What do Obi Wan, Phil Jackson, Dr. Dre, and Max B. Osceola have in Common?

By Jarrid L. Smith

Luke needed Obi Wan, Michael and the Bulls needed Phil, Eminem needed Dr. Dre. It’s a fact that when you’re doing something for the first time, you need a guide. There are countless other examples of famous guides that have helped a person reach their potential. Sometimes these guides take a major part in the development of their pupil, and other times the guides’ role is less intense but just as important. Either way, in retrospect the true appreciation for the guide comes into focus. This article is in memoriam to Max B. Osceola Jr., a guide to many.

2005

To start this off right, let’s go back to the good ole days of 2005. This year brought us some good times. Who can forget 50 Cent’s “The Massacre” album? How can Heat fans forget losing to Detroit 4-3 in the conference finals? The iPhone was still two years away, so Motorola’s Nextel phone was still the phone to use. For those of you reading this who aren’t too sure what a Nextel is, think of it as a phone and walkie talkie hybrid. Trust me, it was the Instagram of its day, and with that in mind Facebook was just a year old and Twitter was still in its development stage. Social media as we know it in 2020 didn’t exist.

Ah yes, the good ole days. If you wanted to get in touch with someone, it was still common to call versus sending a text or DM. If you wanted to book a hotel, you called and set it up. Airbnb was still a few years away. If you wanted to get somewhere without walking, you called a taxi cab and kept an eye out for the yellow car. Uber was also a few years away, no one imagined getting into an unmarked strangers’ personal car. If a football player got hit hard, no one gave a second thought beyond hoping he had a good backup. No one had heard of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), nor its effects related to people with a history of repetitive head trauma. If you wanted the opinion of an informed scientist, there was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Oh wait…this is still the same. So maybe not all things change.

A precocious young man named Jarrid Smith lived in this world. Yes, this was before he started using the L. for signature purposes, and wrote in the third person. This was when Jarrid was 19 years old, but he could act younger despite his parents and grandparents teaching him better. This was when he had been given an opportunity to attend Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and play football. This was a time when he needed a guide.

Enter Max B. Osceola Jr.,
Exit 3rd Person Writing

It’s as if Max’s life was meant to align toward this moment in my own life. Max was first elected as council representative in 1985, the very same year I was born. Many changes within the tribe were shepherded under his guidance, and as the years went on the people continued to vote for him. I grew up on the Hollywood reservation, and although I did not know Max personally in those early years I know he was looking out for people like me. Young, impressionable, and needing a path forward. No elected representative can fix everything, but their actions show where their heart is.

My earliest memory of Max comes from community meetings and gatherings. In the present, we certainly take these things for granted. Perhaps this is a minor revelation for us now, as these gatherings haven’t happened for most of 2020. In the summer of 1999 my first paying job was at the Bill Osceola rodeo arena. I worked for the summer work experience program, and the job was with the recreation department. If you’re 25 or younger, chances are you don’t remember the arena. I had some great memories working there and participating in the rodeos.

The arena was razed to the ground in 2003 and Max had a hand in that too. I remember hearing about the arena being torn down and I was upset, but that’s because it was a special place to me. I also didn’t know what was going to be built on that spot. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was opened in 2004 on the very spot where I first worked. Many people had a hand in making the Hard Rock a reality for the Seminoles, Max was one of them.

I recall attending several funerals over the years in Hollywood, and I remember Max being at all of them. Some were for family, others for friends, but he constantly showed up. There were times when his relationship to the deceased was strong and other times when he didn’t know the person as well, but he did know their family. No matter his connection, he was there and that counts for a lot.

The Problem

In the early spring of 2005 I was finishing up my sophomore year at FAU and I had a problem. I needed to declare a major, but I had no idea what to choose. This is essentially the whole point of going to college, to decide what to study so that when you graduate you can begin a career. I was missing the point and I didn’t know who to ask to help. FAU had resources and my parents were always there, but I needed a connection between what I was experiencing and the future I envisioned for myself. What I didn’t know at the time was that Max had a hand in FAU football as well.

In 1998 FAU announced that it was going to field a team and that legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger was going to be the person in charge. In 1983, Schnellenberger led the University of Miami to its first ever national championship. Max Osceola had previously graduated from the University of Miami and knew very well the accomplishments of coach Schnellenberger. Upon his appointment to be head coach at FAU, Schnellenberger began to solicit funding donations. He would approach the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the tribal council approved a sizable donation to get FAU’s program going. Although Max’s exact role in this is not clear to me, it was approved by the council he was a part of and I have no doubt that coach Schnellenberger was had a big role in the yes vote.

Back to my problem. In the spring of 2005 I attended a community meeting on the Hollywood reservation. Prior to the meeting beginning, there was dinner and this was a good time to speak to Max. I was nervous before approaching him at his table, I was certain he would speak with me but I didn’t know if he could help with my particular problem. I took a breath for courage, walked up with hope in my step, and introduced myself. I told him my situation, about FAU and how I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I needed his help, I needed his guidance. As in many other times of his life, he was there to help.

My Guide

Our conversation lasted about 5 minutes, but its effects have only compounded over the last 15 years. Max told me a few stories about coach Schnellenberger from when he coached at UM, and he shared with me what he studied. He told me his major was Political Science, I remember the words coming out of his mouth in the distinct way he spoke. I remember hearing them and not having any idea what he meant. I remember thinking, if this was what he studied and it helped get him to where he is now, then it’s something worth looking into more. I remember the time he took to talk with me, for those few minutes Max was the guide I needed.

I left the meeting that day with a purpose, to find out more about what exactly Political Science was. I already knew it was going to be my major, even if I couldn’t explain what it was. I spent the next two years at FAU studying Political Science and graduated in 2007. From that point on life has taken me on a great journey, the last 15 years have been more than I could have ever imagined. The journey included living in Washington, DC and interning on Capitol Hill, to living in Tallahassee, FL and working within the governor’s office. Other stops included working with AmeriCorps, Miami Dade College, the Ahfachkee School, and several other K-12 schools. The journey would not have been possible without my guide.

A Final Word

Today I’m an educator and I get the opportunity to be a guide to others. I think that is one of the deepest ways to honor what Max stood for and what he did for his community. My regret is that he didn’t get to hear this from me. It’s so true that we don’t often get the chance to thank those who have helped us along the way. It’s also true our guides don’t do what they do for thank yous. They do it because they know it’s the right thing to do. They do it because they know it needs to be done. They do it because they love the people they’re helping.

Who’s the Max in your life? Honor them by being open to guiding others. Do it because you know it’s the right thing. Do it because you can. Most of all, do it because actions speak words of love.

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Spending Funds: U.S. Politics and the Seminole Tribe

By Jarrid L. Smith

The 2020 Presidential and Congressional election season is nearing its end point, there are three weeks until the November 3rd election day.  During the current election cycle, which is from 2019-2020, the Center for Responsive Politics is projecting the total money spent to be just under $11 billion.  This record number is stunning, and it reflects the perception that those who have the most money also wield the most power.  With this in mind, to what extent has the Seminole Tribe of Florida gotten involved in the campaigns?  Read on to follow the money and see where it goes.

Campaign Finance in Context

In politics the best position to be in is that of an incumbent.  Being an incumbent comes with advantages, including name recognition, voting record, visibility, and campaign support, among other things.  But how does someone become an incumbent?  With lots of money, and the person who spends the most usually wins.  The money spent on winning House campaigns range from $200,000 to $2 million, but there are some outliers.  When it comes to the Senate, the cost of winning a seat jumps to an average of $19.4 million.  

The source of the money comes from different places, but they include small donations of $200 or less, large donations, self-funded campaigns, Political Action Committees (PACs), and Super PACs.  

Seminole Contributions

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, and other indigenous tribes within the United States, maintain a sovereign relationship with the federal government.  This means that the tribes and the U.S. federal government function as equals, similar to the U.S. and other countries from around the world.  The nature of this relationship, however, is different than those the U.S. has with other countries.  Whereas the U.S. entered into various one-sided treaties with tribes, their goal was to exert influence over the indigenous people.  In the present day, tribes have attempted to reverse this influence in various ways, one of which is through elections.  

