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James Billie named Florida Folk Heritage Award recipient

TALLAHASSEE — Former Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman James Billie has been named a recipient of the 2019 Florida Folk Heritage Awards. The announcement was made Jan. 15 by the Florida Secretary of State’s office.

The Folk Heritage Awards are given to outstanding folk artists and advocates who have made longstanding contributions to the folklife and cultural resources of Florida.

James Billie (Tribune file photo)

The award for former Chairman Billie comes in the category of Folklife Advocate. Tina Bucuvalas, curator of arts and historical resources for the city of Tarpon Springs, will also be honored in the Folklife Advocate category. In the category of Folk Artist, the award recipients are Jane Wells Scott, fiddler in Tallahassee, and Michael Usina, Minorcan cast net maker in St. Augustine.The awards will be presented to the recipients in a ceremony at the Word of South Festival in Tallahassee on April 13. Here are summaries of each recipient as provided by the Florida Department of State:

James Billie
Born of the Bird Clan in Dania, James Billie rose from humble beginnings to serve as Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida from 1979 to 2001 and from 2011 to 2016. In addition to championing tribal sovereignty, he established himself as a songwriter and promoted the preservation of Seminole traditional culture and language.

Tina Bucuvalas
For more than 30 years, folklorist Tina Bucuvalas has advocated on behalf of Florida’s folk and traditional arts and artists. She established the South Florida Folklife Center at HistoryMiami, served as State Folklorist with the Florida Folklife Program and has continued to lead cultural and historic preservation efforts as Curator of Arts and Historical Resources for the city of Tarpon Springs.

Jane Wells Scott
As a musician, scholar and mentor of traditional old time and Irish fiddle, Jane Wells Scott has played a key role in the dynamic exchange of folk music traditions in North Florida, learning from masters, sharing techniques and preserving those skills for new generations.

Michael Usina
St. Augustine native Michael Usina celebrates his Minorcan heritage by crafting handmade cast nets using techniques passed down by his ancestors who settled St. Augustine in the 18th century.

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