Ais (tribe)
Overview
 
The Ais, or Ays were a tribe of Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 who inhabited the Atlantic Coast of Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. They ranged from present day Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral, from the Spanish Cabo Cañaveral, is a headland in Brevard County, Florida, United States, near the center of the state's Atlantic coast. Known as Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973, it lies east of Merritt Island, separated from it by the Banana River.It is part of a region known as the...

 to the St. Lucie Inlet
St. Lucie Inlet, Florida
The St. Lucie Inlet, Florida is located between Hutchinson Island and Jupiter Island in Martin County, Florida, at coordinates . The St. Lucie Inlet is one of six inlets into the Indian River Lagoon....

, in the present day counties of Brevard
Brevard County, Florida
Brevard County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. As of 2007 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the population is 536,521, making it the 10th most populous county in the state. Influenced by the presence of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Brevard...

, Indian River
Indian River County, Florida
Indian River County is a county located in the Treasure Coast region in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 112,947. The U.S. Census Bureau 2005 estimate for the county is 128,594...

, St. Lucie
St. Lucie County, Florida
St. Lucie County is a county located in the state of Florida. The county seat is the city of Fort Pierce. In the year 2000, the population was 192,695. As of the year 2010, the United States Census Bureau sets the population at 277,789.- History :...

 and northernmost Martin
Martin County, Florida
Martin County is a county in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 126,731. The U.S. Census Bureau 2008 estimate for the county is 138,660. Its county seat is Stuart, Florida.- History :...

. They lived in villages and towns along the shores of the great lagoon called Rio de Ais by the Spanish, and now called the Indian River
Indian River (Florida)
The Indian River is a waterway in Florida, a part of the Indian River Lagoon system which forms the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It extends southward from the Ponce de Leon inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida [Volusia County] southward and across the "Haulover Canal" and along the western shore...

.
The name Ais is derived from a great Indian Cacique (Chief).
Little is known of the origins of the Ais, or of the affinities of their language.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The Ais, or Ays were a tribe of Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 who inhabited the Atlantic Coast of Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. They ranged from present day Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral, from the Spanish Cabo Cañaveral, is a headland in Brevard County, Florida, United States, near the center of the state's Atlantic coast. Known as Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973, it lies east of Merritt Island, separated from it by the Banana River.It is part of a region known as the...

 to the St. Lucie Inlet
St. Lucie Inlet, Florida
The St. Lucie Inlet, Florida is located between Hutchinson Island and Jupiter Island in Martin County, Florida, at coordinates . The St. Lucie Inlet is one of six inlets into the Indian River Lagoon....

, in the present day counties of Brevard
Brevard County, Florida
Brevard County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. As of 2007 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the population is 536,521, making it the 10th most populous county in the state. Influenced by the presence of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Brevard...

, Indian River
Indian River County, Florida
Indian River County is a county located in the Treasure Coast region in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 112,947. The U.S. Census Bureau 2005 estimate for the county is 128,594...

, St. Lucie
St. Lucie County, Florida
St. Lucie County is a county located in the state of Florida. The county seat is the city of Fort Pierce. In the year 2000, the population was 192,695. As of the year 2010, the United States Census Bureau sets the population at 277,789.- History :...

 and northernmost Martin
Martin County, Florida
Martin County is a county in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 126,731. The U.S. Census Bureau 2008 estimate for the county is 138,660. Its county seat is Stuart, Florida.- History :...

. They lived in villages and towns along the shores of the great lagoon called Rio de Ais by the Spanish, and now called the Indian River
Indian River (Florida)
The Indian River is a waterway in Florida, a part of the Indian River Lagoon system which forms the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It extends southward from the Ponce de Leon inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida [Volusia County] southward and across the "Haulover Canal" and along the western shore...

.
The name Ais is derived from a great Indian Cacique (Chief).
Little is known of the origins of the Ais, or of the affinities of their language. The Ais language has been tentatively assigned by some authors to the Muskogean language family
Muskogean languages
Muskogean is an indigenous language family of the Southeastern United States. Though there is an ongoing debate concerning their interrelationships, the Muskogean languages are generally divided into two branches, Eastern Muskogean and Western Muskogean...

 , and by others to the Arawakan language family
Arawakan languages
Macro-Arawakan is a proposed language family of South America and the Caribbean based on the Arawakan languages. Sometimes the proposal is called Arawakan, in which case the central family is called Maipurean....

.

Observations on the appearance, diet and customs of the Ais at the end of the 17th Century are found in Jonathan Dickinson
Jonathan Dickinson
Jonathan Dickinson was a Quaker merchant from Port Royal, Jamaica who was shipwrecked on the southeast coast of Florida in 1696, along with his family and the other passengers and crew members of the ship....

