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Interview with Robert C. Davis, August 5, 1970

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Title:
Interview with Robert C. Davis, August 5, 1970
Creator:
Davis, Robert C. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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

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

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Seminoles' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
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SEM 120 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. Robert C. Davis
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Harry Kersey
DATE: August 5, 1970


SUMMARY
In this interview, Mr. Robert C. Davis, realty officer
of the Seminole Indian Agency in Hollywood discusses the
functions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and of the Indian
Affairs Commission. Particularly he considers the development
of tribal resources for the benefit of the tribe, for example
the cattle program and a mobile home park. He and Dr. Kersey
discuss the education and literacy of the tribal leaders
and this effect upon their administrative abilities. A com-
parison is made between Brighton and Big Cypress reservations
on the basis of their transcultural contacts.


INDEX
Board of Directors of Tribe, 1-3
Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1, 3, 5-6, 8, 12
cattle program, 1, 11-13
Education (and tribal leadership), 3-7, 13-14
Indian Affairs Commission, 8-9
Jumper, Betty Mae, 3, 7
law enforcement on reservation, 9-11
Miccosukee speakers, 18
Osceola, Bill, 4-6, 11
Osceola, Billy, 4-6
Osceola, Joe Dan, 3, 7, 8
Seminole-Creek speakers, 18
Seminole Indian Agency, 1
Transcultural contacts, 16-20
Tribal Council, 2


K: Today is August the fifth, 1970. This is Dr. Harry Kersey,
Florida Atlantic University. Today I am interviewing Mr.
Robert C. Davis who's the realty officer at the Seminole
Indian Agency in Hollywood. Mr. Davis, what actually is
your job as realty officer here with the agency?
D: My job is real property management. The Seminole Tribe of
Florida has three federal reservations, and the Bureau of
Indian Affairs offers technical advice and assistance to
them in the management of this land. The three reservations
are the Hollywood Reservation, in Broward County, consisting
of 480 plus acres of urban land; and the Brighton Reserva-
tion, approximately 36,000 acres of rural land; and the Big
Cypress Reservation, 32,000 plus acres of rural land.
The outlying reservations in Glades and Hendry Counties
are being developed for support of a cattle program the
Seminoles are engaged in. And development of the land in-
volves leasing the land on improvement leases to outside
parties who farm vegetables and then convert the land from
unusable swamp land or native pasture into improved pasture,
which changes the carrying capacity from approximately
twenty-five acres to support one animal unit, to less than
two acres to support one animal unit. The construction of
the leases for this operation, and the more technical leases
involved in the development of the urban property, are in
my branch.
K: Now, do you work closely with the Tribe on this, or do you
work--you say you offer technical assistance--now how far
does this go? Really, are the decisions ultimately made by
the Board of Directors of the Tribe, in terms of whether
they will lease this land, or is there...? What is the
relationship, is what I'm trying to get at.
D: We will call the non-Indian lessees, prospective lessees,
"outsiders" for the convenience of this interview. Out-
siders present an offer to the Tribe and the Bureau to lease
the land at a certain figure for a certain purpose and for
a certain period of time. The Tribe and our office, in
consultation, decide whether it is an offer worthy of


2
consideration. If we can come to terms on the factors that
I have previously mentioned, then there is a lease that is
consummated. This is briefly how it comes about. But the
final word--there is no one that can lease Indian land with-
out the approval of the Tribe.
K: The ultimate decision does reside in the hands of the Indians
themselves?
D: That's right.
K: And basically, this is the President and the Board of
Directors...
D: Right.
K: ...who make this decision.
D: When the lease offer is presented, then the offer is eval-
uated by the Board of Directors, and it can be approved by
the Board of Directors if it is less than ten years, or
involves less than ten thousand dollars in metals and so
forth. However, if it exceeds that, such as our urban leases,
it must go to the Tribal Council for approval.
K: You've been here since 1963?
D: That's right.
K: I imagine you've seen some big changes in the handling of the
Indian lands and the Indian funds in terms of development
here. I know that we've talked before about the types of
contracts that are being let now, and the economic potential
of the Tribe--how it's improving greatly. Has this all
[been] a relatively recent occurrence?
D: Yes. Seven years ago there was no lending institution that
would lend money to an entrepreneur for development on
leased Indian land. And then we had a break. I believe it
was in 1965, early 1965, the Peninsular Life Insurance Company
through their mortgage banker, Robert L. Clark Company
in Ft. Lauderdale, agreed to lend money for the development
of a mobile home park on the reservation.
K: On this reservation? On Hollywood...?


3
D: Yes, on Hollywood Reservation, and that changed the picture
completely. The annual total rental income to the Seminole
Tribe of Florida in 1963 was about $40,000. The annual total
income to the Seminole Tribe of Florida for the year preceding
June 30, 1970 was $487,000.
K: That's astronomical'
D: It is quite an increase. It took a lot of work on the part
of the Tribe and on the part of the Bureau to work out pro-
grams that would give the Tribe good income, and at the same
time provide them with employment opportunities and develop-
ment projects that would not be detrimental to the balance
of the land involved.
K: A great deal has been made, I know, of the new leadership
in the Tribe. The current President of the Board of Direc-
tors, Mr. Joe Dan Osceola, and Betty Mae Jumper, the Tribal
Chairman, were the first two Indians with high school educa-
tions to be elected by the tribe to these leadership posi-
tions. Have you seen a corresponding increase in the ability
of the Tribe to handle its own affairs in their tenure?
D: I believe so. There's been times when--like you and I and
everyone else--some mistakes have been made. However, at no
time have I felt that there wasn't a desire on the part of
the leadership--whether it was the leadership that we now
have with the Seminoles or those immediately preceding--when
the interest wasn't there.
However, we do note that both of the Tribal leaders
now, Chairman of the Tribal Council and President of the
Board of Directors have, taken part in more Indian activities
nationwide. They have received some criticism for this, but
I don't think all of the criticism is warranted, and I, by
the same token don't think that all of the activities they
partook in were absolutely necessary. But remember, these
people are in the learning process.
K: Right. And I think also being Indians and being aware--
there's a growing awareness among all Indians, nationwide,
of their "Indianness"....
D: That's right.
K: I think it would be rather parochial if the Seminoles down


4
here didn't partake of this, you know. I think they're
aware of this and getting into it more and more.
As an educator, of course, I'm interested in seeing if
there were any changes when you got an educated leadership
in. This is one of the things, of course, we're most inter-
ested in: does education make a difference? From our prior
conversation, I think you said the former President of the
Board, this was Billy or Bill...?
D: Bill was the....
K: Bill Osceola. Now, he could neither read nor write?
D: That's right. However, let me put in a sidelight here.
Not being an expert judge, but I believe that Bill Osceola
is one of the more brilliant men I've met in my life. He
has a phenomenal memory, and he's a whiz with figures. I
don't know whether education would have benefited him
tremendously or not, because he has had to deal with the
backwardness of his tribe up until he went out of leader-
ship. Until he went into leadership in his tribe, you gotta
remember these people didn't cotton to education.
K: Well, that's it precisely. He, who I would assume [was] an
effective leader internally, but when it came to dealing
with the outside, this is where the inability to read and
write may have impaired him a bit.
D: He enjoyed the best of both worlds. He had a brilliant
mind and could deal effectively with the problems if they
were explained to him.
K: If they were explained. But when it came to contracts or
correspondence or something like this there would have been
a problem. How 'bout Billy Osceola, who's chairman?
D: Billy is not illiterate. He can read and write and....
K: Did he have formal education?
D: Yes, some. I really don't know how much he had. But he did
have some formal education.
K: In other words, you have to distinguish here, I think, between
illiteracy, which I don't think I know of anyone who couldn't
read or write a little bit, and what we call functional


5
illiteracy, which is usually predicated on four or five
years of formal education. I would say in this instance
that both of these men were "functionally illiterate."
Would that be an accurate...?
D: Well, I think Bill would be more in the illiterate class
because....
K: He absolutely cannot read....
D: He can recognize a word or two occasionally, but he won't
trust himself to get any understanding out of a written
sentence. And I think that would be true illiteracy.
K: Well, that would in this case, but in the case of Billy
Osceola....
D: He would be termed differently....
K: He has had some, but he I believe told me at one time that
he did not have but a little bit, a year or so of formal
schooling. Technically this would be functional illiteracy,
as opposed to pure illiteracy. As I say I don't....
D: But there is a distinction between the two men, is what....
K: Yeah, we can follow that up. I do want to talk to them
today, too. My main interest here is in [if they felt]
that this impaired their functioning in their positions
with the Tribe.
D: No, I don't believe they did, Dr. Kersey, because they had
implicit faith in their relationship with the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. And they proceeded with confidence in any
decisions that they made.
K: They trusted the advice that they got. Now....
D: Not only advice. They wouldn't always take the advice, but
they would take the presentation or the picture that they
must look at and make a decision about. They didn't always
agree with the advice that was given to them, but always
trusted the Bureau to give them the picture, both sides of
any picture to make a decision on.
K: That's interesting. Do you feel that the business affairs


6
of the Tribe under their administration were well handled
then? Do you feel that progress...?
D: Generally, yes. There was....
K: I'm thinking now about the figures that you just quoted me.
The difference between '63 and 1970. There just seemed to
be such a tremendous difference as to what's been happening
in the last four years as opposed to what had happened be-
forehand.
D: Let's put it this way: In 1965, when the first long term
lease was negotiated--that was taking the finger out of the
dike. I don't think the leadership, although they were the
ones who made the decisions on who the land would be leased
to, I don't think that their being there and their distinct
leadership was what brought about the increase in development
on the Hollywood Reservation.
K: You don't think that was important?
D: No, I think that would have come about regardless of who the
leaders were, because....
K: Because of the location here...?
D: Yes, that's right.
K: Could either of these men--well, you say Billy could not
read at all--or Bill.... Could Billy Osceola have read and
understood the lease or the letters pertaining to the lease?
D: No. By the same token, by full comprehension, the average
layman can't read and fully understand a long-term develop-
ment lease.
K: Well, this is true, but how 'bout the letters surrounding
this, for example? What I'm getting at--were they both
completely dependent on the advice from the outside here?
D: Yes, well, from the Bureau they were. And by the same token,
the present leaders were fully dependent on the Bureau to
advise with them.
K: In a technical sense, but I noticed that they seemed to do


7
a lot of things on their own, too. I don't want to beat the
course to death, you know, but what function does literacy
play in this? I think it plays an important role in leadership.
D: Yes, definitely....
K: And I am not in any way trying to impugn that the former
leaders were not honest men, good men, who worked hard for
their tribe. I was just wondering how far they were im-
paired in carrying out their goal by their lack of formal
education--which was no fault of their own.
D: I think it's more like building a building a brick at a
time. To do a job you have to--there's a jillion things
that you consciously or unconsciously absorb, through your
literacy.
K: And to the extent that you don't have it you have a difficult
time.
D: You are handicapped. That's correct.
K: I had heard that in the elections in '67, when Joe Dan and
Betty Mae came in, that this was a big issue--the fact that
they could offer more educated leadership for the Tribe.
Was this an important issue on the selection of the new
leaders, do you think? Or one of the important issues?
D: I hesitate to say yes or no on that, Dr. Kersey, because....
K: The reason I bring it up--you know every article you pick
up on the tribes, the ones I've written included--maybe I've
succumbed to the blandishment of the other writers, or maybe
it's wishful thinking on the part of an educator that we
would think the more educated leadership would be the more
appealing. I know this isn't necessarily true, but I was
just wondering if this made a real--I know there are many
political variables in tribal elections, but I wondered if
this happened to be one of the more important ones to your
knowledge. Maybe I'd better be advised to talk to someone
else.
D: I believe I would talk to someone else about that. Maybe
just a couple of the constituents, rather than leadership.
It would probably give you a truer picture.


8
K: You are a member of the state Indian Commission that Gover-
nor Claude Kirk appointed. And as I understand it, you are
the only Bureau employee. Is that right? The only federal
employee?
D: Yes. It was rather surprising to me, because when I received
word of my appointment, Superintendent Barrett of course
wanted to clear it through the Bureau's office in Washington,
and we talked to Assistant Commissioner Massey. Mr. Massey
said, "Well, gee, I don't know. We haven't had this come up
before that I know of." And having had better than thirty
years in the Bureau, we were quite surprised, but he checked
with the Secretary of the Interior and found out that it was
all right for me to serve on the Commission. So I guess I
am one of the few employed by the Bureau....
K: There's no money involved here. There won't be any conflict
of interest.
D: Well, there's a little money involved. I have to tend my
own expenses.
K: Oh, it costs you to serve? Do you have any idea why you in
particular were selected?
D: Well, I understood that there was an Indian Commission going
to be formed, and very casually, I guess, or not even think-
ing, I mentioned to Joe Dan, I said, "Gee, that'd be nice.
I'd like to serve on that. I think it would be good to pro-
mote the relationship between the Tribe and the Bureau and
the State of Florida, so they can help shoulder some of the
problems that we have."
It was a few weeks later that I got a letter from the
Governor's office, and in it was a form to fill out giving
an outline of my background. Then a few weeks after that,
I received a letter from the Governor advising me of my
appointment, so....
K: So as far as you know, you were recommended by the Indian
people.
D: Yes, that's....
K: An interesting feat there. At least they trust your judge-
ment.


9
D: I'm quite proud of that.
K: Yeah, I think you ought to be! Who else is on the Commission
with you? How many members are there?
D: Well, there are eight members and the chairman. The Chairman
of the Indian Affairs Commission is Mr. Charlie Knight from
Tampa. And the other members are Mr. Ross Allen; Mr. Buffalo
Tiger, who is chief of the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida; Joe
Dan Osceola, who is the President of the Board of Directors
of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; Mr. Olbert L. Peacock, Jr.,
who is, I believe, from the Ft. Pierce area; [and] Bob Mitchell,
who is an old Indian friend of the Seminoles, and has been
for years.
K: I used to run into him out in the Big Cypress all the time.
D: And Allen B. Forbes--he was the first long-term lessee on
the tribe, and he got on the Commission-and then Mr. Cliff
Bathower, from Miami, who is a developer from down there; and
then myself.
K: How often do you meet?
D: Our schedule is to meet four times a year. Our last meeting
was last winter, and for some reason we didn't have the
Spring meeting. The Summer meeting, the one for August or
September, I expect to be hearing from Mr. Knight any moment
now on that.
K: Is this commission to--what is it's function? Is it general
advisory to the Governor, to the tribes, or to the federal
government, or....
D: Well, we are trying to attack specific problems. One that
we are attacking presently is law and order on the federal
reservation. In 1961, the State of Florida agreed to assume
the responsibility for maintenance of law and order on the
federal reservations, and we feel that it has been remiss
in the duties of enforcement and advising with the Tribe on
the law and order functions.
K: Is this a big problem?
D: It is a big problem, yes.


10
K: When you think of the pastoral setting of Big Cypress and
Brighton, it does not seem much of a problem.
D: Well, we have the same problems on the reservations that
you have outside the reservations. You have problems with
juvenile delinquency, you have problems with vandalism, you
have outright thievery, you have traffic problems, all of
those things that you have outside the reservation area, you
have on the reservations. And there's always been a reluc-
tance for some reason, on the part of the nearest political
subdivision who should be responsible for maintenance of law
and order, to act on Federal property, although the law reads
that they should. We're trying to help bring about a change
in that.
K: When you mentioned youth problems--this is something relatively
new, isn't it? To the tribe?
D: What is new? Well, I'd say that it was more brought to light.
From what I can understand, there are some of the tribal
leaders today, the solid citizens that raised a little hell
when they were kids, and I find that they settled down, and
maybe we'll find the same situation outside. But the insula-
tion from society the Seminoles suffered or enjoyed, which-
ever way you want to look at it, didn't bring the problem to
light. And, of course they've been getting worse more
recently, just like the outside has.
K: Like incidences of glue sniffing and gas sniffing are there.
D: That's right...and gas sniffing.... And drinking, and I
understand they get ahold of some pot once in a while, and
there's other things that....
K: I know out at the day school this year, when we went in to
do our final testing, they were administering corporal pun-
ishment to practically every boy in the school because they
had been gas sniffing. Did you notice...?
D: Well, yes, there seems to be a lot of it. Even if you leave
one glue sniffer or gas sniffer, that's a lot. And you're
terrifically worried about it. I know we all are.
K: This is something that you hope the reservations, by their
very isolation, might have escaped. Maybe this is one of


