The Great Spirit of Lena Tiger, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson.
Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson, 2009.

I grew up in Martin County in the 60s and 70s. Nature and “healthier” rivers were abundant and a part of everyday life. We did not comprehend that the rivers were already dying; we did know of a people whose culture had suffered greatly because our white ancestors had “pushed their way in.” In spite of this terrible history,  I was raised to know of the Native People who had lived along our waters’ shores and to respect their ways. We learned of the tribes that had lived here and others throughout our entire country. The Ais, the Seminole, the Miccosukee, the Lakota…

Map Native Tribes of North America-public.
Map Native Tribes of North America-public.

One of the most profound memories of my youth is local artist, James Hutchinson and his wife, Joan, who lived with the Seminole Indians at Brighton Reservation for six years, located on the north rim of Lake Okeechobee. I will share part of their story today.

James Hutchinson, Florida Artist Hall of Fame: (

James Hutchison’s website: (

To set the tone, I would like to begin with a reading from Black Elk, a Lakota, from out west:

“I am blind and do not see things of this world; but when the light comes from Above; it enlightens my heart and I can see, for the eye of my heart sees everything. The heart is a sanctuary at the center of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells and this is the eye. This the eye of the Great Spirit by which He sees all things and through which we see Him. If the heart is not pure, the Great Spirit cannot be seen, if you should die in this ignorance your soul cannot return immediately to the Great Spirit but it must be purified by wandering about in the world. In order to know the center heart where the Great Spirit dwells you must be pure and good, and live in the manner that the Great Spirit has taught us. The man who is thus pure contains the Universe in the pocket of his heart.”

It is our hearts that will bring back the river of grass….”Kahayatle”… “Love’s power” is transformative and changes broken people, and broken waters…

So to continue, artist, James Hutchinson, was long time friends of my parents; in 1962 he and his wife Joan received an Arthur Vining Davis Foundation grant, and moved to the Brighton Reservation to paint portraits of the Seminole elders. Many years later, Mr Hutchinson wrote me in a personal letter in 2009 after my husband commissioned him to paint “Lena Tiger”—the figure chosen by Hutchinson when I asked for a woman to go with my warrior prints.

Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson.
Lena Tiger, by James Hutchinson.
Halpatter, "Alligator." James Hutchinson.
Halpatter, “Alligator.” James Hutchinson.
Holata Micco "Billy Bowlegs II." James Hutchinson.
Holata Micco “Billy Bowlegs II.” James Hutchinson.
Osceola, "Powell." James Hutchinson.
Osceola, “Powell.” James Hutchinson.
Coacoochee, "Wildcat." James Hutchinson.
Coacoochee, “Wildcat.” James Hutchinson.

The letter reads:

“When Joan and I moved to the Seminole Indian Reservation at Brighton, we found ourselves at a loss as to begin our work…there were many weeks where we were isolated from the tribe and we thought we had failed. Lena Tiger was wife of the last true medicine man, Waha-Tiger. She saw how lost we were and came to our rescue, taking us around to meet several families’ campsites scattered around the reservation. Our travels with her gave us a sense of place…Lena introduced us to Billie Bowlegs III who became our close friend and taught us a few words of Muscogee as well as stalking.

She was an endless source of Indian etiquette which was essential to outsiders like us….Lena was a person of the of the highest character, one who witnessed great change and challenges to her people and one who offered the welcomed hand of friendship.”

Without this “friendship, this “love,” Hutchinson would never have been able to document the Seminoles of that era and learn of their historical brothers and sisters first hand. The work that Hutchinson did at Brighton defined his career and helped others appreciate a culture their ancestors had destroyed. Healing begins…

The moral of the story?

We too must offer the hand of “friendship” to our “enemies.” This does not mean that we do not stand up for what we believe in, but it does mean that we open our hearts to those who “cannot see.” It is through being open that the power of the Great Spirit will bring back life, and light, to the Florida Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.


*In their own Miccosukee language, the Tribe uses the word “Ka/ha/ya/tle” to refer to the shimmering waters…the Everglades.

23 thoughts on “The Great Spirit of Lena Tiger, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Check this out. Great stuff on the YCC……………roy

    > On August 20, 2015 at 8:13 AM Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch > wrote: > > Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch posted: ” I grew up in Martin County in the 60s > and 70s. Nature and “healthier” rivers were abundant and a part of everyday > life. We did not comprehend that the rivers were already dying; we did know of > a people whose culture had suffered greatly because our wh” >

  2. Jacqui, you and your mother are very fine sources of Florida history!

    W.E. “Ted” Guy, Jr.

