How to pronounce
Teacher's Resources for
The Timucua: Tearing Down the Myth.
Several modem myths surround the
Timucua. They did
not stand over seven feet tall, they were not the ancestors of the modem
Seminoles, they were not cannibals, and they did not drink a tea that made them vomit (although they did perform rituals that involved
vomiting). No one knows for sure what they called themselves. The term "Timucuan"
was derived from a name originally recorded by the French. It was the
name one group of native people gave to an inland group found around present day Orange Park
Florida. It is thought the name came from the Timucua word "thimogona",
meaning "my enemy".
The area that makes up modern-day central and northern Florida and
southern Georgia was
inhabited by the Timucuan people for more than four thousand years before
the arrival of the first Europeans. It is believed that the Timucua
may have been the first Native Americans to see the Spanish explorers
when they landed in Florida. Early explorers often used the language
of the Timucua to communicate with other tribes.
artists Jacques Le Moyne and Theodore de Bry pictured Timucuan Indians
searching for gold in Florida. Native Americans were the first
to endure forced labor in the New World.
The Timucua were never a
single political unit.
Instead the people we refer to as the Timucua were made up of 25-30 (or
even more) individual chiefdoms, each consisting of at least 510
villages. The chief of a chiefdom's main town served as overall leader.
Sometimes chiefdoms formed alliances with one another for offensive or
defensive military purposes.
Life in the
In Timucuan villages,
there were usually two kinds of houses. One type of home, referred to
as a long house, was built using poles for the frame, bark for the walls,
and branches from palmetto palm trees for the roof. The other type of
home was round and covered with leaves of palm trees.
The Timucua were
known to have more permanent villages than the other tribes. Each family
had their own home but the cooking took place in the village and meals
were held daily in a central location. They wore clothing made from
deerskin and woven cloth. The men wore their hair long with a topknot.
Timucua liked to
hold ceremonies for planting, harvesting, and honoring leaders who died.
A shaman, the religious leader of the tribe, conducted the ceremonies.
The Timucua would have been very much
in vogue today! 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
The Timucua, like
other Native Americans, were skilled hunters and fishermen. The men made
tools for hunting and fishing. They used spears, clubs, bows and arrows,
and blowguns, to kill their game. Some of the game that they used for
food included bears, deer, wild turkey, and alligators. They smoked the
meat over open fires. The women would clean and prepare the animal hides
and use them for clothing.
The men also
caught fish, clams, and oysters for food. They used a fishing trap
called a weir. This trap was a wood fence that stretched across a stream
or river to catch fish. Once the fish swam over the fence in high tide,
the weir caught them as the tide went out.
another important means of obtaining food for the Timucua. The main
crops that they harvested were maize (corn), beans, squash, pumpkins,
and melons. The women cooked the meals and gathered roots, nuts and wild
berries to eat. The women also made pottery to use for cooking.
Fighting War and
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.During the time
period from 1649 through 1656, the population of the Timucua began to
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
The war with the
English and other Indians decreased their numbers. In addition, a series
of epidemics struck them, the major one being smallpox. As the tribe
died out, it is believed that those who survived the disease may have
later joined the Seminoles.
Phalanxes of archers and
warriors, led by Timucuan Chief Outina, Florida, 1565.
Engraving by Theodore de Bry, after watercolour by Jacques Le Moyne de
From the book by Theodore de Bry, Americae, Part 2, 1591.
The Student Exercise
for The Timucua: Tearing Down
At left is one page from neat little pack that features a bunch
of laminated pages, one culture to a page, that can be purchased at
all the local museums (here in Florida.)