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Ethnology of Florida Indians
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Native American | No Comments
From what has been said regarding the history of the Florida Indians it is evident that it is no longer possible to add to their ethnology, except as new manuscripts come to light from time to time, particularly in the Spanish archives. It is probable, however, that such supplementary information will be comparatively small. We must rely principally on the narratives of Laudonnière and his companions, assisted by the illustrations of Le Moyne, on such information as may be extracted from the writings of the Franciscan fathers, Pareja and Mouilla, and on a few notes in the works of other Spaniards. It has not been thought best to reproduce Le Moyne’s drawings in the present volume, although his text has been freely drawn upon, because the former contain so many errors that Le Moyne must have intrusted the execution to some one entirely unfamiliar with his subject, or else extreme liberties must have been taken with the originals.
Notes conveying specific information regarding the ethnology of the Calusa, Tekesta, and Ais Indians of southern Florida are few.
The following, also from the notes of Lopez de Velasco, is all that I have been able to find regarding the customs of the Tekesta Indians. This writer extends the term, however, to cover the entire southeast coast of Florida as far as Cape Canaveral.
The Indians of Tegesta, which is another province extending from the Martires to Canaveral, have a custom, when the cacique dies, of disjointing his body and taking out the largest bones. These are placed in a large box and carried to the house of the cacique, where every Indian from the town goes to see and adore them, believing them to be their gods.
In winter all the Indians go out to sea in their canoes, to hunt for sea cows. One of their number carries three stakes fastened to his girdle and a rope on his arm. When he discovers a sea cow he throws his rope around its neck, and as the animal sinks under the water, the Indian drives a stake through one of its nostrils, and no matter how much it may dive, the Indian never loses it, because he goes on its back. After it has been killed they cut open its head and take out two large bones, which they place in the coffin, with the bodies of their dead and worship them.1
Brooks MSS., Lib. Cong. Translated by Miss Brooks. ↩
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