11
those less desirable cultural contacts that was brought
back to the reservation, that could have occurred on the
reservation. What has been done positively on the reserva-
tion, anything to your knowledge? Has there been a con-
certed effort to educate the people, for example, the
youngsters, where this alcoholism problem and glue, the gas
and other things? Has the Tribe taken any steps itself,
aside from "law enforcement" to eradicate this?
D: I'm not familiar with any positive steps that have been
taken.
K: Has it been discussed by the Tribal leadership to your know-
ledge...?
D: I'm sure that it has. I'm sure that it has....
K: This is a growing problem, because this could be terribly
disruptive to the educational programs as well as to just
the social existence of the people.
D: I'm sure that it is.
K: I'm hoping that's one thing that the Tribe and your commis-
sion will get to. Anything else that you feel the commission
is...?
D: Well, I'm Chairman of the Legislative Committee for the In-
dian Commission, and this last session of the State Legisla-
ture, we introduced a bill that was passed. The bill allowed
for leasing to members of the Seminole Tribe or the Miccosukee
Tribe on the state reservation for periods up to twenty-five
years rather than the fifteen years that was previously
limited to. As a result of that bill, Bill Osceola, Presi-
dent of the Hollywood Reservation and one of the bigger
cattle operators with the Seminole Tribe, is going on the
state reservation and set up his own cattle ranch. And we
have every reason to believe that he will qualify for a
$60,000 development loan from the Farmers Home Administration.
Now this is quite common practice outside the reserva-
tions for cattlemen to get FHA loans and set up their own
business and so forth, but this will be the first time that
a Seminole Indian has ever set up his own cattle ranch.
Bill will have a twenty-five and twenty-five lease. Get
his loan and develop his ranch on the 900 acre tract out on
the state Indian reservation. It will involve....
K: Now this is the hundred thousand acres adjacent to the Big Cypress?


12
D: Yes, yes. 100,000 acres.
K: I thought most of that was in flood control district.
D: Well, most of it is, I'm sorry to say, but there is a por-
tion of it that isn't in the flood control district. It is
subject to development. There will be a water control sys-
tem installed, fencing, and we hope eventually a nice farm-
stead there with a nice home and boating chutes just like
a miniature....
K: What about the alligator farming?
D: Or raising. That seems to have potential, but I haven't
found many of the people out on Big Cypress and at Brighton
that have shown an intense interest in it. As you know,
there are just a certain amount of leaders, ambitious
people in a small community. You take a small community of
350 people, there aren't a lot of people there that are of
the--oh, how should we say it--that have the stick-to-itness
and ambition and knowledge that went into a business. The
ones that have those qualities are in the cattle business.
Now I think that finding the people would be one of the
biggest jobs of pursuing this alligator farming.
K: That's one of those that has a lot of appeal to the press,
but maybe the practical potentialities that occur are
severely limited except for a few individual families.
D: Yeah, that's right.
K: Well, at this stage, how do you feel about the economic
future of the Tribe? I assume you feel pretty good by what
you brought here in terms of leases and agreements, and you
have that tremendous jump in income for the Tribe.
D: I feel real good about it, Dr. Kersey. There has been
progress made since I came here. I came down here with
those instructions from the Central Office of the BIA
[Bureau of Indian Affairs] to try to work up a program that
will increase the income for the Seminoles, and it seems to
be doing that.
Another thing that the Press jumped on--when you know
the facts, it was rather amusing, because there was a serious
display of ignorance on their part--the oil and gas leasing


13
that I spoke about.... That has potential. The potential
income for the Hollywood Reservation will approach a half a
million dollars a year in a few years.
The income for Brighton and Big Cypress will probably
always be their cattle business, because it's a good busi-
ness, it's successful, it's proven; they've enhanced the
value of the land out there through these improvement
leases with the farmers by millions of dollars. The land
value now, oh, I don't have a late formal appraisal of the
land values, but I would say it would be approaching 30 or
40 million dollars. And, I think that their income through
the cattle and through the leases can make a good return on
that value of land.
K: Do you feel at this point--I'm trying to relate this to what
seems to be a growing nationwide movement among Indians to
"run their own affairs--educationally, socially, economically"
--that at this point the Tribe might, could effectively take
over the operations, or do you feel that it will need govern-
ment advice and technical aid for a good long while still in
running its economic affairs? Let's limit it to that, since
that's your specialty.
D: Well, now I'll just start right back here--it all goes back
to your specialty which is education. Right now we have two
college graduates of the Seminole Tribe, neither of which
are working for the Tribe.
K: Why?
D: That's a good question. I've pondered this, and I can't
figure out why.
K: Well, maybe I can answer part of.... One of 'em is a teacher
who is teaching.
D: Yes, but we have teachers that are required on the Reservation.
K: You're quite right.
D: Why isn't he teaching out at Big Cypress school?
K: Do you know if he even applied for the job?
D: I don't think he did.


14
K: The second graduate, the one who just recently graduated, is
a management major, business administration major who every
time I have talked to her about this, has at least told me
that she wanted to come back and work for the Tribe. And
then when she graduated, degree in hand, was offered an
eighty dollar a week secretarial job. And, your loyalty to
your people not withstanding, I don't think it's really
reasonable to expect a college graduate, no matter how dedi-
cated, who has some responsibility family-wise of her own,
to come back to work as a secretary at eighty dollars a
week. Now that's what she told me was the situation. When
she was ready to come back and do something, there was no
room for her, and no job for her.
D: Well, I'm sure that the longer you work with the Seminoles,
you will come to the same conclusion that I have. Just about
the time that you think that you've got 'em figured out, they
will do something like that that is thoroughly unexplainable.
K: In other words, I had gone along just more or less blithely
assuming that this is fine. You know, upward and onward.
Here in a decade, we've moved from a leadership, one of whom
who cannot read and write at all, and one of whom who had
very limited schooling, to getting your first two high
school graduates into your leadership positions. And in a
natural evolutionary thing, you expect now the college
people would start to come back and take positions of leader-
ship. Is this a political thing involved here?
D: I think it is. I think that our education problem is not
of getting educated leaders; I think it is a general educa-
tion problem, because presently there are still many members
of the Tribe who don't quite trust education amongst their
own people for some reason. I don't know why, they just
don't appreciate it. Because the educated ones see changes
that must come about and try to effect them, and when you
start something new, something old is usually taken away,
and they don't like that.
K: It's very difficult to effect change and keep the best of
the cultural heritage, and yet get the best of the next.
Yet something has to give.
D: That's the problem.


15
K: I'm not so sure but what this problem confronting Indians
nationwide--wanting to ride two horses--have your cake and
eat it too. How can you still be affectively an Indian and
effectively a non-Indian? It's awful difficult to live in
two worlds.
D: That's it. That is the universal enigma of the thing.
There's no way that you can have all of both worlds.
There's just no way you can have it. You can't have the job
opportunities on Brighton and Big Cypress and some small
industry without chopping down a tree. It just is impossible
--or disrupting the peaceful valley sort of atmosphere out
there.
They had an opportunity for a sand and gravel lease that
would have netted the Tribe approximately a hundred thousand
dollars a year on Big Cypress just in the last few months.
It involved destruction of a few acres of pasture, four or
five hundred acres of pasture land which can't begin to
generate that much income, but the people out there chose
to not have the sand and gravel lease because they didn't
like the idea of destroying the pasture land. Maybe they
will change their mind. I hope they do, because I think it
would be....
K: Now, are they in conflict over this with the leadership? In
other words is the...?
D: Yes, they are.
K: That's what I figured. That it seemed to me--and this is
just from my observations out there--that in many programs,
educational, housing, economical development, the people at
Big Cypress seem to be alienated from the Tribal leadership
who are trying to get these things for them. Is that a
valid assessment? I don't mean open political warfare, but
it seems that they're going their own way out there.
D: Yes they are. They're more isolated, and by the same token
they have more juvenile delinquency problems there than they
have at Brighton, I would say.
K: Wasn't there some trailer incident out there? Where the
juveniles were using the trailers for some type of promiscuity,
and they had to close the trailers down.
D: Yes, that happened. They don't have anything else to do,


