Florida's First People


In this 4th Grade Social Studies lesson, students will:

  • conduct a short research project, building knowledge through investigation of different aspects of Florida Native American history and culture 
  • draw evidence from literary or information texts to support analysis, reflection, and research, synthesizing information related to Florida history through various medias 
  • compare Native American tribes in Florida


*The WebQuest activity serves as guided practice and should follow a lesson introducing Florida Native Americans.  To follow this activity, students can learn about European colonization effects on Native Americans.  Students can also learn about modern Florida Native Americans and discuss public issues in Florida that impact the daily lives of current Native Americans 


Where are you?

Where are you? 

You have time-traveled back to the past. The world around you is bare of civilization. There are no sidewalks. There are no paved roads! There is not a car in sight. You begin to walk around, confused.

Soon, darkness begins to come.

As the sun sets, you notice: There is no electricity, either! What will you do? There does not seem to be a person ANYWHERE! You will go out in search of someone, but who will you find?

Read about the people who lived in Florida before us...


indigenous -
culture -

DIRECTIONS:  As you read and look at the sites, make notes about each tribe's history and culture.

Start Here:


Apalachee Tribe


Calusa Tribe



Timucua Tribe  


Tocobaga Tribe

Tequesta Tribe 



DIRECTIONS:  Answer both Part 1 and Part 2 in complete sentences.


Part 1:   You are stuck in the past forever!  Pick a Native American tribe to join.  Why would you be a member of this tribe?  List 3 reasons for full credit. Include the culture of this tribe.  List 3 aspects for full credit.  How is this tribe different from other tribes?  Pick 2 other tribes to compare with your tribe.  List 3 similarities and 3 differences for full credit.  Be specific.  



Part 2:   Write and illustrate a short story about your new life.  List three parts of your new life for full credit.  Then, answer the question:  How would it be different from your life now?  List three examples for full credit.
(Story should be at least 300 words.)





1)  Find someone with the same tribe as you in the class.

2)  Read each other's assignment.  Talk about it.  Share ideas.  

3)  On a separate piece of paper, reflect on what you wrote.  Answer the question"What could you have added or changed?" 



I created this Webquest based on Sonya Scheer's WebQuest.  She is the author of the original WebQuest, with respect to the authors of my resources. WebQuest created in March of 2016 in correlation with Florida state standards for 4th grade.

*Credits include citation information for links provided, as well as credits for information borrowed.


America's Best History. (2016). America's Best History - Pre-Revolution Timeline 1500s. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from 


Calusa Indian Artifacts - Everglades Area Tours. (2011, January 21). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from    

Florida State University. (n.d.). Browse and Search Standards. Retrieved March 01, 2016, from

Lewis, O. (1998). Calusa Indian Fact Sheet. Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.bigorrin.org/calusa_kids.htm

Lewis, O. (1998). Choctaw Indian Fact Sheet. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from http://www.bigorrin.org/choctaw_kids.htm

Lewis, O. (1998). Creek Indian Fact Sheet. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from http://www.bigorrin.org/creek_kids.htm

Marla, L. (2013, October 27). Apalachee Tribe. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeKqXqxpBtI

Marlar, L. (2013, September 02). Calusa Indians of Florida. Retrieved February 29, 2016, from

Mission San Luis | Virtual Experience. (2008). Retrieved March 01, 2016, from https://missionsanluis.org/virtualTour/

Morris, T. (n.d.). Florida Lost Tribes - Theodore Morris. Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://www.losttribesflorida.com/

Steinhauer, L. (2009). Native Americans. Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/native-americans

Tag! Children's Museum of St. Augustine. (2015). Interesting Facts About the Timucua. Retrieved March 05, 2016, from

The Ten Commandments of the Native American Indians. (2010, September 05). Retrieved March 01, 2016, from

Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved March 02, 2016, from https://www.floridamemory.com/exhibits/timeline/

Weitzel, K. (n.d.). Teacher Materials for Journeys with Florida’s Indians. Retrieved March 05, 2016, from http://www.kelleyweitzel.com/files/1stteacherjourn.pdf

Teacher Page

Teacher Page


*Thematic Florida Native American lesson plan, that incorporates WebQuest, to be posted.  In progress as of 3/22/16.


Background Information

  • 1200 B.C.  The first people move into Florida. Referred to today as PaleoIndians, they moved into the peninsula in search of new food sources. These sources included mastodons, giant armadillos and horses. At that time, the end of the last ice Age, Florida was twice the size it is today.
  • 1500: There were three large Native American cultures in Florida: the Timucua in Northeast and Central Florida, the Apalachee in the Big Bend area, and the Calusa in South Florida.
  • 1509: Columbus's son, Diego Cólon, becomes governor of the new Spanish empire in the Carribean. He soon complains that Native American slaves do not work hard enough.
  • 2 April 1513: Juan Ponce de Leon becomes the first European to reach the coast of what is now the United States of America (modern Florida) He landed on the East Coast, near present-day St. Augustine. Ponce de León named the peninsula "Florida" as the season was "Pascua Florida" (Flowery Easter). He then sailed to South Florida, where he was wounded in a fight with the members of the Calusa.
  • 1521: After serving time as governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de León returns to Florida in search of gold. Contracted by the Spanish crown to colonize and Christianize the native peoples, Ponce de León was killed in South Florida.
  • 1527-1536: Spanish explorer Pánfilo de Narváez led a second expedition into Florida. Numbering over 600, the expedition was a notorious failure. Alienating Florida's native cultures, the expedition was repeatedly attacked. By 1528, Narváez was dead, and the expedition was grounded due to hurricanes. Four survivors eventually walked to Mexico City, arriving in 1536. Despite the failure, their fantastical tales of mythical cities of gold inspired future expeditions to North America.
  • 1540s: European diseases decimate Florida's native peoples. Within a century 90% had died.
  • 1600: King Philip III of Spain outlaws the use of Native American slaves in Spanish colonies.
  • 1633: Missions established in Apalachee territory.
  • 1656: Timucua peoples rebel against Spanish authority; Mission San Luis established in what is today Tallahassee.
  • 1672-1695: Castillo de San Marcos built by Spanish in St. Augustine, using native and slave labor.

Teacher Quick Comparison of Florida’s Early Cultures:
Timucua vs. Calusa vs. Apalachee

  • Timucua: SE Georgia, NE Florida, and Central Florida
  • Calusa: SW Florida, near Fort Myers

Apalachee: NW Florida, near the Tallahassee area 


  • Timucua: Land & water animals, shellfish, forest plants, some crops
  • Calusa: Water animals, shellfish, & plants, some land resources, few crops
  • Apalachee: Mostly land animals and crops, some water resources 


  • Timucua: Regional headchiefs ruled 30–40 villages. Headchiefs were not united into one government and often fought each other.
  • Calusa: All villages were united under one Paramount Chief. This chief was strong enough to rule SW FL villages that were not Calusa.
  • Apalachee: All villages were loosely united. During times of war and peace, they had different rulers.


  • Timucua: Held a deer ceremony to thank the sun for its bounty
  • Calusa: Believed in three gods and that each person has three souls
  • Apalachee: Played the ball game to honor the thunder god and bring rain for their crops.


  • Timucua: Missionized. Killed by disease, warfare, & slavery. The last few were evacuated to Cuba in 1763. The culture disappeared.
  • Calusa: Never missionized. Killed by disease & warfare. The culture disappeared in the early 1700’s.
  • Apalachee: Missionized. Killed by disease, warfare, & slave raids. The culture disappeared by 1713. One group of Apalachee escaped and survives today in Louisiana."