Timucua

How to pronounce
Timucua (tee-MOO-qua)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher's Resources for the Timucua

 

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.

In 1591,the 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 Villages
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 to strut.

Hunting and Fishing
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.

Farming was 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 Disease
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 diminish. 

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.

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 Morgues.
From the book by Theodore de Bry, Americae, Part 2, 1591.
 

The Student Exercise for The Timucua: Tearing Down the Myth.

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.)