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Bill Osceola Memorial marks return of rodeos

From left, Bill Osceola’s daughter Cynthia Osceola and granddaughter Cyiah Avila are joined by Moses Jumper Jr., S.R. Tommie and Pastor Josh LeadingFox during a ceremony at the Bill Osceola Memorial Youth Rodeo on May 14 at the Hollywood Reservation’s rodeo grounds. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

HOLLYWOOD — The turnout for the first Bill Osceola Memorial Youth Rodeo far surpassed the expectations of Cynthia Osceola.

The rodeo grounds on the Hollywood Reservation were filled with dozens of kids eager to get back to competing in rodeo, or for some, simply get started.

Rodeos had been dormant in the tribe since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, but that changed May 14 with the inaugural youth rodeo held in memory of Osceola’s late father.

“This is a great thing for them. They were waiting,” said Osceola, who decided to hold the rodeo to give kids something to do and to remember those, such as her father, who were leaders in the tribe.

“That’s what I want the kids to learn, who were your people back then; a lot of them don’t know,” she said.

Thanks in part to rodeo, her father helped the tribe stave off termination and earn federal recognition. In need of money for Seminoles to go to Washington, D.C., and state their case, Bill Osceola organized a plan to build a rodeo arena and open it to the public.

“They had over 500 spectators in their first rodeo. They made enough money to go to Washington,” Cynthia Osceola said.

The tribe received federal recognition in 1957 and Bill Osceola became its first president, a remarkable feat for someone who didn’t have any formal education.

“He grew up in the Everglades. He didn’t know how to read or write,” his daughter said. “He didn’t have education, but he had a vision. This is what he wanted for us; Hard Rock standing there and us not having to worry about things.”

She said her father always stressed to her to never take things for granted, something she wants younger generations to realize, too.

“We didn’t just wake up and have all this. Those people back then worked and suffered and did a lot of things for us to have the things we have today,” she said.

She hopes the youth rodeo in her dad’s memory will become an annual event. She also praised the work and support of everyone in the rodeo, including the Jumper family. Moses “Bigg Shot” Jumper Jr. served as the announcer with multiple generations of his family also working or competing.

“The Jumper family is great. They take care of everything and make a good rodeo,” she said. “Without Bigg Shot and his family, it wouldn’t be possible.”

Caden Jumper goes airborne after riding a tough steer. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Cash Jumper takes control out of the gate. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Leona Cochran receives some guidance from Ahnie Jumper with learning how to rope. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Ryker Miller gets off to a good start in pony riding. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Candy Osceola shows great form with her roping. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Cody Tommie does his best to remain on the pony. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Cassius Gopher shows focus and concentration in roping. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Alisandra Jacobs is determined to stay on for as long as possible in the pony riding event. (Photo Kevin Johnson)


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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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