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The Switch

Betty Mae Jumper

In the old days, our ancestors lived in clan villages out in the Everglades. After a couple married, they would decide which village they would live in. Sometimes the man would move to the woman's village. Many times, the woman would go with him to his village.

They would make their own chickee and begin married life. Of course, that would mean soon they would have children.

Back in those days, the Seminoles lived by strict rules. These rules were put down by the Medicine Man. Everyone knew the rules and everyone lived by them.

In those days, the uncles of children actually had a lot to do with the discipline. That's because each child received his or her clan from the mother. The father had to be from a different clan. Therefore, the mother's brother, being in the same clan as the children, was expected to discipline the children.

In my family, my great Uncle Jimmy Gopher was the ruler over my family. He would correct us and punish us when we were bad or misbehaved. Some of the techniques might seem harsh by today's standards, but they worked. The two ways most kids were disciplined were by a switch or by needles.

The switch was a branch from an oak tree that was kept under the chickee. The needles were sewing needles that were kept in a glass of water. When a child was bad, your mother or uncle or some family member would tell you to get either the switch or the needles.

The switch was simple. Someone would bend you over his or her knee and you'd get switched with the oak branch. It hurt, but it was over quick.

But, if they told you to get the needles, that was worse. They would take the water and wash off your skin, then take the needles and scrape four long scratches on both arms and both legs. Occasionally I'll still see an old scar on my arm from one of these punishments.

We would be punished whenever we broke a rule, such as talking back, bothering someone's property, sassing another person in the camp, etc. Usually, once you were punished, you would learn very quickly not to do that again. You learned not to repeat things you learned.

So, back then, children would mind the older family members and help them with chores in the villages. The boys were taught by their uncles and grandpa - girls were under the direction of the mother, aunts and grandmother.

Today, I sit in my office in the beautiful Tribal Building and wonder what's wrong with the kids today. They aren't getting the discipline they need.

I recently went to visit an old friend and when I asked her a question, her grandson wouldn't let her answer. This child acted rude and wouldn't let us have a quiet conversation.

Things have changed a lot in my life. One of the things we lost when we came into the modern world was this discipline. We lost respect and manners to the people who are older.

I'm still upset that my clothing was stolen from the van, which was parked in front of my house. This wouldn't have happened in the old days. And, I'll give a reward to anyone who can provide any information on who took my things.

And, if I find out who did it, I'd like to give the thief something too; a choice between an oak switch and a jar of needles.

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