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Florida Guide > Florida History

The Tequesta people of Florida

The Tequesta Indians lived in the South East corner Florida in the Miami Dade and Florida Keys areas. There were only 800 of this tribe which may go towards how they were pushed from pillar to post in the latter part of their history.

They had allies in the neighbouring Jeagas but were in conflict with the stronger Native Americans known as Calusa.

The Tequestas were hunter/ gatherers and did not farm crops like other tribes. They ate roots and wild fruit, made flat bread from ground coontie and ate a lot of lobster. The evidence is that they did not eat a lot of shellfish and they know this by examining their mounds (rubbish tips) This is unusual because the mounds of many Native Americans contain a lot of shells.

Black Drink was drunk by the men at important occasions; this was made from roasted and ground leaves and roots of the Ilex Vomitoria. This drink was very stimulating and could be compared to coffee. The clue to what happened next is in the plant name because after they had gorged themselves, they promptly made themselves sick.

The men would have worn a loin cloth made from palmetto leaves and he women skirts made from the ubiquitous spanish moss which hangs from many trees.

Tools, fish hooks and cups were fashioned from shells by the men of this tribe

These people were mobile and would move down to The Keys during the 3 months of mosquito invasion.

When one of their tribe died they would bury only the body and small bones; the large bones would have been kept by the village and deified. They also worshipped deer and other religious icons. This was before the European invasion of course.

And moving on to those times Ponce de Leon landed in 1513 to the area now known as Biscayne Bay. The main Tequisan village was here and later when Menendez de Aviles fled here to shelter from a storm they did not give them a hostile reception.

By 1567 a missionary had been built and the Chiefs nephew taken away to be educated. They bagan to convert the Tequisans to Christianity.

In 1704 the Spanissh Government had them moved to Cuba to be re educated in the Catholic way. Very few survived for long and by 1716 they sent them back to The Keys. 50 years later there were few or no survivors of this gentle tribe.

A good place to visit to discover more about these Native Americans is The Historical Museum of South Florida

We aim to provide accurate and useful information, but if you feel anything provided here is not accurate or out of date, please email us with the address of the page concerned and any comments so we can amend as necessary.

Page added on: 13 October 2009
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