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Timucuan Society

Timucuan Society

This powerful, dignified man is the Timucua chief Outina. He appears to wear earrings made from fish bladders, which the French claimed that the Timucua favored. Art by Theodore Morris, www.losttribesflorida.com/timucua.html

This powerful, dignified man is the Timucua chief Outina. He appears to wear earrings made from fish bladders, which the French claimed that the Timucua favored. Art by Theodore Morris, www.losttribesflorida.com/timucua.html

LEADERSHIP– A chief governed each Timucua village. In turn, he was subordinate to a regional chief, who ruled over villages in the immediate area. It’s not clear just how powerful the Timucua chiefs were. Did they rank as “first among equals”? Or did they possess more authority? And in regard to the regional chiefs, how much control did they exercise over subordinate leaders?

The village chief often lived in a dwelling that was larger than those of other inhabitants. It contained three or four rooms and a few extra provisions, such as corn. This hut, however, was still small. It didn’t sit like a mansion within a shantytown.

FEMALE INPUT — Women wielded power within the Timucua culture. In fact, some chiefs were female. Women also owned the family huts.

Village chiefs relied on special advisors called “principal men” or “principal women.” These assistants helped to make important determinations. If the decisions were in regard to certain issues, the men were in charge. They deliberated such concerns as hunting and war making. When it came to other questions, the women took over. They probably made such important judgments as when to plant crops, when to travel, and who would marry whom. Almost certainly, women also helped to settle arguments.

INDEPENDENCE — It’s a myth that groups within Native American tribes were usually unified. Many tribes did not act as a single political unit. The Timucua people are a case in point.

Consider the Timucua who lived in St. Johns River valley. There were about six politically independent groups that resided in and around this area. Believing that the Timucua were unified would be as if researchers, 500 years from now, thought that all South Americans had been part of a single group during the 21st century.

RICH and POOR — The gap between the “wealthy” and the “less-well-to-do” Timucua was rather small. These Indians had little concept of private property, except for a few things like clothes, body ornaments, and specialized tools.

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