*James E. Billie
The discovery of so many ancient canoes in Newnan's Lake is further proof of why the Seminoles called these waters Pith-la-choc-co. The Seminoles who called it that word did so for a reason. For thousands of years "long boats" have been here. I hope they will restore the lake to its rightful name and remove the name Newnan, who gained his fame by disgracing himself in a losing battle to the Indians around here.
The United States has always tried to contend that we Indians were not always here, that we were some sort of immigrants, who just got here and have no rightful claim to the land or anything else. They have been saying this for years and even to this day you will hear someone stand up and say "You Indians are newcomers."
We know that is not true. And now, nature has revealed its secrets to honor the Indians of today and to show that we have been here a mighty long time, regardless of what has taken place. You cannot just wash the Seminole Indians out of everyone's brains with warfare. That is the nature of warfare: if you can't beat your enemy by treating him with dignity, you try to beat him on the battlefield. Nature has brought our canoes back to the surface to remind us all that we were here and have been here, in an unbroken chain for many thousands of years.
This is a great event for the Seminoles. We Indians will feel pride and dignity when we talk of those canoes. The Indians who made them have honored us tremendously and for that I will always be grateful.
I am thankful that the state of Florida has been honest and truthful with us about the ages of these canoes. They could have lied to us and further taken dignity out of the Seminoles' lives. But I am thankful that they have gone to all the trouble of radiocarbon dating and truthfully publishing the results for all to see.
They tell me this is the largest and oldest canoe find of its kind and I am very thankful for all the efforts of those state officials and private citizens who found and took special measures to protect these canoes, even under threat from another industry and arm of the government. I hope that we can all look to the future and build a stronger bond with each other, the Indians who have been here thousands of years and the people who live in the state of Florida today.
- James E. Billie is Publisher of the Seminole Tribune and Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida