Tocobaga Indigenous History

Who were the Tocobaga?

Tocobaga is the name used for the native inhabitants of what is now the Tampa Bay area. The Tocobaga were hunter-gatherers that trapped fish, built dugout canoes to fish in deep water, and built large ceremonial temple mounds at coastal locations. Many of these mounds have been bulldozed for development, knowingly or unknowlingly, and their secrets lost to the world. Some mounds still remain, the largest of which is found in Philipee Park, a 30 minute paddle or a 5 minute drive from Tocobaga Tours. A temple once stood on top of this sacred mound made up of layered shell and clay. 

When Conquistador Panfilo de Navarez arrived to Tampa Bay in 1528, the Tocobaga had hundreds of thousands of inhabitants living in the area off of its abundant natural resources. The Spanish  brought war, enslavement, cruelty, and disease that wiped out the group within the next 150 years. There are no living members. 

What's important about safety harbor?

The Safety Harbor Culture 

By US Census, Ruhrfisch, Donald Albury - taken from US Census website [1] as modified by User:Ruhrfisch at, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37662634

Safety Harbor is believed to have been the capital city in the Tocobaga chiefdom. The Safety Harbor area and the temple mound at Philipee Park were so powerful that it stemmed the Safety Harbor Culture- an archaeoligical culture lasting from 900-1700 BC practiced by many indigenous groups in west central Florida. This culture is defined by creation of shell temple mounds with Safety Harbor style ceramics budied 

By Bryan Strome - www.firstnationseeker.ca, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11182055

Why is this relavent today?

Safety Harbor and Pinellas county are full of virtually unknown Native American history. The Tocobaga never developed a written language and as a result, much of what we known is from the biased accounts of Spanish explorers. The Tocobaga's true lifestyle and culture largely remains a mystery. 

What we do know, is that they lived sustainably and in harmony with nature. As the present day stewards of this land, we can advocate to protect it from destruction and pollution. We can tell what we know of the Tocobaga, and do so with respect. Remembering the legacy of Indigenous Americans is now our  privilege and responsibility. 

This is what Tocobaga Tours means to us- a respect for nature by appreciating its beauty. 

To learn more about the Tocobaga and the History of Safety Harbor, visit the Safety Harbor Museum 

Curtoesy of Pinellas Country Parks, Philipee Park 

Curtoesy of Pinellas Country Parks, Philipee Park 

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