Indigenous peoples of Florida
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The indigenous peoples of Florida lived in what is now known as Florida for more than 12,000 years before the time of first contact with Europeans. However, the indigenous Floridians have largely died out with some completely by the early 18th century. Some Apalachees migrated to Louisiana, where their descendants now live; some were taken to Cuba and Mexico by the Spanish in the 18th century, and a few may have been absorbed into the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes.
The first people arrived in Florida before the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna. Human remains and/or artifacts have been found in association with the remains of Pleistocene animals at a number of Florida locations. A carved bone depicting a mammoth found near the site of Vero man has been dated to 13,000 to 20,000 years ago. Artifacts recovered at the Page-Ladson site date to 12,500 to 14,500 years ago. Evidence that a giant tortoise was cooked in its shell at Little Salt Spring dates to between 12,000 and 13,500 years ago. Human remains and artifacts have also been found in association with remains of Pleistocene animals at Devil's Den, Melbourne, Warm Mineral Springs, and the Cutler Fossil Site. A Bison antiquus skull with an embedded projectile point has been found in the Wacissa River. Other important Paleoindian sites in Florida include Harney Flats in Hillsborough County, the Nalcrest site, and Silver Springs.
Florida's environment at the end of the Pleistocene was very different from that of today. Because of the enormous amount of water frozen in ice sheets during the last glacial period, sea level was at least 100 metres (330 ft) lower than now. Florida had about twice the land area, its water table was much lower. Its climate also was cooler and much drier. There were few running rivers or springs in what is today's Florida. The few water sources in the interior of Florida were rain-fed lakes and water holes over relatively impervious deposits of marl, or deep sinkholes partially filled by springs.
With water available only at scattered locations, animals and humans would have congregated at the water holes to drink. The concentration of animals would have attracted hunters. Many Paleoindian artifacts and animal bones showing butchering marks have been found in Florida rivers, where deep sinkholes in the river bed would have provided access to water. Sites with Paleoindian artifacts also have been found in flooded river valleys as much as 17 feet (5.2 m) under the Gulf of Mexico, and suspected sites have been identified up to 20 miles (32 km) offshore under 38 feet (12 m) of water. Half of the Paleoindian sites in Florida may now be under water in the Gulf of Mexico. Materials deposited in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene in sinkholes in the beds of rivers were covered by silt and sealed in place before the water table rose high enough to create running rivers, and those layers remained undisturbed until excavated by archaeologists. These deposits preserved organic materials, including bone, ivory, wood, and other plant remains.
Archaeologists have found direct evidence that Paleoindians in Florida hunted mammoths, mastodons, Bison antiquus, and giant tortoises. The bones of other large and small animals, including ground sloths, tapirs, horses, camelids, deer, fish, turtles, shellfish, snakes, raccoons, opossums, and muskrats are associated with Paleoindian sites.
Organic materials are not well preserved in the warm, wet climate and often acidic soils of Florida. Organic materials that can be dated through radiocarbon dating are rare at Paleoindian sites in Florida, usually found only where the material has remained under water continuously since the Paleoindian period. Stone tools are therefore often the only clues to dating prehistoric sites without ceramics in Florida.
