• Cannon firing on the gundeck of the Castillo de San Marcos

    Castillo De San Marcos

    National Monument Florida

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    Afternoon Thunderstorms can create dangerous amounts of lightning strikes. If Lightning is visible from the Castillo, Gundeck closures will take place. Click this link for the local weather forcast. More »

Native Americans

Europeans first meet the inhabitants of the new world.

The Abduction of Pocahontas
de Bry, Johann Theodor, 1619

"Los Indios"

Believing that he had reached the islands of Asia, Christopher Columbus called the inhabitants he met 'los Indios,'i.e., "Indians." This has become the collective name of all native peoples of North and South America despite their diverse and unique cultures. The original Americans had no collective identity and merely called themselves by their cultural, tribal, or individual names. There were multiple cultures existing in the Florida peninsula at the time of European contact. Among them the Calusa, Tequesta, Apalachee, Aix, and Timucua.

 

First Peoples (The Earliest Americans - read more here.)


Though the Pre-Columbian population of Florida is hard to estimate, the various native peoples may have numbered as much as 3 million. These were generally formed into local chiefdoms. Alliances and confederacies arose between the chiefdoms from time to time but they were seldom organized into a single political unit. These various groups are typically identified by language group though they practiced several different cultural traditions.


These indigenous peoples were a semi-nomadic, semi-agricultural, neolithic society. Tools and cultural artifacts were almost exclusively of organic materials such as stone, wood, bone and clay. Some small ornamental pieces of copper and gold have been found but there is no evidence of metalworking of any significance and these may have been acquired through trade and salvage of European shipwrecks.


Contact with European peoples began some time around 1502 as there exists a Portuguese map of the coast of Florida dating from this time. Initial contacts would have been violent and tragic. The Portuguese were looking for slaves to work in the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and Brazil and were ranging in areas of the New World not yet under Spanish control. Besides enslavement the Europeans added a new terror; disease.


Native Americans at this time had no known communicable diseases beyond the common cold. Their immune systems would not have developed as had the Europeans, leaving them open to massive pandemic. Old World microbes effectively depopulated huge areas of the New. Measles, mumps, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, diphtheria and a host of other organisms carried off millions of lives. This would have begun in Florida with these first contacts.


Within a few decades of European settlement in Florida as much as 80% of Florida’s indigenous population was gone. Most of what we know about them is from the few notes and drawings the early explorers made and from the archeological evidence left behind.

 

Florida's Native Populations

Several different and widely varying Indian cultures have left their mark on Florida history. Some indigenous, some displaced and some forcibly moved to the area. Each has a unique and fascinating story to tell.

Timucua

Seminole

Plains

Apache

 

Did You Know?

An old engraving shows Spanish Ships landing on a foreign coast

Because his arrival occurred at the time of the Easter feast or Pascua Florida, Ponce de León named the land, which he claimed for Spain, La Florida or “Place of Flowers” Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, Florida