Collection: Early History of the Creek Indians

The Social Organization of Timucua Indians

Not much can be gathered from our French informants regarding the social organization of those people, but there is enough to show that they had a class of chiefs to whom great respect was paid, indicating resemblances to the oligarchic system of the Creeks. Ribault says: It is their manner to talk and bargain sitting; and the chief or king to be separated from the common people; with a show of great obedience to their kings, elders, and superiors. 1French, Hist. Colls. La., 1875, p. 171. This impression is confirmed by Pareja, the Franciscan missionary, and in addition ho...

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Government of the Timucua Indians

The aristocratic nature of Timucua government is apparent from the statements of the French already referred to as well as from the information regarding their social organization recorded by Pareja. From Pareja’s Catechism it appears that chiefs were allowed to exact tribute and labor from their subjects, and that by way of punishment they sometimes had the arms of their laborers broken. 1Proc. Am. Philos. Soc., XVIII, pp. 489, 490. From the same source We learn that just before assuming the chieftainship a man had a new fire lighted and maintained for six days in a small house or arbor which was closed up with laurels and “other things.” 2Proc. Am. Philos. Soc., XVIII, p. 490. The chiefs wore at times long painted skins, the ends of which were held up from the ground by attendants. Le Moyne figures this 3Le Moyne, Narrative, pl. 39. and the custom is directly confirmed by Laudonnière, whose testimony there is no reason to doubt; otherwise we might regard it as something drawn from the customs of European courts and falsely attributed to the Floridians. These skins were often presented to the French as marks of esteem. 4Laudonnière, La Floride, pp. 72-73; French, Hist. Colls. La., 1869, p. 228. In giving out drinking water the bearer observed “a certain order and reverence” to each. 5Laudonnière, La Floride, p. 74; French, Hist. Colls. La.,...

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Burial Customs of Timucua Indians

The following regarding burial customs is from Laudonnière: When a king dieth, they bury him very solemnly, and, upon his grave they set the cup wherein he was wont to drink; and round about the said grave, they stick many arrows, and weep and fast three days together, without ceasing. All the kings which were his friends make the like mourning; and, in token of the love which they bear him, they cut off more than the one-half of their hair, as well men as women. During the space of six moons (so they reckon their months), there are certain women appointed which bewail the death of this king, crying, with a loud voice, thrice a day – to wit, in the morning, at noon, and at evening. All the goods of this king are put into his house, and, afterwards, they set it on fire, so that nothing is ever more after to be seen. The like is done with the goods of the priests; and, besides, they bury the bodies of their priests in their houses, and then set them on fire. 1Laudonnière, La Floride, pp. 10-11; French, Hist. Colls. La., 1869, pp. 173-174. The mourning rites for persons of the lower orders are not given, but from Pareja it appears that the custom of cutting off the hair was universal. 2Pareja, Confessionario en Lengua Castellana y...

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Ceremonies and Feasts of Timucua Indians

The skill displayed by these Indians in debate is testified to by Spark. 1Hakluyt, Voyages, III, p. 613. Laudonnière and Le Moyne describe at considerable length their method of holding councils. Laudonnière says: They take no enterprise in hand, but first they assemble often times their council together, and they take very good advisement before they grow to a resolution. They meet together every morning in a great common house, whither their king repaireth, and setteth him down upon a seat, which is higher than the seats of the others; where all of them, one after another, come and salute him; and the most ancient begin their salutations, lifting up both their hands twice as high as their face, saying, Ha, he, ha! and the rest answer. Ah, ah! As soon as they have done their salutation, every man sitteth him down upon the seats which are round about in the house. If there be anything to entreat of, the king calleth the lawas, that is to say, their priests and the most ancient men, and asketh them their advice. Afterward, he commandeth cassine to be brewed, which is a drink made of the leaves of a certain tree. They drink this cassine 2Le Challeux spells the word cassinet. – Gaffarel, Hist. Floride française, p. 462. very hot; he drinketh first, then he causeth to be given thereof to...

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War Tactics of Florida Indians

The native institution with which the authorities which we depend upon had most to deal was, not unnaturally, war, and 10 of Le Moyne’s 42 sketches deal with it in one way or another. Some of these do not bring in native customs and need not be referred to, but the remainder give us our best information on the subject. Timucua weapons consisted of bows and arrows, darts, and clubs, the last of a type different from the Creek átåsa, if we may trust the illustrations. “A chief who declares war against his enemy,” says Le Moyne, “does not send a herald to do it, but orders some arrows, having locks of hairs fastened at the notches, to be stuck up along the public ways.” 1Le Moyne, Narrative, p. 13 (ill.). He gives the following account of the manner in which Saturiwa set out to war against his enemy, Utina: He assembled his men, decorated, after the Indian manner, with feathers and other things, in a level place, the soldiers of Laudonnière being present, and the force sat down in a circle, the chief being in the middle. A fire was then lighted on his left and two great vessels full of water were set on his right. Then, the chief, after rolling his eyes as if excited by anger, uttering some sounds deep down in his throat, and...

