The Miami River evolved over thousands of years from a tidal channel into a freshwater stream that carried water from the Everglades to Biscayne Bay. It is the oldest natural landmark in Southeast Florida. The word "Miami" is said to come from an Indian word meaning "sweet water."
The Miami River is a river in Florida that drains out of the Everglades and runs through downtown Miami,Florida. The 5.5 mile long river flows from the terminus of the Miami Canal at to Biscayhe Bay. It was originally a natural river inhabited at its mouth by the Tequesta Indians.
The first people in South Florida were Paleo-Indians. They discovered the area more than 10,000 years ago. Hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, the Tequesta Indians lived there.
The River Meets the Bay
Gradual improvements in technology, along with the rich and diverse resources provided by wetlands, hammocks, and coastal ridges, enabled prehistoric populations to expand in size and spread throughout southern Florida. The Miami River served as a link between the interior Everglades, the coastal upland ridge, Biscayne Bay, and the barrier islands.
The Tequesta Native American tribe, occupied an area along the southeastern Atlantic coast of Florida.The Tequesta tribe lived in what are now Miami - Dade County and the southern half of Broward County. Their territory may have also included the northern half of Broward County. They also occupied the Florida Keys at times.
The Tequeasta made the southern end of the Florida peninsula their home. In the 16th Century the central town (also called Tequesta) was at the mouth of the Miami River. A village had been at that site at least since 1200. The tribal chief was also called Tequesta.
The Tequestas were more or less dominated by the Calusa Indians of the southwest coast of Florida. The Tequestas were closely allied to their immediate neighbors to the north, the Jeaga. Estimates of the number of Tequestas at the time of initial European contact range from 800 to 10,000, while estimates of the number of Calusas on the southwest coast of Florida range from 2,000 to 20,000. Occupation of the Florida Keys may have swung back and forth between the two tribes.
Tequesta Indians lived close to Biscayne Bay and the Miami River near what is present day Miami. They were mainly hunters and gathers living off the coastal fish and shellfish and gathering wild plants, nuts, and berries. The Tequesta Indians fished, hunted, and gathered the fruit and roots of plants for food, but did not practice any form of agriculture. South Florida is home to many unique indigenous plants. The Native Americans were skilled at utilizing various parts of a plant for different aspects of life.
The Tequesta also gathered palmetto berries, coco plums, sea grapes, and palm nuts to eat. In the Everglades, they hunted bear, deer, wild boar, and small mammals. The Tequesta made flour by grinding up the roots of certain plants. Unfortunately, these food sources were not very plentiful along the southern coast, so the Tequesta never became a large or powerful tribe compared to their western neighbors, the Calusa.
The Tequesta used shells and sharks' teeth for a variety of tools. These included hammers, chisels, fishhooks, drinking cups, and spearheads. Sharks' teeth were used to carve out logs to make canoes.
They buried the small bones of the deceased with the rest of the body, and put the larger bones in a box for the village people to see. The Tequesta are credited with making the Miami Circle.
The river ran clear and clean for five miles, fed by natural springs at its bottom and from tributaries, and from the tea-colored waters of the Everglades. Juan Ponce de Leon probably the first European to set eyes on the Miami River, when he discovered Biscayne Bay in July 1513. There, he noted the large Tequesta Indian village on the north bank.
Ponce de Leon was the first to encounter the Miami River Tequesta during his 1513 expedition to "La Florida." In 1566, Pedro Menendez de Aviles and his men attempted to build a mission and establish a garrison near the site. The mission was abandoned after fighting broke out with the Indians.
Once an important link between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, the lands bordering the Miami River have been damaged by uncontrolled development, industrial pollution and lack of intelligent long-range urban policy.
The river really isn’t a pretty place – not in a Mickey Mouse tropical South Beach sort of way. The website of a popular riverfront restaurant calls it an “industrial wasteland.” But for my buck, it’s probably one of the most interesting areas of town and one definitely worth exploring.
The circle, formed of dozens of holes bored into the limestone bedrock with rudimentary tools and located just a few steps from the mouth of the Miami River, is a startling window into Florida's pre-Columbian history in the heart of a bustling metropolis, archeologists say.
A cache of artifacts including shells, beads and pottery shards has persuaded some experts that the circle is likely the foundation of a Tequesta Indian building at the site of one of Miami's first trading posts founded by northern settlers.
Experts believe the circle proves that the Tequesta, hunter-gatherers who settled in a village at the mouth of the Miami River by 300 B.C., possibly much earlier, may have been more highly developed than originally thought.
The house is believed to be the foundation of a rare 2,000 year-old temple or council house and has the bones of a 6-foot shark and a now-extinct monk seal buried inside the circle. Carved into the east floor, as if to watch the rising sun, is an eye-like basin with a rock iris at its center.
But another, more intriguing theory has been advanced: that the circle is a celestial calendar, perhaps made by a breakaway band of Mayas, the sophisticated Central American Indians who lived in the Yucatan, Belize and northern Guatemala.
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