Don Healy's

The Apalachee Nation

At the beginning of the 18th century, Spain was the dominant European power in what is now Florida and across the entire Gulf Coast that connected Florida to the Spanish Empire in modern Latin America. The beautiful city of St. Augustine, Florida was the main outpost of the Spanish in the Southeast. Second to it was the Mission San Luis de Apalcahee. Mission San Luis, still to be found in modern Tallahassee was one of over 100 missions spanning northern Florida (Mission San Luis de Apalachee, A Visitor Guide, Florida Heritage Publication, 1998). Here the Franciscan friars and Spanish Conquistadors interacted with and converted the native populace to Roman Catholicism. That native population was the Apalachee Indians.

The Apalachee were so dominant in the area that the Spanish called the area the Apalachee district, an area encompassing the Florida panhandle and parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. For nearly 100 years the Apalachee and Spanish co-existed in the area.

This all came to an end in 1704, when the British, under the direction of the Coloinal Governor of the Carolinas, and their Creek allies invaded northern Florida. The retreating Spanish set Mission San Luis to the torch and they and their Apalachee friends scattered. The Apalachee, those who were not killed or enslaved by the British, found refuge in lands to the east and west of San Luis, but never got the chance to return to the center of their world.

The scattered remains of the Apalachee were mostly absorbed by neighboring tribes, but a few, those who managed to flee west into what is now Louisiana, still retained the shattered remnants of Apalachee culture and history. It is from these few brave souls who hid deep in the Louisiana bayou country, that the Apalachee Nation has been reborn.

Under the leadership of Chief (holata in the Apalachee tongue) Gilmer Bennett of the Talimali Band of the Apalachee Indians of Louisiana the twenty-first century Apalachee are fighting for recognition from a federal government that did not even exist when the destruction of the Apalachee occurred. Currently, the fight for recognition has taken over ten years, but at least it has not been rejected. That, in itself, can be seen as a kind of victory.

Like many eastern tribes, the Apalachee, who number around 300, are considered to have been wiped out, or totally assimilated - at least in the eyes of the government. But bureaucratic status often fails to accept the deep, though frequently, tenuous threads that have kept a culture alive. Those threads, in the case of the Apalachee, include a continuous oral history and birth and baptismal records - a history going back to 1721! (Miami Herald, p 30A, May 28, 2005)

One sign of the re-emergence of the Apalachee nation is the adoption of a tribal flag in 2005. With the help of a grant program from Peter Orenski and TMEALF Inc. the Apalachee now fly the quintessential symbol of a sovereign people, their own flag.

On a white background is a large brown triangle that recalls the pottery motifs found on the grounds of the Mission San Luis in Tallahassee. The triangle is comprised of four smaller triangles. The center one is a design of six diagonal stripes while the three surrounding ones each bear a spiral design. Stretching across the top of the flag in a light blue, the color of "Our Lady's mantle" is the name Apalachee nation in capital letters. It symbolizes the blue sky that covers us all.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603