When the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 became law, tribes across the country entered into a new era of economic growth.  The newfound leverage gained from economic success would soon be put to use to grow new opportunities.  Soon thereafter tribes began their financial contributions to political candidates and parties.  Unless otherwise noted, all data presented in this article is via the Center for Responsive Politics, information accurate as of October 8, 2020. The data in the following chart shows the contributions of nine tribes in the current election cycle.

Tribe2019-2020 Contributions 
Seminole Tribe of Florida$225,992
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (CT)$150,867
Chickasaw Nation (OK)$860,486
Pechanga Band of Lusieno Mission Indians (CA)$680,538
San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (CA)$218,385
Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut$57,684
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma$206,411
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (NC)$312,408
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (MN)$648,003
Total / Average$3,360,774 / $373,419.34

Further analysis of the financial contributions of the Seminole Tribe of Florida showed the following:

PartyTotal ContributionPercent of Total Contributions
Democrat$165,27375.00%
Republican$55,08525.00%
Total$225,992100%
Incumbents vs. Non-IncumbentsPercent of Total Contributions Received
Incumbents89.99%
Non-Incumbents10.01%

Contributions within Florida

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has six reservations spread throughout southern Florida.  Within Florida, contributions to congressional candidates often matched the districts where those reservations are located.

CandidatePartyFL Congressional DistrictTotal Contribution
Stephanie MurphyD7$2,800
Darren SotoD9$5,600
Charlie CristD13$14,000
Kathy CastorD14*$5,600
Greg SteubeR17*$5,600
Brian MastR18*$5,600
Ted DeutchD22*$5,600
Debbie Wasserman-SchultzD23*$5,600
Mario Diaz-BalartR25*$2,800
Donna ShalalaD27$5,600
Total / Average$58,800 / $5,880
* = district containing Seminole reservation
FL SenatorPartyTotal ContributionNote
Marco RubioR$10,000Contribution made to Reclaim America PAC
Rick ScottR$15,000Contribution made to Let’s Get to Work PAC
Neither Rubio or Scott was up for reelection in the 2019-2020 cycle.

Analysis of Florida Contributions

Nationwide, the contributions of the nine indigenous tribes varies. While the Seminole tribe does not contribute as much as several others, it must be remembered that each tribe makes their own independent decisions on contribution amounts and who those amounts go to. Last, these nine tribes operate the largest indigenous owned casinos across the United States, thus their ability to make contributions is comparative and illustrative of the various levels tribes give to candidates.

The contributions of the Seminole Tribe within Florida are all to incumbent candidates, and each candidate district contains or is adjacent to a district containing a Seminole reservation.  The exception to this is Florida district 7 candidate Stephanie Murphy.  Murphy is currently appointed to the very influential House Ways and Means Committee, which is the chief tax writing committee in the House.  Charlie Crist is currently appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for passing the House federal budget.  Crist also has a long history in Florida politics, having served in various roles since the mid-1990’s, including being elected Florida governor from 2007-2011.  Darren Soto serves Florida district 9 and he is also appointed to the House Natural Resources Committee, where he serves on the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.  Bills relating to tribes from across the country will typically come before this subcommittee at some point.  Donna Shalala serves Florida district 27, and she is appointed to the House Committee on Rules.  This committee is responsible for setting virtually all rules relating to a bill before the House.

The remaining House candidates serve districts that contain Seminole reservations.  On its surface there does not appear to be a correlation to the tribe beyond proximity.  Contributions to all Florida candidates does not appear to be linked to party or ideology.  As the tribe is supporting incumbents, it can be assumed that the goal is access to the candidates in some formal capacity.  As the saying goes, all politics is local and it serves the interest of the tribe to know the Congressmen and Congresswomen who represent their tribal citizens.  Further, the government to government relationship between the tribe and Congress is fostered through relationship building.  Having elected representatives as allies helps the tribe in its efforts to maintain its independence and sovereignty.  

The Seminole contributions to the PACs supporting Sen. Rubio and Sen. Scott can be seen in several ways.  First, as both senators were not up for reelection they were not actively soliciting campaign contributions.  The purpose of a PAC is to elect candidates, and the tribe did contribute to the PACs of both senators.  Although not direct campaign contributions, these can be viewed in that respect as the PACs work to reelect the senators.  Secondly, in a similar vein as the House, the tribe is seeking to maintain a relationship with the senators.  Senators are elected every six years, and the positions are very influential.  The relationships between the tribe and senators is not established overnight, thus ongoing contributions can be seen as building blocks.  

National Contributions

CandidateParty – State – RaceTotal Contribution
Mark KellyD – AZ – Senate$6,700
Ben Ray LujanD – NM – Senate$5,600
Sharice DavidsD – KS – House$5,625
Deb HaalandD – NM – House$5,600
Tom ColeR – OK – House$5,600
Ruben GallegoD – AZ – House$2,800
Paul CookR – CA – House$2,800
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee$35,000
Donald TrumpR – Presidential$3,385
Joe BidenD – Presidential$2,274

Analysis of National Contributions

Senate candidates Mark Kelly and Ben Ray Lujan are both democrats running in states that have high percentages of Indigenous people.  Both Kelly and Lujan are non-incumbents, but they are facing different races.  Kelly is running against an incumbent, which negatively impacts him, but he has received massive support in Arizona and nationally.  Polls show Kelly with a current advantage in his race.  Lujan, on the other hand, is running in a race where there is no incumbent.  Tom Udall (D) is retiring from the Senate at the end of his term, and Lujan is running to replace him.  Udall currently serves on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and given the high percentage of Indigenous people in New Mexico it can be assumed his replacement would seek the same committee assignment.

Representatives Sharice Davids, Deb Haaland, and Tom Cole are all members of indigenous tribes.  Davids and Haaland were first elected in 2018, and they are the first two indigenous women to serve in Congress. Tom Cole has represented Oklahoma’s 4th district since 2003.  All three candidates receive contributions from tribes from across the country.  Additionally, Rep. Haaland serves on the House Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the U.S.  The House Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples currently has eleven members.  As mentioned previously, Rep. Haaland sits on the subcommittee, and she is joined by Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. Darren Soto, and Rep. Paul Cook.  Each of these members of Congress have received contributions from the Seminole Tribe.  

The Seminole contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) stands out due to its amount, but this must be considered in context.  First, the purpose of the DCCC is to support the election efforts of Democratic party candidates from across the country.  The tribe is allowed to support any party, and election finance laws provide a higher limit to how much can be given.  Second, the tribe has historically given similar amounts to the Democratic party (see chart below).  The tribe has given to the Republican party, but the contributions largely go to the Democratic party.  

OrganizationYearContribution
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee2020$35,000
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee2009$34,000
Democratic National Committee2014$32,000
Democratic National Committee2011$30,800
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee2012$30,800
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee2017$30,000

Looking at present contribution efforts, the Seminole tribe tends to favor incumbent Democratic candidates.  In Florida, candidates with a proximal or congressional tie to the tribe can receive a contribution.  Nationally,  the correlation of contributions to indigenous tribes and indigenous representatives remains high.  The Seminole Tribe has contributed to the efforts of both presidential campaigns, but there appears to be no obvious favor to the candidates and the amount of each contribution is relatively low.  Although much attention is given to the executive branch in terms of country wide campaign giving, the Seminole tribe does not contribute in a meaningful or preferential amount.  

Lobbyists

Another way the Seminole tribe has attempted to influence the federal government is through the use of lobbyists.  Lobbying is the lawful attempt to influence policies and actions of elected representatives and government agencies.  Lobbying is a common practice and can be performed by any person, but access to high-powered lobbyists comes at a price.  

YearLobbying Total AmountLobbyist Employed
2020$220,000 (total through Q1-Q2)4
2019$470,0004
2018$520,0003
2017$530,0009
2016$550,0009
2015$660,0007
2014$650,00012
2013$750,00011
2012$590,00013
2011$640,0008
Total / Average$5,580,000 / $558,0008

The purpose of lobbying is to influence current legislative or government agency efforts.  The cost to employ lobbyist ranges, but generally the cost is higher if the lobbyist has served in a government agency before.  The cost can go even higher if the lobbyist has served in an elected position, such as House representative or Senator.  The ability of lobbyists to shape legislation and policy is recognized through strict legislative efforts, such as the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, that aim to increase accountability into the profession.  Thus, the use of lobbyists is a normal part of business for large entities such as the Seminole tribe, and the expense can often be justified by the end product of favorable legislation and governmental policy.  

