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Interview with Bill Osceola

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Bill Osceola
Creator:
Osceola, Bill ( Interviewee )
Language:
English

Subjects

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

Notes

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

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Seminoles' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
SEM 206 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Interviewee: Bill Osceola
Interviewer: Billy Cypress
1992


C: Where did you live in 1957?
O: Hollywood.
C: Did you favor or oppose tribal organization?
O: I was pretty much in favor of it.
C: Why were you chosen for the constitutional committee?
O: Before the committee was set up, I and some other people had worked and tried to
get the tribe organized. At that time, the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] had the
office at Muskogee, Oklahoma. You had to send letters to Muskogee and then to
Washington, D.C. When we did this and the word got to Washington that we wanted
to get organized, they sent someone to work with us. This person said to get a
committee and they organized a committee and set them up.
C: Why did Mr. Quinn help with organization?
O: When word got to Washington that we wanted to organize and they needed someone,
they sent Mr. Quinn because he knew how to do things like by-laws.
C: Why did the people on the Tamiami Trail refuse to join?
O: I do not know that much about it. I am reminded by what John Henry Gopher said
earlier. They had talked about getting paid for the land that the U.S. Government
had taken from the Seminoles. The Miccosukees did not like that because they said
that if the government did pay for the land, they could send them all to Oklahoma
and they did not approve of that.
C: Were you selected to an office in the new tribal government?
O: Yes, I was. When we had finished the work of the organization, Rex Quinn told me,
"I have taught you some things, so now go out and talk to your people and tell them
about the constitution." The Miccosukees did not want it, but the others did. All but
three opposed the new organization. When the organization was done, they said
officers were going to have to be elected. I ran and got elected.
C: How did the BIA agent influence the tribal government?
O: Mr. Mormon was getting old in his years and was looking for retirement. It was not
until Mr. Harrington took his place, and he was a good asset, because he liked to be
with Indians and work with Indians. Whatever the Indians needed and wanted, that
-1-


was what he was for. So Mr. Harrington did a lot, but Mr. Mormon was getting
[near] retirement age and that is what he was looking for at the time.
C: Where did tribal government get its money in early years?
O: When the organization was started, we did not see everything in good light. Mr.
Harrington, the superintendent, helped. Only $60,000 came in at the time and it was
not hardly enough for tribal organizations. The constitution had said that we should
give some dividends, so we gave out a small amount of dividends. Before the
organization, there had been some monies that had been accumulated in Washington,
D.C., for the tribe in the amount of $300,000. Also, Tallahassee was to help. The
superintendent, even without the money, helped out also.
C: Were council members more concerned with their own reservation or the total tribe?
O: The officers were older and they thought that all of the people in the reservation
were together and that they were to help everyone. So, they were for the whole
tribe.
C: How has the tribal government been most or least successful?
O: Older people had said younger people would get in and take over. One thing I do
not like is that in the beginning we were told that Indians would help themselves.
Indian feet and Indian hands will help themselves. Indians were to go to school and
return and take jobs in the tribe. I do not think that is happening as much. I would
like to see that happen more.
C: How long have you lived on this reservation?
O: About forty-seven years on the Hollywood reservation.
C: How has the reservation environment changed over the years in water level?
O: When I came to this reservation there was some deer, but the city came. We might
have a raccoon or a fox here, but very little. There are now a lot of canals. Now
you have to have water and we have a pump or city water. [The] water level has
gone down. We have water to drink in the house or around the house, but outside
water as it used to be is gone.
C: What about forest cover?
O: There were a lot of trees, but they gave me work to clear the trees and I did. Now
the reservation does not have very many trees. They are non-existent.
-2-


C: What about animal life?
O: They are pretty much gone.
C: What about fish and turtles?
O: They are not around.
C: What about edible and medicinal plants?
O: When I agreed to live in a modern house, I agreed to a lot of things like not to have
a garden or have domestic things like chicken and pigs around. This is why there
may not be a lot of edible or medicinal plants around.
C: How did you make a living over the years?
O: I hunted and I trapped. I sometimes looked for alligators for their hides. I also
sometimes worked outside.
C: What about cattle herding?
O: I had always done that all of my life. I was given cattle and I still own cattle.
C: What about timber cutting?
O: I have never cut timber, but at Big Cypress one time I drove a tractor to clear land
and to clear trees, but I did not cut them.
C: What about agricultural farming work?
O: I did it one day and I did not like it and I quit. I did not like kneeling all day long
and it was hard work. That was in a tomato field on the Tamiami Trail near
Ochopee.
C: What about working for the tribal government or BIA?
O: I worked for the BIA as a bulldozer operator at Big Cypress. I also worked for the
Seminole tribe as a leader.
C: What other things did you do?
O: I rented some bulldozers and did some subcontract work. Now I am retired.
C: Did you ever live in a chikee?
-3-


