Gopher was champion of education

Community members were saddened this week by the news of the passing of Louise Jones Gopher, 71. Ms. Gopher, a member of the Panther Clan, was a longtime resident of the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation in Glades County.

Louise Jones Gopher

Louise Jones Gopher

Ms. Gopher was the first female member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to earn a college degree, graduating from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in business. As a former director of education for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, she was a champion of education for all its members.

Born in a chickee in a Fort Pierce Seminole camp, Ms. Gopher spoke no English when she entered school. Nonetheless, she became the first Seminole woman to graduate with a four-year college degree.

Known for her dedication to the preservation of Seminole Tribe of Florida culture, Ms. Gopher was a driving force behind the development of the tribe’s first charter school, known as “Pemayetv Emahakv” or “Our Way” School, which opened its doors in 2007. With a focus on American Indian culture, the school addresses the problem of cultural preservation that all Native Americans face by teaching Seminole Tribe of Florida language and traditions to its young members.

As a recognized authority and author on tribal history and cultural preservation, Ms. Gopher was also instrumental in the development of FSU’s groundbreaking course, “History of the Seminoles and Southeastern Tribes, Pre-Contact to Present,” which was offered to students for the first time in 2006.

Ms. Gopher was credited with helping to increase the number of tribal members who have pursued higher education. At the time of her retirement in 2007, a remarkable 90 percent of tribal members were active participants in the programs administered by the Seminole Tribe’s Education Department.

In 2014, she was named to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame by Governor Rick Scott.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment