Jimmy O'Toole Osceola
By Rena Frank
Jimmy O'Toole Osceola, 72, was a member of the Seminole Constitution Committee in 1957. Today Jimmy lives in Hollywood, where he is known as one of the finest Seminole clothing makers.He was interviewed by Rena Frank.
My name is Jimmy O' Toole Osceola, I am retired and single. I was raised in the Everglades of Collier County. We lived in an isolated village away from highways and towns; Seminoles were still in fear of the government for removal reasons. That's why my dad didn't want to be exposed.
We lived independent lives. Dad earned some money for our family's needs. What happened was the Seminoles received information through the Agency that the government was planning to terminate Seminoles at that time. Community meetings formed in Big Cypress where I was living in 1957. During meetings, discussions were about what little the U.S. Government had done for the Tribe and the need for improvement in living conditions, housing, education and opportunities for labor to earn money.
When decisions were made, they told us we had to be a legalized tribe in order to request help from the government. In other words, when we are not a legalized tribe we have no voice in Tallahassee or in Washington to make requests. We have to have authority, so that's when we started to form a constitution and bylaws on the different reservations. I remember well the people living in Big Cypress. Many of them had never driven a car, but did own them or someone in the family would know how to transport then to town or place to place. Most residents did walk to meetings, or were given lifts to meetings by those who drove. To form a committee we needed two individuals; election was made for Frank Billie to represent the Big Cypress community. I was able to write so there I was nominated to be the records keeper in assisting Frank. Sandwiches were made to sell in order to raise funds for various needs, collections made, or money donated. One time Mike Osceola from Tamiami Trail came and he brought fried chicken to raise money for our funds.
The hardest part of getting recognition, that I'd have to say, was the funds, due to a lot of residents who were not working and had no funds. Some others worked for government or farms that didn't really pay much. Also it was the most inconvenient work. I was not working so I was not making any money. The other leaders had been elected or appointed and they met at Hollywood. I couldn't attend because of no transportation, no place to stay if the meeting ran into next day and being unemployed I hadn't money for meals and what not.
Frank came to meetings in Hollywood and returned back to Big Cypress to call a community meeting to inform us of the outcomes of meetings. We had to find how many people would agree on the Tribe becoming legal and that's when we counted the people. That time was not like today. We knew everybody because the young people were over 20 years old and more into 30s, they were not married nor had children.
It was not clear for me. I have lived the Seminole way of life most of my life up to that time, It was not clear to me. I kind of hoped that the Seminoles could get more ways of earning our money for betterment of the community.
I have never run for Council. The reason: I was born deaf and it worsened as I grew older. It was hard to hear normal speech. I remember feeling for something good: housing, car, and money. I was anxious in my life to have something all at the same time, I wanted to be in the service, to be a doctor and even a lab technician. This was impossible for I had no education , and no money. I am 72 years old now, so it's hard for me to say I'll be around the next 40 years.
Rena Frank is a summer intern reporter with The Seminole Tribune.