FLORIDA INDIAN TRIBES
The Seminoles of Florida call themselves the “Unconquered People,” descendants of just 300 Indians who managed to elude capture by the U.S. army in the 19th century.
Today, more than 2,000 live on six reservations in the state – located in Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee, Ft. Pierce, and Tampa.
Some still live in open, palm-thatched dwellings called chickees, wear clothing that is an evolution of traditional styles, and some celebrate the passing of the seasons just as their ancestors did more than two centuries ago.
The Seminoles were once part of the Creek tribe and are descendants of those who took refuge from the US army in the swamps of Florida.
The 1770s is when Florida Indians collectively became known as Seminole, a name meaning “wild people” or “runaway.”
The famous warrior Osceola (a.k.a. William Powell) and the inspirational medicine man Abiaka (a.k.a. Sam Jones) are two of the best known Seminole historical figures.
There is no such thing as a “Seminole” language. Today, the members of the Seminole tribe speak one or both of two languages: Maskókî and Mikisúkî.
These are the only two left from among the dozens of dialects that were spoken by their ancestors here in the Southeast.
Maskókî, erroneously called “Creek” by English speakers, is the core language. Mikisúkî is a dialect of Hitchiti, which was itself a dialect of the core language, Maskókî.
Although Maskokî is spoken in Oklahoma as well as in Florida, Mikisukî is spoken in only one place on earth: in South Florida, by the members of the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes.
FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED TRIBES
(Federal List Last Updated 5/16)
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida
Seminole Tribe of Florida (Dania, Big Cypress, Brighton, Hollywood and Tampa Reservations)
STATE RECOGNIZED TRIBES
(Not recognized by the Federal Government)
In Florida, the Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs in 1988 adopted a policy which recommends that state officials refrain from recognizing any group not first acknowledged by the federal government.
However, they have set a secondary set of recommendations for what the criteria for state recognition should be in case the state government should wish to bypass the first recommendation: “A state action should
(1) create a government-to-government relationship between state and tribe,
(2) set forth an explicit rendering of the state’s interpretation of ‘recognition,’
(3) be confined only to groups descended from Seminole, Miccosukee, Creek, or a tribe located in Florida prior to May 30, 1830, and
(4) meet federal criteria for recognition.” So far, Florida State has recognized no tribes.
UNRECOGNIZED / PETITIONING TRIBES
Apalachicola Band of Creek Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/17/200
Choctaws of Florida(aka Hunter Tsalagi Choctaw Tribe). Letter of Intent to Petition 03/02/2005
Creeks East of the Mississippi (a.k.a. Principal Creek Indian Nation East of the Mississippi). Letter of Intent to Petition 03/21/1973 (petitioned as part of a State-recognized tribe Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe – East of the Mississippi, Inc., Georgia); declined to Acknowledge 12/21/1981 46 FR 51652, see also 47 FR 14783
Indian Creek Band, Chickamauga Creek & Cherokee Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 02/19/2004
Muscogee Nation of Florida (formerly Florida Tribe of Eastern Creek Indians). Letter of Intent to Petition 06/02/1978; awaiting Active Consideration; all documents have been filed with BAR.
Creek-Euchee Band of Indians of Florida. Letter of Intent to Petition 11/23/1999; Letter of Intent withdrawn 10/20/2000; merged with Florida
Tribe of Eastern Creek Indians
Oklewaha Band of Yamassee Seminole Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 02/12/1990.
Perdido Bay Tribe of Lower Muscogee Creeks
Seminole Nation of Florida (aka Traditional Seminole). Letter of Intent to Petition 08/05/1983; referred to SOL for determination 5/25/1990.
Tuscola United Cherokee Tribe of Florida, Inc. (formerly Tuscola United Cherokees of Florida & Alabama, Inc.). Letter of Intent to Petition 01/19/1979; withdrawn at petitioner’s request 11/24/1997; reinstated 2005.
Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe, Inc. of Florida.(Florida and Alabama.)
PRE-CONTACT FLORIDA TRIBES
Pre-Historic Cultures in Florida
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
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.
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 Tranisitional 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 (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.
10,000-8500 BC – Paleo Indian
10,000 BC – Vero Man was discovered in 1915 and his age has been determined to be 10-12,000 years old.
5000-2000 BCE – The pre-ceramic Mount Taylor Culture.
2300-500 BCE – Ceramic producing Orange Culture.
1050 BCE – The Belle Glade culture lived in the Lake Okeechobee basin and Kissimmee River valley.
550 BCE – The Glades culture lived in the Everglades, southeast Florida and the Florida Keys.
550 BCE – The Manasota culture lived along the central peninsular Gulf coast of Florida.
550 BCE – The St. Johns culture lived in east and central Florida.
500 BCE – The Caloosahatchee culture lived from the Charlotte Harbor to Ten Thousand Islands.
500 BCE–150/250 CE – The Deptford culture of the Gulf Region lived along the Gulf coast from the Florida/Alabama border to Charlotte Harbor, in southwest Georgia, and southeastern Alabama.
