Historical Museum of Southern Florida
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The Demise of a Culture
The European Contact Period
1513 - 1763

Not long after Columbus first visited the New World, Spanish explorers ventured to Florida. In 1513, while mapping the east coast of Florida and recording its natural features, Ponce De Leon first encountered the town of the Tequesta at the mouth of the Miami River. Indian resistance and the daunting sub-tropical environment of southern Florida limited further European contact until 1567, when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés attempted to establish a garrison and a Jesuit mission at Tequesta, in order to convert the Indians to Christianity.

Whale hunt

The mission was abandoned after fighting broke out between the Indians and the Spanish. Attempts at establishing a mission and an outpost in 1743 also failed.

The Tequesta, along with the Calusa, Mayaimi, Jeaga, Ais, and other neighboring tribes, obtained new goods, such as metal wares and tools, from the Spanish. They also succumbed to European diseases for which they had no immunity. Diseases, warfare, and cultural disruption decimated the Indian population. In 1770 Bernard Romans, an English surveyor, came upon the ruins of the 1743 mission on the north bank of the river. He later wrote about the last of the southern Florida tribes: “in 1763 the remnant of these people consisting of about eighty families, left this last possession of their native lands and went to Havannah.”