's Journal. Dickinson and his party were shipwrecked, and spent several weeks among the Ais in 1696. By Dickinson's account, the chief of the town of Jece, near present day Vero Beach
Vero Beach, Florida
Vero Beach is a city in Indian River County, Florida, USA. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 estimates, the city had a population of 16,939. It is the county seat of Indian River County...

, was paramount to all of the coastal towns from the Jaega town of Jobe (at Jupiter Inlet) in the south to approximately Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral, from the Spanish Cabo Cañaveral, is a headland in Brevard County, Florida, United States, near the center of the state's Atlantic coast. Known as Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973, it lies east of Merritt Island, separated from it by the Banana River.It is part of a region known as the...

 in the north (that is, the length of the River of Ais).

The Ais had considerable contact with Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

ans by this time. The Spanish became acquainted with the Ais in middle of the 16th century. In 1566 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was a Spanish admiral and explorer, best remembered for founding St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. This was the first successful Spanish foothold in La Florida and remained the most significant city in the region for several hundred years. St...

, founder of St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is a city in the northeast section of Florida and the county seat of St. Johns County, Florida, United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United...

, established a fort and mission at an Ais town, which the Spanish called Santa Lucía. After the Ais attacked the fort, killing 23 of the Spanish soldiers, the fort and mission were abandoned. Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 had eventually established some control over the coast, with the Ais regarding the Spanish as friends (comerradoes) and non-Spanish Europeans as enemies. A number of Ais men knew a little Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, and a patrol of Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 soldiers from St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is a city in the northeast section of Florida and the county seat of St. Johns County, Florida, United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United...

 arrived in Jece while the Dickinson party was there. There was one man in Jece who had been taken away on an English ship to work as a diver on a wreck east of Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. He got away when the ship put in for water in Cuba, and had made his way back to his home via Havana and St. Augustine.

Pedro's Bluff

In December of 1571, Pedro Menéndez de Aviléswas sailing from Florida to Havanna with two frigates when, as he tells it, "I was wrecked at Cape Canaveral because of a storm which came upon me, and the other boat was lost fifteen leagues further on in the Bahama Channel, in a river they call the Ais, because the cacique is so called. I, by a miracle reached the fort of St. Augustine with seventeen persons I was taking with me. Three times the Indians gave the order to attack me, and the way I escaped them was by ingenuity and arousing fear in them, telling them that behind me many Spaniards were coming who would slay them if they found them."

Period of Friendship

In 1605, the Governor, Pedro de Ibarra
Pedro de Ibarra (governor of La Florida)
- Governor of La Florida :Originally from the Basque Country, in 1549 he explored the region in Zamora. In 1603 he was appointed governor of Florida...

 sent a soldier by the name of Alvaro Mexia
Alvaro Mexia
Alvaro Mexia was a 17th century Spanish explorer and cartographer of the east coast of Florida. Mexia was stationed in St Augustine and was given a diplomatic mission to the native populations living south of St. Augustine and in the Cape Canaveral area...

 on a diplomatic mission to the Ais Indian Nation. The mission was a success, not only did they firm up an agreement for receiving shipwrecked sailors for a ransom to the Ais but a map of the Indian River area was made. The Ais had many European artifacts from ship wrecks. As there was a group from another English shipwreck in Jece when the Dickinson party reached the town, it may be presumed that European and African survivors of shipwrecks were fairly common along the coast. There was also some trade with St. Augustine. Dickinson reports that one man of Jece had approximately five pounds of ambergris
Ambergris
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales....

, and that he "boasted that when he went for Augustine with that, he would purchase of the Spaniards a looking-glass, an axe, a knife or two, and three or four mannocoes (which is about five or six pounds) of tobacco."

The Ais did not survive long after Dickinson's sojourn with them. Shortly after 1700 settlers in the Province of Carolina
Province of Carolina
The Province of Carolina, originally chartered in 1629, was an English and later British colony of North America. Because the original Heath charter was unrealized and was ruled invalid, a new charter was issued to a group of eight English noblemen, the Lords Proprietors, in 1663...

 and their Indian allies started raiding the Ais, killing them and carrying captives to Charles Town
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

 to be sold as slaves. In 1743 the Spanish established a short-lived mission on Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay is a lagoon that is approximately 35 miles long and up to 8 miles wide located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, United States. It is usually divided for purposes of discussion and analysis into three parts: North Bay, Central Bay, and South Bay. Its area is...

 (in the area of present-day Miami). The priests assigned to that mission reported the presence of people they called "Santa Luces", perhaps a name for the Ais derived from "Santa Lucia", somewhere to the north of Biscayne Bay. The Ais were gone from the area by 1760.

