Betty Mae Tiger Jumper

Visit the pages of the Seminole Tribe of Florida for more information about the Tribe & about the Tribe’s first elected woman leader,  Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.
For an art book of coloring pages, visit the outstanding Seminole Tribe of Florida site, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

Betty Mae Tiger Jumper wrestled alligators, survived death threats as a child & returned to her people in South Florida to interpret English into the Creek & Mikasuki languages for them, to lead them & to guide them in improving their health, after receiving her formal education and a nursing degree.

She celebrated her birthday circa 1923, on every April 27. Her funeral service in January 2011, after a long & important life, was a lovely & moving ceremony for family & friends that was often conducted in words her two native languages, Creek & Mikasuki. Her grandson preached & her son told great stories.  People came from all over the state of Florida & beyond, to honor her Memory; I was fortunate to be there.

Years ago on a news writing assignment, I was fortunate to meet Mrs. Jumper. We stayed in touch & I regularly read the Tribe newspaper she edited.  I eventually brought our daughter to meet her. I consider it an honor that she  authorized me to write her picture book story for children. The book is enriched with a letter to children from poet Moses Jumper, Jr., Mrs. Jumper’s son.

Here are a sampling of additional resources:

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is an invaluable learning center.  The Mosaic Gallery is here:

In addition to traditional & contemporary original textile art, Seminole & Miccosukee tribe members are accomplished artists in other formats, such as sculpture and painting.  I treasure an untitled watercolor scene I purchased in the 1980s by artist Paul Billie. [detail, below.]  Among the many other artists of note are Noah Billie, Erica Deitz, Christian T. Osceola, Jacqueline K. Osceola, Mary Gay Osceola, Josephine [Jo] Motlow North, & Ernie Dwight Tiger,. IMG_8111

You may want to visit a book club site promoting literacy for young American Indian readers ( This link is thanks to a guest blog by Nancy Bo Flood  at a publisher site I know through my critique partner,  Dorina Lazo Gilmore. That publisher site  – Paper Tigers –  is its blog

And the American Indian reading club site  – “If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything” is at :


To donate/loan materials

on the topic of Betty Mae Jumper, be in touch with :

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum /Registration Dept. 30290 Josie Billie Hwy, PMB 1003 Clewiston FL 33440

Copies of images are appreciated by Florida Memory, as mentioned at the online archive of the Florida Department of State: “If you have Florida-related images that you are interested in donating or loaning, please contact the staff at The State Archives of Florida appreciates your interest in the Florida Memory Program.”

Also, for information on donating/sharing diaries, letters & similar materials:

Escorting Family to Safety copyright Bronze By Cooley

Seminole Indian & Native Indians-Florida

A Guide to the Miccosukee LanguageMiccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida /Mile Marker 70, U.S.    41 Tamiami Trail, Miami, FL 33144


Art of the Florida Seminole & Miccosukee Indians- Dorothy Downs

A SEMINOLE LEGEND –    Betty Mae Tiger Jumper & Patsy West

Florida Place Names of Indian Origin– William A Read/ introduction Patricia Wiles Wickman

Patchwork, Art & Activities of the Seminole & Miccosukee People – Dorothy Downs/ photographic illustrations (“The activities in Chapter 4 may be reproduced without the publisher’s permission.”

ECHOES IN THE WIND, The Seminole Poetry of Moses Jumper, Jr. / Moses Jumper, Jr.

Guy LaBree, Barefoot Artist of the Florida Seminoles/ Carol Mahler/ Guy La Bree illustrations

LEGENDS OF THE SEMINOLES–  Betty Mae Jumper/ introduction-long biographical note, Peter Gallagher

SEMINOLE COLORS- Seminole Tribe of Florida artists provide line drawings to color & informative commentary

Seminole Freedom – Doug Alderson – a novel

My Work Among the Florida Seminoles – James Lafayette Glenn

She Sang Promise, The Story of Betty Mae Jumper/ Jan Godown Annino/ Lisa Desimini, illustrator/ Moses Jumper, Jr. afterword letter

The Crafts of Florida’s First People-Robin C. Brown, photographic illustrations The Enduring Seminoles – Patsy West (Betty Mae Jumper references)The Seminoles – Andrew Frank

The Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes of South Florida – Patsy West (Betty Mae Jumper references, photographs of both Betty Mae & Moses Jumper, Sr., her husband)

The Timucuan Indians – Kelly  G. Weitzel

Unconquered People, Florida’s Seminole I Miccosukee Indians – Brent Richards Wiseman


Apalachee Region

Aucilla River Project

Cool Connections/Seminoles

Crystal River Archaeological State Park –

Florida Archaeology

Randell Research Center/Calusa site

Temple Mound/Fort Walton culture

The Miami Circle/Tequesta

USPS stamp issued in 2004, male doll, about 1935

   Some Ideas Before Reading

  What do you know about The Seminoles & also about Betty Mae Tiger Jumper?

