New exhibit examines Jacksonville's indigenous history

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The Beaches Museum has opened a new exhibit in their permanent collection, “Our Land: Indigenous Northeast Florida.”

Jacksonville’s past includes a deep Indigenous history. Beginning more than 10,000 years ago, small family bands occasionally moved through the area. By 5,000 years ago, Native populations started living permanently near the Atlantic coast. Contrary to the myth of an unchanging Native American past, migrations, contact with outsiders, long-distance interactions and technological innovations shaped the precontact history of Northeast Florida.

 The story of Indigenous, French and Spanish encounters in Northeast Florida is most often told from a European perspective. Today, Fort Caroline is a memorial to French efforts to colonize Mocama land, and the Castillo de San Marcos is a national park honoring Spanish successes in both vanquishing the French and taking over Timucua homelands. But what did the Mocamas make of French and Spanish colonizers? And why isn’t their side of the story told?

Drawing on archaeological and historical evidence, the Indigenous perspective presented in Our Land begins 1,000 years ago and continues to the present day.

 Students from the University of North Florida helped to design this exhibit for a course co-taught by Dr. Keith H. Ashley and Dr. Denise I. Bossy in the fall of 2019 called, “Public Archaeology and History of Florida Indians.”

Funding for this project was provided by the Humanities Initiative of the College of Arts and Sciences at UNF, the UNF Archaeology Laboratory through the support of the Cummer Family Foundation and the Beaches Museum.

Mocama art was created for the Timucua-Mocama Art Contest sponsored by the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida with the goal of presenting a more authentic portrayal of the scenes depicted in the classic but ethnocentric 16th Century works of Jacques Le Moyne and Theodor de Bry.

“The Our Land: Indigenous Northeast Florida” exhibit is accessible to visitors now with an opening reception planned once conditions allow.

For more information on this event, call (904) 241-5657 or go to www.beachesmuseum.org.

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