Calusa Indian Language

The languages spoken by the Calusa and by the people next in order, the Tequesta, are unknown to us, and thus cannot be mentioned here as forming separate linguistic stocks. I simply make mention of these tribes, because they were regarded as people distinct from the Timucua and the tribes of Maskoki origin.

The Calusa held the southwestern extremity of Florida, and their tribal name is left recorded in Calusahatchi, a river south of Tampa bay. They are called Calos on de Bry’s map (1591), otherwise Colusa, Callos, Carlos, and formed a confederacy of many villages, the names of which are given in the memoir of Hernando d Escalante Fontanedo (Mémoire sur la Floride, in Ternaux-Compans’ Collection XX, p. 22; translated from the original Spanish). These names were written down in 1559, and do not show much affinity with Timucua; but since they are the only remnants of the Calusa language, I present the full list: “Tampa, Tomo, Tuchi, Sogo, No (which signifies beloved village), Sinapa, Sinaesta, Metamapo, Sacaspada, Calaobe, Estame, Yagua, Guaya, Guevu, Muspa, Casitoa, Tatesta, Coyovea, Jutun, Tequemapo, Comachica, Quiseyove and two others in the vicinity. There are others in the interior, near Lake Mayaimi viz., Cutespa, Tavaguemue, Tomsobe, Enempa and twenty others. Two upon the Lucayos obey to the cacique of Carlos, Guarunguve and Cuchiaga. Carlos and his deceased father were the rulers of these fifty towns.” Fontanedo states that he was prisoner in these parts from his thirteenth to his thirtieth year; that he knew four languages, but was not familiar with those of Aïs and Teaga, not having been there.

One of these names is decidedly Spanish, Sacaspada or “Draw-the-sword”; two others appear to be Timucua, Calaobe (kala fruit; abo stalk, tree] and Comachica (hica land, country}. Some may be explained by the Creek language, but only one of them, Tampa (itímpi close to it, near if) is Creek to a certainty; Tuchi resembles tútchi kidneys; Sogo, sá-uka rattle, gourd-rattle, and No is the radix of a-no-kítcha lover, anukídshäs I love, which agrees with the interpretation given by Fontanedo. Tavaguemue may possibly contain the Creek táwa sumach; Mayaimi (Lake), which Fontanedo explains by “very large” the Creek augmentative term máhi, and Guevu the Creek u-íwa water.

The Spanish orthography, in which these names are laid down, is unfitted for transcribing Indian languages, perhaps as much so as the English orthography; nevertheless, we recognize the frequently occurring terminal -esta, -sta, which sounds quite like Timucua. There are no doubt many geo graphic terms, taken from Seminole Creek, in the south of the peninsula as well as in the north; it only remains to determine what age we have to ascribe to them.

The Calusa bore the reputation of being a savage and rapacious people, and B. Romans (p. 292) denounces them as having been pirates. He informs us (p. 289), that “at Sandy Point, the southern extremity of the peninsula, are large fields, being the lands formerly planted by the Colusa savages;” and that “they were driven away from the continent by the Creeks, their more potent neighbors.” In 1763 the remnants, about eighty families, went to Havannah from their last possessions at Cayos Vacos and Cayo Hueso (hueso, bone), where Romans saw the rests of their stone habitations (p. 291); now called Cayos bajos and Key West.

On the languages spoken in these parts more will be found under the heading” Seminole Indians.”


Gatschet, Albert S. A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians. Pub. D.G. Brinton, Philadelphia, 1884.

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