Calusa
Overview
 
The Calusa were a Native American
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...

 people who lived on the coast and along the inner waterways 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...

's southwest
Southwest Florida
Southwest Florida is a region of Florida , United States located along its gulf coast, south of the Tampa Bay area, west of Lake Okeechobee and mostly north of the Everglades...

 coast. Calusa society developed from that of archaic peoples of the Everglades region
Indigenous people of the Everglades region
The indigenous people of the Everglades region arrived in the Florida peninsula approximately 15,000 years ago, probably following large game. The Paleo-Indians found an arid landscape that supported plants and animals adapted to desert conditions...

; at the time of 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...

an contact, the Calusa were the people of the Caloosahatchee culture
Caloosahatchee culture
The Caloosahatchee culture is an archaeological culture on the Gulf coast of Southwest Florida that lasted from about 500 to 1750 CE. Its territory consisted of the coast from Estero Bay to Charlotte Harbor and inland about halfway to Lake Okeechobee, approximately covering what are now Charlotte...

. They were notable for having developed a complex culture based on estuarine fisheries rather than agriculture. Calusa territory reached from Charlotte Harbor
Charlotte Harbor (estuary)
Charlotte Harbor Estuary is a natural estuary spanning the west coast of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the most productive wetlands in Florida...

 to Cape Sable
Cape Sable
Cape Sable, Florida is the southernmost point of the US mainland and mainland Florida. It is located in southwestern Florida, in Monroe County, and is part of the Everglades National Park. The cape is a peninsula issuing from the southeastern part of the Florida mainland, running west and curving...

, all of present-day Charlotte
Charlotte County, Florida
Charlotte County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 141,627. In 2005, the population of the MSA was 154,030.The U.S. Census Bureau 2007 estimate for the county was 152,814...

 and Lee
Lee County, Florida
Lee County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. Located in southwest Florida, the principal cities in the county are Fort Myers and Cape Coral...

 counties, and may have included the Florida Keys
Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...

 at times.
Encyclopedia
The Calusa were a Native American
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...

 people who lived on the coast and along the inner waterways 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...

's southwest
Southwest Florida
Southwest Florida is a region of Florida , United States located along its gulf coast, south of the Tampa Bay area, west of Lake Okeechobee and mostly north of the Everglades...

 coast. Calusa society developed from that of archaic peoples of the Everglades region
Indigenous people of the Everglades region
The indigenous people of the Everglades region arrived in the Florida peninsula approximately 15,000 years ago, probably following large game. The Paleo-Indians found an arid landscape that supported plants and animals adapted to desert conditions...

; at the time of 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...

an contact, the Calusa were the people of the Caloosahatchee culture
Caloosahatchee culture
The Caloosahatchee culture is an archaeological culture on the Gulf coast of Southwest Florida that lasted from about 500 to 1750 CE. Its territory consisted of the coast from Estero Bay to Charlotte Harbor and inland about halfway to Lake Okeechobee, approximately covering what are now Charlotte...

. They were notable for having developed a complex culture based on estuarine fisheries rather than agriculture. Calusa territory reached from Charlotte Harbor
Charlotte Harbor (estuary)
Charlotte Harbor Estuary is a natural estuary spanning the west coast of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the most productive wetlands in Florida...

 to Cape Sable
Cape Sable
Cape Sable, Florida is the southernmost point of the US mainland and mainland Florida. It is located in southwestern Florida, in Monroe County, and is part of the Everglades National Park. The cape is a peninsula issuing from the southeastern part of the Florida mainland, running west and curving...

, all of present-day Charlotte
Charlotte County, Florida
Charlotte County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 141,627. In 2005, the population of the MSA was 154,030.The U.S. Census Bureau 2007 estimate for the county was 152,814...

 and Lee
Lee County, Florida
Lee County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. Located in southwest Florida, the principal cities in the county are Fort Myers and Cape Coral...

 counties, and may have included the Florida Keys
Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...

 at times. They had the highest population density of south Florida; estimates of total population at the time of European contact range from 10,000 to several times that, but these are still speculative.