Diet

Dickinson stated that the Ais "neither sow nor plant any manner of thing whatsoever", but fished and gathered palmetto
Palmetto
-Botany:Members of several genera of small palms:*the genus Sabal of the Arecaceae family**Dwarf Palmetto**Sabal palmetto*Saw Palmetto, Serenoa repens*Silver saw palmetto, Acoelorraphe wrightii-Place names:United States...

, cocoplum and seagrape berries. Dickinson described the fishing technique of the neighboring Jaega people of Jobe thus:
[T]he Casseekey
Cacique
Cacique is a title derived from the Taíno word for the pre-Columbian chiefs or leaders of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles...

 [of Jobe] ... sent his son with his striking staff to the inlet to strike fish for us; which was performed with great dexterity; for some of us walked down with him, and though we looked very earnestly when he threw his staff from him could not see a fish at which time he saw it, and brought it onshore on the end of his staff. Sometimes he would run swiftly pursuing a fish, and seldom missed when he darted at him. In two hours time he got as many fish as would serve twenty men[.]


The Ais boiled their fish, and ate them from 'platters' of palmetto leaf:
About noon was some fish brought us on small palmetto leaves, being boiled with scales, head and gills, and nothing taken from then but the gut[.]


Dickinson also recorded a gift of clams to his wife:
This day the Cassekey [of Jece] ... made presents to some of us, especially to my wife; he gave her a parcel of shellfish, which are known by the name of clams; one or two he roasted and gave her, showing that she must serve the rest so, and eat them.


The Ais dried some of the berries they gathered for future use:
This week we observed that great baskets of dried berries were brought in from divers towns and delivered to the king or Young Caseekey [of Jece.]


Dickinson does not say anything about the Ais hunting, but they did use deer skins, and the neighboring Jaega people of Jobe gave the Dickinson party a hog they had killed.

Clothing

The Ais men wore a "loincloth" of woven palm leaves. Dickinson describes this as:
being a piece of platwork of straws wrought of divers colors and of a triangular figure, with a belt of four fingers broad of the same wrought together, which goeth about the waist and the angle of the other having a thing to it, coming between the legs, and strings to the end of the belt; all three meeting together are fastened behind by a horsetail, or a bunch of silkgrass exactly resembling it, of a flaxen color, this being all of the apparel or covering that the men wear.


He has little to say on how the women dressed, recording only that his wife and female slaves were given "raw deer skins" with which to cover themselves after their European clothing had been taken away. Women of the Tequesta tribe, to the south of the Ais, were reported to wear "shawls" made of woven palm leaves, and "skirts” made from draped fibers from the Spanish dagger (Yucca
Yucca
Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae. Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry parts of North...

), similar to the "grass" skirts of Hawaii.

Housing

Dickinson states that the town of Jece "stood about half a mile from the seashore within the land on the sound, being surrounded with a swamp, in which grew white mangrove
Laguncularia racemosa
Laguncularia racemosa is a species of flowering plant in the leadwood tree family, Combretaceae...

 trees, which hid the town from the sea."

Dickinson describes the Cacique
Cacique
Cacique is a title derived from the Taíno word for the pre-Columbian chiefs or leaders of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles...

's house in Santa Lucea as "about forty foot long and twenty-five foot wide, covered with palmetto leaves both top and sides. There was a range of cabins, or a barbecue on one side and two ends. At the entering on one side of the house a passage was made of benches on each side leading to the cabins."

Subject and related tribes

The Mayaca
Mayaca (tribe)
Mayaca was the name used by the Spanish to refer to an Indian tribe in central Florida, to the principal village of that tribe and to the chief of that village in the 1560s. The Mayacas occupied an area in the upper St. Johns River valley just to the south of Lake George...

, who lived along the upper St. Johns River
St. Johns River
The St. Johns River is the longest river in the U.S. state of Florida and its most significant for commercial and recreational use. At long, it winds through or borders twelve counties, three of which are the state's largest. The drop in elevation from the headwaters to the mouth is less than ;...

 south of Lake George
Lake George (Florida)
Lake George or Lake Welaka is a broad and shallow brackish lake on the St. Johns River in the U.S. state of Florida.-Geography:Lake George is six miles wide and eleven miles long, with an average depth of 8 feet . The west side of the lake is encompassed in the Ocala National Forest...

, appear to have spoken a language related to that of the Ais. The Surruque to the north and the Jaega
Jaega
The Jaegas were a tribe of Native Americans living along the coast of present-day Martin County and Palm Beach County, Florida at the time of initial European contact, and until sometime in the 18th Century...

to the south were politically subordinate to the Ais.

External links

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