The Apalachee are a native people whose name was given to a Spanish mission province in northwest Florida and mistakenly given to the Appalachian Mountains. The Apalachee, associated with the late pre-Columbian Fort Walton archaeological culture, inhabited the region from the Aucilla River west to the Ochlockonee River. Throughout their history the Apalachee were farmers governed by a paramount chief and a hierarchy of village chiefs and officials. At the time of the first European contact (the Pánfilo de Nárvaez expedition in 1528), they numbered about fifty thousand. Hernando de Soto's army wintered at the Apalachee town of Anhaica for five months in 1539–1540. The resulting introduction of diseases and military conflict had a severe impact.
Beginning in 1633 Spanish Franciscan priests established missions in Apalachee. Nine to fifteen missions, most with several satellite villages, functioned throughout the remainder of the seventeenth century. When English raiders from the Carolinas, aided by native allies, destroyed the missions in 1703–1704, the Apalachee population, which by 1675 had stabilized at about eight thousand, was shattered. Survivors were enslaved or fled west toward Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. To escape persecution by Anglo-American immigrants, the Apalachee migrated into Louisiana's Kisatchie Hills. Although the small band of Apalachee had left ancestral lands, in the hills they were able to maintain some of their traditional ways.
In the twenty-first century the Talamali Apalachee chief, Gilmer Bennett, serves the three hundred registered Apalachee from the tribal office in Libuse, Louisiana, although tribal members regularly return to ancestral lands in Tallahassee, Florida. The main concern of Chief Bennett's administration has been obtaining federal recognition of the tribe.
Mark F. Boyd, Hale G. Smith, and John W. Griffin, Here They Once Stood: The Tragic End of the Apalachee Missions (1951).
John H. Hann, Apalachee: The Land Between the Rivers (1988).
Charles R. Ewen, "Anhaica: Discovery of Hernando de Soto's 1539–1540 Winter Camp," in First Encounters: Spanish Explorations in the Caribbean and the United States, 1492–1570, edited by Jerald T. Milanich and Susan Milbrath (1989).
Figuero y Del Campo, Cristóbal. Misiones franciscanas en la Florida: Reseña histórica. Madrid: Comisión Episcopal del V Centenario, 1992.
Lee, Dayna Bowker. The Talimali Band of Apalachee. Louisiana Regional Folklife Program, 2007. Available from http://www.nsula.edu/regionalfolklife/apalachee/before1763.html.
Jerald T. Milanich