What Are Some Facts About the Tequesta Tribe?

The Tequesta tribe of Native Americans lived in southern Florida around what is now Miami and its surrounding areas. The Tequesta lived in villages along rivers, coastlines and coastal islands. They were hunter-gatherers, harvesting natural animals and plants, including fish and shellfish, nuts and berries, roots and even sharks.

Historians consider the Tequesta a generally peaceful–though powerful–Native American tribe. The Tequesta welcomed early European explorers after being offered gifts of cloth, tools and alcohol. Unfortunately, slavery and disease, along with settlement struggles with other native tribes, gradually reduced the Tequesta to a few survivors by the 1800s.

Though the Tequesta did build many villages, early European observers found that, for much of the year, the Tequesta lived in the open. They followed the best harvests of natural food sources, such as the manatees and the now-extinct sea cow, prized by tribe leaders. The Tequesta almost always built their villages on rivers or coastlines, providing easy access with their dug-out canoes, especially to the central, communal kitchen area.

The Tequesta made tools and objects from many of the animals they also ate, including using shark teeth for cutting tools and fishhooks. The tribe also used shark teeth for hollowing out logs for their dug-out canoes, and historians consider the Tequesta to be expert wood carvers. Like many tropical tribes, the Tequesta wore little more than a loin cloth for men and a skirt for women.