Photo: Michael Heape
Louise Gopher is a 'Florida Icon'
I was born in an orange grove because that’s where my parents were working at the time, so that’s where they established their camp. I was born in a chickee. Sometimes, we would live in a trailer or some other structure. I must have been almost finished with school before I actually moved into a house with all the comforts — indoor bathrooms, indoor showers, running water.
When I was a kid, I only spoke my native language: Creek. No English. I guess my father knew a little to get by at work and my mother probably did, too, but I didn’t learn English until I started going to school.
I like football games. I’m a fanatic.
My daughter Carla was FSU’s first Seminole Indian graduate back in 1996. While she was there, I guess I made a lot of contacts. I started taking kids up there, like on spring break. We would tour Gainesville, too, and go on up to Florida State, tour, and we’d always meet Bobby Bowden. They always rolled out the red carpet for us.
Don’t forget our ancestors. They went through a lot to get us here.
I was the first female member of the Seminole Tribe to earn a bachelor’s degree. I lived in Fort Pierce, and a junior college had been built, Indian River Community College, and I Finished two years there and then went to Florida Atlantic University. After awhile, people kept saying, ‘She’s been going to school forever,’ but I knew the education was helping me.
We were so into pushing our kids into the white culture and catching them up that we were forgetting about own culture. We were trying to fix this for years, trying to teach the Native American language and history to our young people, and the effort became a charter school, which opened on the reservation in 2007. We call it ‘Pemayetv Emahakv,’ which means ‘Teaching Our Way.’
The traditional foods are still my favorite foods. I like fry bread and sofkee. Sofkee is a drink that we drink all the time, any time. It’s made from grains, like rice or grits or oatmeal. In the old days, it was made from roasted corn, which was a long procedure. We still make it that way, but not often, so when we do have it, everybody jumps on it.
We lived in camps, near Fort Pierce, with a lot of other families living nearby. My parents did agricultural work. It seemed like every evening there was a big bonfire or campfire and we sat around and that’s when you listened to the stories and legends and learned the history.
Somebody told me awhile back, ‘education is your gold mine,’ and I would spout that to kids, everywhere I went. What you learn stays with you. The gold mine is in your head.
Being a little 5- or 6-yearolder, I didn’t realize what problems my father had to deal with getting me into school. He had to go to the school board to get us enrolled in St. Lucie County. This was back during segregation. You had the white students and the black students. Native Americans, where did we fit in? Finally, they put us in with the white kids.
Living on the reservation feels comfortable and safe. I can’t imagine having family living across the country. Here, they’re right down the street.
We have two dialects in the Seminole Tribe. It’s like having two languages. One is the Creek language, and the other is Miccosukee. I speak Creek. The languages are so different. A lot of people who understand one can’t understand the other.
I own beef cattle. I like to ride out where they are, where it’s peaceful. They call to me, and I talk to them.
My grandfather, Desoto Tiger, he was killed when my mother was 2 weeks old. He’s a history story. Did you ever hear of the John Ashley gang? They ran up and down the south Florida coast in the 1910s to about the 1920s. They were outlaws. Where my grandfather fits in, he was their first victim. He was a fur trapper and was taking some otter hides down to Miami in 1911. John Ashley killed him and took the hides.
Public education always needs improvement. I know it’s a budget thing, but we need more teachers and smaller classrooms.
Gopher is a Native American name, I guess. I don’t know what it stems from. My sister’s name was Smith. In fact, we had brothers with different last names: Frank Shore, Oscar Hall, Sam Jones. They just gave us names.
In case you missed it:
- Bello Nock is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Zev Buffman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- M.J. Soileau is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Susan Benton is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Terry Stiles is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Theresa Manuel is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon
- Joe Redner is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Nicole Johnson is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ron Magill is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Artis Gilmore is a ‘Florida Icon'
- An Interview with George Billiris
- Frank Morsani is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alto ‘Bud' Adams Jr. is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Winston Scott is a 'Florida Icon'
- Florida Icon: Carlton Ward Jr.
