A Message to the “Vagabond” Spanish – Chief of Ocale, 1539

A message to the conquistador Hernando de Soto, from the Chief of Ocale, concerning the state of relations between the Spanish and the Ocale natives of Florida.


Hernando de Soto. Image from: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/29100/29191/desoto_29191.htm

“I have long since learned who you Castilians (Spaniards) are . . . through others of you who came years ago to my land (i.e. Panfilo de Narvaez); and I already know very well what your customs and behavior are like. To me you are professional vagabonds who wander from place to place, gaining your livelihood by robbing, sacking, and murdering people who have given you no offense. I want no manner of friendship or peace with people such as you, but instead prefer mortal and perpetual enmity. Granted that you are as valiant as you boast of being, I have no fear of you, since neither I nor my vassals consider ourselves inferior to you in valor; and to prove our gallantry, I promise to maintain war upon you so long as you wish to remain in my province, not by fighting in the open, although I could do so, but by ambushing and waylaying you whenever you are off guard. I therefore notify and advise you to protect yourselves and act cautiously with me and my people, for I have commanded my vassals to bring me two christian heads weekly, this number and no more. I shall be content to behead only two of you each week since I can thus slay all of you within a few years; for even though you may colonize and settle, you cannot perpetuate yourselves because you have not brought women to produce children and pass your generation forward.”

This translation may not be perfectly accurate, but it likely summarizes what the Ocale chief was trying to convey. Relations between the two groups remained hostile and attacks and killings were maintained until the Spanish eventually traveled north.


Sources Cited:

Hudson, Charles. 1997. “Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun”. University of Georgia Press. pg. 103.


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