Projectile points (probably used on spears, the bow and arrow did not appear until much later) have distinctive forms that can be fairly reliably assigned to specific time periods. Based on stone artifacts, Bullen divided pre-Archaic Florida into four periods, Early Paleo-Indian (10000-9000 BCE), Late Paleo-Indian (9000-8000 BCE), Dalton Early (8000-7000 BCE), and Dalton Late (7000-6000 BCE). Purdy defined a simpler sequence, Paleo Indian (10000-8000 BCE, equivalent to Bullen's Early and Late Paleo-Indian) and Late Paleo (8000-7000 BCE, equivalent to Bullen's Dalton Early). Later discoveries have pushed the beginning of the Paleoindian period in Florida to an earlier date. The earliest well-dated material from the Paleoindian period in Florida is from the Page-Ladson site, where points resembling pre-Clovis points found at Cactus Hill have been recovered from deposits dated to 14,588 to 14,245 calibrated calendar years BP (12638-12295 BCE), about 1,500 years before the appearance of the Clovis culture. Milanich places the end of the Paleoindian period at about 7500 BCE. During the early Paleoindian period in Florida, before 10,000 years ago, projectile points used in Florida included Beaver Lake, Clovis, Folsom-like, Simpson, Suwannee, Tallahassee, and Santa Fe points. Simpson and Suwannee points are the most common early Paleoindian points found in Florida. In the late Paleoindian period, 9,000 to 10,000 years ago (8000-7000 BCE), Bolen, Greenbriar, Hardaway Side-Notched, Nuckolls Dalton and Marianna points were in use, with the Bolen point being the most commonly found.
Most projectile points associated with early Paleoindians have been found in rivers. Projectile points of the late Paleoindian period, particularly Bolen points, are often found on dry land sites, as well as in rivers.
Paleoindians in Florida used a large variety of stone tools besides projectile points. These tools include blades, scrapers of various kinds, spokeshaves, gravers, gouges, and bola stones. Some of the tools, such as the Hendrix scraper of the early Paleoindian period, and the Edgefield scraper of the late Paleoindian period, are distinctive enough to aid in dating deposits.
A few underwater sites in Florida have yielded Paleoindian artifacts of ivory, bone, antler, shell, and wood. A type of artifact found in rivers in northern Florida is the ivory foreshaft. One end of a foreshaft was attached to a projectile point with pitch and sinew. The other end was pointed, and pressure-fitted into a wood shaft. The foreshafts were made from mammoth ivory, or possibly, in some cases, from mastodon ivory. A shell "trigger" may be from an atlatl (spear-thrower). Other tools include an eyed needle made from bone, double pointed bone pins, part of a mortar carved from an oak log, and a non-returning boomerang or throwing stick made from oak.
The Archaic period in Florida lasted from 7500 or 7000 BCE until about 500 BCE. Bullen divided this period into the Dalton Late, Early Pre-ceramic Archaic, Middle Pre-ceramic Archaic, Late Pre-ceramic Archaic, Orange and Florida Transitional periods. Purdy divided it into a Preceramic Archaic period and an Early Ceramic period. Milanich refers to Early (7500-5000 BCE), Middle (5000-3000 BCE) and Late (3000-500 BCE) Archaic periods in Florida.
Several cultures become distinguishable in Florida in the middle to late Archaic period. In northeast Florida, the pre-ceramic Mount Taylor period (5000-2000 BCE) was followed by the ceramic Orange culture (2300-500 BCE). The Norwood culture in the Apalachee region of Florida (2300-500 BCE), was contemporary with the very similar Orange culture. The late Archaic Elliott's Point complex, found in the Florida panhandle from the delta of the Apalachicola River westward, may have been related to the Poverty Point culture. The area around Tampa Bay and southwest Florida (from Charlotte Harbor to the Ten Thousand Islands) each had as yet unnamed late Archaic regional cultures using ceramics.
Pre-historic sites and cultures in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada that followed the Archaic period are generally placed in the Woodland period (1000 BCE – 1000 CE) or the later Mississippian culture period (800 or 900–1500). The Woodland period is defined by the development of technology, including the introduction of ceramics and (late in the Woodland period) the bow and arrow, the adoption of agriculture, mound-building, and increased sedentism. These characteristics developed and spread separately. Sedentism and mound building appeared along the southwest coast of Florida (cf. Horr's Island) and in the lower Mississippi River Valley (cf. Watson Brake and Poverty Point) well before the end of the Archaic period. Ceramics appeared along the coast of the southeastern United States soon after. Agriculture spread and intensified across the Woodland area throughout the Woodland and Mississippian culture periods, but appeared in north central and northeastern Florida only after about 700, and had not penetrated the middle and lower Florida peninsula at the time of first contact with Europeans.
