Sacred Lands Preservation and Education 
 

Timucuan Indians

(By Mac Perry)

 

To the east of the Apalachee were the Timucua-speaking tribes. With several hundred villages, they numbered near 150,000 and occupied territories in north Florida. Important Timucua leaders loved to wear tattoos. They'd scratch holes and streaks all over their bodies and rub them with charcoal and berry juice. Then if they didn't die from all the infection over the next couple of months, they'd have a festooned body to strut.

Timucuan Indians Archers

Families lived communally in one house with 30 or 40 occupants. Talk about in-law problems. And 20 or 30 houses were surrounded by a tall stockade fence to form a village. The fence was for protection but didn't stop angry neighbors from popping flaming arrows over the top and onto the palm thatched roofs, which quickly burned to the ground.

While the Timucua were farmers in the summer and hunters in the winter, they found time to extract mountains of shellfish from the rivers and bays, and I have personally seen a pile of their discarded river snails shells twice my height and extending for a hundred yards (see page 268 of Indian Mounds You Can Visit.) I know that eating snail soup and strutting tattoo-bedecked bodies is exciting, but the Timucua had another pastime which they dearly loved. Combat.

While the various tribes spoke from the same mother tongue, a language that oddly came from South America, they spoke so many dialects they couldn't even communicate with each other. So they did what many do who can't communicate. They fought. One chief Saturiwa, a giant the early explorers say, had about 30 subchief vassals and occupied the lower St Johns River area. In 1565, he coerced French soldiers, from whom he acquired hatchets and knives in exchange for corn and turkey, to help him fight the Utina around Lake City. Utina had 40 subchiefs, some of them women, paying him taxes. He in turn coerced the same Frenchmen to help him fight the Potano around Gainesville. Those early French were busy people.

Timucuan Indians In Battle

The Timucua had certain fighting habits that seem a little short on compassion. After they slayed an enemy warrior they would cut off his scalp, dry it, and tie it to their bow. As if that were not enough, they'd hack off his arms and legs and tie them to trophy poles. Wait, there is more. Then they'd shove an arrow up his rectum deep into his body. Oooo! I don't even want to think about it. When Timucua warriors marched into battle, the chief was completely surrounded by blocks of warriors making it near impossible for the enemy to get to him. But if a chief should be killed, he was buried in a mound with his Black Drink shell cup placed on top. Dozens of mourning women cut off their hair, and the chief's house and belongings were burned to the ground. Thereafter, his wife had the favor of riding piggy back on the back of a warrior wherever she went.

 

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