BIG CYPRESS – After 38 years with the Seminole Tribe of Florida Recreation Department, the man everyone knows as Bigg Shot is retired. Moses Jumper Jr., 62, Snake Clan, son of Betty Mae Jumper and Moses Jumper Sr. and grandson of Ada Tiger, the man who single-handedly built Seminole Tribal Recreation into the finest program of its kind in Indian Country, has hung up his spikes.
The end of his Tribal Recreation career didn’t come quite the way he wanted, all intertwined as it was with the current streamlining of the Tribal financial infrastructure. A Seminole sports hero and coach to thousands of Tribal youth, a man who thrived on the thrills of victory and found inspiration in the dungeons of defeat, Bigg Shot would have preferred to hear the roar of the crowd when he finally made it home. As the Tribe’s Poet Laurate, one of the best known Native poets in the world, he struggles to find the rhyme, even though he knows the reason he stepped down.
“It’s a blessing,” he said with a big smile.
“Leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” he said in the next breath.
On March 7, The Seminole Tribune’s Pete Gallagher, a friend for more than 25 years, stopped in to see Bigg at his Big Cypress home and turned on a tape recorder.
TRIBUNE: Bigg, I look around your whole complex here and it seems like you got enough to keep you busy for a long time. You got cows and dogs and antique cars and boats, a nice bass boat, airboats, swamp buggy…Man, what do you need to work for? Now’s your time to relax and have a good time. Isn’t that the way you look at it?
BIGG SHOT: Oh yeah. But all of that has been a part of what I’ve been doing all along. That was all part of my passion for what I was doing the past 38 years. The boats? I took kids out with the boats. The buggies? You know there’s pictures of the buggy rides we took, campouts that we’ve had. And the cars, that’s always been a lifelong collection. You know these cars didn’t just come in here overnight. Over the years I’d find one for sale or cheap, pick it up fix it up and, of course, that contributed to our car shows that we started back in the ’90s.
TRIBUNE: What’s the main thing that’s been on your mind since your “retirement?”
BIGG SHOT: Well, retirement has been on my mind the last few years, and I thought I had a young man who was going to take over. After about four or five years, he decided this wasn’t the direction for him. He wanted to concentrate on being an up-and-coming high school coach, and I have nothing against that. I admire him for it. There was no bad feelings about that. After he resigned, I thought seriously about trying to find someone else. But that’s not even the direction that the Tribal leaders are going now. We could have had him in place, and they still might not have wanted to put him in there.
TRIBUNE: It was important to you though to find someone good to take your place rather than just retire and leave the ship without a captain?
BIGG SHOT: Because of the level of the program that I helped create and build, I wanted to make sure that someone took it over that understood what we were trying to do with Recreation. I don’t know, I think if they had spoke to me in a way, you know just kind of ask me, tell me what they were wanting to do, rather than just call HR and tell HR to call me and let me know in a week what they wanted to do. That just left me a real sour taste in my mouth, but that’s natural for someone with the passion I had. Overall, it’s just something that happened, and now I’m gonna enjoy retirement. Something that looks like it is bad at first, after a while it becomes a blessing.
TRIBUNE: Your job had already changed quite a bit over the last 10 years, right?
BIGG SHOT: Yeah, I got more people work(ing) for me now under me. Yeah, it’s not as much work as it was at the beginning of recreation when I was a one-man band, and I must say, I have always had good budgets. I have always had good cooperation from my Councilmen and Chairmen. I’ve worked under three Chairmen and numerous Presidents, and ‘course you know all the Councilmen that have changed over the years. So all these guys that I worked under have always been cooperative, and they have always supported me in what I was doing. For all the guys that have been over me in years past, I have nothing but praise for ‘em in the way they supported the direction they saw that recreation was going. Now, today I don’t know where that direction is going. I just hope it’s the right way, and I hope they got a solid idea what they are trying to do, which I am sure they do.
TRIBUNE: Think back on your early life. What kind of recreation was there for Seminoles when you were a kid?