0: Yes, that is what I grew up in.
C: Did you learn to build one?
0: Yes, I learned to build a chikee.
C: When and why did you quit living in one?
0: When I came to Hollywood, I found that people were living in bad housing. The
housing was not that great. They were just little houses. I wanted to live in a better
house, so out of my own finances I built a two bedroom house that I moved into.
The tribe later bought it from me and made it into an office. I wanted to live in a
better house and that is what I did.
C: Did your family ever provide any of their food needs by hunting, trapping or fishing?
0: My family fished [and] killed deer and birds to eat.
C: What about raising hogs and cattle?
0: I have never raised hogs, but I have raised cattle.
C: What about picking coontie or berries?
0: Yes, I used to look for coontie when I was growing up. My family looked for coontie
and made flour. Now the white people have cleared the grounds where coontie grow
and there are very little of them left.
C: What about gardening?
0: My father did that when I was young. He grew some potatoes and there were five
different kinds. We also grew sugar cane.
C: What other things did you do?
0: Near Ft. Lauderdale, we went to get gators and otter for their hides which we sold
for food.
C: How did your family travel about the reservation or to town?
0: When I lived out in the Tamiami Trail, we used to take a canoe to twenty miles
outside Miami and a white man would come to pick up Indians to take them to
Miami where there was an Indian village. Indians would go in there and buy a lot
-4-


of lard and rice, sometimes weighing a hundred pounds. Now people use only cars.
But back in the old days we traveled by canoe in the water and by car on dry land.
C: Is the family unit important today for teaching youngsters how to live off the land?
G: When I was young I was told that my uncle was my teacher. He taught me how to
do things. When I erred, I was punished. Back in the old days, chikees were open.
There were some things which were stored and kids were taught not to steal anything
or take anything away even though chikees were open and things were stored in the
chikees in the upper rafters. Now, today, people steal things even in locked homes.
C: What about passing on cultural traditions and values?
G: That is good, but I am not sure about the cultural instructors around today in the
tribe because they are young and I am not sure they are adequate. People are
beginning to lose their language and they are not speaking it adequately.
C: What about maintaining discipline among the young?
G: The kids need to learn the old way to have good discipline. Kids today go to modern
schools but they do not learn these things.
C: What is the biggest environmental problem on the reservation? Solid waste disposal,
drainage, or sanitation?
G: Her on the Hollywood reservation they said to clean your yard. If you did, you lived
in a good place. The tribe helps those who are not able to clean their yards. Now,
if there are some people who do not clean their yards and they do not have any
money to pay for it, it is not good. Friends of the Seminoles early on said that if you
go into homes you will get sick. I know why now. If you live in a house you have
to learn to clean it. If you do not clean your house you will get sick. You can learn
to live and you can teach the Indians how to live in a house.
C: Who do you think should take care of these problems?
G: The tribe is helping now and is the one that is supposed to do it.
C: Is the reservation a better or worse place to live today than in your youth and why?
G: There was very little back in the old days. Now I feel like the tribe has come a long
way.
C: This is the end of the translation of Bill Osceola.
-5-


Full Text

PAGE 1

SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA Interviewee: Bill Osceola Interviewer: Billy Cypress 1992

PAGE 2

C: Where did you live in 1957? O: Hollywood. C: Did you favor or oppose tribal organization? O: I was pretty much in favor of it. C: Why were you chosen for the constitutional committee? O: Before the committee was set up, I and some other people had worked and tried to get the tribe organized. At that time, the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] had the office at Muskogee, Oklahoma. You had to send letters to Muskogee and then to Washington, D.C. When we did this and the word got to Washington that we wanted to get organized, they sent someone to work with us. This person said to get a committee and they organized a committee and set them up. C: Why did Mr. Quinn help with organization? O: When word got to Washington that we wanted to organize and they needed someone, they sent Mr. Quinn because he knew how to do things like by-laws. C: Why did the people on the Tamiami Trail refuse to join? O: I do not know that much about it. I am reminded by what John Henry Gopher said earlier. They had talked about getting paid for the land that the U.S. Government had taken from the Seminoles. The Miccosukees did not like that because they said that if the government did pay for the land, they could send them all to Oklahoma and they did not approve of that. C: Were you selected to an office in the new tribal government? O: Yes, I was. When we had finished the work of the organization, Rex Quinn told me, "I have taught you some things, so now go out and talk to your people and tell them about the constitution." The Miccosukees did not want it, but the others did. All but three opposed the new organization. When the organization was done, they said officers were going to have to be elected. I ran and got elected. C: How did the BIA agent influence the tribal government? O: Mr. Mormon was getting old in his years and was looking for retirement. It was not until Mr. Harrington took his place, and he was a good asset, because he liked to be with Indians and work with Indians. Whatever the Indians needed and wanted, that -1-

