Interview with Brian Billie, August 13, 1999

Material Information

Interview with Brian Billie, August 13, 1999
Series Title:
Brian Billie
Billie, Brian ( Interviewee )


Subjects / Keywords:
Seminole Oral History Collection ( local )

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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SEM 250
Interviewee: Brian Billie
Interviewer: J. Ellison
13 August 1999

E: This is Friday afternoon, August 13, and I am at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum with

Daisi Jumper and we are talking with Brian Billie. Brian works at the museum,

and we are going to talk about some of the work that you do, Brian, in relation to

the tours and so forth. To begin with, I would just like to ask you if your full name

is Brian Billie.

B: Yes, Brian Billie. I do not have any middle name.

E: What clan do you belong to?

B: The Panther clan.

E: That seems to be a well represented clan.

B: Yes.

E: When and where were you born?

B: October 7 in Clewiston, at the Hendry Regional Hospital.

E: Hendry Regional Hospital in Clewiston. What year?

B: 1971.

E: Do you have a Creek or Mikasuki name in addition to Brain?

B: Yes, I have an Indian name.

E: I would like to ask you what that is, if that is okay, and if you do not want to tell

me, that is fine, too.

B: Well, I just got it at this past corn dance. They changed it to Luxahachee.

E: I would not know how to spell that. Is that something that you would know how to


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B: I sure would not.

E: Luxahachee. And that is the one you just obtained at the corn dance this past


B: Yes.

E: That is great. Did you have a youth name before that?

B: Yes, but I want to hold that one back.

E: That is fine. Do you mind my asking-I do not need to know that name-but how

you got your youth name?

B: The same way, by going to the corn dance festival and getting it there by the

medicine man.

E: When you were really young.

B: Yes. They give it to you when you are a baby.

E: And this last one you just got from medicine people or elders at the corn dance.

What does that mean, Luxahachee? Can you tell me that?

B: They say it means turtle. Black turtle. One of them told me it was black turtle

and one of them told me it was crazy turtle.

E: Was there a reason why they picked that name for you?

B: I got it from one of my grandfathers that passed away. He gave it to me, after


E: It was his name?

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B: Yes, I asked. I had to have permission to have that from my dad and he said,

yes, that is okay.

E: He was the grandfather on your father's side?

B: Yes.

E: That is great to be able to carry that name. Are there contexts or places where

you use the Indian name and not the English name, or do you mostly use the

English name?

B: I just use the English name.

E: In school and places?

B: Yes.

E: Do you think that most people know your Indian name around the community?

B: No, just the people who were at the ceremony, the Green Corn Dance.

E: You were born up in Clewiston; have you lived most of your life on Big Cypress

or up in Brighton?

B: I lived here in Big Cypress up until high school and then I went to boarding

school in Oklahoma.

E: You went to boarding school in Oklahoma? Where in Oklahoma?

B: It was in Hartshorne, Oklahoma, it was called the Jones Academy.1

E: How did you find that place? I mean, how did you learn about it?

1 Jones Academy, established in 1891, is a residential care center for elementary/secondary
school age children. Children at the academy attend Hartshorne Public Schools. Each student at the
academy is at least 1/4 degree Indian blood or a member of a federally recognized tribe and has met the
criteria established by the school for placement in boarding school.

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B: They said that they did not want me going to another school with Indians. They

wanted me to go somewhere by myself, I guess. So, they sent me to that one

because the other Indians went to Riverside and Sequoia. I went to a different


E: Riverside and Sequoia are up in ...

B: Oklahoma.

E: How far was that from the Jones Academy?

B: They were both about an hour and a half or two hours away.

E: Did you ever see anybody up there at the other schools?

B: Yes. We had at the schools Olympic games, track and field meets, [that was]

against the Indians. That is how I visited my friends: a basketball tournament

together at one school, the next month it would be at our school, and then at the

third school. So, I got to visit everybody.

E: So, you would still see people from here sometimes?

B: But, my school, I went home, say, three times within the school year, and they

only went home one time. They only got to come back during Christmas. I got to

come back during Thanksgiving and Christmas and Spring Break.

E: You went there for four years?

B: Yes, four years. And then there is a junior college right down the road, about

fifteen miles from there, and after I graduated I started there. Also, the school,

the Jones Academy, offered me a job, so I worked there for two years and just

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drove over there to school. I mean, from school I drove to work. I stayed at the

dorms and worked at the school.

