February 16, 2013

Calusa reenactors for Florida's anniversary

Re-enactors tell story of Florida's lost tribe–the Calusa

By Keith MorelliAfter Ponce de Leon landed near St. Augustine 500 years ago, then sailed beneath "La Florida" and north up the Gulf Coast, he found the land of flowers was populated and defended by a tribe of Native Americans whose name, translated into English, was "Fierce People."

Members of that thriving Calusa civilization fished, hunted, traded and even had a natural remedy to keep mosquitoes from biting. They ran an empire stretching to the East Coast and south into the Keys. Charlotte Harbor was their Rome.

Today in Port Charlotte, history came to life with more than a dozen Calusa-crazy volunteers intent on showing how the lost tribe of Florida lived before Europeans consigned the indigenous people to the dust of history.

Braving a chilly breeze off Charlotte Harbor, the re-enactors hunted for fish with spears, cooked fake seafood and snakes on an open pit with imaginary fire, and even greeted emissaries from neighboring tribes in a living, interactive exhibit.

"This is as authentic as possible, of Florida's pre-history," said April Watson, an archaeological doctoral student at Florida Atlantic University. She is consulting on the exhibit, which is one of more than 100 such events planned throughout the state to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Florida's recorded history.
But:People in Tampa interested in catching a glimpse of this history are out of luck, even though the Tampa Bay area played a significant role in the discovery of La Florida.

None of the 130 commemorative events, collectively known as Florida 500, takes place in Tampa. Other than the Florida State Fair, which this year has adopted a Spanish conquistador theme, and an exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center, the region has been bypassed by organizers of the events.

Still, there is Fort De Soto State Park and DeSoto County; there is the Hernando De Soto Trial that marks the Spanish conquistador's overland trek from Manatee County north to the Mississippi River; there is Hernando County, the city of Hernando and various schools named in honor of the explorers.

But no local historical group has organized an event marking the 500th anniversary.
Comment:  A conquistador theme...wow. That's just what the world needs: more celebrations of conquest and killing.

It would be better if Indians portrayed the Calusa, of course. But if the re-enactments are historically accurate, I guess non-Native participants are acceptable.

For more on Native reenactors, see War of 1812 Reenactment Omits Natives and Why Wannabes Wanna Be.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:


A Seminole Perspective on Ponce de León and Florida History

People may not realize how many tribes and Native peoples existed before being decimated by the disease and warfare brought on by the Conquistadors. With the priests looking on, Spanish explorers took out the aboriginal Floridians with massacres in the name of God. And they sent the good news back to the King! But we can only speak for ourselves. The Florida Indians of long ago could illustrate what happened, but they didn’t write books and journals.

Indians all across America shared stories that were kept alive and passed down through the generations about what the European invaders did. That’s how it was told to me: The truth of those days was kill the Indian—or give him a blanket, invite him to supper, sneeze on his blanket, then send him away.

Yet we survived all of this atrocity.