Because of the lack of writing traditions among Florida Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans, we have no first-hand accounts from these peoples about their experiences during the early stages of Franciscan missionization. In fact, one of the goals of the Comparative Mission Archaeological Project is to show how archaeological data can fill in the gaps in our knowledge about Native American lifeways during the time when Florida was a Spanish colony. We do have secondary sources of documentation, however, represented by descriptions and interviews made by friars, soldiers, administrators, and other people traveling through the territory. This gallery summarizes some of those accounts. Many of these stories are drawn from the First Colony museum exhibit in St. Augustine, Florida, and they represent individuals of many backgrounds—European, Native American, and African alike—who lived together in missions and other communities in the Florida colony.
Manuel Riso, Timucua Survivor
Manuel Riso was a Timucua Indian born in 1662. He was listed as living alone in one of the 11 households at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine in 1759. At the age of 94, he was one of two Timucua speakers who emigrated to Cuba with the Spanish exodus of 1763. Probably no other person in Florida had seen as much change, destruction, and growth as Manuel had when he left for Cuba.