The status of indigenous chiefs in the Americas was acknowledged by Spaniards in 1492.1 This resulted in a hierarchical social order of republics, including "a Republic of Spaniards, a Republic of Indians, and a "third order" of free blacks and mixed bloods ... presumed to have an African taint."2 During the seventeenth century, this framework became an important element in structuring the Indies and other colonies such as La Florida.3 In exchange for allegiance and tribute obligations, chiefs received special privileges, immunities, honorific titles, and material gifts that reinforced their status. However, the recognition of native nobility and indigenous political structures never precluded the fact that Spaniards always constituted the superior order or republic, and they alone controlled the rules by which their settlements were governed.
McEwan, Bonnie G.
"Colonialism on the Spanish Florida Frontier: Mission San Luis, 1656-1704,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 92:
3, Article 10.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol92/iss3/10