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Apalachee Women

Mission San Luis

The Apalachee Indians, who lived in the area around present-day Tallahassee, were among the most advanced and powerful of the Florida tribes that were met by early explorers. The tribe traced their family ties through matrilineal descent, which was an important part of the community structure.   Apalachee women too took charge of critical tasks, such as planting the fields and making village pottery.

Women have also long held a place of honor in native Apalachee histories.  One such story is of Nicotaijulo, whose legend plays a prominent role in the Apalachee ball game, interpreted at Mission San Luis.  Nicotaijulo, whose name means “woman of the Sun,” had a son who grew up to be the god the ball game was played to honor.  Although a legendary figure, and not a focal character, Nicotaijulo may have been a role model for Apalachee women.  To begin the ballgame, a young unmarried woman, carrying the lacrosse-like stick used in the women’s ball game performs a ceremony beneath the pole in memory of Nicotaijulo.

 Once the Europeans arrived at Mission San Luis, the Apalachee were forced to work for the Spanish settlers.  For example, Chuguta Francisca was an Apalachee woman compelled to work for a Spanish rancher on a hacienda without pay.  Many Apalachee women were similarly conscripted and these cases eventually caused the local Apalachee population to protest these actions, resulting in Spanish officials becoming involved.

Stop by Mission San Luis to learn more about the Apalachee ball game and the role Apalachee women played in daily life.