BIGG SHOT: When I was a kid, the only kind of recreation we had was government workers who would come in the summertime. They would buy a little bit of equipment and take us for field trips now and then with whatever budget the government had for us. Back in the ‘60s, they built recreation buildings on each reservation. I’m not sure if it was the Tribe or if the Feds paid for it. Then they would stock it with some recreation equipment, and the government would sometimes hire a Tribal member or work it themselves, and they eventually would close it up because the kids started school. I was one of the kids who would break in to these old rec buildings and steal the equipment because we wanted something to do.
TRIBUNE: Recreation was a summer program only?
BIGG SHOT: Yes. It was a very limited time for actually opening the gyms or Rec Halls – that’s what they were all called. They were Rec Halls. And so breaking into ‘em and taking equipment and tearing up stuff in there, well it was just a continuous thing, year after year. There was nobody who was actually committed to monitoring it.
TRIBUNE: You were in Hollywood?
BIGG SHOT: Yeah, and in Hollywood we had Howard Tiger. He started the baseball teams; he was one of the early men who was really interested in youth. And you had Henry Nelson and, of course, Bill Osceola. Those three men were not actually working with the Tribe as far as Recreation, but they took us to ball games and gave us an opportunity to play baseball and coached us. They were the pioneers in Recreation on the Hollywood Reservation. And there were quite a few boys who grew up together, and we all played sports on the youth leagues all the way up to high school. Some of us went on to play college. I majored in Physical Education; I played football and baseball; and when I came back from school, there was still nothing going on for the youth. In the years that I was gone there was still nothing for the youth.
TRIBUNE: How was it on the other reservations?
BIGG SHOT: There was nothing at all there, Pete. Now, of course, in Brighton they had the local school over there, and Big Cypress, if they wanted to play any sports they had to go to Clewiston. That was the closest place. We had a few athletes who played during that time, but as far as an organized Recreation program, there was nothing there. And so, when I got back from school in1972, I started working, did odd jobs. I applied for Tribal Executive Director, I didn’t get that. Since I had some background in animal agriculture, I applied to be Cattle Manager, but I didn’t get those two big jobs. I was kind of working around with James Billie at the Native Village and doing stuff there, and so, after that we were still working, and then Howard Tommie, Mike Tiger and Bert Jones approached me one day and said we want to start a Recreation program. I said OK. They gave me a little budget and they said, “You know, get something going on all the rezzes.” They gave me a little budget to hire some Recreation people out on these reservations and they wanted me to do the tournaments and all these different things. I traveled to each reservation. I would often go in one day to Immokalee, Big Cypress and Brighton and come back to Hollywood where I was living at the time, and that was in 1974. So that is how we started the Recreation program, and it continued on and continued on, and pretty soon, it outgrew itself, so in 1995 the Councilmen wanted to take control of it, so they more or less took control of the program under each Councilmen.
TRIBUNE: You were the overall Director of Reservation at that time. How did that change affect you?
BIGG SHOT: The Council itself took over my job. That was another decision that left a sour taste in my mouth because they didn’t tell me what was going on at that time either. One day, they just took it over, which it was good; it was another blessing for me because all they asked me to do was just stay in Hollywood and run the Hollywood Recreation, so I didn’t oversee the whole program anymore. Nobody oversaw the whole program; It was done by each reservation. So it was political and all that. Back then, the Recreation program had all kinds of things going on and everybody — I mean everybody — was focused on Recreation. We had adults. We had kids. Everyone was involved. With Recreation, we are right there in the center of the Res, and we are always under the scrutiny of the Council and the Tribal members, and it had become a pretty big program.
TRIBUNE: Seminole Tribe Recreation was generally regarded as one of the best Rec programs in all of Indian Country, right?