Final Word

The citizens of the Seminole Tribe have a common heritage and shared culture, which lends to the tribe’s ability to navigate the present U.S. political climate.  The tribe has always sought to maintain its independence and self-governing responsibility, and to be successful at this the tribe must pursue efforts to build relationships with the U.S. federal government.  Further, the tribe also needs to have a presence as legislation and policies are being written.  To these ends, contributing to candidates and employing lobbyists are a necessity.  

There must be trust in the decisions regarding the spending of funds, especially considering the divisive nature of politics.  Tribal citizens have their own political ideologies, and these may or may not mesh with how the tribe is presently allocating contribution funds.  Despite these individual beliefs, it must be remembered that the tribe represents the collective good of all present and future tribal citizens.  What’s good for the tribe as a whole, is good for all individual Seminoles.

Lastly, tribal leaders are accountable to the people.  To further gain the trust of the people there needs to be an increased openness to the tribal decision-making process.  In the instance of contributions, a discussion on the giving strategy is a logical starting point.  The tribal people deserve an explanation as to why certain parties or candidates are important to the interests of the tribe.  Again, this may not mesh with personal ideologies, but the citizens of the tribe recognize what’s good for the tribe, is good for all individual Seminoles.  

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Past to Present: A Look at Seminole Self-Government

By Jarrid L. Smith

Since 1957, the year of U.S. federal recognition, the citizens of Seminole Tribe of Florida have sought to formally govern themselves.  From the beginning, the process of self-governance has been an uphill struggle.  What caused this struggle and what does this struggle look like today?  How are Seminole people working to solve this?  Read on to find out.

Organization

In 1953 the U.S. federal government began the process to terminate its government to government relationship with the Seminoles.  If this process were to go through, the people of the tribe would be seen by the U.S. government as regular citizens, and all federal obligations to the people would be gone as well.  This provided the impetus for the people of the tribe to begin the process to gain formal federal recognition and thereby maintain its sovereign status and government to government relationship with the U.S.  This is the overarching narrative, but it’s also an oversimplification.  

This narrative implies that the people of the tribe were ready to take up self-governance immediately upon the ratification of the Seminole Constitution.  However, this narrative gets bleak when provided with a dose of reality.  In her autobiography A Seminole Legend, Betty Mae Jumper, along with historian Patsy West, describe what life was like in the 1950’s.  By 1953, there were 918 Seminoles on official documentation (Pg.137).  Of these, only four Seminole students had graduated from high school (Pg.136).  Within this, more than half lived on reservation land but a sizable number of people remained off (Pg.137).  A fourth of the people spoke English, and 70 to 80 percent were illiterate (Pg.138).  There was no formal organizing mechanism that brought all the people together, as some chose to practice Christianity while others maintained traditional beliefs (Pg.138).  

To put it simply, the people were politically disjointed and their understanding of civic duty was minimal.  This makes the fact that the tribal people voted to formally organize only four years later even more amazing.  The process would not have been possible without the efforts of the men and women who worked to explain what organizing meant and how it would benefit the people to vote.  These efforts would pay off in 1957 when the Seminole Constitution was ratified.  Yet, despite achieving success in becoming federally recognized, the vast majority of people within the tribe were taking part in a governing process that they did not fully understand.   How exactly do these things affect the Seminoles today?

Governing Today

In the 63 years since the Seminole Constitution was first ratified the people of the tribe have leaped forward in many ways.  The efforts of the tribe as a whole and of individual tribal citizens has resulted in a drastic improvement in the overall welfare, health, education, and business of the tribe.  The Seminoles are a remarkable success story within U.S. tribes.  Here, just like in the past, the narrative of success overlooks issues that started back in 1957.  It begins with the Seminole Constitution itself, which was not something that the Seminole people created by themselves.  The concept of self-government for the Seminoles began with a constitution that was created by the U.S. government.  This isn’t to imply that the Seminole people didn’t need help, but it is to recognize that the fundamental concept of democracy, power by and of the people, was undermined from the beginning.  

So it is that the Seminole people today are still in effect hampered in their efforts at self-governance by what happened in 1957.  Over the years there have been instances of efforts to reform the Seminole Constitution to meet the needs of the people, and some of these efforts have met success.  However, the larger concern from 1957 remains, and that is that the people of the tribe by and large do not work together to influence or to make changes to the Tribe’s constitution.  The sustained effort that this requires falls flat, and in the end Seminole people miss out on their responsibility as citizens, which is to maintain a check on their government’s power.  The absence of the people can result in actual or perceived abuses in power by those in elected positions.  

The concept of self-government and how best to utilize it was new to the Seminole people, but politics aside, prior to 1957 there had existed systems of social structure.  Since time immemorial these included traditional beliefs, the clan system, and more recently, Christianity.  Although not formal governmental bodies, these social structures provide the fundamental characteristic of what a government does, which is to provide for the common good of the people.  These structures help to create the understanding that what affects one family, affects all families.  This moral imperative, to be caretakers of one another, remains strong to this day.  How are the Seminole people using this to formally influence their government?  

Community Voice

In recent months the elected leaders of Seminole Tribe of Florida have postponed in person meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Formal meetings of the Tribal Council have moved online, and these meetings are not easily accessible to Tribal citizens.  Prior to COVID, the people could attend in person meetings, but even then there was dissatisfaction in the sharing of official Tribal information.  To address this, the common practice was to hold monthly community meetings where elected leaders would present information and respond to questions.  Additionally, the elected leaders made themselves available to respond to concerns through in person meetings and phone calls.  The common thread in all of this is the central role that the Tribal Council plays, which is understandable given their elected positions.  However, seperate from the efforts of their tribal government, the Seminole people struggle to organize themselves in a sustained manner to check the power of their elected leaders.  

This fact is not lost on the Seminole people, and there are people who are working to address it. One recent effort is an online forum called Community Voice, and its goal is to provide a space for discussing ideas for the betterment of the tribe.  Community Voice has held four meetings to date, and it has already had an impact on the decision-making process within the Tribe.  Community Voice was organized over the summer in direct response to a Tribal Council decision regarding the production of hemp.  The online forum received many in-person attendees, and those who could not be present were able to watch a meeting recording.  As a result of the influence of this forum regarding hemp production, the organizers decided to continue holding meetings.  

Krystal Young is one of the people who has helped to organize Community Voice.  For her part, Krystal posts the meeting flyer, serves as a facilitator in the meetings, posts meeting recordings, and has even conducted a survey.  The survey responses helped to determine the most recent meeting topic, which centered on the role of the people to check the power of their elected leaders.  When asked her biggest takeaway from the meeting, Krystal discussed her surprise at the amount of power the Council holds.  “How…ridiculous it is how much power the Council has… I knew they had a lot of power but it’s really excessive,” said Krystal.  For her, this excess in power is seen most in the election process of the Tribe.  

At the close of the Community Voice meeting held September 29th, attendees decided to address concerns with the Seminole Constitution, with a focus to put power back into the hands of the Seminole people.  “The effort is to strip away the power of Tribal Council in certain areas,” said Mariann Billie during the meeting.  There were two decisions, the first related to giving tribal people a role in the process to determine tribal ordinances.  The second related to the election process, in particular a focus on ensuring that election winners must receive greater than 50 percent of the vote total.  The aim is to hold another meeting next month.

Final Thoughts

The Seminole people are striving to maintain a government that serves the needs of the people.  Using measures of welfare, health, education, and business, the government is fulfilling the needs of the people.  From its beginnings in the 1950’s, the Tribe is in a present-day position that the Seminole Constitution founders could only imagine.  On the other hand, the civic responsibility of the people to check the power their government is still in its beginning stages.  Efforts like Community Voice, which arise from the people and separate from the tribal government, are evidence that the Seminole people are gaining civic strength.  Actions of people like Krystal Young and Mariann Billie, among many others, are evidence that the moral and ethical beliefs of the tribe are alive and well.  When the success of the Tribe aligns with the capacity for civic duty of the people, only then can it be said that the Seminoles are self-governing.