Calusa political influence and control also extended over other tribes in southern Florida, including the Mayaimi
Mayaimi
The Mayaimi were a Native American people who lived around Lake Okeechobee in Florida from the beginning of the Common Era until the 17th or 18th century. The group took their name from the lake, which was then called Mayaimi, which meant "big water" in the language of the Mayaimi, Calusa, and...

 around Lake Mayaimi (now Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee , locally referred to as The Lake or The Big O, is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida. It is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States and the second largest freshwater lake contained entirely within the lower 48 states...

), and the Tequesta
Tequesta
The Tequesta Native American tribe, at the time of first European contact, occupied an area along the southeastern Atlantic coast of Florida...

 and Jaega on the southeast coast of the peninsula. Calusa influence may have also extended to the Ais
Ais (tribe)
The Ais, or Ays were a tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the Atlantic Coast of Florida. They ranged from present day Cape Canaveral to the St. Lucie Inlet, in the present day counties of Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and northernmost Martin...

 tribe on the central east coast of Florida.

Name

Early Spanish
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 and French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 sources referred to the tribe, its chief town and its chief
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

 as Calos, Calus, Caalus, and Carlos. Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda was a Spanish shipwreck survivor who lived among the Indians of Florida for 17 years...

, a Spaniard
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 held captive by the Calusa in the 16th century, recorded that Carlos meant fierce people in their language. The Anglo-Americans used the term Calusa for the people by the early 19th century. It is based on the Creek
Creek language
The Creek language, also known as Muskogee or Muscogee , is a Muskogean language spoken by Muscogee and Seminole people primarily in the U.S. states of Oklahoma and Florida....

 and Mikasuki
Mikasuki language
The Mikasuki language is a Muskogean language spoken by around 500 people in southern Florida. It is spoken by the Miccosukee tribe as well as many Florida Seminoles. The now-extinct Hitchiti language was mutually intelligible with Mikasuki.-Sounds:There are three tones, high, low and falling...

 (languages of the present-day Seminole
Seminole
The Seminole are a Native American people originally of Florida, who now reside primarily in that state and Oklahoma. The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of Native Americans, most significantly Creeks from what is now Georgia and Alabama, who settled in Florida in...

 and Miccosukee
Miccosukee
The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida are a federally recognized Native American tribe in the U.S. state of Florida. They were part of the Seminole nation until the mid-20th century, when they organized as an independent tribe, receiving federal recognition in 1962...

 nations) ethnonym
Ethnonym
An ethnonym is the name applied to a given ethnic group. Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms and autonyms or endonyms .As an example, the ethnonym for...

 for the people who had lived around the Caloosahatchee River
Caloosahatchee River
The Caloosahatchee River is a river on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida in the United States, approximately long. It drains rural areas on the northern edge of the Everglades northwest of Miami...

 (also from the Creek language).

Juan Rogel, a Jesuit
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 missionary
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 to the Calusa in the late 1560s, noted the chief's name as Carlos, but wrote that the name of the "kingdom" was Escampaba, with an alternate spelling of Escampaha. Rogel also stated that the chief's name was Caalus, and that the Spanish had changed it to Carlos. Marquardt quotes a statement from the 1570s that "the Bay of Carlos ... in the Indian language is called Escampaba, for 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...

 of this town, who afterward called himself Carlos in devotion to the Emperor" (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

). Escampaba may be related to a place named Stapaba, which was identified in the area on an early 16th-century map.

Origins

Paleo-Indians entered what is now Florida at least 12,000 years ago. By around 5000 BC, people started living in villages near wetlands. Favored sites were likely occupied for multiple generations. Florida's climate had reached current conditions and the sea had risen close to its present level by about 3000 BC. People commonly occupied both fresh and saltwater wetlands. Because of their reliance on shellfish, they accumulated large shell middens during this period. Many people lived in large villages with purpose-built earthwork mound
Mound
A mound is a general term for an artificial heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris. The most common use is in reference to natural earthen formation such as hills and mountains, particularly if they appear artificial. The term may also be applied to any rounded area of topographically...

s, such as at the Horr's Island
Horr's Island archaeological site
The Horr's Island archaeological site is a significant Archaic period archaeological site located on an island in Southwest Florida formerly known as Horr's Island. Horr's Island is on the south side of Marco Island in Collier County, Florida. The site includes four mounds and a shell ring...