16
and they get into mischief, is what it amounts to. If they
had more....
K: There doesn't seem to be as much social control on Big Cypress
in the sense of a family taking an interest in their children.
Having run educational programs on both reservations, there
seems to be more of a cohesiveness on Brighton, where there
is, for lack of a better term, "community" spirit up there.
I guess Big Cypress is still closer to the individuality of
camp and clan....
D: Yeah, they are.
K: But, they have certain places they can go, but they don't
seem to go there. Well, there's just no getting around it.
Our educational program out there for the adults was a com-
plete bust. We went there, we had the teachers, we had the
equipment, but we had no takers. Oh, maybe four or five at
the most, where up on Brighton, our educational program for
the adults has had a phenomenal turnout. We've been aver-
aging twenty, twenty-five a night. They've made good progress.
To me this is indicative of something in the community. You've
never visited...?
D: Yes I have, and I think that part of it is because of the
education. I think that it's wrong to have an Indian school
on the reservation. I think they should go to the public
school from the word go. I've even....
K: Well, you're not alone in this.
D: I've even suggested this--if we're going to go all out for
bringing the Seminoles on Big Cypress into community affairs,
blend them into society as best we can, let's go all out.
And I even thought maybe we should consider getting a helicopter
to fly in every day so the little kids won't have
that seventy mile roundtrip to school and back.
K: I don't know if it's a much longer ride from Moore Haven out
to Brighton--or short I should say. It's a much shorter ride.
D: It's somewhat shorter.
K: Somewhat shorter, but psychologically it's a whale of a lot
shorter. I don't know if you noticed this in driving say
from Moore Haven out to Brighton, but the difference in


17
driving from Moore Haven to Brighton, and from Clewiston to
Big Cypress is just phenomenal. So there's just a psycho-
logical impact that you can't count just in miles traveled,
time is involved and other things. It's a dilemma.
It's a real quandry. I tend to agree with you: the
existence of an Indian school is uncalled for. But I am
stuck for a positive alternative, short of your helicopter
or something at this moment, to get the kids in.
D: That is a rather flamboyant suggestion, the helicopter, but
don't forget that we're going to have a heck of a lot of
surplus helicopters when this thing in Vietnam is settled.
And here's another thing, I don't know, you probably
have observed it too, but you drive through Clewiston dur-
ing the noon hour and you'll find all the Indian kids that
go to school there will be congregated together. They'll
pull together, they'll walk together, they'll eat together.
You go to Moore Haven, and they're thoroughly assimilated.
You'll find that Indians and non-Indians are all mixed up
and enjoying, laughing, talking, and so forth. Now there
must be a reason for that.
K: Well, in things I've written, I've tried to explain it in
terms of acculturation--that they've had so many contacts
with the community and the school.
D: During this plain age from kindergarten through the fourth
grade, I think that there's much lost.
K: Fifth grade is the first time these children from Big
Cypress even see a non-Indian, other than an authority
figure such as the teacher or the principal. No, I agree
with you.
There has to be more to school than getting there and
getting home, too. You know, activities, and I think this
is another difference--we're off on this educational tangent
a little--but the people in Brighton get their kids in for
activities, they get them back in the evening for basket-
ball or football or for school activities. You wouldn't get
this sort of support right now out at Big Cypress--unless
it was done through government auspices. The people them-
selves, I don't think....
D: They're not self-starters on something like that.
K: Not at this point. This could be a big difference.


18
D: I can't see that there's a big difference, but there possibly
is a difference in the tribe--you see, the ones in Brighton
speak Seminole-Creek language, and the ones in Big Cypress
speak Miccosukee. And also there was quite a distinct dif-
ference in the two groups of peoples that populated the two
Reservations. I'm not enough of a student of man or anthro-
pologist to make a judgement on whether that does have a
difference, or has made a difference in it, but possibly it
has, and probably would require years of study to make that
determination.
K: I'm like you, I'm not that close to being an expert. But
just off-hand from my observations, it's not so much the
language difference--of course this has something to do with
it, the fact that one is written and one is unwritten--it's
almost the pattern of location and settlement. Two people
at our university are working on this now.
The people who happened to settle north of the lake--
whether they be Creek-speakers or Miccosukee-speakers was
happenstance historically, I think--but the people who have
the Cow Creek settlement up there, the Fisheating Creek
[Cow Creek is a stream running into Lake Okeechobee from the
northeast; Fisheating Creek is a stream flowing into Lake
Okeechobee approximately ten miles northwest of Moore Haven.
Muskogee-speaking Seminoles are often called Cow Creeks in
reference to their major area of concentration prior to
their being gathered on the Brighton Reservation. The
southern boundary of the Brighton Reservation is marked by
Fisheating Creek; hence occasional modern references to
Fisheating Creek Indians.], I should say, these people hap-
pened to be in an area that was soon going to be drained
and populated. And if they wanted to stay in that area,
they had to make some sort of accommodations, and I think
what you can really trace through most of this century is
some sort of accommodation and assimilation with the encroach-
ing farm and ranch people around that area. Until the '50s,
the people south of Lake Okeechobee weren't even in contact.
You know, there wasn't any other route out to Big Cypress
until the late '50s. So really, you had no culture contacts.
Again, as I say, I'm no expert and I wouldn't try to be,
but I'm not so much sure that it's a language difference.
Well, they share a common culture in this sense, they just
don't share a common language. But I would say it would be
more the acculturational aspect, the settlement and culture
contacts with....


19
D: We have people working in both the Tribe and the Bureau that
are not children anymore--they're in their thirties--that
graduated from Okeechobee High School. Now, that was when
the Seminole kids from the Brighton Reservation did go to
Okeechobee High School.
K: 'Cuase Glades County wouldn't take 'em.
D: Yeah, that's right. That's been an interesting story.
Glades was afraid this would set a precedence for integrat-
ing the schools. Absolutely. Was there any pressure to
your knowledge from the Tribe to get the children back into
Glades County? Or from the government?
D: I'm not familiar. I believe that you could make a phone
call to Bill Boehmer. He could clear you up on that.
K: Well, I try to...sometimes I make mistakes, but when I make
mistakes, they're honest mistakes in the sense that I'm not
trying to just fashion something out of the worst aspects.
Really, I've become more supersensitive recently because
Indian people are supersensitive. And what in the past I
would turn off and say, "Well, I just misread the data."
Boy, when you're dealing with live people in live situations....
For one thing, that's why I want to talk to these
people who have been involved in the Tribal affairs, as many
of them as I can before I go into the book. I know in some
of my articles, I have interpreted what people have said
maybe in some ways that aren't quite right. And I'm going
to set out to rectify those wherever possible in the book.
Also, some things that are true, objectively true, can step
on people's feelings, and I think that maybe I've done this
in some of my articles, not intending to.
I had a galley proof come back yesterday from a journal
article I wrote almost a year ago. There's such a lag
between the time you submit them and the time they're pub-
lished, and I was appalled not at what I had said in the
sense that it wasn't true, but just the implications of some
of these in terms of stepping on peoples' feelings. I sat
there chopping through this thing, and then I've got to make
a phone call and explain to an editor why after the whole
galley's been set we're either going to have to pull the
article and not print it, or he's going to have to make the
corrections that I want. Because otherwise it would impair
relationships at this level.