E: So, the junior college, you went to right after finishing, after you graduated?

B: Yes.

E: What was that called?

B: Eastern Oklahoma State College.2

E: Did you pursue some particular type of...

B: I did not finish, but I had political science.

E: And then you took up work at the school?

B: Yes. I went there for about two and half years, really, and still did not get to

finish. I am still trying.

E: At the college?

B: Yes.

E: Are you thinking about finishing at some point?

B: Yes, I have been thinking about it. Right now I am getting a family started, so

after I get ready I think I am going to go back.

E: The work that you did up there, at the school ...

B: I did coaching with Pop Warner Football3 and little Pee-Wee Basketball and stuff

like that. We had to organize the team schedule, the games for the year, check

the equipment. Right after school, around three o'clock, when the kids got out,

2 Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton, Oklahoma.

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we held practice and coached them until six. After six we tutored over at the

academy, for the Indian kids. We tutored them from around seven until nine,

when they had study hour and they went back to the dorms.

E: These were Indian kids from Oklahoma?

B: Yes. But the Pop Warner Football, the kids from the town came into the

academy where they had big fields where they could practice. The parents

brought the kids to the boarding school and coached them right there on the


E: So, the kids in the sports program were a mix of people?

B: Yes, Indians and town kids. The boarding school, we had to get on a bus to go

to school, about a mile and a half or two miles away.

E: When you went to this boarding school, did you have a say, or you chose this


B: Yes, after the first year. That was the only place that I was doing good and

promoting to the next grade, so I wanted to stay. So, I stayed there.

E: Did you know anybody at that school before you went there? Did you go up and

visit it first?

B: No. Well, it was two of us who went there, me and one of my friends from here,

but he got kicked out and he did not want to come back. So, I was the only one

that stayed.

3 Founded in 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pop Warner Football is a national football
league for youth between the ages of 5 and 15 years.

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E: It sounds like you enjoyed it some because you continued on and finished there.

B: Yes. Then after that some more people from Florida started coming. I do not

think anybody goes there anymore.

E: Do you know other people who are going these days, not to that school, but to

other schools in Oklahoma?

B: Do I know anybody?

E: Yes, people who are high school age now who are going off to boarding schools

in Oklahoma. Or does that not happen today?

B: Do you mean people who would come from here to there?

E: Yes.

B: Yes. There are still some around. Some people still go there.

E: Do you think they do it as much?

B: No, not as much because nowadays everybody is going to the other schools

around here, to better schools, like the academies around here.

E: That is interesting. What about other people in your family, did other people in

your family go to boarding schools?

B: Yes, almost all of them went to boarding schools. Before me I have older

brothers who went there, way back.

E: How many other brothers do you have?

B: Two older brothers.

E: And they both went to ...

B: Yes, boarding school.

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E: Your parents, did they go to school?

B: Not my mom.

E: Did she have education around here?

B: I do not think so.

E: But your dad went to school.

B: Yes.

E: Around here?

B: I guess.

E: That is the funny thing. I do not talk with my father a whole lot about his

education and that kind of thing. What is your father's name?

B: Mitchell Cypress.

E: Mitchell Cypress. Okay, we have an interview with him, so we will probably know

where he went to school. [Laughter.] Your primary occupation right now is

working in the museum here?

B: In the back, at the village. I am the village supervisor, and when the tour guides

are low up here I come up here, because that is what I used to do before I went

back there, tour guide.

E: So, what else do you do?

B: I maintain the village, keep ice water, the elderly's time sheets, and if they need

any other help, I go back there and keep the fire wood stocked up. I try to make

displays out there, whatever anybody might want to see. You try to put

something different out there all the time.

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E: So, you are overseeing everybody who is working out there? If there is an

artisan working, you have to oversee what they are doing in the sense of keeping

track of their hours and making sure they have what they need?

B: Yes.

E: So, somebody like Henry John Billie, he comes in and you see when he comes

in, and if he needs something, you get it?

B: Yes. Basically, he has all of his own tools, so he has what he needs, but if there

is something like he cannot show up, he will let me know ahead of time. Some of

them [sometimes] have to go to the doctor's and stuff.

E: And you have to know about that because you are in charge.

B: Yes.

E: Did you have something to do with the layout of it?