. People began creating fired pottery in Florida by 2000 BC. By about 500 BC, the Archaic culture
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

, which had been fairly uniform across Florida, began to devolve into more distinct regional cultures.

Some Archaic artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

 have been found in the region later occupied by the Calusa, including one site classified as early Archaic, prior to 5000 BC
Anno Domini
and Before Christ are designations used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars....

. There is evidence that the people intensively exploited Charlotte Harbor aquatic resources before 3500 BC. Undecorated pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 belonging to the early Glades culture
Glades culture
The Glades culture is an archaeological culture in southernmost Florida that lasted from about 500 BCE until shortly after European contact. Its area included the Everglades, the Florida Keys, the Atlantic coast of Florida north through present-day Martin County and the Gulf coast north to Marco...

 appeared in the region around 500 BC. Pottery distinct from the Glades tradition developed in the region around AD 500, marking the beginning of the Caloosahatchee culture
Caloosahatchee culture
The Caloosahatchee culture is an archaeological culture on the Gulf coast of Southwest Florida that lasted from about 500 to 1750 CE. Its territory consisted of the coast from Estero Bay to Charlotte Harbor and inland about halfway to Lake Okeechobee, approximately covering what are now Charlotte...

. This lasted until about 1750, and included the historic Calusa people. A complex society, with high population densities, developed by 800. Later periods in the Caloosahatchee culture are defined in the archaeological record by the appearance of pottery from other traditions.

The Caloosahatchee culture consisted of the Florida west coast from Estero Bay
Estero Bay (Florida)
Estero Bay, Florida, is an estuary located on the west coast of the state southeast of Fort Myers Beach. The bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, is long and very shallow, and covers about . Estero Bay is bordered on the west by a chain of barrier islands: Estero Island, Long Key, Lovers Key,...

 to Charlotte Harbor
Charlotte Harbor (estuary)
Charlotte Harbor Estuary is a natural estuary spanning the west coast of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the most productive wetlands in Florida...

 and inland about halfway to Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee , locally referred to as The Lake or The Big O, is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida. It is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States and the second largest freshwater lake contained entirely within the lower 48 states...

, approximately covering what are now Charlotte
Charlotte County, Florida
Charlotte County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 141,627. In 2005, the population of the MSA was 154,030.The U.S. Census Bureau 2007 estimate for the county was 152,814...

 and Lee
Lee County, Florida
Lee County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. Located in southwest Florida, the principal cities in the county are Fort Myers and Cape Coral...

 counties. At the time of first 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...

an contact, the Caloosahatchee culture region formed the core of the Calusa domain. Artifacts related to fishing changed slowly over this period, with no obvious breaks in tradition that might indicate a replacement of the population.

Between 500 and 1000, the undecorated, sand-tempered pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 that had been common in the area was replaced by "Belle Glade Plain" pottery. This was made with clay containing spicule
Spicule
Spicules are tiny spike-like structures of diverse origin and function found in many organisms, such as the copulatory spicules of certain nematodes or the grains on the skin of some frogs.In sponges, spicules perform a structural function....

s from freshwater
Freshwater
Fresh water is naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and underground as groundwater in aquifers and underground streams. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and...

 sponges (Spongilla
Spongilla
Spongilla is a genus of freshwater sponge in the family Spongillidae. They are found in lakes and slow streams. Sponges of the genus Spongilla attach themselves to rocks and logs and filter the water for various small aquatic organisms such as protozoa, bacteria, and other free-floating pond life...

), and it first appeared inland in sites around Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee , locally referred to as The Lake or The Big O, is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida. It is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States and the second largest freshwater lake contained entirely within the lower 48 states...

. This change may have resulted from the people's migration from the interior to the coastal region, or may reflect trade and cultural influences. There was little change in the pottery tradition after this. The Calusa were descended from people who had lived in the area for at least 1000 years prior to European contact, and possibly for much longer than that.

Society

The Calusa had a stratified society, consisting of "commoners" and "nobles" in Spanish terms. A few leaders governed the tribe. They were supported by the labor of the majority of the Calusa. The leaders included the tribal chief, or "king"; a military leader (capitán general in Spanish), and a chief priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

. In 1564, according to a Spanish source, the priest was the chief's father, and the military leader was his cousin. In four cases in which succession to the position of paramount chief
Paramount chief
A paramount chief is the highest-level traditional chief or political leader in a regional or local polity or country typically administered politically with a chief-based system. This definition is used occasionally in anthropological and archaeological theory to refer to the rulers of multiple...

 is known, Senequne succeeded his brother (name unknown), and was in turn succeeded by his son Carlos. Carlos was succeeded by his cousin (and brother-in-law) Felipe, who was in turn succeeded by Carlos' cousin, Pedro. The Spanish reported that the chief was expected to marry his sister. The contemporary archeologists MacMahon and Marquardt suggest this statement may have been a misunderstanding of a requirement to marry a "clan-sister". The chief also married women from subject towns and allied tribes. This use of marriages to secure alliances was demonstrated when Carlos offered his sister Antonia in marriage to the Spanish explorer 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...

 in 1566.

Diet

The Calusa diet at settlements along the coast and estuaries
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 consisted primarily of fish, in particular pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides
Lagodon rhomboides
The pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides, is a saltwater fish of the Sparidae family . It inhabits mostly subtropical shallow coastal waters of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico. -Description:...

), pigfish (redmouth grunt), (Orthopristis
Haemulidae
The grunts are a family, Haemulidae, of fishes in the order Perciformes. They are numerous and widespread, with about 150 species in 19 genera, found in tropical fresh, brackish and salt waters around the world...

 chrysoptera
) and hardhead catfish
Hardhead catfish
The hardhead catfish is a saltwater species of catfish similar to the gafftopsail catfish. It is one of thirteen species in the genus Ariopsis. The common name, hardhead catfish, is derived from the presence of a hard, bony plate extending rearward toward the dorsal fin from a line between the...

 (Ariopsis Felis). These small fish were supplemented by larger bony fish
Osteichthyes
Osteichthyes , also called bony fish, are a taxonomic group of fish that have bony, as opposed to cartilaginous, skeletons. The vast majority of fish are osteichthyes, which is an extremely diverse and abundant group consisting of over 29,000 species...

, shark
Shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

s and rays
Rajiformes
Rajiformes is one of the four orders of batoids, flattened cartilaginous fishes related to sharks.Rajiforms are distinguished by the presence of greatly enlarged pectoral fins, which reach as far forward as the sides of the head, with a generally flattened body. The undulatory pectoral fin motion...

, mollusks, crustacean
Crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

s, duck
Duck
Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family of birds, which also includes swans and geese. The ducks are divided among several subfamilies in the Anatidae family; they do not represent a monophyletic group but a form taxon, since swans and geese are not considered...

s, sea
Sea turtle
Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...

 and land turtle
Turtle
Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines , characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield...

s and land animals. When 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...

 visited in 1566, the Calusa served only fish and oyster
Oyster
The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of distinct groups of bivalve molluscs which live in marine or brackish habitats. The valves are highly calcified....

s to the Spanish. An analysis of fauna
Fauna
Fauna or faunæ is all of the animal life of any particular region or time. The corresponding term for plants is flora.Zoologists and paleontologists use fauna to refer to a typical collection of animals found in a specific time or place, e.g. the "Sonoran Desert fauna" or the "Burgess shale fauna"...

l remains at one coastal habitation site, the Wightman site (on Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is an island located on the Gulf coast of Florida, just offshore of Fort Myers. In 2000, it had an estimated population of 6,064 people...

), showed that more than 93 percent of the energy (kilocalories) from animals in the diet came from fish and shellfish, less than 6 percent of the energy came from mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s, and less than 1 percent came from birds and reptiles. At an inland site, Platt Island, mammals (primarily deer
White-tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer , also known as the Virginia deer or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States , Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Peru...

) accounted for more than 60 percent of the energy from animal meat, while fish provided just under 20 percent.

Some authors have argued that the Calusa cultivated maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 and Zamia integrifolia
Zamia integrifolia
Zamia integrifolia is a small, tough, woody cycad native to the southeast United States , the Bahamas and the Caribbean south to Grand Cayman and Puerto Rico ....

