The history of Southwest Florida is rich with legends and tales about the Calusa way of life. Our Calusa Week campers teamed up with their tribes to write legends of their own, inspired by the brave ocean warriors who once inhabited our islands. Enjoy their storytelling below.
The Legend of Mikawaka
Once upon a time, there was a Calusa village. There was a chief named Mikawaka. The chief died by a shark bite. In his honor, the village built a huge temple. In the temple they laid gold and junonias around his body. Sadly, the temple was robbed. The robber was met by the dead chief. The robber’s name was Juan. He was a Spanish conquistador who wanted gold for his armor. The chief came back from the dead because he wanted his gold, and the shark came back with him. The shark and chief were amended as one. The now shark-chief visited Juan’s camp and turned him into a deer. The shark-chief stole his treasure back but little to his knowledge, the deer obtained magical powers. The shark-chief poisoned the deer and Juan finally died. Once dead, and the gold and junonias returned, the villagers ate the deer and the tribe lived in peace with its chief’s temple returned to normal.
The Legend of the Hammerhead Shark
Once upon a time, when the island was young, the Calusa ruled. They traded with other Calusa tribes, and on one of these perilous journeys, suddenly a big storm came. Their canoe was tipped over by a gigantic wave. As the Calusa tried to right their canoe, a giant shark emerged and swallowed two of their own. Before returning to the depths, the beast took one final bite and swam away with the hand of the navigator in its mouth. Since the life of their navigator was essential to their survival, they knew they had to get to shore fast. They prayed to one of their three gods for three tsunami-sized waves and along they came, sweeping the Calusa to shore. Upon the shore, the Calusa encountered another tribe and realized a trade had to be made. They traded fifteen of their biggest lighting whelks for a fishing pole and two horse conchs for some palm fronds to be woven into a bandage for their navigator. As soon as the navigator’s hand stopped bleeding, the Calusa decided it was time to fish for dinner. The first thing they caught was too big for one Calusa to catch on their own, so they all grabbed hold of the fishing pole. Suddenly, they were all pulled into the water and swallowed by a ginormous beluga whale. They were inside the whale for what felt like a year but in reality was only two days. At the end of the second day, the whale began to fill with water and suddenly the Calusa were shot from the blowhole of the beluga whale and on to shore. The Calusa had been returned to their village, but they all wondered how it had happened. Knowing it had probably been the work of the gods, the spiritual leader prayed to the three gods. The Ocean god explained the beluga whale was sent to save them and the gods had punished the shark by smashing its head between two huge rocks. And thus, the hammerhead shark was born and never attacked a Calusa again.
The Legend of Calu
In the beginning, there were the Calusa. The Calusa were a tribe full of warriors. They struggled to stay alive and prosper, until one day, a Calusa warrior named Calu had a great idea. He looked at many trees, and tried to find the one that would work, but none were big enough. After many years, Calu was about to give up. But suddenly, Calu heard a voice. Three voices in fact. They whispered “Don’t give up”, “You will find the tree”, “Keep searching deep in the woods”. Calu questioned, “Who are you?” and they responded, “We must go, we have no time”, “Goodbye Calu”. As soon as this happened, the wind blew, the ocean crashed, and the sun burned. Calu smashed his hand on the ground in fear. Shaking, Calu decided to set off into the heart of the forest. Walking through the forest alone, Calu heard growls. He could see the members of the enemy tribe, the Wolf Clan. This was the strongest tribe around and Calu was alone. He knew his family was worried about him. Calu had to think quickly. He looked around and all he saw was trees. He did what his tribe is known for and climbed up and up and up until he was on the highest branch. Calu could see everything around him and was amazed to see the tallest tree he had ever seen and the tree promised by the gods. He could hear the wolves beneath him. They were trying to use their sharp claws to climb, and it was working! He was trapped. His only option was to run. He was shivering through a cold sweat. Calu took his first step and found he could run across the trees. The wind whispered, “This is my gift to you”. Calu ran like the wind and made it to the tallest tree. Calu felt the sun get stronger and he felt stronger too. He ripped the tree out and started to run towards his village. Suddenly, he realized that he had reached the ocean and there was nowhere left to run! He heard the wolves behind him and got very scared. But soon, he saw the waves on the ocean calm down and the ocean became still. He tentatively placed the log down on the water and began to paddle the log. He arrived at his home island in no time! He could still hear the wolves howling in the woods. When he stepped onto his island, he heard people shouting his name, and realized that everybody was looking for him. He showed them the huge log and told them about how he paddled it home. Everybody in the village then helped him carve out the log and make a canoe. They didn’t know what to call this new invention but then one person piped up and said, “Let’s call it a canoe because that rhymes with Calu!” Everyone thought that was a great idea. With the help of Calu’s canoe, the Calusa fished, traveled, and made their civilization strong and mighty!