B: Yes, I have to fix it up in certain ways to make it look like an early 1900s setting.

E: How do you do that?

B: Just set up the village like it would look in the early 1900s, the turn of the century.

Nothing modern; everything hand-stitched, or something like that. Like that

mosquito net, or whatever I put up back there.

E: So, no mosquito coils, and no mosquito lights.

B: Yes. No ice coolers, but we do have them back there. [Laughter.]

E: Those are hidden.

B: Yes, hopefully. We try to hide them.

E: Where do you get the ideas for making it look like the turn of the century?

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B: Just looking at books, a couple of books I have read, thinking about what they

are talking about in the story. That gives you an idea of how it might have been

back then, while you are reading the books. When I was younger, I used to live

with my grandma, mostly, and I have seen how she lived and I just think the

same thing when I am reading a book.

E: That was in a camp?

B: Yes.

E: Where was that?

B: It was just right over here, at the center of the reservation. She used to do things

like cook outside. That is what it reminds me of when I read the books, a long

time ago.

E: So, you draw on that information as well as the books. Do you talk with people

who are working back there about it at all?

B: Some of them.

E: I guess sometimes they might not know. But it is really your job?

B: Yes.

E: Did your mom have a job, did she work?

B: Yes, she is a cook. She cooks for the Hot Meals program for the senior citizens.

That is where a couple of my workers back there go to eat during lunch time.

E: That sounds like a good program, and important. We were trying to talk to

somebody today from there. She still does that?

B: Yes.

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E: And I think I know what your dad does for a living. Do you go to church? Are

you involved in that kind of thing?

B: A little bit. My girlfriend tries to get me to go all the time, but she goes more than

I do.

E: She goes more than you do. Where does she go?

B: First Baptist.

E: And you are marginally interested?

B: Yes. I am interested, but I just do a lot of stuff. I just keep myself busy, more of

the recreational activities.

E: It is the weekend. You work every day of the week here?

B: Except Mondays, we are not open. I am off Saturdays.

E: It is a real full-time job. You were talking about your grandmother's camp and

where you learned a lot of what it was like to live in chickees and so on. Was

that your father's mother?

B: My mom's.

E: What was her name?

B: My grandmother? Betty Clay Billie.

E: And your mother's name?

B: Patsy Billie.

E: Were they, your grandmother or your parents, involved in the church at all?

B: Yes. I went to church a lot when I was younger, with my grandmother.

E: The same church?

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B: Yes, same church. And they used to get us on buses and go up to South Bay to

another church over there.

E: Where?

B: South Bay. I used to get on the bus with her to go there.

E: Every week?

B: I think it was about once a month.

E: So they were pretty into that?

B: Yes.

E: Do you get the impression, when you describe your own participation or non-

participation in these kinds of things, the church, that is more or less what people

in your peer group do, or do you feel like it is different than them?

B: It is different, but that does not bother me. If I want to go to church, I go to

church. I am glad. I feel better when I make it.

E: You girlfriend is involved in the church; is she involved in it very much, or just

goes sometimes?

B: Yes, she goes at times.

E: Do you personally know anybody who-and I do not need to know any names-

people who practice medicine, what some people might call native medicine or

Indian medicine? Are there still people around who do that?

B: Yes.

E: A fair number? Are there medicine men around still?

B: Yes.

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E: People who run the Green Corn Dance. Is the use of medicines and Christianity,

to your knowledge, are those things that can work together, or are they things

that do not work together? Or are they different altogether?

B: They are different, but it is up to the individual.

E: Is there an inherent problem with a person being a Christian and pursuing


B: I do not think so.

E: Do you ever use traditional medicines?

B: Yes.

E: When you say, yes, you use herbal medicines or traditional medicines, are there

some things in particular, ailments in particular, that you imagine are best treated

by traditional medicines as opposed to going to the clinic, or does that depend on

something else?

B: That would depend on yourself. I usually just go to the modern medicine. But, if

it is something I just cannot beat, then I have to go to the traditional medicine.

E: Some people have described that there is a range of approaches and people

might try whatever might work. Does that sound accurate?

B: Yes.

E: I guess we will talk a little bit about the Green Corn Dance now. You were at the

last Green Corn Dance, because you received your name there.

B: It was not the last one, but the one we had here on Big Cypress.

E: That was not the last one? When was that one that you attended?

