A PEOPLE GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Long before vacationers soaked up the sun and history of Florida’s Historic Coast – and even before Colonial-era Spanish first landed in the 16th century – a group of North Florida natives called this area home. They had no recorded name for themselves. They simply referred to their tribe as “Us” or “The People”. It would be the Spanish who eventually identified these sturdy inhabitants as “Timucua.
Initially, relations between the Spanish and Timucua were relatively pleasant. So much so that the first recorded Feast of Thanksgiving between Europeans and Native Americans in the New World occurred as part of the founding of St. Augustine on September 8, 1565. “Even before the Pilgrims and the whole Plymouth Rock business?” you ask. Yes. More than a half-century before that. But the forthcoming influx of European citizens would soon bring an end to this party. Disease and wars eradicated Timucua populations until the last known tribesman, Juan Alfonso Cabale, died in Havana, Cuba, in 1767.
However, the memory of the Timucua lives on today at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. There’s a reconstruction of an actual village that once stood there – including an archery range with atlatl and longbow demonstrations. Also on-site is a historically accurate Timucua dugout canoe, laboriously burned and shell-scraped by hand. And reenactors buzz about, bringing the day-to-day activities of the Timucua to life.
Ultimately, the tale of the Timucua is one that ends in tragedy. Yet their souls are forever entrenched in this arcane slice of Earth where history is not the same old story. Immerse yourself in Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and start planning your visit today.