Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 4  March, 2011

Alligator Wrestling: The Stories of the Men Who Do It
Read the entire article:
Condensed by Native Village

Stories of how alligator wrestling began can differ from person to person.  Alligator wrestlers often explain that Seminoles had always hunted alligators. The alligator hunter would capture the alligator, tether it to a post, and harvest the meat.

The hides were often used for trade.

Zack Battiest wrestled alligators on the Hollywood Florida reservation. In an oral history interview, Battiest said:

“It was mainly made for, back in the day, how we would get food.  We would trade hides and stuff.  A freshly caught alligator was better than a dead alligator, so it was even a food source, if need be.”

Billy Walker wrestles alligators on the Big Cypress Reservation. Billy says: 

"My Grandpa, he told me a long time ago, that tourists would come to see the Seminoles and Miccosukees when they were building these roads by the villages.  And the Indian man would go and capture these gators, and my people would capture these gators, and tie them up for food.  They would trade their hides and deer hides to the settlers in the coastal areas for beads, gunpowder, guns, and other materials. …More tourists would come out and see these men tying the gators up, tying up three or four alligators to keep at the camp while the younger generation of men would go out to hunt.  The elders would usually stay back at the camp. …What happened, this was passed down from my Grandpa, is that tourist said it looked like the Indian man was wrestling the alligator.  My Grandpa laughed and he said, ‘these gators were tied up for hides and food and stuff.’  The tourist threw money at the Indian man.  Instead of going out to hunt for four or five days, they went to the store and provided for their family the same day. …I tell that story before I wrestle an alligator because I just don’t want to be hurting the alligator and messing with him, so I tell them where I come from and why I am able to touch this alligator.”

Alligator wrestlers must receive permission from the Snake Clan before touching an alligator.  Betty Mae Jumper, a  Snake Clan member, said in an oral history interview:

"Alligator wrestlers are supposed to ask Alligator Clan, but since there is no Alligator Clan, they ask the Snake Clan.

JR Battiest recalls Betty Mae Jumper giving him permission to wrestle alligators:


“She said, ‘sit down.  I am going to tell you about alligators.’  So, she sat me down and gave me a long lecture about respecting the animal, where it came from, that type of thing.  It helped provide food and trading material for the Tribe.  …She explained that I had to respect the animal like I would respect my own self.  I wouldn’t do anything bad to myself, so don’t do anything bad to the animal because it’s going to feed you.”

“They say the number one rule is– it’s not “if” you get bit, it’s when you get bit.  Expect it. But don’t let it bother you.  If it bothers you, stay out of the pit.  You don’t want to get nailed.  I’ve always expected to get bit; I expected at every show.  I would just wonder how bad it was going to be.  I’ve seen where thumbs actually came off and the muscle up to the elbow came with it and hit the ground.”

James Billie, former chairmen and alligator wrestler, recalls how he lost his finger:

“There is really nothing to wrestling alligators, you just have to keep your fingers out of their mouths…  I literally stuck my hand in the alligator’s mouth, I thought it was closed and pushed it down.  Checked his mouth.  I didn’t know what was wrong with his mouth, it would just not close.  So I stuck my finger in there and that was it.

 Volume 1
On Day Dedicated to Native Americans, A Move to Honor Hopi Tribe's Code Talkers
New Office to Serve as Advocates for Tribal Veterans 
Metis Livid About Proposed Status System
Saying NO to $1 Billion Dollars
New Images of Remote Brazil Tribe
Amazonian Indians More Advanced Than We Knew
Australia's Aborigines to Launch Political Party
Irish Travellers to Shed Light on Indigenous Research

Volume 2
Berenstain Bears to Speak Lakota
Students Tell Saanich Myths Through Computer Animation  
Children's Book Exhibit Depicts Native Path to Diabetes Prevention
Mentoring Program Coming to Kodiak
100% Knights to Create Career Pathways for Aboriginal Students
Arizona Culinary School Recruits American Indians, Now Available for Federal Financial Aid
Book Lets Great Lakes American Indians Tell Their Own Story
Volume 3
UN Declares 2011 the "International Year of Forests"
Think the Super Bowl Battle was Big? Fight Over Conservation Funding Looms Larger
Limit Set for Native Polar Bear Hunters Under International Treaty
White House: Tribes Fare Well in 2012 Budget
Ziebach County South Dakota: America's Poorest County
Top 5 Obama Regulations that American Businesses Hate Most
The Top 11 Corporate Cash Hoarders
Volume 4
Donna Karan Collaborates With an Indigenous Artist as Part of "Nomad Two Worlds" Art Exhibit
Alligator Wrestling and the Men Who Do It
Custer Flag to Be Sold by DIA
Museums Work to Credit the Individuals Behind Native American Artwork
All My Relations Gallery Showcase for Native Art
Grammy Winner Helps Locals Build, Understand Flutes
German TV Crew Films Program About Nokota Horses

Native Village Home Page

Backgrounds: Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.
Native Village is responsible for format changes.
Articles may also include additional photos, art, and graphics which enhance the visual appeal and and adds new dimensions to the articles. Each is free or credited by right-clicking the picture, a page posting, or appears with the original article. 
Our hopes are to make the news as informative, educational, enjoyable as possible.
NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and learning circles  to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Please visit, and sign up for our update: