In 1513 Juan Ponce de León led an expedition force to explore the western coastline of Florida as part of a mission for the Spanish Crown to map the Gulf of Mexico and determine the capability of the area to potentially support Spanish colonization attempts. Instead, León established first contact with a powerful native society that successfully drove León and his fleet of three ships from their shores with nothing more than bows and basic dugout canoes. For nearly a century afterward, the mere presence of these people, the Calusa, was enough to limit Spanish settlement to the Eastern coastline and northern territory of Florida, only ending with the establishment of St. Augustine in the mid-17th century breaking a near century of isolation between the two. Because the Calusa never adopted Christianity, never bowed to Spanish rule, and never adopted European firearms and ideas, the Calusa are often lauded as being completely resistant to European influence. But were they really? This case study examines archaeological evidence combined with historical records in order to determine that the Calusa society was effected, if to a lesser degree, by Spanish contact and colonization, but that they were largely positively affected, including a resulting expansion to their territory and sphere of influence within the region.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 2016


Jon C. Endonino

Mentor Professional Affiliation

Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level



Language and Cultural Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology

Department Name when Degree Awarded

Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work