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The Apalachee Indians are of Muskhogean stock and linguistically are closely related to the Choctaw. Their first known inhabitation of North America is found around Lake Jackson, Louisiana, where they appeared to have resided from about 1100-1511. Archeologists have studied the mortuary evidence found in the mounds in the Lake Jackson region, and have identified a complex chiefdom of the Apalachee people. When Narváez and De Soto encountered them in the 16th century, they were found in Florida, but there is no evidence that there was a large scale migration of people to the Floridian peninsula. Rather it appears from the archeological remains that there was an abandonment of the political centers of the tribe, both at Lake Jackson and a smaller center at Velda, and a movement of the paramount chief from the Lake Jackson to the Anhaica Apalachee region. In 1608 some of the chiefs of the Apalachee travelled to St. Augustine and pledged allegiance to the Spanish Crown. While there, they “invited” Spanish missionaries to their villages. For several generations the Apalachee people would become slaves to the Spanish authorities… they would lose their religion, their nobility, and their political structure. The Apalachee province once held the region north of the bay now called by the name, from about the neighborhood of Pensacola river to Ocilla river. The chief towns were about the present Tallahassee and St Marks. Soon after the Indian wars and the collapse of the Spanish Missions, the remaining tribe relocated to the Mobile and Louisiana area. A band of Apalachee Indians moved from the neighborhood of Mobile to Louisiana in 1764, remained for a short time on the Mississippi River and then moved up to Red River, where they obtained a grant of land along with the Taensa. Later they sold this land and part of them probably removed to Oklahoma, but others remained in Louisiana and amalgamated with other tribes. Presently, the last surviving band of Apalachee Indians is called the Talimali Band.
Apalachee Indian History
One of the principal native tribes of Florida, formerly holding the region north of the bay now called by the name, from about the neighborhood of Pensacola east to Ocilla River. The chief towns were about the present Tallahassee and St Marks. They were of Muskhogean stock, and linguistically more nearly related to the Choctaw than to the Creeks.
The name is of uncertain etymology, but is believed by Gatschet to be from the Choctaw A‘palachi, signifying ‘(people) on the other side.’ The Apalachee were visited by the expeditions under Narvaez in 1528 and DeSoto in 1539, and the latter made their country his winter head quarters on account of its abundant resources for subsistence. The people were agricultural, industrious and prosperous, and noted above all the surrounding tribes for their fighting qualities, of which the Spanish adventurers had good proof. They continued resistance to the Spanish occupancy until after the year 1600, but were finally subdued and Christianized, their country becoming the most important center of missionary effort in Florida next to the St Augustine (Timucua) district. In 1655 they had 8 considerable towns, each with a Franciscan mission, besides smaller settlements, and a total population of 6,000 to 8,000. Their prosperity continued until about the year 1700, when they began to suffer front the raids by the wild Creek tribes to the north, instigated by the English government of Carolina, the Apalachee themselves being strongly in the Spanish interest. These attacks culminated in the year 1703, when a powerful expedition under Gov. Moore of Carolina, consisting of a company of white troops with a thousand armed Indian allies of various tribes, invaded the Apalachee country, destroyed the towns and missions, with their fields and orange groves, killed the Spanish garrison commander and more than 200 Apalachee warriors, and carried off 1,400 of the tribe into slavery. Another expedition about a year later ravaged the neighboring territory and completed the destruction. The remnants of the Apalachee became fugitives among the friendly tribes or fled for protection to the French at Mobile, and although an effort was made by one of the Christian chiefs in 1718 to gather some of them into new mission villages (Soledad and San Luis) near Pensacola, the result was only temporarily successful. A part of the deported Apalachee were colonized by the Carolina government on Savannah River, at a settlement known as Palachoocla (Palachi-okla), or Apalachicola, but were finally merged into the Creeks. Those who settled under French protection near Mobile crossed the Mississippi into Louisiana after the cession of Florida to England in 1763, and continued to preserve their name and identity as late, at least, as 1804, when 14 families were still living on Bayou Rapide.
Among the principal Apalachee towns or mission settlements of certain identification are:
- Apalachee (1528-39 and later, believed to have been near the present Tallahassee)
- San Marcos
- San Juan
- Santa Cruz
- San Luis (1718)
- Soledad (1718)
For Further Study
The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Apalachee Tribe as both an ethnological study, and as a people.
Early History and ethnology of the Apalachee Indian Tribe:
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- Apalachee Indian Tribe
An ethnological look into the Apalachee Indian Tribe as they were known to John Swanton in 1953.
- Apalachi Indian Tribe
Short description of the Apalachee tribe with a brief history. Written by Albert Gatschet.
- Apalachee in Louisiana (hosted at Archaeology Magazine)
- Mission San Luis de Apalachee
- The Apalachee Trail (hosted at St. Petersburg Times Online)
- Apalachee (hosted at Florida Indian Mounds)