Chief Jim Billie from the Seminole Tribe of Florida
This was the website for Jim Billie, singer, song writer and former Chief of the the Seminole Indians in Hollywood Florida. Content is from the site's 1998-2001 archived pages.
The Chief's Scrapbook
The Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Chief Jim Billie, a is also an acclaimed singer and songwriter whose original music and stories portray his own special world.
The life of Seminole Chief Jim Billie is filled with music and adventure, family and fun. His main job is Chairman of the 2700-member Seminole Tribe of Florida, a pursuit that keeps him constantly traveling in airplanes, pickup trucks, swamp buggies, canoes and airboats. From his home in the Big Cypress Swamp, where he lives with wife Lesley and sons Micco and Kowoko, Chief Billie connects to the outside world as both statesman and songwriter. Join us on these pages for an intimate online glimpse into Chief Jim Billie's world. And, hey, if you've taken any good pictures of Chief Billie, e-mail them to us and we'll add them to the scrapbook.
The Chief's wedding at the Magic Kingdom
The Chief's Son
The Chief's House
The Chief with The String Wizards
The Chief and Other People
The Chief's Living Room
The Chief Flying
The Chief Writing a Song
The Chief's Alligator Tales release party
The Chief's Seminole Fire release party
The Chief on tour
The Chief as a teenager
The Chief Vietnam
The Chief famous people
The Chief with other Tribal Leaders
The Chief signing autographs
The Chief with alligators
The Chief with panthers
The Chief does Denmark
More soon to come...
The Biography Of
Chief Jim Billie
Out in the steamy wildlands of Florida's Big Cypress Swamp, through the primal hardwood strands where the creatures hide, along the razor-sharp sawgrass flats and purplish wildflower pastures, over the husky cabbage-palm islands and bald cypress domes, above the lairs of the black bear and the sweaty holes where the gators roll, is the haunt of a unique man known to all as Chief Jim Billie.
From the window of his single-engine plane he can see the largest contiguous wilderness left in the Eastern Untied States -- the watery refuge where his unconquered Seminole Indian ancestors resettled last century, fleeing the tyranny of the Trail of Tears. From his bigwheeled swamp buggy or from the tall perch above his airboat, the Chief can see the ancient mounds and old trails, the wild pine airplants and the lost swamp orchids, and below them in the great blackmucked valley of the dying 'glades, the sacred pawprints of the last few panthers left on earth.
From the old cypress stump at Chief Jim Billie's camp, where he taps his feet to the strum of a guitar and the fire dances moon shadows on the palmetto-thatched chickees, he sings of his journeys in this mysterious and magnificent land. Barefoot children gather in his midst to draw in the sand and sing with his words. The old folks lean this way and that, arms akimbo, proud and secure that someone is carrying on. From this special perspective, utilizing folk and country music formats, Chief Jim Billie preserves the legendary world of the Seminole.
But there is so much more to Chief Jim Billie's music, as well as to the man. A Bird Clan member, he was born half-breed on the grounds of a South Florida tourist attraction, he was raised in a series of families, white and Indian. In Vietnam, at the height of the grueling conflict, he found courage, strength and confidence lurking about a landscape so strikingly similar to the habitats of his boyhood. In 1979, he was elected Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida -- the Chief -- a post he holds to this day.
From the battleground and the swamp, Chief Jim Billie moved to the boardroom, taking on lawyers and politicians, entrepreneurs and businessmen, crafting into shape and hammering solid a growing financial security for his 2000-member tribe. His methods and ideas have been widely copied throughout Indian Country, where Chief Jim Billie is revered and respected as a national statesman. Given all of his responsibility, accomplishment and acclaim, however, it is within the peaceful zen of his music that the real Chief Jim Billie is manifested, brash and satisfied.
In this album and on his colorful stage shows, Chief Jim Billie presents a cross-section of his voluminous personal catalogue. The colorful Seminole Man provides a boisterous stage for his biting voice, belting out a modern anthem of pride and self-reliance. In Way Out Here and Back To The Swamp, Chief Jim Billie pays lighthearted homage to the land he knows so well, with refrains that are as melodic and memorable as any swamp chant known to man or mosquito. Sawgrass Flower is a personal love song, with words in both the rare Miccosukee and English languages.