Some people have read the legend of The Cherokee Rose.    

Name a Seminole Indian legend.

Yes or No   There can only be one true Seminole Tribe.

Yes or No  Betty Mae Tiger Jumper’s husband fought in the last of the Seminole Wars.

Two future U.S. Presidents participated in wars against the Seminoles. Name one or both.

Yes or No     Betty Mae Tiger Jumper sings on two Smithsonian  CDs

Biography in a Bag

BOOK ACTIVITIES – She Sang Promise

Class applications / Object learning / Literacy through Art, Song & Poetry

Alligator  Chickee    Clans   Patchwork       Portrait      Poetry

Songs to Hear              Songs to Sing     Vocabulary    

Videos/film  to View       Your Treasure Box

1/  ALLIGATOR –  (for fun songs about alligators, see Songs to Sing section #8,  Activities)

“Chronology/ 1946 – She continues to work as a nurse, sells crafts and wrestles alligators on days when Moses is sick.”      from She Sang Promise, back of book chronology

a/Listen          An alligator wrestler talks of dangers,  podcast Stop 6 at

b/What colors are alligators?            

c/Craft                   embellish an alligator transforming  the letter “A

d/What important job do alligators have during drought:  & discover, in print – Everglades Forever by Trish Marx & The Everglades by Ann Ake

e/Draw an alligator after study of artist Lisa Desimini’s picture, She Sang Promise, p. 22-23.

Draw an Alligator how- to:

Download an alligator coloring page for bulletin boards, report covers or whatever you wish –

a GREAT Alligator from a Letter “A”
a GREAT Alligator from Letter “A”


Look at authentic Chickees-

Create a model -Thin sticks can be poles, craft sticks are glued on the floor of the elevated platform, which is cardboard floor. The roof can be a cardstock page, fringed by scissors. If thin sticks won’t work, crafts sticks can also be poles, requiring a longer opening in the cardboard floor. Use caution when you work with sticks, paste or glue & scissors & always provide close student supervision if you ask children to work with these materials.  View models at my activities page:


Create a clan design. Read the short piece about clan matriarchy at the Seminole Tribe of Florida cultural page. See the designs for Wind, Panther, Big Town, Bird, Snake, Deer, Otter, & Bear clans. Pick a clan among those, & create an image of that clan word.

4/ Seminole/Miccosukee PATCHWORK

Create a paper bookmark inspired by traditional fabric patchwork clothing.

Find directions online, thanks to Maggie Soff for the link to Austin Community College, Texas  (watch the moving picture example at the end!)

And find diagrams in chapter 4, of Patchwork, Art & Activities of Seminole & Miccosukee Indians of Florida by Dorothy Downs, which can be reproduced for education purposes.Popular Seminole designs have been named rain, fire, & tree. There are multiple others.

See Seminole/Miccosukee Patchwork designs online.

5/  PORTRAIT Literacy

Create your portrait of the life of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, in collage, mosaic, line drawing, water color, pencil, crayon, oil, manga style, sculpture or other format.  For one collage idea, download available photographs of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, cut them out & add symbols representing her life, in freehand drawing, or cut from magazine artwork, or other sources.  Of interest is the  “Reading’ Portraiture ”  educator guide from the Smithsonian –

Decide which symbols of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper’s life to include in your portrait.  See the symbols selected by artist Lisa Desimini. (pages 26-27, SSP).  Does you portrait include any of the symbols artist Lisa Desimini selected?

LISA DESIMINI portrait of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper from She Sang Promise c. all rights reserved

6/ POETRY   Present a poem

The poetry chapbook of Betty Mae Tiger’s son, Moses Jumper, Jr. ECHOES IN THE WIND is a rare look inside a way of life, with important photographs & drawings.   Especially note the poem,


The site for the World Catalogue can lead you to a library copy.

Create a tribute poem/rap about Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, or about the Seminole people.    Here are some of Jan’s verses, (copyright Jan Godown, all rights reserved, reproduction permission given for your education purposes, with proper credit).

from the BETTY MAE RAP POEM  by Jan Godown Annino

Seminoles did NOT live in Tipis

They built homes on stilts

We call them Chickees

Alligators can be MEAN                                                                               Alligators give our Everglades

But in the wild                                                                                  some COOL

Don’t expect them to be                                                             They dig deep to make drinking POOLS

Polka dot, yellow or LIME GREEN !!!!

THE shape of Florida

is skinny & LONG

– now it’s time for my Betty Mae song –

Betty Mae Betty Mae

where are you Betty Mae

Betty Mae

enjoying TURTLE STEW!!!!

Betty Mae Betty Mae      where’s your SCHOOL

Betty Mae Betty Mae      you are cool !!!!

Betty Mae Betty Mae     what are your tools

FIRE!!!!  BARE FEET !!!! LONG SKIRT !!!! Feel the HEAT !!!! all rights reserved Jan Godown c. 2010

7/   SONGS to hear

SEMINOLE songs of the traditional elders are most often described as ceremonial, infused with sounds that have importance and no particular translation. They are tonal; primarily a sound to achieve an effect.