BIGG SHOT: Well, yeah, according to me. I have been a member of the NAIA (Native American Indian Association) and the NAAA (Native American Athletic Association) and all the athletic associations that deal with Natives throughout the country. I’ve spoken at some of ‘em, attended meetings and maintained memberships in all these organizations, and all these organizations, either for lack of funding or commitment to it, they eventually died out. So we continued on, as far as Seminole Recreation and Sports. I got the chance to get out there and see what Indian Country had, as far as Recreation. Matter of fact, back in 1985, I was one of the instigators of putting together what we call Southeastern Tribes Recreation (later to be called NASA — Native American Sports Association) and the Native American Youth Organization (NAYO). Myself and a couple of Cherokees and Choctaws and the Senecas, you know, we got together and we put this out, and now it includes the Poarch Band of Creeks. We’ve had some teams up from New York, we’ve had the Iroquois as part of that, we got the Coushattas from Louisiana that are part of it, and we even got the Pequots. It made up all the Southeastern Tribes, and today is the strongest Native Sports organization in the United States.
TRIBUNE: This all came right out of Seminole Tribe.
BIGG SHOT: Matter of fact, it was us and the Cherokees that actually started the program. ‘Course in 1974, our gym got built. Then it was the late ‘70s when we put gyms in Brighton and Big Cypress. We started building our pools and ball fields and all those things came about through the years, and it was a slow process, but thanks to the Councilmen and all the Tribal officials, they were always supportive of it. They always saw the importance of Recreation for the Tribe. I’ve always been proud of that. Look at all the pressures on youth today: the violence, the drugs, broken families. It seems like Sports and Recreation is one of the only surefire tools to deal with all that.
That was one of the things I’ve always said. You can put the money into Sports and Recreation and help us to get that kid involved in something. We might keep him…we might keep him off drugs. I don’t know, it depends on how much interest he has. For me, I would have been the same way. I’m not going to lie to you. I know many people that were like me, but because we were involved in sports — you look at all the guys my age, Max and Mike Tiger and all these guys — it was the sports that kept us involved in positive activities and kept us out of trouble, and sports has made up a big part of our lives.
TRIBUNE: What would have happened if the Tribe did not have an organized Recreation program?
BIGG SHOT: If you don’t have an organized program, you can put money in there buying more rehabs, pay for more doctor bills, lawyers, all these different things. As I have always said, Sports and Recreation is not the answer to everything, but it is a part of the answer that we can help in coming together as a Tribe and working through all the programs to help our community members. If we short-cut the Recreation program, we are only hurting ourselves, and I think that is the issue they are dealing with right now. To save money, Tribal leaders are trying to limit the things we are able to do with Recreation. With me, our program was so diversified, we did everything. If a kid wanted to learn how play karate or martial arts or boxing or he wanted to do paint ball or ride horses or rodeo, we tried to support that kid and keep him involved. We got a lot of kids that are actually involved in those sports today. Motocross, camping, fishing – we would try anything to get kids involved. Fishing, I even started trying to get kids involved with stock cars one time, taking kids to see the stock car races, to see if we could find a kid who really wanted to be a race car driver. All these different things were always on our minds. How can we help these kids? A kid would approach me and I would try to go with it. Gymnastics, we worked with that. All these things made up our program. We had the major sports, too, but it was not just the majors. I was always interested in getting kids involved in many different things.
TRIBUNE: I know your mother was known for being real involved with kids. She would get up early and drive around and make sure the kids all got off to school. She was probably one of the most recognizable persons on the reservation to youth. Someone told me the other day that you must have inherited her concern for Tribal youth.
BIGG SHOT: Oh yeah. My mother and her brother, Howard Tiger – he was one of my mentors when I was growing up. My mother always had a love for young people. Hers, of course, was always geared towards education, and a lot of that rubbed off on me because she wanted to make sure I was in school same as all the rest of ‘em. I had to be in school and get passing grades and all that. Then after that, she was open to support me in all my sports. She always supported my sports – even though we didn’t have money, she would somehow get up enough money to get my glove and my shoes or whatever I needed for that particular sport. She made sure I got in the leagues, got me rides to wherever I had to go. She just left the door open for me to get involved with sports. She never did force me into it but if I started something, I couldn’t quit it, though. She always had that, and it rubbed off on me.
