A Look Back . . . A Conversation Between Friends by Tina Osceola

Tina Osceola

Have you ever thought about having a conversation with your teen self and one of her friends? I was
researching quotes from my grandfather, Cory Osceola, and came upon an article about my friend, Lucy Bowers and I. Written in August of 1986, I was 18 and Lucy was 17. The headline was, “Young Seminoles
Blend Past Into Future.” As soon as I saw it, I immediately downloaded a copy and sent it to Lucy! Her reaction and our conversation was my motivation for this month’s article. As I hit SEND, I realized that 35 years later, Lucy is one of those people who I have kept close to my heart and mind throughout almost a lifetime. A few years can go by without seeing or talking to each other and we start off almost like we were never apart.

Almost immediately, Lucy texted back. After a few seconds, she actually called me. After a few good laughs about our younger selves, I asked her if she remembered the article because, frankly, I did not. Her response was not what I expected. I expected Lucy and I to trip down memory lane in a fit of laughter at ourselves, but that did NOT happen. The article triggered a traumatic memory for Lucy. The reporter had taken her comments and conversation out of context and it caused so many hard feelings between not only Lucy and her friends, but Lucy and her family. She said that she found herself spending months apologizing to people. Seeing that article brought back horrific memories that had long lasting effects.

So I went back and read the article. It was like having a conversation with myself but when I read Lucy’s article, it didn’t sound like her at all. I noticed that the article had two different reporters and they each had a separate and distinct approach. The reporter who interviewed me seemed to find a story to tell but Lucy’s seemed to have a story they wanted to tell and just took excerpts out of the conversation that suited the story they had already written in their mind. Bad journalism in a nutshell.

As I read Lucy’s article for what was probably the 24th time, I realized they painted this picture of a 17-year-old who set themselves apart from other Seminoles and those at her own school. They painted this picture of an elitist who resented her own people, which is so far from the truth. So, I want to tell you about my friend, Lucy Bowers. Lucy grew up on the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation, south of Lake Okeechobee. She moved to the Hollywood Reservation as a teenager, where she immersed herself in music. I could easily give you her biography, but just like this article, it would never tell the story about my friend. So let me tell you about Lucy Bowers.

Lucy has this magnetic smile and a laugh so genuine that you can’t help but want to be around her. Lucy is fiercely loyal and is the type of person that you always know where you stand. She does not mince words, but if she doesn’t like you, then you definitely are the one taking the loss, because she does not believe in or practice small talk. She speaks and acts with purpose. That is rare. Lucy also has the voice of a true country music diva. Her voice brings tears to my eyes. Lucy spent many years living in Nashville after she graduated high school and she learned the ins and outs of the music business. Lucy can walk into any club in Nashville and there will be someone there calling out her name.

Our most favorite story to reminisce about is when the former Tribal Chairman, James Billie, flew us to North Carolina to attend a conference held at Western Carolina University. Lucy stayed in Cherokee at a hotel while I was housed in the dorms on campus. I remember that I was already in college myself and so dorm life did not interest me in the least. As we spoke of this trip on that same phone call, we laughed because she talked some friends of hers who lived in the area to drive her to campus and sneak me out of the dorm. In order to avoid sounding the alarms, I snuck out of the window. I remembered how high the windows were from the ground and Lucy yelling from the parking lot, “Jump! You’ll live!” So, I did… I jumped and yes, I lived. We laughed so hard remembering that night and for the life of us we do not know how we set this adventure up without having cell phones. We were silent for a few seconds trying to think back, but again, we just
started laughing.

You see, this article was about two individual young women who happened to win titles in our Tribal pageant. The reporters wanted to tell the story of two exceptional young women who were separate and above… but we were not. We were two normal teenagers who happened to be Seminole and who became lifelong friends. Our lives didn’t fit their storyline, so they crammed in a quote here and a quote there, but in looking back, the reporters never really told the readers who we were as people. I think about that a lot as I read articles covering the lives of people I don’t know and will forever remember the trauma in my friend’s voice as she relived the horrors of one newspaper article.

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