Board Discusses Indian Affairs
By E. Bowers
HOLLYWOOD - The Florida Governor's Council on Indian Affairs (FGCIA) held a Board of Directors meeting on Feb. 9, at the Seminole Headquarters.
Among the items discussed by the Board was Florida Senate Bill 0076, which was submitted to the Florida Legislature by Sen. Steve Geller (D - Hollywood). The bill states that any gaming compact entered into by the State and Indian tribes must also be ratified by the Florida legislature.
FGCIA Executive Director Joe Quetone also brought to the Board's attention Resolution 1-98, which was passed by the Governors' Interstate Indian Council at its 49th Annual Conference in Raleigh, N.C.
1-98 encourages all public schools, sports teams, and private businesses to discontinue use of Native American mascots in their slogans or symbols. Chairman Billie took exception with the resolution stating that he and most Seminole Tribal members felt "honored" by Florida State University's use of 'Seminoles.'
"If there is a territorial boundary, this is ours," said Billie. "We have never gone to North Carolina or Navajo Country and protested."
Billie said there would be a resolution forth coming to contradict 1-98. "If they want it on paper we'll put it on paper, or I might even put it to a referendum vote."
Seminole Chairman Billie and Miccosukee Chairman Billy Cypress also gave their Tribal reports to the Governor's Council.
Chairman Billie touched upon a number of subjects including the certification process of the Tribe's 2-seater airplane, expected next month. According to Billie, the Seminole Tribe may be the first tribe in the United States to produce aircraft.
Billie commended FGCIA Board member Brian Zepeda on the Kissimmee Slough Shootout, held on Feb. 5-6.
"Big Cypress hasn't heard cannons since 1858," said Billie, "I woke up at 9 a.m. and heard the sounds. I thought I was back in Vietnam!"
The Chairman also expressed amazement at the amount of destruction Hurricane Mitch inflicted on Nicaragua and Honduras. Billie was there to display an adobe block-making machine that digs out the surrounding ground and compresses it into a solid block.
Noting that he has yet to meet new Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Billie stated that the Seminole Tribe is interested in acquiring property in the Tallahassee area.
Billie also said the Tribe was trying to expand its land base by acquiring the Partin family property in the Kissimmee/St. Cloud area. The Chairman was incensed by newspaper reports suggesting the Tribe would build a gaming facility on the property.
"If we lose that property I will come after them," said Billie.
Chairman Billie also announced the St. Petersburg Times would be served with a lawsuit. According to Billie, the Times was "starting to use things that are not even true" and was "very ignorant in their news collection."
Miccosukee Chairman Billy Cypress also updated the FGCIA. The Miccosukee Tribe was in the process of forming its own boxing commission and may also expand into other organized sports. Cypress seemed pleased that the Miccosukee facility was developing a reputation for holding top-level concerts and sporting events.
Cypress announced that the Miccosukee facility had beaten the Disability Act lawsuit filed against it. According to Cypress, no one, including the opposing attorney, had any idea why the suit was filed in the first place. Cypress said that the underlying reasons for the suit had been worked out and stated "you don't have to have a lawsuit to get things started."
Cypress said the Miccosukees had convinced the judge in the Everglades lawsuit to come out and look at the polluted areas in question. Cypress also said they were trying to convince the judge to name a special appointee who could analyze the technical information and give a report to the bench.
Cypress said the Miccosukees have sided with the residents of the 8 1/2 Square Mile area, near Krome Avenue. The government has tried to buy out all the residents because the area is reportedly a flood zone.
However, Cypress said that, "one; scientists say it is on high ground and out of the flood zone and two, money had already been set aside to ease flooding and protect the communities at the same time."
Cypress said the Miccosukees were also in a lawsuit with Monroe County. The inspectors have required chickee builders to have construction permits. "We hope to get legislation," said Cypress, "because now chickees are mainly used for landscape, not dwellings."
Chairman Cypress also expressed his interest in meeting Gov. Bush. "We hope he is Indian-friendly," Cypress said. "He has been up to now. The question is who will make the first move to talk gaming?"
Cypress believes that because of its political importance, Gov. Bush will eventually come visit the Everglades. "Hopefully when he does come down he will meet with both Tribes," said Cypress, "so he will know what problems we are facing."
The Miccosukees are planning to increase their political presence in Tallahassee by purchasing a house within a mile of the Capitol for lobbying purposes.
"We feel, that for the next four years, we need to pay a little more attention to legislation," Cypress said. "We need to come to town, set up tent, and protect the interests of the Miccosukee Tribe and maybe those of all American Indians."
The next Governor's Council meeting will be sometime near April 10, the 25th anniversary of the FGCIA.