Post-Archaic cultures in Florida
|Defined culture||Time range||Geographic range|
|Belle Glade culture||1050 BCE – Historic||Lake Okeechobee basin and Kissimmee River valley|
|Glades culture||550 BCE – Historic||Everglades, southeast Florida and Florida Keys|
|Manasota culture||550 BCE – 800 CE||central peninsular Gulf coast of Florida|
|St. Johns culture||550 BCE – Historic||east and central Florida|
|Caloosahatchee culture||500 BCE – Historic||Charlotte Harbor to Ten Thousand Islands|
|Deptford culture – Gulf region||500 BCE–150/250 CE||Gulf coast from Florida/Alabama border to Charlotte Harbor, southwest Georgia, southeast Alabama|
|Deptford culture – Atlantic region||500 BCE–700 CE||Atlantic coast from mouth of St. Johns River, Florida to Cape Fear, North Carolina|
|Swift Creek culture||150–350||eastern Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia|
|Santa Rosa-Swift Creek culture||150–350||western Florida Panhandle|
|Weeden Island cultures
|Weeden Island I, including||100–700||Florida Panhandle, north peninsular Gulf coast in Florida, interior north Florida, and southwest Georgia|
|– Cades Pond culture||200–750||north-central Florida|
|– McKeithen Weeden Island culture||200–700||north Florida|
|Weeden Island II, including||750–1000||Florida Panhandle, north peninsular Gulf coast in Florida, and southwest Georgia|
|– Wakulla culture||750–1000||Florida Panhandle|
|Alachua culture||700 – Historic||north central Florida|
|Suwannee Valley culture||750 – Historic||north Florida|
|Safety Harbor culture||800 – Historic||central peninsular Gulf coast of Florida|
|Fort Walton culture – a Mississippian culture||1000 – Historic||Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia|
|Pensacola culture – a Mississippian culture||1250 – Historic||western part of Florida Panhandle, southern Alabama and southern Mississippi|
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Europeans encountered many groups of indigenous peoples in Florida. Recorded information on various groups ranges from numerous detailed reports to the mere mention of a name. Some of the indigenous peoples were taken into the system of Spanish missions in Florida, others had sporadic contact with the Spanish without being brought into the mission system, but many of the peoples are known only from mention of their names in historical accounts. All of these peoples were essentially extinct in Florida by the end of the 18th century.
Most died from exposure to Eurasian infectious diseases, such as smallpox and measles, to which they had no immunity, and others died from warfare: with both the Spanish and English raiders from the Carolinas and their Indian allies. Others were carried away to slavery by the Spanish (in the 16th century) and by the English and their Indian allies (in the late 17th century and early 18th century). The few survivors migrated out of Florida, mainly to Cuba and New Spain (Mexico) with the Spanish as they ceded Florida to Britain in 1763 following the Seven Years' War, although a few Apalachee reached Louisiana, where their descendants still live.
Indigenous peoples encountered by Europeans
This section includes the names of tribes, chiefdoms and towns encountered by Europeans in what is now the state of Florida in the 16th and 17th centuries.
- Ais people – They lived along the Indian River Lagoon in the 17th century and maintained contact with the Spanish in St. Augustine.
- Alafay (Alafaes, Alafaia, Elafay, Costa, Alafaia/Alafaya/Alafeyes Costas) – Closely related to or part of Pohoy.
- Amacano – Believed to be located on the western Florida panhandle coast in the 17th century, and to be allies of and speak the same language as the Chine and Pacara. They were at war with the Apalachee in the 1630s, but had settled in Apalachee province by 1674. They may have been a band of Yamasee. The Spanish mission of San Luís "on the seacoast" served three towns that included members of the Amacano, Caparaz and Chine tribes.
- Apalachee – A major coalition of Muskogean tribal towns and the western anchor of the mission system. A small group migrated to Louisiana, where their descendants live. Some others, from in and outside of what we now call Florida, sought refuge from Anglo-American settlement in and near Tallahassee. These runaway communities constitute the earliest foundations of the Big Town clan (formerly Tallahassee clan) of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. These descendants now also call themselves Toad Clan.
