Calusa Towns

All of the Indians of southern Florida on the western side of the peninsula, from the Timucua territories as far as and including the Florida Keys, belonged to a confederacy or overlordship called Calusa or Calos. On the eastern coast were a number of small independent tribes, each usually occupying only one settlement. The most important of these appears to have been Ais, located close to what is now Indian River Inlet. The next in prominence, if not in power, were the Tekesta, at or near the present Miami, and between these were the Jeaga, or Jega, in Jupiter Inlet, and the Guacata and Santa Lucia Indians, probably identical, who lived about St. Lucie River. The province of Ais is said to have extended northward almost to Cape Canaveral, but the authority of its chief was probably not very great along the northern edge of this area, where we are told of a province called Ulumay.

We will consider first the towns of Calusa. Two lists of Calusa towns have come to my notice; one in Fontaneda’s Memoir, the other possibly from him also, but containing many more names and some variants of the names in his Memoir — in the Lowery manuscripts. From the fact that Tampa is given by Fontaneda as a Calusa town, it has been quite generally assumed that the Calusa extended as far north as the bay of that name, but in the Lowery manuscripts I find very strong evidence that the original Tampa Bay was farther south than the inlet now so called, and was probably identical with what is now Charlotte Harbor. The principal Calusa town was farther south on San Carlos Bay. Fontaneda classifies the Calusa towns into three groups, those on the west coast of the peninsula, those about Lake Mayaimi, now Okeechobee, and those on the Florida Keys. The following list is as complete as I can furnish. In the list from the Lowery manuscripts the towns, or, as the document gives it, their caciques — since town and chief were called by the same name by the Spaniards — are given from north to south, and I indicate in each case the town above and below the one named, mentioning the one to the north first. In the case of towns from Fontaneda’s list I give the group to which each belongs:

Abir. Between Ñeguitun and Cutespa.

Alcola (or Chosa). Mentioned in the narrative of an expedition into the Calusa country in 1680, and said to have 300 people.

Apojola Negra. This is given in an account of an expedition into the Calusa country in 1680. The expedition was accompanied by Timucua interpreters and this name seems to contain the Spanish word black and the Timucua word for buzzard. It contained 20 people.


Calaobe. Belongs to the seacoast division (see p. 29).

Caragara. Between Namuguya and Nenhenguepa.

Casitoa, Casitua. Seacoast division. Between Muspa and Cotebo.

Cayovea. Seacoast division.

Cayucar. Between Tonco and Ñeguitun.

Chipi. Between Tomçobe and Taguagemae (or Taguagemue).

Comachica. Seacoast division.

Cononoguay. Between Cutespa and Estegue.

Cotebo. Between Casitua and Coyobia.

Coyobia. Between Cotebo and Tequemapo.

Cuchiyaga, Cuchiaga, Cuclyyaga. A town of the Florida keys. It was said to be southwest from Bahia Honda and 40 leagues northeast of Guarungube. Probably it was on Big Pine Key.

Custavui. South of Jutun.

Cutespa. Inland division. Between Abir and Cononoguay.


Elafay. In the report of an expedition to Calusa in 1680. It had 40 people. The word may be in the Timucua language.

Enempa. In interior division.

Estame. Seacoast division. Between Metamapo and Sacaspada.

Estantapaca. Between Yagua and Queyhicha.

Estegue. Between Cononoguay and Tomsobe.

Excuru. Between Janar and Metamapo.


Guarungube, Guarugumbe, Garungunve. The outermost town on the Florida keys, “on the point of the Martyrs,” and thus probably near Key West.

Guevu. Seacoast division.


Henhenguepa. Between Caragara and Ocapataga.


Janar. Between Ocapataga and Escuru.

Judyi. Between Satucuava and Soco.

Juestocobaga. Between Queyhicha and Sinapa.

Jutun. Seacoast division. Between Tequemapo and Custavui.


Metamapo. Seacoast division. Between Escuru and Estame.

Muspa. Seacoast division. Between Teyo and Casitua.


Namuguya. Between Taguagemae and Caragara.

Ñeguitun. Between Cayucar and Abir.

Ño (or Non). Seacoast division. The word is said to mean “town beloved.” (See p. 30.)


Ocapataga. Between Henheuguepa and Janar.

Queyhicha. Between Estantapaca and Juestocobaga.

Quisiyove. Seacoast division.


Sacaspada, Çacaspada. Seacoast division. Between Estame and Satucuava.

Satucuava. Between Sacaspada and Judyi.

Sinaesta. Seacoast division.

Sinapa. Seacoast division. Between Juestocobaga and Tonco.

Soco. Seacoast division. Between Judyi and Vuebe.


Taguagemae (or Taguagemue). Between Chipi and Namuguya.

Tampa, Tanpa. Seacoast division. The northernmost town of the Calusa country, followed on the south by Yagua. It was probably on Charlotte Harbor. According to one Spanish writer the Indians at the mouth of the present Tampa Bay were called by some people Tampas, by others “Vantabales.”

Tatesta, Testa. Seacoast division. It is given as a town between Tekesta and Cuchiaga, according to one writer, about 80 leagues north of the latter town. A “key of Tachista” is also mentioned in one place, and still another document places it on the Florida Keys. It may have been near their inner end.

