#1. European Contact First Occurred In 1513.
While this would be their first contact with the Spanish, they had known of their presence due to taking in refugees who fled Cuba.
Ponce de Leon would not be in contact with them for long as he was driven out by the tribe. He returned in 1521 to establish a colony, but the Calusa drove him out again.
This time, he would be shot in the thigh with a poison arrow and would die of the wound.
#2. The Calusa Tribe Were One Of The Most Powerful Tribes in Florida
The Calusa Tribe saw much success against the Spanish, and due to their power, many tribes refused to help guide the Spanish for fear of retaliation.
Their population is believed to have reached 10,000 people, which was very large for a Native American Tribe.
They controlled much of southwest Florida and had claims from Tampa Bay to the Florida Keys.
#3. Disease Would Decimate Them
The Calusa Tribe had a large population and was well-organized. The drove back multiple conquistadors and had control of nearby tribes.
However, they would suffer the same fate as many of the other Native American tribes.
Their immune systems lacked antibodies to fight off European diseases. Diseases would ravage their population and force them to flee to Cuba.
European disease and slave raids dwindled their population, and the once proud tribe emigrated away from Florida.
#4. The Calusa Tribe Had Their Own Mythology
The Calusa believed that three supernatural people ruled the world, that people had three souls, and that souls migrated to animals after death.
The most powerful ruler governed the physical world, the second most powerful ruled human governments, and the last helped in wars, choosing which side would win.
The Calusa believed that the three souls were the pupil of a person's eye, his shadow, and his reflection. The soul in the eye's pupil stayed with the body after death, and the Calusa would consult with that soul at the graveside.
The other two souls left the body after death and entered into an animal.
If a Calusa killed such an animal, the soul would migrate to a lesser animal and eventually be reduced to nothing
#5. The Chief Married His Clan-Sister
There are two theories about this, and one is most likely a misunderstanding.
The first theory is that a chief would take his sister into marriage. This was reported by the Spanish that interacted with the tribe and was most likely a misunderstanding.
The Spanish Conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the founder of Saint Augustine, was offered Chief Carlo's sister Antonia as a wife.
The misunderstanding the Spanish most likely had was that the chief or nobles would marry their clan sisters, which may not mean actual sisters.
The Calusa tribe chief often had multiple wives from various tribes. Marriage was used as a way to secure alliances, which is why the chief offered Aviles his sister.