John H. Hann


Surprisingly little is known about the village patterns of northern Florida’s natives prior to their missionization or about the settlement policy followed by the friars during the formation of the Florida mission chains. This is particularly true for the inland missions of Potano, Utina, Ustaca, and Apalachee. There is no evidence that the Florida Franciscans followed the “reduction" approach of their Jesuit contemporaries in the South American mission provinces of Guaira, Itatin, Tape and Paraguay, whose people had a material culture roughly similar to that of North Florida’s missionized tribes. Thus, it is generally assumed that the friars adapted their mission organization in Florida to the aboriginal settlement pattern, setting up their mission centers in a principal village of the district. From there the friars went out to catechise the natives in nearby subordinate villages, which became known as visitas, rather than insisting that those natives move to the mission center, which was called a doctrina. Only after the establishment of these missions, when most of the natives of the mission zone had already been Christianized, are there indications that some of the Indians did change their domicile at the instigation of the Spaniards. But in those cases the moves were inspired by secular rather than religious authorities. One parallel, however, to the Jesuit’s policy in the South American interior was the Franciscans’ attempt at mid-century to isolate their charges in Apalachee from contact with any Spaniards other than themselves by excluding soldiers and settlers from that province.