Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Shell People - The Mighty Calusa


"The Shell People"
Calusa Indians

The Calusa facinate me because they were an advanced culture of people who developed a complex social and political system. They roamed the area where I now explore with my children and we are enjoying learning more about them. It is here that they fished, collected shellfish, played, sang songs, and carved beautiful cats that to me, look an awful lot like a Florida panther.

The "Marco Cat"







Have you heard of the Calusa Indians? They were some of the "true Florida Natives" who inhabited and ruled the Gulf Coast of Florida from Tampa Bay down to Ft. Myers. In and around the Charlotte Harbor area there have been many artifacts discovered from this ancient culture.

All we really know about these interesting peoples is from what has been found & from a handful of writings left behind by explorers and a young man who actually lived among the Calusa after they destroyed the rest of his party in an attempt to protect their own from invasion. 

Because the Calusa had fresh fish and plenty of seafood at their disposal, they didn't have to spend time growing crops or hunting  for food. This allowed them to develop their creativity through art and also music. The carved mask pictured above is a Calusa mask.  

The tools they used were made from local shells, such as the large Welks that still adorn local beaches today.

This is a reproduction of a Calusa hammer made from a Welk. You can find more of these reproductions at:


All of the reproductions were made by author Charles LeBuff who wrote "The Calusan". Although LeBuff's novel is a fictional tale, it is based on valuable historical data.
Another interesting site by the Florida Center of Instructional Technology gives a great summary for a study with your students:


I will be exploring and learning more about them over the next couple of months with my boys and some of our close friends. My plan is to develop a couple of worksheets and printables to pass on to fellow homeschoolers (or anyone interested).
In the meantime, you can visit these sites to learn more about the Calusa:



You may not have heard of the Calusa Indians, but I bet you've heard of Ponce de' Leon. Did you know that the Calusa were responsible for the wound that killed the famous Spanish explorer as he searched for (and some believe found) the fountain of youth?
The study of the Calusa is that of an intlligent creative group of people who lived, loved, and developed a system of canals opening up trade across the state of Florida. It brings an interesting insight to the history that is offered in schools across the country. It ties into stories that you should be familiar with such as that of Ponce de' Leon and his ill fated mission. I hope you'll join us!

1 comment:

1TootieFoodie said...

I have heard of Ponce De Leon. How cool that all that history is in your backyard. I can't wait to see if you post more interesting history about them.