Tag Archives: Indian Middens

Useppa ~Very Different Waters Indeed

I was still stewing over thinking that Charlotte Harbor was the Gulf of Mexico when the trawler docked at Useppa.

The sunlight reflected off impressive white structures lining the island. An American flag flew prominently atop what Captain Glenn said was once a Calusa Indian midden ~the tribe whose arrow maimed, later killing, Ponce de Leon.

There was certainly an air about the place, that for eternity, it had been a center of power and influence.

As I walked with Captain Glen and Ed beyond the docks, the front office gave hints to the days of Baron Colliers’ famed Izaak Walton Club, clearing, dredging, filling and building, to make available Florida’s most famous of Tarpon filled waters.

ca. 1906 https://www.useppa.com/legacy/izaak-walton/, courtesy  web site, Useppa

Looking around, I saw messages and awards written on Tarpon scales, enshrined in glass casings of an era long gone by. It made my heart ache for a time of healthier Florida waters, times when nutrient pollution, toxic-algae, and over-drainage were not killing our state. I decided be thankful for this looking-glass of history and enjoy a walk.

The island remained absolutely beautiful…and such strange and wonderful treasures! As we walked up the mound, I gasped at the wonder all around me.

I saw night-blooming cactus vines like hundreds of green ropes covering the huge ancient oaks trees; Spanish-moss swaying in a light breeze: an empty beach catching the colors of coming sunset; orchids and bromeliads blooming everywhere high and low; a gigantic banyan tree, a gift from Thomas Edison, standing like an aging hurricane-weathered sentinel – old limbs broken and reformed, arching over houses and sidewalks alike!

There were animals too. We met a friendly, stowaway orange cat that had arrived on a supply vessel and now was the mayor of the town. And also an old gopher turtle happily clipping grass with an awesome multi-entrance and exit gopher tunnel.

At the end of the sidewalk tour, the famed Collier Inn stood atop the ancient Indian mound looking out over the waters. It was beautiful yes, but I knew, in spite of the awe around me, with no tarpon jumping, those were very different waters, indeed.

 

Links:

Useppa resident speaks up: https://www.news-press.com/story/news/2018/08/22/toxic-algae-florida-scientists-question-health-departments-stand/973593002/

Calusa Indians, Fl: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/middle-school-lessons/001-Calusa/001-Calusa1.htm

Historic Society, Useppa: http://www.useppahs.org/pages/useppa_history.html

Izaak Walton Club, Collier: https://www.useppa.com/legacy/izaak-walton/

Note Useppa Award from Captains For Clean Waters: https://captainsforcleanwater.org

West Florida Sailing and Cruising School: http://www.flsailandcruiseschool.com

https://captainsforcleanwater.org

Unknown, Sacred Indian Mounds of the Indian River Lagoon

Ancient Aye Indian mound and gravesite, possibly 3000-4000 years old overlooks the Indian River Lagoon at Ft Pierce but is but is unrecognized. The park is known today as "Old Fort Park."
Ancient Ais Indian mound and gravesite, possibly 2000-4000 years old overlooks the Indian River Lagoon but is but is unrecognized. The park is known today as “Old Fort Park,” Ft Pierce. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

When I was a teenager, one time my mother, a historian, pulled the car over on the side of the road near “Old Fort Park” in Ft. Pierce. She said,” Let’s get out of the car, we are going to look for Indian shards.” “Cool,” I thought, but how could that be? We were driving right along Indian River Drive in a residential area just outside of downtown Ft. Pierce. I’d been here a thousand times….

So anyway, she parked the car and we actually walked across the street, closer to the river, and right there lying on top of the pushed up earth, were discarded oyster and clam shells and splinters of pottery that my mother explained belonged to an ancient mound building culture.  I was amazed. Later, we walked up the remains of the forty foot midden, turned around  and looked out over the beautiful Indian River, through gigantic gnarled oak trees. I imagined I was an Ais Indian, looking out for the British or Spanish and their Indian collaborators  who one day would destroy me and the Indian River too. (http://indianrivermag.com/LIVE/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=136)

According to the Florida Anthropologist 2002, Volume 55 3-4, a total of 49 shell middens, circles or graves have been found in Martin County and were determined to be in much better condition than the ones  that had been plowed down in neighboring and over developed Palm Beach County. These Indian mounds were determined to be anywhere from 3000-4000 years old, possibly older, and belonged to various Florida mound building tribes. In Martin County they were named the Ays or Ais. (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00027829/00090/1j)

The “Old Fort Park” is in St Lucie County, but Martin County’s most well known Indian midden is known today as “Tuckahoe.” The mound was once 60 feet high and overlooks the Indian River as well. I learned that  many of the Indian mounds, even parts of Tuckahoe, were all or partially bulldozed and the shells  used to pave the early streets of the area. (http://www.mansionattuckahoe.com/htm/mansionHistory.htm)

How resourceful? How horrendous and completely unthoughtful.

This partial map below shows where some of the major coastal and interior mounds in Martin County are located: Mount Elizabeth or Tuckahoe; Hutchinson Island; House of Refuge; Rocky Point; St Lucie Inlet; Joseph Reed Shell Ring; Peck ‘s Lake Complex; Banner Lake Complex; Hobe Sound Complex; Jupiter Sound Complex; Jupiter Inlet Complex; Indiantown and Barley Barber.

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A few years ago after a big storm, the Indian Mound on Hutchinson Island was opened up by the sea. Bones and artifacts were found, studied and reburied because today we have a deeper respect for these grave sites, these sites of culture that  many of our ancestors, like mine,  destroyed.

Perhaps the spirt of the Ais Indians broke forth that day, and in the rolling waves was brought back to the shoreline. Maybe they are somehow helping us who care and empathise save what’s left of their Eden – the beautiful,  the sacred, the Indian River Lagoon.

Photos: (https://www.google.com/search?q=indian+mounds+photos+florida&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=5LE5U-CeD63gsATZvYHADQ&ved=0CCgQsAQ&biw=1598&bih=803)