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Chief Tocobaga

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This is a story I heard from Hermann Trappman about Chief Tocobaga.

Hermann had a painting of Chief Tocobaga at his show during our recent Dade Battle Reenactment. It shows an elderly native man with an expression on his face, of old eyes that seem to be looking off to a distance, remembering something in the past.

In 1567, Pedro Menendez de Aviles with several Calusa warriors visited Tampa Bay. St. Augustine was recently established, but Spanish control did not reach very far beyond the new settlement. Certainly not in other parts of Florida that had a large native population. Menendez's object was to establish a Spanish mission at Tocobaga, securing a foothold for the Spanish in Tampa Bay. He also brought with him the powerful King Carlos of the Calusa and several Calusa warriors to make peace among the two tribes, which would help the Spanish ultimately rule over the Florida territory.

On top of the large mound overlooking Tampa Bay was Chief Tocobaga. The Tribe is called by us today as the Tocobaga Tribe, but I don't know if that is what they called themselves. From what Dr. Julian Granberry told me, they were really a sub-group of the Timucuans.

Menendez and his Jesuits tried to convince Chief Tocobaga to convert to Christianity. The answer they got was not what they expected. The old & wise Chief responded to them, to go ahead and just kill him right there, because he was not going to change. He was old and had lived the way of his ancestors his whole life, and was not going to change now.

Menendez said that is not what they wanted to do. The Spanish needed the support of the local natives. Especially since they were surrounded by Tocobaga warriors and out-numbered ten-to-one.

So Menendez left without the Spanish foothold in Tampa Bay. But not before leaving behind a small mission of 30 Spaniards. The head priest was a rival of Menendez anyway, and the mission did not last long. I don't know if the priest and soldiers of the small mission fled back to St. Augustine, or if they just disappeared.

(below: Hermann Trappman on the left, wearing a new coat that I made for him.)

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