|Panfilo de Narvaez|
The text of the Relaciůn of Alvar NuŮez Cabeza de Vaca (that's Cabeza pictured above) is his narrative of the ill-fated 1527 NarvŠez expedition. He describes the shipwreck of the expedition on the coast of Florida and his landing on an island near what is now the Texas coast.
Cabeza de Vaca Stranded Among the Indians
|Panfilo de Narvaez
PŠnfilo de NarvŠez arrived near Tampa Bay with a large army from Spain on April 14, 1528. The Spanish government had given him permission to settle and rule the land along the Gulf Coast from Northern Mexico to the Florida peninsula and as far inland as he was able to control.
When NarvŠez landed, he took three hundred soldiers and forty horses with him to explore the interior of the state. The ships, which were carrying food and supplies, were sent ahead to a harbor north of where they had originally landed.
Stranded, NarvŠez along with his treasurer and provost marshal, NuŮez de Cabeza de Vaca, led his men northward up the peninsula to the chiefdom of the Apalachee. This would have been near present-day Tallahassee. The Spaniards met hostility and violence in the Apalachee territory. This was not surprising since along their route the Spaniards had seized an Apalachee village, stolen maize and other crops, and even held a chief hostage.
After about a month, NarvŠez and the Spaniards gave up their hope of ever finding the ships and receiving their supplies. They were getting low on rations and many of the men were weak from illnesses.
Panfilo de Narvaez, the leader of a Spanish expedition, entered the territory in 1528. The expedition's chronicles, recorded by Cabeza de Vaca (see sidebar), offer not only the earliest information concerning Indians of the southeast, but also reveal the Spanish cruelty and total lack of respect for other cultures. Their preoccupation with finding gold, and their fanatical religious attitude prevented them from attempting to learn about the newly discovered people. Cabeza de Vaca wrote some very critical reports of what the Spanish were doing to the Native American populations they encountered.
After entering the Apalachee territory, Cabeza says the expedition encountered some Indians who led the Spaniards to their village. He doesn't say if the Indians invited them out of friendliness or coercion. But upon entering the village he reports:
Actually, the bodies were being preserved until an appropriate burial time. This desecration of remains did not create a favorable impression of the "hairy invaders" among the North Florida tribes.
The Spaniards then proceeded to the Indian town of Apalachen where Cabeza entered with nine horsemen and fifty foot soldiers. There were only women and children in the town, but the Indian men soon returned and started shooting arrows at the intruders. No doubt, word had already reached them of the Spanish desecration at the first village two hours earlier. After a skirmish, the Indian warriors fled, but later returned asking for the release of their women and children. The Spaniards did so, but kept a Caciques, or chief, as prisoner. This angered the Indians, of course, and they attacked again the following day. The Apalachees continued to attack daily, losing only two warriors in the twenty five days the Spaniards occupied their village. The Spaniards were exposed to guerrilla warfare wherein their horses and men were frequently wounded or killed when they went for water. Pursuit of the Indians was futile, as they would disappear into the big patches of corn or a shallow lake or pond. Cabeza reported that in one fight:
The Spanish finally made it back to the Gulf coast where they made five barges and sailed west, having nothing further to do with the inhabitants or the Apalachee territory. Narvaez, with four ships and about 400 men, had originally set out to explore the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the men were killed by Indians; Navarez himself was drowned near the mouth of the Mississippi River. In the end there were only four men left, Cabeza de Vaca and three companions. The great army had wandered about for eight years, traveled over two thousand miles across the continent, with only four survivors finally reaching a Spanish settlement on the western coast of Mexico...
The story lives on.
By 1728, there were only two Apalachee towns surviving in the territory. One, called Hamaste, was about six miles from Fort San Marcos (St. Marks), and had about 200 people living there. The other one was San Juan de Guacara with about 20 people...
The Apalachean language appears to have been related to Choctaw. In Choctaw, Apelachi means helper or ally, and Apelichi means the place in which to rule, preside, or govern. The second, Apelichi, appears to reflect the situation as the Spaniards found it, as Elvas (Portuguese traveling with De Soto) reported that Anahayca Apalache was "where the lord of all that country and province resided"...
Swanton, a historian back in 1922, claimed Apalachee means "on the other side" in Hichiti. This may be the true meaning, and the Apalachee may have just coincidentally been the dominant tribe in the region at that particular time. The largest geographic feature preserving the name of this tribe is the Appalachian Mountains.