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Calusa, a native group in southwest Florida during the colonial period. The Calusa and their pre-Columbian ancestors inhabited the Gulf coast from Charlotte Harbor south to the Ten Thousand Islands (Florida Keys). They developed a powerful chiefdom based on the collection of marine foods rather than farming.

On his initial voyage to La Florida in 1513, Juan Ponce De León tried to introduce a settlement among the Calusa but was driven away. In 1566 Pedro Menéndez De Avilés established a Spanish garrison staffed with soldiers and Jesuit priests in the village of Calos; it was withdrawn in 1569. Spanish contact remained sporadic until 1697, when a Franciscan attempt to missionize the Calusa also failed. Diseases and raids by other native groups soon devastated the Calusa. Only remnants were still surviving in 1743, when Jesuits established the short-lived mission of Santa María de Loreto on the Miami River.

See alsoIndigenous Peoples; Missions: Spanish America.


Goggin, John M., and William C. Sturtevant. "The Calusa: A Stratified Nonagricultural Society (with Notes on Sibling Marriage)," in Explorations in Cultural Anthropology: Essays in Honor of George Peter Murdock, edited by Ward H. Goodenough (1964).

Hann, John H., ed. and trans., Missions to the Calusa (1991).

Lewis, Clifford M. "The Calusa," in Tacachale: Essays on the Indians of Florida and Southeast Georgia during the Historic Period, edited by Jerald Milanich and Samuel Proctor (1978).

Randolph J. Widmer, The Evolution of the Calusa: A Nonagricultural Chiefdom on the Southwest Florida Coast (1988).

                                     Jerald T. Milanich

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