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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: BOB OSCEOLA
INTERVIEWER: JEAN CHAUDHURI
Bowlegs, Billy, 1
Green Corn Dance, 5
Jones, Sam, 1
Medicine men, 1-2
Old people, 5
Seminole meaning, 5
Seminole wars, 2-3
Tribal government, 5
Vietnam, 3-4, 6
Young people, 6
O: ...we'd rather see them, you know, on the oldest women, but
sometimes it does look nice on young....
C: Occasionally, uh huh. But you'd rather see them in mini-skirts?
O: Yeah, I like that a lot better.
C: Or hot pants? So along with changes we have to change too, but
we don't have to completely give up our traditional values.
Is this what you're saying?
C: Some of your war heroes...can you name any? Do you know any-
thing about Wildcat?
O: Not too much.
C: How about Sam Jones?
C: How about Billy Bowlegs? Not the one that died two or three
O: I know a little bit about him.
C: Can you tell me a little bit about him?
O: I know that he was a Creek and he worked up in North Florida.
The only war heroes that I ever heard was my grandfather. He
was a medicine man during the great war, and you know, he just
kept all kinds of odds and ends. My parents have told me,
and my grandparents have also told me.
C: Okay, tell me about it.
O: If I did, you all would probably think of him as a sadist or an
animal or something.
C: No, I wouldn't. Why would I? I'm part of the people.
O: It's just some of the things that he's done, you know. Like,
when he killed a soldier he'd cut him open and see what he ate
before he came out there to kill people. Things like that, you
know, that made him a up medicine man, because, you know, he
was willing to try....
C: Interested in anatomy?
C: Now, why did he do this? Was it a cause? Or, you were saying
sadist; you don't really believe that he was sadistic?
O: No, he weren't like that.
C: Why do you think he did that?
O: Because, being a medicine man, he wanted to find out what
they were eating...what they had eaten before they went into
them and tried to kill them, you know. He wanted to find out.
C: What other things did you hear? This is interesting.
O: I don't know. Just wild things they told me, but this has
been since I was a kid; they've always told me stories. Now
that I've grown older, the stories, you know, I've drifted
away from them. And I went on my own, you know, I got sent
to Vietnam and all this now, so....
C: How about Osceola? Is he really a hero as a lot of people
make him out to be?
O: There's really a lot of different tales about Osceola, really,
because there's not too many people know what he done. Because
like the history books, they don't even tell it like it is
anymore, and it's just a big old cover-up for what the Americans
did to the Indians. The history books, you can't believe them.
C: Yes, but how about when they say that the Seminole wars were
the costliest wars? That, when Osceola was around he caused
the government to pay out over twenty million dollars worth?
They spent over twenty million dollars, and, also, fifteen
hundred souls were lost. Do you think this would be exggerated,
O: No, not really, because they did. They lost a lot of lives
and they lost a lot of money trying to send down the Seminoles
and to Oklahoma, things like that.
C: __ think it's sort of fantastic, though, because there
were very few Seminoles in those days, and that it took that
many dead men and that much money to be spent to even capture
a few Indians. Don't you think it's fantastic?
0: No, not really, because after awhile, you get to realize what
this world's made of and find out what the government did, and
the people running it and all this, and things like that don't
beat.... You know, it's not a big deal anymore, because not
only is it, you know...there might have been more people that
died, because you know, like in Vietnam a lot of people died.
They cover up saying, "Okay, only so many died this month,"
so maybe there was a lot more that died.
C: Uh huh, to Osceola's credit.
0: Uh huh.
C: Also, a lot of people...there's been, you know, sort of an
argument over thinking that Osceola was part esteehatkee
[white man]. What have you heard?
0: My grandparents have told me he was a half-breed. But still,
they don't really know what the real story is. What you have
to do is you have to go back and talk to the older people to
C: Uh huh. And most of them are gone.
0: Yeah, some of them are. But, like a lot of the older people
around here, they are real caught up on what happened in the
old days. My grandmother died recently...about six months ago,
I guess. She was about 100, and I guess about 105, and she
used to tell a lot of old war stories to my friends.
C: Do you remember any?
0: No, but she told a lot of them to my grandmother. And there
were times, you know, she'd set me down and try to talk to me,
but, I just got up and left.
C: Are you sorry that you did that?
0: Yes, because right now, like being a veteran from Vietnam, you
stop being active. You sort of slow down now. You stop and
look at this world that everybody's living in, and you ask the
question that was never asked before, and wonder why can't you
get the answers. The reason of the world was because you was
plain too stupid to just sit down and listen, you know. So you
pay the penalty for not listening.