(coontie) for food. But, Widmer argues that the evidence for maize cultivation by the Calusa depends on the proposition that the Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez was a Spanish conqueror and soldier in the Americas. He is most remembered as the leader of two expeditions, one to Mexico in 1520 to oppose Hernán Cortés, and the disastrous Narváez expedition to Florida in 1527....

 and de Soto expeditions landed in Charlotte Harbor
Charlotte Harbor (estuary)
Charlotte Harbor Estuary is a natural estuary spanning the west coast of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the most productive wetlands in Florida...

 rather than Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is a large natural harbor and estuary along the Gulf of Mexico on the west central coast of Florida, comprising Hillsborough Bay, Old Tampa Bay, Middle Tampa Bay, and Lower Tampa Bay."Tampa Bay" is not the name of any municipality...

, which is now generally discounted. No Zamia pollen has been found at any site associated with the Calusas, nor does Zamia grow in the wetlands that made up most of the Calusa environment. Marquardt notes that the Calusa turned down the offer of agricultural tools from the Spanish, saying that they had no need for them. The Calusa gathered a variety of wild berries, fruits, nuts, roots and other plant parts. Widmer cites George Murdock
George Murdock
George Peter Murdock was a notable American anthropologist. He is remembered for his empirical approach to ethnological studies and his landmark works on Old World populations.-Early life:...

's estimate that only some 20 percent of the Calusa diet consisted of wild plants that they gathered. However, no evidence of plant food was found at the Wightman site. There is evidence that as early as 2000 years ago the Calusa cultivated papaya
Papaya
The papaya , papaw, or pawpaw is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, the sole species in the genus Carica of the plant family Caricaceae...

 (Catrica papaya), a gourd of the species Cucurbita pepo
Cucurbita pepo
The species Cucurbita pepo is a cultivated plant of the genus Cucurbita. It includes varieties of squash, gourd, and pumpkin.*Acorn squash*Delicata squash*Dodi marrow, grown in South Asia*Gem squash*Heart of gold squash*Pattypan squash...

and the bottle gourd, the last two of which were used for net floats and dippers.

Tools

The Calusa caught most of their fish with nets
Net (textile)
Net or netting is any textile in which the warp and weft yarns are looped or knotted at their intersections, resulting in a fabric with large open spaces between the yarns....

. Nets were woven with a standard mesh
Mesh
Mesh consists of semi-permeable barrier made of connected strands of metal, fiber, or other flexible/ductile material. Mesh is similar to web or net in that it has many attached or woven strands.-Types of mesh:...

 size; nets with different mesh sizes were used seasonally to catch the most abundant and useful fish available. The Calusa made bone and shell gauges used in net weaving. Cultivated gourds were used as net floats, and sinkers and net weights were made from mollusk shells. The Calusa also used spears, hooks
Fish hook
A fish hook is a device for catching fish either by impaling them in the mouth or, more rarely, by snagging the body of the fish. Fish hooks have been employed for centuries by fishermen to catch fresh and saltwater fish. In 2005, the fish hook was chosen by Forbes as one of the top twenty tools...

, and throat gorges to catch fish. Well-preserved nets, net floats and hooks were found at Key Marco
Key Marco
Key Marco was an archaeological site on Marco Island, Florida, which was excavated in 1896 by Frank Hamilton Cushing of the Smithsonian Institution. Cushing recovered more than 1,000 wooden artifacts from the Key Marco site, the largest number of wooden artifacts from any prehistoric archaeological...

, in the territory of the neighboring Muspa tribe.

Mollusk shells and wood were used to make hammering and pounding tools. Mollusks shells and shark teeth were used for grating, cutting, carving and engraving. The Calusa wove nets from palm-fiber cord. Cord was also made from Cabbage Palm
Sabal palmetto
Sabal palmetto, also known as cabbage palm, palmetto, cabbage palmetto, palmetto palm, blue palmetto, Carolina palmetto, common palmetto, swamp cabbage and sabal palm, is one of 15 species of palmetto palm . It is native to the southeastern United States, Cuba, and the Bahamas...

 leaves, saw palmetto trunks, Spanish moss
Spanish Moss
Spanish moss is a flowering plant that grows upon larger trees, commonly the Southern Live Oak or Bald Cypress in the southeastern United States....

