Addie Buster Billie

By Peggy Macdonald

A Florida Seminole (Clewiston)

Years: 1884-1994

Remembered for: Represents the life of a Florida Seminole woman in the 20th century.

Why you should know her:

Addie Buster Billie’s face reveals the depths of her ancient connection to the Florida of her ancestors. Adorned in traditional Seminole beads and patchwork in this 1989 photograph by Jill Guttman, Billie represented a palpable connection between the late 20th century and an earlier time when Seminoles lived without the threat of white encroachment upon their lands. Her parents, Charlie and Po-Lah-Ye Buster were born a generation after the last of the Seminole Wars, the Seminoles’ final attempt to stop white encroachment on Native lands. Billie’s life is noteworthy because it represents an average Seminole woman’s experiences during a time when Florida was transformed from the least populous state east of the Mississippi River to one of the most populous states in the nation.

Seminole women blended tradition and modernity, making patchwork with Singer sewing machines and purchased fabric, historian Andrew Frank observed. They performed their daily duties while wearing beads that weighed as much as 12 pounds. Historian Patsy West noted that when trading began again after the Third Seminole War, beads were among the first items Seminole women purchased. They used their earnings from selling hogs or sacks of coontie starch, a substitute for bread flour, to purchase beads. Presenting a gift of necklace beads was also an important courting ritual, according to West.

Perhaps some of the beads pictured in Addie Billie’s portrait were a gift from her husband, Concho Billie, the son of Miccosukee Tribal Chair Tommy Billie. Addie Billie died in 1994 and was buried at the Big Cypress Cemetery in Clewiston. She was reported to be 109 years old.