20
D: Well, I think this brings out something that you and I
probably both do. We read favorite books--every two or
three years we'll pick it up and reread it. You know why
we do that? This is my own theory. It's a different per-
son reading it.
K: Well, I hope so. If you aren't changing....
D: So we interpret it differently and enjoy it in a different
way each time.
K: This is a sticky problem. As a historian, I never encountered
this. I could be pretty objective or try to be objective
with the data, put it together and then interpret it, but
when you are dealing with people who are alive, ongoing en-
tities, I think this shook my medieval thinking and writing
--not to be untruthful or not to overlook facts, but in the
things you say about fact. These are the implications that
we....
D: See, that's a problem that we in the branch of Area Property
Management have. We have to keep in mind that our function
is not development of Tribal resources primarily. Our primary
function is development of people. And development of Tribal
resources is merely a tool for our ultimate goal.
K: This is true. And of course this is what education is all
about. It's not education for education's sake but education
and what it will do in the long run for these people. I'm
occasionally asked, "Well, what are you trying to do--go out
and change that culture?" I said, "That culture is changing."
I could neither start nor stop the change that is taking
place. My major interest is in providing the kinds of educa-
tional opportunities for these children, that they can do
what they want to. I don't really care if an Indian boy or
girl goes on and gets a Ph.D. and then goes back to live in
a chickee. That's their decision to make.
D: That's right.
K: I'm not trying to play social engineer. All I'm trying to
say is that they should at least have some alternatives. I
should hope that that's all that any of us are trying to do,
provide them with vital economic or social or educational
alternatives.
Well, I think we've about run it down here. Thank you


21
Bob, and I appreciate it.
D: Thank you, Harry.


Full Text

PAGE 1

SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: Mr. Robert C. Davis INTERVIEWER: Dr. Harry Kersey DATE: August 5, 1970

PAGE 2

SUMMARY In this interview, Mr. Robert C. Davis, realty officer of the Seminole Indian Agency in Hollywood discusses the functions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and of the Indian Affairs Commission. Particularly he considers the development of tribal resources for the benefit of the tribe, for example the cattle program and a mobile home park. He and Dr. Kersey discuss the education and literacy of the tribal leaders and this effect upon their administrative abilities. A comparison is made between Brighton and Big Cypress reservations on the basis of their transcultural contacts.

PAGE 3

INDEX Board of Directors of Tribe, 1-3 Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1, 3, 5-6, 8, 12 cattle program, 1, 11-13 Education (and tribal leadership), 3-7, 13-14 Indian Affairs Commission, 8-9 Jumper, Betty Mae, 3, 7 law enforcement on reservation, 9-11 Miccosukee speakers, 18 Osceola, Bill, 4-6, 11 Osceola, Billy, 4-6 Osceola, Joe Dan, 3, 7, 8 Seminole-Creek speakers, 18 Seminole Indian Agency, 1 Transcultural contacts, 16-20 Tribal Council, 2

PAGE 4

K: Today is August the fifth, 1970. This is Dr. Harry Kersey, Florida Atlantic University. Today I am interviewing Mr. Robert C. Davis who's the realty officer at the Seminole Indian Agency in Hollywood. Mr. Davis, what actually is your job as realty officer here with the agency? D: My job is real property management. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has three federal reservations, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs offers technical advice and assistance to them in the management of this land. The three reservations are the Hollywood Reservation, in Broward County, consisting of 480 plus acres of urban land; and the Brighton Reservation, approximately 36,000 acres of rural land; and the Big Cypress Reservation, 32,000 plus acres of rural land. The outlying reservations in Glades and Hendry Counties are being developed for support of a cattle program the Seminoles are engaged in. And development of the land involves leasing the land on improvement leases to outside parties who farm vegetables and then convert the land from unusable swamp land or native pasture into improved pasture, which changes the carrying capacity from approximately twenty-five acres to support one animal unit, to less than two acres to support one animal unit. The construction of the leases for this operation, and the more technical leases involved in the development of the urban property, are in my branch. K: Now, do you work closely with the Tribe on this, or do you work--you say you offer technical assistance--now how far does this go? Really, are the decisions ultimately made by the Board of Directors of the Tribe, in terms of whether they will lease this land, or is there...? What is the relationship, is what I'm trying to get at. D: We will call the non-Indian lessees, prospective lessees, "outsiders" for the convenience of this interview. Outsiders present an offer to the Tribe and the Bureau to lease the land at a certain figure for a certain purpose and for a certain period of time. The Tribe and our office, in consultation, decide whether it is an offer worthy of

PAGE 5

2 consideration. If we can come to terms on the factors that I have previously mentioned, then there is a lease that is consummated. This is briefly how it comes about. But the final word--there is no one that can lease Indian land without the approval of the Tribe. K: The ultimate decision does reside in the hands of the Indians themselves? D: That's right. K: And basically, this is the President and the Board of Directors... D: Right. K: ... who make this decision. D: When the lease offer is presented, then the offer is evaluated by the Board of Directors, and it can be approved by the Board of Directors if it is less than ten years, or involves less than ten thousand dollars in metals and so forth. However, if it exceeds that, such as our urban leases, it must go to the Tribal Council for approval. K: You've been here since 1963? D: That's right. K: I imagine you've seen some big changes in the handling of the Indian lands and the Indian funds in terms of development here. I know that we've talked before about the types of contracts that are being let now, and the economic potential of the Tribe--how it's improving greatly. Has this all [been] a relatively recent occurrence? D: Yes. Seven years ago there was no lending institution that would lend money to an entrepreneur for development on leased Indian land. And then we had a break. I believe it was in 1965, early 1965, the Peninsular Life Insurance Company through their mortgage banker, Robert L. Clark Company in Ft. Lauderdale, agreed to lend money for the development of a mobile home park on the reservation. K: On this reservation? On Hollywood...?

PAGE 6

3 D: Yes, on Hollywood Reservation, and that changed the picture completely. The annual total rental income to the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 1963 was about $40,000. The annual total income to the Seminole Tribe of Florida for the year preceding June 30, 1970 was $487,000. K: That's astronomical' D: It is quite an increase. It took a lot of work on the part of the Tribe and on the part of the Bureau to work out programs that would give the Tribe good income, and at the same time provide them with employment opportunities and development projects that would not be detrimental to the balance of the land involved. K: A great deal has been made, I know, of the new leadership in the Tribe. The current President of the Board of Directors, Mr. Joe Dan Osceola, and Betty Mae Jumper, the Tribal Chairman, were the first two Indians with high school educations to be elected by the tribe to these leadership positions. Have you seen a corresponding increase in the ability of the Tribe to handle its own affairs in their tenure? D: I believe so. There's been times when--like you and I and everyone else--some mistakes have been made. However, at no time have I felt that there wasn't a desire on the part of the leadership--whether it was the leadership that we now have with the Seminoles or those immediately preceding--when the interest wasn't there. However, we do note that both of the Tribal leaders now, Chairman of the Tribal Council and President of the Board of Directors have, taken part in more Indian activities nationwide. They have received some criticism for this, but I don't think all of the criticism is warranted, and I, by the same token don't think that all of the activities they partook in were absolutely necessary. But remember, these people are in the learning process. K: Right. And I think also being Indians and being aware-there's a growing awareness among all Indians, nationwide, of their "Indianness".... D: That's right. K: I think it would be rather parochial if the Seminoles down

PAGE 7

4 here didn't partake of this, you know. I think they're aware of this and getting into it more and more. As an educator, of course, I'm interested in seeing if there were any changes when you got an educated leadership in. This is one of the things, of course, we're most interested in: does education make a difference? From our prior conversation, I think you said the former President of the Board, this was Billy or Bill...? D: Bill was the.... K: Bill Osceola. Now, he could neither read nor write? D: That's right. However, let me put in a sidelight here. Not being an expert judge, but I believe that Bill Osceola is one of the more brilliant men I've met in my life. He has a phenomenal memory, and he's a whiz with figures. I don't know whether education would have benefited him tremendously or not, because he has had to deal with the backwardness of his tribe up until he went out of leadership. Until he went into leadership in his tribe, you gotta remember these people didn't cotton to education. K: Well, that's it precisely. He, who I would assume [was] an effective leader internally, but when it came to dealing with the outside, this is where the inability to read and write may have impaired him a bit. D: He enjoyed the best of both worlds. He had a brilliant mind and could deal effectively with the problems if they were explained to him. K: If they were explained. But when it came to contracts or correspondence or something like this there would have been a problem. How 'bout Billy Osceola, who's chairman? D: Billy is not illiterate. He can read and write and.... K: Did he have formal education? D: Yes, some. I really don't know how much he had. But he did have some formal education. K: In other words, you have to distinguish here, I think, between illiteracy, which I don't think I know of anyone who couldn't read or write a little bit, and what we call functional

