Once in a while I receive mail from different people around the world; this letter you see was sent to me a few days ago from Saundra J. Banker, in Salisbury, Pennsylvania, and I’d like to share.
“State Road 7”
1957, heading South for Florida’s heaven … anticipating surf and sun, thinking of nothing but beach and fun.
I was young and had ridden very far, when suddenly I saw your people from the window of the car. The scene passed swiftly I could barely take it in. I asked many questions, but no clear answer given.
I saw your people along the route, a strange new sight I knew nothing about. I glimpsed the Chickees, the open fires, the brilliant colors of the dress … a different world, I must confess. I could not have imagined, had I not seen.
It etched my memory and stirred my soul, I questioned and was told, “it’s the Seminole.”
A blur and bewilderment at what I had seen, my first impression not of ocean or beach or sand, but of a native settlement on ancient land. Where did they come from, why are they there, does anyone ask? Does anyone care?
The fence drew a boundary between present and past. I could scarce take it in, we were driving so fast.
A witness to travesty, wrought by greed, a picture in past tense, blurred by speed.
Then years later at a slower pace, I chased the memory of the scene and longed to authenticate – could it have been a dream? For now the road was six lanes wide, concrete buildings on either side.
The settlement had long since disappeared, “where did they go?” No answer given, I am not satisfied … I ask for truth but someone lied.
“They own the Casino” but “where do they live, what is the truth, where are the Chickees? I saw in my youth. Please someone explain and tell me the truth.” The answer was spoken with hesitant words.
“Seminoles inherited all of this land, but sadly it was seized by our ancestor’s hand.” I am, ashamed and sad, embarrassed by my race, but grateful for the chance to have once glimpsed this place, and a people who were strong in tradition and soul,
I respect and pray for the Seminole.
James E. Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.