MARCH 6 Today's post provided by Jan Godown Annino
Toddler In Peril Becomes A Leader Of Her Tribe
To college sports fans, Seminoles are the strong kids using muscle for Florida State University. They wear garnet and gold colors. And sometimes, they put on a dramatic black.
To me the Seminoles are today’s members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida & more important, they are the fabled ancestors of today’s Seminole Tribe of Florida members.
One unique tribal member of modern times who I wrote about for young readers is Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.
In writing about her through SHE SANG PROMISE, I came to the story from outside the culture. A School Library Journal post that covers this outsider status.
This life story of a girl who survived death threats in the 1920s & faced discrimination throughout her life is recognized by the 2011 American Library Association Social Responsibilities Round Table’s Feminist Taskforce.
Another title from the ALA Taskforce in its annual Amelia Bloomer Project List, includes a 10 year-old author who was also a 10-year old divorced child. Her book helps us understand that this situation isn’t unique & that volunteer attorneys make a difference in children’s lives every day. Nujood Ali is already a leader of her people by her divorce action. I hope that if she wants to, she can grow up to be a leader of her people in an official capacity, as did Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.
When I open up a black drawstring Seminole patchwork bag & invite children to pull out a shed snakeskin, they connect with the idea that Betty Mae was born into the important Snake Clan. She grew up to hear repeatedly, the oral history of two girl ancestors who escaped brutal treatment on the Florida portion of the Trail of Tears in a dramatic run across the peninsula. This ensured survival of Betty Mae’s Snake Clan. Children I present to also hear about the traditional matriarchic society of Seminole people.
The patchwork bag also holds a piece of wood carved into a model flat-boat, by tribal elder Bobby Henry. These boats were one key to the Seminoles’ superior shallow Everglades travel, compared to Yankee canoeists of the 1800s who paddled in deep-V boats that mired in muck. The Seminoles stood & poled their floating log barge.
A photographic postcard in my collection, of Betty Mae’s royal Seminole grandfather, further connects children to the Seminoles’ unconquered past.
Children take to their hearts the letter written directly to them by her son, poet Moses Jumper, Jr. who gifts them with two special words.
Excitement about alligator wrestling & puzzled reaction to unfamiliar tonal sounds, such as a chant to accompany a traditional dance, are also keen parts of the uncommon visit with Seminole culture.
As an outsider to the Seminoles, I’m forever grateful that Mrs. Jumper made an overture to me across a table of crafts at an Indian Festival in the early 1980s.
I attended to write a newspaper story. I stood at her table reading a newspaper that I plucked from a stack of them, folded near the crafts. It intrigued me to find my familiar medium among the soft piles of folded patchwork clothing in rainbow colors that grabbed attention. Seminoles are known for this original wearable art, worldwide.
|Photo from the Florida |
Women's Hall of Fame, a
project of the Florida
Commission on the
Status of Women
As a barefoot child she survived death threats at her remote family camp. Later Betty Mae begged her grandmother to be able to become literate at age 14. She received a formal education at boarding school in North Carolina, additional training in nursing in Oklahoma, & chose to return home to help her then-impoverished people, whom she loved.
When she became the first woman elected a leader of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, in 1967, there was less than $40 in the bank account, she told me.
This was about 18 years before the equally legendary Wilma Mankiller earned the job of principal chief of the Cherokee people. Betty Mae Tiger Jumper served a U.S. President on an advisory committee & was an invited presenter at the American Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. in 1969. Her voice is heard on two Smithsonian folk music/storytelling CD recordings. She was inducted into halls of fame, held an
honorary doctorate from Florida State University & earned many other honors.
In a long amazing life, some aspects most intrigue readers:
Why & how Betty Mae Jumper wrestled alligators
Why she received death threats as a toddler & how she survived them
How a child who wasn’t literate at age 13, came to publish 3 books & edit two newspapers
I am most lifted up by how a girl who didn’t read as a young child, valued the printed word after not enjoying the secrets of it during her first 14 years in South Florida. Please seek out her own writing in her collection of important stories that teach traditional ways & beliefs, LEGENDS of the SEMINOLES. http://www.semtribe.com/Culture/Legends.aspx
From Jan Godown Annino at http://www.bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/
SHE SANG PROMISE: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader,
by Jan Godown Annino, with oil paintings by Lisa Desimini. Afterword letter from Moses Jumper, Jr. National Geographic Children’s Books
www.ngchildrensbooks.org (subject- biography- title in alphabetic order)
Giveaway offer - a free copy of SHE SANG PROMISE: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader. In a comment to this post, please share a well- regarded non-fiction title (providing the author name, illustrator, if applicable, publisher, & year of pub.) This title will be for the elementary ages, about a First Peoples/American Indian/Native American topic. Jan will select one recipient, but there will be two books given, one for you & one which you are asked to present to a library of your choice. Many thanks!