PAGE 3

was what he was for. So Mr. Harrington did a lot, but Mr. Mormon was getting [near] retirement age and that is what he was looking for at the time. C: Where did tribal government get its money in early years? O: When the organization was started, we did not see everything in good light. Mr. Harrington, the superintendent, helped. Only $60,000 came in at the time and it was not hardly enough for tribal organizations. The constitution had said that we should give some dividends, so we gave out a small amount of dividends. Before the organization, there had been some monies that had been accumulated in Washington, D.C., for the tribe in the amount of $300,000. Also, Tallahassee was to help. The superintendent, even without the money, helped out also. C: Were council members more concerned with their own reservation or the total tribe? O: The officers were older and they thought that all of the people in the reservation were together and that they were to help everyone. So, they were for the whole tribe. C: How has the tribal government been most or least successful? O: Older people had said younger people would get in and take over. One thing I do not like is that in the beginning we were told that Indians would help themselves. Indian feet and Indian hands will help themselves. Indians were to go to school and return and take jobs in the tribe. I do not think that is happening as much. I would like to see that happen more. C: How long have you lived on this reservation? O: About forty-seven years on the Hollywood reservation. C: How has the reservation environment changed over the years in water level? O: When I came to this reservation there was some deer, but the city came. We might have a raccoon or a fox here, but very little. There are now a lot of canals. Now you have to have water and we have a pump or city water. [The] water level has gone down. We have water to drink in the house or around the house, but outside water as it used to be is gone. C: What about forest cover? O: There were a lot of trees, but they gave me work to clear the trees and I did. Now the reservation does not have very many trees. They are non-existent. -2-

PAGE 4

C: What about animal life? O: They are pretty much gone. C: What about fish and turtles? O: They are not around. C: What about edible and medicinal plants? O: When I agreed to live in a modern house, I agreed to a lot of things like not to have a garden or have domestic things like chicken and pigs around. This is why there may not be a lot of edible or medicinal plants around. C: How did you make a living over the years? O: I hunted and I trapped. I sometimes looked for alligators for their hides. I also sometimes worked outside. C: What about cattle herding? O: I had always done that all of my life. I was given cattle and I still own cattle. C: What about timber cutting? O: I have never cut timber, but at Big Cypress one time I drove a tractor to clear land and to clear trees, but I did not cut them. C: What about agricultural farming work? O: I did it one day and I did not like it and I quit. I did not like kneeling all day long and it was hard work. That was in a tomato field on the Tamiami Trail near Ochopee. C: What about working for the tribal government or BIA? O: I worked for the BIA as a bulldozer operator at Big Cypress. I also worked for the Seminole tribe as a leader. C: What other things did you do? O: I rented some bulldozers and did some subcontract work. Now I am retired. C: Did you ever live in a chikee? -3-

PAGE 5

0: Yes, that is what I grew up in. C: Did you learn to build one? 0: Yes, I learned to build a chikee. C: When and why did you quit living in one? 0: When I came to Hollywood, I found that people were living in bad housing. The housing was not that great. They were just little houses. I wanted to live in a better house, so out of my own finances I built a two bedroom house that I moved into. The tribe later bought it from me and made it into an office. I wanted to live in a better house and that is what I did. C: Did your family ever provide any of their food needs by hunting, trapping or fishing? 0: My family fished [and] killed deer and birds to eat. C: What about raising hogs and cattle? 0: I have never raised hogs, but I have raised cattle. C: What about picking coontie or berries? 0: Yes, I used to look for coontie when I was growing up. My family looked for coontie and made flour. Now the white people have cleared the grounds where coontie grow and there are very little of them left. C: What about gardening? 0: My father did that when I was young. He grew some potatoes and there were five different kinds. We also grew sugar cane. C: What other things did you do? 0: Near Ft. Lauderdale, we went to get gators and otter for their hides which we sold for food. C: How did your family travel about the reservation or to town? 0: When I lived out in the Tamiami Trail, we used to take a canoe to twenty miles outside Miami and a white man would come to pick up Indians to take them to Miami where there was an Indian village. Indians would go in there and buy a lot -4-

PAGE 6

of lard and rice, sometimes weighing a hundred pounds. Now people use only cars. But back in the old days we traveled by canoe in the water and by car on dry land. C: Is the family unit important today for teaching youngsters how to live off the land? G: When I was young I was told that my uncle was my teacher. He taught me how to do things. When I erred, I was punished. Back in the old days, chikees were open. There were some things which were stored and kids were taught not to steal anything or take anything away even though chikees were open and things were stored in the chikees in the upper rafters. Now, today, people steal things even in locked homes. C: What about passing on cultural traditions and values? G: That is good, but I am not sure about the cultural instructors around today in the tribe because they are young and I am not sure they are adequate. People are beginning to lose their language and they are not speaking it adequately. C: What about maintaining discipline among the young? G: The kids need to learn the old way to have good discipline. Kids today go to modern schools but they do not learn these things. C: What is the biggest environmental problem on the reservation? Solid waste disposal, drainage, or sanitation? G: Her on the Hollywood reservation they said to clean your yard. If you did, you lived in a good place. The tribe helps those who are not able to clean their yards. Now, if there are some people who do not clean their yards and they do not have any money to pay for it, it is not good. Friends of the Seminoles early on said that if you go into homes you will get sick. I know why now. If you live in a house you have to learn to clean it. If you do not clean your house you will get sick. You can learn to live and you can teach the Indians how to live in a house. C: Who do you think should take care of these problems? G: The tribe is helping now and is the one that is supposed to do it. C: Is the reservation a better or worse place to live today than in your youth and why? G: There was very little back in the old days. Now I feel like the tribe has come a long way. C: This is the end of the translation of Bill Osceola. -5-