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B: In June.

E: That was the last one on Big Cypress?

B: No, the second to the last, because the last one is up there in Yeehaw Junction.

E: Could you explain that to me, briefly, how there is a sequence of them? How

does it work that there is a first one and a last one?

B: It just started out from a long time ago, I guess, who had theirs first and the next

one. I do not know how they set that up.

E: So, this year, the last one was up in Yeehaw Junction. Where was the first one,

was it south?

B: Miccosukee.

E: Miccosukee. Does it always follow that ...

B: Yes.

E: Do you usually go to the Green Corn Dances?

B: Yes.

E: Do you go to different ones, or do you just go to the one?

B: Yes, I used to. Not much, lately. When I was a young guy, I used to go to all of

them, [but] not hardly anymore.

E: Was it hard to go to all of them or you knew when they were?

B: It is just that the people we were staying with went to them, when we were

younger, so we had no choice but to go. It was just something normal to me. It

was not like I was going somewhere away. It was just part of tradition.

Nowadays, I barely make it to two.

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E: Why is that?

B: Working and other stuff.

E: Does your girlfriend go?

B: Yes.

E: You are not married yet, so when you go, do you go to the Panther clan, your

mother's clan?

B: Yes.

E: What do you see as being the significance or the importance, just in general

terms, of the Green Corn Dance? Do you think that has changed in any way in

your lifetime, since you have been going?

B: Well, it has not much changed, but they made the other one out here in Big

Cypress, in which they do not allow alcohol, and they allow alcohol in the other

corn dances. They do not allow it here on Big Cypress, so it is a lot different.

That is a big change.

E: Somebody described it to me as being-some of the other ones, where there is

alcohol-that it is usually around the outside, but inside are still the ceremonial

aspects. Does that sound right?

B: Yes.

E: From you own experiences, what I am curious about is how you see culturally or

historically the importance of the Green Corn Dance. How would you describe its

importance to someone?

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B: That is the main place [where] you can learn everything. Well, not everything,

but most important stuff, at the corn dance. All the elders are together at the

corn dance, mostly; everybody is sharing stories; being with different families that

you have not seen in a long time. So, that is the most traditional, right there,

meeting all the people from the other reservations. If you go see an older one,

even of your same clan, you might meet an another older man that you never

met before and hear what he has to say.

E: There is a lot of teaching like that?

B: Yes. Orally, you just sit and listen.

E: That is the older people teaching the younger people?

B: Yes.

E: And older people from different reservations or different areas?

B: Yes.

E: I think you said that it is the most important place for that.

B: Yes. It is the place to go to learn it. The museum is good, too. You can hear it

orally out there, but that is only once a year, so it is very important.

E: So, the museum is good, too, but the lessons at the corn dance are different


B: Yes. It will set in a lot more-easier, and it will stay there-than coming here,

looking around and reading.

E: That is interesting. I am thinking about the museum and the Ahfachkee School.

Where did you go to grade school, again?

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B: Ahfachkee.

E: I understand that now there is a culture teacher, and there has been for some

time. When you were there was there a culture component to the education?

B: I think it was the same person.

E: The same person?

B: I think so.

E: Obviously, that is a very different thing than the Green Corn Dance, but do you

think that was an important way to teach people?

B: Yes, because when I had my culture class over there it taught me a lot, they tried

to teach you how to carve, make baskets, use the loom with the beads, so they

were teaching a lot of crafts.

E: Was that the emphasis mostly, or history as well?

B: Yes. They told us stories, read us stories, and stuff like that. Listening to them

tell me, those things are still in my head.

E: Where do you think you learned more history or culture, from the school, or from

the Green Corn Dances, or from your grandparents, or from someplace else, as

you were growing up?

B: Where I learned more history?

E: Yes, history or cultural practices.

B: Just growing up, watching everybody, like when I would go to other people's

houses and see what their elders were teaching them. I did not just learn from

my family's side. When I had friends, I would go over there and get taught about

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different stuff. Like as to building a chickee, while they were building a chickee I

would go over to help and learn something different, when I was younger. Then

we would all go over to another friend's house and they were over there

gardening or something, because we had a lot of gardens back then.

E: What kind of gardens?

B: Vegetables, sugarcane.

E: People had personal gardens then?

B: Yes.

E: When you were growing up, people were doing their farming on other people's

farms for income?

