In June I was privileged to visit members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida at the Big Cypress Reservation south of Clewiston. This was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, and my few days there won’t be forgotten. (You can read the feature here.)
As a guest, I had the chance to meet and speak with many wonderful people and since there wasn’t enough room in the article to fully convey their thoughts, it seems this blog is a fitting space to add more content from those conversations. In July, I featured Frank Billie, and now I’d like you to meet Councilman Mondo Tiger of the Wind Clan, who serves on the tribal council.
“What makes me very, very proud to be a Seminole is my ancestors. The hardships they had gone through, the teachings they had done, and most of all, discipline. You are always learning and even the littlest child can come in here and teach you something.
I am blessed by my family, and I think it’s my family that gives me the drive. They set such a high standard and with their teaching and blessing they asked me to get off this reservation and get an education. I was able to get my education in Oklahoma and further my education at Oklahoma State and graduated there and got my AA and majored in construction.
There’s a goal already set for you in life that you don’t know. I didn’t realize that when I started going to school that building bridges, building a house, custom designs, engineering, subdivisions, mining… all these things came into play when I came back home. I didn’t know what I was learning for, but I was learning for a reason.
So that’s the main reason God decided ‘Let’s not stop at a high school. Let’s go to college. To really, really understand what my goal in life is.’ So I get real sentimental when I talk about my grandma, because she is probably the main reason I stayed in school and went to college. My mom, too. Both of them decided before this boy gets killed in the streets of this reservation, fall into the wrong hands, and gets into drugs, let’s just send him to school. Keep him in school. For us, at the time, the tribe was so poor that we could only afford plane fare one way and I had to stay there until school was over and then I was able to come back at the summertime. After that, then they’d load you back up.
But I have no regrets. I’d do it again the same way my grandmother and mother told me to do it. To see the fruits of the things I’ve achieved -- but I didn’t do it on my own. I had lots and lots of help from everybody from my grandparents to my mother to my uncle to friends - they were all instrumental to get me where I’m at, and for a tribal member this is the highest plateau you can get: the Tribal Council. It’s the top of the line and if it wasn’t for education, I would never have gotten to the point where I’m at.
I always want to make sure within our tribe we all respect each other, we respect our traditions and honor our culture. I want to protect the unborn grandkids, and great grandkids that I hope to have one day. That’s what I’m working for. That’s what makes me strive so hard and why I don’t accept no for an answer. I don’t accept defeat and I’ve always got to have a plan for these unborn kids.
As a human in the world, you have to be a proud human. You have to have a culture; something you believe in that’s tangible. If not, you are like anyone else. You want to be different. You want to be a proud person. I know where I come from and where my ancestors come from and where my great ancestors come from and my kids know it and so on down the line. They know the old bedtime stories I was told. Most of all they know they’re Seminoles.
And they’re very proud to be Seminoles.