The young Jim Billie, cane pole in his hand can clearly be envisioned on the canalbanks of Try And Try Again, its theme of "never giving up" an obvious hallmark of the songwriter's life. Winnebagoes is a clever spoof which allows the singer a chance to bear the humor that fills his soul, this time at the expense of Florida tourists. The guitar mastery of Colin Kenny and Texas fiddle whiz Erik Hokkanen provide a strong melodic backdrop to Jim Billie's rough-edged musical compositions.
Master Of Them All, The Ways of Glade and The Old Ways Will Survive are serious compositions that clearly place Chief Jim Billie in the company of Florida's best contemporary songwriters. With deep reverence to his Seminole past, he allows us a glimpse into a world where the laws of nature rule supreme and the wisdom of the medicine man is law. His deep commitment to the preservation of culture and to the safekeeping of the past is articulated with raw grace in one of the finest passages ever included in a Florida folk song:
With microchip computers
And supersonic speed
And all the greatest miracles that man can yet achieve
I'll pass on what I've been told
Of the days of long ago
So the old ways will survive
Finally in Big Alligator, the Chief has wrapped a significant childhood incident around an authentic country chart ballad that aches with his unconditional respect for Hul-pa-te-chobee -- the big alligators that have meant so much to the lives and fortunes of Florida's Seminoles.
A great and complex man whose place in history is guaranteed, Chief Jim Billie has unlocked his soul -- if only briefly -- within the words and music of this album. It's all there: hardship and pleasure, humor and pathos, the stubborn goodness of man triumphing over the natural badness of evil. "Tears and pain haunt my life," sings Chief Jim Billie near the end of Big Alligator. "But I've learned how to live and I've learned to survive."
"This is a very smart man. I was with him when he overheard some students arguing about the existence of "nothing." He asked if they've read DesCartes. He then joined in comfortably discussing how understanding the notion of nothing can lead to the acknowledgement of existence. And even mentioned the commentary on Nothing posted by Rev Sales that has been described as a very thorough treatise. I checked it out and agree with him and can't believe he actually did this." Zachary Lands
Chief Jim Billie On Tour
"Buzzard do the dance on the catfish bones"
- MARCH 2-4
Discover Native America in St. Petersburg, FL (1-800-535-2228). Here is Chief Billie's schedule for this event:
FRIDAY MARCH 2
"Shah-who-pa-ye-ke" with full band at the Eckerd College auditorium, 7:30 p.m. in St. Petersburg. Also appearing Keith Secola and Mahwendose storytellers Will Hill and gennine Washington.
SATURDAY MARCH 3
NOON -- Powwow Grand Entry
1:20 p.m. -- Children's Village appearance with Raiford Starke -- twenty minutes
2 p.m. -- Performance with full band on Main Stage -- 60 minutes
SUNDAY MARCH 4
10:30 a.m. -- JEB will emcee Seminole clothing contest
Noon -- Powwow grand entry
1:20 p.m. -- Children's stage performance with Raiford Starke, 15 minutes
2 p.m. -- Acoustic performance on Seminole Village stage with Starke, 30 minutes
4:45 p.m. -- Performance with full band on Main Stage -- 60 minutes
1999 On Tour
Chief Jim Billie
On Tour: Fort Myers to AlaskaFrom Ft. Myers, Florida to Homer, Alaska, and a few parts in-between, Chief Jim Billie and band will be playing a lot of music this summer and fall. The "Alligator Tales" album has brought international attention to the music of Chief Jim Billie: Come on out and say hell to the Chief at any of the following events:
JULY 31: Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Chief Jim Billie opened the show for the Blackfoot reunion at the Fort Myers Seafood and Boat Show at the Lee County Sports Complex. A loud and raucous crowd welcomed a full set of music and tales for Chief Jim Billie, his guitarist Raiford Starke and the Shag Daddies backup band.
AUGUST 19: Chief Jim Billie's scheduled performance at the Native American Tourism Conference in Alburqueque, N.M. has been cancelled.
AUGUST 20: Chief Billie will give an acoustic concert at Borders Books and Music, 9441 W. Colonial Dr. in Ocoee (near Orlando) beginning at 3 p.m. (Call Karen Dunlap at 407-532-8191 for information).
