Florida’s Tribes

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Florida’s Tribes:

Florida’s Tribes The Ais, Tequesta, Calusa, Tocobaga, Apalachee and Timucua assembled by, M. Ritter

The Hunter Gatherers:

The Hunter Gatherers The Ais, Tequesta, Calusa, Tocobaga

The Ais :

The Ais

Slide 4:

Taking up the Rattles John Dickinson, in 1696, witnessed six male Ais tribesmen singing and dancing after placing a red and white pole in the ground. Dickinson wrote, “This being done, the most of them having painted themselves, some with red and black; with their belly’s girt up… and their bows in their hands, being gathered together about this staff, six of the chiefest men in esteem amongst them, especially one who is their doctor, and much esteemed, taking up the rattles begins in hideous noise, standing round this staff, taking their rattles and bowing, without ceasing unto the staff for about half an hour.”

Slide 5:

Ais girl with Veil The veil used by the Ais girl is made from woven palmetto fronds.

Slide 6:

The Cacique This cacique (chief) is preparing for a ceremonial dance like the one describe by John Dickinson. The painted pole with the carved wood leg will be driven into the earth, and six men painted red and black and holding rattles, bow, and arrows will dance around it. Shown here: gourd rattles with wood handles, wooden pole, Oliva shell necklace, fish-bladder ear decorations, buckskin, and dyed red cloth.

The Tequesta:

The Tequesta Everglades Hunt As dawn breaks, a hunter stalks prey in the bountiful Everglades. Shown here: carved bone hairpin, body paint, hunting bow, shell wrist beads, shark-tooth armband, and shell gorget.

Slide 9:

Woman of the Sacred Clay A Tequesta woman uses the coil method to make pottery. After they were shaped and their designs impressed, the clay pots were baked in an open fire. Clay pots were considered sacred; the ceremonial vessels were used in funerary and other religious rites.

Florida’s Tribes:

Florida’s Tribes This Tequesta tribesman prepares a fire for his evening meal at the edge of the Everglades. Shown here: egret feather, shell bead armband, and fish-bladder ear decoration.

Slide 11:

Tequesta with Apple Snail Poised at the edge of the Everglades, a tribal hunter examines the apple snail he has gathered as food for a family celebration. Since the Tequesta did not plant crops, they relied heavily on the large variety of foods supplied by their rich, watery environment. The eagle feather hanging from the hunter’s hairpin could be a symbol of accomplishment. The bird in the background is a snail kite, which lives exclusively on apple snails.

The Calusa:

The Calusa

Slide 14:

Carlos, King of the Calusa Carlos was the name the Spaniards gave the sixteenth-century Calusa leader whose position, they felt, resembled a king’s. Not only cacique of the Calusa, Carlos dominated all other tribes over a large portion of south Florida. Shown here: hawk and seagull feathers, silver disc on forehead, face paint, Oliva shell bead necklace, and carved bone pendant.

Slide 15:

Queen of the Calusa Although we don’t know her name, the principal wife of the cacique, Carlos, was at twenty, very beautiful. According to a sixteenth-century Spanish account, she had fine hands and eyes, shapely, well marked eyebrows, and wore at her throat a gold bead necklace and a beautiful collar of pearls and stones.

Slide 17:

Shaman Intermediary between the human and spirit worlds, the shaman is considered essential to the tribe’s survival. The dynamic carved and painted wood mask shown here was found at the Key Marco site. Shown here: carved and painted wood mask, shell bead necklace, carved Busycon shell circular gorget, carved bone bracelet, hardwood adz handle with inserted deer antler and carved shell, deer antler knife with animal teeth, and deerskin breechcloth.

Slide 18:

Sacred Rain The highest god of the Calusa cosmos controlled the brilliant beings: the sun, the moon, and the stars. Elaborate carved wood masks were part of the Calusa religious pageantry. Shown here: bone hairpins, carved and painted wood mask, seagull, cormorant, and hawk feathers, shell and wood ear ornaments, bone necklace and shell bead necklace, deer hide, body paint (made from crushed red berries and from powdered galena, a silvered-colored lead ore traded from Missouri mines), pointed shells, blue jay and pheasant feathers, pearl bracelet and white ibis.