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When Two Worlds Meet

By Jarrid L. Smith

The first thing to know in this story is that Dorian is Seminole from Florida and Wendolynne is Quechua from Peru. Next, they are the husband and wife owners of Panther Sewing & Crafts.  With their journey’s beginning on separate continents, just how did they come together, and what makes their business unique?  Read on to find out.  

When you visit the website of Panther Sewing & Crafts it’s easy to see that they provide quality fabric, ric rak, and bias at a good rate.  What’s not so obvious is the story of its owners Dorian and Wendolynne, who are the husband and wife duo that power the business.  These two indigenious business owners bring their own unique cultures into their business, and this serves to make Panther Sewing & Crafts into a venture unlike any other.  By the end of this you’ll see that the story of their business isn’t really a story at all, but rather something closer to destiny being fulfilled.

Understanding Their Past

When Wendolynne was seven years old, she immigrated to the United States from Peru with her mother, grandmother, and younger brother.  They were later joined by her father and two sisters.  To know why the family moved you first have to have a sense of who the Quechuan people are, and how life is for them in Peru.  The Quechua language has existed since time immemorial, and it is used by many Indigenous tribes across South America.  In spite of the long history of the Quechua language, the reality for many who speak it and wear traditional clothing in Peru is a life of being marked as a lesser person.  This discrimination is pervasive and has led to Quechua speakers suffering at the hands of the government and civilian groups.  Therefore, moving to the U.S. for Wendolynne and her family was about giving themselves a chance at escaping poverty, terrorism, and discrimination.

Dorian and his family, on the other hand, have resided in Florida for their entire lives.  Seminole people, as a result of the United States’ actions, would come to reside in Florida around two centuries ago.  The U.S. government made several attempts to remove the Seminoles from Florida, including conducting three wars, as well as making numerous unfulfilled and broken treaties.  When it was all said and done, many Seminoles were removed and only several hundred remained in Florida.  This historical treatment of Indigenious people by the United States government and its people occured in all parts of the country.  The result left those like the Florida Seminoles and their descendants, which includes people like Dorian and his family, who deep down in their collective memory cannot forget those actions.

Education

Indigenious history aside, the common thread that pulled Dorian and Wendolynne together was education.  Wendolynne would graduate high school and go on to attend Florida International University (FIU), where her past guided her to join a student group called the Global Indigenious Group (GIG).  Wendolynne and her family lived through unjust treatment while in Peru, and that put a drive in her to seek out opportunities to advocate in the U.S.  Among these opportunities was her working with GIG to organize a petition to recognize Columbus Day as Indigenious People’s Day on FIU’s campus.

Just as Wendolynne was elected as the president of GIG, the Seminole Tribe of Florida entered into a partnership with FIU called the Seminole Tribal Pathways Scholar Program.  The purpose of this program was to bridge the gap between Seminole youth and higher education, and to provide a support system for students as they transition into college.  One of the first Tribal citizens to be a part of this transition was Eden Jumper, Dorian’s brother.  Through her role with GIG, Wendolynne was introduced to Eden and the two quickly became friends.  Eden later introduced Wendolynne to Dorian, and it didn’t take long for their friendship to become a relationship. 

Sewing is Life

Dorian, for his part, is a seamster and craftsman.  His interest in the trade is rooted in his family, where he has several people who create traditional Seminole clothing.  As Dorian introduced Wendolynne to more of his family, it was common for them to all spend time around fabric.  Seeing this wasn’t entirely new for Wendolynne because both her mother and grandmother are seamstresses.  In 2017, about a year into their relationship, Wendolynne was set to graduate from FIU.  As a graduation gift her father presented her with traditional Quechuan clothing, and this was the first time she had been given a gift like this.  At this moment, as Dorian and Wendolynne began to examine the Quechuan clothing, they noticed many similarities to Seminole clothing.  At this moment the relationship between the two would be guided by destiny’s invisible hand.  At this moment Panther Sewing & Crafts was conceived.  

The first iteration of Panther Sewing & Crafts was born in 2017, with Dorian and Wendolynne primarily selling ric rac on the Seminole reservations.  At first they joined in with Dorian’s grandmother who also sells fabric.  From the beginning their business was a family thing.  As the couple moved forward into the business they spent more time around Dorian’s family, and they came to understand the community of people who sell fabric better.  The shared passion for creating clothing and crafts within that community gave Dorian and Wendolynne the push to dream about what their business could become.  But this dream did not come without a few tests along the way.  

For Dorian and Wendolnne, the first test was understanding the ins and outs of what they were getting into.  They realized that they didn’t know enough, and with that realization Wendolynne returned to FIU for a Master’s degree in finance, which she earned in 2019.  With the degree in hand, Panther Sewing & Crafts LLC became official and the couple continued forward with plans to grow their business.  With 2020 on the horizon, what they didn’t know was the immensity of their next test.

Expanding 

When the country shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was an immediate need for cloth masks.  Dorian and Wendolynne saw an opportunity to help others and their business.  As orders for their masks began pouring in, the couple put in countless hours in front of their sewing machines.  At one point, over a three day span the couple lost track of how much sleep they’d gotten.  To prevent burning out, they took a much needed break after that rush to fill orders.  

As they caught their breath, they realized how much profit they were able to bring in and they began to consider how to reinvest it in their business.  They decided to invest in fabric, but not just any fabric.  They decided to invest in fabric made with Kona cotton, which is a material that is great for sewing.  The bias and ric rac they sell is made with Peruvian cotton.    

At this point, the story of Panther Sewing & Crafts has come full circle.  Remember, this all started with a couple born continents apart.  Then, because of the circumstances prompting her family to immigrate, Wendolynne’s passion for advocacy manifests on FIU’s campus in her joining GIG.  Dorian then meets her through his brother, who attended FIU because of his tribe’s push to prioritize pathways to higher education.  Last, what really set them down the path from couple to business owner couple was a graduation gift.  So who is it that helps them on the ground in Peru to source their products?  It’s Wendolynne’s father, and this all feels like destiny.

Final Word

The story of Dorian and Wendolynne cannot be made up.  The love, support, and admiration the couple have towards one another is obvious.  Their effectiveness as business owners shows in their growing bottom line.  Their goal in business is to set a foundation for their future, and to build lifetime relationships with their clients.  They take immense pride in where they come from and the work they do, but they are also humble enough to know that only hard work and determination will continue to make their business a success.  

You can support Panther Sewing & Crafts by visiting them online and purchasing their products.

Where to Find Panther Sewing & Crafts

Digital Store: www.panthersewing.com
Facebook: Panther Sewing
Instagram: PantherSewingandCrafts

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When a Choice Becomes a Statement

By Jarrid L. Smith

Baylee Micco believes that when you buy something, you’re not making a choice, you’re making a statement about yourself and the future, and this way of thinking pushed her to create her own business.  Her business serves as a statement to the world that she’s not going to accept what’s handed to her.  Her business is a statement that she cares about how her products are made.  Her business is a statement of perseverance, proof that she is growing into a woman who shapes the world around her, and not the other way around.  

Baylee Micco
Image Via ShopHoneyBay.com

How did Baylee come to this point in her young life, and what does she see in herself that makes her a businesswomen to be watched?  Read on to find out.

Graduation

While growing up Baylee’s mom did not allow her to wear makeup.  Baylee is a respectful daughter, and despite her growing interest in makeup she did as her mom asked.  When Baylee graduated high school and moved out of her mom’s house, it didn’t take long for her interest in makeup to be noticed by others.  It started with her friends, who recognized her talent and encouraged her to create makeup tutorials online.  The notion of posting online made her nervous but she took small steps forward.  First, she opened an Instagram account just for makeup, and then later she would create her own YouTube channel with how-to’s and makeup looks.  In the beginning Baylee had mixed feelings about the YouTube channel, she was nervous about how it would be received.  