    643 SW Fuge Rd

    Stuart, Fl 34997

    (772) 287-4106 (home)

    (772) 485-1866 (cell/car)

  3. WHITE MEN SPEAK WITH FORKED TOUNGE—Indians sure had us pegged. I think what I need is a sponser. Bringing back the lagoon to how it was 100 years ago is totally doable. This morning there was many pelicans diveing on minnows where I put sand yesterday(as useual) .Removeing mercury from water and lureing manitees out of harms way can also be done. Today many go to church but love of money and cares of this world has made them loose their vision–They can not see. I think maby before they go to church they should go to the beach or lagoon shore and watch the sun come up and quitly pray that they may restore their vision and not walk blind in this world anymore.

  4. I have a cousin who is a chemist and has made medicines all his life. He once told me a story of how some prostitutes in Africa were immune to the AIDS virus and his pharmisutical company had sent people to find out why. They said these women had a complex molecule that was far to complex for them to make. If it were not for bee venom I would probably be unable to work. I have to let honey bees sting me on the elbows and knees. I don’t know how it works but it does. I found out 20 years ago when I helped a guy catch a swarm of bees. Many creatures have venom and it is so complex a molecule that only the hand of the great spirit can create it. When a person gets stung white blood cells rush to that area of the body. Is it possible these white blood cells that are getting soaked in venom have found a way to use the complex molicules as a weapon against other forign invaders.Could these women in Africa that are totally immune to AIDS be occasionally getting stung or bit by a venomous creature? For me the venom works for long as a year or more but I know when I need to get stung again—big time pain— Now that you have this information it is up to you that it reachs the ears of the right people.

  5. Thanks to a little known man with vision named Philo Farnsworth we have the electron microscope and can now see clearly white blood cells. I have read white blood cells are constantly at war inside the body and they use enzimes to kill and break down everything from bacteria to rouge cancer cells. Could they also be using enzimes to kill viruses? Cirvical cancer is now known to be caused by a virus. Could other types of cancer be caused by viruses also? I believe all venoms are complex enzyme molicules. Most N. American snakes venom starts the digestion process before the prey is swallowed by the snake. For thousands of generations our ancestors were being bit and stung by these creatures and only in the last 40 years have we changed our environment drasticly.Automobiles have about wiped out the snake populations. There are still isolated towns where almost everyone has been bit by the copperhead snake. Bees —wasps—hornets—scorpions—spiders all have taken a beating and are completely gone in some areas. Each species has its individual chemical makeup of very complex venom that can not be reproduced by man.I have heard that if cancer were cured tomarrow billions and billions of dollars would be lost to research funding. Could it be that it is like our sick lagoon where there is a simple and obvious cure but if they (the STATE) fixed the lagoon the could no longer milk the taxpayers(us) for research funding.

  6. It is sad that we felt the American Indians were “savages” and needed to be conquered and “civilized”. I think they were on a different level of understanding of the world we live in and we could have learned much from them.Maby we are the savages?

    1. Oh yes. We are certainly the savages….History will make that clear. Thanks for all of your input Brent. You make me consider different perspectives and I appreciate all the time you take to communicate. Be safe in the storm.

  7. I think the only thing that could be making bee stings stop my pain is white blood cells are using them as weapons. How else could they stop the pain and inflammation for so long. Only honey bee venom works for this type of joint pain. Perhaps the enzimes from other stings are also used by white blood cells to attack cancer cells and the viruses that cause them. I have also found you do not have to let the bee sting you where it hurts.

  8. Last year I was walking through palmetto bushs and 5 big green hornets communicated with me and exsplained these palmettos belonged to them. They bite and sting at the same time. One bit and stung on my rear end through my pants !! I am sure white blood cells rushed in and wIere soaked in green hornet venom but white blood cells did not use this type of venom to attack virus or bacteria that causes joint pain.I would bet it was used for combating something else

  9. I forgot about ants ! When I was a kid (like most kids) I had an ant farm. It came with the Red Harvester ant . This native American ant could be found from California to Florida. When it stung its stinger would come out just like a honey bee. Venom from its sting must have been enzimes from the seeds it collected. Who would have guessed that white blood cells would rush to the area of the sting and gather them up to use as weapons against viruses and other enemys of the human body.

