An Inside Look at the Apalachee Tribe
By Bonnie G. McEwan
Historically located in northwest Florida, the Apalachee were allied with the Spanish, but maintained their autonomy through political and social traditions.
The Apalachee Tribe was among the most advanced and powerful Native American people in Florida. Their territory was bounded in northwest Florida by the Aucilla and Ochlockonee rivers, and included rich soils well suited to intensive agriculture.
Archaeologically, they are best-known through their capitals: Lake Jackson, late prehistoric; Anhaica, protohistoric; and San Luis, historic. Chroniclers of the Narváez and de Soto entradas (expeditions) described the Apalachee Tribe at the time of contact, and a wealth of documentary evidence exists from the mission era because the Franciscans counted the Apalachee missions among their greatest successes.
The Apalachee missions are thought to have succeeded for several reasons. For centuries the Apalachees participated in extensive regional networks that involved interaction with others. Their closest neighbors, the Timucuans, had already allied themselves with the Spaniards and it was in the Apalachees’ best interest to become part of that alliance. And, despite living under Spanish rule for many generations, it is evident from archaeological research at the site of Mission San Luis that the Apalachees were allowed to maintain many of their social and political traditions throughout the mission period.
British-led attacks on the Florida missions resulted in the annihilation, enslavement, or exile of most native people in north Florida, including the Apalachees. In 1704, approximately 700 Apalachees from San Luis relocated to a newly established outpost at Mobile at the invitation of French authorities. When Mobile, Ala., came under British rule in 1763, most of the Apalachees moved to Louisiana. Today, they still reside in Rapides Parish but visit their traditional homeland in north Florida several times each year.