500 BCE–700 CE – The Depford culture of the Atlantic Region lived along the Atlantic coast from the mouth of the St. Johns River in Florida to Cape Fear, North Carolina.
150–350 – The Swift Creek Culture lived in the eastern Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia.
150–350 – The Santa Rosa-Swift Creek Culture lived in the western Florida Panhandle.
100–1000 CE – The Wheeden Island Cultures lived in Florida and Southwest Georgia:
100–700 – Wheeden Island Culture I – Lived in the Florida Panhandle, north peninsular Gulf coast in Florida, interior north Florida, and southwest Georgia.
200–750 – The Cades Pond Culture lived in north central Florida.
200–700 – The McKeithen Weeden Island culture lived in northern Florida.
750–1000 – The Weeden Island II Culture, including the Wakulla culture in the Florida Panhandle, lived in the Florida Panhandle, north peninsular Gulf coast of Florida, and southwest Georgia.
700 – Historic Period – The Alachua culture lived in north central Florida.
750 – Historic Period – The Suwannee Valley culture lived in northern Florida.
800 – Historic Period – The Safety Harbor culture lived on the central peninsular Gulf coast of Florida.
1000 – Historic Period – The Fort Walton Culture (a Mississippian culture) lived in the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia.
1250 – Historic Period – The Pensacola Culture (another Mississippian culture), lived in the western part of the Florida Panhandle, southern Alabama and southern Mississippi.
Archaelogical finds indicate that Florida had been inhabited for many thousands of years prior to any European settlements. People first reached Florida at least 12,000 years ago.
The rich variety of environments in prehistoric Florida supported a large number of plants and animals. The animal population included most mammals that we know today.
In addition, many other large mammals that are now extinct (such as the saber-tooth tiger, mastodon, giant armadillo, and camel) roamed the land.
The Florida coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico was very different 12,000 years ago. The sea level was much lower than it is today, by approximately 330 feet.
As a result, the Florida peninsula was more than twice as large as it is now.
The people who inhabited Florida at that time were hunters and gatherers, who only rarely sought big game for food.
Modern researchers think that their diet consisted of small animals, plants, nuts, and shellfish. Before the sea level rose, inland Florida was very dry, with few rivers and watering holes.
These first Floridians settled in areas where a steady water supply, good stone resources for tool making, and firewood were available.
Over the centuries, these native people developed complex cultures.
During the period prior to contact with Europeans, native societies of the peninsula developed cultivated agriculture, traded with other groups in what is now the southeastern United States, and increased their social organization, reflected in large temple mounds and village complexes.
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 of Florida.
The Creek migrants included Hitchiti and Mikasuki speakers. There were also some non-Creek Yamasee and Yuchi migrants.
A series of wars with the United States resulted in the removal of most of the Indians to Oklahoma and the merging of the remainder by ethnogenesis into the current Seminole and Miccosuki tribes of Florida.
Other tribes that have lived in Florida:
This section includes the names of tribes, chiefdoms and towns encountered by Europeans in what is now the state of Florida, mostly 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.
Aguacaleyquen Indians, see >Utina.
Alabama Indians – Early in the eighteenth century the Pawokti, and perhaps some other Alabama bands, lived near the Apalachicola River in Florida in 1708. After the Creek-American War, a part of the Alabama again entered Florida, but they do not seem to have stayed for long. See Alabama-Coushatta Tribe (Texas) (F) and Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town (Oklahoma) (F).
Alafay (Alafaes, Alafaia, Elafay, Costa, Alafaia/Alafaya/Alafeyes Costas) – Closely related to or part of Pohoy.
Amacano Indians – Were possibly a band of the Yamasee tribe. They lived on the western Florida panhandle coast in the 17th century, and were allies of and spoke 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. The Spanish mission of San Luís served three towns that included members of the Amacano, Caparaz and Chine tribes, and recorded their collective population at 300.
Apalachees of Northwest Florida from Mission San Luis (Unrecognized) – A major tribe and the western anchor of the Florida mission system. A remnant migrated to Louisiana, where their descendants live today.
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 Indians – 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. Now known as the Choctaw Indians and located in several states.
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. Now known as Creek Indians.
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.
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 17th century, refugees from Uchise raids in various places in Florida in 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-speakers 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.
Saturiwa – Chiefdom on the lower St. Johns River, part of the mission system,
Tacatacuru – Chiefdom on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Survivors of the raids by the English and their Indian allies may have relocated to Florida.
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 – Lived along the coast in northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia, part of the mission system.
Utina Indians – Primary tribe in the group collectively called the Timucua Indians. Lived along the middle St. Johns River. (Now extinct.)
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.
Sources of records on US Indian tribes
Are there any indian reservations in Florida? We heard there was a tribe in Ormond Beach, Florida but cannot get any info on them.
–Submitted by Marie F.
There are indian reservations in Florida, but I don’t know of an Indian tribe with a reservation in Ormond Beach, Florida. There is a pow wow held there. It’s called the Native American Festival and is held at the Casement Cultural Center.
