Cultural Background Indians known as the "Calusa" developed a complex social system in the Charlotte Harbor area. By A.D. 500 their ancestors began to construct large shell mounds in the estuaries to the east of Gasparilla Island, but not on Gasparilla Island. Spanish documents dating to the 1500s reveal that the Calusa had developed permanent villages by that time. These were based on the natural abundance of the marine environment, not on agriculture. The rich coastal environment of southwest Florida filled the role usually played by agriculture in other complex societies 4. The Calusa dominated much of southwest Florida, from Charlotte Harbor to the Florida Keys at the time of early European contact in the 1500s. However, the sophisticated estuarine-based cultural system that was flourishing at the time of Spanish contact vanished over the next 200 years. From the archaeological data recovered so far, we can now say with some certainty that the Calusa did not pass into oblivion as a result of disease or by depletion of their fishing resources. Franciscan records show that the Calusa were still in their homelands and still exerting pressure on other local groups as late as 1698. This was long after many other native Florida Indians had succumbed to diseases, slavery, and Spanish militarism and missionization. After the mid-1700s, however, the Calusa ceased to exist as a group. In the late 1600s, Indian refugees from colonial expansion in northern Florida and Georgia began to arrive in southern Florida. Archaeological evidence suggests that northern Florida mission Indians who fled raids of the English Colonel James Moore might have settled in the Charlotte Harbor area after 1704 or that indigenous Indians along the southwest Florida coast might have obtained mission items through trade in the 1600s. In the mid-1700s, Indians in Charlotte Harbor who fished for the Spanish became known as Spanish Indians." Although by now the Calusa, for the most part, had disappeared as a culture, it is possible that remnants of the Calusa were still living in isolated areas of Charlotte Harbor. When the English took over Florida from the Spanish in 1763, renegades of the Creek Nation were called "cimarones" (later, "Seminoles" or "wild ones"). These and other Indians were pushing down the Florida peninsula, escaping the English to the north. The English concluded there were no indigenous 49 GASPARILLA MAGAZINE JULY/AUG 2016 Florida Indians left. This allowed all Indians in Florida to be labeled as Seminoles, even if they were Spanish Indians or perhaps Calusa remnants. No archaeological evidence or historical documentation supports the local legend that a pirate named "Jose Gaspar" visited the southwest coast of Florida in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Instead, historians have shown that he was an invention of 20th-century tourism. They further suggest that the name of Gasparilla Island was derived from "Friar Gaspar," which was a name applied on a chart to the inlet at the north end of the island (Gibson 1982: 13, 70). The inlet is called "Boca Gasparilla" by Bernard Romans on his 1774 chart. In 1835 Seminoles ambushed and killed 105 of the 108 troops under the command of Major Francis Dade north of Tampa. After the massacre, some Seminoles were forced south by federal reprisals. A band of Seminole braves, led by Chief Wyhokee, fled through Charlotte Harbor, attacking and burning a settlement at Useppa Island. As a result of these conflicts, some Spanish Indians were deported to Oklahoma; others might have been forced to Cuba, perhaps returning to the area later. Previous Research Before my research in the 1980s and 1990s, very little attention had been paid to the aboriginal archaeology of Gasparilla Island. The antiquarian Clarence B. Moore (1905) visited the area, apparently digging at nearby Cayo Pelau. Willey (1949), probably in error, attributed Moore's digging to Gasparilla Island. In 1953 a party of students under the direction of archaeologist John M. Goggin visited the island and recorded two sites. This was the extent of research when I arrived in 1980. Since that time, cultural resource surveys have located three previously unrecorded sites. Thirteen aboriginal sites have been recorded on Gasparilla Island or immediately adjacent keys. Discussion I suggest that the Indians who utilized Gasparilla Island used dugout canoes in many of their daily activities. They needed canoes to reach the island and to leave it. Around the "edges of the island they would have used canoes in gathering shellfish and in fishing. Such activities were affected by the wind and weather. For example, a westerly wind made the island's bayside a lee shore. As such, it provided a long, calm corridor for canoeing, fishing and shellfish gathering. Conversely, an easterly wind made the Gulfside a lee shore, favoring its use.
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