It turns out her feelings were misplaced, as the number of views started increasing.  Baylee used this positive feedback as fuel to push forward to create more videos.  Her mom was contacted by a friend and asked if Baylee would do makeup for a wedding.  As any bride knows, you don’t ask just anyone to do your makeup on your wedding day.  Baylee saw this as a great opportunity and she agreed.  This would lead to several more weddings as well as opportunities to do makeup for photo shoots.  Baylee was starting to make a name for herself, and she was making plans in 2019 to make even more videos, but then something happened that helped push her toward her current path.  

Pressing Pause

Baylee seemed at this moment in her life to be on a flow towards a life centered around makeup, but in life there are ebbs and flows.  Baylee didn’t know it yet, but she was headed to an ebb.  For several years she had been in a relationship, and it was during this time that Baylee and her longtime boyfriend decided to split up.  At around this same time a friend moved into the room she planned to use to makeup videos.  These circumstances combined to create an ebb in her life. 

The pause Baylee experienced was natural, the kind people experience when their world seems to shift under their feet.  It’s the time needed to gather oneself and to find stable footing.  This was a time of reflection for Baylee, and during this time she decided she wanted to know more about the world around her.  She started meeting new people and making new friends, exploring new places, and gaining confidence in her voice.  In her moment of pause, the roots of what would become her business today took hold.  But how does a budding YouTuber who specializes in make-up go on to creating her own line of clothing?  Like many things in the year 2020, COVID-19 had a hand in the answer.  

Restart

As Baylee was growing into who she is today, she continued making plans to produce more YouTube videos.  But by then COVID was spreading across the country, and a thought entered her mind.  Nurtured by her recent experiences, she began to question herself.  These weren’t questions of doubt, but rather questions of possibility.  She wondered if she wanted to be known only for makeup.  She wondered if she want people to think of her only for their school dances and weddings.  She wondered what else she could be good at.  The answer to these questions came unexpectedly one night while she was scrolling through Instagram and saw a sponsored post promoting clothing.  She started down an Instagram rabbit hole and really liked the clothes she saw.  

Baylee liked the style of clothes, which she described as western and Native American inspired, and she was ready to make a purchase, but as she continued looking she noticed something else.  It started with the clothing models.  Baylee felt that their appearance wasn’t authentic, that the clothing brand wasn’t just trying to convey being Native inspired, but also being Native owned.  As she saw this she started to wonder who exactly the owner of the brand was, she thought it could be a Native American.  She would go on to find that the owners weren’t Native American and this frustrated her.  She was upset at the company’s attempt to appropriate the appearance of Native Americans, and that it was trying to profit off of something it was not a part of.  

Making a Statement

Image Via ShopHoneyBay.com

Baylee faced a choice.  She could choose to dismiss the feeling that had come up and buy the clothes, or she could do something about it.  She could make a statement, and she was at a point in her life that she was ready to do it.  Baylee decided that she could do what she was seeing online, and that she was an authentic representation of the products she was selling.  

The first thing Baylee did was to reach out to her family.  She sent a text to a cousin and her aunt, and they gave support to her idea.  Then she created her own t-shirt design and sent it in a family group text for feedback.  She was nervous about what her family would say, but the feedback was again positive.  With that, she started researching clothing suppliers.  She found a company that produced environmentally sustainable t-shirts, and with her design and clothing in hand, she got to work registering her business and creating her website.  

Her business was approved by the state of Florida at the end of August, and she launched her website at the beginning of September.  Through word of mouth on Instagram, potential buyers were waiting and they quickly bought out her in-stock supply.  She sold out in two days, and she couldn’t believe it.  She quickly ordered more from her supplier.  

Baylee is still in the first month of officially selling her products, and she already knows she’s in it for the long haul.  She believes there is still much more to come from her.  She sees a gap and a need for an indigenous owned business that provides quality and stylish clothing.  Through the first month of her business Baylee has reached unexpected people, which has given her opportunities to connect and inform them about indigenous issues.  

What’s Next?

For Baylee, there are many goals and ideas she has in mind.  She’s learned a lot in the few months since she decided to open her own business.  The first thing is practical, which is to understand the market and have enough supply to meet the demand of buyers.  She’s already working on designing a sweater, which will be just in time for the winter season.  The next thing is emotional, which is to build confidence off of her successes and to talk down the doubts that creep up.  Here too she’s gaining strength, and it’s reinforced by her relationships that have developed because of her business.  

Choices are statements.  Baylee has made her choice and her statement is clear. Now it’s your turn.  Choose to support Baylee and her business, you can count on her.  Choose to support a business that is Native American owned, and provides Native American inspired and environmentally friendly clothing. 

Find Baylee Online

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The Habits of a Reseller

By Jarrid L. Smith

The FAU Football Business Forum is a series of articles that highlights former FAU football players who now are business owners to understand what drives their entrepreneurial spirit.  The featured businessman in this article is Kris Bartels, FAU Class of 2007. 


Kris Bartels, Image Via LinkedIn

For Kris Bartels, opportunity is always knocking with his online reselling business.  Pools, weights, trading cards, legos and many other items sit in his garage at home, waiting to be bought online and shipped to their new owner.  Kris is still a relative newcomer in the reselling market, but it hasn’t taken him long to discover that he’s there to stay.  Why does he do it and what has he learned about himself in the process?  Keep reading to find out.

The Private Victory

Author and businessman Stephen R. Covey famously describes in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a concept he called the private victory.  First, the 7 habits are:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin With the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

Within the 7 habits framework, Covey called the first three the private victory.  The essence of Covey’s thinking is that for a person to be highly effective, they must first have their own affairs in order.  Through his reselling business Kris has begun to secure his own private victory.  His journey is still ongoing, but the early returns have offered reassurance to Kris that he’s living a life to be proud of, one that Covey would certainly deem as highly effective.

Be Proactive

Kris’s profession is in education, where he has worked for 13 years.  Prior to most parts of the country shutting down due the COVID-19 pandemic, he jumped into the reselling business to supplement his income from his teaching job.  Why pursue something like reselling when the country is experiencing something unlike anything in living memory?  The answer in part lies with Kris’s father, Jack.  Reselling isn’t something new to Kris, his roots in it trace back to his father owning several sports trading card shops, and he would bring young Kris along to trading shows.  Thus, the idea for reselling was planted at an early age.  

In the beginning of 2020 the fruits would begin to show.  For the first 11 years Kris was in the classroom, but for the last two years he’s been teaching online.  Being out of the classroom afforded Kris more time at home, and he was looking for different ways to fill the down time.  So one day to fill the time between instruction and grading he began reading a book titled Toyfolio: How to Invest in and Sell Toys Like Stocks Paperback by Greg Webb.  Kris describes the gist of the book as instructions to buy enough toys on clearance, hold them, and then resell them in the fourth quarter.  For him, the book was eye opening, and it led directly to his decision to commit more time to reselling.  

In this moment Kris began uncovering Covey’s first habit, Be Proactive.  A reseller has to be on top of their market, knowing what items are going to be in demand so they’re ready to sell when prices go up.  This requires research into trends of items as well as knowing when products will be in stock to buy.  This is the type of information a person has to go find, it takes time and effort to hone in on prices and inventory.  Kris is a proactive person, and that’s the first step to making him an effective reseller.  

Begin With the End in Mind

As Kris moved closer to becoming a fully engaged reseller, he started by listing unused items from around his house.  What was once a random household object before, soon became a business opportunity, and it started simply enough with a modem.  After posting it online, it sold quickly and Kris was hooked.  As it would happen, what he started reselling next was due to the COIVD-19 pandemic shutting things down around the country.  Pools and weights were major items in demand, and Kris was one of the resellers online meeting that need.  

The reselling of these items led to a major income boost, especially considering that people were willing to pay up to 2 or 3 times more than retail price.  Once Kris realized reselling was a viable supplement to his teaching salary, he dove into a whole new way of looking at things.  On Ebay he would look to see what items were trending.  On Facebook he researched to see what people in his local area were selling.  He looked at inventory of local retailers like Wal-Mart to see when items would be in stock.  On one occasion he arrived and noticed a vendor stocking the trading card display, but certain cards had already been bought out.  He asked the vendor when they would return to restock, and he made sure to be there early.  When things were really competitive, he enlisted the help of his brother-in-law to help buy cards from retailers.

Kris Bartels’ Garage Storage, Image Via Kris

All of this shaped how Kris was thinking, and in his mind he started to think about long-term goals.  Paying off the mortgage and taking care of the car note with the profits from reselling were a few of his goals.  This type of thinking is what Covey described as Beginning With the End in Mind.  This type of thinking gives clarity and focus to each day, making the small routine steps count towards something larger.  This type of thinking is liberating, it frees the mind to wonder the possibilities of what could be.  Most of all, this type of thinking provides a sense of trust in the process it takes to reach those goals.  

Put First Things First

There are few certainties in life, but one thing we can all agree on is that there are only 24 hours in a day.  How we spend that time varies, but we can consider an average to draw some conclusions.  The data below is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s American Time Use Survey from 2019, and it shows how much time the average American spends per day on certain activities:

  • Personal care, including sleeping: 9.62 hours
  • Leisure and sports: 5.19 hours
  • Working and work-related activities: 3.61 hours
  • Household activities: 1.78 hours
  • Eating and drinking: 1.18 hours

These are just the topic five categories, there were several others but on average they were less than 1 hour.  All this data helps frame the distinction between an effective and an ineffective person.  To put it another way, time is money and it would appear if the average American wanted to earn more, then more time must be spent working.

When it comes to putting first things first, Kris explains it in his own way.  When asked how his family has experienced his venture into reselling he talked about his wife and his children.  Kris said that since he started reselling he believes his wife, Shayna, would describe him as more driven and goal oriented.  Whereas before reselling he would have spent his evening playing video games or relaxing, now if he’s up late it’s for something related to reselling.  Now he’s up listing items for sale, taking pictures of items, or researching new items to buy.  As he’s learned the schedule of vendors at local retailers, he’s structured his day around being able to be present to buy.

As for his children, ages five, two, and six months, they are getting a different perspective on their toys.  The experience right now is felt most for Bishop, his five year old.  Being that Kris stores resell items at home, Bishop will ask to get into them and on more than one occasion has taken the liberty to do so on his own.  However, Kris also describes something else about Bishop that he’s noticed.  Bishop sometimes accompanies Kris when he goes out shopping for resell items, and when he sees his dad looking at toys he’ll ask if his dad is going to resell it.  This gives Kris the opening to explain, as best as can be to a five year old, that selling the toys will benefit the family more than just keeping them.  It’s early for Bishop, but he’s already getting a practical lesson into what Covey describes as Putting First Things First.

A Final Word

The idea of being an effective person can be seen through Kris’s life as a husband, father, educator, and now, a reseller.  As Kris has been successful in his private victory, he can now consider what Covey described as the public victory.  The public victory concept hinges on the idea that once a person has their private affairs in order, then they can begin to be successful with others.  It’s exciting to see Kris prepare to go into the public victory arena.  Right now his biggest challenge is to reinvest his earnings, but you know he’s working on solving that.  You can help, with the holiday season coming up be sure to see if he’s got what you’re looking for.  You can count on him to be prepared.


Where to Find Kris Online

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A Seminole Summer to Remember

By Jarrid L. Smith

In Florida the humidity is always present, especially during the summer months, and the summer of 2020 was particularly hot within the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Citizens of the Tribe decided to turn up the heat on their elected leaders when news of a decision filtered down to the community.  In late June Tribal officials first discussed a plan to enact a resolution governing the growing of hemp on Tribal lands.  Then, in early July, when Tribal officials passed the resolution, community members immediately began to organize against it.  What resulted was a summer unlike any other for the Tribe.  Read on for a review and fallout of the events, as well as comments from both community organizers and elected leaders.  

Sending Up The Alarm

Like many areas around the country, the Seminole Tribe of Florida closed their offices and community gathering areas in March.  The Tribe is governed by an elected five member body, referred to as the Tribal Council, or by Tribal citizens as just the Council.  Typically, the Council will hold official meetings once a month to decide business matters for the whole Tribe, and these meetings are open to citizens of the Tribe.  As with many governing bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council of the Seminole Tribe has been conducting official business via video conferencing.  However, unlike those other governing bodies, the Council regulates  access to virtual meetings and recordings are not readily available to Tribal citizens.  Herein lies the crux of the issue, how can the people of the Tribe maintain their citizen oversight responsibility when the Council seemingly conducts official business out of sight?

The answer begins with Tribal citizens like Marline Miller, who sees it as her responsibility to keep up with what the Council is doing.  It was Marline who, in late June, first posted information about the hemp resolution on Facebook in a group composed of only Tribal citizens.  As news of the Council decision began to circulate among Tribal citizens, unrest with the decision began to manifest with a call for a referendum vote on the Council resolution.  This would be a tall order in a normal situation, as a referendum vote would require signatures from 20% of registered Tribal voters, but remember this is all occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This meant that the referendum organizers had to collect signatures from voters in extraordinary circumstances, taking precautions to ensure their safety as well as the safety of those who were signing the referendum.  

The Issues

Seminole Tribe of Florida, Main Office Building – Hollywood, FL.

So what exactly pushed so many people to put their concerns into action?  While the idea of Tribal involvement in the hemp industry was not new as it had been brought up in prior Tribal elections and discourse, there were two primary concerns Tribal citizens had with what they were seeing.  

The first concern was the issue of the Council discussing and passing the resolution prior to getting feedback from the community.  “It seemed too shady to me that it wasn’t brought before the community,” said Marline when asked how she felt about seeing a hemp resolution on the Council agenda.  Marline said she felt disheartened, and she decided to post the information online, “because I felt this way, I also thought about others and wondered if they knew.  I wanted to make others aware.”  “We weren’t against the hemp plan, but we wanted to bring it before the community,” said Tribal citizen Mariann Billie.

Tribal Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. addressed this concern by saying the hemp resolution was to be originally discussed in March, but with the closure of government offices during the COVID-19 pandemic, this meeting was delayed.  “We [the Council] were not trying to hide anything or sneak anything through. That’s not how we operate,” said the Chairman.  The Chairman added that there were two Council discussions regarding the hemp plan prior to the resolution, but he did recognize that there had been no presentation to the community.  “If COVID didn’t come along, we would have brought this to the community,” said Councilman Chris Osceola, echoing the sentiments of the Chairman.

The second concern was the wording of the hemp resolution, which seemed to indicate that not all Tribal citizens would be able to benefit.  According to the referendum organizers, the wording of the hemp plan as originally passed would give privilege of operating hemp businesses to individuals.  “After I read the post and heard about the briefing, I was disappointed that we [the Tribe] weren’t going into it to set it up as a huge industry for the Tribe.  It was a pro-individual plan and I didn’t agree with that,” said James Holt, a Tribal citizen who had run in previous Tribal elections.  “We learned that the way it was written would benefit individual people more than the Tribe as a whole,” said Sonja Buck, a Tribal citizen who helped to collect signatures for the referendum.  Mitchell Cypress, Tribal Council Vice-Chairman, did question the wording of the resolution.  Vice-Chairman Cypress noted his concern was tied to who could operate a hemp business, including the wording, “other and outside entities, including non-Tribal members.”  Despite his reservations, Vice-Chairman Cypress did vote to approve the hemp resolution.

Chairman Osceola, in responding to this concern, said that the hemp resolution was written to meet the five minimum requirements for the Tribe to operate hemp as stipulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  “This [the hemp resolution] was just the minimum requirement… this was not a plan, it was a step towards making the plan,” said the Chairman.  The Chairman was confident that while the Tribe awaited USDA approval further discussions regarding regulating hemp among the Council and the community would occur.  “The way I understand it is that this is a catch all.  A way to get into the industry,” said Councilman Chris Osceola.  Councilman Osceola also indicated that there would have been more added to the hemp plan once the USDA approval was finalized.  