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Timucua Religion

According to our French informants the sun and moon were the principal objects of adoration among these Indians, particularly the former. 1French, Hist. Colls. La., 1869, p. 171; Laudonnière, La Floride, p. 8. This probably means that their beliefs were substantially like those of the Creeks and Chickasaw. A side light on their cult is furnished in the following account of a ceremony by Le Moyne: The subjects of the Chief Outina were accustomed every year, a little before their spring – that is, in the end of February – to take the skin of the largest stag they could get, keeping the horns on it; to stuff it full of all the choicest sorts of roots that grow among them, and to hang long wreaths or garlands of the best fruits on the horns, neck, and other parta of the body. Thus decorated, they carried it, with music and songs, to a very large and splendid level space, where they set it up on a very high tree, with the head and breast toward the sunrise. They then offered prayers to the sun, that he would cause to grow on their lands good things such as those offered him. The chief, with his sorcerer, stands nearest the tree and offers the prayer; the common people, placed at a distance, make responses. Then the chief and all the rest,...

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Calusa Indians in Florida

An early Spanish writer. Gov. Mendez de Canço, writing in 1598 or 1599, says that the Indians of southern Florida did not live in settled villages because they had no corn, but wandered about in search of fish and roots. Fontaneda, whose information dates from a very early period, has the following to say about the Indians of Calos (Calusa): These Indians possess neither gold nor silver, and still less clothing, for they go almost naked, wearing only a sort of apron. The dress of the men consists of braided palm loaves, and that of the women of moss, which grows on trees and somewhat resembles wool. Their common food consists of fish, turtles, snails, tunny fish, and whales, which they catch in their season. Some of them also eat the wolf fish, but this is not a common thing, owing to certain distinctions which they make between food proper for the chiefs and that of their subjects. On these islands is found a shell-fish known as the langosta, a sort of lobster, and another known in Spain as the chapin (trunk fish), of which they consume not less than the former. There are also on the islands a great number of animals, especially deer; and on some of them large bears are found. 1Doc. Ined., V, pp. 532-533. A later writer says that the Calusa Indians wore gold...

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Timicua Indians Food

The Florida Indians lived partly upon the natural products of the earth, but depended principally upon the chase, fishing, and agriculture, Laudonnière says: They make the string of their bow of the gut of the stag, or of a stag’s skin, which they know how to dress as well as any man in France, and with as different sorts of colors. They head their arrows with the teeth of fishes, which they work very finely and handsomely. 1Laudonnière, op. cit., p. 7; French, Hist. Colls. La., 1860, pp. 170-171. Ribault states that the shafts of their arrows were of reed. 2French, Hist. Colls. La., 1875, p. 174. Spark is considerably more detailed: In their warres they vse bowes and arrowes, whereof their bowes are made of a kind of Yew, but blacker than ours, and for the most part passing the strength of the Negros or Indians, for it is not greatly inferior to ours: their arrowes are also of a great length, but yet of reeds like other Indians, but varying in two points, both in length and also for nocks and feathers, which the other lacke, whereby they shoot very stedy: the heads of the same are vipers teeth, bones of fishes, flint stones, piked points of knives, which they hauing gotten of the French men, broke the same, & put the points of them in their...

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Timucua Indians Homes

There are not many special descriptions of Timucua houses. Ribault says, in speaking of the dwellings of those Indians whom he met at the mouth of the river which he called the Seine and which was probably what is now known as the St. Marys: Their houses are made of wood, fitly and closely set up, and covered with reeds, the most part after the fashion of a pavilion. But there was one house among the rest very long and wide, with seats around about made of reeds nicely put together, which serve both for beds and seats, two feet high from the ground, set upon round pillars painted red, yellow, and blue, and neatly polished. 1French, Hist. Colls. La., 1869, p. 180. Le Challeux describes them thus: Their dwellings are of a round shape and in style almost like the pigeon houses of this country, the foundation and main structure being of great trees, covered over with palmetto leaves, and not fearing either wind or tempest. 2Gaffarel, Hist. Floride française, p. 461. Says Le Moyne: The chief’s dwelling stands in the middle of the town, and is partly underground in consequence of the sun’s heat. Around this are the houses of the principal men, all lightly roofed with palm branches, as they are occupied only nine months in the year; the other three, as has been related, being...

