On Indian Time

Published 3:00 pm Friday, January 24, 2020

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Here’s a little insight into living on an Indian Reservation, even temporarily.

You’re on Indian time, whatever time it is.  Their subconscious motto is “Whatever time I get there is the time that it is.”  You can’t hurry these people.  Even the traffic police don’t stop people from speeding unless they are out on patrol AND the speeding is blatant.  If you go to a “show” of some sort and it’s scheduled for, say, 9:00, if the show gets started by 9:20, it’s on time.  If you go to the little snack bar and order food, you get it when you get it.  It’s hot,  plentiful, and delicious, but there’s no “short order” to their cooking.  They’re almost always pleasant and helpful, but never in a rush to do anything.  I wish I could be more calm like that.  I grew up rushing and pushing, being taught that if you didn’t push and rush, you didn’t succeed.  Maybe that comes from being raised in a different culture.   Or maybe it comes from getting most of your money from the casinos.

Only the Indian Nations in Florida are allowed to open casinos (as in most states except Nevada and Mississippi).  Yes, gambling is allowed in other states, like in Kentucky for the Derby, and dog racing in whatever states where it’s allowed.  But this is the last year for dog racing in Florida.  If we don’t go see the races this winter, the facilities will be shut down by the time we come here next year.  Don’t know why they’ve decided to shut it down, but personally, I’m glad they have.   My family has lost beaucoup bucks to that “past time” over the years.

Anyway, back to the casinos.  APPARENTLY (and I use that term advisedly because I am surmising the rationale here; don’t know it for fact!), all Indians (and yes, most of them that I’ve asked say they’d rather be called Indians than Native Americans!) who are listed on a tribe’s rolls as valid “members of the tribe” are allowed communal access to the proceeds from the casinos.  In other words, whatever money is profited from the activities at the casinos, all members of that tribe split the proceeds.  Up to, I overheard, $10,000 per month per primary member of the family!  That means that a single family unit can make as much as $10,000/month for doing nothing more than exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide!  DANG!  I knew I was born the wrong color or creed or whatever!  Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to get any of them to work here.  There’s no incentive!

I’m not saying this to be derogatory or anything, just re-stating a statement put out by an Indian.   We saw alligator wrestling for the first time about a week ago.  Billy Walker, a rather tall and strong Seminole, is the only “certified” alligator wrestler in the Seminole Nation.  He did an incredible job of keeping that 8’ long female ‘gator from biting his hand or leg and, to my way of thinking, he was either a LOT braver or stupider than me.  And I’m betting on the former!  But he made the comment during his “encounter” with the ‘gator that he’d rather be wrestling alligators than sitting around “doing nothing” and getting his money from the casinos.  So, every time someone in the tribe (in any of the eight extant clans around the Everglades area) wants a display of alligator wresting, they have to call Billy Walker to come wrestle the ‘gator.  He’s teaching his sons to take over the job someday!  Don’t know how much they have to pay him for each display of wrestling, but if it were me, I’d be rich after just one turn at that job!!  But I took his comment to mean that the Indians have a choice of getting money from the casinos OR making their own money however they can make it.  Or maybe they can get a percentage for working somewhere just part-time?  Or maybe they get paid more if they are full-blooded Seminoles as opposed to having a white great-grandmother?  Not sure how that works, but it is intriguing to consider being able to get money for doing nothing!  Hmmm…  I still revere Billy for his efforts!!

Ironically, the Seminole Nation is the only Indian Nation which NEVER signed a peace treaty with the United States, simply an “agreement” to “live and let live” was signed between the two entities in 1957.  This agreement serves all of the eight clans, which includes clans named Panther, Bear, Wind, Deer, Bigtown/Toad, Bird, Snake, and Otter.  Other clans have gone extinct, including the Alligator clan.  Clans are extended family units, with alliances/marriages arranged between clans.  And a male marrying into a clan becomes part of that clan, as all inheritances are matrilineal (traced through the mother’s side of the family).

Too cool!!  I guess I was born on a different side of the fence!!

Johnnie Wright Lewis, author of many books and a former resident of Cordele, and her husband, Jimmy, travel the USA in their RV, stopping to see whatever they can.  Follow them on Facebook at “Two Old Farts Traveling” and watch the many videos of their travels on YouTube under the same name.  Look for Johnnie’s books on Amazon.com under the name of Johnnie W. Lewis.