The Referendum

Over the course of two weeks in July the community organizers were able to get over 650 signatures. This number easily exceeded the 20% required by the Tribal constitution. At the end of July, the signatures were submitted for verification to the Tribal secretary and the organizers awaited the Tribe’s response. In the midst of all this, the community organizers were able to host multiple online virtual forums. Krystal Young was behind the organization of the virtual forums, and they helped to get Tribal citizens information regarding the hemp resolution and the referendum proposed to change it. “I knew I didn’t have the full story and I didn’t know who had more information [at first]. I knew if I was thinking like this the others were too,” said Young.

Many of the people involved shared similar feelings about the process to get the needed signatures.  James Holt, regarding his involvement in the process, said the biggest thing he did was to communicate with people and that both Tribal youth and elders were talking about the referendum.  Both Sonja Buck and Marline Miller talked about the time and energy the process took to go out and speak with people about what was going on, and to gather signatures while maintaining the safety of everyone involved.  “What was cool about the petition was that we saw people put their differences aside,” said Mariann Billie. 

As August began, the efforts of the community began to show when the referendum language was approved and all that awaited was a vote by Tribal citizens to change the language of the resolution.  Alas, there would be no vote.  Just after the community organizers approved the language of the referendum ballot, the Council decided in late August to rescind the initial hemp resolution.  It would seem that the organizers’ efforts influenced the Council to act, but that the action the Council took effectively nullified the referendum.  With both the original hemp resolution and referendum now gone, what exactly does the Tribal Council and community take out of all these events? 

The Takeaway

Communication and transparency were the top issues for all involved.  While citizens of the Tribe recognize the power of their vote, they struggle to stay informed about the actions of the Council between elections.  There exist many examples of open government laws and ordinances around the United States and within Indian Country, but not one within the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  The reasons for this vary, but they especially include information security.  So what steps can the current Council take to meet the needs of Tribal citizens?  

Many of the Tribal citizens spoken to for this story voiced their desire to be allowed access to virtual Council meetings, a step that mirrors allowing them into in-person meetings.  “They [the Council] are of the mindset that a few bad apples ruin the bunch. I feel like they don’t trust Tribal members to keep the information safe… You [the Council] are there to inform me and I think it’s our right to see these things,” said James Holt.  “I’ve heard that it’s a security issue, but we’re not in the meetings and we still get the information,” said Marline Miller. 

Another step would be the continuation of something that began during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Like many local governments, the Tribe enacted a “Safer at Home” order and while Tribal citizens were stuck at home the Chairman began posting video announcements online.  The first occurred in March with updates continuing throughout the following months.  The information included steps the Tribal government was taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, practical steps Tribal citizens could do, and actions of the Tribal government to ensure the economic prosperity of the Tribe as a whole.  The video announcements by the Chairman were consistent through the months of April to July and provided a connection for Tribal citizens to their elected leaders, however, there has only been one video update in recent weeks.  The Tribal leaders spoken for this story did recognize the importance of being up front with information, and that this would mean less chances for misunderstandings to occur.

Lastly, Tribal citizens could also continue to organize and host their own community forums.  These could continue online at first, then eventually in person.  The focus of these forums during the summer was on the hemp resolution, but the topics could vary depending upon community interest.  These forums represent the community’s original intent in repudiating the Council’s hemp resolution, which was the importance of bring issues up for discussion and sharing information.

Moving Forward Together

It is especially important that what occurred within the Seminole Tribe of Florida during the summer of 2020 not be forgotten.  The summer demonstrated the will and resolve of the people, as seen by their collective action during the petition for referendum.  The summer also showed how important effective communication is, and how misunderstandings can arise quickly in its absence.  The enduring legacy of the Tribe is that despite past and present obstacles the citizens of the Tribe persevere together.  That is how the Tribe will move forward from this moment, and that is what must be remembered.

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Turning Points with Sally Osceola

Turning Points is a series of articles that highlights Indigenous business owners to understand what drives their entrepreneurial spirit.  The featured business in this article is owned by Sally Osceola. 

Setting the Scene

In relationships, opposites often attract one another.  Have you ever wondered why?  Keep reading to see how one couples’ differences make them stronger, and how those differences also make for good business.  

Sally Osceola describes herself as not a people person.  She has worries, concerns, and doubts.  In her words, her mind can sometimes get cluttered like a web browser with too many open tabs.  So why is she running a business where she has to interact with people, make decisions, and do all this under changing circumstances?  

Enter her husband Aaron.  About seven years ago Aaron came home and announced he had purchased an Italian Ice machine and they were going into business.  Despite having her doubts, remember she’s not a people person, Sally jumped in.  

Why?  

It’s because being an entrepreneur is a mindset.  It’s a spirit that people possess.  It’s having a willingness to try something new.  It’s having confidence that you will find your way.  It’s trusting in yourself.  For Sally, her entrepreneurial spirit was revealed through her relationship, through her trust in Aaron.  So they started their first business venture, and over the years that led to several others.  

Today, Sally and Aaron, along with their daughter Sadrilynn, sell Italian ice, kettle corn, t-shirts, and baked goods.  Today, because of their differences Sally and Aaron persevere.  Today, because of their differences they are stronger.  Consider being a customer of their business today.  

Interview with Sally Osceola

Answers edited for clarity.

Business Bio

  • Name of Business: Sally, Aaron, and Sadrilynn
  • Products/services:Italian Ice, Baked Goods, Kettle Corn, T-Shirts
  • Where is your business located? 
    • Call or Text: 786-521-1527
    • Digital: Coming Soon

What is your business mission or goal?

Our goal is to structure everything we do around our family.  We want to make sure we’re interacting and talking, not just eating together but doing things together.  We look at our business the same way.  It’s also the reason we sell baked goods, we started selling them to help raise money when Sadrilynn was playing volleyball for her travel. We enjoy involving our kids to help out when we set up at festivals or parties, especially if one of us isn’t available to go. We try to make it a family affair.

How did you get the idea for your business?

It was about seven years ago when Aaron came home and told me we were going into business selling Italian ice.  I wasn’t really business minded before this, but when he came up with the idea I ran with it.  When we first started I was really iffy about it.  I had doubts and negative thoughts, but I kept them to myself.  What really convinced me that it was a hit was the day we had three events booked in the same day.  That day was a lot of running around, and after that the business kept coming.  It’s been pretty smooth up until this year.  

How has your business changed over the course of 2020?

This year we really had to start reaching out to people.  I posted online on Facebook and Instagram that we were taking orders for kettle corn and baked goods.  I was really nervous about how the community would react, I thought that some people might give us backlash because people weren’t going anywhere [due to COVID-19].  I felt like this in part because we weren’t sure if people would think that we weren’t taking the pandemic seriously. Which wasn’t the case at all. This was just our way of handling everything that was going on. I didn’t know how people would react until I started getting a lot of orders.  That told me we were doing the right thing.  It meant a lot that people trusted us to safely prepare their orders.

What are your plans for your business in the future?

I have been thinking about how we can expand.  I want to reach more people.  Most of our business has been with the tribe or the reservation, but I want to reach more outside of the tribe.  

If you could speak to yourself before you started the business, what would you say?

I have doubts, but the things that I want to get done get finished.  I would tell myself that you have to put yourself out there.  You have to reach out to people.  I’m not a people person but working in business has helped get me out of my shell.

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Turning Points with Justine Osceola

Turning Points is a series of articles that highlights Indigenous business owners to understand what drives their entrepreneurial spirit.  The featured business in this article is Made By Justine O.: Seminole Handmade Artisan Soaps. 

Finding Her Voice

Voice. We all have it, but the difference between us is how we decide to use it.  Justine Osceola has chosen to use her voice to speak life to the importance of self-love and self-care, and she is making this a reality through her business.  Justine operates Made By Justine O., and the business is based on two very different life experiences.  

The first experience begins with how she was raised, which would later provide Justine a stage to use her voice.  Justine spent many weekends attending pow wows with her mother, who is a pow wow vendor.  As Justine attended pow wow after pow wow with her mother, she began to gain an early appreciation of hard work, effort, and persistence.  Further, when Justine began selling her own products she did so first at pow wows and tribal events.  

The second experience would allow her to realize the importance of using her voice for the purpose of sharing her message of self-love and self-care.  Justine experienced domestic violence in a previous relationship, and she would later use the harm and damage caused by that relationship to realize the importance of self-love and self-care.  This drives the why of her business, it serves to push her to meet her business goals.  