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Timucua Indians Clothing

Ribault describes the Timucua as “of good stature, well shaped of body as any people in the world; very gentle, courteous, and good-natured, of tawny color, hawked nose, and of pleasant countenance.” 1French, Hist. Colls. La., 1875, p. 170. They were good swimmers and could climb trees with agility. The only invariable article of apparel worn by males was the breechclout, which we are informed consisted of a painted deerskin. Le Moyne represents this as if it were in one piece, passed about the privates, and carried round and tied at the back. If his representation might be relied upon the Florida Indians would be set off in this particular from all Indian tribes known to us, but there is every reason to believe he is wrong. As worn elsewhere, the breechclout consisted of a belt about the waist and a skin or piece of cloth passed between the legs and between the belt and the body, the ends being allowed to fall down in front and behind. That the natives did have belts is proved by Ribault’s narrative, for he says that when he was at the mouth of the St. Johns River a chief sent him a girdle of red leather in token of friendship. 2French, Hist. Colls. La., 1875, p. 170. The warm climate of Florida rendered additional garments less necessary than with other southern tribes,...

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Calusa Towns

All of the Indians of southern Florida on the western side of the peninsula, from the Timucua territories as far as and including the Florida Keys, belonged to a confederacy or overlordship called Calusa or Calos. On the eastern coast were a number of small independent tribes, each usually occupying only one settlement. The most important of these appears to have been Ais, located close to what is now Indian River Inlet. The next in prominence, if not in power, were the Tekesta, at or near the present Miami, and between these were the Jeaga, or Jega, in Jupiter Inlet, and the Guacata and Santa Lucia Indians, probably identical, who lived about St. Lucie River. The province of Ais is said to have extended northward almost to Cape Canaveral, but the authority of its chief was probably not very great along the northern edge of this area, where we are told of a province called Ulumay. We will consider first the towns of Calusa. Two lists of Calusa towns have come to my notice; one in Fontaneda’s Memoir, the other possibly from him also, but containing many more names and some variants of the names in his Memoir — in the Lowery manuscripts. From the fact that Tampa is given by Fontaneda as a Calusa town, it has been quite generally assumed that the Calusa extended as far north...

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Yuchi Indian Tribe

The Yuchi have attracted considerable attention owing to the fact that they were one of the very few small groups in the eastern part of North America having an independent stock language. Their isolation in this respect, added to the absence of a migration legend among them and their own claims, have led to a belief that they were the most ancient inhabitants of the extreme southeastern parts of the present United States. The conclusion was natural, almost inevitable, but the event proves how little the most plausible theory may amount to in the absence of adequate information. Strong evidence has now come to light that these people, far from being aboriginal inhabitants of the country later associated with them, had occupied it within the historic period.

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The Yamasee War

In 1715 the Yamasee war broke out, the most disastrous of all those which the two Carolina settlements had to face. The documents of South Carolina show clearly that the immediate cause of this uprising was the misconduct of some English traders, but it is evident that the enslavement of Indians, carried on by Carolina traders in an ever more open and unscrupulous manner, was bound to produce such an explosion sooner or later. The best contemporary narratives of this revolt are to be found in “An Account of Missionaries Sent to South Carolina, the Places to Which They Were Appointed, Their Labours and Success, etc.,” and in “An Account of the Breaking Out of the Yamassee War, in South Carolina, extracted from the Boston News, of the 13th of June, 1715,” both contained in Carroll’s Historical Collections of South Carolina. 1Vol. II, pp. 538-576. The following is from the first of these documents: In the year 1715, the Indians adjoining to this colony, all round from the borders of Fort St. Augistino to Cape Fear, had formed a conspiracy to extirpate the white people. This war broke out the week before Easter [actually on April 15]. The parish of St. Helen’s had some apprehensions of a rising among the adjoining Indians, called the Yammosees. On Wednesday before Easter, Captain Nairn, agent among the Indians, went, with some others,...

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Tukabahchee Tribe

Tukabahchee was not only considered one of the four “foundation sticks” of the Creek Confederacy, but as the leading town among the Upper Creeks, and many add the leading town of the whole nation. During later historic times it was the most populous of all the upper towns, and is to-day the most populous without any exception. Like the other head towns, it has a special ceremonial title, Spokogi, or Ispokogi. Jackson Lewis thought this meant that Tukabahchee brooded over the other towns like a hen over her chickens. Another old Creek was of the opinion that it meant “to hold something firmly,” since it was this town that held the confederacy together. Gatschet interprets it as “town of survivors,” or “surviving town, remnant of a town.” 1Gatschet. Creek Mig. Leg., I, p. 148. It can not be said, however, that any of the suggested interpretations has great probability in its favor. As some early writers give the second consonant as t instead of k, the initial word in the name may have been tutka, fire. The original Spokogi were supposed to be certain beings who descended from the upper world to the Tukabahchee and brought them their medicine. From the intimacy which long subsisted between the Tukabahchee and Shawnee I am inclined to think that the resemblance between this word and that of one of the Shawnee bands,...

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