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Prominence in the pastures: Hard work, family legacies at core of re-established Florida Seminole Cattlewomen Association

Since nearly half of the Seminole Tribe’s 67 cattle owners are women, it is clear that a woman’s place is in the pastures.

On Nov. 1, about a dozen of the 29 female cattle owners re-established the Florida Seminole Cattlewomen Association, whose goal is to promote the cattle industry and beef statewide.

“This group started in 2009,” said President Emma Urbina. “Now we are re-booting and getting it set up again. This is our first full meeting.”

Cattle owner Janice Osceola poses in her Big Cypress pasture with grandchildren Martha Osceola-Turtle and Ariel Osceola-Turtle and some of her herd. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Other officers of the cattlewomen’s association are Wendi Riley, vice president; Lucy M. Bowers, secretary; and Carla Gopher Rodriguez, treasurer.

Prior to the meeting, Bowers spoke at length with the Florida Cattlewomen, which is affiliated with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

“They are excited to get involved and help us build a foundation as a long lasting organization,” Bowers said.

Historically, Seminole women cooked for the cowhands and worked with the cows; Bowers said they were used to doing double duty. But the women who are in charge of their herds today take on the full responsibility of the herd with confidence.

Some of the women inherited their herds and others purchased cows, but all were raised around cattle and the industry.

Martha Jones, of Big Cypress, bought her own cows but previously was a shareholder with her brothers in her father’s herd.

Urbina, of Brighton, has a couple of combined herds, with her brothers, which they inherited from both of her parents.

“I enjoy being out there around the calves,” Jones said.

The women tend to stay in the cattle industry for the family legacy; no one at the meeting could remember anyone who opted out of taking care of the cattle. Some families are descended from the original owners from the 1940s.

“I like knowing where we came from,” Riley said.

Larissa Tucker, who lives in Hawaii most of the year, manages her father Alex Tucker’s herd in Brighton. She comes back during work dates throughout the year. When she isn’t there, Norman Johns takes care of the Tucker Ridge herd.

Members of the Seminole Cattlewomen’s Association gather for a portrait before a meeting Jan. 15 in Brighton. From left, Treasurer Carla Gopher Rodriguez, President Emma Urbina, member Martha Jones, Vice President Wendi Riley and Secretary Lucy M. Bowers. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“I feel it is time to let the world know that empowered women own and operate a cattle business just like the men do,” Tucker said. “I am the third generation; my grandfather Johnny Tucker got his cattle in 1952. My kids will be the fourth generation.”

Janice Osceola’s father, Joe Osceola Sr., almost walked away from the cattle industry as a young man.

“An older cattle owner talked him into staying and helped him hang in there,” Osceola said. “We still have that herd today. He was one of the last original cattle owners.”

Osceola manages the herd with family members including her son Randall Osceola, brother Samuel Osceola and nephew

Sam Jr. It’s not an easy task, but clearly she enjoys it.

During the busiest times – with vaccinations, pregnancy checks and calf shipping – Osceola is in the pasture at 6 a.m. to let in the cowhands. During the rest of the year, she goes to her Big Cypress pasture nearly every day to feed the animals. She has been working with cattle all her life.

“When I was old enough, my father put me on a horse,” Osceola said. “I’ve been working cows ever since.”

Once the business of the Florida Seminole Cattlewomen Association was complete, the women reflected on their chosen lifestyle.

“I respect the tradition,” said Gopher Rodriguez. “We used to have nothing, just the cattle.”

“It’s humbling,” Tucker said. “You work hard for it; it’s your land, your power. You maintain the land; God’s not making any more of it.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.

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