Justine now channels her voice when hand making each soap, crafting them using her life experiences to make something more than just a product that cleanses.  She’s creating a path for others to follow.  She’s showing how a person’s future is not dictated by their present.  She is, in her own words, a mompreneur and she is striving to prove her message can be fulfilled while also raising her children.  

Interview With Justine

Answers edited for clarity.

Business Bio

  • Name: Made By Justine O: Seminole Handmade Artisan Soaps
  • Products/Services: Soaps, soaks, scrubs and sanitizers
  • Business location: 

What is your business mission or goal?

The message of my business is to promote self-love and self-care through soaps.  I realized I wanted to share this message through my experience with domestic violence.  After this experience I realized I had a message to share.  And here is when I like to say that soap found me.  I’ve always been on the road at pow-wows with my mom, she’s been a vendor my whole life.  Culture is what moved me and I combined that with my personal message into making soaps.  

What is it that makes your business unique?

Each soap that I make is handmade, and I will make custom orders.  I make soaps that are scent-free or a soap with oatmeal, both of these are great for people with sensitive skin.  I also make specialty soaps, my first was a soap that looks like a doughnut with sprinkles.  I’ve even heard back that some people just buy the soap for a bathroom decoration.  I believe that fun looking soaps encourage self-care.  

How did the first years of your business go?

I had attended culinary school but in 2017 I realized I wanted to try a new craft.  I started teaching myself by watching YouTube videos and I studied it for a month before making my first soap.  I began to sell soaps in 2018, but they weren’t a featured product.  I put up a display off to the side of our booth, and before I knew it they sold out.  That’s when I knew I was on to something.  I continued to sell soaps into 2019 and I made a goal to visit pow-wow outside of Florida. 

The first event I recall was in Staten Island, New York where I was invited to the Shinnecock Indian Nation.  Soaps were my featured product, they filled most of my space and I did great.  I learned that I had to brand myself, and I started to package my soaps and label them.  This is also when my logo was created.  I love it, I feel like the creator moved me to it and to the person who created it.

How has your business changed over the course of 2020?

When this year started I my goal was to continue going to events outside of Florida.  I had started attending business conferences in 2019, and they were great.  So when people started to really panic about COVID I was at an event in Las Vegas.  I realized while I was there that it was going to be my last in person event for a while.  While I was at my booth selling soaps I got online and started buying supplies.  I was already in the cleansing business, so I decided quickly to expand into sanitizers.  I never thought I would get into it, but once I decided to try it I couldn’t keep my supplies stocked.  I also started to up my game online and generate traffic to my site.  Promoting myself online was new to me.  This year has been difficult but I made no room for doubt, I knew I needed to keep going.

What are your plans for the rest of this year and into 2021?

When 2020 started I was still working out of a room in my house.  When I added sanitizers and started stocking up on supplies I quickly ran out of room.  I started looking for space near my house and I was able to find a great spot.  I now have a separate work space, and it really allows me to focus on one thing at a time.  My goal now is to continue working towards opening the shop to the public.  My vision is that when a person walks in they’ll see products that will help them heal.  Once I can, I’ll get back on the road to pow-wows and conferences.  

What is something you want people to remember from this interview?

I want to inspire people to chase their dreams, to stay consistent, and to overcome self-doubt.    I call myself a mompreneur because I started my business so my kids can see what happens when you keep at something.  I even have my kids make and sell their own soaps, and I let them keep the money.  Do what you love and keep at it, stay on the path and you’ll find your way.

Other Articles Featuring Justine

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Filed under Tribal Business Forum, work

Using The Past: A Reflection

What does 9/11 and a cattle drive have to do with one another?  And how did Malcolm Gladwell make this happen?  Read on to find out.

Setting The Scene

Think of a day you received terrible news.  In a previous post I wrote about that day for myself, the day my sister passed on.  This was an experience that I shared with my close loved ones, and my sister lives on in our memories, pictures, and conversations.  As time goes on the grief of her loss ebbs and flows, and we honor her life in different ways.  The process of grief looks differently for all of us, but I believe there are common questions we can ask ourselves that can help us be better people.  

  • Why am I honoring the memory in the way that I am?
  • How am I using the memory to better myself?
  • Is there another way to honor the memory that betters others?

This post will attempt to answer those questions by relaying examples from personal, community, and societal experiences.  

Teaching 9/11

Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell, whose books have been on numerous New York Times Best Sellers lists, hosts a podcast titled Revisionist History.  Gladwell describes the podcast as “going back and reinterpreting something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.”  Some of my favorite episodes include Food Fight, Free Brian Williams, and A Good Walk Spoiled.  Season 5 was recently released and it includes an episode titled A Memorial For The Living, which provides the genesis for this post.  In the episode Gladwell explores both the 9/11 memorial and homelessness, and in doing so he gives  a glimpse into how our society attaches various levels of meaning to people.  

Going back to my first year as an educator in 2012, I have always approached 9/11 with the belief that no matter what we’re learning leading up to that day that I will set aside the day to teach the significance of it to my students.  My method of instruction has evolved and improved, and I’ve used all manner of resources and activities to help students deepen their understanding.  One of my favorite assignments are personal family interviews, where students talk to a person in their family and ask structured questions about 9/11.  I also enjoyed using the resources on Teach Rock, which brings in how music was shaped by 9/11.  

I approached 9/11 in this way because of my experience living through it as a high school student.  My goal was for students to understand the event, but also the emotions.  That was the purpose of the interview, so students who don’t remember 9/11 can begin to understand how it caused people to feel.  Being that I used 9/11 materials each year, I began to apply my improving understanding of teaching methods to strengthen the lessons.  As I began to teach middle school civics two years ago, I began to consider using 9/11 as a community service activity.  I envisioned incorporating local public services, like fire and police, and having students express gratitude.  

Smith Family Cattle Drive and Ranch Rodeo

Growing up, I was taught to be respectful of the elders in my family and community.  My grandpa would tell me to shake their hand and say hello.  I still live with this way of greeting, but there was one person who changed how I looked at it.  My grandpa had several brothers and sisters, and even though I always shook their hand, I can only remember a few times when hugs were given.  As an adult, I distinctly remember the time my uncle Roger first hugged me.  That’s because it was so strange and odd, I remember thinking that this was weird.  Funny how a hug from a loved one can be seen that way.  The thing is, he kept hugging me when we would meet, and eventually I got used to hugging back.  My uncle came to my wedding on March 3, 2012.  I have great memories from that day and I’m happy he was there.  He passed away 10 days later on March 13, 2012.  

Uncle Roger’s life amounts to way more than just the few things I’ve shared, and after he passed his wife and daughters set about honoring his life.  Spurred on by an idea from a family friend, Roger’s wife Diane and their daughters organized a cattle drive for the next year.  The family planned for another cattle drive the next year but this time to honor Roger, his brothers, and their father.  The Smith Family Cattle Drive and Ranch Rodeo was born, and it set about to honor the legacy of the men and their efforts in the cattle industry.  In the next few years a ranch rodeo was added and a non-profit was formed.  

The deep connection of the family to cattle is obvious, as all the men were cattle owners, but as their children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren grow into adulthood the connection is not as close.  Some of the extended family still work in the cattle industry, but a majority now do not.  The purpose of the cattle drive and rodeo then is to recreate a portion of a past life.  To teach how this past life created morals and values that endure to today.  An old saying comes to mind here, which is that you cannot understand a person until you walk in their shoes.  In the case of the cattle drive and ranch rodeo, the Smith family is trying to have their children walk in the boots of their elders.  

A Final Word

Memories are a fickle thing.  Add to that the fact that two people can see the same thing, but interpret it in opposite ways.  There are verifiable facts associated with 9/11, but as events around the country prove, today the interpretation of 9/11 by people is an ongoing process.  The same is true for more personal memories, such as those of a loved one.  What I believe is important is to ask yourself questions, to reflect on your actions, and to use the answers to be a better person.  When we think about the past we risk the danger in getting stuck, always coming back to the same meaning.  We need to use these memories to push us forward, to make us better people.

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Filed under General Interest, grief, self improvement