What Native American Tribes Inhabited Sarasota, Florida?

Discover which Native American tribes inhabited Sarasota County before its discovery by Europeans.

What Native American Tribes Inhabited Sarasota, Florida?

The “Discovery of Sarasota” was a momentous event in the history of the region. Before its discovery, Sarasota County was home to some of the oldest Native American tribes on the west coast of Florida, including the Calusa, the Tocobaga and the Timucuans. These tribes lived, fished and traveled in the area for thousands of years. The Calusa were a powerful tribe that dominated South Florida with their status, skills and brutality.

They were a small tribe, probably never able to put more than two or three thousand warriors on the battlefield. The Calusa had their center of power in Mound Key, an island west of Fort Myers. Historians have no idea what other tribes lived in Sarasota County as it was one of the few coastal places omitted by Spanish explorers. Cuban fishermen established fishing camps, or ranchers, on the shores of Sarasota Bay from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century.

The Seminola Indian tribe of Florida also frequented the region during this time to hunt, fish and farm. The Seminoles were nominally under the Spanish government, which pretended to do little and could do less to maintain order. This made their country a refuge for outlaws and vagabonds who wanted to escape law and justice; and especially it was a convenient asylum for fugitive slaves. Blacks by no means obtained freedom among the Seminoles, but they enjoyed a partial freedom that made their condition much more tolerable than that of total servitude; and when to this state of affairs were added the facilities for a wild and wild life, to which their natural inclinations were directed, it is not strange that they crossed the line whenever they could.

There was constant friction between slave hunters, law enforcement officers and Indians. Fans of modern architecture will also find a wealth of historic treasures to explore in Sarasota, especially in Lido Key, where the style homes of the Sarasota School of Architecture (Sarasota Modern) were made famous by world-renowned architects such as Paul Rudolph, Ralph Twitchell and Jack West in the years immediately after World War II. Sarasota's most influential developer's favorite hobby was fishing. Long before Sarasota became the small urban metropolis it is today, it was home to some of the first humans to inhabit Florida's Gulf Coast.

In September 1923, citizens of Sarasota built a baseball diamond and grandstand on land sold to them at a reduced price by Calvin and Martha Payne. Sarasota experienced an increase in growth during the 1950s as part of the economic boom following World War II. Charles and John Ringling, brothers behind Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus, began buying land in Sarasota in 1911 and starting in 1912 John and his wife Mable made Sarasota their winter home. Gillespie introduced a hotel, rail service and entertainment institutions in Sarasota in early 20th century. Wealthy members of northern high society were drawn to vacationing in tropical climate of Florida's Gulf Coast including influential Chicago businesswoman and philanthropist Bertha Palmer who traveled world to find winter vacation home before landing in Sarasota in 1910 same year as Owen Burns. Only a few Scots such as Browning family remained in Sarasota along with determined member of developer's family John Hamilton Gillespie.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is dedicated to restoring area's greatest natural asset: Sarasota Bay. Under warm Florida sun their hair grew to their hips and only wore tanned deerskin knots fastened with elegant belts indicative of everyone's position in tribe. Despite good nature of American Indians colonists still presumed likelihood of attack. There were only seventeen Indians in group that raided Braden Castle arriving directly from Everglades to former trading post in 1857. Sarasota would begin to recover starting in 1935 reflecting pattern seen in other tourist cities in Florida such as St. Gillespie and Owen Burns are primarily responsible for creating Sarasota's civic infrastructure but circus mogul John Ringling is renowned for artistic vitality that characterizes modern Sarasota. According to principal of Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania schools were created to “kill Indian and save man”.

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