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Brighton elder Happy Jones keeps Seminole legends alive

happy1BRIGHTON — All eyes and ears at the Elder’s Building on the Brighton Reservation were pealed to watch and hear Brighton elder Happy Jones recant legends passed through generations.

About 50 seniors, young adults and children turned out on April 25 for the latest chapter of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s monthly Seminole Storytellers: Legends, Stories, Music, Poetry and More series.

At the most recent event, Jones, 86, retold historic stories about how the buzzard got the hole in his beak and how Lake Okeechobee formed. Jones also shared a spooky story typically told during Halloween about a spirit who lurks in the campfire reading the minds of children who refuse – against parent wishes – to go to bed and instead linger around the campfire after dark.

Jones, one of the first Seminoles to live in Brighton and raise cattle there during the mid-1930s, has maintained traditional ways from her childhood. Those were the days when families lived in chickee camps before electricity, plumbing and roads were built into community infrastructure.

Then, children learned Seminole values and morals through legends told by elders at the end of the day around the campfire. Today, the tradition continues to be passed down at Tribal schools, libraries and many cultural events.