Tocobaga (occasionally Tocopaca) was the name of a chiefdom, its
chief, and its principal town during the 16th century. The chiefdom
was centered around the northern end of Old Tampa Bay, the arm of
Tampa Bay that extends between the present-day city of Tampa and
northern Pinellas County. The exact location of the principal town is
believed to be the archeological Safety Harbor Site, which gives its
name to the Safety Harbor culture, of which the
Tocobaga are the most
The name "Tocobaga" is often applied to all of the native peoples of
Tampa Bay area during the first Spanish colonial period
(1513-1763). While they were culturally very similar, most of the
villages on the eastern and southern shores of
Tampa Bay were likely
affiliated with other chiefdoms, such as the Pohoy, Uzita, and Mocoso.
Study of archaeological artifacts has provided insight into the
everyday life of the Safety Harbor culture. However, little is known
about the political organization of the early peoples of the Tampa Bay
area. The scant historical records come exclusively from the journals
and other documents made by members of several Spanish expeditions
that traversed the area in the 1500s.
Tocobaga and their neighbors disappeared from the historical
record by the early 1700s, as diseases brought by European explorers
decimated the local population and survivors were displaced by the
raids and incursions of other indigenous groups from the north. The
Tampa Bay area was virtually uninhabited for over a century.
1 In the sixteenth century
2 Later history
6 External links
In the sixteenth century
Estimated extent of
Tocobaga influence at first contact with Spanish
Tampa Bay area was visited by Spanish explorers during the Spanish
Florida period in Florida. In 1528,
Pánfilo de Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez likely landed
in Tampa Bay, and may have passed through the territory of the
Tocobaga chiefdom on his journey north. The Hernando de Soto
Expedition likely landed on the south side of
Tampa Bay in 1539,[Notes
1] and passed through the eastern part of Safety Harbor territory
after occupying the village of Uzita. Garcilaso de la Vega (known as
el Inca), in his history of de Soto's expedition, relates that
Narváez had ordered that the nose of the chief of Uzita be cut off,
indicating that the two explorers had passed through the same area.
Another town near Uzita encountered by de Soto was Mocoso, but
evidence suggests that, while
Mocoso was in the Safety Harbor culture
area together with Uzita and Tocobaga, the
Mocoso people spoke a
different language, possibly Timucua.
The entirely missionary expedition of Father
Luis de Cancer visited
Tampa Bay natives in 1549 in an attempt to convert the locals
peacefully and repair the damage done in previous years by
conquistadors. Despite being cautioned to avoid the dangerous Gulf
Coast, the expedition landed south of Bahia Espiritu Santo (a.k.a.
Tampa Bay) in May 1549. There they encountered apparently peaceful and
receptive Indians who told them of the many populous villages around
Tampa Bay, and de Cancer decided to go north. Upon reaching the Bay
area, members of the expedition were killed or captured, and de Cancer
was clubbed to death soon after reaching shore.
Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, a shipwreck survivor who lived with
the Indians of southern
Florida from 1549–1566 and was rescued from
Calusa by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, described Tocobaga, Abalachi
(Apalachee) and Mogoso (Mocoço) as "separate kingdoms" from the
Calusa. Ucita and Mocoço at the time of de Soto's visit were subject
to a chief named
Urriparacoxi or Paracoxi (also given as
Urribarracuxi).[Notes 2] De Soto marched to the town of Paracoxi,
which appears to have been inland from Tampa Bay, where he found maize
under cultivation. (By contrast, the Safety Harbor people made little
or no use of maize.)
The name "Tocobaga" first appears in Spanish documents in 1567, when
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés visited what was almost certainly the
Safety Harbor site. Menéndez had contacted the
Calusa and reached an
accommodation with Carlos, the
Calusa 'king', including a 'marriage'
with Carlos' sister. As Carlos was anxious to gain an advantage over
his enemy Tocobaga, Menéndez took Carlos and 20 of his warriors to
Tocobaga by ship. Menéndez persuaded
Tocobaga and Carlos to make
peace. He recovered several Europeans and a dozen
Calusa being held as
slaves by Tocobaga. Menéndez left a garrison of 30 men at
encourage the people of the town to convert to Christianity; he
returned Carlos and the other
Calusa to their town. In January 1568
boats taking supplies to the garrison at
Tocobaga found the town
deserted, and all of the Spanish soldiers dead.
In 1608 an alliance of
Tocobaga may have threatened Potano
people who had been converted to Christianity. In 1611 a raiding party
from the two chiefdoms killed several Christianized Indians carrying
supplies to the Spanish mission (Cofa) at the mouth of the Suwannee
River. In 1612, the Spanish launched a punitive expedition down the
Suwannee River and along the Gulf coast, attacking
Tocobaga and Pohoy,
killing many of their people, including both chiefs. The
weakened by the Spanish attack, and the
Pohoy became the dominant
Tampa Bay for a while.
In 1677 a Spanish official inspecting the missions in Apalachee
Province visited a village of
Tocobaga people living on the Wacissa
River one league from the mission of San Lorenzo de Ivitachuco. There
is no record of when the
Tocobaga settled on the Wacissa River, but
they appear to have been there for a while. When the Spanish official
Tocobaga for having lived in a Christian province "for
many years" without having converted, they replied that no one had
come to teach them about Christianity, but that some twenty of their
people had converted on their death beds and been buried at the
mission in Ivitachuco. The
Tocobaga were engaged in transporting
Apalachee Province to St. Augustine, carrying it in
canoes along the coast and up the
Suwannee River and, probably, the
Santa Fe River. Other people carried it overland the rest of the way
to St. Augustine. The village was listed again in 1683, but it is not
clear what happened when
Apalachee Province was overrun by the English
and their Indian allies in 1704.[Notes 3] When the Spanish returned to
San Marcos de
Apalachee in 1718, they found a few
along the Wacissa River. The Spanish commander persuaded the Tocobaga
to move to the mouth of the
St. Marks River
St. Marks River under the protection of a
battery. In August that year 25 to 30
Pohoy attacked the Tocobaga
settlement, killing eight and taking three away as captives. A small
Tocobaga continued to live in the vicinity of San Marcos
through the 1720s and 1730s.
