Betty Mae Jumper
Over the years many people have asked me questions about our Tribe and what things were like in the old days. Why, just last week, I answered the telephone and a woman asked me what we Seminoles knew about Osceola. Not what was printed in books, but what we were told as children. Our oral history.
When I was about eight or nine years old, my great uncle Jimmy Gopher called me and my brother Howard together. He said he had something important to tell us.
I was born April 27, 1923. Jimmy was my grandmother Mary Tiger's brother. They didn't keep records when he was born, but he was probably born around 1880. Jimmy had heard the stories passed on to him from elders when he was a child, and he felt it was his job to pass those stories on to my brother and I.
He told us that Osceola was a great leader, but that his real name was not Osceola. His name was Asse Yahola. But, he was called Osceola because the soldier couldn't pronounce his real name so they cut it to Osceola.
Osceola was a half-breed. His mother was a full Creek, Indian speaking lady of the Alligator Clan. But Osceola's father was a white man.
Perhaps my uncle told me and brother that because we were half-breeds. When we were born, it was still against the Tribe's rules to allow half-breed children to live, and our lives were threatened because of our mixed blood. Knowing Osceola was like us helped me to feel better about myself.
Jimmy Gopher also said Osceola had two sisters, but they were in the group of Indians who had to walk to Oklahoma. He said that Osceola's mother couldn't let her only son stay behind, so she slipped away from the Trail of Tears and stayed with her son in Florida.
By that time Osceola was leading the braves who were fighting white soldiers. Osceola could understand English well because of his late father.
Osceola would pick a few of his fighters and go and listen to the soldier's plans from outside the fort. He would find out what plans they have and this is why he was able to be such a great leader. He knew where to make his stands and fight.
It was said that Osceola could run as swiftly as a deer and taught all the braves who were with him to do the same.
Osceola also used Indian medicine in his fight. He had a few good Medicine Men put medicine together and used it on soldiers. Sometimes he would pretend to smoke it with the soldiers, and they would get sick.
Jimmy said that another trick Osceola used was to lure the soldiers with campfires. He said that during the war, everyone would put out their fires so the soldiers couldn't locate their camps. But, Osceola would instruct his braves to start a fire. This would draw the soldiers into an ambush.
He said that Osceola was a very smart brave and led his braves well. Most all the leaders or chiefs depended on him and trusted his leadership. But, when he was captured, the war didn't go very well.
But, if it wasn't for him, the 250 Seminoles who ran to hide in the Everglades might not have survived at all. That was the reason my uncle and my mother and all of us were still in Florida.
That is what my great uncle Jimmy Gopher passed on to me about Osceola. It may not be what educated people say in books. But, it was the way the story was passed down from one generation to the next.