Sacred Lands Offer History, Nature and Respect

    By Joseph Garnett Jr.

    For history enthusiasts also interested in nature, Native Americans or Spanish explorers, Sacred Lands in St. Petersburg, Fla., is the place.

    It’s a place to hear about Spanish explorers, contemporary indigenous spiritual practices, fragrant and edible plants, salt water's effect on environmental habitat, lives of peacocks, and more.

    It began, according to the college of education at the University of South Florida, with the Tocobaga, who lived in small villages throughout the Tampa Bay area from the 900s to the 1500s.

     

    Sacred Lands is an Indian Village site along the Upper Boca Ciega Bay in the northwestern part of St. Petersburg, Fla.

    Sacred Lands is an Indian Village site along the Upper Boca Ciega Bay in the northwestern part of St. Petersburg, Fla.

    - Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

    Tall oaks and palms and vines provide a canopy for Sacred Lands. The lands was once innabited by the Tocobaga Indians.

    Tall oaks and palms and vines provide a canopy for Sacred Lands. The lands was once innabited by the Tocobaga Indians.

    - Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

     

    It began, according to the college of education at the University of South Florida, with the Tocobaga, who lived in small villages throughout the Tampa Bay area from the 900s to the 1500s.

    The tribe once inhabited the land nestled in the northwestern corner of the city now known as Jungle Prada, along the Upper Boca Ciega Bay. They were a peaceful people who hunted and fished for their food and were expert potters.

     

    The formation of vines in the plaza section of Sacred Lands.

    The formation of vines in the plaza section of Sacred Lands.

    - Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

    Star fruit hang from a tree on the Sacred Lands property.

    Star fruit hang from a tree on the Sacred Lands property.

    - Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

     

    Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez found the Tocobaga after landing in the St. Petersburg area, bringing violence and disease that lead to the extinction of the tribe within 100 years.

    Visitors can see ceremonial and burial mounds, broken shells, pottery, more than 800 species of plants, and generations of peacocks surrounding a house built in 1953 by Harold Christian “Happy” Anderson. The property is now home to Anderson’s son, Erik, and his wife, Doris.

    The elder Anderson constructed the house amid the native surroundings to accommodate his wife, Frances, who had been stricken with polio and could not walk.

    Anderson used old bricks from a street resurfacing project for the main pathway to what is believed to be the plaza and congregating area for the Indians. Each brick and stone was laid smoothly so his wife could get around the property in her wheelchair.

    The elder Anderson took efforts to preserve much of the lifestyle of the Tocobagas. Today, son Erik Anderson maintains the property and provides guided tours. He sees himself as an entertainer, helping to add to the knowledge of visitors and introducing them to the outdoors.

    Along with the tours, there are chanting sessions, the occasional wedding and visits by folks interested in paranormal activity.

    “The important thing I want people to know is what’s possible to do with land and preservation,” Anderson said.

     

    Erik Anderson helps lead a song of expression during a chanting program held at Sacred Lands. The property was once inhabited by Tocobaga Indians thousands of years ago.

    Erik Anderson helps lead a song of expression during a chanting program held at Sacred Lands. The property was once inhabited by Tocobaga Indians thousands of years ago.

    - Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

    Sacred Lands is a place to hear about Spanish explorers, contemporary indigenous spiritual practices, fragrant and edible plants, salt water's effect on environmental habitat, lives of peacocks, and more.

    Sacred Lands is a place to hear about Spanish explorers, contemporary indigenous spiritual practices, fragrant and edible plants, salt water's effect on environmental habitat, lives of peacocks, and more.

    - Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

     

    “We have been modern humans with these brains for over 100,000 years,” he said. “So, all the ‘ugga-bugga’ caveman stuff is nonsense. These were people every bit as smart as us and as capable as us of living in their environment, who survived and flourished and prospered.”

    Anderson also says he tries to teach each visitor that to truly pay respect to the past culture that thrived here, burial mounds and artifacts should not be disturbed or removed from the property. Guests are allowed to pick up pieces of pottery and shells to connect with the past, but are asked to leave the items behind. Bring a camera.

     

    If you go…

    Sacred Lands
    620 Park Street North
    St. Petersburg, Florida 33710-4348
    (727) 347-0354

     

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