Ais Indian Tribe
Ais Meaning unknown; there is
no basis for Romans' (1775) derivation from the Choctaw word "isi" (deer).
Jece, form of the name given by Dickenson (1699).
Circumstantial evidence, particularly resemblance in town
names, leads to the conclusion that the Ais language was similar to that of the Calusa and
the other south Florida tribes. (See Calusa.) It is believed that it was
connected with the Muskhogean stock.
Indian River on the east coast of the peninsula.
village mentioned by explorers and geographers bears some form of the
speaks of a Biscayan named Pedro who had been held prisoner in Ais,
evidently during the sixteenth century, and spoke the Ais language
fluently. Shortly after the Spaniards made their first establishments in
the peninsula, a war broke out with the Ais, but peace was concluded in
1570. In 1597 Governor Mendez de Canšo,
who traveled along the entire east coast from the head of the Florida Keys
to St. Augustine, reported that the Ais chief had more Indians under him
than any other. A little later the Ais killed a Spaniard and two Indians
sent to them by Canšo for which
summary revenge was exacted, and still later a difficulty was created by
the escape of two Negro slaves and their marriage with Ais men. Relations
between the Floridian government and these Indians were afterward friendly
but efforts to missionize them uniformly failed. An intimate picture of
their condition in 1699 is given by the Quaker Dickenson (1803), who was
shipwrecked on the coast farther south and obliged, with his companions,
to travel through their territory. They disappear from history after 1703,
but the remnant may have been among those who, according to Romans (1775),
passed over to Cuba in 1763, although he speaks of them all as Calusa.
Mooney (1928) estimates the
number of Indians on the southeastern coast of Florida in 1650, including this
tribe, the Tekesta, Guacata, and Jeaga, to
have been 1,000. As noted above, the Ais were the most important of these
and undoubtedly the largest. We have no other estimates of population
applying to the seventeenth century. In 1726, 88 "Costa" Indians were
reported in a mission farther north and these may have been drawn from the
southeast coast. In 1728, 52 "Costa" Indians were reported.
Connection in which
they have become noted
The Ais were noted as the most important tribe
of southeastern Florida, and they were probably responsible for the fact
that the watercourse on which they dwelt came to be called Indian River,
Early in the eighteenth century the Pawokti, and perhaps some
other Alabama bands, lived near Apalachicola River, whence they were
driven in 1708. After the Creek-American War a part of the Alabama again
entered Florida, but they do not seem to have maintained an independent
existence for a very long period. (See
Notes About the Book:
Source: The Indian Tribes of North America, by John R. Swanton, 1953, Bureau of
American Ethnology, Bulletin 145, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC.
Online Publication: The manuscript was scanned and then ocr'd. Minimal editing
has been done, and readers can and should expect some errors in the textual