March 4, 2023
Dr. Peter J. Ferdinado
Assistant Teaching Professor
Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
From the 1565 arrival of Spanish Adelantado Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to the 1696 visit of English castaway Jonathan Dickinson, Europeans placed the main town of the Ais Native Americans in two distinct locations: adjacent to Ais Inlet and visible to Atlantic Ocean shipping or hidden away from the inlet and straddling the Indian River Lagoon. The Ais’ recurrent occupation and abandonment of their inlet town in the face of Spanish attacks and buccaneer raids reflected the strategic tension between their access to the valuable materials available via salvaging European shipwrecks quickly and their vulnerability of being visible to passing European ships. Such Ais strategic movement thus reveal the dynamic nature of the contact period in peninsular Florida, where Indigenous groups deftly negotiated the opportunities and dangers of the emerging Atlantic world.