- Florida Icon: Mel Tillis
- Robert M. 'Bob' Beall II is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Peter Meinke - A life in poetry
- Carl Hiaasen is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Nan-Yao Su is a Florida 'Icon'
- Roland Martin is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Florida Icon: Derrick Brooks
- An interview with Annika Sorenstam
- Iconic Florida developer H. Irwin Levy
- ‘Alligator' Ron Bergeron is a Florida Icon
- Howard Schnellenberger is a Florida 'Icon'
- Florida Icon: Barbara Mainster
- Florida Icon: Walter Lanier ‘Red' Barber
- H. Lee Moffitt is a 'Florida Icon'
- Kiran Patel is a 'Florida Icon'
- 'Florida Icon' Howard C. Tibbals shares life lessons
- Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
- Life lessons from hockey great Phil Esposito
- Lucy Morgan is a 'Florida Icon'
- Donald Goodman is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ed Droste is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ray Ferrero Jr. - Florida Icon
- W. George Allen is a 'Florida Icon'
- Tom James is a 'Florida Icon'
- Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'
- Jerry Uelsmann is a 'Florida Icon'
- John L. Parker is a 'Florida Icon'
- C.C. 'Doc' Dockery is a 'Florida Icon'
- Toni Jennings is a 'Florida Icon'
- Dave Barry is a 'Florida Icon'
- Shaquille O'Neal is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ruth Alexander is a Florida Icon
- Brian Johnson is a Florida Icon
- Florida Icon: Sam Gibbons
- Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
- Icon: Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits
- Icon: Charles E. 'Chuck' Cobb Jr.
- Icon: John DeGrove
- Icon: Charles Gray
- Icon: Harry Crews
- Icon: Burt Reynolds
- Icon: Tibor Hollo
- Icon: Gary Mormino
- Icon: Richard Gonzmart
- Icon: Bob Graham
- Icon: Ward Hall
- Icon: Eugenie Clark
- Icon: Warrick Dunn
- Icon: Arthur Rutenberg
- Icon: Chris Evert
- Icon: Preston Haskell
- Icon: Joseph Kittinger
- Icon: The Fanjul Brothers
- Icon: Romero Britto
- Icon: Steve Raymund
- Icon: Cesar L. Alvarez
- Icon: Juan 'Chi Chi' Rodriguez
- Icon: Gay Culverhouse
- Icon: Gene Leedy
- Icon: William R. Hough
- Icon: Peter Prichard
- Icon: Ed Price
- Icon: David L. Paul
- Icon: Jan Garavaglia
- Icon: Claude R. Kirk Jr.
- Icon: Don Zimmer
- Icon: Kenneth H. 'Buddy' MacKay
- Icon: Dick Vitale
- Icon: Michael Gannon
- Icon: Marcella Hazan
- Icon: Tony Little
- Icon: Wade L. Hopping
- Icon: Edgar Mitchell
- Icon: James Rosenquist
- Icon: Bob Martinez
- Icon: Arnold Palmer
- Icon: Don Shula
- Icon: Mike Peters
- Icon: Margaret D. Lowman
- Icon: Doug Williams
- Icon: Bob Butterworth
- Icon: Fred Schultz
- Icon: Eugene Patterson
- Icon: Harris Mullen
- Icon: Bill Haast
- Icon: Marion P. Hammer
- Icon: Albert Dunlap
- Icon: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
- Icon video: Joseph Hatchett
- Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte
- Icon: John Walsh
- Icon: James Robert Cade
- Icon: Nathaniel Pryor Reed
- Icon: Gus Stavros
- Icon: Betty Castor
- Icon: Mary Ann Carroll
- Icon: George Steinbrenner
- Icon: Ferdie Pacheco
- Icon: Vic Dunaway
- Icon: George Smathers
- Icon: Phyllis Apple
- Icon: Nick Bollettieri
- Icon: Harris Rosen
- Icon: Max Mayfield
- Icon: Carrie Meek
- Icon: Andres Duany
- Icon: T. Willard Fair
- Icon: Bobby Bowden
- Icon: Stetson Kennedy
- Icon: Don Francisco
- Icon: Janet Reno
- Icon: Reubin O'D. Askew
- Icon: Clyde Butcher
- Icon: Willie Gary
- Icon: Wayne Huizenga