Tavaguemue. Interior division.

Tequemapo. Seacoast division. Between Coyobia and Jutun.

Teyo. Between Vuebe and Muspa.

Tiquijagua. From the narrative of a Calusa expedition undertaken in 1680. Population of town, 300.

Tomo. Seacoast division.

Tomsohe, Tomcobe. Interior division. Between Estegue and Chipi. Perhaps the Sonsobe of Fontaneda, who in one place speaks of it as a province distinct from Calusa.

Tonco. Between Sinapa and Cayucar.

Tuchi. Seacoast division.


Vantabales. See Tampa.

Vuebe. Between Soco and Teyo. Possibly the Guevu of Fontaneda.


Yagua. Seacoast division. Between Tampa and Estantapaca.


As stated above, the settlements on the east coast did not belong to a single province, although there is reason to consider them as having constituted one linguistic group with the Calusa. 1 The following settlements are mentioned, beginning at the southern end of this strip of coast:


Tekesta, Tegesta, Tequesta. Situated close to the present Miami.


Janar. As the writer who gives this is the same who records a town Janar among the Calusa we may assume that they are not identical.



Jeaqa, Geaga, Jega, Gega, Guega. This was located in the present Jupiter Inlet. According to Spanish writers it was 10 leagues north of Tekesta and 18 leagues south-southeast of Ais.

Guacata, Cuacata. In one place Fontaneda speaks of this as a town on Lake Mayaimi (Okeechobee) and elsewhere as one of the provinces of the east coast. A Spanish document in the Lowery collection gives it as a place “in the land of Ays.” It is possible that these people lived on St. Lucie River and camped farther inland than most of the coast people. In that case they would probably be identical with the people of the town afterwards known as Santa Lucia from a missionary establishment started among them.

Ttjnsa. Given as a town or province “in the land of Ays.” But see Tunsa in the Timucua list.

Ais, Ays, Aiz, Hayz, Jece. The chief of this town or province was the most powerful on the eastern coast. From Dickenson it appears that he was able to overawe all of the chiefs to the south of him as far as the Jeaga, and the “province of Ais” is made by the Spaniards to extend in the other direction nearly to Cape Canaveral. The capital town itself was near Indian River Inlet, and Indian River itself was known as “the river of Ais.” This is sometimes called San Aguslin de Ais from an abortive missionary attempt made there.

Ulumay (given in one place as Colomas). This is spoken of as a “province” and at the same time placed in the territory of Ais. It was near Cape Canaveral and on the borders of the south Florida linguistic area or areas. Fontaneda makes the language of Ais extend as far as Maiaca and Maiajuaca, but the first of these was Timucua, and there is reason to think that the Timucua tribes extended even farther south. See Surruque in the Timucua list.

Ordonoy. A town in the province of Ulumay.

Bovoche. A town in the province of Ulumay.

Rea. A land or town of the province of Ais. (See p. 342.) It is doubtful whether this word has been correctly copied.


Harrisse has shown that the peninsula of Florida was almost certainly discovered and mapped with an approximation to accuracy late in the fifteenth or early in the sixteenth century, a dozen years at least before the supposed discovery by Ponce de Leon in 1512 or 1513. 2 Still, if Florida does not owe her entry into European history to the last-mentioned navigator, she unquestionably does her name, which afterwards displaced all previous appellations. Ponce de Leon ranged the coasts seemingly for many miles, on both the eastern and western sides, and then returned to Porto Rico, where he had outfitted. In 1521 he undertook a second expedition, coasting the western side of the peninsula and making a landing, perhaps hi Apalachee Bay, as suggested by Harrisse. 3 Here, however, he was defeated by the Indians and badly wounded. He returned to Cuba to be cured, but soon died. Meantime, in 1519, Francisco de Garay sent an expedition into the Gulf of Mexico, which traced the northern coast of the Gulf from Florida to the River Panuco. In 1524 Verrazano is supposed to have followed the coast of North America from Florida northward. All of these navigators simply touched upon the shores of the peninsula. We now come to expeditions which penetrated some distance into the interior. The first of these was led by the unfortunate Narvaez, who landed in Florida April 11, 1528, probably at or near Tampa Bay. From there the Spaniards marched inland, meeting very few Indians and apparently only one or two Indian villages. They crossed two rivers, which we may surmise to have been the Withlacoochee and Suwanee, and finally came to the country of the Apalachee. No tribal names are mentioned in the territory traversed before reaching these people; merely the name of a chief, Dulchanchellin, whose village seems to have been in that province which the De Soto narratives call Ocale. 4 What happened to the Spaniards among the Apalachee has been related in giving the history of the Apalachee tribe. 5Citations:

  1. See p. 31.[]
  2. Harrise, Disc. of N. A., pp. 77-109, 142-153.[]
  3. Harrise. Disc. of N. A., p. 152.[]
  4. Bandelier, Journal of Cabesta de Vaca, pp. 9-23; Oviedo, Hist. Gen., III, pp. 579-581; Doc. Ined., XIV, pp. 269-271.[]
  5. See pp. 112-115.[]


Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

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