In my days in Recreation, my doors were always open at the gym. I’ve had a lot of young people that came in those doors and sat down and talked to me. Counseling is another important part of Sports and Recreation: just sitting down and talking with the kids. In the earlier days, I was even a disciplinarian. Some of the young men, you can ask ‘em, the times I took ‘em into my office if they did something wrong and I used to have the old paddle there and I would lay it on a couple of those kids, and some of them will tell you today that was one of the things that, well, they didn’t enjoy it, but they were glad I had done it. They learned something important that way. You can’t do that today, but I would tell ‘em, “Go ahead and tell your Mom and Dad,” and I never did have a mother or father come over there and get on my case. Today, it is a whole different thing, but back then, a kid saw me heading for that paddle; he knew something was going to go down, but I thought that was important. That’s the way I was raised, and it got their attention. Now, I would never beat ‘em or anything, and I would always tell them, “This is something that was done to me.”
TRIBUNE: Somehow, the rules changed over the last generation.
BIGG SHOT: Back then, this was a different world, Pete. Families took care of each other, you know, and I don’t know how many times I was beat by a member of another family if I did something bad at that person’s house, and if they didn’t get on to my case, my mother heard about it; she would get onto them because I was expected to act a certain way at someone else’s place, and if I didn’t, the people I was with would bust me, and then I would go home and get busted again by my mother. She was a strict disciplinarian. In our Tribal culture, each family took care of the people that were in that village. You just grew up respecting the people you were living with in the community. When you went to another chickee or village, you had to act the same way. When I went to someone else’ house, I had to act the same way. If I didn’t, someone was going to let me know it. That’s the way we grew up.
TRIBUNE: I know the community supported the youth Sports and Recreation events, especially years ago when there was little else going on.
BIGG SHOT: That’s how it is in the Sports. Everybody always supported the teams that we had. Even when we were kids growing up playing football over there in Dania. We had 11-12 Indian boys playing. We had good athletes, you see, so these coaches from outside would approach us and ask us to play for their ball clubs. It could be baseball, football. They would pick us up and take us down to Dania. Course that is where Max, Mike Moke, Joe and all these guys we grew up with played sports together.
TRIBUNE: I heard they even had special “Indian nights.”
BIGG SHOT: Oh that was big. These people would schedule actual games and call it “Indian Night” or “Seminole Night” and they would start off the night and all the players would be Seminole. And all the families would come out and the stands would be filled with Seminole people. All the way to Dania back in the ‘60s. In fact it was 1959 to 1962 when we were all 9-12 years old. A lot of people didn’t have cars, but they would get together and somehow all make it to the game. And at half time they would honor our people. They would say, “You have some great kids playing here we want to honor you. This night is dedicated to the Seminole Tribe.” That was a great time
Six of us went and played at MacArthur High School, and madeAll County and All State status. I remember looking up in the stands and you would see all brown people cheering for us. I know they were that way inBrightonand Big Cypress, too. People inBrightonreally supported their teams, especially the kids who went to Moore Haven and Okeechobee. I don’t know, today we got some good kids out there playing but not the same amount of support from Tribal members to go out and watch the games. In Recreation, you compete with a lot of things nowadays. Back then it wasn’t like that. We were the only show in town. That was what everyone did. Go out and watch the kids from the reservation play ball.
TRIBUNE: What is your greatest memory? What single-most thing stands out in your mind?
BIGG SHOT: The one thing that stands out to me, Pete, is when I look out at some of these young people that came through my program and have gone on to successful careers, some with the Tribe. I’ve got some young men and women that are contributing to our Tribe. And the kids that go on to Sports and Athletics and go on to College. We had a small part in that
TRIBUNE: You must remember them when they were 8 years old and could have gone either way.
