Discourse and power: Native Americans and Spaniards negotiate a new world in La Florida

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Thomas Abercrombie - Committee Chair


When the Spaniards, the first of the Europeans to explore and colonize in what is now the United States, entered the Southeast that they called La Florida, in the early sixteenth century, the majority of the Native Americans whom they encountered were Maskoki peoples, the ancestors of the peoples known today as Seminoles, Miccosukees, and Creeks. Contrary to what I shall call the 'rhetoric of conquest,' which has been created and reiterated by Euroamericans over the centuries, the culture base of these Native Americans was neither static, inflexible, nor unsuccessful. They neither succumbed to diseases nor disintegrated under the stresses of European interposition. The Maskokalgi, the People of the Maskoki Way, had created, reproduced, and transformed their own dynamic social systems over many generations before the arrival of the Spaniards and they continued to do so throughout the first Spanish occupation, until 1763. Their sociocultural templates were neither brittle nor fragile. These templates were capable of sustaining and replicating the Maskoki culture base, even in the face of profound pressures for change engendered by the negotiations of the initial cultural other, the Spaniards, and their rivals after 1670, the English and the French. The templates were encoded in power relationships and networks that were preserved and transmitted in discourse, and many of these historical templates are discernible in the discourse of the people to this day. They gave rise to a people who ranged, historically, across numerous portions of the Southeast without regard for geopolitical entities that would only much later, in the nineteenth century, come to be regarded by Euroamericans as Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The Maskoki peoples' cosmogony was sufficiently permeable and elastic as to permit the absorption of selected elements of European discourses without itself being subsumed by them. The single most visible proof of their success is the continued existence of the their descendants, the "Seminoles" and "Creeks" as discrete cultural units, today.


History, United States

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