, false sisal (Agave
Agave
Agave is a genus of monocots. The plants are perennial, but each rosette flowers once and then dies ; they are commonly known as the century plant....

 decipiens
) and the bark of cypress
Taxodium
Taxodium is a genus of one to three species of extremely flood-tolerant conifers in the cypress family, Cupressaceae...

 and willow
Willow
Willows, sallows, and osiers form the genus Salix, around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere...

 trees. The Calusa also made fish trap
Fish trap
A fish trap is a trap used for fishing. Fish traps may have the form of a fishing weir or a lobster trap. A typical trap might consist of a frame of thick steel wire in the shape of a heart, with chicken wire stretched around it. The mesh wraps around the frame and then tapers into the inside of...

s, weirs
Fishing weir
A fishing weir, or fish weir, is an obstruction placed in tidal waters or wholly or partially across a river, which is designed to hinder the passage of fish. Traditionally they were built from wood or stones. They can be used to trap fish...

 and fish corrals
Pen (enclosure)
A pen is an enclosure for holding livestock. The term describes multiple types of enclosures that may confine one or many animals. Construction and terminology varies depending on region of the world, purpose, animal species to be confined, local materials used, and cultural tradition...

 from wood and cord. Artifacts of wood that have been found include dugout canoes
Dugout (boat)
A dugout or dugout canoe is a boat made from a hollowed tree trunk. Other names for this type of boat are logboat and monoxylon. Monoxylon is Greek -- mono- + ξύλον xylon -- and is mostly used in classic Greek texts. In Germany they are called einbaum )...

, paddles, bowls, ear ornaments, masks, plaques, "ornamental standards," and a finely carved deer head. The plaques and other objects were often painted.

Housing

The Calusa lived in large, communal houses. When 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...

 visited the capital in 1566, he described the chief's house, which apparently also served as a council house, as large enough to hold 2,000 without crowding. When the chief formally received Menéndez in his house, the chief sat on a raised seat surrounded by 500 of his principal men, while his sister-wife sat on another raised seat surround by 500 women. The chief's house was described as having two big windows, suggesting that it had walls. Five friar
Friar
A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.-Friars and monks:...

s who stayed in the chief's house in 1697 complained that the roof let in the rain, sun and dew. The chief's house, and possibly the other houses at Calos, were built on top of earthwork mound
Mound
A mound is a general term for an artificial heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris. The most common use is in reference to natural earthen formation such as hills and mountains, particularly if they appear artificial. The term may also be applied to any rounded area of topographically...

s. In a report from 1697, the Spanish noted 16 houses in the Calusa capital of Calos, which had 1,000 residents.

Clothing and personal decoration

The Calusa wore little clothing. The men wore a deerskin breechcloth
Breechcloth
A breechcloth, or breechclout, is a form of loincloth consisting in a strip of material – usually a narrow rectangle – passed between the thighs and held up in front and behind by a belt or string. Often, the flaps hang down in front and back.- Native Americans :In most Native American...

. The Spanish left less description on what the Calusa women wore. Among most tribes in Florida for which there is documentation, the women wore skirts made of what was later called Spanish moss
Spanish Moss
Spanish moss is a flowering plant that grows upon larger trees, commonly the Southern Live Oak or Bald Cypress in the southeastern United States....

. The Calusa painted their bodies
Body painting
Body painting, or sometimes bodypainting, is a form of body art. Unlike tattoo and other forms of body art, body painting is temporary, painted onto the human skin, and lasts for only several hours, or at most a couple of weeks. Body painting that is limited to the face is known as face painting...

 on a regular basis, but there was no report of tattoo
Tattoo
A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattoos on humans are a type of body modification, and tattoos on other animals are most commonly used for identification purposes...

ing among the Calusa. The men wore their hair long. The missionaries recognized that having a Calusa man cut his hair upon converting to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 (and European style) would be a great sacrifice. Little was recorded of jewelry or other ornamentation among the Calusa. During Menéndez de Avilés's visit in 1566, the chief's wife was described as wearing pearls, precious stones and gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 beads around her neck. The heir of the chief wore gold in an ornament on his forehead and beads on his legs.