BIGG SHOT: Oh sure. Especially some of the kids that most people would call “bad kids,” yet sports and recreation turned them around. We didn’t get ‘em all. We have a few that are in prison today that I remember still taking ‘em out on camping trips and getting on to ‘em about certain things. Some of them, they never, they just made bad choices, bad decisions. I have never seen a bad kid, just some that are misdirected
TRIBUNE: Any incident in particular you look back on, any individual you think, “Man I wish we could have done something”?
BIGG SHOT: You can go to the Cemetery and look at some of those kids’ names on the tombstones. I think “Wow, he was interested in sports at one time. What could we have done more to keep him interested and stay with it? What could we have done to save this life?” Course, you know, everyone has choices, but you can’t help but think, “What else could I have done?” Especially when I remember that kid growing up and start thinking about the potential he had. Course all kids have potential, but that kid might have been extraordinary in athletics or something special in any area and you get the sad feeling: What a wasted life that he had. He threw it all away for drugs or alcohol or getting in a wreck.
TRIBUNE: Look at big stars like Doc Gooden and Darrel Strawberry. They already had it all, world famous, and drugs put them away, ruined their careers.
BIGG SHOT: We’ve had kids like that. Really good athletes. They could’ve gone on to major sports, but they got caught up with something and they just couldn’t let it go. It eventually kills ‘em or sends them to prison. They just kind of fade out into mediocrity. They just don’t pursue it, go after it. I’ve seen athletes like that. It’s sad.
TRIBUNE: What’s the most important thing that can keep a kid from going down that path? You can’t really say family, can you? Some of these kids came from good families.
BIGG SHOT: I think for us, in the time period we grew up, one of the major points that we were all involved in was the Church. Our parents, most of them were Christian people. They lived by the Bible. They made sure that we were disciplined that way, trained up as a child the way it should go in every department. So all the guys that grew up in my generation had some kind of spiritual background. We were always made to go to Church, so we were all in there. That made a strong influence on our lives. And that goes all the way up to the Chief. He was there. We were all like that. Look at the early government leaders we had. They were all either preachers or men who were involved with the Church. That is not to say they all were perfect people, but that was what influenced us, and I think we are losing a lot of that spiritual important aspects of our childhood. You got kids looking for something to make them happy out there and they are finding the video games and the drugs and the alcohol and the parties and the new cars. Look at all the things they can have but they still aren’t happy. Today, we have more kids that have committed suicide and died from drugs and overdoses than we have ever had at any time in our existence.
TRIBUNE: It’s not poverty that is causing it.
BIGG SHOT: For sure. In fact, if you look back we were probably happier when we were poor. I know some people will disagree with that. One thing bothers me is I don’t think we are going all out to enforce any rules or laws about kids graduating, getting their money and all that. We have to stand up and back that up, cause if we don’t do that we’re just taking a kid and giving him his money and saying go and do what you want to do. And what kid would want to go to school? They don’t have to go to school. They make more money than their teacher, so why would they want to do that? That’s the lifestyle they are growing up with. But I think people are just afraid to touch the issue because it gets so political. I’m not saying they should drop the dividend, but they have to put stipulations in there as to what you need to get that. And we need to back those things up with whatever process that would enable that young person to do what they need to do. But it should be something they have to work for.