PAGE 8

5 illiteracy, which is usually predicated on four or five years of formal education. I would say in this instance that both of these men were "functionally illiterate." Would that be an accurate...? D: Well, I think Bill would be more in the illiterate class because.... K: He absolutely cannot read.... D: He can recognize a word or two occasionally, but he won't trust himself to get any understanding out of a written sentence. And I think that would be true illiteracy. K: Well, that would in this case, but in the case of Billy Osceola.... D: He would be termed differently.... K: He has had some, but he I believe told me at one time that he did not have but a little bit, a year or so of formal schooling. Technically this would be functional illiteracy, as opposed to pure illiteracy. As I say I don't.... D: But there is a distinction between the two men, is what.... K: Yeah, we can follow that up. I do want to talk to them today, too. My main interest here is in [if they felt] that this impaired their functioning in their positions with the Tribe. D: No, I don't believe they did, Dr. Kersey, because they had implicit faith in their relationship with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And they proceeded with confidence in any decisions that they made. K: They trusted the advice that they got. Now.... D: Not only advice. They wouldn't always take the advice, but they would take the presentation or the picture that they must look at and make a decision about. They didn't always agree with the advice that was given to them, but always trusted the Bureau to give them the picture, both sides of any picture to make a decision on. K: That's interesting. Do you feel that the business affairs

PAGE 9

6 of the Tribe under their administration were well handled then? Do you feel that progress...? D: Generally, yes. There was.... K: I'm thinking now about the figures that you just quoted me. The difference between '63 and 1970. There just seemed to be such a tremendous difference as to what's been happening in the last four years as opposed to what had happened beforehand. D: Let's put it this way: In 1965, when the first long term lease was negotiated--that was taking the finger out of the dike. I don't think the leadership, although they were the ones who made the decisions on who the land would be leased to, I don't think that their being there and their distinct leadership was what brought about the increase in development on the Hollywood Reservation. K: You don't think that was important? D: No, I think that would have come about regardless of who the leaders were, because.... K: Because of the location here...? D: Yes, that's right. K: Could either of these men--well, you say Billy could not read at all--or Bill.... Could Billy Osceola have read and understood the lease or the letters pertaining to the lease? D: No. By the same token, by full comprehension, the average layman can't read and fully understand a long-term development lease. K: Well, this is true, but how 'bout the letters surrounding this, for example? What I'm getting at--were they both completely dependent on the advice from the outside here? D: Yes, well, from the Bureau they were. And by the same token, the present leaders were fully dependent on the Bureau to advise with them. K: In a technical sense, but I noticed that they seemed to do

PAGE 10

7 a lot of things on their own, too. I don't want to beat the course to death, you know, but what function does literacy play in this? I think it plays an important role in leadership. D: Yes, definitely.... K: And I am not in any way trying to impugn that the former leaders were not honest men, good men, who worked hard for their tribe. I was just wondering how far they were impaired in carrying out their goal by their lack of formal education--which was no fault of their own. D: I think it's more like building a building a brick at a time. To do a job you have to--there's a jillion things that you consciously or unconsciously absorb, through your literacy. K: And to the extent that you don't have it you have a difficult time. D: You are handicapped. That's correct. K: I had heard that in the elections in '67, when Joe Dan and Betty Mae came in, that this was a big issue--the fact that they could offer more educated leadership for the Tribe. Was this an important issue on the selection of the new leaders, do you think? Or one of the important issues? D: I hesitate to say yes or no on that, Dr. Kersey, because.... K: The reason I bring it up--you know every article you pick up on the tribes, the ones I've written included--maybe I've succumbed to the blandishment of the other writers, or maybe it's wishful thinking on the part of an educator that we would think the more educated leadership would be the more appealing. I know this isn't necessarily true, but I was just wondering if this made a real--I know there are many political variables in tribal elections, but I wondered if this happened to be one of the more important ones to your knowledge. Maybe I'd better be advised to talk to someone else. D: I believe I would talk to someone else about that. Maybe just a couple of the constituents, rather than leadership. It would probably give you a truer picture.

PAGE 11

8 K: You are a member of the state Indian Commission that Governor Claude Kirk appointed. And as I understand it, you are the only Bureau employee. Is that right? The only federal employee? D: Yes. It was rather surprising to me, because when I received word of my appointment, Superintendent Barrett of course wanted to clear it through the Bureau's office in Washington, and we talked to Assistant Commissioner Massey. Mr. Massey said, "Well, gee, I don't know. We haven't had this come up before that I know of." And having had better than thirty years in the Bureau, we were quite surprised, but he checked with the Secretary of the Interior and found out that it was all right for me to serve on the Commission. So I guess I am one of the few employed by the Bureau.... K: There's no money involved here. There won't be any conflict of interest. D: Well, there's a little money involved. I have to tend my own expenses. K: Oh, it costs you to serve? Do you have any idea why you in particular were selected? D: Well, I understood that there was an Indian Commission going to be formed, and very casually, I guess, or not even thinking, I mentioned to Joe Dan, I said, "Gee, that'd be nice. I'd like to serve on that. I think it would be good to promote the relationship between the Tribe and the Bureau and the State of Florida, so they can help shoulder some of the problems that we have." It was a few weeks later that I got a letter from the Governor's office, and in it was a form to fill out giving an outline of my background. Then a few weeks after that, I received a letter from the Governor advising me of my appointment, so.... K: So as far as you know, you were recommended by the Indian people. D: Yes, that's.... K: An interesting feat there. At least they trust your judgement.

PAGE 12

9 D: I'm quite proud of that. K: Yeah, I think you ought to be! Who else is on the Commission with you? How many members are there? D: Well, there are eight members and the chairman. The Chairman of the Indian Affairs Commission is Mr. Charlie Knight from Tampa. And the other members are Mr. Ross Allen; Mr. Buffalo Tiger, who is chief of the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida; Joe Dan Osceola, who is the President of the Board of Directors of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; Mr. Olbert L. Peacock, Jr., who is, I believe, from the Ft. Pierce area; [and] Bob Mitchell, who is an old Indian friend of the Seminoles, and has been for years. K: I used to run into him out in the Big Cypress all the time. D: And Allen B. Forbes--he was the first long-term lessee on the tribe, and he got on the Commission--and then Mr. Cliff Bathower, from Miami, who is a developer from down there; and then myself. K: How often do you meet? D: Our schedule is to meet four times a year. Our last meeting was last winter, and for some reason we didn't have the Spring meeting. The Summer meeting, the one for August or September, I expect to be hearing from Mr. Knight any moment now on that. K: Is this commission to--what is it's function? Is it general advisory to the Governor, to the tribes, or to the federal government, or.... D: Well, we are trying to attack specific problems. One that we are attacking presently is law and order on the federal reservation. In 1961, the State of Florida agreed to assume the responsibility for maintenance of law and order on the federal reservations, and we feel that it has been remiss in the duties of enforcement and advising with the Tribe on the law and order functions. K: Is this a big problem? D: It is a big problem, yes.