The population of
Tocobaga declined severely in the 17th century, due
mostly to the spread of infectious diseases brought by the Europeans,
to which the native people had little resistance, as they had no
acquired immunity. In addition, all of the
Florida tribes lost
population due to the raids by the Creek and
Yamasee around the end of
the 17th century. Remnants of the Calusa, who lived to the south of
the Tocobaga, were forced into extreme southern Florida. As Florida
transitioned to British rule in 1763 following its defeat of France in
the Seven Years' War, the
Calusa emigrated with Spanish refugees and
resettled with them in Cuba, possibly along with the remnants of the
Tocobaga. In any case, the
Tocobaga disappeared from historical
records in the early 18th century.
^ The exact place(s) at which Narváez and de Soto landed is disputed.
Bullen (51) and Hann (2003: 12) place Narvaez's landing on the south
side of Tampa Bay, with a route north around the east side of the bay,
well away from Tocobaga. Milanich (1998: 120) suggests Narvaez landed
on the Pinellas peninsula, and marched directly north through Tocobaga
De Soto National Memorial
De Soto National Memorial marking de Soto's landing is
on the south side of Tampa Bay. Bullen (51-3) and Milanich 1998
(107-8) argue that the descriptions of de Soto's initial travels fit
that location better than proposed alternatives, such as Charlotte
Harbor or the Caloosahatchee River. Hann (2003: 105) simply states
that the landing was on the south side of Tampa Bay. Neither
expedition recorded the name Tocobaga.
^ "Paracoxi" ("Paracousi" in Laudonnière's account of the Saturiwa)
meant "war chief" in the Timucuan language. (Milanich 1993: 205)
^ When the Spanish abandoned
Apalachee province in 1704, some 800
surviving Indians, including Apalachee, Chatot and Yamasee, fled
westward to Pensacola, along with many of the Spanish in the province.
Some moved further west to French-controlled Mobile. A few Apalachee
from the Pensacola area returned to
Apalachee province around 1718,
settling near a fort that the Spanish had just built at St. Marks,
Apalachee from the village of Ivitachuco moved to a site
in Alachua County, Florida, and then to a location south of St.
Augustine, but within a year most of them had been killed in raids.
(Milanich 2006:187-8, 191, 195. Tony Horwitz, "
Missing for Centuries, Comes Out of Hiding", The Wall Street Journal,
9 Mar 2005; Page A1, on Weyanoke Association Website, accessed 29 Apr
Tocobaga may have left with either group. In 1719, two
Tocobaga men returned to San Marcos from Mobile, as they were unhappy
with the treatment they had received from the French. (Hann 1988: 282)
^ Burnett, Gene. Florida's Past, volume 1. Pineapple Press.
pp. 156–158. ISBN 1561641154. Retrieved October 16,
^ Bullen. 51-2.
Milanich 1994. 388-9.
^ Bullen. 54-5.
^ Lyon, Eugene (1966). The Enterprise of Florida: Pedro Menéndez de
Avilés and the Spanish Conquest of 1565-1568 (Paperback ed.).
Gainesville, Florida: The University Presses of Florida. pp. 201,
203. ISBN 0-8130-0777-1.
^ Hann & Fall 1995, pp. 187-8
^ Hann (2003), pp. 120-121, 131
^ Milanich (1989), pp. 295, 299
^ Milanich (1995), p. 73
^ Milanich (1998), p. 110
^ Hann 1988: 41-42, 46, 282, 316, 322-23
^ Hann 1995: 188
^ Hann: 2003: 129-30
^ Bullen. 57
^ Sturtevant. 147.
Bullen, Ripley P. (1978). "
Tocobaga Indians and the Safety Harbor
Culture". In Milanich and Procter.
Gannon, Michael V. (1965) The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic
Church in Florida, 1513- 1870. Gainesville, FL. University of Florida
Press. ISBN 0-8130-0776-3.
Hann, John H. (1988). Apalachee: the land between the rivers.
Gainesville, Florida: University of
Hann, John H. (Fall 1995). "Demise of the Pojoy and Bomto". The
Florida Historical Quarterly. 74 (2): 184–200. doi:10.2307/30148820.
Retrieved 10 April 2012. External link in journal= (help)
(Click on link to journal for free access to PDF version of article.)
Hann, John H. (2003). Indians of Central and South Florida: 1513-1763.
Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida.
Milanich, Jerald T. (1994). Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida.
University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1273-2.
Milanich, Jerald T. (1995).
Florida Indians and the Invasion from
Europe (Paperback ed.). Gainesville, Florida: University Press of
Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1636-3.
Milanich, Jerald T. (1998). Florida's Indians from Ancient Times to
the Present. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1599-5
Milanich, Jerald T. (2006). Laboring in the Fields of the Lord:
Spanish Missions and Southeastern Indians. University Press of
Florida. ISBN 0-8130-2966-X
Milanich, Jerald T. and Samuel Procter, Eds. (1978). Tacachale: Essays
on the Indians of
Florida and Southeastern Georgia during the Historic
Period. The University Presses of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-0535-3.
Sturtevant, William C. (1978). "The Last of the South Florida
Aborigines". In Milanich and Procter.
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