BIGG SHOT: That’s right. The old Alligator Times. Sure. Did you know the Alligator Times was a box. That’s right a big ol’ cardboard box. Everything you needed to put out the newspaper was in the box. Cameras, a bunch of junk, paper, tape. It was sitting at the old Tribal office and I guess Patty Johns was the editor for awhile, so the box sat there and one day I asked, “Who’s doing the paper?” And they said “You want to do it?” I said “Well yeah I’ll try.” It had to be around 1975, 76. I had just got out of college and I wanted to do some writing. So I picked up the box and took it back to the gym, The Alligator Times. I used to do it all. One man. I would write the stories, I would take it over to the printer, to the guy that would put it up on the boards and he had the machine to do all my big lettering. I had my own filler. I pasted it all in, filled it all in—I did all that in the gym. You didn’t want to put in too much gray, put in some filler, put in my own pictures, did everything. I’d get stories from other people, but we didn’t pay for stories or nothing like that. I’d get on the phone and get the best story I could. A lot of it dealt with sports. I’d stick everything on there and take it right down to where the old Carmel Ice Cream place used to be on 84 and 441. There was a print shop there. They took what I gave them and would print up the paper and give it back to me. I’d get it out to the rezzes – I dropped the papers off while I did my tours of Recreation. So I’d drop off the Alligator Times right there. I wonder if people know who named the Alligator Times? Lawrence Osceola came up with that. When they first started the newspaper, they had a little $50 contest to find a name.Lawrence was the young man that WON.
Coarse there was a little lapse in there when my mother had the old Seminole News. That was back in the early ‘60s. I think we still got a few copies. That is where it originated. It was a great experience. I didn’t know anything about newspapers other than getting out there and doing everything by hand.
TRIBUNE: You have been a cattleman all these years. Are you thinking about increasing your cattle involvement?
BIGG SHOT: Well I know I will have more time to be successful in the things I have always enjoyed doing, whether it be cattle or my horses and of course I have my dogs that I like to mess around with. I think, too, it will give me more time to hopefully concentrate on writing more. I would like to get another book out. I got all this stuff to do. I’ve got enough poetry for another poetry book, for two more books if I had to. Fact is, I just haven’t had the time to put it all together. I’ve been approached by some people about possibly getting involved in our Court system, be a part of that. But I don’t know, that’s on down the road. I think I’ll just enjoy what I am doing. Even now, Pete, I am still asked to do appearances. I got to leave tonight forPalm Beach where I was asked to speak to a school tomorrow. Last week I talked to our charter schools. Course we had the re-enactment, and another couple speaking engagements that I had to go to
TRIBUNE: You seem busier now in retirement!
BIGG SHOT: Yeah. A guy came out yesterday and did some filming of my reading poetry. Last Saturday, they asked me to be the Grand Marshal of the Chala Nitka parade. I had to do that and they asked me to stay there in my regalia and be in the fashion show. And of course I had to re-enact with that group. I guess I been pretty busy. Course all this stuff has been going on; now I can concentrate a little more on all that stuff. And the difference is I got to charge now! I got to charge money for these things I used to do for free. Everything I did for free. Emceein’ and all those different things.
TRIBUNE: Ever since I have been associated with the Tribe I have seen you at dozens and dozens of events as the Master of Ceremonies.
BIGG SHOT: I did it all for free, Pete. Never charged. Now, if they handed me money I was not going to refuse it, but I never said “OK this is what I charge.” Anytime they ask me on Veterans Day, Inaugurations, Princess contests, I did ‘em all.
TRIBUNE: As a kid were you a talkative, extroverted kid or were you shy?
BIGG SHOT: As far as speaking in front of a crowd, my first year in college, they asked me to get up and do a little two or three minute talk in speech class. They were going right down the rows, each student would get up. I was sitting right by the back door. They kept coming down and getting closer and the more they got closer to me I kept getting more nervous and nervous. A row or two before they got to me, I slipped out of that desk, went out that back door and never went back to that class. That’s how I was back then.
TRIBUNE: Bigg, I don’t think a lot of people are going to believe that!
BIGG SHOT: I remember that experience every time I get up to talk in front of people. Man that was terrifying. The place I actually did begin to speak, I was working with the football coach at Hollywood Christian school and they asked me if I would get up and kind of give my testimony. And I thought, well it is just for a few athletes. Well, I didn’t know until I got there to the school building, but I had to talk before the whole assembly. I thought “Wow, that terrifies me.” But I got up and I spoke about my my life, the things that I‘ve done, you know, and my relationship with the Lord and things like that. That probably was the main thing that started me off, because from then on I enjoyed doing it. Course, funerals, I do a lot of funerals and those are especially hard for me, especially when they are young people. I’ve had to talk at a lot of young people’s funerals. That’s one of the worst things. It is a real downside to what I do. Parents ask me to talk at their children’s funerals and, man, its not that I don’t want to do it, I want to do it; it’s an honor for me to do that. They think enough of me to say “You knew my child. He grew up around you and I’d like to you either conduct the funeral or say something.” And, a lot of times, it is a poem. I got a whole bunch of them. I probably got a whole book of memorial poems
TRIBUNE: Do you think kids learn when they see their friends go down?
