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Calusa Heritage Trail to host book signing

By Staff | Nov 16, 2008

Following the release of his new novel, “Song of the Tides,” public lecturer and author Tom Joseph will be featured at a book signing at the Randell Research Center. The event will take place at the pavilion located at the Calusa Heritage Trail in Pineland on Thursday, Nov. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The signing will provide an opportunity for the public to meet Joseph, an independent scholar of Florida history, and discuss his novel, which tells of the history of the Calusa Indians, who once took up residence on the very spot where the event will be staged.

Joseph’s latest work has been praised for its historical accuracy and Dr. John E. Worth, formerly of the Pineland site, said the book is, “a very well-written, moving, captivating tale that is based substantially on the existing documentation about 16th century Spanish contact with the Calusa Indians and incorporates a broad range of information from both ethnohistorical and archaeological sources to create a narrative that, although fictional, provides the reader with a substantially factual understanding of the Calusa and their world.”

The story of “Song of the Tides” unfolds when, during the 16th century, the Spanish occupied the Calusa territory. This began when the indians waged a battle against Ponce de Leon and his forces. At that time, the native Calusa were about to enter a very dark period as Europeans continued to invade Southwest Florida. This would be the beginning of the end to this once powerful civilization.

Joseph developed the story using letters and memoirs of ancient explorers Pedro Menendez de Aviles, shipwrecked captive Escalante Forntaneda and a priest named Juan Rogel. This compelling tale is a must read for those interested in the history of the Calusa people.

The story is told through the main character, Aesha, the daughter of the Calusa chief Caalus, as well as other political and spiritual leaders of the time. Spanning a half century of conflict with the Spanish and the Jesuits, the Calusa eventually decline.

According to Michael Wylde, lab manager at Randell Research Center, this book signing and lecture is just the first of a series of events that will take place at the Calusa Heritage Trail this season.

“We now have an intern from FGCU working with us to help plan a series of lectures that will focus on the Calusa Indians, and we are already looking at dates in January and February to present lectures by local experts,” said Wylde.

While attending the lecture and book signing, visitors are invited to browse the Calusa gift shop and acquaint themselves with the Heritage Trail. The trail is a 3,700-foot walkway that leads through the mounds, canals and wooded areas once occupied by the Calusa. This is a working archaeological site where digs continue to unveil the secrets of the mysterious Calusa. Over the years much has been learned about the culture and the day-to-day lives of the island’s first inhabitants. Those visiting the Calusa Heritage Trail, Randell Research Center and any of the programs offered by the staff will gather a wealth of information about this ancient tribe.

The Calusa Heritage Trail is located on Waterfront Drive in Pineland across the street from the Tarpon Lodge. Parking and the lecture are free of charge. For more information about this and other programs offered by the Randell Research Center, visit, flmnh.ufl.edu/RRC.