PAGE 13

10 K: When you think of the pastoral setting of Big Cypress and Brighton, it does not seem much of a problem. D: Well, we have the same problems on the reservations that you have outside the reservations. You have problems with juvenile delinquency, you have problems with vandalism, you have outright thievery, you have traffic problems, all of those things that you have outside the reservation area, you have on the reservations. And there's always been a reluctance for some reason, on the part of the nearest political subdivision who should be responsible for maintenance of law and order, to act on Federal property, although the law reads that they should. We're trying to help bring about a change in that. K: When you mentioned youth problems--this is something relatively new, isn't it? To the tribe? D: What is new? Well, I'd say that it was more brought to light. From what I can understand, there are some of the tribal leaders today, the solid citizens that raised a little hell when they were kids, and I find that they settled down, and maybe we'll find the same situation outside. But the insulation from society the Seminoles suffered or enjoyed, whichever way you want to look at it, didn't bring the problem to light. And, of course they've been getting worse more recently, just like the outside has. K: Like incidences of glue sniffing and gas sniffing are there. D: That's right...and gas sniffing.... And drinking, and I understand they get ahold of some pot once in a while, and there's other things that.... K: I know out at the day school this year, when we went in to do our final testing, they were administering corporal punishment to practically every boy in the school because they had been gas sniffing. Did you notice...? D: Well, yes, there seems to be a lot of it. Even if you leave one glue sniffer or gas sniffer, that's a lot. And you're terrifically worried about it. I know we all are. K: This is something that you hope the reservations, by their very isolation, might have escaped. Maybe this is one of

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11 those less desirable cultural contacts that was brought back to the reservation, that could have occurred on the reservation. What has been done positively on the reservation, anything to your knowledge? Has there been a concerted effort to educate the people, for example, the youngsters, where this alcoholism problem and glue, the gas and other things? Has the Tribe taken any steps itself, aside from "law enforcement" to eradicate this? D: I'm not familiar with any positive steps that have been taken. K: Has it been discussed by the Tribal leadership to your knowledge...? D: I'm sure that it has. I'm sure that it has.... K: This is a growing problem, because this could be terribly disruptive to the educational programs as well as to just the social existence of the people. D: I'm sure that it is. K: I'm hoping that's one thing that the Tribe and your commission will get to. Anything else that you feel the commission is...? D: Well, I'm Chairman of the Legislative Committee for the Indian Commission, and this last session of the State Legislature, we introduced a bill that was passed. The bill allowed for leasing to members of the Seminole Tribe or the Miccosukee Tribe on the state reservation for periods up to twenty-five years rather than the fifteen years that was previously limited to. As a result of that bill, Bill Osceola, President of the Hollywood Reservation and one of the bigger cattle operators with the Seminole Tribe, is going on the state reservation and set up his own cattle ranch. And we have every reason to believe that he will qualify for a $60,000 development loan from the Farmers Home Administration. Now this is quite common practice outside the reservations for cattlemen to get FHA loans and set up their own business and so forth, but this will be the first time that a Seminole Indian has ever set up his own cattle ranch. Bill will have a twenty-five and twenty-five lease. Get his loan and develop his ranch on the 900 acre tract out on the state Indian reservation. It will involve.... K: Now this is the hundred thousand acres adjacent to the Big Cypress?

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12 D: Yes, yes. 100,000 acres. K: I thought most of that was in flood control district. D: Well, most of it is, I'm sorry to say, but there is a portion of it that isn't in the flood control district. It is subject to development. There will be a water control system installed, fencing, and we hope eventually a nice farmstead there with a nice home and boating chutes just like a miniature.... K: What about the alligator farming? D: Or raising. That seems to have potential, but I haven't found many of the people out on Big Cypress and at Brighton that have shown an intense interest in it. As you know, there are just a certain amount of leaders, ambitious people in a small community. You take a small community of 350 people, there aren't a lot of people there that are of the--oh, how should we say it--that have the stick-to-itness and ambition and knowledge that went into a business. The ones that have those qualities are in the cattle business. Now I think that finding the people would be one of the biggest jobs of pursuing this alligator farming. K: That's one of those that has a lot of appeal to the press, but maybe the practical potentialities that occur are severely limited except for a few individual families. D: Yeah, that's right. K: Well, at this stage, how do you feel about the economic future of the Tribe? I assume you feel pretty good by what you brought here in terms of leases and agreements, and you have that tremendous jump in income for the Tribe. D: I feel real good about it, Dr. Kersey. There has been progress made since I came here. I came down here with those instructions from the Central Office of the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] to try to work up a program that will increase the income for the Seminoles, and it seems to be doing that. Another thing that the Press jumped on--when you know the facts, it was rather amusing, because there was a serious display of ignorance on their part--the oil and gas leasing

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13 that I spoke about.... That has potential. The potential income for the Hollywood Reservation will approach a half a million dollars a year in a few years. The income for Brighton and Big Cypress will probably always be their cattle business, because it's a good business, it's successful, it's proven; they've enhanced the value of the land out there through these improvement leases with the farmers by millions of dollars. The land value now, oh, I don't have a late formal appraisal of the land values, but I would say it would be approaching 30 or 40 million dollars. And, I think that their income through the cattle and through the leases can make a good return on that value of land. K: Do you feel at this point--I'm trying to relate this to what seems to be a growing nationwide movement among Indians to "run their own affairs--educationally, socially, economically" -that at this point the Tribe might, could effectively take over the operations, or do you feel that it will need government advice and technical aid for a good long while still in running its economic affairs? Let's limit it to that, since that's your specialty. D: Well, now I'll just start right back here--it all goes back to your specialty which is education. Right now we have two college graduates of the Seminole Tribe, neither of which are working for the Tribe. K: Why? D: That's a good question. I've pondered this, and I can't figure out why. K: Well, maybe I can answer part of.... One of 'em is a teacher who is teaching. D: Yes, but we have teachers that are required on the Reservation. K: You're quite right. D: Why isn't he teaching out at Big Cypress school? K: Do you know if he even applied for the job? D: I don't think he did.

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14 K: The second graduate, the one who just recently graduated, is a management major, business administration major who every time I have talked to her about this, has at least told me that she wanted to come back and work for the Tribe. And then when she graduated, degree in hand, was offered an eighty dollar a week secretarial job. And, your loyalty to your people not withstanding, I don't think it's really reasonable to expect a college graduate, no matter how dedicated, who has some responsibility family-wise of her own, to come back to work as a secretary at eighty dollars a week. Now that's what she told me was the situation. When she was ready to come back and do something, there was no room for her, and no job for her. D: Well, I'm sure that the longer you work with the Seminoles, you will come to the same conclusion that I have. Just about the time that you think that you've got 'em figured out, they will do something like that that is thoroughly unexplainable. K: In other words, I had gone along just more or less blithely assuming that this is fine. You know, upward and onward. Here in a decade, we've moved from a leadership, one of whom who cannot read and write at all, and one of whom who had very limited schooling, to getting your first two high school graduates into your leadership positions. And in a natural evolutionary thing, you expect now the college people would start to come back and take positions of leadership. Is this a political thing involved here? D: I think it is. I think that our education problem is not of getting educated leaders; I think it is a general education problem, because presently there are still many members of the Tribe who don't quite trust education amongst their own people for some reason. I don't know why, they just don't appreciate it. Because the educated ones see changes that must come about and try to effect them, and when you start something new, something old is usually taken away, and they don't like that. K: It's very difficult to effect change and keep the best of the cultural heritage, and yet get the best of the next. Yet something has to give. D: That's the problem.

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15 K: I'm not so sure but what this problem confronting Indians nationwide--wanting to ride two horses--have your cake and eat it too. How can you still be effectively an Indian and effectively a non-Indian? It's awful difficult to live in two worlds. D: That's it. That is the universal enigma of the thing. There's no way that you can have all of both worlds. There's just no way you can have it. You can't have the job opportunities on Brighton and Big Cypress and some small industry without chopping down a tree. It just is impossible -or disrupting the peaceful valley sort of atmosphere out there. They had an opportunity for a sand and gravel lease that would have netted the Tribe approximately a hundred thousand dollars a year on Big Cypress just in the last few months. It involved destruction of a few acres of pasture, four or five hundred acres of pasture land which can't begin to generate that much income, but the people out there chose to not have the sand and gravel lease because they didn't like the idea of destroying the pasture land. Maybe they will change their mind. I hope they do, because I think it would be.... K: Now, are they in conflict over this with the leadership? In other words is the...? D: Yes, they are. K: That's what I figured. That it seemed to me--and this is just from my observations out there--that in many programs, educational, housing, economical development, the people at Big Cypress seem to be alienated from the Tribal leadership who are trying to get these things for them. Is that a valid assessment? I don't mean open political warfare, but it seems that they're going their own way out there. D: Yes they are. They're more isolated, and by the same token they have more juvenile delinquency problems there than they have at Brighton, I would say. K: Wasn't there some trailer incident out there? Where the juveniles were using the trailers for some type of promiscuity, and they had to close the trailers down. D: Yes, that happened. They don't have anything else to do,

