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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Richard Godbeer

Second Committee Member

Martha Few

Third Committee Member

Martin Nesvig

Fourth Committee Member

Kate Ramsey

Fifth Committee Member

Traci Ardren


Calusa Responses to the Spanish Missionary Enterprise in Post-Contact Florida This dissertation examines the cultural, political and religious dynamics surrounding Calusa contact with the Spaniards. Throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, missionaries intended to impose Catholicism, Spanish culture and royal power among the Calusa. Yet Calusa leaders, whose influence depended on their detailed practice and knowledge of their native religion, refused to relinquish any aspect of their authority. Since soldiers accompanied missionaries, the Calusa saw the missions potentially as a means of defense, initially against local native rivals, and eventually against Indian allies to the British. Yet as a result of the limited number of soldiers that accompanied the missionaries, the missions did not provide any significant measure of protection or defense. The missions also failed in their primary purpose of initiating religious conversion and cultural change among the Calusa. While Calusa contact with Spaniards and other Europeans allowed for the introduction of European items into their native material repertoire, these goods were appropriated instead to fit within a native cultural context. While the Calusa did not survive the warfare and disease ushered in by European imperialism, they were able to withstand the political, religious and cultural changes that the Spanish tried to initiate. Eighteenth-century missionaries observed the Calusa still practicing traditions and rituals that had persisted for centuries.


Calusa Indians; Spanish Missions