BIGG SHOT: When they see it, I think they do. For a while. I think the shock, the initial shock of it is there. But I believe over time they lose perspective on what it really is.
TRIBUNE: What about those Scared Straight programs where they bring kids into the jails and the hardened criminals are yelling at ‘em from behind the bars. Does that work, does that keep kids out of jail?
BIGG SHOT: Some of it works, some of the kids learn from it. I know of kids that have seen their buddies or relatives laying there dead in that coffin, and it has a real serious effect on ‘em. Some of ‘em do change around a little bit. A lot of ‘em don’t. Sometimes they are the next ones to go.
I guess all the young people I’ve known have all been through Recreation. Most of them have always come around the gym, been around the gym at one time or another. Course as the years went on, I couldn’t keep up with all the young kids. There were just too many of ‘em. And you begin to get older. You don’t coach as much as you did. When you have a staff under you, you know they are the ones that do the coaching. But I always enjoyed coaching. I was still coaching a girls’ softball team up until last year. I really enjoyed that. I had my granddaughter and nieces on there
TRIBUNE: What about Recreation and nutrition. Isn’t diabetes the biggest medical problem facing American Indians?
Yeah that is the number one killer. That’s another good point: Recreation and Sports make up a large part of youth activities in the Seminole Tribe. If we do not continue to support Recreation and Sports, there will be a price to pay: we are gonna have to pay doctors to diagnose and hopefully get these people under control from their eating. And, Wow! The kids today, they are overweight, they just live on fast foods, because they got the money to go buy it. They are not gonna wait for no home cooked meal when they can go over here to McDonalds and buy food and go on. Only takes a few minutes. Yeah, I look at our kids, you know, and it’s a real problem, a serious problem that maybe a lot of people don’t understand.
TRIBUNE: They are building Subways inBrighton and Big Cypress, with special diabetic menus.
BIGG SHOT: But will the kid eat there? There is a lot of healthy food they can get up in town but they don’t do it. I guess, you know, eating the right foods and living a healthy lifestyle has always been an important part to me. We all go through our own little rebelliousness in our lives, but once you discover that you want to continue to live, you have to take care of your body. Sports and recreation has always been a [art of that. That’s a big thing now with the President: 60 minutes of activities a day.
Back when we were growing up we stayed around the ball field all day, playing sports. Today, you know we can have the greatest facilities in the world but if kids don’t come out and utilize em, then they won’t get anything from it. That’s why we got to get ahold of these other departments, the Health Department and others, and work together on that specific problem. They do the Rez Rally and that is good but there are so many other programs out there to keep our kids involved. I don’t think cutting our expenditures on our budget is the answer. I mean how much is a kid worth?
TRIBUNE: What about camping and fishing? Any kid can get involved with that.
BIGG SHOT: We always tried to get kids involved in that, especially inHollywood. When I was growing up, the res was 600 acres and most of that was all woods, so we could go out with our BB guns and still shoot some dove. Whatever we’d shoot we would try to eat. But today, it’s all made up of houses and cement, so there’s nothing out there for the kids. We had an archer group, we had a hunting group. We had kids out there that wanted to hunt, so we would support them and take them out to different hunting trips around theUnited States, even out in the Big Cypress, fishing, take kids out on boats. It’s not baseball and football but they can get a part of that. A lot of people we have fishing today started that way. We have these tournaments and such. And that’s another thing: tournaments. Nothing brings out a person who wants to excel more than competition. We had tournaments in everything, not only basketball, football, baseball and that kind of stuff, but we had tournaments in weight lifting, ping pong, tournaments for fishing, hunting, anything that would get kids involved we had a tournament for it.
