Calusa (American Indians Ready Reference)
The Calusa were a nomadic people who inhabited the south Florida peninsula from the Tampa Bay area to Lake Okeechobee, including the Florida Keys. They may have been related to the Muskogee family in North America. Stories of their cannibalism, human sacrifice, and piracy suggest a connection to the South American or Caribbean Indians.
Historians believe the Calusa numbered about three thousand at the time of their first contact with whites (around 1513), when the Spanish explorer Ponce de León attempted to enter Calusa land. The Calusa lived up to their name, which means “fierce people,” and forced Ponce de León to retreat after a prolonged battle. Spanish missionaries made several forays into the area but abandoned the attempt to convert the Calusa around 1569.
The Calusas’ success in repelling the European invaders also depended upon their reliance on hunting and fishing instead of agriculture. The tribe roamed freely throughout south Florida, harvesting the bounty of the sea and native plants that grew year round, rather than building more permanent villages and planting crops; sites of Calusa settlements along the Florida coast are marked by huge shell mounds. This nomadic life made them less vulnerable to the Spanish, who often subjugated the Indians by burning their storehouses, leaving the tribes without food for the winter.
Like most Southeastern Woodlands tribes, the Calusa probably followed a matrilineal clan...
(The entire section is 347 words.)
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