When I was a child, my great grandmother told me I had Cherokee heritage. When I later wanted 'proof' of that, I was disappointed to find that there was no paper-trail. My father's mother never even had a birth certificate. Later I found that even if she had had one it was a moot point. To establish membership in the Cherokee Tribe, you have to trace your lineage to someone on the Baker or Dawes rolls. It turns out my Cherokee ancestors moved to Florida in 1819 - years before those rolls were taken.
Not being able to claim tribal membership didn't diminish my interest in the Cherokee, or for that matter in American Indian culture in general. I read everything I could on the Cherokee, went to intertribal pow wows, etc.
Having been born and raised in Florida, I of course studied all I could about the original Florida Indians.
When I bought property in Polk County, I set out to learn as much as possible about the local natives, the Jororo. I was disappointed in the lack of substantial information I could find. The Jororo are essentially a forgotten people.
I decided to adopt them. I named my Polk County property Jororo Woods. Because it is located away from any navigable water, it is certain there was never a Jororo settlement there, but it is just as certain that the Jororo hunted there. As a wetland hardwood hammock, the property is heavily wooded and supports substantial wildlife even today with housing developments only 1/4 mile away!
As close as development has encroached, standing in the middle of my 20 acres, you'd never know you weren't in the middle of the wilderness. It's easy to imagine a Jororo hunting party wandering through.
I promised a discussion on native floridian clothing (or lack thereof), so here it is:
Spanish writers from the early Spanish exploration and colonial periods of Florida described the natives, particularly the men and children as going naked in warm weather.
I mentioned in the forward that some recent books, as well as a few educationally-oriented websites, are asserting that the Spanish writers probably meant that the natives were scantly clad rather than actually naked.
So far, in reading these disagreeing statements I have yet to find any of them offering solid evidence to dispute the Spanish writers' claims. They just state that the Florida Natives' complete nudity was unlikely without saying why. (The first pictures we have of Florida natives do show men wearing a small loincloth garment, but it should be noted that those pictures were made after over 50 years of Spanish contact.)
If you've read the preceding stories, you'll know I have no problem accepting the Spanish writers' statements. Unless I have a tangible, supportable reason for disputing their claims, I believe the reasonable thing to do is take the writers' words at face value. I think they knew the meaning of the word naked!
One source I read went a step further than merely stating native nudity was unlikely. That educational website stated that it would have been impractical for the Florida Natives to engage in rough activities like hunting, clearing land, or farming while naked. At least that's a reason to doubt the Spanish writers' claims, but is it valid?
I was born and raised in Central Florida. I have always gravitated to remote locations for camping, and eventually bought 20 acres of virgin woods - a parcel of land in Jororo country that had never been cleared - a piece of 'Real Florida'.
Over the years, I have actually stalked animals, camped, hiked, cleared paths, cut firewood, etc., and have found by direct personal experience that it is extremely practical to do all these things naked. In fact, in Spring, Summer, and Fall, I couldn't imagine the original Florida natives doing these things any other way.
Remember, these people didn't have airconditioning, electric fans, or running water to keep cool. Nor would they have had the means to make, launder, and store several sets of clothes to replace their sweaty and soiled ones, if they had done everyday work in them. And staying clean is important to staying healthy in Florida's semitropical climate with its potential fungal infections, small parasites, etc.
The Florida natives knew this. I read with amusement an excerpt of a letter from one of the Spanish mission priests in early Florida. He was frustrated with his inability to convince the natives that bathing was unhealthy (a common European belief in the 1500's)! According to Spanish accounts, the natives bathed daily, if not more often.
Being naked while hunting, farming, and hiking through Florida woods does have its hazards - bugs and thorns being at the top of the list.
Several sources state that Florida natives used bear fat and/or juices of several plants as insect repellant. The bear fat may have doubled as a light-duty sunscreen. Applied to bare skin, these concoctions would create few complications.
However, the bear fat would have been a problematic issue on clothing, as simple water-washing wouldn't remove it.
As far as thorns go, again I can say from personal experience that it's fairly easy to negotiate even a blackberry thicket wearing only moccasins. You just have to be careful.
So, I really can't agree that going naked would have been impractical for the Florida natives. I've actually been there, done that.
There is a tendency to project today's attitudes into the past. It's easy and natural to do this, but it's often just not valid. Our current society's total aversion to nudity is fairly new. This can easily be verified by discussing skinnydipping with a young adult today, and with someone of my father's generation.
Today, skinnydipping is considered a marginal activity at best, or in the worst case scenario, a criminal one. In my father's youth in rural Georgia, they didn't even call it skinnydipping. It was just called swimming. That's just how swimming was done. If you went to the creek for a swim, everyone knew that you swam in your birthday suit!
If such a huge difference in attitude can happen in just 60 years, imagine the folly of projecting today's view of nudity onto another culture 480 plus years in the past!
Some could argue that skinnydipping and my isolated naked camping are not valid comparisons, since they represent short-term activities, and don't involving a village full of people. True enough. Maybe the skeptic meant it would be impractical from a social perspective for the Florida native men and women to have lived naked together on a daily basis. Well, today we have dozens of communities around the country where men, women and children are doing just that. They're called nudist resorts (sometimes erroneously called nudist 'colonies').
The common idea that nudist resorts are on-going lust feasts or worse couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, drawing people from society as a whole, it would be hard to assemble a group of better behaved, friendlier, and more respectful people than what you'll find at the average nudist resort. Most of these resorts have both permanent residents and day guests, and some have been in operation for 50 years or more. This isn't just my opinion. You can actually check it out fairly easily. Most nudist resorts allow genuinely interested non-members to visit. Any legitimate, reputable nudist resort will be in good standing with either the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) or The Naturist Society (TNS), or both. Check a resort's standing before you visit (after all, any group could call themselves a nudist club, just as any group could call themselves a church).
Bottom line is that:
1. The Spanish chroniclers wrote that the Florida natives were routinely naked.
2. Florida had the ideal climate and terrain for naked living to be practical, and
3. Stable naked societies exist today, and could easily have existed in the past.