Due to her family’s protection of her from elders singing at the traditional Green Corn Dance, a religious and judicial event, Betty Mae didn’t hear some traditional songs as a child. She heard them when she was older. Note: pre-select segments, before offering to students not be accustomed to sustained, repetitive chanting type music.  They may also find the storytelling style different than entertainments they know.

Songs of the Seminole Indians of Florida Smithsonian Folkways  – 10 songs

Beautiful Beyond/ Smithsonian Folkways- Betty Mae Jumper, track 25 “Jesus Made the Road”

Heartbeat/  Smithsonian Folkways –Betty Mae Jumper, track 20 “The Mice & The Bad Angel,”

track 21, Turtle’s Song to the Wolf, track 29 “Beautiful Mansion in the Sky”, track 30” Hallelujah

One importance of Betty Mae’s singing is that Seminoles aren’t an unchanging people. Her songs & her entire story teach the concept of change.

8/  SONGS to sing

Hulpatee chobee – “BIG Alligator”  in  the Mikasuki language (Hitchiti) is sung by a Seminole leader who Betty Mae Tiger Jumper protected as a child. Like her, he was from a mixed-race union. The “Big Alligator” song is featured in The Florida Music Train, which was made available to many school districts from the publisher, The Florida Department of State Florida Folklife Program, 2002. It is a 100-page lesson plan/workbook & CD.

BIG ALLIGATOR” opening verse, by Jim Billie, c. James Billie, all rights reserved:

Big alligator, he’s mysterious

Big alligator, he’s amphibious

Big alligator, he’s dangerous

But with a big alligator, you can be prosperous

Find “BIG ALLIGATOR on YouTube, along with the John Anderson signature, “SEMINOLE WIND.”

Some other alligator songs, sung to popular tunes:  “Alligator, You’re The One” (to “Rubber Duckie”  Sesame Street)

Alligator – you’re the one

You make nature lots of fun

Once endangered

Protection has brought you back.

And That’s a FACT!!!!

Five Little Gator Logs“ words copyright Jan Godown          (tune is Five Speckled Frogs)

FIVE little Gator logs                                                               FOUR little Gator logs (eat ice cream)

Swimming in a cypress bog                                                             THREE                (form a team)

Eating the most delicious FISH- yum, yum!! !                         TWO            (find a new stream)

One swims away upstream                                                    ONE        (climbs a moonbeam)

Over there to          (sleep and dream)                                                          NOW THERE ARE NO GATOR LOGS !!!!

Now there are FOUR Gator logs. (go to column up above)

all rights reserved c. Jan Godown/Jan Godown Annino


Because of the challenge in understanding 2 traditionally unwritten languages of Florida, which are Mikasuki (also known by native speakers Hichitchi and Creek (also known by native speakers Muscogee-Creek)

emphasis can be on understanding the meaning & not on saying some concepts/words.  Here are 3 concepts/words from the SHE SANG PROMISE glossary.

Breathgiver  In Seminole creation belief, Breathgiver, also Breathmaker, trapped animals inside Earth. The creatures burst out, because tree roots dug into the ground, providing openings.

Chickee     A hand-made shelter, sleeping place, or storage site. Often with a platform. It has no walls & is covered by a palmetto topped roof. Although not used for homes today, chickees are made by Seminole & Miccosukee builders, in business to provide picnic, pool, & patio shelters to Tribe members & others.

Ho-La-Wa-Gus  A word meaning bad luck or bad spirits; what Elders said Betty Mae was given, having been born to a white father instead of a Seminole father.

10/ VIEW/  Video & Films

The Corn Lady  as told by Betty Mae Jumper. An oral tradition of information-keeping among Seminole people is shared for the first time on video. Stories are: The Snake and The Rabbit; Who Can Live Longer Without Food or Water; Why The Possum Has An Ugly Tail;  Crows; The Mice And The Bad Angel;

The Corn Lady.

We Seminoles, the story of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, viewed on site at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Big Cypress Reservation, South Florida via Alligator Alley/Interstate 75.

Scenes Of The Everglades An uncommon, 1928 film from photographer William F. Feeland & producer/traveler Homer Augustus Brinkley, courtesy of Florida Secretary of State’s FLORIDA MEMORY online archive


COLLECT items to put in a bag, box or other container, that can be taken out, to be prompts in talking through the story of Seminole Indians of Florida & Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.

Items include: chickee model (previous); clan design (previous) clothing (shown on a postcard, or from an information brochure, or an actual item); boat image found online; doll made by Tribe member or doll image found online; flag of the Seminole tribe from image online; map of Florida with today’s reservations located on it; patchwork bookmark; poetry (previous) about Seminoles & BMTJ if you created that; portrait of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, found online or created; BMTJ publication images – book covers.