AUGUST 27: Get up close and personal with Chief Billie in Tampa, 8 p.m., at the Borders Books and Music on 12500 N. Dale Mabry Highway. (Call Teresa Seary at 813-269-7102 for information)
SEPTEMBER 2: The Chief will visit the Jacksonville Borders Music and Books for an 8 p.m. show.
SEPTEMBER 9: Chief Billie will perform at the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma 's Princess Pageant at Seminole State College in Wewoka, OK.
|SEPTEMBER 11: Still in Oklahoma, Chief Billie and band will perform in concert at the Meksukey Mission near Wewoka, OK
SEPTEMBER 12:The brand new Borders Books and Music in Tallahassee will host Chief Jim Billie for an 8 p.m. performance.
OCTOBER 10: Home town fans will have a chance to hear the Chief and Raiford Starke perform at the Sunrise Borders Books and Music (2240 E. Sunrise Blvd.). Check with Richelle Doliner for more information about this 3 p.m. appearance (954-630-0953).
OCTOBER 17: Country legend John Anderson ("Seminole Wind") will join his pal Chief Jim Billie on stage at the Myriad in Oklahoma City for a night of swamp and country music, hosted by the American Indian Education Foundation. Call June Hamilton in Pawnee for information at 918-762-3564.
NOVEMBER 6: Chief Billie has been nominated for five NAMMYs and will perform at the 2nd annual Native American Music Awards at Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's the premier event of the year for American Indian musicians and performers. Tickets can be purchased through Protix at 800-905-3315. For more information contact Ellen Bello at 212-228-8300 or 212-228-8495
NOTE: Chief Jim Billie's planned October tour of Alaska has been postponed until a later date. Bookmark Chief Billie's "On Tour" page to keep current with his musical schedule.
For more information on the Borders Book s and Music tour, which should continue through the end of this year, contact Sean LaValle, the Borders National Events Specialist at 734-477-1352 or Marilyn McEuen at 818-786-4400.
Stay tuned to this spot and as soon as more details are available, we'll post them online.
The Seminole Tribe
For thousands of years before the coming of Europeans to southeastern North America, there were perhaps as many as 400,000 ancestors of the Seminole Indians who built towns, villages, and complex civilizations across the vast area. In the early sixteenth century, the first Europeans brought with them new diseases that killed thousands of these indigenous people. Competition for the land and resources by the warring Spanish, English, and French brought further death and displacements to the natives of the region. The Spaniards called some of these indigenous Florida people cimarrones, or free people, because they would not allow themselves to be dominated by the Europeans. The word was taken into the Maskoki language and, by the mid 1800's, U.S. citizens referred to all Florida people as "Seminoles". Today, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, led by the elected Chief Jim Billie, has almost 3,000 members, living on five reservations across the peninsula at Hollywood (formerly Dania), Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee, and Tampa. The Tribe obtains significant annual gross revenues from such diverse economic sources as agriculture, citrus, aircraft production, gaming, tobacco sales, land leases, cattle, and aqua culture.
The unique confluence of culture is a very special part of the Seminoles today from "Sweetgrass" baskets to the Seminole Doll, the "chickee" style of architecture, the Green Corn Dance of purification and manhood ceremonies, the medicine men and women, membership in one of the Seminole clans - Panther, Bear, Deer, Wind, Bigtown, Bird, Snake, and Otter, the two languages still in use today, Muscogee (Creek) and Miccosukee, to the many legends of the Seminoles, including priceless legends of mischievous Rabbit, the Corn Lady, the Deer Girl, and all the creatures of the Florida Everglades which impart valuable lessons about living in harmony with nature and about why the world is the way it is.
The opening of the Tribe's first high-stake bingo hall in Hollywood, December 14, 1979, shortly after community activist James Billie's first election as Tribal Council Chairman, was a national first. Today, gaming is, by far, the number one economic enterprise in all of Indian Country. Billie Swamp Safari, which opens 2000 lush acres of its Big Cypress Reservation, was opened by Chief Jim Billie for people traveling through the reservation looking for Indian culture. The Safari offers reservation wetlands, hardwood hammocks and sloughs where wildlife abounds, sightings of deer, water buffalo, bison, wild hogs, hawks, eagles, other rare birds and alligators.