B: Yes.

E: Which really is not done so much now?

B: No.

E: Did you ever do that?

B: Just on the tribal farms.

E: How did that work?

B: Well, I missed a day of school so I went out there and worked for a day.

E: As a punishment?

B: No, just to make money. [Laughter.]

E: Oh, so you skipped school to go to work.

B: Yes. [Laughter.]

E: How much would you make doing that?

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B: For one day, I think about thirty-four dollars or somewhere in there, thirty-seven

dollars. I have forgotten how much it was.

E: When was that, like in the 1980s?

B: Yes. It was a lot to me.

E: Yes. Especially when you talk to some of the older people who used to do it for

seven dollars a day.

B: Yes. [Laughter.]

E: When you talk with people who are in older generations and you compare what

they say about how they learned history and how they learned cultural practices

with what you have experienced, do you get the impression there is any kind of

difference-for better or worse, or just a difference?

B: Say that again.

E: You went through school here, where there was a culture class. In thinking

about people who are in your parents' generation who did not have that, maybe

they learned things in a different way. I am wondering how you, in talking with

people of that generation, how you feel about what they learned versus what you

learned, or how they learned things versus how you learned things.

B: Well, if it is somebody from back then, no matter what they know I would just

listen anyway because they would be older then me. I would just listen because I

would be pretty sure that they know what they are saying, [that it] is probably

true. I know they are older than I am and that they know more traditional stuff,

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maybe. So, I just listen, if it is something that I have heard before, I just agree

with it, if they are right.

E: Do you ever find that they are saying things that do not agree with what you

learned in school?

B: No. It is just that I am always amazed by how they are right and how I agree with

what they are saying, whatever the topic may be.

E: You mentioned something about getting a family going. Do you ever think about

when you have kids, what you would want them to know about Seminole culture

or Mikasuki language?

B: Yes, I speak to them in my native language, Mikasuki language. I speak to them

and make sure they know some words, anyway. My son, he is the oldest, he is

five, he always asks me what does it mean. If I say something, he is very

curious. So, I am pretty sure he will learn how to talk.

E: His is five. Is he in kindergarten now?

B: First grade.

E: Can he speak some Mikasuki?

B: He can say the words but he does not put them in a sentence yet. He should

already know. If I spoke it more fluently, like every day, all the time, he would

probably know.

E: At home, do you speak English more often?

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B: Yes. My girlfriend, she cannot speak it [Mikasuki] too well. She understands it

perfectly, but she has not spoken it. I guess when she was growing up she did

not get a chance to learn it.

E: Are both of her parents Mikasuki speakers? Do they speak it, or do they speak


B: Yes. They speak both.

E: But she speaks English? Why do you suppose that is?

B: I do not know. It was just her choice, when she was younger she chose to speak

English, so that is what she mainly kept her mind on, I guess.

E: And you have both.

B: Yes. Maybe it is because when you talk to somebody in Indian language a lot of

times they will talk back to you in English. Maybe that is how she was when she

was younger. But, I have no idea.

E: It is hard to say. Do you understand Creek, as well?

B: No, I cannot speak it at all. A little bit, I understand it, I have heard some people

talking before where I could pick up things here and there, but I could not

understand them.

E: It is hard to follow.

B: Yes.

E: Do you think language change is a pretty major issue for people in this

community, in Big Cypress, people speaking English as opposed to speaking

Mikasuki? Is that a major issue that people will have to deal with in the future?

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B: Yes, it is an issue, but everybody will just learn to speak English.

E: Maybe it will just work out?

B: Yes.

E: Do you worry, ever, that the language is going to disappear in the next


B: Yes, well, it might. I will probably disappear before the language, though.

[Laughter.] But, it is just up to the people if they are going to keep speaking it or


E: When you grew up, you said you spent some time at your grandmother's camp.

Was that where you lived most of the time?

B: Yes, that was where I lived.

E: So, you grew up in chickees?

B: No, in a house, but we cooked outside, mostly.

E: Was it a CBS?

B: Yes. When I was born they still lived in chickees, because we lived in

Immokalee, too, when I was a baby.

E: Who was in Immokalee?

B: My mom. My older brother and sisters were out there and then we moved here

to Big Cypress when my grandmother got her CBS.

E: You do not remember that, that was before?

B: Yes.