C: Do you think the languages should be taught to the younger
generations, or should we forget it, since there's just a
0: I think it should be kept, because...well, it's like anything
else, it's pride that really keeps anything.
C: It's something like, you know, as long as the green grass
grows that other things grow too.
C: The language grows along with it.
0: And it should.
C: You just said your family was partially traditional; they've
kept a lot of the old ways. Do you know whether or not the
Indian was basically a religious person?
0: No, they weren't. They weren't too religious about anything.
C: Why do you say that?
0: Because they believed that a person die, you know, you either
went to hell or heaven and that's about it in life as it
C: You mean the Indian thought of a hell and a heaven too?
0: Yes. Because before Christianity came to Florida, or to
the Indians in Florida, they thought if a person died, he
did go one way or the other. But they never promised him his
life would be better if he went to heaven, and hislife would
be worse if he went to hell. They never told anything like
that. But they did know that he went one way or the other.
C: And, so far, is this what your older people told you?
C: Are there any stories where they might tell you where the
Seminoles may have come from?
O: Oh, yeah. They say we came from North Carolina, around that
area, before we became Seminoles. Really, Seminole is just a
word that we gave ourselves, really, because it just means the
"wild ones" or "the wild". It's just like an animal. It's
wild, and you say seminole, and it's just saying that that's
a wild animal or anything wild.
C: So, you considered yourself as being wild?
O: No, not wild, just being active, I think.
C: Just being real activists, uh huh. Oh well, that's good.
Have you gone to Green Corn Dances?
O: No, I haven't.
C: Is this because of the Christian influence that you haven't
O: No, it's just that I believe it's everybody's own thing to
be, you know, just being myself.
C: By choice of not going?
Since 1957, since you got your tribal government, has there
been a lot of changes?
O: There has in the people. I don't know...it's watching your own
people turn into a regular apple. Which is, you know, just
another word saying, "He's red on the outside, but white on
the inside." Because of the laws they made and a couple of
laws they enforce right now.
C: Would this be related to certain projects?
O: Yeah, certain projects. Certain people in our tribal office
that take a different point of view of things that happen in
the organization. They just don't stop to look.
C: Do they listen to what the old folks are saying--to the needs
of the old folks?
O: Yeah. Well, they...I was a Boy Scout counselor when I came
back from Vietnam, and I started talking--you know, I talked
to the chairman of the tribe. I told him about the situation
they had on the reservation, about the drug scene and about all
the young people going wild because they really haven't based
theirselves on what they want to do in the future. And they
just, you know, just doing what everybody else was doing. I
talked to him, and I told him that they should start something--
have somebody there to advise the young people what should
happen. And the only thing that came out of it was they just
found me another job to do. They just sort of disregard the
C: You seem to be kind of outspoken and sort of showing some
sort of concern. I think this is sort of rare among people
your age, although you said you went to Vietnam--maybe you
grew up a little bit faster than the others did.
0: I think I did, because when I first went to Vietnam I was only
eighteen. I was wounded, and I was sent back, and I volunteered
to go back over again. And I went back. I was only nineteen.
I recently got out, and I got out at the age of twenty.
So during that time you learn to see a lot of things, and in-
stead of turning your head away from them, you sort of just
challenge the whole thing.
C: Yeah, challenging. That's a good word, because they tell me
over a million GI's will come home hooked on drugs and so forth,
so why would you be so concerned with a handful of Indians?
What difference does it make in comparison to a million GI's?
Why would you feel concerned?
0: Just being over there, you know, you see a lot of people doing
the same thing. Everybody was smoking grass, you know, doing
their own thing, you thought. You just sort of grew up with
them, you know. You started doing what they were doing, but
then you'd realize that...you looked around, and, you know,
this great feeling you got of smoking pot and all this, it
can't last. You wanted something that lasts forever, and the
only thing you could do was you had to get it off the life.
So, you stop, you know; you ask yourself why was you doing
that, and you come to some conclusions about how people are
and how they think. That's one thing that really gets you
started--how people think. Because not too many people think
the way you do, or sometimes they never think that way.
They just sort of, you know...they never do any deep thinking.
After you start doing that, you sort of come down to earth and
find what people really are. Then you look around. You see
what they need. Maybe you can help them in some way, so you
start talking to them.
C: So you think it helps the kids to stay away from drugs?
0: Yes. It can be done.
C: It can be done. You're an optimist.