Beliefs

The Calusa believed that three supernatural people ruled the world, that people had three souls, and that souls migrated to animals after death. The most powerful ruler governed the physical world, the second most powerful ruled human governments, and the last helped in wars, choosing which side would win. The Calusa believed that the three souls were the pupil
Pupil
The pupil is a hole located in the center of the iris of the eye that allows light to enter the retina. It appears black because most of the light entering the pupil is absorbed by the tissues inside the eye. In humans the pupil is round, but other species, such as some cats, have slit pupils. In...

 of a person's eye, his shadow
Shadow
A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the...

, and his reflection
Specular reflection
Specular reflection is the mirror-like reflection of light from a surface, in which light from a single incoming direction is reflected into a single outgoing direction...

. The soul in the eye's pupil stayed with the body after death, and the Calusa would consult with that soul at the graveside. The other two souls left the body after death and entered into an animal. If a Calusa killed such an animal, the soul would then migrate to a lesser animal, and eventually be reduced to nothing.

Calusa ceremonies included processions of priests and singing women. The priests wore carved masks, which were at other times hung on the walls inside a temple. Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda was a Spanish shipwreck survivor who lived among the Indians of Florida for 17 years...

, an early chronicler of the Calusa, described "sorcerers in the shape of the devil, with some horns on their heads," who ran through the town yelling like animals for four months at a time.

The Calusa remained committed to their belief system despite Spanish attempts to convert
Convert
The convert or try, in American football known as "point after", and Canadian football "Point after touchdown", is a one-scrimmage down played immediately after a touchdown during which the scoring team is allowed to attempt to score an extra one point by kicking the ball through the uprights , or...

 them to Catholicism
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. The "nobles" resisted conversion in part because their power and position were intimately tied into the belief system; they were intermediaries between the gods and the people. Conversion would have destroyed the source of their authority and legitimacy. The Calusa resisted physical encroachment and spiritual conversion by the Spanish and their missionaries for almost 200 years. After suffering decimation by disease, the tribe was destroyed by Creek and Yamasee
Yamasee
The Yamasee were a multiethnic confederation of Native Americans that lived in the coastal region of present-day northern coastal Georgia near the Savannah River and later in northeastern Florida.-History:...

 raiders early in the 18th century.

European contact

The first recorded contact between the Calusa and Europeans was in 1513, when Juan Ponce de León
Juan Ponce de León
Juan Ponce de León was a Spanish explorer. He became the first Governor of Puerto Rico by appointment of the Spanish crown. He led the first European expedition to Florida, which he named...

 landed on the west coast of Florida in May, probably at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River
Caloosahatchee River
The Caloosahatchee River is a river on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida in the United States, approximately long. It drains rural areas on the northern edge of the Everglades northwest of Miami...

, after his earlier discovery of Florida in April. The Calusa knew of the Spanish before this landing, however, as they had taken in refugees from the Spanish subjugation 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...

. The Spanish careened
Careening
Careening a sailing vessel is the practice of beaching it at high tide. This is usually done in order to expose one side or another of the ship's hull for maintenance and repairs below the water line when the tide goes out....

 one of their ships, and Calusas offered to trade with them. After ten days a man who spoke 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...

 approached Ponce de León's ships with a request to wait for the arrival of the Calusa chief. Shortly thereafter twenty war canoe
War Canoe
A war canoe is a watercraft of the canoe type designed and outfitted for warfare, and which is found in various forms in many world cultures. In modern times, such designs have become adapted as a sport, and "war canoe" can mean a type of flatwater racing canoe.-War canoes as sport:War canoe is...

s attacked the Spanish, who drove off the Calusa, killing or capturing several of them. The next day 80 "shielded" canoes attacked the Spanish ships, but the battle was inconclusive. The Spanish departed and returned to Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

. In 1517 Francisco Hernández de Córdoba
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (discoverer of Yucatán)
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba was a Spanish conquistador, known to history mainly for the ill-fated expedition he led in 1517, in the course of which the first European accounts of the Yucatán Peninsula were compiled.-1517 Expedition:...

 landed in southwest Florida on his return voyage from discovering the Yucatán
Yucatán
Yucatán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Yucatán is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 106 municipalities and its capital city is Mérida....

