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History of the United States
Native American History
Native American Languages

What native American group was in southwest Florida before the Spanish arrived?


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November 09, 2007 3:57PM

The Calusa Indians (kah LOOS ah) lived along the shores of southwest Florida before the Spanish arrived. They numbered close to 50,000 and controlled most of the southern part of the peninsula. The word Calusa means "fierce people," and the Spanish explorers were not greeted by the natives as friends and were sometimes attacked. The Calusa were the first to be included in the Spanish explorers reports about native inhabitants to Spain, in or around the year 1513.

The Calusa ate fish and shellfish, making tools of shells. Accumulated mounds of the discarded shells can still be seen today in local shoreline locations.

The Calusahatchee river, running through the now Ft. Myers area, was the seat of their power. They lasted until the 1700's, when they were overcome by disease, other tribes and European settlers. They had been great sailors and the remaining Calusa are thought to have left Florida for Cuba.