WESTON — The modern day influence of Florida’s Indigenous Peoples are everywhere – think Florida State Seminoles, town and city names, street signs, schools, buildings, parks and so on.
Not only that, but archeological evidence can be experienced as well. So if you’re feeling like a bit of a historical adventure, you can find one about 20 miles northwest of the Hollywood Reservation in the city of Weston.
Florida’s early peoples are sometimes referred to as the “lost tribes.” They include the Pensacola, Apalachee, Guale, Timucua, Potano, Ocale, Tocobaga, Mayaimi, Ais, Calusa, Jeaga, Matecumbe and Tequesta.
It’s mostly the Tequesta’s footprint that you’ll discover in Weston. Thousands of artifacts of the Tequesta have been found within the boundaries of what is now the city.
A note of caution here: A common theme among some historians is that the Tequesta were in Florida before the Seminoles.
While the Seminoles are also Florida’s first residents, some say it’s not accurate that they be included on the list of “original” inhabitants.
“There’s been a fabrication of history that’s happened that say the Seminoles only come from Georgia and Alabama and they were new to Florida,” Paul Backhouse, the senior director of the Heritage and Environment Resources Office (HERO) for the Tribe said.
Backhouse argues that history is more complex and nuanced.
“Tequesta, etcetera, are just names archeologists give. In all of Florida, there were people moving back and forth constantly. So to put these arbitrary areas on the archeology map where it says: Calusa lived here, they stopped here … all of that has done a number on Tribal history. It’s not as if the Seminoles appeared out of nowhere,” he said.
So with that advice in mind – begin your trip by driving west of Hollywood on I-595. You’ll soon start to see the Indigenous influences as you pass signs for the Indian Trace exit.
A little further west on I-75, you’ll exit to Weston. More influence is seen as you pass Indian Trace Elementary School – it’s located right next to Indian Trace Park at 400 Indian Trace.
About two miles from there you can make your first stop at Peace Mound Park on Three Village Road.
Peace Mound Park
Among Peace Mound Park’s 8-acres of walking paths, a dock, and a playground, is what has been described as a Tequesta burial mound.
As you take a stroll, you’ll see that the city of Weston has installed plaques in the sidewalk with bite sized chunks of history to consider.
“Originally built in 1987, this park was created to preserve one of Weston’s most significant archeological sites. Inhabited by Tequesta Indians and their ancestors for over 4,000 years, the site was subsequently used by the Seminole Indians through the 1940s. During the construction of the city of Weston, archeologists uncovered remains and artifacts of the Tequesta Indians. Discover facts about the life of the Tequesta as you walk through the park,” reads the first plaque.
Other markers describe what the Tequesta’s children were like, their burial rituals, religion, leadership structure, transportation methods, and the extermination that took place at the hands of the first Spanish explorers.
There’s also a dedicated marker on the “mound” section of the park.
You’ll also notice a reference to Library Park – which can be your next stop – located about three and a half miles south of Peace Mound Park on Bonaventure Boulevard.
Library Park is named very specifically because of its proximity to the Weston Branch Library just adjacent to it.
But it’s also a place to learn more about Weston’s Indigenous footprint.
In case you need a break from the sun at first, and a little bit of air conditioning, you can first look through any number of books inside the library on Broward County and its history.
One to consider is the “Postcard History Series: Broward County” by Seth H. Bramson.
The front cover of the book features a postcard with a Seminole family either on or near the Hollywood Reservation pointing up at a National Airlines plane.
While the postcard isn’t dated, the airline operated from 1934 to 1980 and image shows the Seminole family in the thick of the Everglades.
Another book with a comprehensive history of the area is “Beyond the Sunshine: A Timeline of Florida’s Past,” by former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker. His book goes deeper into state history, including the influences of its premodern times.
And finally, one book that was on its way to the branch (maybe it will be available when you go) is “Ancient Miamians: the Tequesta of South Florida,” by William E. McGoun. The author goes deeper into 10,000 years of human history to what is described as “a missing piece of Florida archeology.”
When you’re finally ready to stroll through Library Park, you’ll see more historical plaques on the sidewalk, with additional information about the Indigenous Peoples who were in the area, including animals.
“Before there was a state of Florida, or the city of Weston, even before the European’s discovered the area we call Southeast Florida, the Everglades and its hammocks and waterways were inhabited by creatures and early humans. Through archeological investigations, modern man has assembled a timeline that describes the history of the eastern Everglades area known as Weston,” reads the first plaque on the path.
You’ll read that evidence has been found in Weston that herds of mammoth, bison and other “mega animals” once roamed the area.
Archaeologists have found a 3,000-year-old apple snail shell in one of Weston’s ancient ponds – where there is also evidence that early people camped on its banks.
Only a half mile from Library Park is Cypress Bay High School, where archaeologists previously found evidence of a “trash heap” with remains of animal shells, snails, snakes and turtles – used by early people more than 5,000 years ago.
The adventure can go on, but if you’re interested in ending your time with a view – consider a drive about four miles from Library Park to Weston Regional Park, where you will see a wetland preserve.
The preserve appears as it would have thousands of years ago when early peoples were living and animals were roaming on the land now known as Weston.