Denise I. Bossy


In 1743, with the naive belief that the Calusas were finally interested in Catholic conversion, two Jesuit missionaries traveled to South Florida from Havana, Cuba. For decades Europeans described the region-in documents and on maps-as all but devoid of human life and, in particular, its Indigenous populations as being virtually extinct. Instead, the Jesuits discovered that South Florida was very much still under Indigenous control. A number of distinct Native confederacies-including one that consisted of Calusas, Bocarratons, and "Key" Indians and another of what one Spaniard called Maymies, Santaluzos, and Mayacas-exerted not only territorial control but also control over the information and trade networks of southern Florida. These confederacies consistently and willingly engaged with Spaniards, especially trusted Cuban fishermen, who offered desired trade goods or news. Tothe chagrin of the Jesuits, though, South Florida Indians had no interest in welcoming Spanish churches, schools, or settlements onto their sovereign lands. After taking the Jesuits' gifts, the Calusa diplomats "openly declared their displeasure over our coming." As they had done so repeatedly for over two hundred years, the Calusas evicted the Spanish colonizers from their homelands. Calusas and other Indigenous people, not the Spaniards, controlled that southern region of what we now call Florida.

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