Crystal Vision Gala Honors Tribal Member

Jo Motlow North Honored at Ceremony

By Robert C. North, Sr.

HOLLYWOOD — The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood held its eighth annual Crystal Vision Gala on Oct. 28 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. This year the Center’s Crystal Vision Award for the Support of the Arts in the individual category went to Seminole Tribal Citizen, Jo Motlow North, Panther clan, of the Hollywood Reservation.

North is an accomplished artist and is presently the coordinator of the Language and Culture Program for the Hollywood reservation and volunteers as the chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of the Seminole Tribe of Florida (BGC/STOF). She has also served on the board of directors for the Hollywood Art and Culture Center since 2003.

Four other award categories were given including the government category going to Lori Parrish, Broward County property appraiser.

This writer interviewed North after received this award to hear her thoughts on the significance of being involved in community service, both on the Seminole reservations and in the non-Indian communities.

Robert C. North – What motivates you to provide public service?

Jo Motlow North – I was taught by my parents and elders that it is important to help others… in fact I soon learned that it is considered an honor and that it helped me build my sense of pride in myself… that helping others is a big part of my tradition as a Native American.

RCN – How long have you been providing public service and or volunteering for community events?

JMN – For about 30 years…actually ever since I came back to the Hollywood reservation from going to school in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

RCN – So what is important about serving on a board in the non-Indian community?

JMN – It probably makes even more sense now to volunteer and interact in the non-Indian arena because much of the Seminole Tribe’s livelihood [gaming] depends entirely on the non-Indian. It is important to interact with outside communities and help try to educate them.

For the last two summers, the Hollywood Language and Culture staff has offered Seminole culture classes to non-Indian youth at the Hollywood Art and Culture Center for a one week period. It is quite challenging because most of the youth have very little point of reference regarding Native Americans in general.

Establishing longer-term working relationships with organizations like the Hollywood Art and Culture Center presents more regular opportunities to educate non-Indian youth and adults about the Native American. Also, after receiving a little educational insight into the Seminole Tribe of Florida, they may feel more like coming to visit our businesses and events that are open to the non-Indian.

RCN – How does receiving the Hollywood Art & Culture Center Crystal Vision Award feel?

JMN – I appreciate the honor and received the award. But that is not what motivates my volunteerism. I am not really a resume oriented person, I realize that I even though I grew up without a lot of material wealth early on, I was a part of a valuable time in our Seminole culture that is disappearing too fast. Through out my adult life I have been able work for Tribal programs that assist Seminole Tribal members and their families.

RCN – What are some of the Tribal programs you have worked for?

JMN – In the middle ‘70s I worked for the Education department and helped Tribal seniors get their GED, then I moved on to the food stamp program and the CAA program. In 1978 I was freelancing as a cultural illustrator for awhile at the Ahfachkee Day School on the Big Cypress reservation under the Title IV, Part C program.

From 1979 to 1981 I was elected to the board of directors of the Tribe as the Hollywood representative. I began working in the field of prevention when I first worked for the STEP program and then in what was called Behavioral Health [now it is the Family Services department].

RCN – How did you get involved with the Boys & Girls Club?

JMN – In 2003 I started working with Max [Max B. Osceola, Jr., Hollywood Tribal Council Representative] and Roger Nisley [from Eagle Security Group] on investigating the possibilities of starting a club here in Hollywood. Roger had previous experience with the first Native American Boys & Girls Club established on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

In 2004 the Seminole Tribe of Florida received its charter from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and by 2005 we opened the doors of the club here on the Hollywood reservation.

RCN – Why does the Boys & Girls Club work for Native Americans?

JMN – In short order, the Boys & Girls Club encourages the building of positive social interaction and leadership skills in all youth including Native Americans.

North initiated the Miccosukee Language Program on the Hollywood reservation from its inception in 1999. For the past four years, she has designed, implemented and coordinated six Hollywood Seminole Youth Conferences with the assistance of select Seminole Tribe programs/department staff and other consultants. The last three Hollywood Youth Conferences have been sponsored by the BGC/STOF. These conferences provide Seminole youth with orientation and education to team-building, healthy lifestyles, employment, Native art, cultural and language.

She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Native American Language Institute, and as an artist uses bright, vibrant colors and ultra-thin lines in her various media expressions. Her exhibitions include hegeeken, a show with her husband in Santa Fe, N.M., The Night of the First Americans in Washington, DC and Shaping Forces and Weaving Balance in San Francisco, Calif.

The majority of her volunteer work is centered on the continuation and preservation of Native American art and culture within the Tribe and other Native American groups. North chairs the Constitution Review Board of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is a member of the Water Commission Board of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Hollywood Seminole Prevention Planning Committee and the 2007 Native American Summit Planning Committee of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

During the Crystal Vision Gala presentations, perhaps Hollywood Council Representative Max B. Osceola, Jr. described Jo’s life long efforts best in his introduction of her.

“Josephine and I grew up together on this [Hollywood] reservation,” he said. “She is a Tribal member that has always been an artist… I would try to draw a straight line and she would draw the sunrise. Art is a bridge to different cultures. We all may have different religions and languages, but art transcends all.

“This lady works tirelessly but she does not look for recognition. In our [Seminole] culture, if there is a family tragedy, everybody works together…and who is always there? Josephine… I can always count on her. She represents three elements of our Seminole Culture; she has wisdom, strength and beauty.”