. He was attacked by the Calusa. In 1521 Ponce de León returned to southwest Florida to plant a colony, but the Calusas drove the Spanish out, mortally wounding Ponce de León.

The Pánfilo de Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez was a Spanish conqueror and soldier in the Americas. He is most remembered as the leader of two expeditions, one to Mexico in 1520 to oppose Hernán Cortés, and the disastrous Narváez expedition to Florida in 1527....

 expedition of 1528 and the Hernando de Soto expedition of 1539 both landed in the vicinity of Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is a large natural harbor and estuary along the Gulf of Mexico on the west central coast of Florida, comprising Hillsborough Bay, Old Tampa Bay, Middle Tampa Bay, and Lower Tampa Bay."Tampa Bay" is not the name of any municipality...

, north of the Calusa domain. Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 missionaries
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 reached the Calusa domain in 1549, but withdrew due to the hostility of the tribe. Salvaged goods and survivors from wrecked Spanish ships reached the Calusa during the 1540s and 1550s. The best information about the Calusa comes from the Memoir of Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda was a Spanish shipwreck survivor who lived among the Indians of Florida for 17 years...

, one of these survivors. Fontaneda was shipwrecked on the east coast of Florida, likely in the Keys, about 1550, when he was thirteen years old. Although many others survived the shipwreck, only Fontaneda was spared by the tribe in whose territory they landed. Warriors killed all the adult men. Fonaneda lived with various tribes in southern Florida for the next seventeen years before being found by the Menendez de Avilés expedition.

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
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...

, made contact with the Calusa and struck an uneasy peace with their leader, Caluus, or Carlos. Menéndez married Carlos' sister, who took the baptismal name Doña Antonia at conversion. Menéndez left a garrison of soldiers and a Jesuit
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 mission, San Antón de Carlos, at the Calusa capital. Hostilities erupted, and the Spanish soldiers killed Carlos, his successor Felipe, and several of the "nobles" before they abandoned their fort and mission in 1569.

For more than a century after the Avilés adventure, there was little contact between the Spanish and Calusa. Re-entering the area in 1614, Spanish forces attacked the Calusa as part of a war between the Calusa and Spanish-allied tribes around Tampa Bay. A Spanish expedition to ransom some captives held by the Calusa in 1680 was forced to turn back; neighboring tribes refused to guide the Spanish, for fear of retaliation by the Calusa. In 1697 Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 missionaries established a mission to the Calusa, but left after a few months.

After the outbreak of open war between Spain and England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1702, slaving raids by Uchise Creek
Creek people
The Muscogee , also known as the Creek or Creeks, are a Native American people traditionally from the southeastern United States. Mvskoke is their name in traditional spelling. The modern Muscogee live primarily in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida...

 and Yamasee
Yamasee
The Yamasee were a multiethnic confederation of Native Americans that lived in the coastal region of present-day northern coastal Georgia near the Savannah River and later in northeastern Florida.-History:...

 Indians allied with the English 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...

 began reaching far down the Florida peninsula. The English supplied firearms to the Creek and Yemasee, but the Calusa, who had isolated themselves from Europeans, had none. Ravaged by new infectious diseases introduced to the Americas by European contact and by the slaving raids, the surviving Calusa retreated south and east.

In 1711, the Spanish helped evacuate 270 Indians, including many Calusa, from the Florida Keys
Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...

 to Cuba (where almost 200 soon died). They left 1700 behind. The Spanish founded a 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 1743 to serve survivors from several tribes, including the Calusa, who had gathered there and in the Florida Keys. The mission was closed after only a few months. When Spain ceded Florida to the Kingdom of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 in 1763, they evacuated the last remnants of the tribes of south Florida to Cuba. While a few Calusa individuals may have stayed behind and been absorbed into the Seminole
Seminole
The Seminole are a Native American people originally of Florida, who now reside primarily in that state and Oklahoma. The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of Native Americans, most significantly Creeks from what is now Georgia and Alabama, who settled in Florida in...

, no documentation supports that. Cuban fishing camps (ranchos) operated along the southwest Florida coast from the 18th century into the middle of the 19th century. Some of the "Spanish Indians" (often of mixed Spanish-Indian heritage) who worked at the fishing camps likely were descended from Calusa.
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