The Making of a Seminole Medicine Man
United States Attorney General has verified that Timothy P. Mooney and Elizabeth J. Copage Mooney raised James Henry Mooney (Half Seminole) as their own son, however, his biological parents were James Mooney (Smithsonian Ethnologist) and America Simpson direct descendant of Osceola (a Seminole Chief and Medicine Man), who married Ella Peace Mooney (Half Creek, also a descendent of Osceola) and gave birth to Rex Mooney who married Ruth Aleta Bennett. However, according to Chief Little Dove Buford, James Warren Mooney (named in honor of his great grandfather) was born January 3, 1944, and his grandparents were James (Jamie) Henry Mooney and Ella Peace Mooney
I have vague memories of Rex Mooney dressed in his military uniform holding my hand while I was looking at grass growing between brick’s that made up a type of sidewalk. I was later told by my mother that Rex (her divorced husband) had picked me up from San Francisco, California to take me to Washburn Missouri to live with my Grand-parents (James ‘Jami’ Henry and Mary Ella Mooney), Rex’s parents.
The following storied account of events is a summarization of stories that was told to me by Chief Little Dove, and confirmed later by my Mother, her sister Tammy, my Grand Father Harvey Bennett (My Mothers Father) and United States Federal Attorney’s.
Lying in the middle of a strawberry patch on my grand-parents Washburn farm in Southern Missouri, I was bare foot and wearing only a bib type of Levi denim pants, while plucking strawberry’s one at a time and placing them into my mouth, savoring every bite that released its tangy sweet soft but crunchy plump red strawberry flavor. It was midsummer and the atmosphere was humid and for me being with my protective Grand Parents, laying on my back gazing into a cloudless clear powdery blue sky in this field of strawberry’s I again felt safe and secure.
Two older boys, one calls out to me, “Hey, Injun Boy, you want to come down by the pond and play with us?” I was apparently really excited about the prospect of possibly making some friends. As I ran to the top of a small mound and paused and observed four boys and three girls, one girl with dark skin, my cousin, and two other girls playing around my grand parents pond.
As the boys saw me come over the mound, the one boy that first called out ran up to me and grabbed one of my arms pulling me in the direction of the other three boys that were playing in and around the pond. This older boy flung me to the ground a few feet in front of the other boys and started yelling, come on guys lets welcome this red skin piece of shit to our pond. In an instant, the other boys reacted by holding me on the ground, and then started to take off my Levi’s.
The moment it was evident what was going on, the dark skinned girl ran to me in an attempt to rescue me, where as one girl started to go into uncontrollable hysterics. While the remaining girl took off running to get my grandmother.
As the dark skinned girl started struggling with the boys to free me from their grip, three of the boys turned their attention to the girl and flung her to the ground where the back of her head hit a point of a large rock, killing her instantly. This act suddenly rocked the boys into what they were doing. The boy holding me threw me into the pond, then two other boys jumped into the water and held me under until I stopped kicking, then took off running.
When my Grandmother (Mary Ella) came over the mound, she saw her newly arrived grand-son floating head down in the pond. She instinctively knew that her grand-daughter was already dead. With her long, grayish braided hair falling from the bun atop her head, she began to run as a protective and ferocious lioness would to protect her young. She jumped into the water and pulled my limp body out of it’s watery grave. She commenced pounding on my chest and screaming in her native Creek language (she only spoke with her immediate family), you cannot die, you will not die, you have things to do, and you will not die. At this time, my spirit is hovering above the pond and is calmly observing my grandmother pounding on my chest. I see the body of my cousin, with bright red blood oozing from her head, and her large dark brown eyes staring into the unknown. One girl is sitting with arms rigidly holding her head between her knees shielding her eyes from observing anything outside of her hysterical behavior. The other girl was crying while standing next to my Grandmother Mary Ella is commanding me to live. I do remember being calm and peaceful while I was listening to Ella’s exhortations. To me, my Grandmothers words were merely echoing sounds, coming from a long tunnel of eternity. Suddenly, I see nothing but pitch darkness. I feel a moment of excruciating pain throughout my body, and suddenly my body lets a gurgling sound escape from the inner parts of my soul. Unexpectedly, a mixture of water and stomach fluids come rushing out of my mouth and nose gushing into the face of my grandmother. Then suddenly my body again goes limp. However, this time my spirit and body are connected, as though I am asleep and waiting.
As Mary Ella was forcefully expressing what was necessary to do. James (Jamie) Henry Mooney (my grandfather) was strongly against capitulating to Mary Ella’s unwavering desire, with sound reasoning. Should we be discovered we will be burned or hung for practicing witch craft you know that Ella! He temporarily embraced Ella for what seemed to be an eternity. As Jamie surveyed the ashen face of his granddaughter, he released a heart rendering scream.
Under the cloak of darkness of the heavenly, moonless ,early summer night, sparkling with the lights of millions of stars, Mary Ella and Jami prepared in a thin gully with a waning spring that fed the pond, an earthen Sweat Lodge.
My body begins to acknowledge to my spirit that it is safe to come out of my coma. The spirit is totally aware of the safety of the environment in which I have been placed. There is the warmth of the symbolic womb of my birth mother, the firm and loving embrace of Jami and the matching darkness that my spirit has been residing in for twelve hours. It is two in the morning of the next summer day in Missouri.
With the sides of the gully hiding the sacred fire’s glare, and hearing the awaking cries of her grandson, Ella opens the door to the lodge and then begins spreading a good portion of the yellow and orange heat radiant colored coals to the mouth of the uncovered Sweat Lodge door, leaving a good portion of the coals in a circle representing the original source of the “Heavenly Spirit”. As Jami firmly embraces me to his lightly haired chest and as the radiance of the coals reflects his, steaming mud caked and naked image’s immersing from the door way of the Sweat Lodge the earth and sky spirits hear his mumbling chant, hiyata, hiyata, yaa-na ya-na ho, yaa-na ya-na ho, hiyata, hiyata, as he carries me in a slow and methodical hot coaled walk, from the door way to the source (fire), upon entering the yellow and orange center of the sacred circle, he then lift’s, with his hands under my arm pits, straight up in the moonless night, and then offers me, his grandson to the powers of the East (New Beginning), then to the South (Innocence), then the West (Death and Renewal) and finally to the North (Wisdom and Understanding) and pronounces to the heavenly star studded early morning sky, “I present my grandson “Flaming Eagle”, we Mary Ella and I have done our part, he is now yours to do with what you may.
(1988) Thirty-nine years later, suffering from manic depression disease, grieving the death of my wife Ilene Hunter Frerichs Mooney from cancer, losing custody of my 7 children and fighting my own personal demons on a daily basis, I had hit the lowest realm of my life’s existence. While living at Linda Stone’s home and sleeping in a bed room that she had provided me, prior to the sun rising, I was suddenly awaken by the ringing of the telephone, next to my bed, I was sleeping on the floor.
I answered, “Hello”
A woman’s southern accented voice asked, ”Is this James Mooney?”
I answered, “Yes it is.”
She re-stated, this time adding Warren, “James Warren Mooney” with strong emphasis on the Warren
I answered, “Yes it is.”
She stated “Welcome home, we have found you!”