  10. From now on when I let honey bees sting me and someone asks what I am doing I will tell them I am feeding my white blood cells enzimes so they can fight off viruss that waunt to do my body harm. The invasive fire ant has about wiped out the once abundant Red ant . The fire ant does not have venom but it uses folic acid to kill. Folic acid has almost the same chemistry as a known cancer drug.

  11. You said when you step outside your confort zone is when things realy start to happen. I think public speaking about –too much fresh water is killing the lagoon –is your confort zone. I am certain for you to save the lagoon you are going to have to leave your confort zone . Yesteday I went into a Winn-Dixie near coca beach where I put my sand. I asked the lady where her shrimp were caught. She said they were caught local —I bought a pound and they were goooood. I will go back for more.

  12. Maby you should let me help with your next public speech. You could tell how the lagoon was killed because the state backed gillneters were not allowed to kill everything and then billions were spent doing “research” when all that needed to be done was put calcium back. Trillions have also been spent doing research on cancer and aids when the solution is simple also. If left up to our state government our lagoon will be like the American Indian. A way of life that lasted for thousands of years nothing but a faded memory. Now like the great Indian chief said we have gove from living to just surviveing.

  13. Everyday I talk with more fishermen. I find fishermen are far more engaged with what is happening in the lagoon and many times it is me who learns a little more. This Tuesday a lady who works for the city of Melbourne is going to talk on water quality at our lagoon house. Yesterday there was a big sea turtle feeding on grass right in front of the lagoon house. He agrees with me on how to fix the water quality. Thank you for all the work you do on your blogs—they make us all think.

  14. I think one of the most leathle creatures in the lagoon is the crowned conch. But I can not find anything that even says It is venomous. To many times I have shined a light on a LARGE dead mullet or catfish and seen one crowned conch that I am certain made the kill. An hour or so later many crowned conchs would weigh down the fish so crabs could not steal it. To bring the lagoon back it is necessary to understand the role the crowned conch plays in creating coquina formations

  15. I have allways been the student and am still learning . I have been puzzeled for years over our c-54 canal. It should have fish but there are almost none. Then one day I snagged my fishing lure and being carefull not to be gator bait I waded out to get it. The whole bottom of this 12 mile long canal is fresh water mussels.No wonder there are no fish. Mussels suck up all the oxygen. If it were not for the crowned conch coquina clams would have done the same many years ago. I have been thinking of putting some crowned conchs in the c-54 to see if they would reproduce and bring the balance back so fish can survive.

  16. Yesterday I watched a queen butterfly (close relative of the monarch) feeding on yellow flowers. These flowers did not give their sweet nector to bees but had an opening just big enough for this butterfly to stick its straw like toung in and suck it up. This made me think–there are many cases where 2 individual living creatures interact for just a brief moment with each other and their very lives depend on this brief interaction. Could it be that our very lives also might depend on these interaction with venomous stinging creatures. With DNA testing today you can determin where your ancestors came from. Would it one day be posable to cure terrible illness by getting stung by bees that are native to where our ancestors came from? Could people being stung generation after generation be condition our white blood cells to accept this venom to use as a weapon against viruses? Maby this is what the great chief ment when he said —every humming bee is sacred.

  17. A mere 80 years ago most americans lived on farms . I am sure getting stung was a regular event. I have been stung by all kinds of wasps yellow jackets etc. I have been reading about white blood cells. When fire ants bite the next day there will be a little blister full of white puss. Form what I have read I believe that white puss is dead white blood cells. Fire ants don’t have venom but use folic acid. Of the 5 types of white blood cells 4 live only a few days to a week. The Lynpocyle type of white blood cell can live much longer. I have noticed that venomous stings are attacked much differently by our white blood cells. I have never seen a blister or white puss from a venomous sting. The white cell web page said Lynpocyle types of cell were cytotoxic. I found the definition of cytotoxicity is—–the quality of being toxic to cells—examples of toxic agents are an immune cell or some types of venom—BINGO—The odds of me being correct just went down.

  18. What are the odds of some types of venom being cytotoxic and Lynpocyle type of white blood cell being cytotoxic. Would it be so supriseing that changing the envirment we live in we have created another disaster. We need to PUT THE CALCIUM BACK IN THE LAGOON.

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