TRIBUNE: The reservations are filled with your Sports and Recreation plaques.
BIGG SHOT: Oh yeah. Like rodeo. That’s probably the sport right now that we have the most kids involved in. We had a rodeo recently. We had well over 100 kids, We had 60 some little kids that were in our barrel racing. We had 32 kids from 4 years old to 8 years old — little girls and boys — doing their barrel racing. And we had over 20 sheep riders that were 6 and under. These are kids just starting out. And here there is talk about cutting our rodeo budgets. I don’t understand that. Because we are just taking away from what the kids like to do. This is another sport that goes on – we got guys now that are at the professional level. I got a couple sons at the professional level of rodeo. The Indian National Finals Rodeo is probably the biggest Native sporting event in the world.. Thousands of people come out – it’s inLas Vegas. We have two men on the INFR Commission—there are only eight men on the commission and two of them are Seminole: Richard Bowers and Willie Johns.
I think of some of these young men and women that went on to the professional level. Then I think of the budget being cut to attend the Eastern Indian Rodeo Association. That again is another thing that I and the Seminole Tribe helped evolve. We are in our 14th year now. We start out with our youth rodeos and they build up. Not all of them are going to go to the professional level but many will continue on in Indian rodeo. And what better place to have that Indian rodeo than right here on our own country? We got more Seminoles involved. I brought it out to Cherokees and Choctaws but even though these tribes are bigger than us, they do not have the kind of activity we have. Horses are a large part of our culture and tradition. People don’t realize that. I was one of the curators of the Museum of the American Indian inWashingtonD.C. They asked me because they knew horses and cattle were important to the Seminoles and I help out with that. I helped to do the exhibit we had atAh-Tah-Thi-KeeMuseum. A lot of our young people don’t realize how important cattle and horses were to the survival of our people at one time. I mean nobody is going to get rich off horses and cattle. It is just all a part of who we are. So these people who don’t think rodeo is important need to come out here and check out our rodeos. We don’t charge for it or nothing like that. It is a community thing we have done over the years. Fact is our cattle helped pay for our early government leaders to go toWashington. I got pictures of 1957, those men were out there rodeoing inHollywood, right in a big open field, trying to generate money to go toWashington. That’s one of our most important commodities is our young people. If we don’t continue to support that and not worry about cutting and restructuring our programs, especially Recreation, then we are going to lose our chance to take part in saving our young peoples lives and helping to define their growth, their personalities and character.
TRIBUNE: You are very passionate. Everyone respects you for that.
BIGG SHOT: I can’t be any other way. Pete, to me Recreation has not always been about a job and a paycheck. It has been my passion. It’s been my life. It’s been my calling. I feel like God gave me a ministry. After the first four or five years, I was ready to quit. It was too much hard work, too many complaints and things like that. Yes I was ready to quit there in 1978. But I talked to a couple of people in our Tribe. I talked to Joel Frank, James Billie of course, and a couple others and told them I was thinking about quitting. I don’t know – it wasn’t just because of them but some things happened in my life and I realized that Recreation was my ministry; it was my calling, what God called me to do. Working with young people has always been my life. You think about it: 38 years. I have been working more than half my life for the Tribe in Recreation. It’s not just about money, Nobody works that long just to get a paycheck. You have to have a love. And I guess, just like the old saying “I’m the luckiest man in the world,” I feel like I had a job that I loved. I worked around the people that I loved the most and that was young people. That really motivated me to continue to work in Recreation. Especially to see young people rise up and be successful in their lives as adults. And the good thing is I might have played a small part in the success of that person. I don’t know what the future holds but I know God holds the future. That’s another wisdom that came from my mother. It kept her together and guided her through the hard times she went through.