The Timucuan Indians were the first people to settle on what is now Saint Augustine, FL- long before Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived from Spain in 1565. In fact, Pedro came ashore directly into the village of Seloy. It was a huge village, you couldn’t miss it with between 600-800 inhabitants. The village of Seloy was situated on the property we now know to be The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. It is here the very first Thanksgiving occurred between the Spanish and the Timucuan Indians, a whole fifty-six years before the Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth Rock. It was a huge feast with all the fixins’- alligator, smoked mullet, the “three sisters” as they were called- squash, beans and corn, and a caffeinated home-brew concoction made from holly leaves called “cacina”. Admittedly, these “fixins” are quite different than what most of us celebrate Thanksgiving with today. However, the concept is still there: two different groups of people coming together in peace to enjoy a meal that is customary to the place of meeting.
Sadly, there are no remaining Timucuan Indians left today. Their population began to drop with the introduction of foreign diseases, and most of them either moved out of Saint Augustine altogether or absorbed into other tribes in Florida.
Timucuan Indians may not be ALIVE today, but they sure are PRESENT. Perhaps they do not know they are gone, or perhaps they just refuse to leave their homeland. Either way, visitors to the Fountain of Youth claim they see very tall, shadowy figures wandering around the grounds of the park. Our very own Tolomato Cemetery is indeed placed directly on top of a Timucuan Indian burial ground- who thought that was a good idea? The employees at the Oldest Drugstore, now home to Potter’s Wax Museum, claim that until a statue was erected in the building paying homage to Chief Tolomato, none of the elixir bottles would stay on the shelves. “Uneven shelves” they thought to themselves. After the third or fourth time fixing the shelves they realized perhaps it was the land that the building was resting on. They erected the statue to Chief Tolomato, and the bottles have been fine ever since.
So maybe the Timucuan Indians just want some recognition? After all, although St.Augustine has a very close relationship to the Spanish crown, they did, by order of the crown, take their land. The land in which they had lived for thousands of years before any mention of “Spanish” or “the New World”. I believe the Timucuan Indians still own this land. They are just doing what they have always done: living peacefully off of the land by hunting, fishing, and gathering. They are alive and well.
The below photo is NOT altered. It was a photo taken not in Saint Augustine, but in a town very close to it (today, this area is called Neptune Beach) where the Timucuan Indians were present. I say “were” loosely- because apparently they have never left.