The Spanish chapter of Georgia’s earliest colonial history is dominated by the lengthy mission era, extending from 1568 through 1684. Catholic missions were the primary means by which Georgia’s indigenous Native American chiefdoms were assimilated into the Spanish colonial system along the northern frontier of greater Spanish Florida.
Establishment of Missions
Following the largely unsuccessful conversion efforts of Jesuit priests between 1568 and 1570, friars of the Franciscan Order spearheaded the establishment of missions among Indian groups near Florida’s Spanish colonial city, St. Augustine. After a brief effort among the coastal Guale in 1574-75, the Franciscan mission era shifted into full gear after the 1587 arrival of a group of friars from Spain.
Spanish Mission Sites in Georgia
The first successful mission established in Georgia was San Pedro de Mocama, founded in the capital town of the Timucua-speaking Mocama chiefdom on the southern end of present-day Cumberland Island. By the end of 1595 missions had also been established in at least one other Mocama town and no fewer than five main towns of the Muscogee-speaking Guale chiefdom on the northern Georgia coast. One of these missions, the Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island, later became the capital.
When five friars were murdered in the Guale rebellion of 1597, northern missions were abandoned completely until 1604. Nonetheless, additional missions were established in other coastal locations and in the state’s Timucuan interior during the first quarter of the seventeenth century. They extended from the forks of the Altamaha River across the Okefenokee Swamp to the upper watersheds of the Alapaha and Withlacoochee rivers.
Spanish missions were explicitly established for the purpose of religious conversion and instruction in the Catholic faith. However, the mission system actually served as the primary means of integrating Indians into the political and economic structure of Florida’s colonial system. Missions were normally established at the political center of local chiefdoms, in the villages where the chiefs lived and where the council houses were located.
Each mission was only a small compound within a much larger Indian community. The mission typically included a church structure (where Mass was celebrated and where Indian converts were buried) and a convent, or friary, where a single friar lived alone. Because chiefdoms were made up of a number of outlying satellite villages and hamlets, friars normally served a much larger group of Indians within their visitation rounds. Some subordinate communities had uninhabited secondary church structures as well.
Friars and Chiefs
Although Franciscan friars were clearly in charge of religious affairs, they were politically subordinate to governing Indian chiefs, whose authority in secular matters was rarely contested. Chiefs ruled with the assistance of hereditary counselors (their noble male relatives) and subordinate village headmen, and decision making was carried out in the council house.
All direct interaction with Spanish military authorities in St. Augustine was through the mediation of these hereditary chiefs. Nevertheless, the resident friars, who acted as subordinate religious practitioners on a day-to-day level, frequently acted as agents for the chiefs in disputes with the Spanish governor or military officers. The chiefs normally maintained considerable autonomy over their own local societies.
They gained prestige and legitimacy in the eyes of their subordinates through acquiring ornate Spanish clothing and other trade goods. Even though they were subordinate to the Spanish crown and church, Indian leaders found considerable benefits in becoming part of the mission system. Consequently, it was normally the chiefs who requested the dispatch of friars and the construction of missions, and not the other way around.
Effects of the Mission System
One important consequence of allegiance to the Spanish crown and incorporation into the Florida mission system was the repartimiento. Under this system of obligatory wage labor a specified number of unmarried male Indians were required to go to St. Augustine each year to work in the Spanish cornfields or to build and maintain Spanish fortifications.
Chiefs could select which subordinates were drafted each year, and these workers were paid in inexpensive trade goods for each day of labor. Up to three hundred mission Indians from across Spanish Florida were drafted annually for work between March and September, causing considerable change in the native societies. Workers often caught and spread epidemic diseases during their terms of service, and sometimes they died as an indirect result of overwork and exhaustion.
The absence of available male marriage partners also led to a demographic imbalance in the mission villages, especially when some workers chose or were forced to remain permanently in St. Augustine. Ultimately, however, the chiefs and village headmen voiced few complaints, as long as the workers acted as dutiful intermediaries in this labor arrangement.
Decline of Missions
Over the course of the mission period Indian population levels declined rapidly and substantially, plummeting well over 90 percent in many areas. Depopulation, combined with widespread forced resettlements dating to 1656 and 1657, eventually led to the abandonment of Georgia’s interior missions. Beginning with a devastating 1661 raid on the Santo Domingo de Talaje Mission at the mouth of the Altamaha River, there were also armed slave-raids by Indians allied with the English. These raids finally resulted in the retreat of all coastal missions to the barrier islands by 1685.
During this same period, refugees who came to be known as Yamasee Indians also settled briefly among the Mocama and Guale. They fled during pirate raids against the missions in 1683 but later joined the English in slave-raids on Florida. A final pirate raid in October 1684 left Georgia’s remaining missions in ruins, ending the mission period in this state. Georgia’s surviving mission Indians retreated south of the St. Marys River, where they were pushed farther southward.
All remaining missions across Spanish Florida had retreated to St. Augustine by the summer of 1706. The surviving descendants of Georgia’s Guale and Mocama missions were among the eighty-nine Indians who chose to evacuate Florida with the Spanish in 1763, relocating permanently to Cuba.