- Apalachicola – Lived to the west of the Apalachee, may have spoken a Muskogean language. Identified as Lower Creek
- Boca Ratones – Known only from records of the 1743 mission attempt on Biscayne Bay.
- Bomto (Bonito) – known only from the middle of the 18th century as relations of the Mayaca and Jororo and enemies of the Pohoy.
- Calusa – A major tribe centered on the Caloosahatchee River, politically dominant over other tribes in southern Florida. The Spanish maintained contact with them, but did not succeed in missionary attempts.
- Caparaz – Hann speculates that Caparaz was the Surruque village of Caparaca. But, the Caparaz were listed as one of the three tribes served by the Spanish mission of San Luís "on the seacoast", together with members of the Amacano and Chine tribes, which are elsewhere said to have lived in the Florida panhandle. Synonym of Pacara
- Chatot people (Chacato, Chactoo) – Located in the upper Apalachicola and Chipola river basins. Related in some way to the Pensacola. The Spanish established three missions to this tribe near the upper part of the Apalachicola River.
- Chine – Believed to be located on the western Florida panhandle coast in the 17th century, and to be allies of and speak the same language as the Amacano and Pacara. The Spanish mission of San Luís "on the seacoast" served three towns that included members of the Amacano, Caparaz and Chine tribes. Also said to be a branch of the Chatot.
- Costas – Name applied at different times to Ais, Alafaes, Keys Indians and Pojoy, and to otherwise unidentified refugees near St. Augustine.
- Guacata (Vuacata) – Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda implied that the Guacata were part of the Ais and that the Guacata spoke the same language as the Ais and Jaega.
- Guazoco or Guacozo – Town near the upper reaches of the Withlacoochee River passed through by the de Soto expedition. This was the farthest south that the Spanish found maize being cultivated.
- Guale – Originally living along the central Georgia coast; the survivors of the raids by the English and their Indian allies moved from Georgia into Florida.
- Jaega – Living along the Florida Atlantic coast south of the Ais, this group was subject to, and possibly a junior branch of, the Ais.
- Jobe (Hobe) – A Jaega town.
- Jororo – A small tribe in the upper St. Johns River watershed, related to the Mayacas, and taken into the Spanish mission system late in the 17th century.
- Keys Indians – Name given by the Spanish to Indians living in the Florida Keys in the middle of the 18th century, probably consisted of Calusa and refugees from other tribes to the north.
- Luca – Town near the Withlacoochee River north of Guazoco, passed through by the de Soto expedition.
- Macapiras or Amacapiras – Known only as refugees at St. Augustine in the mid-17th century, in the company of Jororo and Pojoy peoples.
- Mayaca people – A small tribe in the upper St. Johns River watershed, related to the Jororos, and taken into the Spanish mission system in the 17th century.
- Mayaimi – Lived around what is now called Lake Okeechobee, very limited contact with Europeans.
- Mayajuaca – Mentioned by Fontaneda in association with the Mayaca.
- Mocogo (Mocoço, i.e., Mocoso?)
- Mocoso – Chiefdom on the east side of Tampa Bay at the time of the de Soto expedition, had disappeared by the 1560s.
- Muklasa – Town affiliated with either Alabama people or Koasati (possibly speaking a related language), said to have moved to Florida after the Creek War. Found at 
- Muspa – Town on or near Marco Island subject to the Calusa, name later applied to people living around Charlotte Harbor.
- Osochi – May have been a Timucua town,
- Pacara – Believed to be located on the western Florida panhandle coast in the 17th century, and to be allies of and speak the same language as the Amacano and Chine.
- Pawokti – Town associated with Tawasa, the people may have relocated to Florida panhandle.
- Pensacola – Lived in the Florida panhandle. May have spoken the same language as the Chatot.
