our first meeting up there, he attended the meeting

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39 and he came around and he spoke to me and was very nice. He said, "I want to congratulate you on all the years that you have worked to help these people." And he was very nice. He also said that he was from Oklahoma and they are aware of the Indians. He's very sympathetic and he had researched this back a number of years, this situation here, and found that there'd been an awful lot of talk, but nothing ever done. M: Is that true? RM: Yes, it's true. He said, "I hope with this commission we'll be able to do something for them." But to date, there's been a lot more talk. M: Well, it's not financed by state funds, anyway. RM: Yes it is. This is funded. M: I thought it wasn't. RM: Well, this is the first time they've ever done anything for the Indians, as far as I know. Oh, they give them license tags, you know, but that's like, me giving you'a "Bnich6of'tapes and thenn taking something a thousand times of more value from you. This was funded. Under Kirk we had some 34,000 odd dollars funded to start a law enforcement deal. M: Appropriated money? RM: 'I don't know where it came from, but at any rate, this was the start to buy equipment and to train Indians as law officers to Work on their own reservations. We were gonna train them so that when they got through they'd be second to none, but Kirk went out; we did not get.,the-money. We had a meeting down on the trail, and our representatives from the state were there. The commissioner was there, United States Commissioner, and this was brought up. I asked these men from Tallahassee, I said, "Now, $34,000 was promised. We were to get it on November the first. Do you know anything about this?" They didn't know anything about it, and they had previously said, "We want to help the Indians in any way we can. We'll do anything we can to help them." Fine. That's a lot of bull. You could shovel that out with a shovel as big as a steam shovel. So I said, "Well, how much can we expect now from you?"

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40 "Oh, we don't have any money." I said, "How in the hell are you gonna get any work done with no money to do it?" Well, they didn't know. They didn't know anything about the other and they didn't think we had any money up there. Well, at any rate, Osley Saunook, the chairman of this, and Buffalo Tiger and the rest of them, got this thing funded, and it's out. I believe it's the last of June or some time right along in there. And we hope to get it put back on an additional amount. The Indians have used that land down there for years-conservation area three. In 1959 we were in Tallahassee. I was trying to get 200,000 acres of land for them; saw grass, it was under water, nobody used it. And the governor agreed to give it, and the cabinet went along with it. And that was fine. Come back in June and the thing will be consummated and everybody was happy. We all went home feeling good. We went back in June, and they had decided not to give it. Well, I don't work for the government and I don't work for the state, so I feel that I am at liberty to say what I think. I may not make any friends by it, but damn it, that's what I think. I had surmised that this was gonna happen because via the grapevine-I have some relatives in Miami--I had heard that the Sportsman's Club down there and the Airboat Club were raising the devil, didn't want the Indians to have this. So when they said they were sorry but things had come up and they just couldn't go ahead with this, I made the remark, "Well, when we were here in April you told us that it was settled, that we could have it, that the Indians could have it, and you had newspaper coverage. This was in all the papers. Now we come up here to consummate the thing, and finish it up, and you tell me you've changed your mind, you don't want to, you just can't do it. If a man's word's no good,the man's no good. Now, you can take it any way you want." The governor got mad. He says, "Do you mean to call me a liar?" ... I said, "You can take it any way you want it. The fact remains that this is what you did. You gave your word and now you're not going ahead with it. Now, what would you call it?" We talked to him afterwards in his office. He'd cooled off and I'd cooled off a little bit, and I told him, "They've worked on this damned thing for Lord knows how long. I don't have much money, but I've spent some of it I shouldn't spend on this thing, and it's a bitter disappointment to me." Well, in 1960 we got a written paper on usage of it, for them to control it. They didn't give it to us. But, you see, right after this happened the governor appointed a committee. He appointed Mr. Pennycamp on the paper down there. He appointed

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41 Louis Capron, and he appointed judge somebody to check in on this thing to see if the Indians were to have this land. Damn fools, and they decided that he wasn't and Capron went along with it. When I saw Louis I told him, "Louis, why in hell did you sell these people down the river?" Well, he said, "I was outnumbered." I said, "I don't give a damn if you were outnumbered a thousand to one. You could have gone on record as saying they were ready to have it, and they should have it." Well, he felt badly enough so the guy actually had tears in his eyes. M: Did you know any of the old Indian traders? Did you know Frank Stranahan? RM: I never knew him. I knew his wife very well. M: Did you ever know any of the Browns? RM: Frank Brown? M: Yeah. RM: I've met him with Stanley Hanson, Stanley was a friend. Oh, what's his name, he was a great friend of Frank Brown, Josie [Billie]. Frank had the first trading post out there at the Point of Cypress--not the Point of Cypress, but the old boat landing. That was always water there. They went to Miami through there. It's dead now, dried up. M: You had something to do, did you, with Billy Bowlegs when he was alive? RM: Oh yeah. I knew him; I never knew him as I did the Miccosukees. I knew Billy and I respected him. M: Was he a Creek, a Muskogee? RM: Yeah, well, he was part Negro. His mother was a slave, and years ago, they looked down on these people. I don't know if they ever did Billy. I've got pictures of him. He doesn't look any more Negro than I do. M: Handsome old man. RM: Wasn't he? Fine looking. M: Did you know Albert DeVane?

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42 RM: Yes, I knew Albert DeVane. Albert was a good friend of the Indians. Too bad they don't have more like him. I never knew her [Mrs. DeVane] real well. I knew Albert, he never knew anything about the Miccosukees. M: But she has valuable stuff there. Well, she's got a lot of artifacts and then she's got that ceremonial stuff that Billy Bowlegs wore so much. That turban which Albert made out of foam rubber for him. There's just one thing that I want to ask you, and you don't have to answer it if you don't want to, but we have received through certain interviews statements of the fact that Josie Billie had, himself, killed a woman in the dim past. Do you care to comment on that, and that he was subject to tribal discipline for it? RM: No comment on that. He was a close friend of mine. The only comment I can make would be that if he did anything like that it was just.