Slide 21:

Ceremonial Secrets at Mound Key After descending the temple mound, a Calusa high priest prepares himself for a secret ceremony, perhaps a ritual Ensuring a plentiful sea harvest. Shellfish and other sea foods were mainstays of the Calusa diet. The mask designs were taken from actual masks excavated at the Key Marco site in Collier County, Florida, by Frank Hamilton Cushing during the Pepper-Hearst Expedition in 1896. Undisturbed for many centuries and preserved by the muck at Key Marco, these masks have contributed to our knowledge of the Calusa. Shown: carved and painted wood masks, assorted bird feathers, shell bead bracelets; shark-tooth bracelet; shell beads with carved bone and bead necklace, cat’s paw and Oliva shell bead necklace.

Slide 22:

Connection The Calusa believed that when they died, two of their three souls entered into animal bodies. Here, a quiet communion between tribesman and seabird points to that spiritual bond.


Tocobaga The Teacher As in all cultures, the young learn how to survive in the world from adults. Shown here: pipe vine swallowtail butterfly, cormorant feathers, shell ear decorations, shell pendant, shell bead necklace, and bone hairpins.

Slide 26:

Tocobaga Winter Age may slow him down, but it does not diminish his determination or pride. The old man wonders how his tribe will survive after European diseases have decimated his people. Shown here: vulture feather, carved bone hairpins, copper ear spools, painted buckskin shirt, and shell bead necklace.


Farmers Apalachee and Timucua



Slide 29:

Bird Man Dancer As in other Native American tribes, birds held a potent spiritual meaning for the Apalachee people. The superbly crafted ornaments the dancer wears symbolize courage, honor, and tradition. Shown here: body paint, feathered circle with copper insert, carved and painted wood mask with copper attachments, shell hair beads, whelk shell pendant, shell beads bracelet and belt, carved wood baton with human hair handle, rattle and painted deerskin breechcloth.

Slide 30:

Bird Woman With its beautifully crafted copper attachments and feathered circle, this colorfully painted wood mask is powerful and expressive. This mask is based on an engraved copper breastplate found with a woman buried in one of the mounds at the Lake Jackson site near Tallahassee. Shown here: feathered circle with copper insert, copper circle with insert, copper attachments, blue jay and hawk feathers, shell beads, carved and painted wood masks, pearl necklaces, and feathered cape.

Slide 31:

Sacred Owl

Slide 32:

Apalachee Warrior


Timucua Panther Warrior Stoic and proud, Saturiwa Indian warrior wears the panther headdress symbolic of high military rank. Made of highly polished shell, the panther’s “eyes” reflect light to give the headdress a formidable dynamism like that of a living animal. Shown: panther skin headdress with hawk feathers, carved shell ear decorations, and shell and pearl beads.

Slide 34:


Slide 35:

Ready for War

Slide 36:

Chief Outina This red-painted Timucuan chief lived west of the St. Johns River in Putnam or Clay County. Here, according to a 1564 French account, he walked in solitary grandeur among his warriors. Shown: turkey vulture, raccoon tail, eagle feathers, tattoos, painted fish-bladder ear decorations, turkey vulture feathers, copper breast plate, shell beads, deer hide robe, chert spear point, and painted hide straps.

Slide 37:

Eagle War Chief This fierce warrior contemplates battle. His alert pose suggests the tension of war preparations. The distinctive eagle headdress, brutal war club, pearl beads, and shiny copper ornaments indicate his status as a war leader. Shown here: eagle headdress, with tassel, turkey-foot ear decorations, hardwood war club, copper chest plate, and shell and bead armbands.

Slide 38:

Reference Page Morris, T. 2004. Florida’s Lost Tribes , University Press. Paintings by Theodore Morris and commentary by Jerald T. Milanich. This book portrays Florida’s early tribes in words and pictures.

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