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E: Do they talk about that change? When you were growing up, do you remember

hearing people saying things about how it was different or the same?

B: When I was younger, no, not really.

E: You have always lived in a house like a concrete-block house. So, your

grandmother, your mother, and your family lived in the same house?

B: Yes.

E: But they did not really talk much about how it used to be before they moved?

B: Well, my brother, yes, just no food, nothing on the table, living in the chickee.

E: Before?

B: Yes, before that. He used to say he used to try to walk to Immokalee from the

reservation, walk in to Immokalee to look for work. God, I thought we had it bad

until he told me about that.

E: How old is he?

B: Somewhere around thirty-something.

E: And he said things used to be much harder?

B: Yes. And I have another brother, I think he is forty-something.

E: Does he a say the same kinds of things?

B: Yes. My older brother, he was at school, too. That was my brother Ronnie, he is

not the oldest but the middle, he went to school up there and came back, and

that was when he used to try to look for work, too. That was when we used to

live here in Big Cypress already.

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E: I have heard some of the older people talk about that move, away from chickees

and away from camps and into CBS houses, as a change in the structure of the

family. A lot of older people, like your grandparents' generation, talked about it

that way. Is that anything you ever heard much about?

B: No, just a little of what I read now. Mostly, whatever book I read.

E: Let's talk a little about some health issues. If you were to pick one major health

issue that you see affecting people or that people are confronting today here at

Big Cypress, or at Brighton, all the Seminole communities, what would that be?

B: The only health issue is alcoholism.

E: Is that something you see as being pretty significant?

B: Yes.

E: Do you know a lot of people in your peer group who confront that?

B: Yes, my peer group, my friends already lost, my friends who are already lost to it.

E: So, it is not just your peer group, it is other peer groups?

B: Yes.

E: Do you think there are resources available to address that kind of thing?

B: Yes.

E: But it is a matter of connecting with them?

B: We have all the counseling for the alcoholics. We can go to counseling. But I do

not know how they would stop it, people buying the beer and stuff.

E: Has that changed much in your lifetime, do you think, or is it kind of a constant?

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B: Well, it used to be worse back then, I think, when I was younger. But, I do not

know. Maybe it is just because I am not out there anymore [that] I just do not

see it; it might be still out there.

E: What do you mean, out there?

B: I mean, when I was younger I saw other people drinking, and how bad it was.

And now that I have a family and I am not out there partying, I am not out there in

the scene. Maybe they are still partying and I just do not see it, but it just does

not seem like it is as bad as it used to be. There are some kids that nowadays

have more funds; they can go to better schools, so now they hardly stay around

here. But back then people were trapped on the res. They could hardly go

anywhere [or do anything] but drink, what everybody else was doing.

E: And you think that fed into being trapped on the res?

B: Yes. Now people have more opportunities to go to different schools, they are not

all so stuck here on the reservation.

E: Does education itself have anything to do with it, or just the opportunity to move


B: I think some people just like to go to different places, but a lot of people have

more of an educational purpose.

E: But that is the major health issue?

B: Yes.

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E: You said all of your siblings, your brothers, went to boarding school. Do you ever

remember, growing up, that there was any discussion about whether or not you

would go to school, or was it always just assumed that you would go to school?

B: They just seemed to always go to school and never had to finish. So, I just

continued going.

E: It was never a question of whether or not you would go?

B: No. That was the college question, whether I was going to go or not.

E: How was that a question? How did that come up?

B: Just after high school it was like, was I going to go to college back in Florida or

up there. I just applied for up there. If I were going to go up there, I would go

and then come back to Florida during the summer, I would come back down here

and stay. I had a girlfriend that I went to boarding school, high school, with and

she lived in Oklahoma City. So I stayed up there, and stayed up at state and

went to school. On the weekends I went back up to Oklahoma City. During

football season I had to stay, for the kids.

E: She was in Oklahoma City. So, you were pretty sure you were going to go to

college; it was a question of where you would go. And your parents were real

supportive of that?

B: Yes. And the school supported me, and they said they would give me a job even

before the school year was out.

E: Which school was that?

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B: The Jones Academy would give me a job. There were two of us that graduated

from the boarding school, the other guy was named Wilkins Billy. He was an

Oklahoma Billie, and we have our last names were spelled different, though.

E: His name was Wilkins Billy?

B: Yes, and him and me graduated and went to school there, we made it for the

whole two years.

E: Are you still in touch with him?

B: No. I have not tried, but I am pretty sure I can; I know where he lives and


E: It is funny how that happens. He was an Indian?

B: Yes. He was Choctaw.

E: I know your family has been involved with things like the cattle business. Have

you ever personally been involved with cattle?

B: No. I just worked on the summer programs, that is the only way I got involved

with cattle.

E: The summer programs, how did that work?

B: The JTPA work program.

E: JTPA? That has to be junior something. [Laughter.]

B: Training, or something like that.

E: Junior training program something?

B: Yes. [Laughter.] I forgot what it stood for. They used to make you work during

the summer.

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E: Who would you work with in those summer programs?

B: It just depended on where they needed help in the cattle program, like pasturing,

they sent everybody to different cattle owners.

E: So, was it a tribal thing, or did you work for individual owners?

B: Tribal.

E: Just for the summer?

B: Yes.

E: Was it good experience?

B: Yes.

E: You are not involved in cattle right now. Do you think you ever will be?

B: I do not know. I do not think so.

E: Why not? It just does not seem like ...

B: No. If I wanted the cattle, I would have picked it a long time ago. I am more

[interested in] just the regular basketball, softball tournaments.

E: Do you go to the rodeos at all?

B: Yes, I watch them, the tribal rodeos.

E: But you do not participate in them.

B: Yes, at the boarding school that I went to we had a rodeo there, too. At first we

just had the stables with horses and corrals. If you wanted to you could saddle

up and go ride. But I never did that. After I graduated, by the year I graduated,

they had built the rodeo there and they finally started having rodeos-at Jones

Academy. Even back then I did not want to mess with cattle or horses.

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E: So, you steered clear of that?

B: Yes. I used to be scared of horses when I was in high school.

E: Did you get thrown or something?

B: Yes. It did that when I got on a stubborn one, one time, it would not listen. Ever

since then I did not like them anymore.

E: That would do it. Some people point to the cattle program as being a major

change, a major way that people switched the economy here and changed things

around. Do you think the cattle program really has that kind of significance


B: Yes. I do not know if it is true, but when I was reading a book one time it said

that the brick houses, the first ones they had out here, only the cattle owners

were the ones that got the houses because the cattle were there against the lien

on the deed of the houses. So, I am pretty sure that cattle had a big impact

within the tribe.

[End of Tape Side A]

E: What about your brothers and sisters? You have two brothers and ...

B: Three brothers and three sisters, one younger brother and one younger sister.

E: Are any of them involved with cattle?

B: Nope. Just eating them. [Laughter.]

E: You go to the rodeos. Do you ever go to the pow wows and the fairs?

B: Yes.

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E: Do you think that the rodeos and the fairs serve a purpose in terms of cultural

preservation, or either maintaining culture or teaching people about Seminole

culture or values.

B: Teaching culture, yes, to the rest of the world. But, that is all they are doing over

at the carnival, just showing them the different kinds of crafts we have, or what

kind of talent or gift or whatever you call it, depending on what kind of crafts we


E: So, showing it to outside people, people like me who would come down from up

north, or from Fort Lauderdale or something-is that important, to show people

like that?

B: I do not know about important, but yes, it is all right, I guess. It is important for

the income, your own personal income.

E: It makes me think about the museum and I wonder about who the people are that

come through the museum, mostly. Who are the people that you come in touch

with most here at the museum, as guests?

B: Germans.

E: Is it important to teach them about what is going on here?

B: You mean teach, or just tell them?

E: Yes.

B: Yes, I guess it is important to let them know who you are, who the Seminoles

are, because some people do not know. They think Miccosukee-sometimes

they ask the difference. I say, I do not know. [Laughter.] There seems like no

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difference to me. It is just the names. Mikasuki is the name of our language.

That is all I usually tell them. We are the same.

E: The differences are political?

B: Yes, I guess so.

E: Since the rodeo does not really preserve so much, it more presents to other

people, does the museum preserve Seminole culture or Miccosukee culture?

B: Yes, it preserves it. I guess you can go, if you want to learn, and read about the

stuff, what happens. Whatever you read, it is different sides from different

writers. Over here, you just mostly read. That is how you learn here, unless you

go to some main source, whoever is telling the story, like an older, elderly Indian.

E: Out here in the village?

B: Yes.

E: Sometimes you lead tours through the museum and through the back here?

B: Yes.

E: Have you learned things yourself by having to organize this stuff and by bringing

people through and teaching them?

B: Yes. There was a lot to learn when I first started working here, a lot of different

things, here and there.

E: Do you get many people from the reservations coming through here?

B: Yes, from the other reservations. Some people actually still have not been here.

E: I talked with some people who had not. If I have come down from Gainesville,

what do you see as being the importance of a place like the museum or the work

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that you do? Is there a relation between this and cultural preservation? Would

you describe that? Is it important in that way?

B: Yes, it is important for myself; that is a way I can learn more and work with the

elders. It is important for me to tell what I know to the tourists around here.

Maybe it is not about the trees or plants, maybe [it is] about our ceremonial

grounds that I explain out there, certain things I explain about that, only I can

explain it to a certain amount [without] details. So, they learn what I know. Some

people run the tour differently.

E: When you do have all of these people who are non-Indian who come through, is

there some value to teaching them about Seminole history and Seminole culture,

or just the ten dollars at the door? [Laughter.]

B: Well, I hear about some similar cultures [of] other people, different ethnic people,

who come through here; sometimes they say, yes, that is how our culture is, too.

Sometimes there are some similarities between our culture and their culture.

That way, I learn, too, that their culture is a little bit the same. If they would not

come through here and say that, I would not learn that. So, I learn from them

also. It is not always just me teaching them. I learn from other countries and

their cultures. It is like a trade, a little bit.

E: Some people have talked, also, about how they think about the people living

together like a broader community, that it is important to know where people

come from. Do you think that the museum serves that purpose at all?

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B: Yes, it lets our people know where their father or their grandfather is from and

how they used to live. And maybe some younger kid from the city comes out

here and sees that this is how the Indians live, and it might make him think what

his culture is. It might make him think that, because we do lead a lot of tours out

here from the schools, coming out here from the West coast and the East coast,

both sides. So, I think it is important for them, because when they are young

they think a lot.

E: They form a lot of opinions.

B: Yes. They always come out here looking for bows and arrows. [Laughter.] So, I

think they look at themselves and see what their history is.

E: You have had a range of experiences that have taken you all over, to different

parts of the United States, and you have interacted with people who are non-

Indian, and Indians with different backgrounds, and you have come back here to

Florida and you hear people talk about the way life used to be, the way it is now,

and you see before you the future. You see what is happening now, where you

could go. What do you think, in your opinion, are the major developments that

are taking place right now in Seminole culture and Seminole society and where

would you like to see culture go in the next generation as your kids grow up?

What are the major issues of culture and society that you feel are important for

you and your children?

B: Language. The language, and traditions of the medicine, how to do medicine.

Hopefully, a lot of people are interested in it to carry it on as the older people

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dwindle down. And also, our culture, as to the blood-line of the Indians, is getting

thinner and thinner, there are less full-bloods; I think that is where we are losing

them, too. We need more full-blooded Indians.

E: People marrying outside?

B: Yes.

E: Do you think that is happening more now than it used to?

B: Yes.

E: And that poses a problem for culture being passed on, and language?

B: I do not know about a problem, because I know there some half-breeds that talk

real good. So, if they are half, then at least keep them on the res. [Laughter.]

E: Are there things that you think about doing with your kids that would help teach

them or keep them involved with the Mikasuki language or Seminole culture?

Would you want to keep them living on the reservation?

B: Yes. I mean, my idea right now is yes, keep them on the res. But, maybe when I

get older they will have their own choice. I cannot keep them back, then.

E: They are their own people.

B: Yes. But I would like to keep them, teach them, let them learn, maybe from my

mother, who speaks more fluently than me. I try to get them to go over there and

speak with her, like every day or every other day.

E: Does that happen now? Do you have a chance to do that?

B: Yes.

E: That is good. You live pretty close by to her?

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B: Yes.

E: Since I do not have the rest of my questions with me, I am finding it hard to

remember what the rest of them were. [Laughter.] Is there anything else that

you would like to talk about while we have the interview going that maybe we

have not talked about?

B: No, I do not think so.

E: Well, this has been very enjoyable. I have really enjoyed talking with you and I

look forward to talking with you more at some point about these things.

B: All right.