Hollywood, FL In its quest to pass Seminole traditions to
the next generation, the Hollywood Culture Department recently taught
young men and boys the ins and outs of chickee building. They started
by collecting raw materials in the Everglades and finished by adding
another completed chickee to the culture camp adjacent to the Howard
Tiger Recreation Center.
Tiger, 16, learns to attach palm fans to the frame of a chickee
he helped build on the Hollywood Reservation Aug. 14.
"When we were young, we were told how to make chickees out of
necessity," said Bobby Frank, Hollywood Community Culture Center
manager. "I had to learn to build them to make an income."
Now the objective is passing along the skills and confidence
to build chickees. While the group, ages 10 to 24, harvested logs
in Big Cypress for the chickee frame, Frank taught them how to identify
suitable cypress trees. Later, they collected palm fans in Brighton.
"We are passing along a legacy," Frank said. "It's our responsibility
to know how to build these because when we get married, we have
Frank strips bark from a cypress log as Hollywood Community
Culture Center manager Bobby Frank helps Tanner Gore, 10,
get the hang of it during a chickee-building project July
29 on the Hollywood Reservation.
Frank, Morgan Frank and Milo Osceola mentored the group as they
learned to construct the 12-foot-by-12-foot chickee. As they stripped
the logs, they learned the blades had to be sharpened often to make
the job easier. The group effort with teachers and students often
featured two or three people working on a single log.
Holly Bowers made sure her 16-year old son Rhett Tiger participated
to gain traditional skills, among other lessons.
"He's learning a lot beyond building a chickee," Bowers said.
"He's learning social skills, discipline, taking direction, learning
to speak to his elders and take part in community activities."
"It's a good experience and I've never done it before," Rhett
said. "I learned what poles to cut and how to peel them. It's a
lot of work, but it's fun. I'm looking forward to seeing it finished."
The project began in late July. One chickee has been completed
and a second is expected to be finished soon.
Although Aaron Cypress, 24, participated in the class, he wasn't
a novice; it was his third time helping build a chickee. He doesn't
know many from his generation in Hollywood who want to learn traditional
skills, but he hopes the project will spur interest.
At age 10, Tanner Gore already realizes the importance of knowing
how to build chickees.
"When I get older, it will be good for my own chickees," he
said. "I'm happy that I'm doing it. It feels great."
Myra Frank, Culture Center assistant manager, said learning
traditional ways is crucial for young men.
Throughout Seminole history, men have been responsible for providing
shelter for their families.
"They go into the woods and figure out how to maneuver there
and use tools," she said. "We need to pass it on because the older
ones won't always be around; someone has to learn and pass it on."