- Pohoy – Chiefdom on Tampa Bay in the 17th century, refugees from Uchise raids in various places in Florida in the early 18th century.
- Santa Luces – Tribe briefly mentioned in Spanish records from the middle of the 18th century. Santa Lucía was the name the Spanish gave to an Ais town where they had tried to establish a fort and mission in the 17th century.
- Surruque – Tribe that lived north of the Ais, possibly related to either Ais or the Jororos and Mayacas.
- Tequesta – Lived in southeastern Florida. Spanish made two short-lived attempts to establish a mission with them.
- Timucua – Major group of peoples in northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia speaking a common language. Many of the Timucua-speaker were brought into the mission system. Other peoples speaking Timucua are only poorly known. Known to be part of this large, loosely associated group are the following:
- Acuera – Lived around the Oklawaha River, part of the mission system.
- Agua Fresca – Lived along the middle St. Johns River, part of the mission system.
- Arapaha – May have lived in southern Georgia.
- Ibi – Lived in southern Georgia, part of the mission system.
- Itafi (or Icafui) – Lived in southeastern Georgia, part of the mission system. Survivors of the raids by the English and their Indian allies may have relocated to Florida.
- Mocama – Lived along the coast in northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia, part of the mission system.
- Northern Utina (Timucua proper) – Lived in north-central Florida, part of the mission system,
- Ocale – Lived in north-central Florida, part of the mission system.
- Oconi – Lived in southeastern Georgia.
- Onatheagua – Lived in north-central Florida, perhaps identifiable as Northern Utina
- Potano – Chiefdom in north-central Florida, part of the mission system.
- Tucururu – A subdivision of or associated with the Acuera.
- Utina – Lived along the middle St. Johns River.
- Yufera – Lived in southeastern Georgia, part of the mission system. Survivors of the raids by the English and their Indian allies may have relocated to Florida.
- Yustaga – Lived in north-central Florida, part of the mission system.
- Tocaste – Town near Lake Tsala Apopka, passed through by the de Soto expedition.
- Tocobaga – Chiefdom on Tampa Bay. Spanish made one unsuccessful attempt to establish a mission.
- Uzita – Chiefdom on the south side of Tampa Bay at the time the de Soto expedition, disappeared by the 1560s.
- Vicela – Town near the Withlacoochee River north of Luca, passed through by the de Soto expedition.
- Viscaynos – Name given by the Spanish to Indians living in the vicinity of Key Biscayne (Cayo Viscainos) in the 17th century.
18th and 19th centuries
From the beginning of the 18th century, various groups of Native Americans, primarily Muscogee people (called Creeks by the English) from north of present-day Florida, moved into what is now the state. The Creek migrants included Hitchiti and Mikasuki speakers. There were also some non-Creek Yamasee and Yuchi migrants. They merged to form the new Seminole ethnicity.
A series of wars with the United States resulted in the removal of most of the Indians to what is now Oklahoma and the merging of the remainder by ethnogenesis into the current Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida.
20th and 21st century
The only federally recognized tribes in Florida are:
- Miccosukee – One of the two tribes to emerge by ethnogenesis from the migrations into Florida and wars with the United States. They were part of the Seminole nation until the mid-20th century, when they organized as an independent tribe, receiving federal recognition in 1962.
- Seminole – One of the two tribes to emerge by ethnogenesis from the migrations into Florida and wars with the United States.
The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of Native Americans, most significantly Creek from what are now northern Muscogee.
In 2014, there were 4,000 Seminole and Miccosukee natives, living on reservations in Tampa, Immokalee, Hollywood, Fort Pierce, Brighton, and Clewiston.
While income from legal casinos is $100,000 or greater per capita for tribal members, this has often produced negative life style changes. From being lean and muscular in the late 19th century, their adoption of the western lifestyle has led to a substantial increase in diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other health issues in the 20th century and beyond.
Little Gasparilla Island beach find
- Federally recognized tribes
- Unrecognized tribes#Florida
- Indigenous people of the Everglades region
- Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean
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