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16 and they get into mischief, is what it amounts to. If they had more.... K: There doesn't seem to be as much social control on Big Cypress in the sense of a family taking an interest in their children. Having run educational programs on both reservations, there seems to be more of a cohesiveness on Brighton, where there is, for lack of a better term, "community" spirit up there. I guess Big Cypress is still closer to the individuality of camp and clan.... D: Yeah, they are. K: But, they have certain places they can go, but they don't seem to go there. Well, there's just no getting around it. Our educational program out there for the adults was a complete bust. We went there, we had the teachers, we had the equipment, but we had no takers. Oh, maybe four or five at the most, where up on Brighton, our educational program for the adults has had a phenomenal turnout. We've been averaging twenty, twenty-five a night. They've made good progress. To me this is indicative of something in the community. You've never visited...? D: Yes I have, and I think that part of it is because of the education. I think that it's wrong to have an Indian school on the reservation. I think they should go to the public school from the word go. I've even.... K: Well, you're not alone in this. D: I've even suggested this--if we're going to go all out for bringing the Seminoles on Big Cypress into community affairs, blend them into society as best we can, let's go all out. And I even thought maybe we should consider getting a helicopter to fly in every day so the little kids won't have that seventy mile roundtrip to school and back. K: I don't know if it's a much longer ride from Moore Haven out to Brighton--or short I should say. It's a much shorter ride. D: It's somewhat shorter. K: Somewhat shorter, but psychologically it's a whale of a lot shorter. I don't know if you noticed this in driving say from Moore Haven out to Brighton, but the difference in

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17 driving from Moore Haven to Brighton, and from Clewiston to Big Cypress is just phenomenal. So there's just a psychological impact that you can't count just in miles traveled, time is involved and other things. It's a dilemma. It's a real quandry. I tend to agree with you: the existence of an Indian school is uncalled for. But I am stuck for a positive alternative, short of your helicopter or something at this moment, to get the kids in. D: That is a rather flamboyant suggestion, the helicopter, but don't forget that we're going to have a heck of a lot of surplus helicopters when this thing in Vietnam is settled. And here's another thing, I don't know, you probably have observed it too, but you drive through Clewiston during the noon hour and you'll find all the Indian kids that go to school there will be congregated together. They'll pull together, they'll walk together, they'll eat together. You go to Moore Haven, and they're thoroughly assimilated. You'll find that Indians and non-Indians are all mixed up and enjoying, laughing, talking, and so forth. Now there must be a reason for that. K: Well, in things I've written, I've tried to explain it in terms of acculturation--that they've had so many contacts with the community and the school. D: During this plain age from kindergarten through the fourth grade, I think that there's much lost. K: Fifth grade is the first time these children from Big Cypress even see a non-Indian, other than an authority figure such as the teacher or the principal. No, I agree with you. There has to be more to school than getting there and getting home, too. You know, activities, and I think this is another difference--we're off on this educational tangent a little--but the people in Brighton get their kids in for activities, they get them back in the evening for basketball or football or for school activities. You wouldn't get this sort of support right now out at Big Cypress--unless it was done through government auspices. The people themselves, I don't think.... D: They're not self-starters on something like that. K: Not at this point. This could be a big difference.

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18 D: I can't see that there's a big difference, but there possibly is a difference in the tribe--you see, the ones in Brighton speak Seminole-Creek language, and the ones in Big Cypress speak Miccosukee. And also there was quite a distinct difference in the two groups of peoples that populated the two Reservations. I'm not enough of a student of man or anthropologist to make a judgement on whether that does have a difference, or has made a difference in it, but possibly it has, and probably would require years of study to make that determination. K: I'm like you, I'm not that close to being an expert. But just off-hand from my observations, it's not so much the language difference--of course this has something to do with it, the fact that one is written and one is unwritten--it's almost the pattern of location and settlement. Two people at our university are working on this now. The people who happened to settle north of the lake-whether they be Creek-speakers or Miccosukee-speakers was happenstance historically, I think--but the people who have the Cow Creek settlement up there, the Fisheating Creek [Cow Creek is a stream running into Lake Okeechobee from the northeast; Fisheating Creek is a stream flowing into Lake Okeechobee approximately ten miles northwest of Moore Haven. Muskogee-speaking Seminoles are often called Cow Creeks in reference to their major area of concentration prior to their being gathered on the Brighton Reservation. The southern boundary of the Brighton Reservation is marked by Fisheating Creek; hence occasional modern references to Fisheating Creek Indians.], I should say, these people happened to be in an area that was soon going to be drained and populated. And if they wanted to stay in that area, they had to make some sort of accommodations, and I think what you can really trace through most of this century is some sort of accommodation and assimilation with the encroaching farm and ranch people around that area. Until the '50s, the people south of Lake Okeechobee weren't even in contact. You know, there wasn't any other route out to Big Cypress until the late '50s. So really, you had no culture contacts. Again, as I say, I'm no expert and I wouldn't try to be, but I'm not so much sure that it's a language difference. Well, they share a common culture in this sense, they just don't share a common language. But I would say it would be more the acculturational aspect, the settlement and culture contacts with....

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19 D: We have people working in both the Tribe and the Bureau that are not children anymore--they're in their thirties--that graduated from Okeechobee High School. Now, that was when the Seminole kids from the Brighton Reservation did go to Okeechobee High School. K: 'Cuase Glades County wouldn't take 'em. D: Yeah, that's right. That's been an interesting story. Glades was afraid this would set a precedence for integrating the schools. Absolutely. Was there any pressure to your knowledge from the Tribe to get the children back into Glades County? Or from the government? D: I'm not familiar. I believe that you could make a phone call to Bill Boehmer. He could clear you up on that. K: Well, I try to...sometimes I make mistakes, but when I make mistakes, they're honest mistakes in the sense that I'm not trying to just fashion something out of the worst aspects. Really, I've become more supersensitive recently because Indian people are supersensitive. And what in the past I would turn off and say, "Well, I just misread the data." Boy, when you're dealing with live people in live situations.... For one thing, that's why I want to talk to these people who have been involved in the Tribal affairs, as many of them as I can before I go into the book. I know in some of my articles, I have interpreted what people have said maybe in some ways that aren't quite right. And I'm going to set out to rectify those wherever possible in the book. Also, some things that are true, objectively true, can step on people's feelings, and I think that maybe I've done this in some of my articles, not intending to. I had a galley proof come back yesterday from a journal article I wrote almost a year ago. There's such a lag between the time you submit them and the time they're published, and I was appalled not at what I had said in the sense that it wasn't true, but just the implications of some of these in terms of stepping on peoples' feelings. I sat there chopping through this thing, and then I've got to make a phone call and explain to an editor why after the whole galley's been set we're either going to have to pull the article and not print it, or he's going to have to make the corrections that I want. Because otherwise it would impair relationships at this level.

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20 D: Well, I think this brings out something that you and I probably both do. We read favorite books--every two or three years we'll pick it up and reread it. You know why we do that? This is my own theory. It's a different person reading it. K: Well, I hope so. If you aren't changing.... D: So we interpret it differently and enjoy it in a different way each time. K: This is a sticky problem. As a historian, I never encountered this. I could be pretty objective or try to be objective with the data, put it together and then interpret it, but when you are dealing with people who are alive, ongoing entities, I think this shook my medieval thinking and writing -not to be untruthful or not to overlook facts, but in the things you say about fact. These are the implications that we.... D: See, that's a problem that we in the branch of Area Property Management have. We have to keep in mind that our function is not development of Tribal resources primarily. Our primary function is development of people. And development of Tribal resources is merely a tool for our ultimate goal. K: This is true. And of course this is what education is all about. It's not education for education's sake but education and what it will do in the long run for these people. I'm occasionally asked, "Well, what are you trying to do--go out and change that culture?" I said, "That culture is changing." I could neither start nor stop the change that is taking place. My major interest is in providing the kinds of educational opportunities for these children, that they can do what they want to. I don't really care if an Indian boy or girl goes on and gets a Ph.D. and then goes back to live in a chickee. That's their decision to make. D: That's right. K: I'm not trying to play social engineer. All I'm trying to say is that they should at least have some alternatives. I should hope that that's all that any of us are trying to do, provide them with vital economic or social or educational alternatives. Well, I think we've about run it down here. Thank you

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21 Bob, and I appreciate it. D: Thank you, Harry.